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That with effect from the beginning of the next Session (a) Standing Orders No. 93 (Public bills relating exclusively to Scotland), No. 94 (Scottish Grand Committee), No. 96 (Scottish estimates) and No. 97 (Matters relating exclusively to Scotland) shall be repealed, and the following Standing Orders A to H below shall have effect ;
(b) Standing Orders No. 13 (Arrangement of public business), No. 89 (Procedure in standing committees) and No. 91 (Special standing committees) shall be amended as set out below ; and
(c) other Standing Orders shall have effect subject to the foregoing provisions of this Order.
A. Scottish Grand Committee (composition and business) (1) There shall be a standing committee called the Scottish Grand Committee, which shall consist of all Members representing Scottish constituencies ; and of which (subject to paragraph (6) of Standing Order H (Scottish Grand Committee (sittings)) the quorum shall be ten.
(2) The business of the Committee shall include
(a) questions tabled in accordance with Standing Order B (Scottish Grand Committee (questions for oral answer)) ;
(b) short debates held in accordance with Standing Order C (Scottish Grand Committee (short debates)) ;
(c) ministerial statements proceeded with in accordance with Standing Order D (Scottish Grand Committee (ministerial statements)) ;
(d) bills referred to it for consideration in relation to their principle, in accordance with Standing Order E (Scottish Grand Committee (bills in relation to their principle)) ;
(e) motions relating to statutory instruments or draft statutory instruments, referred to it in accordance with Standing Order F (Scottish Grand Committee (statutory instruments, &c)) ;
(f) motions for the adjournment of the committee, notice of which has been given in accordance with Standing Order G (Scottish Grand Committee (substantive motions for the adjournment)) ; and (g) motions for the adjournment of the committee, to be made after the interruption of business, as provided in Standing Order H (Scottish Grand Committee (sittings)).
B. Scottish Grand Committee (questions for oral answer) (1) Notices of questions for oral answer in the Scottish Grand Committee by Scottish Office ministers or Scottish law officers on a day specified in an order made under paragraph (1) of Standing Order H (Scottish Grand Committee (sittings)), may be given by members of the committee in the Table Office.
(2) Notices of questions given under this order shall bear an indication that they are for oral answer in the Scottish Grand Committee.
(3) No more than one notice of a question may be given under this order by any member of the committee for each day specified under paragraph (1) of Standing Order H (Scottish Grand Committee (sittings)) for the taking of questions.
(4) On any day so specified under paragraph (1) of Standing Order H (Scottish Grand Committee (sittings)), questions shall be taken at the commencement of the sitting ; no question shall be taken later then three- quarters of an hour after the commencement of the proceedings thereon ; and replies to questions not reached shall be printed with the Official Report of the committee's debates for that day.
(5) Notices of questions under this order may be given ten sitting days before that on which an answer is desired :
Provided that when it is proposed that the House shall adjourn for a period of fewer than four days, any day during that period (other than a Saturday or a Sunday) shall be counted as a sitting day for the purposes of the calculation made under this paragraph. C. Scottish Grand Committee (short debates)
(1) Notices of subjects to be raised in short debates in the Scottish Grand Committee, on a day specified in an order made under paragraph (1) of Standing Order H (Scottish Grand Committee (sittings)), may be given by members of the committee in the Table Office.
Column 763(2) Subjects of which notice is given under paragraph (1) of this order must relate to the official responsibilities of Scottish Office ministers or Scottish law officers.
(3) Not more than one notice of a subject may be given under this order by any member of the committee for each day specified under paragraph (1) of Standing Order H (Scottish Grand Committee (sittings)) for the holding of short debates.
(4) On any day so specified such debates shall be held at the commencement of the sitting or, if the order under paragraph (1) specifies also the taking of questions on that day, immediately after questions.
