Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

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.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace Liberal Democrat 5:15 pm, 8th September 1999

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.