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Chamber and committees

Justice Committee

Meeting date: Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Agenda: Decision on Taking Business in Private, Legislative Consent Memorandums, Domestic Abuse (Protection) (Scotland) Bill: Stage 2, Subordinate Legislation, Justice Sub-Committee on Policing (Report Back), Legislative Consent Memorandums, Domestic Abuse (Protection) (Scotland) Bill: Stage 2, Subordinate Legislation


Legislative Consent Memorandums

Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill

I await advice as to whether the cabinet secretary can join us now, or whether we have to pause until 10 o’clock.

I am here, convener, if that is helpful.

Thank you, cabinet secretary. Are you content for us to proceed, even though we are a bit in advance of the time at which we asked you to join us?

Yes. Forgive me—my apologies; I did not realise that you would be done so soon.

The Convener

There is nothing to apologise for—it is not on you at all.

We were considering the two legislative consent memorandums that we have in front of us. I know that you were not expecting to give evidence on either, but Mr Finnie has raised two questions about them, and I was wondering whether he could put those to you while everyone is here.


Thank you. Mr Finnie, could you ask again your questions relating to those LCMs, so that the cabinet secretary can hear them?

John Finnie

Good morning, cabinet secretary. My questions are about two issues and perhaps will give you an opportunity to state something for the record.

Clause 33 of the Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill is about polygraphs. They are a widely discredited system. Amnesty International—I should declare membership of that organisation—and others have expressed grave reservations about them. Will you state the Scottish Government’s position?

In addition, on the generality of that LCM, is the bill an attempt by the UK Government to interfere with the existing powers of the Scottish ministers on sentencing?

Humza Yousaf

I will make a couple of points. I thank John Finnie both for his questions and for his long-standing interest in issues relating to counter-terror and the human rights implications. I will come on to that in a second.

You will of course remember the original proposal from the UK Government to extend the use of polygraph testing into the Scottish justice system. I took a very robust approach in opposition to that. As John Finnie rightly alludes to, that position was not just the Government’s; a number of—[Inaudible.]—organisations and indeed a number of people in the legal profession had a fair degree of concern at the thought of the introduction into Scotland of polygraph testing in any way, shape or form. It would be unique. In fairness, it is not unique in England. Polygraph testing is used in a very limited way in the justice system in England and Wales. I was pleased of course that our argument was persuasive enough to the Lord Chancellor, Robert Buckland QC—with whom, in fairness, I have a very good relationship—that he agreed to remove those provisions from the legislation.

On the second, broader question that John Finnie asks, the bill does impinge on the Scottish Government’s competence and powers in relation to sentencing; obviously, that is why we have it in front of us. I have agreed to the LCM in a limited way; the bill potentially affects the Scottish Government’s sentencing powers, but, in that limited way, we are content to give consent. I will not go into greater detail on my reservations about the reserved areas of the bill, but it is fair to say that I associate myself with the remarks of Amnesty International and a few other organisations about some of the provisions of the bill that relate to reserved areas.

Thank you. Mr Finnie, do you have anything further for the cabinet secretary?

John Finnie

I would just thank the cabinet secretary. Although there is a lot of information in our papers, that information is not necessarily very accessible to anyone who might be looking in, so it is very helpful to have the Scottish Government’s position confirmed by the cabinet secretary.

The Convener

Thank you, Mr Finnie. I agree that it is important to get these matters on the record wherever possible.

If members have no further comments on either of the legislative consent memorandums that are in front of us, are we agreed that the Scottish Parliament should give its consent to the relevant provisions in the Financial Services Bill and the Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill?

We are agreed.

Are members content to delegate to me the publication of a short factual report on the outcome of the committee’s deliberations on the legislative consent memorandums today?

Members are agreed. Thank you very much.