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About the Scottish Parliament

Part 4: Amendments

4.1 This part of the guidance explains the rules and procedures relating to amendments in more detail. It explains the principles behind amendments, how they are lodged and published and the creation of Marshalled Lists. It also explains how amendments are grouped and (at Stage 3) selected, and how the proceedings on amendments are conducted.

4.2 An amendment is a proposal to change the wording of the text of a Bill. It is the only mechanism that may be used to make such a change. An amendment is also the key mechanism for allowing debate on the Bill’s provisions at Stages 2 and 3. Some amendments – sometimes referred to as “probing amendments” – are lodged primarily to allow an issue to be debated, without any intention of changing the Bill’s text. All amendments must conform to the rules governing the admissibility, style and content of amendments.

Basic principles

4.3 The Standing Orders relating to amendments are based on two guiding principles: the rule of separate textual amendments and the rule of progress.

Separate textual amendments

4.4 This is the principle that every substantive change to the text of a Bill requires an individual amendment to be lodged, moved and agreed to. As a legislature, the Parliament must agree to the precise form of words that has legal effect, and not just to the underlying policy behind those words. This means that it cannot simply agree, for example, to change every occurrence of a particular word or phrase to something else, since the legal effect of such a change will depend on the context in which the word or phrase occurs and may be different in each case.

4.5 When the Parliament (or a committee) agrees to an amendment, it is precisely that amendment – and only that amendment – that may be made to the Bill. The only other changes that are permitted are strictly non-substantive “printing points” (see paragraphs 4.47 – 4.50). The Parliament (or the committee) cannot decide only on the principle underlying a change to the text of a Bill; it must also decide on the precise manner in which that change is to be made.

4.6 Some major changes to the legal effect of a Bill can be achieved by a single amendment, whereas other, less substantial changes may require dozens of separate amendments. However, for non-Government amendments at Stage 2 in particular, it is not always necessary to lodge every amendment that would be required – since the principal purpose may simply be to allow an issue to be discussed. If a member wishes to question, for example, why a new body established by a Government Bill has been given a particular name, a single amendment to change the name of the body the first time it occurs would be sufficient. If that amendment was agreed to, it would then be up to the Government either to seek to have the amendment reversed at Stage 3, or to lodge the further amendments necessary to re-name the body throughout the Bill.

4.7 At Stage 3, a different approach is required. A single such amendment, while still admissible, has little prospect of success. If agreed to, it would create an inconsistency in the Bill which could only be corrected at the cost of delaying the passage of the Bill. This creates a presumption against it being selected and, if moved, makes it less likely to be agreed to.

The rule of progress

4.8 The second basic principle is that amendments must be taken and disposed of strictly in order. This order is not always the order in which the sections and schedules to which they relate appear in the printed Bill. A different order can be agreed (see paragraphs 2.98-2.101 and 2.131). Whatever the order is, it must be followed. It is never permitted to return to a point in the order earlier than the last amendment moved at that Stage of the Bill. This makes it important that amendments are marshalled accurately and requires the manner in which amendments are called and disposed of to be handled carefully, since mistakes often cannot be rectified at the same Stage. The rule of progress also explains the importance of wording amendments consistently, as this determines their relative places in the Marshalled List and their precedence in debate.

Admissibility of amendments

4.9 Rule 9.10.5 establishes four criteria for the admissibility of amendments. These are explained below by reference to the paragraphs of that Rule.

4.10 It should be noted that legislative competence is not a criterion for the admissibility of amendments. Whether a Bill, or specific provisions within it, are within the Parliament’s legislative competence may be a matter of debate throughout the passage of a Bill irrespective of the statements made by the member in charge and the Presiding Officer on the introduction of the Bill (see paragraphs 2.17-2.19). There may also be debate about whether amendments would take a Bill outside competence or, indeed, whether amendments may resolve concerns about competence.

4.11 The convener, at Stage 2, and the Presiding Officer, at Stage 3, does not have a role in considering whether proposed amendments might take a Bill outside the legislative competence of the Parliament. The Parliament is, however, permitted to legislate only within its competence, and a Bill may be subject of a reference to the Supreme Court on the grounds of legislative competence after it is passed (see paragraph 2.150-2.152). In lodging amendments, members will, therefore, wish to have regard to competence issues and will wish to be aware of the potential for the effect of an amendment on legislative competence to be raised in debate. It is only the courts that can determine definitively whether a provision is within competence, and analysis of the legislative competence of a Bill or any of its provisions can be a complex matter. However, the clerks will, where possible, seek to alert members who wish to lodge amendments where they are aware of specific issues of competence that may be raised by amendments. Where possible, the clerks will seek to advise on alternative approaches that may avoid these issues.

(a) Proper form

4.12 The Presiding Officer has made a determination on the form of amendments, which is reproduced in Annex E. The clerks will aim to ensure, as a matter of course, that an amendment that is otherwise admissible is put into proper form. Amendments should, therefore, rarely be ruled inadmissible on this ground alone.

4.13 It is implicit in this first criterion that an amendment is inadmissible if an identical amendment has already been lodged. This includes not just amendments which can be worded in only one way (e.g. “Leave out section 1”) but also amendments which differ from an amendment already lodged only in trivial respects that would have no legal effect. A member seeking to submit such an amendment has the choice of either changing the amendment to make it substantively different from the one already lodged, or indicating support for that amendment (see paragraphs 4.54-4.56).

(b) Relevance

4.14 An amendment is inadmissible if it is not relevant to the Bill. This is sometimes referred to as an amendment being outwith the scope of the Bill – though this is not always easy to determine. As noted at paragraph 2.10, the clerks take a general view of the scope of a Bill in advance of introduction. This is intended to establish in general terms what advice they would give at later Stages should an amendment of questionable relevance be lodged.

4.15 It is sometimes wrongly imagined that the long title alone can be used to determine the “scope” of the Bill. The long title is intended to provide a concise description of the main purposes of the Bill and so is a useful guide to the scope of what the Bill covers, but it is not definitive. The reason why amendments to the long title are permitted (and are taken last) is to allow it to be adjusted to take account of amendments made elsewhere in the Bill – amendments that had to be within the scope of the Bill to be admissible, but were not consistent with the long title as it stands.

4.16 The wording of the long title can also mislead in relation to relevance. The long title may, for example, include the words “to make further provision about” a particular subject, but this is merely a convenient shorthand, and does not imply that any amendment about that subject would be relevant to the Bill. Similarly, it is commonplace for the long title of a large Bill to end with the words “and for connected purposes” – but this does not open up the Bill to amendments which would, in the absence of those words, be irrelevant to the other purposes of the Bill.

4.17 Where a Bill has only one or two purposes when it is introduced, any additional purpose is unlikely to be relevant. But if the Bill has three or more purposes when it is introduced, it may be relevant to add a further purpose by amendment, so long as the new purpose is no more remote in terms of subject-matter from the existing purposes than those purposes are from each other. Some Bills (sometimes called “miscellaneous provisions” Bills) consist of a large number of distinct purposes within a broad area of policy (or with a general common theme). With such a Bill, it is usually possible to introduce by amendment any number of new purposes within that area of policy (or theme). However, even with such a Bill, amendments to introduce purposes in another area of policy altogether (or not sharing the theme) would not be relevant.

4.18 The following are examples of the sorts of rulings on relevance that might be made:

  • In relation to a Bill about the administration of justice (the organisation of the courts, avenues of appeal etc.), amendments that would create new offences (except offences directly concerned with the administration of justice) would not normally be relevant – because they would make it into a Bill about what the law should be, rather than just about how it should be administered
  • In relation to a Bill about school education, amendments to impose similar obligations (e.g. in relation to class sizes) on providers of nursery education would not normally be relevant
  • In relation to a Bill which is intended to deregulate in a particular area, amendments to regulate would not normally be relevant. (But if the Bill completely or substantially deregulated, then amendments to impose regulation at a lower level than before might be relevant – since the Bill’s overall purpose of reducing regulation would still be achieved.)

