Back
 

fade bar


Procedures Committee

5th Report 2001

Report on Changes to the Standing Orders of the Scottish Parliament

fade bar  
     

SP Paper 441

Session 1 (2001)

 

Contents

Remit and Membership

Report and Recommendations

Annexes

Annex A Proposed Standing Orders Changes

Annex B Extracts from Minutes

Annex C Extracts from Official Reports

 

Remit and membership

Remit:

To consider the practice and procedures of the Scottish Parliament in relation to its business.

(Standing Orders of the Scottish Parliament, Rule 6.4)

Membership:

Mr Murray Tosh (Convener)

Patricia Ferguson

Donald Gorrie

Fiona Hyslop

Mr Frank McAveety

Mr Kenneth Macintosh (Deputy Convener)

Mr Gil Paterson

Committee Clerking Team:

Clerk to the Committee

Dr John Patterson

Senior Assistant Clerk

Mark MacPherson

Committee Assistant

Eileen Martin

 

The Committee reports to the Parliament as follows-

INTRODUCTION

1. The Committee is pleased to recommend to the Scottish Parliament changes to the Parliament's standing orders concerning:

· suspension and closure of committee meetings

· joint consideration by sub-committees

· removal of conveners

· order of consideration at Stage 3

· selection panels for appointments

· committees meeting when the Parliament is suspended

2. The Committee believes that these changes will assist the Parliament as a whole in the effective discharge of its business.

Summary of Recommendations

3. At its 11th Meeting 2000, the Committee firstly considered and agreed to recommend that the Parliament approve changes to standing orders to provide conveners of committees with similar powers in relation to the suspension and closure of meetings of committees as the Presiding Officer has in relation to the suspension and closure of meetings of the Parliament; and to allow conveners and the Presiding Officer to suspend meetings for breaks. The Committee secondly considered and agreed to recommend that the Parliament approve changes to standing orders to make clear that the procedures for establishing sub-committees apply to sub-committees established to consider matters jointly. Thirdly, the Committee considered and agreed to recommend that the Parliament approve changes to standing orders to provide for a specific process for the removal of the convener of a committee.

4. At its 6th Meeting 2001, the Committee considered and agreed to recommend that the Parliament approve changes to standing orders to clarify the order of consideration to be followed at Stage 3 of a Public Bill.

5. At its 7th and 8th Meetings 2001, the Committee considered and agreed to recommend that the Parliament approve changes to standing orders to provide a procedure by which the Parliament could set up selection panels for certain appointments. At these meetings the Committee also considered and agreed to recommend that the Parliament approve a change to standing orders to permit a committee to meet, exceptionally and at the discretion of the committee concerned, during times when the Parliament is suspended for a meal break.

6. The proposed standing order changes are set out in Annex A. Relevant extracts from the minutes are included at Annex B, and extracts from the Official Report are at Annex C.

Suspension and closure of committee meetings

7. The rule governing suspension of meetings is Rule 7.4 of standing orders. This relates to the suspension and closure by the Presiding Officer of meetings of the Parliament and is extended in part only to meetings of committees by virtue of Rule 7.8. The current rules allow a convener to suspend a committee meeting only "if a disturbance interferes with the conduct of business".

8. The Committee considered that the other aspects of Rule 7.4 should also be extended to cover conveners and committees, specifically that a convener additionally should be able to suspend a meeting if an emergency occurs which would place members attending the meeting at risk; or if any of the electronic equipment which is used to support the meeting cannot be used for any reason; or where consideration of a particular item concludes ahead of the planned time; or for a meal break. The Committee also considered that conveners should be able to suspend a meeting for other breaks, and that this power to suspend should apply equally to the Chamber. Finally, the Committee considered that Rule 7.4.5 should be extended to cover the situation where the convener needs to close a meeting before the agenda is complete or where it seems that a meeting will halt for longer than would be appropriate for the suspension rule. The Committee so recommends.

