Ministers

– in the Scottish Parliament at 2:30 pm on 1st November 2000.

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Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament 2:30 pm, 1st November 2000

We move now to the debate on motion S1M-1297, in the name of the First Minister, on the appointment of ministers, and an amendment to that motion

Photo of Henry McLeish Henry McLeish Labour 2:35 pm, 1st November 2000

I am very pleased to move that Jackie Baillie and Angus MacKay be appointed to the Cabinet. The purpose of the motion in my name is to get the approval of Parliament for those appointments. We would, thereafter, present their names to Her Majesty the Queen.

Although we are appointing two new ministers, it is important to remember that they will be part of a team that delivered for Scotland under the late Donald Dewar and will continue to do so in the months and years that lie ahead. Today we are strengthening the coalition, which is working well for Scotland. I intend to ensure that the coalition is strengthened and that it continues to serve the people of Scotland.

We have to deal with a rich legacy of policies and legislative and spending programmes. That legacy gives us a load of work immediately. The Cabinet—including its two new members—has high hopes, but much hard work will be required.

It is important to note that one of the two new Cabinet ministers will handle the social justice portfolio. That is important because much of the debate during the past two weeks has been about Donald Dewar and social justice. I have decided that we need a more effective focus. That is why we have decided that social justice and housing—which is vital—should be a stand-alone portfolio.

I will give a flavour of the Administration that I want to lead. When we discuss social justice, some people might not recognise that we are still talking about deprivation, poverty and disadvantage. In my Administration, the core issue will be the self-worth of every Scot—that deserves to be treated seriously. I hope that if the appointment of Jackie Baillie is approved by Parliament, she will take up the legacy and the great challenges that lie ahead.

This is a very short debate, and I intend to be brief. Sir David, I see that you are already glowering slightly at me over your spectacles.

As I mentioned, we have a programme for government, which we will ensure is implemented. A promise means nothing to ordinary people until it is delivered. I am delighted that we have a substantial spending programme. We must roll that out in the coming weeks and months to the benefit of the people of Scotland. We also have a substantial legislative programme. When we hear people criticising Parliament and the Executive, it is important to recall that a tremendous job has been done during the first 18 months. The new team is committed to driving forward enthusiastically with Parliament.

I have said enough in this brief debate. I am delighted that my two colleagues are being nominated for appointment.

I move,

That the Parliament agrees that Jackie Baillie and Angus MacKay be appointed as Ministers.

Photo of David McLetchie David McLetchie Conservative 2:39 pm, 1st November 2000

I speak in support of the amendment in my name, which objects to the appointment of Angus MacKay.

Despite rumours to the contrary, I am not singling him out because he and I have different football loyalties, although I shall be monitoring closely the frequency with which the numbers 6 and 2 appear with undue prominence in future financial statements. Rather, I object to his appointment because it would represent an unacceptable increase in the number of Cabinet ministers from 11 to 12.

Of course, I could have objected to Jackie Baillie's appointment on the same ground, but I am far too much of a gentleman to do that. Moreover, as the nominee for the position of Minister for Finance and Local Government, Angus MacKay should set an example to his colleagues. Although I acknowledge that the reshuffle has not increased the overall size of the Administration, the overall cost to the Scottish taxpayer has increased by £16,520, as a result of the extra salary that will be enjoyed by the new Executive minister.

From day one, the Scottish Conservatives have consistently argued that the Executive is bloated and should be cut down to size. The number of ministers is more than four times the number who ran the Scottish Office under the previous Conservative Government or, indeed, under the Executive's Labour predecessor. It is not as though Mr McLeish was short of candidates who were due for the chop, but instead of weeding out the ministerial duds, he has split the transport and environment portfolio so that Sam Galbraith and Sarah Boyack will do part-time jobs on full-time pay. As part of his phased retirement plan, Sam Galbraith has even managed to retain a deputy to deal with sport and culture. It is not hard to detect the reason for that extraordinary failure of nerve on the part of the First Minister—this is the pay-off for the ministerial payroll vote that won him the leadership election.

The Conservatives believe that leaner government will produce better government for Scotland. One way to achieve that would have been for the First Minister to have taken our advice and created a new department for enterprise and transport, which would acknowledge the importance of transport to the development of the Scottish economy. Instead, Sarah Boyack remains in charge of the transport portfolio—most likely at odds with Wendy Alexander—free to burden our motorists and businesses with her new tolls and taxes.

Sadly, the new ministerial team is yet another demonstration of the weakness that looks set to be the hallmark of Mr McLeish's time as First Minister. Party management appears to be his highest priority, which leaves little room for the development of a programme of government that addresses real concerns. The First Minister is sadly mistaken if he thinks that one more chair around the table will do anything to improve the reputation of his Executive. We do not need more ministers—we need better government.

I move amendment S1M-1297.1, to leave out "and Angus MacKay".

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party 2:42 pm, 1st November 2000

I reassure Mr MacKay that the SNP's support for the amendment in David McLetchie's name is not personal. Any personal animosity that is felt towards him by the leader of the SNP is entirely of a sporting variety.