4.19 As well as being relevant to the Bill as a whole, each amendment must be relevant to the provision to which it is made. An amendment to a section, for example, is admissible only if it is relevant to the subject matter of the section. Similarly, an amendment to leave out a section and insert a new section in its place is appropriate only where the new section has essentially the same purpose as the old one, but uses a different form of words to achieve that purpose. If the new section is doing something quite distinct, two amendments should be lodged, one to leave out the existing section, the other to insert the new one. The Parliament (or committee) should, in that case, have the option of agreeing to one amendment without the other. Similar considerations apply to amendments to leave out smaller provisions such as subsections and insert new such provisions in their place.

4.20 Where an amendment is relevant to the Bill but not to any existing section (or schedule), it should be put in the form of a new section (or schedule). In that case, care must be taken to place it appropriately in the Bill. If the Bill is divided into Parts and Chapters or under italic headings, a new section must be placed under a Part, Chapter, or italic heading to which it is relevant (which is easier if one of those headings is “General” or “Miscellaneous”). If the new section is not relevant to any existing heading, it may be necessary to prefix it with its own heading.

4.21 Under Rule 9.10.9, an amendment to insert a new section or schedule should “normally” specify where it is to be inserted. “Normally” here means “wherever possible”. For any new section/schedule amendment that is admissible, it must be possible to find a place in the Bill where it can be relevantly inserted – and it should be lodged as an amendment to that place in the Bill if possible. But if proceedings at the Stage in question have already progressed beyond the last place where the new section or schedule could relevantly be inserted, then the amendment may be lodged as an amendment to an unspecified place in the Bill. Such an amendment would be published under the heading “At an appropriate place in the Bill”. This should not, however, be used to undermine the rule of progress by seeking to insert at a later point in a Bill an amendment that relates to a provision at a point in the Bill that has already been passed (see paragraph 4.8).

(c) Consistency with general principles

4.22 An amendment is not admissible if it is inconsistent with the general principles of the Bill as agreed by the Parliament. This criterion is intended to rule out so-called “wrecking amendments” – amendments that would reverse, substantially alter or render ineffective a principal purpose of the Bill. The rationale for this rule is that, by the time the Bill comes to be amendable, the Parliament has already voted at Stage 1 in favour of its general principles. The purpose of Stage 2 (and of amendments at Stage 3) is to subject the Bill to detailed scrutiny and to improve the means by which it gives effect to those general principles. The proper course for members who oppose the basic thrust of the Bill is, therefore, to oppose the motion to approve the general principles of the Bill at Stage 1 – or, if any amendments agreed to at Stages 2 and 3 are insufficient to make it acceptable in their view, to oppose the motion to pass the Bill at the end of Stage 3. This criterion is intended to stop members attempting, by amendment, to frustrate the general principles of the Bill already agreed to by the Parliament.

4.23 In determining whether an amendment would “wreck” the Bill, a similar approach to that described under ‘Relevance’ is employed (see paragraphs 4.14-4.21). Where a Bill is introduced with only one or two principal purposes, an amendment to leave out (or substantially alter) that purpose or one of those purposes would not normally be admissible. But where the Bill was introduced with three or more purposes, it may be possible to leave out by amendment any one of them without wrecking the Bill. In any particular case, account would be taken of how substantial the purpose is, the extent to which the remaining purposes would be affected by its removal (or substantial alteration) and how close it is in terms of subject-matter to the other principal purposes of the Bill. It would normally be possible to remove by amendment from a multi-purpose Bill a minor purpose that stands apart from the remainder of the Bill and on which the rest of the Bill does not depend, but not to remove a more substantial purpose which is more central to the Bill as a whole.

4.24 Where a Bill is introduced with an outcome to be achieved or delivered in a specific manner, an amendment creating a different approach to achieving the same outcome may not be admissible. Depending on the drafting of the Bill, the approach to achieving the outcome may be so fundamental to the Bill that to change the approach would be considered a wrecking amendment. Therefore, a situation could arise where suggesting another approach for the same outcome could be considered inadmissible. For example, if the outcome to be achieved by a Bill is to discourage a certain activity and the Bill does that by criminalising that activity, the removal of that offence and replacement with some other means of discouraging the activity may not be admissible. As a further example, if a Bill is seeking to make something universally available, it may be inadmissible to try to limit this universality. In these cases, if the approach in the Bill was considered incorrect, the general principles of the Bill would be considered incorrect. These general principles can be voted against at Stage 1. In considering whether to agree to the Bill’s general principles it is therefore important to look beyond the broad subject matter covered by the Bill and instead consider the specific approach that is being taken, as there may be some fundamental elements of this approach which are not amendable.

(d) Consistency with decisions already taken

4.25 An amendment is not admissible if it is inconsistent with a decision already taken at the Stage at which it is proposed. This criterion is intended to prevent decisions taken on one amendment being effectively overturned by a decision on a subsequent amendment at the same Stage. Rule 9.10.11 (see paragraph 4.78-4.80) prevents a later amendment already on the Marshalled List (i.e. which was admissible when it was lodged) being called; but this rule prevents such an amendment being published if the amendment with which it is inconsistent has already been agreed to. It also prevents an amendment being published if another amendment which would have essentially the same effect has already been disagreed to.

4.26 It may be a question of fine judgement as to whether two amendments are similar enough that agreement or disagreement to one should preclude the other being taken. The rationale for the rule is to prevent a member who has been defeated once on an issue simply coming back again with a similar amendment later during the same Stage. The rule is not, however, intended to prevent the Parliament from considering the relative merits of amendments that represent slightly different ways of achieving the same outcome, or amendments that are “direct alternatives” (see paragraph 4.80). The rule is, therefore, applied narrowly. It will not be applied to treat a later amendment as pre-empted in any case where the later amendment may be regarded as the better means of achieving the shared intention. That is properly a matter for political debate.

4.27 This Rule does not prevent amendments to reverse a decision taken at one Stage being lodged for a subsequent Stage.

Admissibility of amendments at Reconsideration Stage

4.28 The above four admissibility criteria apply to all amendments. In addition, amendments at Reconsideration Stage are admissible (under Rule 9.9.4) only if they are intended to resolve the problem which gave rise to the Law Officer’s reference under section 33 or to the section 35 order (see paragraphs 2.150- 2.157). The reference or order is likely to specify particular provisions of the Bill, but this does not mean that any amendment to those provisions is admissible. Amendments to other provisions may also be admissible if they are necessary in consequence of amendments to those provisions which aim to resolve the problem. A Bill may not be amended where Reconsideration Stage arises as a result of a reference to the Supreme Court under section 32A on the grounds of protected subject-matter (Rule 9.9.4).

4.29 Modified admissibility criteria apply to Consolidation, Codification, Statute Law Repeals, and Statute Law Revision Bills (see paragraphs 3.61, 3.64 and 3.67).

Determining admissibility

4.30 The clerks in the Legislation Team will seek to ensure that all amendments are in proper form and also aim, where possible, to ensure that amendments submitted conform to the other criteria above. Where there is a doubt about the admissibility of an amendment, the clerks will seek to raise this with the member as soon as possible. The clerks will seek, wherever possible, to assist a member to make any changes that are required to make an amendment to achieve the member’s policy intention admissible. If this is not possible, the clerks will seek to advise the member about any possible alternative approaches. Application of the admissibility criteria in practice can be complex. In any case of dispute about the admissibility of an amendment, the decision rests with the convener at Stage 2 and the Presiding Officer at Stage 3 (Rule 9.10.4). Conveners and Presiding Officers do not normally give reasons for decisions on admissibility.