9. While not involving a change to the standing orders, the Committee recommends that the Parliamentary authorities give consideration to the most appropriate way of ensuring that any business not dealt with in committee due to suspension or closure is brought to Members' attention. The Committee considers that this will assist Members to track the progress of committee business.

Joint consideration by sub-committees

10. Rule 12.5 sets out the rules for establishing sub-committees. Rule 6.14.4 provides that any committee considering a matter jointly with another committee may establish a sub-committee to consider the matter jointly with a sub-committee of the other committee. In the absence of any reference in Rule 6.14.4 to Rule 12.5, it is possible to interpret Rule 6.14.4 as suggesting that the establishment of sub-committees there does not require to follow the procedure set down in Rule 12.5.

11. In legal terms there is no problem with the 2 rules. The Committee agreed, however, that appropriate cross-references would help to avoid any possible confusion. The Committee so recommends.

Removal of conveners

12. While any Member may propose by motion that a convener be removed from office, once a motion is lodged it would currently be at the discretion of the convener of the committee in question whether or not that motion was taken/debated by the committee. This could present a difficulty if the convener chose not to accept such a motion. The convener would also have control over when a decision on any motion could be taken. There is a possibility that any decision could be postponed indefinitely.

13. The Committee recognised that the removal of a convener was likely to be a rare occurrence but agreed that a specific process within standing orders to remove these potential difficulties was desirable.

14. In considering appropriate proposals, the Committee noted the process which applies to the removal of the Presiding Officer/Deputy Presiding Officer where any Member may give notice of a motion proposing the removal of the Presiding Officer/Deputy Presiding Officer but that any such motion must be seconded by another Member in order for it to be valid. Additionally, when the question on the motion is put, an absolute majority is required in order for the motion to be carried.1

15. The Committee considered that it would only be appropriate for a member of the relevant committee to be able to give notice of a motion for the removal of the committee convener. The Committee agreed that any motion should require the support of at least one other member of the committee in order to be placed on the agenda of a committee meeting and that the question on such a motion should require an absolute majority in the committee in order for it to be carried. The Committee also agreed that any process should require the motion to be taken at the next meeting of a committee, providing a reasonable time has passed to enable all committee members to be aware of what is happening and for amendments. The Committee thought that 48 hours would be appropriate. The Committee did not think that such a motion should be able to be moved without notice. The Committee so recommends.

Order of consideration at Stage 3

16. Rule 9.8.5 of standing orders specifies a "default" order in which the sections and schedules of a Public Bill are taken at Stage 32. The Committee noted that the rule makes no mention of the Bill's long title.

17. Since the long title is normally regarded as one of the "provisions" of a Bill, the current wording of the rule appears to require that, where the default order applies, any amendments to the long title be taken first. In fact, however, amendments to the long title are almost always consequential amendments i.e. lodged in consequence of amendments that would alter the Bill in such a way that the description of it in the long title would no longer be accurate3.

18. By way of comparison, the rules relating to the order of consideration at Stage 2 specify that the long title is always taken last. The Committee agreed that this should be made clear at Stage 3 also. The Committee agreed that a change to standing orders would be appropriate, and that a similar change to the rules which apply to Private Bills should also be proposed. The Committee so recommends.

Selection panels for appointments

19. The Committee considered proposals for an amendment to the standing orders to make provision for a general mechanism to set up a selection panel when the Parliament is required under any legislation to nominate a person for appointment by Her Majesty.

20. The Committee noted that the Parliament will be asked to consider various Bills introduced by the Scottish Executive which will incorporate sections enabling appointments to be made by Her Majesty The Queen on the nomination of the Parliament. The Scottish Information Commissioner was cited as an example of the type of appointment envisaged.

21. The Committee agreed that a mechanism to set up a selection panel was required and should provide for any such panel to include the convener of the committee whose remit covers the relevant legislation, the Presiding Officer and at least 4, but no more than 7, other Members appointed by the Presiding Officer. The Committee also agreed that the Presiding Officer should be required to have regard to the balance of the political parties in the Parliament when appointing Members to the selection panel.

