Allan Wilson: Does not the same
apply to academia? It would be difficult for us to engage with individual
institutions. We should engage with the Committee of Scottish Higher Education
Principals as a representative of all higher education institutions, as
opposed to adding to the list of eight institutions that we already have.
Ms Oldfather: That brings us back
to the question of issues. It depends on what we want to do and where we
are coming from. I know that some universities have done proactive work
on Europe. Perhaps they are the universities that we should contact, but
it depends on what we are looking to gain from the process. We should capitalise
on the expertise that we have in Scotland.
The Convener: I return to the points
that Margo and Allan raised. We need an early and thorough discussion,
with some brainstorming, to consider the issues that we should address.
Dr Sylvia Jackson: The distinction
between the what, in terms of the issues, and the who, in terms of who
has the expertise in the area that we might want to draw on, is a good
starting point. The yellow document from the Commission on the Amsterdam
treaty is quite a concise statement and provides many important starting
points, for example, the gender issues that Cathy raised, job creation
and so on. We should study the document between now and the next meeting
and tell Stephen what we feel are the critical issues.
The Convener: We will take that
paper as a starting point, ask for members' views on the process and the
issues, and organise an early briefing session.
Bruce Crawford: If we are using
the yellow document as a starting point, some of the issues that were raised
in the presentation become important. I have never set eyes on the national
plan for the creation of jobs that was mentioned in the presentation. If
we are to start from the perspective of the presentation, we need some
scene setting so that I can understand where the heck we are going.
The Convener: We know what we are
The Convener: We will move on to
the consideration of the subordinate legislation.
Stephen Imrie: If the committee
agrees, it might be useful if I spent a couple of minutes running through
the procedure for Scottish statutory instruments and how it impacts on
the committee, because I appreciate that it is fairly new for most
||members; it certainly
was new for the clerks. We have gone up a learning curve with regard to
how the committee might deal with SSIs. If I go over the process, it will
help the discussion.
Rule 6.8.1 of the standing orders states
that the European Committee must consider and report on
"(b) the implementation of European
In practice, that means that the committee
must consider and report on Scottish statutory instruments. The procedures
of the Parliament have been elaborated during the past few weeks. In most
cases, the European Committee will not be nominated as the lead committee
for SSIs because the objective of parliamentary procedure is to scrutinise
the policy content, which is a subject committee function, or the legal
content, which falls within the remit of the Subordinate Legislation Committee.
Your task is broadly to consider whether
a particular SSI is the appropriate method for the Scottish Executive to
employ to implement EC legislation in a given area. In practice, the European
Committee will report its views to the nominated lead committee, which
is decided by the Parliament on a motion of the Parliamentary Bureau.
The timetable for that process, in particular
for the end date, is set by the SSI in question. The end point is the date
by which the Parliament as a whole must either approve or annul the SSI.
Usually, the end date is 40 days after the document has been received formally
by the Parliament, but it can be shorter than that. Our committee has to
work to a tighter time scalebefore the fixed end pointbecause we report
to lead committees; lead committees then report to the whole Parliament.
It is my considered opinionit is only
an opinion of the clerk and it is up to the committee to attach whatever
weight it judges appropriate to itthat this committee may not have a substantial
amount to say about any particular SSI. Procedures in the Parliament are
such that the subject matter is dealt with by the lead committee and the
legal matter is dealt with by the Subordinate Legislation Committee. We
have a particular role.
However, if this committee, in looking
through SSIs, wishes to object, because it thinks that an SSI is the wrong
way for the Executive to implement EC legislation in Scotland, the procedure
would be for an individual member of this committee to lodge a motion in
the chamber office objecting to the SSI. That would then be addressed to
the lead committee. The member of the European Committee who lodged the
||would have to attend
the lead committee and speak to the motion. The decision would be taken
by the lead committee.
The best procedure for us would be to come
to agreement on all the SSIs, whether committee members wish to object
or not. If we object, a member should be nominated to lodge a motion and
attend the lead committee.
I would like to stress the fact that no
committee of the Parliament can amend SSIsthey involve yes-or-no questions.
The Parliament either approves or annuls SSIs. We have six of them, I think,
on our current agenda, and the consideration of subordinate legislation
will be a regular function of the European Committee. We can expect to
see similar volumes at every meeting. We are mandated by the standing orders
to consider them, and the committee must determine the detail to which
it wishes to do that and report on them. We are required to put each SSI
on to our agenda formally, consider it and report on it to the nominated
The Convener: I wish to clarify
some things, Stephen. If a member of this or any other committee wishes
to object to an SSI, can that member attend the lead committee and lodge
a motion to object to it?