(5)(a) No member of the committee except the minister or law officer replying to the debate shall be called to speak later than half an hour after the commencement of the first such debate. (b) The Member who gave notice of the subject and the minister or law officer replying to the debate may each speak for five minutes. Other members of the committee may speak for three minutes. (c) The chairman may direct any member of the committee who exceeds the limits in sub-paragraph (b) to resume his seat forthwith. (6) Notices of subjects under this order may be given ten sitting days before that on which they are sought to be raised :
Provided that when it is proposed that the House shall adjourn for a period of fewer than four days, any day during that period (other than a Saturday or a Sunday) shall be counted as a sitting day for the purposes of the calculation made under this paragraph. D. Scottish Grand Committee (ministerial statements)
(1) The chairman of the Scottish Grand Committee may permit a Scottish Office minister or a Scottish law officer, whether or not a member of the committee, to make a statement, of which prior notice has been given to him, and to answer questions thereon put by members of the committee.
(2) Ministerial statements may be made for the purpose of (a) facilitating the questioning by members of the committee of the minister or law officer, as the case may be, about a matter relating to his official responsibilities as provided in the second column of the eleventh sub- paragraph of paragraph (2) of Standing Order No. 130 (Select committees related to government departments), in which case proceedings under this order shall be brought to a conclusion not later than three-quarters of an hour after their commencement ; or (b) announcing the policy of the Government on a matter relating to Scotland or the response of the Government to an event relating to Scotland, in which case proceedings under this order shall be brought to a conclusion at the discretion of the chairman.
(3) Ministerial statements may be made
(a) at the commencement of a sitting ; or
(b) if questions are taken, immediately after the conclusion of proceedings thereon ; or
(c) if short debates are held, immediately after the conclusion of those proceedings.
(4) A minister or law officer making a statement under paragraph (1) of this order, who is not a member of the committee, may not do so from the body of the committee ; and such a minister or law officer shall not vote, make any motion or be counted in the quorum. E. Scottish Grand Committee (bills in relation to their principle)
(1) After any public bill has been first printed, the Speaker shall, if of the opinion that its provisions relate exclusively to Scotland, give a certificate to that effect :
Provided that a certificate shall not be withheld by reason only that a provision of that bill amends Schedule 1 to the House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975 or Schedule 1 to the Northern Ireland Assembly Disqualification Act 1975.
(2) On the order being read for the second reading of a bill so certified, a motion may be made by a member of the Government (or in the case of a private Members' bill, by the Member in charge of the bill), That the bill be referred to the Scottish Grand Committee' ; and the question thereon shall be put forthwith and may be decided notwithstanding the expiration of the time for opposed business : Provided that such a motion may be made by a private Member only with the leave of the House.
(3) A bill so referred to the Scottish Grand Committee shall be considered on a motion, That the Committee has considered the
Column 764bill in relation to its principle ;' and, when the committee has considered that question for a total of two and half hours (whether on one or more than one day), the chairman shall put the question necessary to dispose of the motion, and shall then report accordingly to the House (or shall report that the committee has come to no resolution), without any further question being put thereon : Provided that a member of the government may, immediately before the motion That the Committee has considered the bill in relation to its principle' is made, make without notice a motion to extend the time-limit specified in this paragraph ; and the question on such motion shall be put forthwith.
(4) A bill in respect of which a report has been made under paragraph (3) above shall be ordered to be read a second time on a future day.
(5) On the order being read for the second reading of a bill to which paragraph (4) above applies, a motion may be made by a member of the government (or, in the case of a private Member's bill, by the Member in charge of the bill), That the bill be committed to a Scottish Standing Committee (or to a special standing committee)' : and the question thereon shall be put forthwith and may be decided notwithstanding the expiration of the time for opposed business. (6) If a motion made under the preceding paragraph be agreed to, the bill shall be deemed to have been read a second time, and shall stand committed to a Scottish Standing Committee (or to a special standing committee).