22. In circumstances where more than one committee remit covers the relevant legislation or where the relevant legislation does not fall within the remit of any committee4, the Committee suggests that the Bureau should decide which committee convener is to be appointed to the panel. The Committee noted that there was no restriction that the committee convener appointed could be the only convener on the panel. The members appointed by the Presiding Officer could include other committee conveners.

23. The Committee considered when it would be appropriate to set up any selection panel and therefore commence the recruitment process. It examined the apparent anomaly of commencing a recruitment process prior to a Bill receiving Royal Assent. The Committee concluded, however, that the Parliament's approval of a Bill at Stage 1 would be sufficient authority to proceed with the appointments procedure and that the Bill's general principles would normally include the proposal to create a post. The Committee also noted that the actual appointment could not be made until the Bill had received Royal Assent.

24. Once it had completed its consideration of candidates, it is proposed that the selection panel would recommend one person for nomination by the Parliament. A member of the selection panel would then propose by motion that the Parliament nominates that person for appointment. The Committee considered that any debate on such a motion should be restricted to 30 minutes and that each speaker should be permitted to speak for no more than 5 minutes.

25. Finally, the Committee agreed that the result of a division on such a motion should be valid only if the number of Members who voted is more than one quarter of the total number of seats of Members.

26. Were the Parliament to agree to these proposals, the separate rule relating to the appointment of the Auditor General for Scotland could be removed as this would be covered by the new rule. The Committee so recommends.

Committees meeting when the Parliament is suspended

27. The Committee received from the Conveners' Liaison Group and the Parliamentary Bureau, a proposal that committees be permitted to meet, exceptionally and at the discretion of the committee concerned, when the Parliament is suspended for a meal break.

28. The current rules prevent committees from meeting at the same time as a meeting of the Parliament5. The Conveners' Liaison Group took the view that, on occasion, it might be necessary - in order for example to finalise an urgent draft report or to meet a timetable for completion of consideration of legislation - for committees to have additional flexibility in terms of when they can meet. The views of all committees were sought.

29. The Committee agreed that there would be benefit to committees and to the Parliament in providing suitable, additional flexibility through a change to standing orders incorporating the proposal at paragraph 27 above. The Committee so recommends.

Recommendation

30. The Parliament is invited to approve the recommended changes to standing orders set out in Annex A to this report.

 

ANNEX A - Proposed standing orders changes

Suspension and closure of committee meetings

1. In Rule 7.4.1(e), after "for a meal" insert "or other".

2. In Rule 7.8, for "7.4.1(b), 7.4.2, 7.4.3" substitute "7.4.1 to 7.4.3, 7.4.5".

Joint consideration by sub-committees

1. In Rule 6.14.4 after "a sub-committee" where it first appears insert "under Rule 12.5".

2. In Rule 12.5.1 after "sub-committees" insert ", including a sub-committee for the purpose mentioned in Rule 6.14, ".

Removal of conveners

1. In Rule 12.1.8(b), after "committee" insert "on a motion under paragraph 8A".

2. After Rule 12.1.8 insert -

"8A A member of a committee may by motion propose that the convener of the committee be removed from office.

8B Where notice of such a motion has been given and it has received the support of at least one other member of the committee, it shall be placed on the agenda for, and taken at, the first meeting of the committee that is at least 2 days after the day on which it received the necessary support (excluding any days when the office of the Clerk is not open)."

3. In Rule 12.1.10 after "Paragraphs 8" insert ", 8A, 8B".

4. In the index, under the heading "Motions", after the entry relating to "removal of Auditor General for Scotland" insert-

"-removal of committee convener 12.1.8A"

Order of consideration at Stage 3

1. In Rule 9.8.5, in the first sentence-

(a) for "provisions" substitute "sections and schedules";

(b) for "before the Parliament debates" substitute "Amendments to the long title shall be taken last. After any amendments have been disposed of, the Parliament shall debate".

