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Procedures Committee

2nd Report 2002

Report on Substitution on Committees of the Scottish Parliament

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SP Paper 530

Session 1 (2002)

 

Remit and membership

Remit:

To consider the practice and procedures of the Scottish Parliament in relation to its business.

(Standing Orders of the Scottish Parliament, Rule 6.4)

Membership:

Mr Murray Tosh (Convener)

Susan Deacon

Donald Gorrie

Fiona Hyslop

Mr Kenneth Macintosh (Deputy Convener)

Mr Frank McAveety

Mr Gil Paterson

Committee Clerking Team:

Clerk to the Committee

John Patterson

Senior Assistant Clerk

Mark MacPherson

Assistant Clerk

Lewis McNaughton

Committee Assistant

Eileen Martin

Procedures Committee

2nd Report 2002

Substitution on Committees of the Scottish Parliament

The Committee reports to the Parliament as follows-

INTRODUCTION

1. Mr Tom McCabe, then Minister for Parliament, on behalf of the Parliamentary Bureau, lodged motion S1M-1462 (Committee Restructuring) on 13 December 2000 the main effect of which was to seek to amend the resolution of the Parliament S1M-37 agreed on 8 June 1999 (with effect from 8 January 2001) in respect of the structure of Parliamentary Committees. This motion was passed by the Parliament, which also called upon "... the Procedures Committee to bring forward amendments to the Standing Orders to allow substitutes with voting rights to be nominated for each of the Committees."1

2. The proposal to create a system of Committee substitutes was part and parcel of the "Committee Restructuring" package, whose rationale was expressed by the Minister for Parliament in the following terms:

"The intention [of our model of hybrid Committees] was to allow members to gain a wider exposure to the work of as many Committees as possible and in that way allow any member with an interest in a specific piece of work to be involved in its progress. Experience has shown that all too often that has not been possible. Members who serve on two or more Committees have found the burden excessive."2

3. The debate in the Parliamentary Debating Chamber of Thursday 14 December 2000 revealed the importance which members attached to the efficient working of the Parliamentary Committees, and their acceptance of a need for reform in the interests of making the Committee system work with increased effectiveness.

4. There was relatively little discussion of the substitution aspect of the package in the Parliamentary debate on Committee restructuring. Nevertheless, Mr Keith Raffan expressed concerns about substitutes being short of experience or background to legislative discussions and inquiries, were they to be introduced after the start of such discussions, a concern shared by Mike Watson.3

5. The Procedures Committee recommends to the Scottish Parliament changes to the standing orders of the Parliament as set out at Annex A to give effect to a system of substitution on Committees which it believes will enhance the functioning of the Committees.

6. In line with the stated position of the Procedures Committee that changes to the standing orders should be approached with due caution and with the prospect of review,4 the Committee is recommending in this case a routine review of the proposed substitution arrangements after one year.

7. This subject was considered by the Committee at its meetings on 7 November and 19 December 2000; 26 June and 18 December 2001; and 29 January 2002.5

8. The Committee sent a questionnaire to all MSPs, to elicit their views about substitution, on 11 January 2001. The initial response did not produce an authoritative basis on which to proceed and prompts were issued in April (to Party Business Managers), and prior to the 2001 summer recess (to all members). The Committee gave the most careful consideration to the responses received from members and the recommendations made in this report by the Committee are firmly based upon the responses received. A copy of the questionnaire is reproduced as Annex B. Key results are contained in the body of this report.

9. Additionally, Dennis Canavan, Robin Harper and Tommy Sheridan were asked for their views about substitution arrangements for single members and single member parties. Mr Canavan and Mr Harper did not favour substitution arrangements being applied to them. No reply was received from Mr Sheridan. The correspondence is reproduced as Annex C.

10. The Committee noted arrangements for substitution in the French Assemblé Nationale, the Danish Folketing, the Canadian House of Commons, the Swedish Richstag, and the Australian House of Representatives.

Summary of Recommendations

11. At its 14th Meeting 2001, and 1st Meeting 2002, the Committee considered and agreed the following recommendations:

· substitution would be appropriate only in the following identifiable circumstances:

- personal illness of a member

- family circumstances

- adverse weather conditions

- urgent constituency business

- the unavoidable clash of Parliamentary business

· substitutes for the Parliamentary Committees would be chosen by the Parliament on a motion of the Parliamentary Bureau.