4.31 The clerks may, if need be, hold back amendments of doubtful admissibility from publication while the issue is resolved, to avoid the situation where an amendment is published in the Business Bulletin and is subsequently deemed inadmissible. Where an amendment is held back for this reason, the member who submitted it will be informed. However, where an amendment of doubtful admissibility is lodged on the last day before the deadline, it may sometimes be necessary to publish it before its admissibility is decided, to ensure that notice is given. This may lead to a delay in publication of the Marshalled List until the amendment’s admissibility is decided.

Lodging amendments

When amendments may be lodged

4.32 A Bill can be amended at Stage 2 and at Stage 3 (Rules 9.7.5 and 9.8.3). A Bill that is referred back to committee for further Stage 2 consideration under Rule 9.8.6 may be further amended at that Stage and again when it returns to Stage 3 (to the limited extent specified in that Rule). A Bill may be amended at Reconsideration Stage to the extent allowed under Rule 9.9.4 (and subject to Rule 9.9A.2).

4.33 At each amending Stage, amendments may not be lodged until the previous Stage has been completed. For Stage 2 amendments, this means as soon as the Parliament has decided in favour of the general principles of the Bill at Stage 1.

4.34 At Stage 2 and Reconsideration Stage, amendments should be lodged no later than the fourth sitting day before the day the Stage takes place or begins (Rule 9.10.2). So for a Bill being taken at Stage 2 on a Tuesday, the final lodging day is normally the previous Wednesday. As it is sitting days that count for this Rule, public holidays and recess days are not counted and so may affect the day by which amendments should be lodged. (Recess dates, and dates when the office of the Clerk is closed, are available on the Parliament’s website.)

4.35 Where Stage 2 is being taken over more than one week, further amendments may be lodged for the second or subsequent weeks so long as the same four-day limit is observed. So if the second day at Stage 2 was scheduled for the following Tuesday, amendments for that day could be lodged until the Wednesday of the previous week (i.e. in this case, the day after the first Stage 2 meeting).

4.36 The purpose of the four-day notice period at Stage 2 is to ensure that members (and others with an interest in the Bill) have an opportunity to consider amendments in advance of the debate, and to allow the clerks adequate time to prepare the Marshalled List and advise on groupings (see paragraphs 4.67-4.73).

4.37 At Stage 3, amendments must be lodged no later than the fifth sitting day before the Stage (Rule 9.10.2A). So for a Bill being taken at Stage 3 on a Wednesday, the final lodging day is the previous Wednesday. This longer notice period applies because the Marshalled List can be published only after the Presiding Officer has selected amendments for debate. Since this is likely to be the final opportunity to amend the Bill, it is also appropriate to ensure that adequate notice is given to anyone with an interest in it of any potentially important changes that are being proposed.

4.38 At all amending Stages, amendments may be lodged on any day when the office of the Clerk is open. This excludes weekends and holidays, but includes most days of recess. Amendments may normally be lodged until 4.30 pm, except on a final lodging day when the deadline is 12 noon (Rules 9.10.2 and 9.10.2A). Members can withdraw an amendment up until the final lodging day (Rule 9.10.7A).

4.39 Amendments for a second or subsequent day of a Stage are accepted only if they are to a part of the Bill not already dealt with at that Stage. The deadline is worked out in the same way as for the first day of the Stage. The exception is where two or more Stage 2 committee meetings take place in one week or where Stage 3 takes place over two days in one week. In those circumstances there is only one deadline for all the meetings taking place over the week, and that is the usual Stage 2 or 3 deadline for the first meeting taking place in the week. So if a committee is holding two Stage 2 meetings, on Tuesday and Wednesday, the deadline for submitting amendments to be considered on either day will be 12 noon on the fourth sitting day before the Tuesday (i.e. normally the previous Wednesday). And if amendments are being considered at Stage 3 on both Wednesday and Thursday then the deadline for both days will be 12 noon on the fifth sitting day before the Wednesday (i.e. normally the previous Wednesday). It follows from this that there is normally no need to prepare more than one Marshalled List and list of groupings (see paragraphs 4.67-4.73) per week.

4.40 If, at Stage 3, the debate on the motion to pass the Bill is scheduled for another day (or if proceedings are adjourned under Rule 9.8.5C) a separate deadline applies in relation to the more limited range of amendments that may then be lodged under Rule 9.8.5D. The usual rule as to Stage 3 deadlines for amendments (i.e. the fifth sitting day prior to the date of the meeting) applies.

4.41 Amendments lodged after the deadline may be accepted as “manuscript amendments” under Rule 9.10.6, but only at the discretion of the convener (at Stage 2) or Presiding Officer (at Stage 3 and Reconsideration Stage). Procedures for dealing with such amendments are set out below.

4.42 At all Stages, members are advised to lodge amendments as early as possible before the deadline. This ensures that other members are given maximum notice of what is proposed, allowing them a better opportunity to prepare for the debate. Greater notice of an amendment gives members of other parties more opportunity to consider whether they can support it and also allows the member who lodged the amendment to enter into a dialogue with those other parties about possible changes of wording that might make the amendment capable of receiving those parties’ support.

4.43 Members are also encouraged to contact the clerks as early as possible to discuss amendments they propose to lodge. Giving the clerks more time to assist members with the wording of their amendments allows greater opportunity to ensure that amendments can be drafted to achieve the member’s policy intentions correctly and reduces the chances of drafting problems that might prevent the amendments being acceptable to other parties.

4.44 Amendment lodging deadlines for all Bills in progress, where these deadlines are known, are published in the Business Bulletin.

Where amendments are lodged

4.45 Amendments at all Stages are lodged with the clerks in the Legislation Team. They are based in Room T1.01 and can be contacted at [email protected].

Which parts of the Bill may be amended

4.46 Any part of the “legislative text” of the Bill (i.e. the words that have legal effect) may be amended. This includes every section and schedule of the Bill and the long title (although the long title is normally amended only in consequence of amendments made elsewhere in the Bill). The short title may be amended where it is cited in the Bill itself (usually in the final section).

4.47 The parts of the Bill that cannot normally be amended are Part and Chapter titles, italic cross headings, section or schedule titles, or any of the numbers assigned to any of the component parts of the Bill. Cross-references in the text of one provision to another provision may, however, be amended. The principle behind this distinction between legislative text and other elements of a Bill is that the Parliament must decide what the legislative effect of the Bill is to be, and these other elements can then be adjusted administratively to reflect what the Parliament has decided. For example, an amendment to change substantially a particular section might require a change to the italic heading above it, so that the heading continues to describe accurately the provisions that fall under it. If the italic heading and the section in question are adjacent, an amendment to leave out the section and insert a new section in its place might replace the heading as part of the amendment. But if the italic heading is not adjacent to the section in question, a separate amendment to the heading would be inadmissible and the italic heading would be adjusted administratively (as what is known as a “printing point”).

4.48 Similar considerations apply with punctuation and numbering. For example, an amendment which involves breaking up a subsection into two paragraphs, (a) and (b), might only insert the (b) (and the text of that paragraph), leaving the (a) to be inserted later as a printing point. The insertion of the (a) is purely a consequence of the amendment being agreed to, and simply makes good the structure of the subsection following the amendment. Inserting the (a) has no legal effect. A separate amendment intended to do nothing more than insert the (a) would be needed only where necessary to make the effect of the principal amendment clear.

4.49 When changes are made to a Bill as printing points this would be most often done at the end of the parliamentary passage of a Bill. A document known as a Printing Points Document is published on the Bill webpage outlining all the printing point changes that have been made. Changes can only be made as printing points if they do not alter the legal effect of the Bill. Examples of printing points include making formatting changes, correcting minor typographical errors, amending titles of Parts, Chapters, sections, etc. to ensure they accurately reflect the contents of the Bill as a result of amendments agreed to by the Parliament.

