Schedule 1 — Water Industry Commissioner and Customer Panels: Further Provision

Water Industry (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 – in the Scottish Parliament at 12:15 pm on 14th February 2002.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative 12:15 pm, 14th February 2002

Amendment 92 is grouped with amendments 106, 107, 36, 93, 108 and 95. If amendment 106 is agreed to, amendments 107, 36 and 93 are pre-empted. If amendment 107 is agreed to, amendments 36 and 93 are pre-empted.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

That is somewhat irregular, but I invite Adam Ingram to do so briefly.

Photo of Adam Ingram Adam Ingram Scottish National Party

In moving amendment 92, we want to enhance the independence of the water industry commissioner, who is charged with promoting customers' interests. We do not want the commissioner to be a creature of ministers who, in the final analysis, are primarily responsible and publicly accountable for Scottish Water, which is the provider of the services. It is clear that Parliament is best placed to represent customers' interests and therefore Parliament should be in control of the appointment process.

On amendment 95 and the appointment of non-executive board members, Parliament should be satisfied that such individuals are appointed on merit and not because they are members of the Labour party. All amendments in this group improve the bill's system of checks and balances, particularly in relation to democratic scrutiny, and should be supported.

I move amendment 92

Photo of Tavish Scott Tavish Scott Liberal Democrat

I speak on amendment 106, principally in relation to proposed new paragraph 5(2), which refers to the nominating bodies for a customer panel. I welcome the minister's earlier remarks about the geographic structure of those panels. However, I look for ministerial guidance on whether two particular groups will be represented on customer panels and on how best to represent them.

The first group is local authorities and my point is related to Dennis Canavan's earlier remarks on another amendment. When I was a councillor in Shetland in the mid-1990s, the Conservatives removed water and waste-water services from local authority control. There was no overriding case for doing so in the geographic circumstances in which I was then involved. Strategic planning, housing and economic development factors solidly come together under the ambit of local government. I believe that strategic guidance, the principle of community planning and community planning initiatives are best brought together under local government. Water and waste-water services are an essential development part of those elements. Therefore, local authorities should be part of the customer panels.

The second group is non-domestic users of water and waste-water services. I am thinking in particular of fish-processing businesses in my constituency and other areas, such as north-east Scotland, which pay huge amounts of money to water companies and need to be represented on the customer panels to drive forward the efficiencies that the bill aims to achieve. Amendment 106 would recognise those two groups.

Photo of John Scott John Scott Conservative 12:30 pm, 14th February 2002

Amendment 107 seeks to appoint different conveners to each of the five water customer consultation panels. I believe that this is necessary because one man would find it difficult to serve on and convene five committees, as proposed.

Photo of John Scott John Scott Conservative

One person, indeed. Thank you for your guidance, minister.

Further, a local convener would better understand local issues and be better able to report on them to the commissioner and, if need be, Scottish ministers. To allow the panels to function properly, as we all want them to do, we must have a convener for each panel, whether that convener be a man or a woman.

Photo of Ross Finnie Ross Finnie Liberal Democrat

Amendment 36 is, I hope, fairly self explanatory.

Amendments 92, 93 and 95 deal with the appointment of the water industry commissioner, conveners and non-executive directors. We have rehearsed that debate in detail in recent weeks and in the chamber. The SNP has made it clear where it stands on this matter.

I should make clear to the Parliament that each of those three appointments will be conducted under the Nolan principles. Therefore, the procedures that the Parliament agreed will apply to the appointments. I point out that the Scottish Executive will be consulting on improving the way in which persons are appointed under the Nolan procedures. The question of the independence of those appointments should not arise—Mr Ingram's nonsensical comment about political appointments simply does not apply. The three appointments will be made under the Nolan principles and the Parliament should be clear about that when it considers rejecting those appointments.

Tavish Scott and John Scott talked about the membership of the customer panels. We must consider what we are trying to create. We are trying to give the water industry commissioner a status that no one has had in the past. We are trying to create someone who has an overview of customer complaints across Scotland. It is important that that individual is not just made aware of the complaints but is actively involved in dealing with them. In that way, he can draw both bad and—which is important—good practice to the attention of Scottish Water. Because of the status that we wish to afford the commissioner, the bill provides that, through the commissioner's offices, reasonable costs and expenses will be paid to that individual. That elevates dramatically the importance of the commissioner.

Tavish Scott raised two specific points. The directions that we will give on the nature of persons who will be appointed will make two quite clear points. One is that there must be regard to business interests. That is imperative as we cannot have customer panels that take account only of domestic customers. The panels must also take into account the interests of small businesses, which Tavish Scott asked about.