· there should be one Party substitute for each Parliamentary Committee.

· substitution should not be permitted on Private Bill Committees.

· substitutes should not act as conveners, deputy conveners, temporary conveners or Parliamentary Committee reporters.

· excepting the roles noted in the immediately preceding point, substitutes on Parliamentary Committees should be able to take part in the full range of business as the permanent members for whom they are substituting.

· substitutes on Parliamentary Committees should dispose of one vote only on any question.

· substitutes for members of single member parties and individual members should not be permitted.

· substitutes should be permitted only for the whole of a Committee meeting.

The consequential standing orders changes to give effect to these recommendations are set out at Annex A.

12. Additionally, at these meetings, the Committee made the following recommendations for Parliamentary practice, which do not therefore figure in proposed changes to standing orders:

· great care should be taken by members and Business Managers to avoid unnecessary travel by substitutes with Parliamentary Committees.

· Parliamentary Committee papers for meetings should always be available to substitutes, including private papers. The Committee stresses the importance of substitutes adhering to confidentiality arrangements in respect of private papers.

· the Committee will monitor the arrangements for substitutions on Committees of the Parliament with the active assistance of all Committees, and not later than one year from the date at which the Parliament chooses substitutes, will review the arrangements.

13. Relevant extracts from the Minutes of the Committee are included at Annex D; and extracts from the Official Report of meetings of the Committee at Annex E.

The Circumstances of substitution

14. The Committee considered that in the interests of transparency the grounds for substitution on Parliamentary Committees should be set out clearly. There was a balance to be struck between complete freedom about the conditions in which substitution would be appropriate (with the potential for the appearance of abuse) and a regime which was over-restrictive and undermined the flexibility for Committee business which a substitution system was intended to promote.

15. The categories put forward by the Committee - personal illness (short and long term), family circumstances (examples of this could be the member's pregnancy or children's illness), adverse weather conditions, urgent constituency business, the unavoidable clash of Parliamentary business - cover, in the Committee's view, the key personal and professional aspects of members' lives for these purposes and should provide them with the appropriate flexibilities.

16. 75.68% of members who responded to the questionnaire (see paragraph 8 above) thought that substitution should be permitted in identifiable circumstances only. The circumstances put forward by the Committee are, in large measure, those proposed by members. The Committee so recommends.

The role of the Parliamentary Bureau and the Parliament in proposing and selecting substitute members of Committees

17. The Committee envisages that these matters will be handled in the following manner. The political Parties would be invited by the Parliamentary Bureau to nominate one named MSP to serve as a Party substitute for each parliamentary Committee. Such nominations would then be followed by selection by the Bureau having regard to the nominations put forward. The selection of substitutes would proceed by means of a Bureau motion for decision by the Parliament, following the established practice adopted for Committee membership. The Committee so recommends.

Named system of substitution

18. 81.08% of MSPs responding to the questionnaire thought that the substitutes should be named. The advantages of such a system might be summed up as follows:

· clarity - MSPs would be named and therefore would be clearly identifiable;

· quality - the substitute MSPs would be enabled to have some opportunity to learn about the work of their Committees;

· probity - the selection process would be done openly in the Parliament;

· administrative convenience - the identity of the substitutes, being known, would enable the arrangements for their appearances at the Committees to be anticipated (name plates, papers and travel arrangements where appropriate, for example). The Committee so recommends.

19. The Committee assumes that substitutions would not be commonplace as the priority given by the Parliament to permanent members' regular attendance at Committees is high. Nevertheless, the system of "named" substitutes being recommended by the Committee could mean that some substitutions are not made where, for example, the substitute was required urgently elsewhere - perhaps at their permanent Committee meeting. Despite the overwhelming evidence that MSPs wished a "named" system, the Committee did consider the advantages and disadvantages of "un-named" substitutes which could, conceivably, achieve a higher substitution "strike rate" as there would be a larger pool of substitutes from which to choose. The Committee felt that such a system would suffer from two distinct and related disadvantages. Firstly, there would be a lack of clarity, in that the identity of the substitute would not be known until the point of substitution. Secondly, the person substituting could (and probably would) be different on each occasion of substitution. As a consequence, the substitute, having no opportunity to gain experience of the Committee's detailed work would be able to contribute less qualitatively to the Committee than the substitute in the alternative "named" system. The Committee hopes that its adoption of a "named" system of Committee substitution (coupled with the proposed period of review) will allay the stated concerns of Mr Keith Raffan and Mike Watson (see paragraph 4 above).