4.50 Amendments to amendments are permitted (Rule 9.10.7), and are subject to the same rules as other amendments, save for minor differences of style.

Who may lodge amendments

4.51 Any MSP may lodge an amendment at any Stage - apart from specific rules applying where a Bill is adjourned at Stage 3 (Rule 9.8.5D) and for Budget Bills (Rule 9.16.6). At Stage 2, it is not only the members of the relevant committee who may lodge amendments. There is no limit to the number of amendments that each MSP may lodge.

4.52 The convener of a committee may lodge (or support) an amendment on behalf of the committee if the committee has made a formal decision during a meeting to that effect. Such “committee amendments” are published in the name of the convener followed by the words “(on behalf of the [name] Committee)”. There is no procedural distinction between committee amendments and amendments in the name of an individual member, but the stated endorsement of the committee may be helpful to indicate that the person attending the Stage 2 committee meeting to move it is doing so on behalf of another committee and not just in an individual capacity.

4.53 As with other items of business, amendments may be lodged in person or in writing by the member; on the member’s behalf by a third party authorised in writing by the member; or by e-mail if the member has authorised the lodging of business from the member’s e-mail account (Rule 17.4.1). Amendments cannot be lodged from the e-mail address of anyone other than the member (except in the case of amendments in the name of a Minister or junior Minister, which may be lodged by email by an authorised official of the Scottish Government – Rule 17.4.2). The Interests of Members of the Scottish Parliament Act 2006 (Declaration of Interests) Determination 2007 requires that a member should indicate when lodging or supporting an amendment if they have a declarable interest in relation to the amendment. Such amendments will be marked with an “R” on the daily list and Marshalled List.

4.54 Each amendment must be in the name of just one member, but may also have up to four supporters – or five if one is the member in charge of the Bill (Rule 9.10.3). Supporters’ names need not be attached to the amendment when it is lodged – they may be added at any time during the period when amendments for the Stage may be lodged (Rule 9.10.3) – i.e. before the deadline for lodging amendments. Where supporters’ names are added to an amendment that has already been published in the Business Bulletin, the amendment is not republished just because new names have been added. The additional names will, however, appear when the Marshalled List is published.

4.55 Part of the rationale for allowing members to support amendments is that a member cannot lodge a particular amendment if another member has already done so. But the second member’s name can be added in support of the amendment. An amendment may be withdrawn in advance of the Stage by the member who lodged it, but only with the consent of all supporters and only during the same period when supporters’ names may be added (Rule 9.10.7A). So a member who has added their name in support of an amendment can prevent the amendment being withdrawn in advance of the Stage, and so be assured of the opportunity (under Rule 9.10.14) to move it if the member who lodged it does not.

4.56 Where the member who lodged an amendment seeks to alter it (or lodge a new version in substitution), the consent of any supporters to the original amendment is only required if the alteration is substantial (or the new version substantially different). If any such supporters’ consent has not been obtained, their names must be left attached to that version of the amendment (which cannot therefore be withdrawn in advance of the Stage).

4.57 Government amendments are prepared by the PCO drafters and lodged in the name of the relevant Minister. Other members may add their names as supporters just as with non-Government amendments.

4.58 It is quite normal for many of the amendments to a Bill to be lodged by the member in charge of the Bill (e.g. by the Minister in charge of a Government Bill). Some of these may give effect to concessions made during earlier Stages, or may be intended simply to improve the drafting or correct errors that have come to light since the Bill was introduced.

Correcting amendments after lodging

4.59 All members – and others – with an interest in a Bill are advised to check the legislation section of the Business Bulletin every day during the period when amendments may be lodged, to ensure they have seen and considered all amendments lodged to the Bill. It is particularly important that members who lodge amendments check them carefully in the next day’s Bulletin. The clerks may make minor changes of wording and structure to ensure that amendments are, so far as possible, consistent with the structure and drafting style used in the Bill. The clerks will make every effort to clear changes of substance with members before sending amendments for publication, but this is not always possible and occasionally the purpose of an amendment may be misunderstood. It is the responsibility of members to ensure that amendments published in their name achieve the intended purpose.

4.60 Members who wish to correct amendments that have been published should contact the clerks as early as possible. If the corrections are substantive (i.e. non-trivial) but do not change the overall purpose of the amendment, the corrected amendment will appear on the Marshalled List marked with an asterisk (*). This alerts other members to the fact that the amendment is not the same as the version previously published with that amendment number. New amendments – i.e. those not previously published – are also asterisked on the Marshalled List. Where a more fundamental correction is sought, a new amendment must be lodged and is published in the Bulletin as “in substitution for” the earlier amendment. This procedure ensures that maximum notice is given of the new amendment, and alerts other members to the fact that the earlier amendment has been superseded.

4.61 Major corrections (i.e. those which would require an “in substitution” amendment) can only be made up to the deadline for lodging amendments at that Stage. Minor corrections may be made at any time until the Marshalled List is finalised. Either way, members should notify the clerks of all corrections as early as possible in order to ensure that the Marshalled List shows amendments as the member who lodged them would wish them to appear. The published Marshalled List is treated as a definitive document. The only amendments that may be moved and agreed to (aside from any manuscript amendments that may be lodged) are those published on the List.

Rules on marshalling amendments

4.62 The preparation of both daily lists of amendments and Marshalled Lists is based on rules determined by the Clerk of the Parliament under Rule 9.10.8. These rules were announced in Business Bulletin No.46/1999 (2 September 1999). They are subject to the "order of consideration" – the order in which the sections and schedules of the Bill are to be considered (see paragraphs 2.98-2.101 and 2.131). At Stage 2, the order of consideration is the order set out in Rule 9.7.4, or such other order as is decided by the Parliament or the committee under that Rule. At Stage 3, it is either the order in which the sections and schedules appear in the Bill or such other order as the Parliament has decided under Rule 9.8.5. The long title is always considered last.

4.63 The rules on marshalling amendments are set out in a determination made by the Clerk under Rule 9.10.8 and are as follows:

An amendment to insert a new section or schedule before or after an existing section or schedule is taken before or after (as the case may be) amendments to the existing section or schedule.

An amendment to leave out a section or schedule and insert a new section or schedule in its place is taken after all amendments to the section or schedule, but before any amendment to leave out the section or schedule. An amendment to leave out a section or schedule is, in turn, taken before any amendments to divide or move the section or schedule.

Within each section or schedule, amendments are considered in the order determined by the first point in the section or schedule to which they relate, subject to the following rules:

  • Amendments to leave out a block of text within a section or schedule (such as a subsection or paragraph) are taken before any amendments to that block of text.
  • Amendments to leave out words are taken before any amendments to leave out words beginning at the same place in the Bill and insert other words in their place.
  • Amendments to insert new words at the end of the last line of a block of text are taken before amendments to insert new blocks of text at the end of that line; and amendments to insert new blocks of text at the same place in the Bill are taken in the order in which those blocks of text would appear in the Bill if all such amendments were agreed to.

Where the order of amendments to the same place in the Bill is not determined by the above rules, they are normally taken in the order in which they are lodged, but with precedence given to those lodged by the member in charge of the Bill.

4.64 As stated, where the order of amendments to the same place in the Bill is not determined by the above rules, precedence will normally be given to the order in which they were lodged. This would only be diverged from if logic and context dictated a different order was sensible. Clerks in the Legislation Team, in consultation with Government officials, will decide how best to order amendments in cases like these.

