Section 67 — Fees

Part of Protection of Vulnerable Groups (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 – in the Scottish Parliament at 10:00 am on 8th March 2007.

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Photo of Robert Brown Robert Brown Liberal Democrat 10:00 am, 8th March 2007

I take the point about what Opposition parties ask for—it is entirely appropriate to make such points and draw out issues. However, on balance, we must take a sensible approach to the use of the affirmative resolution procedure. As I said in an earlier debate, I am more than happy for there to be the full panoply of parliamentary scrutiny through the affirmative resolution procedure if necessary. However, section 67 sets out a sensible and proportionate approach, which we do not need to broaden.

Executive amendments 14 and 19 were lodged in response to the debate in the committee about the basis on which fees will be set. It is in no one's interest to introduce a fee that will be a barrier to encouraging employment or volunteering. Amendments 14 and 19 will place a requirement on Scottish ministers to have regard to a number of factors when they set fees, including the circumstances in which fees are payable and the desirability of maintaining a balance between quality, cost and revenue in the performance of ministers' vetting, barring and disclosure functions.

Amendment 19 will ensure that the scope of Scottish ministers' consideration of the performance of their functions under the provisions in amendment 14 extends to disclosures that continue to made under the Police Act 1997; for example, basic disclosures. That is important, because the agency will be running the whole disclosure operation and not just scheme record disclosures.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton suggested that the 40 per cent fee increase for disclosure checks in April 2006 was an increase over the course of one year. That is not correct: the increase was the first since Disclosure Scotland began operating in 2002—four years earlier—and was due to unexpectedly low demand for disclosures during the first years of the scheme's operation. The background to the fee increase is more complicated than he suggested.

It was also disingenuous to suggest that the new scheme will push up the cost of disclosure by 30 per cent. It is anticipated that the scheme will, over 10 years, be somewhat less expensive to run than the current system. Of course, no decision on fee levels has been made because there will be consultation on the matter. Lord James Douglas-Hamilton did not make good arguments for changing section 67 in the way that is proposed in his amendments.