Our support for the amendment reflects genuine concerns over the potential conflict of interests that arises from the proposal that Angus MacKay should hold two portfolios. In one capacity, he will be the custodian of the public purse and in the other, he will be in charge of a major spending department in the Scottish Executive, which will require to compete with other spending departments for the allocation of funds. Perhaps the First Minister can talk us through exactly what will happen during budget negotiations.

When it comes to negotiating local government settlements, which hat will Angus MacKay wear? Will it be that of the finance minister—in which case, the people of Scotland are entitled to ask who will argue the corner of Scotland's hard-pressed local councils—or will it be that of the local government minister, whose responsibilities will come to the fore? If the latter were the case, would we be entitled to ask whether the local government minister's influence would hold greater sway with the finance minister than the influence of Susan Deacon, the Minister for Health and Community Care, or that of Jack McConnell, the new Minister for Education, Europe and External Affairs? Frankly, the arrangement is inappropriate.

The Public Finance and Accountability (Scotland) Act 2000—which was ably steered through the Scottish Parliament by Jack McConnell—was about ensuring openness and transparency in Parliament's financial dealings. The finance minister's being given simultaneous responsibility for a spending department simply raises questions about a conflict of interests. They are serious questions, which the First Minister must answer in the debate.

It is no secret that there are power struggles within the Scottish Executive. Clearly, Jack McConnell thinks that he will not have enough to do in running the education system in Scotland, so he has also secured the external affairs brief. Only 18 months ago, his Labour boss did not think that such a brief was necessary in the Scottish Executive.

If the appointment of Angus MacKay as Minister for Finance and Local Government is an attempt to balance the distribution of power in the Executive between the First Minister's allies and those whose allegiance is slightly more suspect, the attempt is misguided. It would be far better for the orderly running of affairs of the country if the two portfolios were separated. That is why the SNP will support amendment S1M-1297.1.

Photo of Lord James Selkirk Lord James Selkirk Conservative 2:45 pm, 1st November 2000

It seems that the size of the Cabinet has increased, and is increasing. It ought, however, to be diminished. An increase by one member might appear to be extremely insignificant, but the Scottish taxpayer must again pay the bill. The number of ministers is, as was mentioned, more than four times that of the previous Administration. As far as I know, ministers in the previous Administration did not object to having to do four times the amount of work. The Conservatives take the view that big is not always beautiful and there is no doubt that there is scope for a leaner Government.

The most important questions are whether the reshuffle will signal a change in policy on the Sutherland report and new taxes on motorists and businesses and whether law and order will be given the top priority that it deserves.

I support amendment S1M-1297.1.

Photo of Andrew Wilson Andrew Wilson Scottish National Party 2:46 pm, 1st November 2000

I repeat the comment that was made by Nicola Sturgeon—our support for the amendment is not a slight on Angus MacKay's ability. He is certainly as good as the rest of the Cabinet—although given the competition, that is no great boast.

The point is that it is necessary that the finance minister should not also hold a spending portfolio. I can find no other example from Europe, or around the world, of the finance minister of a legislature or Parliament running a spending department at the same time as arbitrating over the people's money.

Local government accounts for a huge chunk of the nation's budget and has come under more pressure than any other spending area within the Executive's competence. Local government has decreased its share of the overall budget faster than any other budget element. How can we trust Angus MacKay as finance minister to have a rational view of how to deal with that, given that that is the spending portfolio on which his performance will be measured and judged? There is a rational reason why the two posts have always been and should always be separate. That separation must be maintained.

As Nicola Sturgeon said, the combination of the two posts is an absolute nonsense—it is born of the First Minister's over-eagerness to please his Labour colleagues. It is not right that Jack McConnell can claim the Europe portfolio in compensation for his move, leaving Henry McLeish having to overcompensate Angus MacKay for the adjustment. The position is not sustainable or sensible. It is an imprudent use of Cabinet postings and demonstrates that Labour is happy to play internal politics with the people's money.

Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament

As no other member has asked to speak, I invite the First Minister to wind up the debate.

Photo of Henry McLeish Henry McLeish Labour 2:48 pm, 1st November 2000

The political points that the SNP has made do not begin to address the seriousness of electing a Cabinet or junior ministers—we will move on to that in a minute. Nicola Sturgeon makes a non-point. In the previous Cabinet, Jack McConnell was the Minister for Finance and was responsible for local government finance. Was that lost on SNP members? Perhaps they did not pick that up during the past 18 months. This is a good opportunity for them to apprise themselves of what the Executive is doing.

The Conservative attack is fascinating because, if I remember correctly, they sought a minister for tourism, a minister for Glasgow and a minister for Parliament. To top it all—Conservative arithmetic has never been good—I heard on the radio on Sunday that they think that there are 23 ministers. They even got that wrong. There are still 22 ministers—despite the changes that have been made, the Administration remains the same size.

