Long Title

Convention Rights (Compliance) (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 – in the Scottish Parliament at 4:00 pm on 30th May 2001.

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Photo of Iain Gray Iain Gray Labour

Mercifully, amendment 40 is a purely technical amendment to the long title of the bill. It reflects an amendment at stage 2, which introduced the power to make it an offence under the rules that ministers provide for the Parole Board for Scotland for a person to fail to attend or to produce documents for a board hearing, if cited to do so.

I move amendment 40.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

We feel that the Parole Board has sufficient recognition of its powers. We do not want to see the provisions of amendment 40 built in.

If any criticism can be made of the bill, it is that ministers are passing off to the Parole Board responsibility for the final say on the decision to release what are often dangerous individuals back into the community. That seems to me to be stepping back from ministerial responsibility.

This morning in the Justice 1 Committee, the minister said that he would retain his veto over what could be passed out under the freedom of information bill.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

The minister said that he would ensure that he had the final say on what information could be passed out.

Photo of Alasdair Morgan Alasdair Morgan Scottish National Party

I wanted Phil Gallie to give way before he was ruled out of order. Phil Gallie has said nothing about the powers of the Parole Board. He has talked only about the powers of ministers, which is not what amendment 40 is about.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

Perhaps Alasdair Morgan's greying hair indicates that he, too, has a hearing problem. We are talking about the Parole Board's taking on responsibility for the final release of individuals who have often committed the most heinous crimes. That will take responsibility away from the minister. Such decisions should remain ministerial decisions; the minister should have the veto in such circumstances. I oppose the minister's giving away such powers to the Parole Board.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

I am not on the margin about the Conservative party's determination to vote against amendment 40.

Photo of Iain Gray Iain Gray Labour

Mr Gallie is rather on the margins because he refers to one of the principles—perhaps more than one of the principles—that underlie the bill. He refers to the key principle that we ensure that our jurisdiction is compliant with the ECHR. Mr Gallie has lost the debate on a number of occasions, most notably at stage 1 when the bill's principles were debated. Amendment 40 will ensure that we can take forward the stage 2 amendments to ensure that the function of the Parole Board is ECHR-compliant and that the board does the proper job of assessing the risk to the public. That is the role that we have given the Parole Board through the changes that we have considered.

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party

I am not sure that the minister gave way, but Mr Gallie may have one final cut.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

Does the minister accept that there is no need for him to give away to the Parole Board his powers on the release of prisoners? Does he accept that, south of the border, Mr Straw—who must also now comply with the ECHR—is not giving away those powers? Mr Straw has not done so, has no intention of doing so and has stated that there is no need to do so under the ECHR.

Photo of Iain Gray Iain Gray Labour

We have debated that point on a number of occasions. There were debates at stages 1 and 2 and Mr Gallie lost the argument. He is about to lose the argument at stage 3. Mr Gallie must accept that.

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party

The question is, that amendment 40 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party

The result of the division is: For 67, Against 14, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 40 agreed to.