The other element is to ensure that the balance of the membership is such that the concerns of local people can be clearly articulated. Members of local authorities will not be barred from being considered for that purpose. The only point that I will stress is that they would not be on the panel to ensure democratic accountability. The democratic accountability of Scottish Water is to the Parliament. If it were felt that the local councillor was, in the circumstances, best placed to be on the panel, that would be entirely appropriate.

I urge members to support amendment 36 and to reject the other amendments in the group.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

I require someone to speak to amendment 93. Will Fiona McLeod do it?

Photo of Fiona McLeod Fiona McLeod Scottish National Party

I will speak to amendment 93 and to the generalities of all the amendments. I apologise for any confusion earlier, Presiding Officer.

Those amendments are intended to ensure that the appointments of the water industry commissioner, the convener of the water customer consultation panels and members of the board of Scottish Water, which are powerful positions in the Scottish water industry, have parliamentary approval. I thought that every member would want that.

I will talk about the role of the convener of the customer consultation panels—or conveners, if amendments 106 and 107 from the Scott twins are agreed to, of which I would approve. The convener of those panels will be the voice and face of millions of customers. They cannot be a ministerial placeman or placewoman and they cannot be a ministerial mouthpiece. We know from last week's revelations that we still have no independent scrutiny of ministerial appointments. Only parliamentary approval of such pivotal appointments will lift them above political interference.

I ask all members to vote for amendments 92, 93 and 95.

Photo of Bristow Muldoon Bristow Muldoon Labour

We should be clear that the amendments that the SNP has lodged are all amendments that the Transport and the Environment Committee has rejected roundly. We should also be clear that the proposals that the SNP puts forward are the same as those that were rejected in the defeat last week of Mr Neil's member's bill, the Public Appointments (Parliamentary Approval) (Scotland) Bill.

It is unfortunate that the SNP is trying to turn the debate on the Water Industry (Scotland) Bill into yet another opportunity to attack and degrade people who stand for public appointments.

Photo of Bristow Muldoon Bristow Muldoon Labour

I have only two minutes; Mr Neil had plenty of time last week. I ask him to sit down.

The position that Fiona McLeod and Adam Ingram have expressed is a disgraceful attack on the integrity of those who stand for public appointments. It is also a disgraceful attack on the integrity of ministers. Fiona McLeod and Adam Ingram do not want to depoliticise the appointments process; they want to politicise it so that they can attack people who come into public life. Amendments 92, 93 and 95 should therefore be rejected.

Photo of Fiona McLeod Fiona McLeod Scottish National Party

Bristow Muldoon's remarks have made it clear that the debate will go on and on. It is about parliamentary approval of pivotal appointments in public life in Scotland. The evidence that we received last week during the debate on the Public Appointments (Parliamentary Approval) (Scotland) Bill was that the Labour and Liberal Democrat Executive has still not worked out a mechanism that will ensure that such pivotal appointments are above political interference. Only parliamentary approval, such as the Liberal Democrats tell us in their manifesto that they want, but which they give up in the Executive, will ensure that the appointments are above the political process.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

The question is, that amendment 92 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Division number 21

For: Adam, Brian, Aitken, Bill, Campbell, Colin, Canavan, Dennis, Crawford, Bruce, Cunningham, Roseanna, Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James, Elder, Dorothy-Grace, Ewing, Dr Winnie, Ewing, Fergus, Ewing, Mrs Margaret, Fabiani, Linda, Fraser, Murdo, Gallie, Phil, Gibson, Mr Kenneth, Goldie, Miss Annabel, Harding, Mr Keith, Harper, Robin, Hyslop, Fiona, Ingram, Mr Adam, Johnstone, Alex, Lochhead, Richard, MacAskill, Mr Kenny, MacDonald, Ms Margo, Marwick, Tricia, Matheson, Michael, McGrigor, Mr Jamie, McIntosh, Mrs Lyndsay, McLeod, Fiona, Monteith, Mr Brian, Morgan, Alasdair, Mundell, David, Neil, Alex, Paterson, Mr Gil, Quinan, Mr Lloyd, Robison, Shona, Russell, Michael, Scanlon, Mary, Scott, John, Sheridan, Tommy, Stevenson, Stewart, Sturgeon, Nicola, Ullrich, Kay, Wallace, Ben, Welsh, Mr Andrew, Wilson, Andrew, Young, John
Against: Alexander, Ms Wendy, Baillie, Jackie, Barrie, Scott, Boyack, Sarah, Brown, Robert, Butler, Bill, Chisholm, Malcolm, Craigie, Cathie, Curran, Ms Margaret, Deacon, Susan, Ferguson, Patricia, Finnie, Ross, Fitzpatrick, Brian, Gillon, Karen, Godman, Trish, Grant, Rhoda, Gray, Iain, Henry, Hugh, Hughes, Janis, Jackson, Dr Sylvia, Jackson, Gordon, Jamieson, Cathy, Jamieson, Margaret, Kerr, Mr Andy, Lamont, Johann, Livingstone, Marilyn, Lyon, George, Macdonald, Lewis, Macintosh, Mr Kenneth, MacKay, Angus, Maclean, Kate, Macmillan, Maureen, Martin, Paul, McAllion, Mr John, McAveety, Mr Frank, McCabe, Mr Tom, McLeish, Henry, McMahon, Mr Michael, McNeil, Mr Duncan, McNeill, Pauline, McNulty, Des, Morrison, Mr Alasdair, Muldoon, Bristow, Mulligan, Mrs Mary, Munro, John Farquhar, Murray, Dr Elaine, Oldfather, Irene, Peacock, Peter, Peattie, Cathy, Radcliffe, Nora, Raffan, Mr Keith, Rumbles, Mr Mike, Scott, Tavish, Simpson, Dr Richard, Smith, Elaine, Smith, Iain, Smith, Mrs Margaret, Stephen, Nicol, Thomson, Elaine, Wallace, Mr Jim, Whitefield, Karen, Wilson, Allan
Abstentions: Watson, Mike

