Last week Bob Doris, SNP Regional MSP for Glasgow, used the Parliamentary Motion system to mislead Parliament as to the actions of the Scottish Labour Party within Westminster. I have attached both the motion lodged and the point of order I made to the Presiding Officer the following day.
Date of Lodging: 18 January 2012
Short Title: Keeping Scotland’s NHS in Public Hands
S4M-01746 Bob Doris () (Scottish National Party): That the Parliament notes with concern that the UK Labour party believes that there is an important role for the private sector in supporting the delivery of NHS care and is, therefore, disappointed that the privatisation of the NHS in England is now supported by the Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Labour parties; believes that private sector involvement risks putting private profit ahead of patient care; welcomes the fact that the Scottish Government has consistently rejected the privatisation of the NHS in Scotland, and calls on the Scottish Labour Party to join the Scottish Government in rejecting the privatisation of the Scottish NHS.
Dr Richard Simpson (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab): I seek the Presiding Officer’s guidance on the rules regarding the admissibility of Scottish Parliament motions and the abuse of the system in order to mislead Parliament in contravention of rule 3.1.8 of the members’ code of conduct, which requires that members act honestly.
Presiding Officer, you may be aware of motion S4M-01746, which was lodged on 18 January, in the name of Bob Doris MSP. In that motion, Bob Doris cites a motion for an Opposition day debate in the House of Commons in order to assert that the Labour Party supports the privatisation of the National Health Service. The move was accompanied by an SNP press release that stated: “Scottish Labour’s MPs including the party’s deputy leader Anas Sarwar and shadow Scottish Secretary Margaret Curran voted in favour of using the private sector throughout the NHS.”
In fact, the House of Commons motion in question is backed by the trade union Unison as part of its our NHS, our future campaign and was drafted to oppose the Conservative-led “Government’s plans to open up the NHS” in England “as a regulated market, increasing private sector involvement in both commissioning and provision of NHS services”, which will “risk putting profits before patients”.
It can in no way be honestly portrayed as support for increased private sector involvement in the NHS; in fact, the precise opposite is true.
In view of the fact that such manifestly false assertions have found their way into a motion of the Parliament, what provision is there for members to be required to withdraw motions if they are found to be demonstrably false and misleading, considering that they will remain on the record even if they are amended? Will the Presiding Officer confirm that the chamber office is unable to prevent the lodging and publication of such erroneous motions, as accuracy is not currently one of the admissibility criteria under rule 8.2.2 of the standing orders? If so, does she agree that that should be changed in order to protect the Parliament’s integrity?
Finally, is it appropriate that a member who wantonly and mischievously misleads Parliament in this way should be able to continue as deputy convener of the Health and Sport Committee?