Stephen Imrie: Yes, that is the
procedure: it has to be an individual member. We as a committee could come
to a view and you, convener, could nominate a member.
The Convener: What strikes me as
being slightly absurd is that, if any member, representing this committee,
can lodge a motion, attend the lead committee and object, why bother bringing
the matter to this committee in the first place?
Am I right in saying that this committee
could not object? The relevant briefing paper mentions "affirmative or
negative procedure", but, from what I took you to say, Stephen, it is not
for this committee to make a decision, other than to send someone along
to the lead committee to object.
Ms MacDonald: Is it possible to
amend the standing orders so that the European Committee could give its
view if it was so minded? There will probably be very few occasions when
that would apply, but our view would be required to be heardonly our view,
which cannot be bound.
I also thought, "Why bother?" because we
have no more standing.
Ben Wallace: My understanding is
that our role as the European Committee is to have a view on whether the
SSI is the right way of implementing the EU directive. That being so, are
we not doing things back to front? We should get the final product. For
example, on the Environmental Impact Assessment (Forestry) (Scotland)
we are not the forestry experts; we should get the report back from the
Rural Affairs Committee and the Subordinate Legislation Committee and read
about what they think about it from the legal and rural affairs standpoints.
We could then see from the overviewbecause we have the directivewhether
the report is correct.
At the moment, we get the SSI and the directive
that spawned that SSII was hoping that we would get them togetherbut
we are not experts on either. If it was the other way round, that would
give the committee more purpose, and we could come to a proper conclusion
about whether the SSI was the right way of implementing the directive.
As the convener and Ms MacDonald have said, what is the point? We do not
know about forestry, so we just say, "Off we go to rural affairs."
Maureen Macmillan (Highlands and Islands)
(Lab): I am getting totally confused. Have we got the directive?
Ben Wallace: No. The SSI is submitted
Stephen Imrie: I want to answer
a couple of questions. We do not have the initial EC directive, but, if
the committee wishes, I can attach the parent directive to the SSI.
Ms MacDonald: We would like the
forestry committee to get that.
Stephen Imrie: An issue that was
raised in another subject committee is the nature of the supporting explanatory
documentation that committees receive on any SSI. It was felt that the
Scottish Executive could supply a very short overview of the contents of
the SSI to allow committee members to understand the legislation.
We are tied to chapter 10 of the standing
orders, which says that any member can lodge a motion. However, what might
work is for a committee memberthe convener or otherwiseto object on behalf
of the committee. The committee might want to raise the matter with the
The Convener: Even if a member objects,
the power still lies with the lead committee. I can see the point of bringing
the matter before the committee if we had some influencewhere if we said
no, that would be the end of it. However, I cannot see the point of a committee
member objecting after our scrutiny when the final decision rests with
the lead committee.
Maureen Macmillan: I am not exactly
sure what I am supposed to scrutinise in an SSI.
Ben Wallace: Our specific role is
to decide whether an SSI is the right way of implementing a directive.
Decisions about the subject matter rest with the lead committee. The only
way in which we
||can decide on the
directive is through examining information from forestry and legal bods.
Bruce Crawford: Can Stephen tell
us a bit more about Ben's idea? I think that he has hit the nail on the
head about the whole process.
My Machiavellian mind makes me think that
someone could create merry hell with this. Is a member entitled to object
on a matter without the committee's authority? All of us could then lodge
objections to SSIs, which would make it difficult for the process to work.
If that is so, perhaps some of the procedures need to be re-examined.
Where does it say that we cannot amend
the SSIs or consider different wording if two committees decide that the
wording is not right? It seems daft to throw the baby out with the bath
water, when perhaps a small adjustment could secure the Parliament's unanimity.
The whole matter seems a little arcane.
Stephen Imrie: May I advise you,
Bruce, on your first point about any member attending the lead committee
to object? Any member of this Parliament can take partbut not votein
any committee meeting. I understandalthough I will clarify thisthat the
taking of motions in the lead committee will follow the model of the Parliament.
The Presiding Officerand please correct me if I am wrongcan decide which
motions to take. The parallel to that in the lead committee would be that
the convener would decide which, if any, motions objecting to a particular
SSI to take. There may not be a huge number of members objecting to an
SSI; if there were, it would be for the convener to decide which motions
The motions would be motions to annul,
so they would all be very similar if not identical; they would involve
the committee calling on the Parliament not to approve a particular SSI.