The system in practice

4. The majority (71.62%) of respondents considered that the arrangement of substitutes should be the responsibility of the Party Business Managers who have an obvious and legitimate interest in members' work. Their involvement, where possible, would aid transparency and openness; and they are also best placed administratively to alert the relevant members of the requirement to attend a meeting in the light of MSPs' priorities. The Committee commends this to the Parliament as a matter of good practice.

21. There is no intention on the part of the Committee to set or recommend any period of notice for individual substitutions. In many cases Party Business Managers will be able to notify the relevant substitute and Committee convener well in advance. In some cases however this will not be possible. This should not matter. The purpose of the Parliament selecting Committee substitutes is that there should be no ambiguity over the name of each substitute for each Parliamentary Committee. Substitutes will be required to factor into their programme of work the business of the Committees on which they may be called to substitute and to be ready to substitute without notice if necessary. It need hardly be stressed that such last minute substitution decisions should be avoided wherever possible. The Committee commends this to the Parliament as a matter of good practice.

The number of substitutes per Party on a Committee

22. A majority of respondents to the questionnaire (60.81%) considered that there should be only one substitute per Party per Committee. The Committee considered that there was no need for more than one substitute per Party per Committee in a "named" system. To have two or more named MSPs on call keeping abreast of developments of the work of the Committee on which they are liable for substitution appeared excessive, certainly given the overall number of MSPs. The Committee so recommends.

Private Bill Committees

23. The Committee reconsidered whether substitution should be recommended for Private Bill Committees. In a previous report6 the Committee had concluded that the continuity of membership on such a Committee was of paramount importance to Private Bill business. It saw no reason to change its view on reconsideration. Substitutes would not therefore be permitted on Private Bill Committees. The Committee so recommends.

Substitutes for conveners, deputy conveners, committee reporters

24. The roles of convener, deputy convener and Committee reporter involve responsibilities in ensuring the continuity of Committees' work programmes. The Committee believes that these posts are not ones which are likely to be suitable for substitution. The successful discharge of these responsibilities are likely to demand a level of knowledge and commitment of time which might be difficult for a substitute to provide. The Committee considers therefore that whilst the substitute should be able to substitute for the MSP appointed as convener, deputy convener or Committee reporter, the substitute would be acting as an ordinary Committee member and would not have any of the functions of these posts. Most respondents to the Committee's questionnaire felt that substitutes should not be able to act as conveners, deputy conveners or Committee reporters (81.08%, 78.88% and 67.57% respectively). The Committee so recommends.

25. In respect however of all other business of a Committee (including voting as asked for by the Parliament - paragraph 1 above) the Procedures Committee considered that substitutes should play their parts fully, including the regular circulation to them of all Committee papers, public and private and outside visits where these can be justified in the normal way.7 The Committee so recommends.

Substitution arrangements for a member who is in a single member Party or is a single individual

26. As set out in paragraph 9 above, the Committee took pains to consider the position of members who are not part of a larger Party and consulted Dennis Canavan, Robin Harper and Tommy Sheridan. Mr Canavan and Mr Harper considered that substitution should not apply to them.8 The Committee so recommends.

Substitution for a whole committee meeting

27. The Committee is aware of how onerous the work of Committees can be and of the efforts made by Parliamentary colleagues to contribute to the success of Committees' work. Members must be enabled, so far as is within the Parliament's power, to make effective contributions to the Committee on which they sit, and the Committee felt that this was as relevant for committee substitutes as for full members. It appeared to this Committee therefore that substitutes could not reasonably make the contribution expected of them were they to be present for a part only of a Committee meeting or other Committee activity. It commends to the Parliament therefore that a practice of substituting for whole meetings of a Committee or other Committee activities should be endorsed as being commensurate with the responsibility of substitution. The Committee so recommends.

Monitoring

28. What is proposed by having a system of substitution is a new departure, and the Committee considers it necessary to monitor the operation of such a system and to review how it has worked after one year. Respondents to the Committee's questionnaire considered that any system of substitution should be used responsibly. The Committee has the power to propose changes after review and will consider these if there is any evidence that adjustment is required.

