This case study discusses what happened at various points in the first day of stage 2 proceedings of the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill. The proceedings took place in the Equal Opportunities Committee meeting on 19 December 2013.
The focus is on procedure, not the content of the debates, and only part of the meeting is covered. For details of the full meeting, you can watch the full video or read the Official Report.
In order to understand what happened at the meeting, you need to look at the Marshalled List and Groupings documents for this meeting.
The Marshalled List
The Marshalled List contains all the amendments that had been lodged, set out in the order in which they would be disposed of. In the case of the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill, sections were dealt with in the order they appeared in the bill, and each schedule was decided on after the section that introduced it.
Here is the Marshalled List of Amendments for this meeting.
The Groupings document brings amendments together based on their subject matter and shows the order in which they will be debated by the committee. The aim of this is to avoid repetition in the debates.
Here is the Groupings document for this meeting.
Key points recap
- Debate on amendments followings the order of the Groupings; decisions on amendments follow the order of the Marshalled List.
- The MSP who lodged the first amendment in the group is always asked to move that amendment and speak to all the amendments in the group.
- The committee must make a decision on every section in the bill.
You should now be able to follow the case study below, which explains aspects of procedure.
Agreeing to sections with no amendments
Even if no amendments are proposed to particular sections or schedules of the bill, the committee still has to consider each one and formally agree to it.
No amendments had been proposed for sections 1-3 of the bill. The committee convener therefore began by seeking the committee’s agreement to these sections. The sections were agreed to.
Agreeing to amendments
The committee discussed the first group of amendments.
The convener invited the Cabinet Secretary, who had lodged the first amendment in the group, to move amendment 1 and speak to all amendments in the group.
The Cabinet Secretary explained the purpose of the three amendments then answered a question from one of the committee members. After the discussion, the convener asked if amendment 1 should be agreed to, and members indicated agreement. She then asked the Cabinet Secretary to move amendment 2 before asking committee members if it should be agreed to (it was). This process was repeated for amendment 3.
Agreeing to multiple amendments at once; agreeing to a section which has been amended
The Cabinet Secretary moved amendment 4 and spoke to all amendments in the group, and then the committee agreed to amendment 4.
The convener invited the Cabinet Secretary to move amendments 5-7 en bloc, which he did. The convener asked if any members objected to a single question being put on amendments 5-7. As there were no objections, the convener asked if members agreed to amendments 5-7 (they did).
Amendments 1-7 all related to section 4 of the bill. As a decision had now been taken on all these amendments, the convener asked the committee if section 4 of the bill (as amended) should be agreed to, and the members indicated their agreement.
The video below begins from amendment 5 onwards.
Following the order of the Marshalled List when deciding on amendments
The other amendments in group 2 (amendments 16, 28, 32, 34, 36 and 37) had now been debated, but they were not decided on at this point because they related to later sections of the bill, and therefore appeared later in the Marshalled List.
Agreeing to a schedule
The committee agreed to the first amendment in the group (amendment 8) in the normal way.
As amendment 8 was the only amendment relating to section 5 of the bill, the convener then invited the committee to agree to section 5 (as amended), which it did.
No amendments were proposed to section 6 so the convener next invited the committee to agree to section 6, which it did.
After section 6 had been agreed to, the convener invited the committee to agree to schedule 1 of the bill because this schedule, for which no amendments had been lodged, was introduced by section 6:
Only after schedule 1 had been agreed to did the convener ask the Cabinet Secretary to move amendment 9, which he did. The committee then agreed to amendment 9.
Withdrawing an amendment and not moving amendments
In the discussion on group 4, MSPs had different opinions on how to tackle an issue within the bill. Marco Biagi MSP had lodged amendments 10-13, which amended section 7 of the bill. The Cabinet Secretary wanted to tackle the issue in a different way – he had lodged amendment 14, which inserted text after section 7 instead.