I do not have at my fingertips the legalese that says that we cannot amend
SSIs but only approve or annul them. If you wish, Bruce, I will come back
to you and the committee on that. In my briefing before this meeting from
the legal office and the Subordinate Legislation Committee, it was made
clear to me that it was a yes-no issue, not an amendment issue.
Bruce Crawford: It would be useful
if you could come back to us on that. I am interested only in simplicity.
Allan Wilson: I can see why it is
a yes-no issue, because effectively the statutory instruments are already
in force by the time they come to this committee. It is presumably meant
as a constraint on the powers of the Executive that an individual committee
with expertise in a particular field can annul a statutory instrument.
It seems unlikely that that would happen in anything but the most extreme
circumstances. I am with the convener: I
||think that a lot
of this scrutiny would be counterproductive in terms of our time, given
all the other things that we have to do.
The Convener: What is the difference
between our work and the work of the Subordinate Legislation Committee?
I know that there is a European dimension to this, but is it not something
that the Subordinate Legislation Committee could look at as well?
David Mundell: I have the pleasure
of being on the Subordinate Legislation Committee.
The Convener: Do you not look at
David Mundell: Yes,
we look at SSIs, but only to determine whether they are technically valid;
we do not comment on whether they are good or bad. This morning we referred
one to this committee.
David Mundell: It was two years
late in being implemented and the Executive felt that it had to be implemented
immediately, without the proper 21 days' notice to the Parliament. The
Subordinate Legislation Committee felt that that was inappropriate: given
that the SSI was already so late, the requirement for 21 days' notice should
not have been waived.
Cathy Jamieson: I would like to
sort out the practicalities of this. We had a similar discussion in the
Transport and the Environment Committee, which may have been what Stephen
was diplomatically referring to. This is the second time that this thick
document in front of me has crossed my desk; last time I got to page 62,
but I did not even attempt it again before this meeting. At the transport
committee we suggested that, before a document went to the Subordinate
Legislation Committee and then probably to two other committees, the Executive
should be able to put information on one side of A4 paper, indicating what
the document was about, what the impact would be and what the key issues
were. All of us are going round in circles, and I do not think that that
is an especially good use of our time.
Ms MacDonald: That is a very sensible
Cathy Jamieson: It is far too sensiblethat
is the problem.
The Convener: Is that what the transport
committee is asking for?
Cathy Jamieson: We have asked the
Executive for that and I suggest that we do the same here.
The Convener: I think that we can
endorse that. In the meantime, I wonder whether there is another avenue
for looking at the process. I am
||still unclear about
the point of some of this. How could we go about asking why it needs to
be dealt with in this way?
Stephen Imrie: The easiest thing
would be for me to speak to the legal office, to get a deeper understanding
of our interpretation of standing orders. I would report back in a written
paper about what the legal office is saying our committee's role has to
be in this respect.
The Convener: Why not ask it not
only for a written paper but for someone speak to that at the next meeting?
David Mundell: One of the things
that we discussed today at the Subordinate Legislation Committee was the
fact that, because SSIs are the only things on our exciting agenda, people
have looked at them more than they might have in another committee. Therefore,
if there are issues, they should be flagged up in the reference to the
other committee, even if they were not the issues that we were supposed
to be examining. One of the issues that is being flagged up is that someone
in the Executive has formed the view that directives should be implemented
in Scotland and England on the same day.
The Convener: Someone in your party
does not seem to like youthey put you on to two committees that have got
to look at SSIs.
David Mundell: Amazingly, I asked
to be on this committee, and my penance for achieving that was to serve
on the Subordinate Legislation Committee.
The Convener: You will be an expert
by the time this finishes.
The difficulty is this: while we struggle
to understand the process, what do we do about the statutory instruments
that are before us? None of the general headings look as though they are
of such significance that we would want to impede the legal process.
Ben Wallace: I have gone through
all of them except No 1, which I am afraid I could not get through. A lot
of them, such as the one on spreadable fats, are technical. They say things
such as margarine has to be over 80 per cent fat, otherwise it is not margarine.
I could find no objection to that, but there has been little consultation
on forestry. I have made efforts to find out people's views because the
SSIs deal with impact assessment. The forestry SSI, 1999/43, and the town
and country planning SSI, 1999/1 should be delayed.
The Convener: Allan has made the
point that they are already in force. What would be the implication of
doing some of the things that have been suggested?
The forestry one is not in force.
The Convener: There is still time
to look at the spreadable fats SSI.
Ms MacDonald: We have plenty of
time for the fats one, if I remember.
