Motion to Consider
My Lords, this draft order is made under Section 104 of the Scotland Act 1998. In summary, it proposes to do three things. Before explaining them in some—I am afraid—unavoidable detail, I would summarise them thus. First, we propose to amend Section 44 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 for the rest of the United Kingdom, with a related saving provision. Secondly, we propose to amend the definition of “child” for the rest of the United Kingdom in relation to the amended Section 44. Thirdly, we wish to make a minor corrective amendment to the definition of “secure accommodation” in the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995 for the rest of the United Kingdom.
On the first of those, Section 44 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995, which I shall refer to as the 1995 Act, makes provision to prohibit the publication of proceedings at children’s hearings and certain related proceedings before a sheriff. Section 44 was repealed, as it extends to Scotland, by the Children’s Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011 and replaced for cases going forward under that Act by a similar provision made in Section 182 of the 2011 Act. However, it is now clear that Section 44 is still needed to ensure that it continues to be an offence for a person to publish relevant information in relation to historic children’s hearings cases dealt with under the 1995 Act, and cases which began under the 1995 Act system and continue to proceed under that Act by virtue of the transitional arrangements.
The draft order is made in consequence of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014, which I shall refer to as the 2014 Act and which now reverses for Scotland the unintended repeal of Section 44 of the 1995 Act. I wish to reassure the Committee that while it is evident that the repeal of Section 44 was an error, no child’s welfare was jeopardised by it as the repeal was not commenced when the rest of the 2011 Act was commenced—the error having been identified before the commencement order. The 2014 Act also amends Section 44 for Scotland so that, going forward, it applies only to exclusion order proceedings under Section 76 of the 1995 Act. This is required as those proceedings remain under the 1995 Act and are not covered by the 2011 Act.
Given the United Kingdom extent of Section 44 of the 1995 Act, the draft order is required to give effect in the rest of the United Kingdom—that is, outwith Scotland—to both the amended version of Section 44, to restrict its future application to exclusion order proceedings under Section 76 of the 1995 Act, and to save the former version of Section 44 for both historic and ongoing children’s cases under the 1995 Act.
The second matter proposed is a related amendment to the definition of a child in Section 93(2) of the 1995 Act. Section 52(b) of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003 made a change to the definition of child in Section 93(2) for the purposes of Section 44 of the 1995 Act, so that it was extended from persons under the age of 16 years to persons under the age of 18. However, that change was not extended to England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Just as the draft order seeks to bring the existing parallel texts of Section 44 into line, it seeks to have the same definition of child for Section 44 purposes for all jurisdictions.
Thirdly, the draft order also corrects a minor error made by the Section 104 order made in consequence of the 2011 Act. The previous Section 104 order amended Section 44(11) of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995 by substituting the definition of “secure accommodation” with a new definition that took into account the most up-to-date statutory cross-references for Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland. However, the substituted definition contains an undefined reference to the “2000 Act”. The 2014 Act corrects this for Scotland by clarifying that the reference is to the Care Standards Act 2000. The draft order makes the same clarifications for the other jurisdictions.
This order again demonstrates the Government’s continued commitment to working with the Scottish Government to make the devolution settlement work. I can confidently say that this will be the last such order in this Parliament, so it may be for the interest of the Committee to note that 45 orders have been made under the Scotland Acts of 1998 and 2012 in this Parliament, since May 2010. In your Lordships’ House, 27 of these have been subject to the affirmative resolution procedure. There was an extra one in the other place which related to bonds, and therefore did not require to be affirmed by your Lordships’ House, and 17 of them were subject to the negative resolution procedure. That is indicative of the way in which the devolution settlement is flexible, and indeed of the commitment on the part of the Government to work to ensure that legislation passed in Scotland is applicable in other parts of the United Kingdom and that the devolution settlement works.
With that, I thank the officials in the Scotland Office, in various departmental offices and, not least, in my own office of the Advocate-General, for all the work they have put into these, as well as officials in the Scottish Government, because it requires a lot of co-ordination to get these orders to be brought forward and there has been a lot of co-operation here. I also thank the noble Baroness—I think this is the second time she has done a Scotland Act order—and her other colleagues, not least the noble Lord, Lord McAvoy, who I saw up until just a moment ago was engaged in the Chamber on the Corporation Tax (Northern Ireland) Bill. I appreciate the constructive co-operation they have given, and with those words I commend the order to the Committee.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for his explanations, which are helpful. We support what seems to be the tidying up and correcting of some anomalies in the legislation. I also thank him for his generous comments. I know that he will have been somewhat surprised to see me here again today, having been expecting my noble friend Lord McAvoy, who discovered at the last minute that he was unable to be in two places at once. His skills extend some distance, but he could not quite achieve that. I will pass on the noble and learned Lord’s comments to him, and I know that he will welcome them. He has always found the Minister to be very co-operative and willing to engage in discussion of issues, which is appreciated. Again, the Minister will be surprised to see me—this is the second order I have done. My link is that I have a Scottish mother and I spent a lot of my childhood in Scotland; that alone does not qualify me, but I hope that it helps.
I have a couple of questions on this. I appreciate that Section 44 was repealed in error and that this is a step to correct that—to which we give our full support. When was it recognised that the mistake had been made? Was the issue ever raised in debates as the Bill was going through? The comments the noble and learned Lord made were helpful when he said that the repeal was not commenced, so no child had suffered as a result of that. That is clear, and it is helpful to have that information. However, for it not to be commenced, it must have been recognised very soon afterwards at least that there was a problem and that it should not have been repealed. Perhaps the Minister can help us by saying when that came to light; that is the only question we have on that. Overall, we support the order before us today.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her kind comments. I, too, know the tremendous talents of the noble Lord, Lord McAvoy, but being in two places at once probably defeats him.
The noble Baroness asked when it was recognised that a mistake had been made. Clearly, it was not recognised during the passage of the Bill, otherwise up until the final stage 3 in the Scottish Parliament it would have been possible to move an amendment. However, it was recognised before the Act was commenced in 2013. The error was noticed between the passage of the 2011 legislation and its commencement: therefore, when the commencement was done, it did not commence the repeal provision. When the Section 104 order, which was consequential to the 2011 Act, was brought before this Parliament, the error had been noted by then, so in no way did we seek to extend the appeal provisions to England, Wales and Northern Ireland. I repeat the assurance that because of that and because of the lack of commencement, no child has had their interest jeopardised.