4.65 For example, amendments would be marshalled as follows:

Section 12

In section 12, page 10, line 8, leave out subsection (1)

In section 12, page 10, line 8, leave out subsection (1) and insert—

<(1) Text of new subsection.>

In section 12, page 10, line 8, leave out <word>

In section 12, page 10, line 8, leave out <word> and insert <words>

In section 12, page 10, line 8, after <word> insert <words>

In section 12, page 10, line 8, at end insert <words>

In section 12, page 10, line 8, at end insert—

<( ) text of new paragraph;>

In section 12, page 10, line 8, at end insert—

<( ) Text of new subsection.>

Leave out section 12 and insert—

<Title of new section

Text of new section.>

Leave out section 12

Divide section 12 into two sections, the first (Title of first new section) to consist of subsections (1) and (2) and the second (Title of second new section) to consist of subsections (3) to (5)

Move section 12 to after section 14

After section 12

After section 12, insert—

<Title of new section

Text of new section.>

Daily lists of amendments

4.66 Where possible, all admissible amendments lodged on a particular day are published in the following day’s Business Bulletin under the short title of the relevant Bill. Notice of amendments withdrawn is also included. The amendments in each daily list will normally appear in “marshalled” order, numbered consecutively from top to bottom of the list. Amendment numbers on a second daily list begin where the numbers on the first list left off. The exception to this numbering is for amendments to amendments, which are numbered by reference to the amendment to which they relate, so amendments to amendment 3 are 3A, 3B, etc.

Marshalled Lists

4.67 Normally, by the time a Marshalled List is published, all the amendments to be included will already have been published in a daily list. The Marshalled List is simply an amalgamation of the various daily lists (minus any amendments that have been withdrawn). At Stage 3, however, the Marshalled List contains only those amendments that have been selected for consideration by the Presiding Officer under Rule 9.10.8 (see paragraphs 4.74 and 4.75). 

4.68 Amendment numbers act more as an identification code rather than a numerical listing of amendments. Because each daily list may contain amendments scattered throughout the Bill, and because amendment numbers do not change once assigned, amendments in a Marshalled List usually do not appear with consecutive numbering, but in an apparently random order. Although this may at first appear odd, it has significant advantages. The fact that each amendment is numbered as soon as it is first published makes it easier for members and others with an interest to follow the progress of the amendment. This is only possible because amendment numbers do not change once assigned.

4.69 Marshalled Lists are numbered by reference to the relevant print of the Bill. So the first Marshalled List at Stage 2 of SP Bill 3 will be SP Bill 3–ML1, the second ML2, and so on. If the Bill is amended at Stage 2 and reprinted as SP Bill 3A, the Stage 3 Marshalled List will be SP Bill 3A–ML. If the Bill is not amended, the Stage 3 Marshalled List will be numbered in the same sequence as those at Stage 2.

4.70 Where a Bill is considered over more than one meeting in different weeks, a separate Marshalled List is produced for each week. Second and subsequent Marshalled Lists include only those amendments not yet disposed of. Where a Bill is considered over more than one week at Stage 2, each Marshalled List includes only those amendments lodged prior to the deadline for that week’s proceedings, and any manuscript amendments to provisions expected to be considered that week.

Groupings of amendments

4.71 The purpose of grouping amendments is to minimise repetition by debating together amendments on particular topics and to allow the committee (or the Parliament) the maximum choice. Some groups may consist of a single amendment. There are four principal grounds on which amendments are grouped together:

Amendments that stand or fall together, or are to a lesser extent dependent on each other, are grouped.

  • For example, there might be a series of amendments throughout a Bill to change the name of an organisation, where there would be no point in agreeing to any one such amendment without also agreeing to all the others, and where a single debate on the issue is all that is required.
  • Another clear case would be an amendment to insert a new schedule and the amendment to insert a provision introducing the schedule, where the Bill would be defective if it included one and not the other.
  • A less clear case might involve an amendment to insert a new section, and a number of other amendments to insert cross-references to that new section in various existing provisions of the Bill. It might be that the new section would be ineffective without at least some of the other amendments, but members who support the new section might differ on which of the existing provisions of the Bill should be made subject to its procedures, and hence which of the associated amendments should be agreed to.

Amendments that represent alternative ways of addressing the same issue, or are otherwise closely related in terms of the issue they raise, are grouped.

  • Here the clear case involves directly competing alternatives, where it would not make sense to agree to all of the amendments and where the issues raised are identical: for example, where the Bill makes provision for a specified period of notice (e.g. one month) and there are amendments to substitute different periods (e.g. two months, three months, six months).
  • A less clear case would be where there are various amendments to a particular provision which are related only by the fact that their subject matter is determined by the provision. Some might make major changes to the provision, others only small changes; some might be mostly technical in nature (e.g. to improve the drafting), whereas others might involve major changes of policy. In this situation, there are likely to be various acceptable ways in which the amendments could be grouped.

Amendments to amendments are almost always grouped with the amendments to which they relate.

Similarly, amendments that would be pre-empted by other amendments (see paragraph 4.78-4.80) are never grouped in such a way that they could be pre-empted without ever having been debated. In practice this usually means that amendments are grouped with the amendments that would pre-empt them.

4.72 The groupings are decided by the convener or Presiding Officer (Rule 9.10.12). The clerks, in preparing a draft, may seek the views of members and the Scottish Government, but the convener’s or Presiding Officer’s decision is final. Lists of groupings are prepared as soon as possible after the Marshalled List is finalised and are published on the Parliament’s website in advance of the meeting, alongside the Marshalled List and other documents relating to the Bill. Like Marshalled Lists, lists of groupings are numbered by reference to the Bill number (e.g. SP Bill 3-G1 for the first groupings list). At Stage 3, an updated version of the groupings, with information on the timetable for proceedings on amendments added, is published once the terms of the proposed timetabling motion (see paragraph 4.108) are known. This is usually the day before the proceedings.

4.73 The groupings list also includes the text of the amendments arranged in group order. This is for guidance only, and the Marshalled List should still be treated as the definitive document on which the proceedings are based.

Selection of amendments

4.74 There is no selection of amendments at Stage 2 or Reconsideration Stage, and all admissible amendments may be debated. But at Stage 3 the Presiding Officer has the power to select which amendments of those that have been lodged (and are admissible) are to be taken (Rule 9.8.4). The decision of the Presiding Officer on selection is final and the reasons for selection are normally not given.

4.75 The purpose of selection is to ensure that proceedings on the Bill can be completed in a reasonable time and to avoid repeating unnecessarily discussion of issues fully debated at Stage 2. In making the selection, the Presiding Officer aims to apply the following criteria (striking a balance between them, if need be):

Trivial amendments or amendments that are technically defective (e.g. “probing” amendments which, if agreed to, would leave the Bill in need of further amendment) should not be selected, to allow the debate to concentrate on the more important issues and on amendments that could improve the resulting legislation. Selection should not, however, reduce the range of important issues considered.

Amendments which raise issues fully considered at Stage 2, particularly where the Stage 2 debate made it obvious that there was little real merit in the amendment or little support for it, should not be selected. The fact that an amendment was disagreed to on division at Stage 2 is less important than the nature of the issue raised, and the overall level of support expressed in debate should be the guide.

An amendment that was fully discussed may, however, be selected if:

  • its wording has been revised to take account of criticisms made at Stage 2, where those criticisms were (or may have been) decisive in its not being agreed to at that Stage
  • the member in charge (or, if different, the Minister) gave an undertaking to reconsider the issue, particularly if no member-in-charge (or Government) amendment has been lodged
  • the response by the member in charge (or, if different, the Minister) to the earlier debate left genuine doubt as to the attitude of the member in charge (or the Government) to the issue; or
  • there has been (or appears to have been) a change of Government policy on the issue, or a relevant material development, such that, had it applied when the Stage 2 debate took place, a different result might have obtained.

The selected list should continue to reflect the major concerns of all political parties and of individual MSPs who have lodged amendments.