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

The result of the division is: For 47, Against 62, Abstentions 1.

Amendment 92 disagreed to.

Amendment 106 not moved.

Amendment 107 moved—[John Scott].

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

The question is, that amendment 107 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Division number 22

For: Adam, Brian, Aitken, Bill, Campbell, Colin, Canavan, Dennis, Crawford, Bruce, Cunningham, Roseanna, Davidson, Mr David, Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James, Elder, Dorothy-Grace, Ewing, Fergus, Ewing, Mrs Margaret, Fabiani, Linda, Fraser, Murdo, Gallie, Phil, Gibson, Mr Kenneth, Goldie, Miss Annabel, Harding, Mr Keith, Harper, Robin, Hyslop, Fiona, Ingram, Mr Adam, Johnstone, Alex, Lochhead, Richard, MacAskill, Mr Kenny, MacDonald, Ms Margo, Marwick, Tricia, Matheson, Michael, McGrigor, Mr Jamie, McIntosh, Mrs Lyndsay, McLeod, Fiona, Monteith, Mr Brian, Morgan, Alasdair, Mundell, David, Munro, John Farquhar, Neil, Alex, Paterson, Mr Gil, Quinan, Mr Lloyd, Robison, Shona, Russell, Michael, Scanlon, Mary, Scott, John, Sheridan, Tommy, Stevenson, Stewart, Sturgeon, Nicola, Ullrich, Kay, Wallace, Ben, Welsh, Mr Andrew, Wilson, Andrew, Young, John
Against: Alexander, Ms Wendy, Baillie, Jackie, Barrie, Scott, Boyack, Sarah, Brown, Robert, Butler, Bill, Chisholm, Malcolm, Craigie, Cathie, Curran, Ms Margaret, Deacon, Susan, Ferguson, Patricia, Finnie, Ross, Fitzpatrick, Brian, Gillon, Karen, Godman, Trish, Grant, Rhoda, Gray, Iain, Henry, Hugh, Hughes, Janis, Jackson, Dr Sylvia, Jackson, Gordon, Jamieson, Cathy, Jamieson, Margaret, Kerr, Mr Andy, Lamont, Johann, Livingstone, Marilyn, Lyon, George, Macdonald, Lewis, Macintosh, Mr Kenneth, MacKay, Angus, Maclean, Kate, Macmillan, Maureen, Martin, Paul, McAllion, Mr John, McAveety, Mr Frank, McCabe, Mr Tom, McLeish, Henry, McMahon, Mr Michael, McNeil, Mr Duncan, McNeill, Pauline, McNulty, Des, Morrison, Mr Alasdair, Muldoon, Bristow, Mulligan, Mrs Mary, Murray, Dr Elaine, Oldfather, Irene, Peacock, Peter, Peattie, Cathy, Radcliffe, Nora, Raffan, Mr Keith, Rumbles, Mr Mike, Scott, Tavish, Simpson, Dr Richard, Smith, Elaine, Smith, Iain, Smith, Mrs Margaret, Stephen, Nicol, Thomson, Elaine, Wallace, Mr Jim, Watson, Mike, Whitefield, Karen, Wilson, Allan

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

The result of the division is: For 48, