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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Meeting of the Parliament 15 May 2019

Agenda: Portfolio Question Time, Treatment Time Guarantee, Education, Point of Order, Business Motions, Parliamentary Bureau Motions, Decision Time, Foster Care Fortnight


Point of Order

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. I raise a point of order under rule 8.17 of the standing orders to seek your clarification as to whether proper procedures are being followed in relation to the Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Bill, with particular reference to rule 12.8 on reports of committees and in relation to the wider committee guidance.

Ahead of tomorrow’s meeting of the Equalities and Human Rights Committee, I have become aware that the clerks appear to have retrospectively edited the minutes of the committee’s meeting of 25 April that were originally posted on the Scottish Parliament website. A new document, which was not created until some two weeks after the meeting, now appears in its place, minus the critically important text confirming that the stage 1 report on the bill had been completed and arrangements for its publication were agreed.

Furthermore, I received an email from the clerk on 30 April to confirm that the embargo date on the final report was 10 May. No meetings of the committee following 25 April and prior to 10 May reference the bill on the agenda.

As such, I would be grateful if you could clarify under what procedure the clerks amended the already published committee minutes of 25 April; what the rationale was for doing so; why all committee members were not formally made aware of the change; whether you will ask for the original minutes to be reissued; whether you believe that that retrospective amendment of the minutes meets the level of transparency expected of the Parliament; and whether you recognise the challenge that this creates when it comes to ensuring that due parliamentary process is followed.

I would also be grateful if you could confirm to the chamber whether you believe that the report in question has been completed; if it has not, when and under what procedure the decisions of the committee taken on 25 April were reversed, and if it has, why it has not been published by the clerks; and why all members of the committee were not formally notified of the change to publication plans. In the event that it is permissible for a committee to reopen a report, or if you consider that the report is not completed, can you confirm whether it would be open to any member of the committee to request that further oral evidence is taken from additional witnesses and to revisit any text and sections that have already been agreed? In addition, will you rule, under the procedure outlined in section 5.67 of the guidance on committees, whether you consider it appropriate for a majority of members to comment further in a committee report on the views expressed by a minority without allowing the minority a further right to reply or, alternatively, to reconsider their previous decision agreed by consensus not to proceed under section 5.66 of the committee guidance?

In the event that you are unable to rule on all those matters this evening, what advice can you give in relation to the procedural validity of any business or decisions relating to these matters that may be taken at the committee’s meeting tomorrow morning?

I thank Oliver Mundell for giving me advance notice of what was obviously a lengthy and detailed point of order. I have considered this matter. I recognise that Mr Mundell has concerns and is looking for procedural advice, as well as advice on any other items that he has raised. However, these strike me as matters for the committee itself, and for the committee convener and clerks to advise on. In general, matters that might be points of order in the chamber are normally matters for a convener in the context of committee business. On this matter, I also note that the committee is meeting tomorrow morning, so my advice would be to pursue the matter with members of the committee and, in particular, with the convener and clerks to the committee tomorrow morning.