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The Earl of Balfour: My noble friend mentioned broadcasting. Although we seem to have provided for the recording of proceedings in parliament there does not seem to be a provision to cover broadcasting. I raised the same question when debating the Government of Wales Bill. I draw the Committee's attention to Schedule 12 to that Bill and the Copyright, Design and Patents Act 1988, Chapter 48. The Bill does not apply to Scotland but I hope that the Minister will bear it in mind. Paragraph 28 of Schedule 12 provides:
Lord Rodger of Earlsferry: I am sure the Government appreciate that the decision in Pepper v. Hart is already embedded in the procedures of the courts. We are already quite used to dealing with references to proceedings in this House and another place in relation to legislation. It would be unfortunate if it were not possible equally for the courts to refer to the proceedings in the Scottish parliament in relation to the interpretation of Acts. On the other hand, I doubt that it is necessary to have that on the face of the Bill. If the Government give an assurance that they expect that in the interpretation of any Act the court can refer to the proceedings in the Scottish parliament in the same way that under the present regime courts refer to such proceedings under Pepper v. Hart I suspect that the matter raised by the noble Lord, Lord Selkirk of Douglas, can be adequately dealt with.
Lord Monkswell: Before the Minister responds to the debate initiated by the noble Earl, Lord Balfour, perhaps I may explain to the Committee my vehement objection to the construction of Pepper v. Hart: that legislation should be interpreted on the basis of what has been said from the Government Front Bench and recorded in Hansard. It is important for the proper
Future legislators responding to the law of the land in the statute books should construe the legislation on the basis of the words in the statutes rather than the words in the statute books and the record in Hansard of the utterances of Ministers at the Dispatch Box.
However, that is an aside. I intervene in the debate to save the Committee time. We are involved in what might be described as a general debate initiated by the noble Earl, Lord Balfour, on the standing orders for the future Scottish parliament. I have a couple of questions for the Government's consideration. They may not be able to respond directly this evening but they are important questions that need to be addressed.
First, in my reading of the Bill, while the Government have powers in a number of different areas to issue interim provisions leading up to the initiation of the Scottish parliament, they have no power to draft standing orders for the Scottish parliament. I suspect that this may be an oversight. I gather that a committee is considering the interim issues which need to be deliberated upon by Government in the run-up to the Scottish parliament. The Government have power in a number of different areas to lay down in orders how the interim provisions should work, but they have no powers to provide initial standing orders for the Scottish parliament. This may be an oversight which the Government may wish to consider.
Secondly, a number of provisions in the Bill lay down that the Scottish parliament shall determine standing orders on a range of issues. I am sure we would all accept many of them as sensible and realistic involving the various aspects of parliamentary procedure which is custom and practice in Westminster. However, my question for the Government is this--
Lord Monkswell: I am trying to save the time of the Committee. We could have a separate debate on the Question of whether the clause shall stand part of the Bill and I could raise all the various issues. However, I hope that in responding to the amendments of the noble Earl, Lord Balfour, and the noble Lord, Lord Selkirk of Douglas, which I detect to be probing rather than definitive, the Government can respond to my questions and therefore save the time of the Committee in having a separate debate on the issues which I believe to be important. I hope that that has satisfied the noble Lord.
My final question is: if included in the Bill are all the various provisions which require the Scottish parliament to determine standing orders on a number and range of issues, what happens if it does not adopt standing orders which meet the provisions of the Bill? Does that mean that all the subsequent proceedings of the Scottish parliament are ultra vires and count for nought? What is the mechanism by which that would be determined?
I put forward those two aspects. First, do the Government believe it right that they have no provision to draft standing orders for the Scottish parliament to adopt when it first meets? Secondly, what is the legal mechanism to determine matters if the Scottish parliament does not adopt all the standing orders which are delineated in the Bill in front of us?
Lord Hardie: These amendments seek to prescribe some of the ways in which the parliament operates. We have made it clear on various occasions that we intend to ensure that the Scottish parliament should be able to decide for itself what its procedures should be. This is one area where it is appropriate to allow the parliament to make its own decisions.
Perhaps I may deal with the point raised by the noble Earl, Lord Balfour, as regards the comparison with the Government of Wales Bill. That Bill generally provides a greater level of detail about the assembly's working practices and procedures. We believe that that is appropriate as the Welsh assembly will be an executive body. However, such level of detail would not be appropriate for the Scottish parliament. As we made clear in the White Paper, we want to leave the detailed decisions on how the parliament will work to the parliament itself to decide.
Amendment No. 117 seeks to prescribe that the standing orders are published. I have no doubt that they will be published and that the amendment is therefore unnecessary. We have recognised that it would be unrealistic to expect the parliament to be in a position to put in place standing orders on day one of its operation. That is why my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland established an all-party steering group which will prepare a draft report recommending what the standing orders should cover. Initial standing orders will be in place for the parliament from the outset and it is intended that these will be published.
Perhaps I may deal with the point raised by my noble friend Lord Monkswell. There is provision in the Bill for this Parliament to make such orders. I refer to Clause 115(3), which gives a general transitional power to make such provision as necessary. That would enable us to make the necessary initial standing orders.
I would expect the parliament to publish its standing orders and do not believe that it is necessary that this should be prescribed. Nevertheless, as the noble Earl still has some concerns on this matter, I shall be only too happy to meet him in order to discuss them and how they might be met.
In relation to Amendments Nos. 119 to 121, a similar argument applies to the other amendments tabled by the noble Earl. Amendment No. 119 would require the parliament only to make provision to report its public proceedings. That appears to be narrower than the current provision. I refer Members of the Committee to Schedule 3, paragraph 3. It is important to allow the parliament to decide the detailed provisions relating to the reporting of proceedings. Amendment No. 121 requires the parliament to publish reports of its
In relation to Amendment No. 120, the noble Earl has tried to prescribe that the parliament makes public any document under its control which contains material relating to the proceedings of the parliament. Again, that is a matter best left to the parliament. It is not something we should prescribe. I can see no reason why the parliament would not want to make such documents available, but I should not wish to prejudge the parliament's consideration of that matter. I am sure the parliament will develop its own practices for ensuring that information about proceedings is accessible.
Finally, Amendment No. 141 directs the parliament to make copies of any document it publishes available to the public, although it allows it to make a reasonable charge for that. I agree that it is important that the public should be able to obtain documents published by the parliament but once again, that need not be prescribed on the face of the Bill. Again, I am sure that the parliament will develop an appropriate system without our direction.
However, I repeat to the noble Earl my offer to discuss any concerns that he may still have with a view to seeing how they may be addressed. With that, I urge the noble Earl to withdraw his amendments.
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