29. To assist it in its task of monitoring, the Committee requests all conveners to arrange for a record of substitutions to be kept over the first year of the system's operation and for this to be passed to the Procedures Committee in March 2003 with details of who was substituted and why. The Committee so recommends.

Further matters

30. The Committee wishes to draw to the attention of members two further matters on which it seeks their co-operation.

31. First, it will be crucial that no appearance of impropriety is given when arrangements for Committee travel which might include substitutes are made. Committees will wish to ensure that where a substitute is invited to travel on behalf of a Committee this is fully justified in respect of the substitute's own contribution to the work of the Committee.

32. Second, when acting as substitutes members will be routinely circulated with public and private Committee papers. The Committee has no reason to doubt that members acting as substitutes will apply the same high standards of handling to such papers as to those of the Committee(s) of which they are permanent members. It invites the co-operation of members to ensure this.

Recommendation

33. The Parliament is invited to approve the recommended changes to the standing orders to give effect to the system of substitution on Committees of the Scottish Parliament recommended by the Procedures Committee above as set out in Annex A; and also to endorse the recommendations of the Committee on single members (paragraph 26), substitution for whole committee meetings (paragraph 27), monitoring with the assistance of all committees (paragraph 29), propriety (paragraph 31), and paper handling (paragraph 32), which are not subject to standing orders.

ANNEX A - Proposed changes to standing orders

1. Rule 6.3.6 is deleted.

2. After Rule 6.3 insert:

"Rule 6.3A Committee Substitutes

1. A political party represented by 5 or more members of the Parliament may nominate a member of that party to be a substitute (referred to as a "committee substitute") for the members of that party on a particular committee.

2. A nomination of a committee substitute must be made in writing to the Bureau. Committee substitutes shall be approved by the Parliament on a motion of the Parliamentary Bureau.

3. A committee substitute cannot be nominated for a Private Bill committee.

4. A member cannot be nominated to be a committee substitute for more than one committee. A member cannot be nominated to be a committee substitute for the members of a committee that he or she is a member of.

5. A member shall be a committee substitute for the duration of the relevant committee unless-

(a) he or she resigns from being a committee substitute by intimating his or her resignation to the Parliamentary Bureau;

(b) he or she is removed as a committee substitute by the Parliament on a motion of the committee;

(c) he or she ceases to be a member of the Parliament otherwise than by virtue of a dissolution;

(d) the relevant political party is no longer represented by 5 or more members."

3. In Rule 12.1-

(a) In paragraph 7, after "that committee" insert "other than a committee substitute";

(b) In paragraph 9, after "another member of the committee" insert "other than a committee substitute";

(c) In paragraph 10, after "a member of that committee" insert "other than a committee substitute";

(d) in paragraph 15, in the first line and in sub-paragraph (b), after "member of a committee" insert "other than a committee substitute";

(e) in paragraph 16(b), after "member of the committee" insert "other than a committee substitute";

(f) in paragraph 19, after "member of the committee" insert "other than a committee substitute".

4. After Rule 12.2, there is inserted

"Rule 12.2A Role of committee substitutes

1. Where, due to illness, family circumstances, adverse weather conditions, a requirement to attend to other business in the Parliament or urgent constituency business, a member of a committee-

(a) is not available for any meeting of a committee; or

(b) is unable to act as a member of the committee at any time other than at a meeting of a committee,

a committee substitute may attend the meeting, or, as the case may be, act as a member of the committee other than at a meeting of the committee, in place of that member.

2. Where a committee substitute attends a meeting of the committee, or otherwise acts as a member of the committee under paragraph 1, except where these Rules provide otherwise, he or she shall-

(a) have all the functions of a member of the committee under these Rules, including the right to participate in the proceedings of the committee and to vote;

(b) be regarded as a member of the committee for the purposes of any reference in these Rules to "the committee", a "member of the committee" or other related expressions.

3. Where a committee substitute attends in place of the member having the functions of convener, deputy convener or, as the case may be, Temporary Convener, or acts in place of that member other than at a meeting of the committee -

(a) the committee substitute shall not have any of the functions of those offices;

(b) for the purposes of Rule 12.1.12 and 12.1.15, the convener, deputy convener or, as the case may be, Temporary Convener shall be regarded as unavailable for the meeting, or as the case may be, unable to act.

