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Discussion paper

246B. If a committee resolves to present a discussion paper to the Assembly on an issue under inquiry by the committee it shall be the duty of the Presiding Member to prepare a draft of the discussion paper. Standing orders 248, 249 and 250 apply to the consideration of a draft discussion paper as if any reference to ‘draft report’ was a reference to ‘draft discussion paper’.

Every discussion paper will be signed by the Presiding Member and presented to the Assembly by the Presiding Member. Standing order 254(a) and 254(d) apply to the presentation of a discussion paper as if any reference to ‘report’ was a reference to ‘discussion paper’.”.

Essentially, these standing orders put in place the recommendations contained in the report of the Standing Committee on Administration and Procedure on standing orders and citizen's right of reply, which the Assembly has just debated. Mr Speaker, since I have already spoken to the issue and I know that Ms McRae is waiting to give her pennyworth - it may be a lot more than that; it may be a pound’s worth or even more - I will be happy to listen to the debate.

MS McRAE (11.19): Indeed, I was waiting, Mr Moore, and I have even had it typed up. Firstly, I would like to refute some of the arguments that have been put thus far, and then I want to actually present the case for the significance and importance of Tuesday night sittings. People may well laugh. They may have heard my private utterances in the past when I was groaning about Tuesday nights, because they are indeed a trial. But then we are not necessarily paid to enjoy ourselves in this place. There are some duties that I think are important, and I want to present those cases.

I will just have a bit of a go first at the four arguments that have been offered thus far - Mr Moore's suggestion that the sitting times in 1989 began at 2.30 pm; the argument about low attendance; the argument about the cost of the sittings; and then the notion that perhaps the house could sit for a bit longer and therefore allow more of the pleasure of our company to be given to the general public. I will take that one first because, clearly, it is a nonsense. If there is a major debate on, members of the general public are not going to know that we are going to finish at 4.30 or 5.30 pm and they cannot possibly run around making arrangements on an ad hoc basis. You must have a clear and set time so that you can say, “This is the time when we want you here”.

The argument that we started off at 2.30 pm in 1989 and we changed, and so we can change again, carries no substance. We should change only if we are absolutely convinced that we are doing so for the right reasons. My remarks today are addressed to you, Mr Osborne, Ms Tucker and Ms Horodny - and also to the rest of the house - because I hope that in my arguments I can help you to reconsider your position, or to consider it if you have not made up your mind. Mr Moore, you may also like to reconsider your position.

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