22 February 2007

Point of Order

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 22 February 2007

[THE DEPUTY PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 09:15]

... ... ...

Point of Order


Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): On a point of order, Presiding Officer. Rule 13.5.2 of standing orders, which relates to written questions, says:

"An answer shall normally be lodged within 10 counting days of the day on which the question is lodged."

You might be aware that the Executive recently lodged with the Scottish Parliament information centre an audit of Scottish parliamentary questions for July to September 2006, which helpfully sets out each minister's performance over that period. It reveals, for example, that Mr Andy Kerr answered all but one of his 202 questions on time. In contrast, Mr Nicol Stephen answered a mere 46 of his 130 questions on time.

Not that the Executive's three-month review showed that Mr Stephen had simply had a one-off poor quarter. Since 1999, Mr Kerr has managed to answer 86 per cent of his 4,617 questions on time. However, Mr Stephen was late on 1,421 occasions out of the 3,437 replies that he gave. That is in excess of 41 per cent of occasions.

Presiding Officer, will you confirm that that constitutes a breach by Mr Stephen of rule 13.5.2 of the Parliament's standing orders? If so, what sanctions can you impose in the face of such substantial and sustained disregard for Parliament?

The Presiding Officer (Mr George Reid): I am grateful to Mr Stevenson for advance notice of his question, to which I have indeed given some thought. If a holding answer is given within 10 counting days—as I understand has always been the case—there is no breach of standing orders. The figures quoted by Stewart Stevenson are for substantive answers, not for holding answers; as a result, although the differences in performance are striking, they are a matter for the Scottish Executive, not for me.


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