Children's and human rights commissioners should remain independent says committee

21/05/2009

Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and the Scottish Commission for Human Rights should be retained as separate bodies, according to a Scottish Parliament committee report published today.

The report also outlines proposals to merge some officeholders’ posts into a new Scottish Standards in Public Life and Appointments Commission.

The Review of Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body Supported Bodies Committee made a number of recommendations to improve the authority, structure and terms and conditions of the Commissioners and Ombudsman supported by the SPCB.

Committee Convener Trish Godman MSP said: “While we have recommended reducing the number of public bodies overall, we have also safeguarded the public’s valuable regulatory, advocacy and investigatory services. We also want to enhance accountability and ensure parliamentary committees scrutinise officeholders' work on a regular basis.

"The Commissioner for Children and Young People in Scotland is an internationally recognised post commended by the United Nations. The committee believes that it would be wrong to make major structural changes at a time when children’s issues are under such close scrutiny. To merge this post with the newly established Scottish Commission for Human Rights would, we believe, detract that body from the unique challenges it faces.”

Further key recommendations are –

  • A new Standards body to undertake investigations into complaints against elected members including MSPs and councillors. It will also consider public appointments
  • The transfer of Prison Complaints to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman
  • Reject the Scottish Government proposals to break up the complaint and consumer body Waterwatch Scotland

Future
The Scottish Parliament will debate the report and its proposals for a Committee Bill before the end of June. If the report is approved by Parliament then a Committee Bill can be introduced.

The Bill is then considered by the Finance Committee at Stage 1 before being debated by Parliament. If agreed, it is allocated to a committee established specifically to scrutinise and consider amendments at Stage 2 before continuing to Stage 3 consideration by the full Parliament.  

Background
The Review of SPCB Supported Bodies Committee was established on 13 November 2008 as an additional committee. Its remit as revised on 25 March 2009 is: To consider and report on whether alterations should be made to the terms and conditions of the officeholders and the structure of the bodies supported by the SPCB; to consider how any proposals, including the addition of any new functions, for future arrangements should be taken forward, including by way of a Committee Bill, and to make recommendations accordingly.

Committee members are: Trish Godman MSP (Convener), Jamie Hepburn MSP (Deputy Convener), Ross Finnie MSP, Jackson Carlaw MSP, Johann Lamont MSP and Joe Fitzpatrick MSP. The committee has met ten times and once the Parliament has considered the committee’s report and any consideration of the Committee Bill that follows, it will be disbanded.

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