Scotland: Parliament bill probe following amendment concerns

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An inquiry into whether the Scottish Parliament’s legislative process is “fit for purpose” is to be conducted by a Holyrood committee.

It follows some concerns over the transparency of the amendments stages of bills and the timescale allowed for each stage of a bill’s passage, particularly at stage three when late amendments can be made in the chamber.

The Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee (SPPA) inquiry will look at the effectiveness of each of the main stages of a parliamentary bill.

It will focus on the rules governing public bills - the most common type of bill - and examine whether the process for making amendments in committee and in the chamber is sufficiently transparent and understandable.

Stewart Stevenson MSP, the new convener of the SPPA Committee, said: “This Committee believes now is the right time to look at the effectiveness of each of the main stages of a parliamentary bill. In short we are asking “is the legislative process fit for purpose?”

“Past evidence to the SPPA Committee suggests there are issues over the transparency of amendments and whether the effect of late amendments are always properly understood, especially when there has been limited scope for proper scrutiny.

“Voices inside and outwith Holyrood have highlighted issues around timescale, particularly at stage 3, but our remit will enable us to look across the public bill process.

“Overall, we will consider what scope is there to improve our legislative process and to enhance Scotland’s law-making.”

The remit for the SPPA inquiry is to examine the general procedures and practice for considering public bills in the Scottish Parliament, whether any changes are required, and if so, what these should be, with the main focus of the inquiry on public bills.

The committee is seeking views on issues including to what extent the current legislative process encourages engagement from interested parties and whether there are changes which could improve the stage one scrutiny of public bills.

The deadline for responses to the inquiry is Friday March 21 2014.

SOURCE: The Scotsman, December 4th 2013: