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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 February, 2005, 15:37 GMT
Sewel speaks up in motions debate
Lord Sewel
Lord Sewel believes better guidelines need to be established for the motions
The architect of the controversial Sewel Convention believes the Scottish Parliament needs to closely look at the way the ruling is used.

Lord Sewel said the convention was never meant to be contentious.

He believes there should be a committee of MSPs providing guidelines on what bills will be affected and monitoring how the motions are carried out.

The Labour peer also said that there needed to be care that the convention was not used to avoid controversy.

Lord Sewel gave his name to the convention because he was the Scottish Office Lords Minister who was seeing through the Scotland Act.

The life baron said that when the convention was written he could not have projected how often it would be employed or have predicted the controversy it would produce.

He told BBC Scotland's news website: "We had entered into something completely new, devolution was new. At the beginning it was difficult to get a feel for how much the convention would be used and in what circumstances."

In a debate following the Queen's speech last year, Lord Sewel stated that politicians needed to be very careful that the convention was not used to avoid controversy.

The clear weakness in the current argument is that technically Sewel is an interface between the two parliaments, but in reality it is driven by the two executives
Lord Sewel
He said there were "legitimate different voices on devolved matters" which should be heard and he believed that the Scottish Parliament was the right place for those voices.

However, Lord Sewel said he recognised there were instances when the convention had been used but was not needed.

He cited the controversial new gambling legislation.

Despite Deputy Finance Minister Tavish Scott insisting the motion was the only way Scottish ministers could have a say, Lord Sewel disagreed.

The peer believed "it wasn't necessary" because the matter was clearly a reserved one.

Lord Sewel said he saw two key issues as fundamental to the convention.

MSPs in chamber
Sewel Motions have prompted great debate in the parliament
The first was the appropriateness of any piece of legislation subject to a Sewel motion and the second was the process by which the motions were dealt with.

Lord Sewel said: "My test for the appropriateness was if the bill dealt with a technical matter which, if sorted out at Westminster, would save time, or if it doesn't make sense to have different provisions for north and south of the border."

He added that the process of the legislation had thrown up difficulties and the Scottish Parliament needed to monitor more closely what happened when Westminster took the lead.

Lord Sewel said: "The difficulty and the clear weakness in the current argument is that technically Sewel is an interface between the two parliaments, but in reality it is driven by the two executives.

"I think a possible solution could be a Scottish Parliament committee which provides guidelines on what legislation will be affected and then provide the monitoring mechanism which will look closely at the passage of the legislation at Westminster."

Lord Sewel is due to give evidence to a committee of MSPs in March which will look at the workings of the convention.




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