4. Where more than one member of a party is not available for a meeting of a committee, or otherwise unable to act as a member of the committee, a committee substitute attending the meeting or acting as a member of the committee under paragraph 1 is regarded as doing so in place of one member only and shall accordingly have one vote only."

5. In Rule 12.5-

(a) in paragraph 3, line 4, after "members of the committee" insert "other than a committee substitute";

(b) in paragraph 8, for "6.3.6" substitute "6.3A".

6. In Rule 12.6.1, after "a committee member" insert "other than a committee substitute".

7. In Rule 18.2.1 after the entry for "Committee Bill" insert-

"committee substitutes 6.3A".

ANNEX B

Procedures Committee

EDINBURGH
EH99 1SP

11 January 2001

Party Business Managers

Substitution on Committees: Questionnaire to MSPs

At the last meeting of the Procedures Committee on 19 December, the Committee decided that it wished to canvass the views of MSPs individually about substitution prior to the committee making proposals to the Parliament as it is mandated to do.

In addition the Committee thought it would be very helpful to have the views of you and your fellow Party business managers in order to obtain the Party perspective on the relevant issues. We would find your response, and any priority you can give this, helpful.

For ease of reference I attach a copy of the suite of documents sent to all MSPs including you. These include the questionnaire circulated, but you may feel it more appropriate to deal with this further request by correspondence.

Finally, it would be very convenient if your reply was copied to the clerk to the committee.

With thanks.

Yours sincerely

Murray Tosh MSP

Convener, Procedures Committee

Copy: Dr J D Patterson

Clerk to the Procedures Committee

Room 5.19

PHQ

QUESTIONNAIRE - SUBSTITUTION ON COMMITTEES OF THE PARLIAMENT (Pdf)

ANNEX C

Procedures Committee

EDINBURGH
EH99 1SP

20 December 2001

Letter sent to Dennis Canavan MSP, Robin Harper MSP and Tommy Sheridan MSP

Procedures Committee - 18th December

Substitutions on Committees of the Parliament

Murray Tosh has asked me to consult you about the application of substitution on committees of the Parliament to single MSPs or single member parties which was discussed at Committee on the 18th. I attach a copy of the paper that was before the Committee and the Official Report of that part of the meeting (Cols 1209-1215).

The subject is likely to come before the Committee again in January and consequently it would be very helpful for us to have your views by 15th January if that is convenient.

Copy to Murray Tosh MSP.

John Patterson

Clerk to the Committee

Enc. Paper PR/01/14/3

Procedures Committee OR 1209-1215

Letter from Robin Harper MSP (Pdf)

Letter from Dennis Canavan MSP (Pdf)

ANNEX D

PROCEDURES COMMITTEE

EXTRACT FROM MINUTES

11th Meeting, 2000 (Session 1)

Tuesday 7 November 2000

Present:

Murray Tosh (Convener)

Donald Gorrie

Janis Hughes (Deputy Convener)

Andy Kerr

 

 

Also present: Christine Grahame (Item 2)

Apologies were received from: Gil Paterson, Kay Ullrich and Gordon Jackson

3. Substitution on Committees of the Parliament: The Committee considered a paper and decided that a system of substitution would be desirable. The Committee agreed that the Convener should write to the Presiding Officer, Party Business Managers, and all conveners of committees.

Elizabeth Watson, Head of Committee Office, was in attendance for this item.

PROCEDURES COMMITTEE

EXTRACT FROM MINUTES

14th Meeting, 2000 (Session 1)

Tuesday 19 December 2000

Present:

Murray Tosh (Convener)

Donald Gorrie

Janis Hughes (Deputy Convener)

Gordon Jackson

Gil Paterson

 

Apologies were received from: Andy Kerr

4. Draft Committee Report on Committee Substitutes: The Committee noted there were a number of difficult issues to be resolved and agreed that a questionaire should be prepared, seeking views of MSPs. The questionaire would be issued to MSPs early in 2001.

