I thank Daniel Johnson for his amendment and for the constructive conversation that we have had at the various stages of the bill. As Daniel Johnson rightly did, I put on record the fact that the Parole Board’s members do an incredibly difficult job, and they do it very well. It is a remarkably difficult job and one that has to be—and rightly is—free from political interference and indeed governmental interference. We should all unite in defending the independence of the Parole Board, and I am sure that we all do.
I sympathise with the purpose of amendment 1, but I consider that section 44 goes far enough in reinstating the independence of the Parole Board. As briefly as possible, I will touch on my concerns about amendment 1. The area that causes me the most concern relates to the Scottish ministers’ power to recall a person to custody for breach of their licence conditions. My view is that any such action to revoke a licence by the Scottish ministers would run contrary to the proposed amendment. It effectively involves the Scottish ministers revoking the person’s licence, as set by the Parole Board, and could be seen by some as interfering with the board’s independence.
I am sure that members will agree, where protection of the public demands it, it is appropriate that the Scottish Ministers can make a decision to revoke a licence without having to wait until the next time that the Parole Board will convene to consider the case. I am happy to expand on that or my other concerns. The reason why I am highlighting them is that I believe that the amendment may have unintended and potentially damaging consequences to the overall parole system.
I consider section 44 to be sufficient to restate the independence of the Parole Board. I therefore ask Daniel Johnson not to press amendment 1, and if he is otherwise minded, I urge other members to reject it.