Paul Wheelhouse MSP

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Paul Wheelhouse MSP

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  • Member for: South Scotland
  • Party: Scottish National Party

Paul is a member of the following Committees:

Paul is a member of the following Cross-Party Groups:

Parliamentary Activities

Search for other Speeches made by Paul Wheelhouse

Public Petitions Committee 09 December 2014 : Tuesday, December 09, 2014
Paul Wheelhouse

I will respond briefly to Mr Wilson. I identify with what he said, and I add my own thanks to Moi Ali, albeit that I was not in post when she was the JCR. I welcome her report, and we will discuss the points that it raises with the Lord President and with Gillian Thompson as the new JCR.

We formally received the report only on 23 October, so the time gap is not quite as big as has perhaps been implied.



Public Petitions Committee 09 December 2014 : Tuesday, December 09, 2014
Paul Wheelhouse

I am not yet aware of Gillian Thompson’s views on the matter, but I will be seeking them, and I am happy to invite her to relay those views to the committee in due course.



Public Petitions Committee 09 December 2014 : Tuesday, December 09, 2014
Paul Wheelhouse

I welcome that too, and I thank you, convener.



Public Petitions Committee 09 December 2014 : Tuesday, December 09, 2014
Paul Wheelhouse

Okay. There are certain bounds: we have discussed property assets, and some safeguards would be needed in relation to personal property, as the convener has identified. There are such examples, and I take that point on board. I would have to take such matters to the Lord President and the new Judicial Complaints Reviewer, Gillian Thompson, in order to get their views.



Public Petitions Committee 09 December 2014 : Tuesday, December 09, 2014
Paul Wheelhouse

That is a fair comment. The law lords had to disclose financial interests. Perhaps it is in areas of pecuniary or financial interests that the public could perceive there to be conflicts of interest. For example, if the judge in a damages case had shares in a company that would be affected by the outcome of the case, that would clearly constitute a conflict of interest.

I can understand why financial interests would be declared under the US position and the disclosure rules for the law lords in the House of Lords, but I think that the petitioner seeks something considerably beyond that in asking for full disclosure of information. As I said, some categories of information might put people at risk of intimidation or intrusive press activity, which would be unhelpful for maintaining—



Public Petitions Committee 09 December 2014 : Tuesday, December 09, 2014
Paul Wheelhouse

Mr MacAskill is absolutely right that we must be reasonable about this. For example, it is left to MSPs to judge what they believe constitutes, or might be perceived to constitute, a conflict of interest and to declare such matters voluntarily, if need be. There is a section in the register of members’ interests where MSPs can voluntarily declare things that might go beyond the minimum requirements, and I am sure that most if not all MSPs use that facility.

I think that we have to rely on the oath and the guidelines for members of the judiciary on what might be, or be perceived as, a conflict of interest and leave it to them to judge what it is appropriate to declare. I commend the example that Mr MacAskill used of the judge making a voluntary declaration so that there could be no perception of conflict of interest, even though that was not strictly required by the terms of the recusals policy.

We have other examples that we should commend of members of the judiciary behaving entirely appropriately by recusing themselves or giving information that would allow others to decide whether they should recuse themselves. I acknowledge and commend the committee’s role in driving forward and achieving a public register of recusals, which is a welcome addition to the process. That register will help to inform those who are involved in court actions of what constitutes a conflict of interest and will refine the process further.



Public Petitions Committee 09 December 2014 : Tuesday, December 09, 2014
Paul Wheelhouse

I can give examples, but I would need guidance from justice professionals and the police as to what might constitute information that could be risky in terms of modern technology and the ability to attack or damage the interests of individuals. Information on property might be sensitive. The convener made a fair point that personal household information should be kept off any register; that would be sensible if we ever had a register. It would be appropriate to keep residential information private, to protect the safety of the individual and the family and to ensure that it was not a honey pot for those who might want to coerce someone in advance of a decision.

Other sensitive information would be anything else that threatens people’s safety or potentially opens them up to coercion in relation to a court case. We want to protect the integrity of the decision-making process in court, as well as the safety of those making the decisions.

Kay McCorquodale has just pointed out to me that, in the US, the assets, income and liabilities of judges, spouses and dependent children must all be disclosed, although information may be redacted to protect the safety of individuals if they are in danger. That issue has obviously been considered in the US and the approach there might be worth the committee’s consideration.

10:45  

Public Petitions Committee 09 December 2014 : Tuesday, December 09, 2014
Paul Wheelhouse

I assure Mr Wilson that, in my previous role, we introduced measures in the Regulatory Reform (Scotland) Act 2014 to protect SEPA officials, which brought their protection into line with that of other key emergency workers.

I take Mr Wilson’s wider point about the judiciary. It would clearly be a criminal offence to do what has been described, but there is a great argument for prevention over cure. Why create a situation where we have to make a new protection for judges when we do not have to put them in that position in the first place? If we can avoid giving away sensitive information that might lead to them being coerced in any way, that will be better than having to resolve the situation after the event by applying legislation, whether old or new.

Mr Wilson makes a fair point, which is that the Government has a duty to protect people in such a situation. I assure him that I will do everything in my power to help to protect members of the judiciary from being threatened. However, it is better to prevent a situation than to have to resolve it.

Kay McCorquodale can give us some guidance on protection.