PROCEDURES COMMITTEE

EXTRACT FROM MINUTES

6th Meeting, 2001 (Session 1)

Tuesday 26 June 2001

Present:

Murray Tosh (Convener)

Brian Adam

Frank McAveety

Kenneth Macintosh (Deputy Convener)

Gil Paterson

 

Also present: Fiona Hyslop (Item 3).

5. Substitution on Committees of the Parliament: The Committee agreed that the Convener should write to the Presiding Officer and the Party Business Managers to seek their assistance in securing outstanding responses to the questionnaire sent to all MSPs in January 2001, as proposed in paper PR/01/6/4.

PROCEDURES COMMITTEE

EXTRACT FROM MINUTES

14th Meeting, 2001 (Session 1)

Tuesday 18 December 2001

Present:

Murray Tosh (Convener)

Susan Deacon

Fiona Hyslop

Frank McAveety

Kenneth Macintosh (Deputy Convener)

Gil Paterson

 

 

Also present: Professor David McCrone, Committee Adviser, CSG Inquiry.

Apologies were received from Donald Gorrie.

3. Substitution on Committees of the Parliament: The Committee considered Paper PR/01/14/3 and instructed that draft standing orders and a report to Parliament should be prepared to include the following recommendations:

- substitution would be appropriate only in the following identifiable circumstances: personal illness, family emergencies, adverse weather conditions, urgent constituency business and unavoidable clashes of Parliamentary business

- there should be one substitute per party per committee, that party substitutes should be named, nominated by the Bureau and agreed by the Parliament; and that the relevant party business manager should be responsible for arranging party substitutes and for informing the relevant substitute when they were required

- substitutes should not be able to act as Conveners/Deputy Conveners or Committee Reporters but should otherwise be able to take part in the full range of committee business, including voting and attendance at committee business outside Edinburgh

- a substitute should be able to dispose of one vote only

- substitutes should receive all committee papers (including private papers)

- substitutes should serve notice of their substitution when they attend a meeting (no advance notice period should be required); and,

- this substitution system should be reviewed after one year of operation, with the assistance of all committees.

The Committee further agreed that members who were either in a single member party or were single individual members should be circulated prior to final agreement on any recommendations concerning their substitution arrangements, and that further consideration be given to whether substitution should be permitted part way through committee meetings.

Alison Coull of the Legal Office attended.

PROCEDURES COMMITTEE

EXTRACT FROM MINUTES

2nd Meeting, 2002 (Session 1)

Tuesday 29 January 2002

Present:

Murray Tosh (Convener)

Susan Deacon

Donald Gorrie

Fiona Hyslop

Frank McAveety

Gil Paterson

Also present was Professor David McCrone, Committee Adviser, CSG Inquiry.

Apologies were received from Kenneth Macintosh.

The meeting opened at 9.30 am.

2. Substitutions on Committees of the Parliament: Further to previous discussions the Committee considered 2 remaining points in relation to this issue and agreed that substitutes should not be permitted for part of a meeting; and that no specific arrangements should be made for members of single member parties or individual members. The Committee further agreed the draft changes to standing orders set out in Paper PR/02/2/2.

ANNEX E

Procedures Committee Official Report Extracts

7 November 2000

19 December 2000

26 June 2001

18 December 2001

29 January 2002

Footnotes

1 The full text of S1M-1462 Mr Tom McCabe on behalf of the Parliamentary Bureau: Committee Restructuring may be found in Business Bulletin No 193/2000, Wednesday 13 December 2000.

2 Scottish Parliament Official Report, 14 December 2000, Col 1079

3 Scottish Parliament Official Report, Vol 9, No 10, Cols 1088 and 1094.

4 1st Report, 1999, "Draft Standing Orders of the Scottish Parliament" (SP Paper 28), pages 1 and 2, paragraph 5.

5 Scottish Parliament Official Report, Procedures Committee, 7 November 2000 Cols 525-531; 19 December 2000, Cols 580-587; 26 June 2001, Col 824; 18 December 2001, Cols 1209-1215; 29 January 2002, Cols 1311-1314.

6 Procedures Committee, 2nd Report 2000, Report on Private Legislation in the Scottish Parliament (SP Paper 204), page 16, paragraph 57.

7 68.92% of respondents to the questionnaire considered that substitutes should receive all papers as a matter of course.

8 As noted in paragraph 9 of this Report Mr Sheridan did not respond to the Committee Clerk's letter of 20 December 2001.

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