Marco Biagi MSP moved amendment 10 and spoke to all amendments in the group. The Cabinet Secretary then spoke to amendment 14 and the other amendments in the group. This was followed by a wider debate on the issue involving several MSPs.
After the wider discussion, Marco Biagi MSP wound up the debate and indicated that he wished to withdraw amendment 10, following what he had heard from the Cabinet Secretary. After the convener had checked that no member of the committee objected to this, the amendment was withdrawn. Marco Biagi MSP chose not to move his other amendments in the group (amendments 11, 12 and 13), so the convener did not ask the committee whether they should be agreed to. There were now no amendments to section 7 to consider, so the convener asked the committee whether section 7 should be agreed to (it was).
The Cabinet Secretary then moved amendment 14 and the committee agreed to it.
The video below shows Marco Biagi MSP’s amendments being withdrawn and not moved, and section 7 being agreed to.
Following the order of the Marshalled List when deciding on amendments; pre-emption
Firstly, amendment 15 was agreed to in the usual way.
Amendment 15 was the first of three amendments (15, 16 and 17) relating to section 8 of the bill. Though amendments 16 and 17 were not part of group 5, they were decided on at this point because the committee had reached section 8 of the bill in the Marshalled List.
If you look back to the previous groups, you can see that amendment 16 was already discussed as part of group 2, and that amendment 17 was discussed as part of group 4. Therefore, the MSPs who lodged those amendments were asked to move them, but not to speak to them again. The Cabinet Secretary moved amendment 16 and it was agreed to, but Marco Biagi MSP chose not to move amendment 17. Section 8 (as amended) was then agreed to.
Next on the Marshalled List were amendments relating to section 9 of the bill. These amendments had all been discussed already. The committee agreed to the first section 9 amendment on the Marshalled List (amendment 19). Because of this, amendments 18 and 20 were pre-empted, making them invalid. This was because they sought to amend a part of section 9 that had been removed by amendment 19. Therefore, they were not decided on.
Amendments 40-42 had been lodged by Siobhan McMahon MSP. After she moved amendment 40 and spoke to all the amendments in the group, there was a discussion on the amendments involving a number of committee members. The convener then invited the Cabinet Secretary to give his views on the issue. Siobhan McMahon MSP was then called to wind up and to say whether she wished to press or withdraw her amendment.
She chose to press the amendment, so the convener had to ask the committee members to say whether it should be agreed to. As some members said ‘No’, there had to be a division. The convener asked those in favour of the amendment to raise their hands, then those not in favour. The result was three votes in favour and four not in favour. Therefore, the amendment was disagreed to.
The video below shows the division taking place.
Key terms explained
Cabinet Secretary: a senior minister in the Scottish Government
Convener: the MSP in charge of the committee
Disposed of: dealt with by the committee
Division: a vote (done by a show of hands in committee)
En bloc: together, rather than one at a time
Move: formally propose an amendment
Press: force the committee to decide whether they agree to the amendment
Schedule: schedules often spell out in more detail how the provisions of a bill are to work in practice
Speak to: talk about/explain an amendment
Wind up: draw the debate to a close
Withdraw: cease to propose an amendment
Numbering of amendments
Each amendment keeps the number it was given when it was originally lodged. This is the number that appeared in the ‘Daily List’ in the Legislation section of the Business Bulletin. Therefore, the amendment numbers in the Marshalled List and Groupings are not necessarily in consecutive numerical order.
Did you know?
The sections of a bill will not always be
decided on chronologically at stage 2. For example, contentious sections that
appear near the start of a bill might be left to the end of stage 2 so that
MSPs have more time to lodge amendments on the issue. The Marshalled List would
reflect this if such a decision was taken.
Did you know?
In the debate on a group of amendments, certain MSPs have a right to speak and will always be invited to do so:
- an MSP who lodged any of the amendments in the group
- the MSP in charge of the bill (usually the MSP who introduced the bill)
- any Scottish Government minister who is present.
It is for the convener to decide whether any other MSPs will be allowed to speak.