Section 34 — Organisations not to use barred individuals for regulated work

Part of Protection of Vulnerable Groups (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 – in the Scottish Parliament at 9:30 am on 8th March 2007.

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Photo of Robert Brown Robert Brown Liberal Democrat 9:30 am, 8th March 2007

I am grateful for colleagues' comments, but there is an element of overstating the point. As Elaine Murray rightly said, the purpose of amendment 1 is to deal with the issue. I have made strong statements from the start of the bill process about what will happen in relation to retrospection, including the costs. As Fiona Hyslop is well aware, the costs will be consulted on. Nevertheless, perhaps because we are at the tail-end of the present session of Parliament, or perhaps because of wider issues, there is a feeling that, as Donald Gorrie put it, members of the "flat earth party" might take over from Hugh Henry and me in the next session. It is open to the new Parliament to pass a new bill and to take an altogether different approach, if that is what it wants to do. However, there is broad all-party sign-up to the bill's general direction of travel, which is an important reassurance. The statements that Fiona Hyslop, Lord James Douglas-Hamilton, Iain Smith, Elaine Murray and others have made during the bill's passage about the direction of travel show that there is an all- party commitment to the proposals on retrospection.

When one has been stung by a bee once—the Executive probably was stung by a bee when it was dealing with retrospection under POCSA, although I hasten to add that that was prior to my involvement in the Education Department—it is not a good idea to put oneself beside the bees' nest another time to be stung again. We are well aware of the issues that arise with regard to retrospection, which is a complex, difficult and technically involved procedure. We want to ensure that we get it right. We have given every possible assurance that we will get involved with all the stakeholders. We should bear it in mind that the voluntary sector is involved in the procedure because, when the POCSA arrangements were being considered, that sector wished to be involved and said that it wanted the same protections that were to apply to the statutory sector.

I say to Donald Gorrie that it is a bit of a mistake to think of the voluntary sector as one organisation or as a sector that is made up of organisations with similar characteristics. The voluntary sector is enormously diverse: it has large, national organisations with bureaucracies that are as big as local authority bureaucracies; and it has small organisations that have no bureaucracy at all and which operate locally. Therefore, it is not helpful to view the voluntary sector as one concrete sector that has the same characteristics across the board. The point is that the voluntary sector and other stakeholders, of whatever size and shape, will be involved in the consultation. That will not, as Donald Gorrie suggested, be a matter of voting; it will be about considering the value of the contributions and dealing with the effects on organisations. That is exactly what we have said about the consultation.

As the Education Committee knows, although we have not produced the relevant regulations, we have produced the policy information that will be used to determine the regulations. That has given all stakeholders a flavour of what might be involved. That information sets out the choices on costs, the way in which retrospection will be handled, the timescales and other issues.

The debate has been useful, but I do not want to overstate the issue. We will consult on the issues of retrospection, including whether and how to proceed with it, at what rate and in what order. Everybody who has something to say will be involved in the process. We will take the necessary time over the matter and, I hope, produce measures with which everybody who is concerned is comfortable. In addition, if my assurances as the current minister are not sufficient, we will have reinforcement, or a double lock, as a result of amendment 1, which will mean that the measures will receive the maximum parliamentary scrutiny. That ought to give as much reassurance as possible to anyone who has a concern about or interest in the matter. I hope that people will take as having considerable standing the assurances from Scotland's Parliament on how we will proceed.

Amendment 1 agreed to.

Amendment 2 moved—[Robert Brown]—and agreed to.