2. In Rule 9A.10.5, in the first sentence-

(a) for "provisions" substitute "sections and schedules";

(b) for "before the Parliament debates" substitute "Amendments to the long title shall be taken last. After any amendments have been disposed of, the Parliament shall debate".

Selection panels for appointment

1. In the Contents-

(a) after the heading for Chapter 3 insert "AND OTHER OFFICERS";

(b) for "3.11 Auditor General for Scotland" substitute "3.11 Nomination of individuals for appointment by Her Majesty".

2. At the end of the title of Chapter 3 insert "AND OTHER OFFICERS".

3. For Rule 3.11 substitute-

"Rule 3.11 Nomination of individuals for appointment by Her Majesty

1. The provisions of this Rule apply where an enactment confers or a provision of a Bill that has completed Stage 1 would confer power on the Parliament to nominate an individual for appointment by Her Majesty (except where these Rules make separate provision for the procedure that is to be followed by the Parliament in making such a nomination).

2. Where such a post is, or is expected to become, vacant, a panel (referred to as the "Selection Panel") shall be established for the purpose of recommending a person for nomination by the Parliament to Her Majesty for the appointment in question.

3. Where the subject matter of the relevant enactment or provision falls within the remit of a committee, the members of the Selection Panel shall be-

(a) the Presiding Officer;

(b) the convener of that committee, or, in a case where the subject matter of the relevant enactment or provision falls within the remit of more than one committee, the convener of the committee that is determined for this purpose by the Parliamentary Bureau;

(c) at least 4 but not more than 7 other members appointed by the Presiding Officer.

4. Where the subject matter of the relevant enactment or provision does not fall within the remit of any committee, the members of the Selection Panel shall be-

(a) the Presiding Officer;

(b) a convener of a committee appointed by the Parliamentary Bureau;

(c) at least 4 but not more than 7 other members appointed by the Presiding Officer.

5. In appointing members of the Selection Panel, the Presiding Officer shall have regard to the balance of political parties in the Parliament.

6. The Selection Panel shall recommend to a meeting of the Parliament one person for nomination by the Parliament.

7. Any member of the Selection Panel may by motion propose that the Parliament nominates the person recommended by the Selection Panel.

8. Any debate on such a motion shall be restricted to 30 minutes. Each speaker may speak for no more than 5 minutes.

9. If there is a division on such a motion, the result is valid only if the number of members who voted is more than one quarter of the total number of seats of members. In calculating the number of members who have voted for this purpose, account shall be taken not only of those voting for or against the motion but also of those voting to abstain."

4. In the index-

(a) under the heading "Auditor General for Scotland" after the entry "appointment" insert "(see nomination of individuals for appointment by Her Majesty)";

(b) under the heading "Motions" for the entry "nomination of Auditor General for Scotland" substitute "nomination of individuals for appointments by Her Majesty".

(c) after the entries under the heading "Motions" insert-

"Nomination of individuals for appointment by Her Majesty 3.11"

Committees meeting when the Parliament is suspended

In Rule 12.3.3, for "but" substitute "other than in exceptional circumstances when it may be held during a suspension of a meeting of the Parliament for a meal break under Rule 7.4.1(e). Otherwise, a committee meeting"

 

ANNEX B - Extracts from Minutes

PROCEDURES COMMITTEE

EXTRACT FROM MINUTES

11th Meeting, 2000 (Session 1)

Tuesday 7 November 2000

Present:

Murray Tosh (Convener)

Donald Gorrie

Janis Hughes (Deputy Convener)

Andy Kerr

Apologies were received from: Gil Paterson, Kay Ullrich and Gordon Jackson

6. Enquiry into Committee Operations: The Committee considered a paper (PR/00/11/6) covering the following issues-

Financial business

Joint consideration by sub-committees

Suspension and closure

Removal of conveners

The Committee agreed to the proposals as recommended, with minor amendments.