Stephen Imrie: I understand that
all these SSIs are negative instruments, in the sense that they will come
into or remain in force unless the Parliament chooses to annul them.
Ms MacDonald: They will come into
force unless we say no. Let us just say yes.
Stephen Imrie: I have to use the
language that I have been told to use by the legal office.
Ms MacDonald: Annul.
The Convener: Could we ask the lead
committee to check? Who would it get back to?
Imrie: The lead committee would report to Parliament, not to our committee.
The Convener: It is a Byzantine
Cathy Jamieson: I had a note today
to say that the forestry SSI would be discussed in the Transport and the
Environment Committee, which is the lead committee. I was quite happy with
getting the spreadable fats one out of the way.
Are we not in the wrong part of the chain? We should come back to it.
The Convener: Clearly, we need a
paper and someone to speak to. We need a review of the process, which seems
absurd. In the meantime, I would not want the committee to prejudice the
Plant Health (Amendment) (Scotland) Order 1999. What should we do with
the SSIs? If we do nothing, what effect will that have? Will anybody notice?
Ms MacDonald: That was my basic
question. What if we say that we are annulling the lot of them and going
for a cup of tea? What would happen?
Allan Wilson: Could not we note
Ms MacDonald: What would happen?
Stephen Imrie: It is not my place
to comment on what would happen. If the Parliament chose to annul an SSI,
in certain cases, the Executive would want to review the Parliament's difficulty
with the SSI and consider whether to redraft it and send it back to the
Parliament for reconsideration. Annulling an SSI would mean that that order
would not become part of statute law.
The Convener: The report will go
to the Transport and the Environment Committee, which I hope will pick
up any issues of concern. The other SSIs do not seem to be controversial
||suggest that we
agree them as part of our process on the understanding that, for any future
scrutiny and consideration, we want someone to explain to us exactly how
that process works. Frankly, doing it this way demeans the whole process.
Perhaps I am missing something, but I cannot see the point of it.
Bruce Crawford: It is probably taking
the easy way out to say that we will just approve the SSIs, and I am worried
about our role in the process. Something in one of those SSIs might prove
to be horrendous. I do not want to be Pontius Pilate.
The Convener: Stephen advises me
that all we are being asked to do is to comment on the SSIs.
Allan Wilson: Even if one of us
were to find something in an SSI to which we objected, we could lodge a
motion objecting to it with the lead committee that was considering it.
Any one of us could do that individually, or we could do it collectively
as a committee.
Bruce Crawford: Let us just annul
them anyway. That will test the system, and I bet that the procedures will
be right the next time.
The Convener: We nominate Bruce
to go to the lead committee with an appropriate motion in the six cases.
Bruce Crawford: You are on.
The Convener: Stephen is panicking
because that will be on the record. We were being facetious. I am in your
hands. What does the committee want to do with the SSIs, given that we
have been asked merely to comment on them?
Ms Oldfather: We should let them
go through the due process on the basis that the lead committee will consider
the matter, particularly in relation to forestry. I do not think that we
will hold them up to make any meaningful comment today.
Maureen Macmillan: Can we just note
The Convener: We will do whatever
is required. We will have another discussion on the process, which is unacceptable.
Bruce Crawford: Does that mean that,
for the record, I must state that I was only joking earlier?
The Convener: If you turn up at
six committee meetings to lodge a motion, we will know that you were not.
The matter must be referred to the conveners liaison group. From comments
that were made earlier, it is clear that ours is not the only committee
that is struggling to understand the relevance of some of the procedures.
The conveners need to examine that.
The Convener: The conveners group
is asking for a change in the standing orders, so that the group has some
locus in the eyes of the Parliament. We have also discussed such things
as the timing of meetings, and whether they should clash with meetings
of the Parliament. There is a problem in trying to cope with the amount
of business that is beginning to develop, and we will have to comment on
Other than the items that have been raised,
which I will take back, is there anything else that members of the committee
feel should be referred to the conveners group?
Bruce Crawford: I have a question
about the conveners group finding itself a place in the standing orders,
and its future relationship with the Parliamentary Bureau. How will that
work? I can see potential conflict.
The Convener: There is a suggestion
that someone would attend the Parliamentary Bureau meetings on behalf of
the conveners group, although not necessarily with voting rights. One option
is that it would be a Deputy Presiding Officer. The suggestion is not that
the group would be formally incorporated into the Bureau. You are right
that that would create other difficulties.