F. Scottish Grand Committee (statutory instruments, &c.) (1) Where
(a) a Member has given notice of a motion for a humble address to Her Majesty praying that a statutory instrument be annulled, or of a motion that a draft of an Order in Council be not submitted to Her Majesty in Council, or that a statutory instrument be revoked or be not made, or that the House takes note of a statutory instrument, or (b) a Minister of the Crown has given notice of a motion to the effect that a statutory instrument or draft statutory instrument be approved,
a motion may be made by a member of the government, That the instrument (or draft instrument) be referred to the Scottish Grand Committee' ; and the question on such motion shall be put forthwith and may be decided notwithstanding the expiration of the time for opposed business.
(2) The committee shall consider each instrument (or draft instrument) referred to it on a motion, That the Committee has considered the instrument (or draft instrument)' ; and the chairman shall put any question necessary to dispose of the proceedings on the motion, if not previously disposed of, not later than one and a half hours after the commencement of proceedings thereon ; and shall thereupon report the instrument or draft instrument to the House without any further question being put.
(3) If any motion is made in the House of the kind specified in paragraph 1(a) or 1(b) of this order, in relation to any instrument or draft instrument in respect of which a report has been made to the House in accordance with paragraph (2) of this order, the Speaker shall put forthwith the question thereon ; which may be decided notwithstanding the expiration of the time for opposed business. G. Scottish Grand Committee (substantive motions for the adjournment)
(1) On each of the days specified in an order of the House under paragraph (1) of Standing Order H (Scottish Grand Committee (sittings)) for the consideration of motions for the adjournment of the Scottish Grand Committee, such motions of which notice has been given in accordance with paragraphs (2) and (3) below shall have precedence.
(2) A member of the committee giving notice of a motion for the adjournment of the committee under this order shall
(a) also give notice of the subject to which he intends to call attention on the motion for the adjournment of the committee, and (b) give such notice of motion and of the subject in writing not later than ten sitting days before that on which the motion is to be made :
Provided that the subject to which attention is called must relate to Scotland.
Column 765(3) The days specified for the consideration of motions for the adjournment of the committee under this order shall be allocated as follows
(a) six at the disposal of the government ;
(b) four at the disposal of the Leader of the Opposition ; and, in respect of parties other than that of the Leader of the Opposition,
(c) one at the disposal of the leader of the largest opposition party ; and
(d) one at the disposal of the leader of the next largest opposition party :
Provided that a day specified in an order of the House under paragraph (1) of Standing Order H (Scottish Grand Committee (sittings)) on which business is to be interrupted at or after half-past three o'clock shall, if no business other than that to which this order applies is set down for consideration on that day, be deemed to be two days for the purposes of this order.
(4) For the purposes of this order, the largest' and next largest' opposition parties in Scotland shall be those parties, not being represented in Her Majesty's Government and of which the Leader of the Opposition is not a member, which have the largest and next largest number of Members who represent constituencies in Scotland, and of which not fewer than three Members were elected to the House as members of those parties.
H. Scottish Grand Committee (sittings)
(1) A motion may be made by a member of the government providing (or varying previous provision) for the Scottish Grand Committee (a) to sit on specified days at a specified place in Scotland, the sitting commencing at half-past ten o'clock, and proceedings being interrupted at such hour as may be specified ;
(b) to sit on other specified days at Westminster at half-past ten o'clock ;
(c) to take questions under Standing Order B (Scottish Grand Committee (questions for oral answer)) on certain of the days specified under paragraph (a) or paragraph (b) above ;
(d) to hold short debates under Standing Order C (Scottish Grand Committee (short debates)) on certain of the days so specified ; and (e) to consider substantive motions for the adjournment of the committee under Standing Order G (Scottish Grand Committee (substantive motions for the adjournment)) on not more than twelve of the days so specified.
and the Speaker shall put forthwith the question on such a motion, which may be decided after the time for opposed business : Provided that nothing in this order shall prevent the committee from considering further at a sitting at Westminster business adjourned at a previous sitting in Scotland, nor from considering at a sitting in Scotland business adjourned at a sitting at Westminster.