Today, we are considering the suitability of the people we are recommending for ministerial posts. I have no hesitation—nor should Parliament hesitate—in agreeing entirely that they are the right people.

However, I must say that the football issue is becoming rather difficult. Jackie Baillie has instructed me never to use another football analogy—she is sick of them.

Photo of Henry McLeish Henry McLeish Labour

That proposal has been seconded from across the chamber.

I have realised that both the leader of the SNP and the leader of the Conservatives support Heart of Midlothian. We also find that the new—if approved—finance minister supports Hibs. David McLetchie should not remember a score of 6-2. Mr MacKay suggests that he should remember 7-0—the biggest drubbing that Hearts has had for many years.

Photo of Robin Harper Robin Harper Green

I am a former Aberdeen—and East Fife—supporter, and I would like to hear a reply to Mr McLetchie's points about the division of the transport and the environment portfolio. It was insupportable that it was given to one minister for a whole year without any support. The division is a positive step.

Photo of Henry McLeish Henry McLeish Labour

If anyone says publicly that he has been involved with both Aberdeen and East Fife, I cannot—as a former East Fife player—top that.

The question about transport and the environment is important. Environment issues must and will be taken seriously—that department is a key part of the Administration. Transport is also vital to Scotland—to our great cities and to our rural hinterlands. Those matters need due attention. The portfolio was split and both subjects were given a minister with Cabinet rank.

I hope that members will support the motion and allow us to make progress soon.

Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament

I will put the questions on the motion and the amendment to the motion.

The first question is, that amendment S1M-1297.1, in the name of David McLetchie, which seeks to amend motion S1M-1297, in the name of the First Minister, on the appointment of ministers, be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Division number 1

For: Adam, Brian, Aitken, Bill, Campbell, Colin, Crawford, Bruce, Cunningham, Roseanna, Davidson, Mr David, Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James, Ewing, Fergus, Gallie, Phil, Gibson, Mr Kenneth, Goldie, Miss Annabel, Grahame, Christine, Hamilton, Mr Duncan, Hyslop, Fiona, Ingram, Mr Adam, Johnston, Nick, Johnstone, Alex, Lochhead, Richard, MacAskill, Mr Kenny, MacDonald, Ms Margo, Marwick, Tricia, McGrigor, Mr Jamie, McGugan, Irene, McIntosh, Mrs Lyndsay, McLeod, Fiona, McLetchie, David, Monteith, Mr Brian, Mundell, David, Paterson, Mr Gil, Quinan, Mr Lloyd, Reid, Mr George, Robison, Shona, Russell, Michael, Salmond, Mr Alex, Scanlon, Mary, Scott, John, Sturgeon, Nicola, Swinney, Mr John, Tosh, Mr Murray, Ullrich, Kay, Wallace, Ben, White, Ms Sandra, Wilson, Andrew
Against: Alexander, Ms Wendy, Baillie, Jackie, Barrie, Scott, Boyack, Sarah, Brankin, Rhona, Brown, Robert, Chisholm, Malcolm, Craigie, Cathie, Curran, Ms Margaret, Deacon, Susan, Eadie, Helen, Ferguson, Patricia, Finnie, Ross, Galbraith, Mr Sam, Godman, Trish, Gorrie, Donald, Grant, Rhoda, Gray, Iain, Henry, Hugh, Home Robertson, Mr John, Hughes, Janis, Jackson, Dr Sylvia, Jackson, Gordon, Jamieson, Cathy, Jamieson, Margaret, Jenkins, Ian, Kerr, Mr Andy, Lamont, Johann, Livingstone, Marilyn, Lyon, George, Macintosh, Mr Kenneth, MacKay, Angus, MacLean, Kate, Macmillan, Maureen, Martin, Paul, McAllion, Mr John, McAveety, Mr Frank, McCabe, Mr Tom, McConnell, Mr Jack, McLeish, Henry, McMahon, Mr Michael, McNeil, Mr Duncan, McNeill, Pauline, McNulty, Des, Morrison, Mr Alasdair, Muldoon, Bristow, Mulligan, Mrs Mary, Munro, Mr John, Murray, Dr Elaine, Peacock, Peter, Peattie, Cathy, Radcliffe, Nora, Robson, Euan, Rumbles, Mr Mike, Scott, Tavish, Simpson, Dr Richard, Smith, Elaine, Smith, Iain, Smith, Mrs Margaret, Stephen, Nicol, Stone, Mr Jamie, Thomson, Elaine, Wallace, Mr Jim, Watson, Mike, Whitefield, Karen, Wilson, Allan

Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament

The result of the division is: For 43, Against 66, Abstentions 0.

Amendment disagreed to.

Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament

The question is, that motion S1M-1297, in the name of the First Minister, on the appointment of ministers, be agreed to. Are we agreed? [Interruption.] Not again. I ask members who wish to disagree to the motion to shout "No".

Did I hear a no? I did not.

Motion agreed to.

That the Parliament agrees that Jackie Baillie and Angus MacKay be appointed as Ministers.