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Section 4 — Short Title and Commencement

Part of 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 Dennis Canavan Dennis Canavan Independent 5:15 pm, 8th September 1999

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must take into account the workings of those committees, so this emergency legislation will almost certainly have to be repealed or amended months from now.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Parliament the opportunity, in six months' time, to decide whether this legislation is still necessary or should be repealed or amended in the light of the work of Bruce Millan and Lord MacLean.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.