(2) The provisions of Standing Order No. 88 (Meetings of standing committees), so far as they relate to the naming of a day in respect of business by the Member appointed chairman and the committee's appointment of future days in respect of business not completed at a sitting, shall not apply to the Scottish Grand Committee. (3) Other than as provided in paragraph (1) of Standing Order G (Scottish Grand Committee (substantive motions for the adjournment)), the government shall determine the precedence of the business appointed for consideration at any sitting of the committee. (4) The chairman shall interrupt proceedings at the time specified in relation to the sitting by an order made under paragraph (1) above, or, in the absence of such provision, at one o'clock, subject to paragraph (2) of Standing Order No. 88 (Meetings of standing committees).
(5) At the moment of interruption, proceedings under consideration and not disposed of shall stand adjourned (except substantive motions for the adjournment of the committee under Standing Order G (Scottish Grand Committee (substantive motions for the adjournment)) which shall lapse).
(6) After the interruption of proceedings, a motion for the adjournment of the committee may be made by a member of the government, and, notwithstanding the provisions of Standing Order No. 88 (Meetings of standing committees) the chairman
Column 766shall, not later than half an hour after the motion has been made, adjourn the committee without putting any question ; and in respect of business taken under this paragraph, the quorum of the committee shall be three.
That Standing Orders be amended as follows
(i) Standing Order No. 13 (Arrangement of public business), by adding at the end of line 91 the words
"(11) A private Member's bill to which the provisions of paragraphs (2) to (6) of Standing Order E (Scottish Grand Committee (bills in relation to their principle)) have applied, and which has been considered by a Scottish Standing Committee (or by a special standing committee), shall not be set down for consideration on report so as to have precedence over any private Member's bill so set down which was read a second time on a day preceding that on which the bill was reported from the Scottish Grand Committee under paragraph (3) of that Standing Order" ;
(ii) Standing Order No. 89 (Procedure in standing committees), in line 1, by leaving out the words "Standing Order No. 94 (Scottish Grand Committee)" and inserting the words "Standing Order A (Scottish Grand Committee (composition and business))" ; and
(iii) Standing Order No. 91 (Special standing committees), by inserting at the end of line 13 the words
"Provided that, in the case of bills certified under paragraph (1) of Standing Order E (Scottish Grand Committee (bills in relation to their principle)) and committed pursuant to paragraph (5) thereof to a special standing committee, the three morning sittings may be held in Scotland".
I am glad to have the opportunity to put before the House this evening the changes to Standing Orders-- [Interruption.]
Mr. Lang : I am glad to have the opportunity to put before the House the changes to Standing Orders, which relate primarily to the work of the Scottish Grand Committee, and were envisaged in the White Paper, "Scotland in the Union : A Partnership for Good", published in March last year. The changes will substantially complete the implementation of the proposals made in the White Paper, which have been, and will be, beneficial for Scotland.
The White Paper followed a serious and detailed consideration of Scottish constitutional issues and of Scotland's place in the United Kingdom, following a pledge given by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister shortly before the 1992 general election. That was the process that became popularly known as "taking stock."
In the White Paper, we reaffirmed our belief in the importance of the Union to Scotland and of Scotland to the Union. At the same time, we acknowledged that, from time to time in Scotland, there has been real concern that the Union may not have been functioning as effectively as it might, and we faced up squarely to the need to make the proposals address such shortcomings. The White Paper sought to identify new ways to build on the existing strengths of the Union, recognising that that was a part of a continuing process with the overall aim of strengthening Scotland's place in the Union--an aim which few in the House will challenge.
I shall summarise the main elements of our proposals, so as to bring the House up to date on the most significant changes, before turning to the Standing Order changes.
The White Paper emphasised our commitment to Scotland's place in Europe. We have met our commitments to secure substantial representation for Scotland on the Committee of the Regions and to host a Europartenariat,
Column 767which was held in December 1993. Scottish Ministers and Scottish Office officials continue to attend meetings of the Council of Ministers when a discussion has a clear bearing on Scottish interests, and positive steps have been taken to further Scottish links with other parts of Europe.