Public Petitions Committee 09 December 2014 : Tuesday, December 09, 2014
Paul Wheelhouse

It appears that there is no requirement to register memberships. I find that slightly odd if the intent is to capture all potential conflicts of interest. We have examples in Scotland of people recusing themselves for being members of organisations. In that sense, we are one step ahead of the US.

Sheriff Cowan recently withdrew from a case voluntarily after having raised the issue with both parties to the case. As she had been a member of RSPB Scotland, and as witnesses from the RSPB were going to appear, there was the risk of a perceived conflict of interests, rather than an actual conflict of interests. She gave the parties the option and they asked her to recuse herself. The system worked well in that case.

We have a system that appears to work, but I appreciate the concerns about the need to ensure that it works every time. If one case goes through where it does not work, that is obviously a concern, but we have no evidence to date that that has happened, so let us look at the glass as being half full.



Public Petitions Committee 09 December 2014 : Tuesday, December 09, 2014
Paul Wheelhouse

If we want to draw people’s attention to something on the register of interests, we can do that at the beginning of a speech. That relates to Anne McTaggart’s point. We can say, “Presiding Officer, I bring to your attention my entry in the register of interests,” and we can flag up any concerns that members should be aware of. We can do that case by case.

If people had to write their entry in a register in advance, it could be difficult to define exactly what should be recorded. If we are dealing with general cases—not specialist cases in a judicial sense—it is difficult to imagine that the register could cover every scenario in which there could be a conflict of interest, every potential plaintiff or defendant who might come forward in a court case, or every interest that might have to be declared.

The register would have to be either entirely comprehensive or targeted. If people have not anticipated that a case might come forward and have not put something on the register of interests, that could be misleading, because it could look as if there was no conflict of interest; something would subsequently have to be added in advance of a case to ensure that everything was clear. I am not sure that it would be easy to operate such a publicly facing register and to ensure that it fully encompassed all potential conflicts of interest that a judge or sheriff could find themselves involved in.

We have heard about the example of such a register in the US but, as Kay McCorquodale said, it covers only the financial aspects of judicial interests. It does not cover personal relationships or memberships of bodies, which might be an issue. A Scottish register would have to be wider than the one in the US to cover all those potential issues, and it would become difficult to manage. At what point would a judge decide that they knew someone well enough to put that on a register of interests? If you meet someone on the bus, do you have to declare as an interest the fact that you had a friendly conversation with them, or is the register for people with whom you have been lifelong friends? That is difficult to define, and I welcome the committee’s views, but I do not see the case as compelling at this point.

Vote DetailMSP VoteResult

S4M-11901.3 Neil Findlay: Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce—As an amendment to motion S4M-11901
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NoDefeated

S4M-11901.1 Mary Scanlon: Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce—As an amendment to motion S4M-11901
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-11830.2 John Swinney: The Smith Commission—As an amendment to motion S4M-11830 in the name of Ru
>> Show more
YesCarried

S4M-11830 Ruth Davidson: The Smith Commission—That the Parliament welcomes the publication of the Sm
>> Show more
YesCarried

Amendment 6 moved by Dr Richard Simpson on motion S4M-11826 Maureen Watt: Food (Scotland) Bill—That
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-11825.3 Claire Baker: End of Year Fish Negotiations—As an amendment to motion S4M-11825 in the n
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-11825.2 Jamie McGrigor: End of Year Fish Negotiations—As an amendment to motion S4M-11825 in the
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-11825.1 Tavish Scott: End of Year Fish Negotiations—As an amendment to motion S4M-11825 in the n
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-11825 Richard Lochhead: End of Year Fish Negotiations—That the Parliament welcomes the successfu
>> Show more
YesCarried

S4M-11763.3 Margaret Burgess: Private Sector Rent Reform—As an amendment to motion S4M-11763 in the
>> Show more
YesCarried

Search for other Motions lodged by Paul Wheelhouse
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Motion S4M-11509: Paul Wheelhouse, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 12/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11029: Paul Wheelhouse, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 29/09/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10972: Paul Wheelhouse, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 22/09/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09916: Paul Wheelhouse, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 01/05/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09294.3: Paul Wheelhouse, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 11/03/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09280: Paul Wheelhouse, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 10/03/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-08517: Paul Wheelhouse, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 05/12/2013 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-07106: Paul Wheelhouse, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 20/06/2013 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-06845.2: Paul Wheelhouse, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 04/06/2013 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-06798: Paul Wheelhouse, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 30/05/2013 Show Full Motion >>
This Member currently holds a ministerial post. First Minister and Ministers cannot ask the Government questions which is why no recent questions are displaying here. Please use the full search to find details of previous questions by this Member.
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Question S4W-09164: Paul Wheelhouse, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 17/08/2012 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-01238: Paul Wheelhouse, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 27/06/2012 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-01063: Paul Wheelhouse, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 16/05/2012 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-07135: Paul Wheelhouse, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 10/05/2012 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-07133: Paul Wheelhouse, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 10/05/2012 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-07134: Paul Wheelhouse, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 10/05/2012 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-01044: Paul Wheelhouse, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 09/05/2012 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-07085: Paul Wheelhouse, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 08/05/2012 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-07045: Paul Wheelhouse, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 02/05/2012 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-07043: Paul Wheelhouse, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 02/05/2012 Show Full Question >>

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