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Section 4 — Short Title and Commencement

Mental Health (Public Safety and Appeals) (Scotland) Bill: Stage 2 – in the Scottish Parliament at 5:15 pm on 8th September 1999.

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Photo of David McLetchie David McLetchie Conservative

There is no definition of medical treatment in the Mental Health (Scotland) Act 1984. As the issue of treatability lies at the heart of the decisions in the Reid and Ruddle cases, the purpose of this amendment is to explore why the Executive does not consider it desirable to incorporate such a definition in the bill when, as we now know from the response to the previous group of amendments, it did consider it necessary to amend the definition of mental disorder.

Dr Richard Simpson made a particularly authoritative contribution to this debate. I was fascinated to hear his description of the boundaries between the treatment and management of patients and the way in which in many respects-if I understood him correctly-the boundaries merge.

The purpose of this amendment is to seek to make it clear that medical treatment should be held to include "the provision of support and counselling aimed at preventing any deterioration or relapse in the patient's mental disorder".

It is arguable that had the sheriff been required to consider the issue of treatability in those terms he might have arrived at a different decision in the Ruddle case. If so, it would be desirable for medical treatment to be considered in that wider context in future cases that come before the courts.

I move amendment 32.

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace Liberal Democrat

Mr McLetchie has explained why he wishes a definition of medical treatment to be included in the bill. I can assure him that medical treatment is already defined in section 125 of the Mental Health (Scotland) Act 1984. It "includes nursing, and also includes care and training under medical supervision".

With regard to the Reid case, which may not have been referred to today but was referred to in our debates last week, the House of Lords gave medical treatment a wide definition. For example, Lord Hope held that "Medication or other psychiatric treatment which is designed to alleviate or prevent a deterioration of the mental disorder plainly falls within the scope of the expression".

He then went on to say:

"But I think that its scope is wide enough to include other things which are done for either of those two purposes under medical supervision in the State Hospital. It is also wide enough to include treatment which alleviates or prevents a deterioration of the symptoms of the mental disorder, not the disorder itself which gives rise to them."

That definition encompasses the treatment referred to in the amendment and it is current law. The Millan committee will consider that issue during its review of the 1984 act, and it would be wrong to pre-empt its conclusions in this emergency bill. This amendment is unnecessary, and it could pre-empt some of the Millan committee's work. I hope that given my explanation, Mr McLetchie will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament

We shall proceed to a decision on amendment 32. Mr McLetchie, do you wish to press your amendment?

Photo of David McLetchie David McLetchie Conservative

I am more than happy to accept the minister's explanation, so I withdraw my amendment.

Amendment 32, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament

We now move on to amendment 33, with which we shall debate amendments 34 to 36.

Photo of Dennis Canavan Dennis Canavan Independent

Amendment 33 places a statutory obligation on the Scottish Executive to review this legislation after the Millan and MacLean committees have completed their work. The Millan committee is the one examining the Mental Health (Scotland) Act 1984 and the MacLean committee is examining the sentencing and treatment of serious violent and sexual offenders.

In its declarations, the Executive has said that it must take into account the workings of those committees, so this emergency legislation will almost certainly have to be repealed or amended months from now. I am proposing that we put into statute an obligation on the Scottish Executive to do what it has said it will do. Similarly, in amendment 36, I have said that after a six-month period, a statutory instrument should be placed before this Parliament for approval-or otherwise. That would give Parliament the opportunity to repeal this emergency legislation or decide if it should continue for another period.

During my many years at the Westminster Parliament, ministers have laid various emergency provisions before the House saying that it will be only for a period of six months or a year. Some of those so-called temporary, emergency provisions have lasted for more than 20 years. This is the first bill to come before our Scottish Parliament. There are many people-including Bruce Millan and me-who do not like the emergency nature of this legislation.

It would be a great pity and might bring our Parliament into disrepute if this bill, which is being passed in too much haste today, became permanent rather than temporary legislation. It is therefore important that amendment 36 is passed to give the Scottish Parliament the opportunity, in six months' time, to decide whether this legislation is still necessary or should be repealed or amended in the light of the work of Bruce Millan and Lord MacLean.

