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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 June, 2004, 18:37 GMT 19:37 UK
'Out to lunch' minister's apology
Frank McAveety
Frank McAveety arrived late for question time
Tourism Minister Frank McAveety has been forced to apologise unreservedly for misleading parliament after turning up late for question time.

Mr McAveety told MSPs he was detained on ministerial business, but was actually having lunch in the canteen.

Presiding Officer George Reid accepted the minister's apology over what has already been dubbed "porky pie-gate".

First Minister Jack McConnell told Mr McAveety that his behaviour fell below the standard expected of a minister.

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Executive said: "The first minister and Mr McAveety have spoken.

First question

"The first minister has accepted his apology for, and his explanation of, the events at question time today.

"The first minister has made it clear to the minister that he feels his behaviour today falls below the standards he expects of his ministers and must not happen again."

Mr McAveety, whose portfolio also includes culture and sport, was due to have answered the very first question of the hour-long question time session.

I wish to apologise unreservedly for failing to be present at the start of question time and for inadvertently misleading parliament
Frank McAveety
Labour backbencher Irene Oldfather asked the Scottish Executive what action it was taking to promote Ayrshire as a film location.

But instead of a reply from Mr McAveety, who has already been at the centre of a storm over the future of Scottish Opera, there was silence and an empty seat.

Deputy presiding officer Trish Godman remarked: "It is very unfortunate that the minister is not here."

Mr McAveety was also down to answer the third question on the order paper, from Tory backbencher Jamie McGrigor, who wanted to know what plans the Scottish Executive had to support the publishing industry.

Mr McGrigor posed his question, but Mr McAveety's chair was still empty.

A breathless Mr McAveety dashed into the chamber, and Mr McGrigor repeated the question for his benefit.

Pie and beans

A flustered Mr McAveety said: "Sorry, deputy presiding officer, I was unavoidably detained there during the Arts Council book awards."

Three journalists claimed later to have seen Mr McAveety eating a meal of pie, beans and roast potatoes in the parliament cafe at around the time he was due to answer the first question.

Tory MSP Bill Aitken said his party did not want to take the matter any further, but felt that MSPs were due a "fuller explanation" from the minister.

Mr McAveety... has dealt with the issue, and in the spirit of solidarity and forgiveness we should probably leave it at that
George Reid
Presiding Officer
Scottish National Party MSP Alasdair Morgan said: "If the minister was absent from his allotted slot in questions because he was detained on ministerial business, that was discourtesy to the parliament.

"If he was detained for other reasons, then that was a fairly serious error but perhaps forgivable.

"But if he comes here and claims he was detained for the former reason when in fact it was the latter, that is not only a very serious error but a very serious misjudgement which demands a very serious response."

Mr McAveety then told MSPs: "I wish to apologise unreservedly for failing to be present at the start of question time and for inadvertently misleading parliament. It was not my intention to do so."

Mr Reid agreed it was a "serious matter" but ruled the matter closed in parliamentary terms.

"That was a fairly unreserved apology from Mr McAveety, he has dealt with the issue, and in the spirit of solidarity and forgiveness we should probably leave it at that," he said.


SEE ALSO:
Confusion over opera chorus jobs
18 Jun 04  |  Scotland
Culture commission loses composer
16 Jun 04  |  Scotland
Sheriff ridicules minister's fear
16 Jun 04  |  Scotland
First minister denies leak claim
19 May 04  |  Scotland
The saga of Scottish opera
20 Sep 01  |  Entertainment


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