The White Paper did much to bring to Scotland more decisions affecting Scotland, and much work has been done to transfer certain functions and powers to the Scottish Office. I shall draw attention to two particularly important examples.
First, the transfer to me of responsibility for the Scottish Arts Council took effect, as planned, from 1 April this year. It is now established as an independent body with its own royal charter, and I am confident that the council will serve the Scottish arts world well. With the creation of the new council, there is, for the first time, a unified funding structure for the arts in Scotland--all central Government support coming from the Scottish Office. Secondly, I also took over responsibility for training policy in Scotland on 1 April. We already had in place unique institutional arrangements for the delivery of Government-funded training programmes with the establishment of Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Island Enterprise and the local enterprise companies, leading to a better understanding of local economic demands and of the training required to meet them. My assumption of responsibility for training policy builds on that.
Significantly, it also rounds out my capacity to influence industrial development by enabling me to consider education and training in an integrated way. It accords well with the additional responsibilities that I recently assumed for funding the universities in Scotland--Scottish institutions, with United Kingdom and international stature, and an important part to play, along with other elements of the education and training system, in the enhancement of the skills base that is vital to our economic success.
Mr. Ernie Ross (Dundee, West) : The Secretary of State will know that, as a member of the Select Committee on Employment, I have followed developments--as has his Parliamentary Private Secretary--in local enterprise councils and training and enterprise councils, which developed from the experience of Boston private industry councils. In the Boston PICs, a responsibility was placed on the training manager to place people in employment, which is something that we welcome. Given the present recession, does the Secretary of State accept that the quotas that he is demanding that those providing training should meet should not apply to those who are training people with special training needs or with physical or mental disabilities ? A number of companies--especially those connected with the Scottish Association for Mental Health--are experiencing increasing difficulty in having their contracts renewed because of the quota arrangement.
Mr. Lang : I understand the specific point that the hon. Gentleman is making. If he wishes to pursue it with me, I shall be happy to look into the details. In general, however, I think that the local enterprise companies have a vital role to play--just as the training and enterprise companies do in England--in co-ordinating and delivering training schemes in the enterprise company areas for which they are responsible. Members of LECs, more than anyone else,
Column 768know the specific needs of their areas, and know how schemes can be adapted and made more flexible to suit particular requirements. Those are just one or two examples of the many improvements in the handling of Scottish affairs that flow from the White Paper. Overall, the Government have a highly creditable record of success in delivering what the White Paper promised, improving the way in which the Union works and bringing important benefits to the people of Scotland.
In that context, and in the same vein, let me deal with the formal business that we are discussing--the changes being made to our Standing Orders to implement the proposals in chapter 6 of the White Paper "Scotland in the Union". Let me remind the House briefly what they are designed to achieve.
As the White Paper acknowledged, the criticism has often been made that there is too little time in our crowded Westminster schedule for Scottish affairs to be discussed fully and properly. We could debate that criticism at length, but I do not propose to do so ; it would be hard to argue that there is too little time for Scottish business when we recently devoted 178 hours to the Committee stage of the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Bill, and two and a half days to Report and Third Reading.
For many years, under Governments of both complexions, there has been a solid programme of Scottish legislation. That programme has given the House opportunities to debate Scottish issues, either on their own or within the framework of United Kingdom debates to which they are relevant. More recently, the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs--also established by a Conservative Government--has provided a forum for particular issues to be examined in depth.
The Government have decided, however, that, in the spirit of Scotland in the Union, it is appropriate to seek ways of increasing the opportunities for parliamentary discussion of Scottish affairs. I emphasise that our measures are in no way intended to diminish opportunities for Scottish business to be taken on the Floor of the House ; it is the Government's firm intention that matters which merit debate in the Chamber should continue to be given that opportunity. The changes that we are making are intended to provide additional opportunities, rather than a diversion of what we have now.
Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan) : According to records that I have obtained from the Library, the Scottish Grand Committee last met in Edinburgh on 1 February last year. Why have no sittings taken place in Edinburgh since that debate on local government reform ?
