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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Meeting of the Parliament 27 February 2018

Agenda: Time for Reflection, Business Motion, Topical Question Time, Healthy Weight Strategy, European Union (Withdrawal) Bill: Update, Point of Order, Business Motion, Decision Time, Scotch Whisky (Contribution to Tourism)


Point of Order

Mike Rumbles has a point of order.

My point of order concerns rule 9.21 of standing orders, which is entitled “Emergency Bills”.

In his statement, the Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland’s Place in Europe stated that the Minister for Parliamentary Business had written to the Presiding Officer, proposing an emergency timetable for the UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Legal Continuity) (Scotland) Bill, which will be put to the Parliamentary Bureau. Mr Russell also said that the shortened timetable proposes that all stages of the bill take place in plenary session. I listened carefully, but in neither the statement nor the question-and-answer session did the minister say whether the bill is to be considered as an emergency bill under rule 9.21.

Rule 9.21.4 states:

“The requirements in Rules 9.5.3A to C as to the minimum periods that must elapse between the Stages of a Bill shall not apply”.

However, that applies only to an emergency bill. Otherwise, as rule 9.5.3A states,

“The minimum period that must elapse between the day on which Stage 1 is completed and the day on which Stage 2 starts is 12 sitting days”,

and, as rule 9.5.3B states, there should be 10 sitting days between stages 2 and 3.

This is important for the proper scrutiny of legislation. The convention that we have established in this Parliament is that an emergency bill has all-party support. An emergency bill has never been taken forward by any Government without all-party support. Indeed, we are in new territory here—as we all accept—because, for the first time, the Presiding Officer has certified that a Government bill is not within the legislative competence of our Parliament.

Presiding Officer, I am looking to you for guidance as to whether the bill is an emergency bill—which means that a shortened timetable can be used, providing that there is all-party support for that—or whether it is not an emergency bill, which means that our rules and conventions for proper scrutiny should be adhered to. I genuinely seek your guidance.

I thank Mr Rumbles for advance notice of his point of order. I can confirm that, until the Parliament decides that a bill is an emergency bill, it is not an emergency bill. However, I point out that, under rule 9.21,

“Any member of the Scottish Government or a junior Scottish Minister may by motion propose that a Government Bill ... be treated as an Emergency Bill.”

I can also confirm that the Minister for Parliamentary Business, Mr FitzPatrick, has written to me this afternoon, asking for a meeting of the Parliamentary Bureau. I have agreed and have called a meeting of the bureau for after decision time this evening so that we can decide the matter. Following the decision of the bureau, the proposal will be put to Parliament and it will be up to Parliament—up to all members—to decide whether to treat the bill as an emergency bill. I add that any decision to treat it as an emergency bill is not required to be unanimous. I hope that that answers the question.