Selection may be used to reduce the number of alternative or overlapping amendments. But there need be no selection among a number of valid alternative amendments (which would in any case be grouped and debated together).

All Government amendments are normally selected. With Members’ Bills or Committee Bills, member-in-charge amendments are also normally all selected.
Committee amendments (i.e. amendments lodged by the convener of a committee on behalf of that committee – see paragraph 4.52) are normally selected.

Proceedings on amendments – all Stages

4.76 The way in which proceedings on amendments are conducted is similar at all Stages, in committees and in the Parliament. In the description that follows, references to the convener should be read as references to the Presiding Officer, and references to the committee as references to the Parliament, in the context of proceedings at Stage 3 or Reconsideration Stage. Guidance that applies only at Stage 2 is set out at paragraphs 4.101–4.107, and guidance that applies only at Stage 3 at paragraphs 4.108–4.119.

Calling amendments

4.77 The convener calls amendments in turn from the Marshalled List. Each amendment is called – and, if moved, disposed of – individually in its place in the list.

4.78 The only situation in which an amendment on the Marshalled List may not be called is where it would be inconsistent with a decision already taken at the same Stage (Rule 9.10.11). Instances of this are described as “pre-emptions”. This will arise in a case where one amendment would, if agreed to, remove the text on which the later amendment relies. An amendment to leave out subsection (1), for example, would pre-empt any amendment to that subsection. However, an amendment to leave out a section and insert a substitute is not considered to pre-empt an amendment that just leaves out the same section. Pre-emptions may also arise with amendments aiming at the same result but at different points in the Bill, where agreeing to the later amendment would be inconsistent with disagreement to the earlier. This would not, however, be treated as a pre-emption in any case where the later amendment may be regarded as the better means of achieving the shared intention. That is properly a matter for political debate. The rule will, therefore, be applied narrowly (see paragraph 4.25).

4.79 In any instance of pre-emption the convener will, before calling the earlier amendment, draw the committee’s attention to the implications for the later amendment of agreeing to the earlier amendment. The published groupings will also provide notification of any pre-emptions, as well as of direct alternatives (see paragraph 4.80) below.

4.80 Rule 9.10.11 does not preclude all of a number of alternative amendments to the same place in the Bill being taken. Amendments to a provision setting a time limit (of, say, one month) might variously propose changing that limit to two, three and six months. Agreement to the first of those amendments would not prevent the others also being taken, so the later amendments are not regarded as pre-empted. Agreement to the first may be taken to involve only a decision that two months is better than one, which does not preclude a decision that three or six months is better still. Amendments of this sort (i.e. two or more amendments replacing the same text with different text) are referred to as “direct alternatives”.

Moving and debating amendments

4.81 In any debate on a group of amendments, certain members have a right to speak. A member in whose name any of the amendments in the group appears has a right to speak. The member in charge of the Bill (for Government Bills, the relevant Minister) and any other Minister present also have a right to speak. Other members who wish to speak may be called at the discretion of the convener (Rule 9.10.13). As with other business, members must make an oral declaration every time a declarable interest is sufficiently relevant to an amendment. A declaration is required where a member with a relevant interest moves an amendment or otherwise participates in the debate on an amendment. A declaration is not required if the member’s sole contribution to the proceedings consists of attending and voting.

4.82 Debate on a group of amendments proceeds as follows:

  • The convener calls the member who lodged the “lead” amendment in the group (i.e. the one in the group that appears first on the Marshalled List) to speak to and move that amendment, and speak to all other amendments (if any) in the group. The suggested form of words for moving an amendment, which is usually done at the end of the speech in support of it, is “Accordingly, I move amendment X”.
  • The convener then calls all other members who have amendments in the group to speak in the debate. (This may include the member in charge or the Minister if they did not move the lead amendment.). They are called in the order in which the first of their amendments in the group appears on the Marshalled List. They speak to (but do not move at this point) all their own amendments in the group, and may also comment on the lead amendment and other amendments in the group.
  • The convener then has discretion to call other members (i.e. any member who does not have amendments in the group) who may wish to speak in the debate.
  • If the Minister has not already spoken, they are called at this point to set out the Scottish Government’s position on the amendments in the group. In the case of a Member’s Bill or a Committee Bill (i.e. where the member in charge is not the relevant Government Minister), the Minister will be called to speak and then the member in charge.
  • At the end of the debate, the convener gives the member who moved the lead amendment an opportunity to reply to points made by other speakers, and to indicate whether they wish to press for a decision on the lead amendment. (Where the lead amendment is in the name of the member in charge or Minister, it is normally assumed that it will be pressed.)

Not moving an amendment when it is called

4.83 If the member in whose name an amendment appears does not wish to move it, the member should simply say “Not moved” when the amendment is called. In that event, any other member present (whether or not a member of the committee, and whether or not that member had formally lodged their name in support of the amendment) may move the amendment (Rule 9.10.14). If an amendment is not moved the convener proceeds to call the next amendment on the Marshalled List.

Withdrawing amendments which have been moved

4.84 At any time after an amendment is moved, but before the question is put, the member who moved it may seek to withdraw it (Rule 9.10.15). In that event, the convener must ask whether any other member present objects to the amendment being withdrawn. If any member (whether or not a member of the committee) objects, the amendment is not withdrawn and the question on it must be put. If no member objects, the amendment is withdrawn, and the convener proceeds to call the next amendment on the Marshalled List.

Putting the question and voting on amendments

4.85 After the debate is concluded, the convener “puts the question”, normally by saying “The question is that amendment X be agreed to. Are we all agreed?” Members who agree say “Yes”, those who disagree say “No”. If no member disagrees, the amendment is agreed to without a division. If any member of the committee disagrees to the question on an amendment, the convener will call a division.

4.86 At Stage 2, divisions normally take place by a show of hands (Rule 11.8.3). The convener says “Those in favour?”, “Those against?”, “Those abstaining?”, ensuring that hands are raised for long enough in each case to allow the clerks to note the names of those voting. Alternatives to a show of hands would be the Parliament directing that the committee use an electronic voting system for divisions at Stage 2, or the convener agreeing to a request by a committee member that a roll-call vote be taken. If a roll-call vote is taken, the committee votes by the convener calling members in alphabetical order, each responding “Yes”, “No” or “Abstain”.

4.87 When a committee is meeting in hybrid form (i.e. some or all MSPs are participating remotely), then Stage 2 proceedings differ slightly in terms of the form of question asked and the means of recording the votes. At such meetings, the convener still “puts the question on the amendment” as described above but Members attending remotely who disagree record their dissent by typing “N” for “No” in the Chatbox function on the Parliament’s videoconferencing platform that is used for virtual committee meetings. If any Member has disagreed, a division then follows with the convener asking “Those in favour?”, “Those against?”, “Those abstaining?” to vote in turn. For any Members present in the committee room itself, a show of hands is normally used to record their vote. For any Member attending remotely, the Chatbox is used with Members typing “Y” (for “Yes”), “N” (for “No”) or “A” (for abstain). If a roll-call vote is taken, the committee votes by the convener calling members in alphabetical order, each responding “Yes”, “No” or “Abstain” or using the Chatbox accordingly. After each Member has voted, for a virtual meeting, the convener will read out the result of the vote and will also state the name of how each member voted for the record. In this way, it is clear to all observing the meeting how each member voted as access to the Chatbox function is restricted to members and clerks.