Mr. Lang : The question when the Scottish Grand Committee should meet and the question when estimates should be debated are the subject of negotiation between the usual channels. Part of the reason is that there has been less pressure than normal for meetings to take place in Scotland. I hope, however, that the measures that I am announcing will provide more opportunities for such matters to be debated not only in Edinburgh, but elsewhere in Scotland. The Standing Orders are designed to produce the improvement that I have described from the beginning of the next Session. Our approach turns on providing an
Column 769expanded role for the Scottish Grand Committee : in effect, we would be creating for it a mini-Order Paper, modelled, in many respects, on the procedures of the House.
The Committee will be able to conduct general debates and debates on Second Reading of Bills, as now. In addition, it will have the opportunity for a question time ; the opportunity to hear statements and take evidence from Scottish Office Ministers, including, where appropriate, those who sit in the other place ; the opportunity to consider statutory instruments relating to Scotland ; and the opportunity to have short Adjournment debates. We are also proposing a new procedure--unique to the Grand Committee--for short debates, with short speeches, on particular subjects raised by Scottish Members.
"The chairman of the Scottish Grand Committee may permit a Scottish Office Minister or a Scottish law officer, whether or not a member of the committee, to make a statement, of which prior notice has been given to him".
How much prior notice must be given to the Chairman ?
Mr. Lang : Clearly, sufficient prior notice would be required before a Committee sitting took place as a result of a motion on the Order Paper, unless such notice had already been tabled in a sessional order or an order that had laid down the precise dates throughout a particular term of the Session. The point of the exercise is to act by consent and agreement across the Floor of the House, so the usual channels would be involved in negotiating precise details.
The Standing Orders provide a framework within which a calendar can be laid out at the beginning of each Session--or, more likely, each term. That might set out the dates of meetings in Scotland and at Westminster and identify those meetings at which questions, short debates and general debates are to be taken. The objective would be to achieve, by agreement through the usual channels, a satisfactory pattern of business that avoided difficult clashes with the other parliamentary demands on hon. Members' time. A calendar of that sort should ensure that days available for general debates in the Scottish Grand Committee were deployed to best advantage.
Our key change from the present arrangements would be the replacement of the present pattern of up to six estimates days and up to six matter days by provision for up to 12 general debates. It has been clear for some time that the present distinction between estimates debates and matter days debates is largely artificial. Both are in effect general debates on issues of current concern. In addition, the present arrangements have led to difficulties and uncertainties over timetabling, which has created problems. That has been a particular feature of the estimates debates, which have traditionally tended to be bunched together in late June and early July. Those debates are at the discretion and disposal of the Opposition, who, for whatever reason, have not had full advantage of them in recent years. The minority parties have been particularly disadvantaged in that regard.
It is against that background that we propose the move to up to 12 general debates, to take place on substantive motions for the Adjournment, as provided under new Standing Order G. Of those general debates, four will be at the disposal of Her Majesty's Opposition, and one each
Column 770would go to the two next largest Opposition parties in Scotland, provided that they have not fewer than three hon. Members. In providing for days to be available in that way, we are following the principles that relate to Opposition days in the House, which work successfully.
I envisage that some of the general debates will be on matters that arise regularly : the "hardy perennials", such as public expenditure in Scotland. The timing of those debates and the way in which they count against each party's allocation of time would, as for other aspects of our proposals, be settled by agreement through the usual channels.
I do not propose to dwell at length on the technical details of the new arrangements. There has been ample opportunity for consultation with the Opposition parties, and the text of the Standing Orders, together with a detailed explanatory note, has been available in the House of Commons Library since 10 February.
The intention of the new procedures is not to displace the Second Reading of major Bills from the Floor of the House, but to provide an alternative route that may be more appropriate for measures such as law reform Bills, which are often squeezed out at present. The intention is also, in certain circumstances, to enable private Members Bills relating exclusively to Scotland to have a proper Second Reading debate.