PROCEDURES COMMITTEE

EXTRACT FROM MINUTES

6th Meeting, 2001 (Session 1)

Tuesday 26 June 2001

Present:

Murray Tosh (Convener)

Brian Adam

Frank McAveety

Kenneth Macintosh (Deputy Convener)

Gil Paterson

 

Apologies: Donald Gorrie and Patricia Ferguson

1. Stage 3 Order of Consideration: The Committee agreed to recommend to the Parliament, in a future report, the change to standing orders proposed in paper PR/01/6/1.

David McGill, Legislation Team, attended.

PROCEDURES COMMITTEE

EXTRACT FROM MINUTES

7th Meeting, 2001 (Session 1)

Tuesday 18 September 2001

Present:

Murray Tosh (Convener)

Patricia Ferguson

Donald Gorrie

Fiona Hyslop

Frank McAveety

Kenneth Macintosh (Deputy Convener)

Gil Paterson

 

3. Selection Panels - Nominations for Appointments: The Committee considered a paper proposing an amendment to standing orders to enable the Parliament to make nominations for certain appointments. The Committee discussed the matter and requested that aspects of the paper be revisited for early reconsideration.

Huw Williams of the Corporate Policy Unit and Alison Coull from the Directorate of Legal Services attended.

4. Proposal that Committees be permitted to meet when the Parliament is suspended: The Committee agreed the proposal in Paper PR/01/7/4.

PROCEDURES COMMITTEE

EXTRACT FROM MINUTES

8th Meeting, 2001 (Session 1)

Tuesday 2 October 2001

Present:

Murray Tosh (Convener)

Donald Gorrie

Fiona Hyslop

Frank McAveety

Kenneth Macintosh (Deputy Convener)

Gil Paterson

Apologies were received from Patricia Ferguson.

2. Selection Panels - Nominations for Appointments: The Committee agreed to recommend the proposed change to standing orders, to enable the Parliament to make nominations for certain appointments, set out in Paper PR/01/7/3 (annexed to Paper PR/01/8/2).

Ken Hughes, Clerk to the Parliamentary Bureau, Huw Williams of the Corporate Policy Unit and Alison Coull from the Directorate of Legal Services attended.

3. Proposal that Committees be permitted to meet when the Parliament is suspended: The Committee agreed the terms of the draft changes to standing orders set out in Paper PR/01/8/3.

PROCEDURES COMMITTEE

EXTRACT FROM MINUTES

9th Meeting, 2001 (Session 1)

Tuesday 23 October 2001

Present:

Murray Tosh (Convener)

Patricia Ferguson

Donald Gorrie

Fiona Hyslop

Frank McAveety

Kenneth Macintosh (Deputy Convener)

Gil Paterson

 

4. Draft Report on Changes to the Standing Orders of the Scottish Parliament: The Committee approved the text of the report with two minor amendments.

 

Annex C Extracts from Official Reports

Procedures Committee - Tuesday 7 November 2000

Procedures Committee - Tuesday 26 June 2001

Procedures Committee - Tuesday 18 September 2001

Procedures Committee - Tuesday 2 October 2001

Procedures Committee - Tuesday 23 October 2001

 

Footnotes

1 Rule 3.5 of the Standing Orders of the Scottish Parliament.

2 Rule 9.8.5 gives the Parliament the ability to agree an alternative order if that is desired.

3 There are occasional exceptions e.g. an amendment to correct an error in the wording of the long title, or simply to improve it as a description of the Bill, even where the Bill has not otherwise been amended in any way that would require a change to the long title.

4 An example of this might be where committee remits have changed since the relevant Bill was considered by a committee.

5 Rule 12.3.3 of standing orders - "meeting of the Parliament" is interpreted as including times when the Parliament is suspended.

fade bar

Back