4.88 At Stage 3, or in a Committee of the Whole Parliament at Stage 2, an electronic voting system is normally used (at the time of writing, an online system, which also allows remote Members to vote, is used). The normal practice is to have a five minute suspension on the first occasion when a pressed amendment is objected to. Division bells are rung and the five-minute suspension allows members time to get into the Chamber from other parts of the building. For Members who may choose to attend the meeting virtually, a virtual division bell is sent by e-mail to give them time to join the meeting on the online platform. The division itself then lasts for 30 seconds, or 1 minute if there are also remote participants (known as a “hybrid” meeting). On subsequent occasions when, for the first time after a debate on a group a pressed amendment is objected to, a one-minute voting period is allowed. In every other case, for example when a number of previously-debated amendments are moved and objected to in quick succession, it is assumed that all members who wish to vote are already in the Chamber. Accordingly, each division is for only 30 seconds, or 1 minute if the meeting is hybrid. If disposal of amendments at Stage 3 extends over two or more days (or over both a morning and an afternoon), there will be a five minute suspension on the first occasion when a pressed amendment is objected to on each morning and afternoon in which amendments are considered.

Amendments in groups

4.89 Amendments are grouped in order to avoid repetition and to allow a single debate on the issue raised by a number of amendments. But grouping does not affect the requirement that each amendment is called, moved and disposed of in its place in the Marshalled List. The result is that a lengthy debate on a group of consecutive amendments may be followed by the disposal of those amendments in quick succession.

4.90 The debate on the group normally takes place on the first amendment in the group. (Where amendments have been lodged to the first amendment in the group, the debate normally takes place on the first such amendment to that amendment – see paragraph 4.96). If the first amendment in the group is not moved, the debate is deferred until the first occasion on which one of the remaining amendments in the group is moved.

4.91 The debate on a group is the only opportunity members have to comment on any of the amendments in the group. While the calling of speakers in a debate is at the discretion of the convener, members should generally assume they will be called only once in each debate. Members should therefore ensure that their speech relates to all the amendments in the group on which they wish to comment.

4.92 Where amendments are debated in a group because they are so closely related that they must stand or fall together then, if the first is agreed to, it is likely that the others will also be agreed to when they are called. But each must be called and moved before it can be agreed to. Similarly, if the first such amendment is disagreed to, the member(s) who proposed them may choose not to move the others when they are called. A member who has lodged a number of closely related amendments should, therefore, be present (or have a supporter present) not only to move the first in the group, but also – if the first is agreed to – to move the others when they are reached later in the proceedings. Grouped amendments may be scattered throughout the Marshalled List and so be taken on different days of a long Stage 2.

4.93 Where an amendment is called having already been debated earlier, it cannot be debated again (Rule 9.10.12). When it is called, the member should normally just say “Moved” or “Not moved”. The member may also make a brief comment to explain why the amendment is being moved or not. However, it is not appropriate to make a speech at this point since that would be unfair on other members who might wish, but be unable, to reply to substantive points raised.

4.94 Where a number of previously-debated amendments are consecutive in the Marshalled List, they may be moved en bloc. At Stage 2, because of the requirement to agree each section and schedule, amendments can only be moved en bloc if they are all to the same section or schedule. If no member of the committee objects, a single question on those amendments moved en bloc may also be put, but if any member does object, the amendments should be disposed of individually. If it is clear that a member objects only to some of the amendments being disposed of en bloc, those may be disposed of individually and the remaining amendments still disposed of en bloc.

4.95 If a member wishes not to move a series of previously debated amendments, that should normally be done individually one amendment at a time so that progress through the Marshalled List is clear and so that any other member present has the opportunity to move an amendment that is not moved by the member who lodged it. However, if it is clear that no member present wishes to move any of a sequence of previously debated amendments, they need not be called individually.

Amendments to amendments

4.96 Where there are amendments to an amendment, these will usually be grouped together. The procedure for disposing of them is similar to that described above, except that the amendments to the original amendment must be disposed of before the original amendment (Rule 9.10.10). For example, for a Government amendment number 35 to which two non-Government amendments (35A and 35B) have been lodged, the procedure would be as follows:

  • The convener invites the Minister to move amendment 35, speak in support of it and address other amendments in the group.
  • The convener invites the member who lodged amendment 35A to move and speak in support of it and address other amendments in the group.
  • The convener calls other speakers – including the member who lodged amendment 35B.
  • The final speakers are the Minister (to wind up on amendment 35) and the member who lodged amendment 35A (to wind up on it and on the debate in general). At this point, the member who lodged amendment 35A has the opportunity either to press it to a decision or seek to withdraw it.
  • If the amendment is pressed, the convener puts the question “That amendment 35A be agreed to”.
  • The convener calls the member who lodged amendment 35B to move (or not move) it.
  • If the amendment is moved, the convener puts the question “That amendment 35B be agreed to”.
  • Finally, the Minister has the opportunity either to press amendment 35 to a decision or seek to withdraw it. If it is pressed, the convener puts the question “That amendment 35 (or amendment 35 as amended) be agreed to”.

Manuscript amendments

4.97 Amendments lodged after the normal deadline set out in Rule 9.10.2 or 2A are referred to as “manuscript amendments”. All late amendments fall into this category, whether they are lodged only minutes after the deadline or immediately before the point in proceedings on the Bill when they would have to be moved. Like any other amendment, a manuscript amendment must be lodged in writing with the clerk, and is subject to the criteria of admissibility set out in Rule 9.10.5. A manuscript amendment at Stage 3 is also subject to selection by the Presiding Officer under Rule 9.8.4.

4.98 A manuscript amendment may be moved only with the convener’s agreement. The convener gives that agreement only if the convener “considers it is justified, in the circumstances, taking account of the disadvantages of lack of proper notice” (Rule 9.10.6). In applying that test, the convener should keep in mind that, although there may be a justification for manuscript amendments in particular circumstances, their frequent use erodes the effectiveness of the normal deadline, the purpose of which is to ensure that adequate notice is given of all amendments, both to members and to outside parties with an interest in the Bill.

4.99 The disadvantages of reduced notice depend on the scope and complexity of the amendment, and are generally greater the less notice that is given – particularly at Stage 3 (or Reconsideration Stage), normally the final opportunity to amend the Bill. There is a particular disadvantage in taking a last-minute manuscript amendment at a meeting of the Parliament (or a Committee of the Whole Parliament), given the greater disruption that a suspension causes to Chamber proceedings. A last-minute Stage 3 (or Reconsideration Stage) manuscript amendment may still be justified, however, if it would, for example, correct a defect in the Bill (such as a missed consequential) that had only just come to light. Agreement should not normally be given to move a manuscript amendment which could equally well have been lodged before the deadline. But where a non-manuscript amendment was lodged immediately before the normal deadline, and so is only published after that deadline has passed, agreement should normally be given to move any manuscript amendments which are lodged directly in response to that amendment, and on the first available day thereafter.

4.100 If a manuscript amendment is lodged in time for it to be included in the Marshalled List, (assuming the convener or Presiding Officer agrees to it being moved) it will be published with an asterisk beside its number to indicate that it is a manuscript amendment. If it is lodged after the Marshalled List has been finalised, the amendment will normally be made available separately in a supplement to the Marshalled List before it is moved. If the amendment is lodged during the proceedings, it may be necessary for the meeting to be suspended to allow the amendment to be made available. A manuscript amendment to leave out a section or schedule, however, may be moved without printed copies being made available to members.

Proceedings at Stage 2

Agreement to sections and schedules

4.101 Rule 9.7.3 requires every section and schedule to be agreed to at Stage 2. The question is put in the form “That section/schedule x be agreed to”. No motion is required for this.

4.102 The question on a section or schedule is only put if there is no amendment to leave out the section or schedule. In other words, any substantive decision on whether the section or schedule should remain in the Bill is taken on an amendment. If an amendment to leave out the section or schedule is disagreed to, the question that the section or schedule be agreed to is not put as the section or schedule is treated as agreed to as a result of the decision on the amendment (Rule 9.7.6). And if such an amendment is agreed to, it is no longer possible to agree to the section or schedule, since it no longer exists. The question on a section or schedule is still put after agreement to an amendment to “leave out section X and insert [new section]”.