Amendment 35 was intended to ensure that all of the sections of the act came into force on the same day. I dealt with that point during the debate on retrospectivity, so members know my views on that matter. I do not like retrospective legislation, but I do not want to bore the Parliament by going over the same old ground. I ask the minister to look sympathetically at amendments 33 and 36.

I move amendment 33.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

I will perhaps surprise Mr Canavan when I say that we agree with him on deleting "Section 2 of". In amendment 34, we go further by asking that the whole of subsections (2) and (3) be deleted, in the belief that by so doing this bill will come in as a oner. There is no need to space out the dates when parts of it come into effect. What we propose would be the quickest way to get it on the statute book. We do not agree with Mr Canavan's comments about his other amendments. We look to the minister to explain why he feels subsections (2) and (3) are necessary.

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

I rise to speak to amendment 34, which I think is straightforward. It deals with the disjunction involved in bringing in parts of the act. I raised this issue last Thursday, and listened carefully to the reply of the Deputy Minister for Community Care. He referred to the disjunction being necessary to allow the Court of Session procedures to be put in place. While that might be an argument for delay, it is not an argument for disjunction. If this Parliament can move speedily-and, after all, we could have moved and dealt with this emergency legislation in one day-we should also demand that the Court of Session move immediately. That is why the amendment is being proposed. I hope that the minister accepts that it is not unreasonable to demand of the Court of Session what we demand of ourselves.

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace Liberal Democrat

I am grateful to those who have moved the amendments.

In moving amendment 33, Mr Canavan has quite rightly drawn to the attention of the committee the importance of the committees that are chaired by Bruce Millan and Lord MacLean. Lord MacLean's committee is dealing with the sentencing and treatment of serious violent and sexual offenders, including those with personality disorders, and the Millan committee is dealing with the Mental Health (Scotland) Act 1984. Quite clearly-judging by the amount of references to those committees during our debates on this subject-all members are aware of the importance and the relevance of the committees. They are moving ahead with speed but they are examining serious issues seriously. They are aware of the importance that the Executive attaches to their work, and the case that has resulted in this bill provides confirmation of the rightness of establishing the committees.

We anticipate that the MacLean committee will report in March 2000 and that the Millan committee, which will take into account MacLean's recommendations, should report in summer 2000. I assure Parliament that we will consider the reports with all possible speed and will give members full opportunity to debate the reports and the Executive's response to them. In those circumstances, it would be premature to have the six-month time limit that Mr Canavan suggests. Almost certainly, the Millan committee will not have reported by then and the Parliament will not have had a chance to make a considered response to the report of the MacLean committee. We are all agreed that those reports will require careful consideration. It would be unwise to deal with the reports in a piecemeal or premature fashion.

With regard to amendment 36, I repeat that the bill is an interim measure until Parliament can enact legislation based on the Millan and MacLean reports. That should reassure Mr Canavan that this legislation will not continue for ever and a day, as he said sometimes happens at Westminster. The fact that the Parliament will have to address the issues in the context of the MacLean and Millan committees means that there will be an opportunity for the emergency legislation to be considered. Indeed, committees in this Parliament could take the initiative if they felt that the issue was being swept under the carpet, although I do not suggest for one moment that that would happen. I repeat my earlier assurance that it would be the Executive's intention that the Parliament should debate the reports shortly after they are published.

With regard to amendment 34, I can understand why concerns have been expressed. In recent days, there has been discussion with the Lord President of the Court of Session to ensure that new appeal procedures can be put in place quickly so that appeals to the sheriff that are conducted under the provisions of the bill can attract a new right of appeal to the Court of Session. The Lord President has confirmed that there is no bar to the appeal provisions coming into operation and-as a final gesture in committee-I am pleased to accept amendment 34.

Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament

The question is, that amendment 33, in the name of Dennis Canavan, be agreed to.

Amendment 33 disagreed to.

Photo of David McLetchie David McLetchie Conservative

In view of the encouragement that I have been given, it would be churlish of me not to move amendment 34.

Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament

The question is, that amendment 34 be agreed to.

Amendment 34 agreed to.

Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament

I am sorry. As amendment 34 has been agreed to, amendments 35 and 36 fall.

The question is, that section 4, as amended, be agreed to.

Section 4, as amended, agreed to.

Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament

The question is, that the long title of the bill be agreed to.

Long title agreed to.

Meeting closed at 17:30.