The problem at the moment is that the standing
orders do not allow for the existence of a conveners group. We all felt
that if the Parliament and its committees were to have their due weight
in relation to the Executive, that should be reflected in the standing
orders. All the committees were anxious to maintain their independence
and that of the Parliament from the Executive. We are also aware that procedural
issues, such as the timing of meetings, should be discussed in a different
forum. That is where things stand. If there is anything else, feel free
to raise it.
The Convener: Allan has already
suggested an informal briefing. That should be our priority, but in the
meantime is there anything else that members wish to have prepared?
Allan Wilson: I received a letter
from Stephen Imriepresumably as did the other memberssaying that a paper
on the financing of objective 2 regions was to follow. I have not received
Stephen Imrie: The Executive informed
me that it would try to get that paper to us by this meeting, but that
it would require ministerial clearance because, in its opinion, it contained
a number of important issues. I had not received the paper by the time
of this meeting, but as soon as I do I will
||circulate it to
all committee members.
The Convener: Before I close the
meeting, I would like to point out that there will be some problems with
the timing of our meetings over the next few weeks because of some of the
deadlines that we have to meet. At the moment, I am not sure what will
be happening during October. Stephen, could you identify some of the potential
problems for us?
Stephen Imrie: I can advise the
committee that earlier in the week I was approached by the Scottish Executive
development department to discuss two consultation documents that will
be sent to the committee. The first is the document that the committee
has already seenthe draft special programme for the Highlands and Islands.
That will become a full programme which contains all the financial and
priority elements that we thought were missing from the first draft. It
will come to the committee for further consultation.
The second document, which will be received
on an identical time scale, is the Scottish operational programme for objective
3 expenditure under the new programme round for European structural funds.
Broadly, that will cover employment, the labour market, social inclusion
and equal opportunities.
I am advised by the Executive that neither
of those documents will be cleared by the minister before Monday 4 October.
According to European structural fund regulations, the member state must
report by 1 November. That means that we have between 4 October and 1 November
to ensure that members' views are heard in time to get them incorporated
in the documents and over to Brussels. We do not have a committee meeting
scheduled until what would be the October recessI think that 12 October
is the date.
Dr Sylvia Jackson: Is it not 5 October?
Stephen Imrie: We do not have a
meeting on 5 October, because we follow a fortnightly pattern. The next
meeting will be on 28 October.
The Convener: I have discussed with
Stephen the possibility of having an early meeting, but by the time the
documents are cleared by the minister, members will have only one or two
days in which to consider detailed and important documents. That is our
dilemma. Either we go for an early meeting, which will not give us sufficient
time to absorb and scrutinise the documents, or we return during the recess,
which might be inconvenient. The other possibility is to meet on that Friday.
We need time to consider the documents
if we are to do them justice.
When is the earliest that members could expect to receive the documents?
Stephen Imrie: The earliest I expect
to receive the documents is 4 October. The final document on the special
programme would be completed on the evening of the previous Friday and
given to the minister over the weekend. Assuming that the minister signed
it off on Monday, we would receive the document late on Monday afternoon.
Ms Oldfather: Would it be possible
to schedule an extra meeting that week, perhaps on Thursday lunchtime,
or at 5 pm?
The Convener: We have to assume
that the minister will sign off the documents on the Monday, so that members
will have at least two to three days to consider them. If we hold a meeting
on the Thursday, we are constrained by parliamentary business. I do not
know what members' business or other business is scheduledthat is a matter
for the Parliamentary Bureau. We might be able to hold a meeting at 5 pm,
but it might need to be at 5.30 pm or even at 6 pm, depending on other
business. Friday is a possibility, but we shall come up against other problems
Would members prefer to meet at the end
of that week or later?
Ms Oldfather: I would prefer the
end of the week. Many members of the committee live in the westwould it
be possible for us to meet in Glasgow on that occasion?
That would require permission and is not for us to decide.
Is it agreed that I try to arrange a meeting
for the end of the week? It depends on the day that the minister signs
off the documents. I am not happy to hold a meeting when members have had
only a couple of days to examine the documents.
Bruce Crawford: The alternative
is to meet on the Tuesday of the next week.
Maureen Macmillan: The problem is
that that is Scotland's week in Europe. I hope to be in Brussels in Scotland
The Convener: Yes, several things
are already arranged for that week.
Allan Wilson: I would rule out the
week after if there is to be a constraint because of the late arrival of
The Convener: Will the committee
allow me to take soundings from the minister about when we are likely to
receive the documents, so that we can schedule a meeting at an appropriate
The Convener: We already have the
objective 3 document. Would members like that to be circulated now?
The Convener: Thank you for attending
Meeting closed at 16:04.