4.103 Because the only mechanism available to leave a section or schedule out of a Bill is by means of an amendment, putting the question on each section and schedule is, in practice, a formality. There is no obligation on members to agree when the question is put on the section or schedule, but disagreement does not lead to a division and cannot result in the omission of the section or schedule from the Bill.

4.104 If no amendment to leave out the section or schedule has been lodged in advance, any member may lodge a manuscript amendment to leave it out. Any such amendment is still subject to the normal admissibility criteria in Rule 9.10.5, so an amendment to leave out a section containing provisions central to one of the principal purposes of the Bill may be inadmissible under Rule 9.10.5(c) – which precludes “wrecking” amendments. Any such manuscript amendment is also subject to the decision of the Convener under Rule 9.10.6 on whether it can be moved at the meeting.

4.105 Where there is a section or schedule to which no amendments have been lodged, the convener puts the question on that section or schedule at the appropriate point. This is immediately after the question on the previous section or schedule is dealt with or, if there are amendments to insert a new section or schedule after the previous section or schedule, after those amendments are disposed of (Rule 9.7.6). Where there are two or more consecutive sections or schedules to which no amendments have been lodged, a single question that they be agreed to may be put (Rule 9.7.3). But a manuscript amendment to leave out more than one section or schedule is not permitted – separate amendments would be required.

4.106 Although all amendments to a section or schedule are taken before the question is put on the section or schedule, amendments to divide or move the section or schedule are taken after the section or schedule has been agreed to. This is in order to allow the substance of the section or schedule to be finalised before deciding any issue of where in the Bill the section or schedule should go.

Consideration of the long title

4.107 At the end of Stage 2, any amendments to the long title are disposed of and the question is then put “That the long title be agreed to”.

Proceedings at Stage 3

The timetabling motion

4.108 At Stage 3, it is usual for the Parliamentary Bureau to propose a motion (under Rule 9.8.4A) setting out time limits by which the debate on one or more groups must be concluded. Such a motion is moved before Stage 3 begins. The purpose of the timetabling motion is to seek to ensure a reasonable distribution of debating time, by anticipating which groups are likely to be most and least debated.

Presiding Officer’s discretion to depart from the timetabling motion

4.109 In managing debate on amendments, the Presiding Officer will always seek to adhere to the time limits set out in the timetabling motion. However, the Presiding Officer has a power to depart from any time limits in the motion, to such extent as is considered necessary (Rule 9.8.4A). This can be for any one of three reasons:

  • to enable those members given a right to speak on a group by Rule 9.10.13 to do so – i.e. the member moving the amendment leading the group; any other member intending to move an amendment in the same group; the member in charge of the Bill and (if different) any Minister present at proceedings
  • to prevent any debate on a group of amendments that has already begun from being unreasonably curtailed; or
  • as a consequence of the non-moving of an amendment leading to a change in the order in which groups are debated.

4.110 The first two reasons above are intended to address circumstances where there is a danger of the timetabling motion forcing the debate to come to a premature end (or not even to take place at all). The first reason is intended to ensure that those having a right to speak to the amendments are able to do so, and that the “bare bones” of a debate on a group is therefore always possible. The second reason, unlike the first, can only be relied upon if the debate had already begun before the deadline was reached. It is likely to apply in respect of a particularly important group, where only a truncated debate has been possible within the deadlines set in the timetabling motion. The Presiding Officer may consider that it is important to allow the debate to continue, whether to enable the member leading the debate (and who has therefore already exercised their right to speak) to sum up or to allow the debate to be opened up to members other than those who have a right to speak.

4.111 The third reason above addresses the specific, uncommon circumstance of the member called to speak to the lead amendment in a group not moving it, and no other member present doing so either. This has the potential (depending on which amendments immediately follow in the Marshalled List) to muddle the deadlines set out in the timetabling motion so that they apply to the “wrong” groups of amendments. The third reason allows the Presiding Officer to depart from the time limits to correct this.

4.112 If the Presiding Officer invokes the power to depart from any time limit under Rule 9.8.4A, this has no effect on subsequent time limits in the timetabling motion. They must continue to be adhered to, unless the Presiding Officer uses their discretion under the rule again. So spending additional time on early groups needs to be compensated for by using less time later in the proceedings. In theory, however, the Presiding Officer can use the discretion as often as is considered necessary to depart from subsequent time limits.

Extending time limits in a timetabling motion

4.113 Rule 9.8.4A allows departure from deadlines set out in the timetabling motion under certain circumstances. However, using that Rule does not in itself lead to more parliamentary time being spent on Stage 3 overall. Its purpose is to allow the reallocation of the total time allotted at Stage 3 so as to give the Presiding Officer greater flexibility to manage the debate than the timetable would otherwise allow. So, any extra time used for debate on any grouping must be compensated for either in debates on subsequent groupings or in the debate on whether to pass the Bill, or in both.

4.114 However, where it is considered that more debating time on amendments is needed overall at Stage 3, Rule 9.8.5A may be invoked. This Rule applies at any time during Stage 3 proceedings subject to a timetabling motion (i.e. during the debate on amendments, but not during the debate on whether to pass the Bill). It permits any member present to seek to move a motion without notice proposing that the next time limit to arise be extended by such amount of time (which cannot exceed 30 minutes) as the member specifies. Such a motion, which cannot be debated or amended, may only be taken with the agreement of the Presiding Officer. Any number of such motions may be sought and moved, but the total amount of time by which a Stage 3 may be extended may not exceed 30 minutes. Additionally, where a motion to extend a particular time limit has been disagreed to, no further motion to extend that time limit may be moved.

4.115 While it is open to any member to seek to invoke Rule 9.8.5A at any time during timetabled Stage 3 proceedings, the Presiding Officer may be minded to refuse a motion moved early in those proceedings, on the ground that it might yet be possible to overcome apparent timetabling problems by use of Rule 9.8.4A. If the Presiding Officer refuses a motion this would not stop a member from seeking to move another one later.

Effect of agreeing to a motion to extend the time limits in a timetabling motion

4.116 The effect of a motion under Rule 9.8.5A being agreed to is that the next deadline is moved forward by whatever amount of time the motion specified, as are any subsequent deadlines in the timetabling motion. Any previous statement from the Presiding Officer under Rule 9.8.4A that a particular deadline is being departed from for a particular amount of time is superseded by the agreement to the motion.

4.117 Agreement to a motion under Rule 9.8.5A has no automatic effect on any subsequent deadlines in the daily business list. This means (assuming that the debate on the motion to pass the Bill immediately follows the debate on amendments), that any time gained in debating amendments is lost in the debate on passing the Bill. Rule 9.8.5B, however, empowers the Presiding Officer to make such alterations to the daily business list, including altering the time of Decision Time, as are considered necessary or appropriate as a consequence of a motion under Rule 9.8.5A being agreed to. In practice, the Presiding Officer is likely to move all remaining deadlines in the daily business list to later in the day, by the same amount of time as was specified in the successful motion under Rule 9.8.5A.

4.118 The wording of Rule 9.8.5B would also allow the Presiding Officer to lengthen the debate on whether to pass the Bill. But the Presiding Officer is only likely to use this discretion sparingly, where it is clear not only that there was insufficient time to debate the amendments, but that the time proposed for the debate on the whole Bill is clearly inadequate too. The Presiding Officer may decide not to use this power if, for instance, moving the deadlines to later in the day would cause significant disruption to members.

4.119 The Presiding Officer is required to notify the Parliament of any changes to the daily business list made by way of Rule 9.8.5B. A clear spoken announcement would constitute sufficient notification under the rule. Before advising the Presiding Officer about use of this Rule, the clerks would normally consult parties’ representatives on the Parliamentary Bureau.

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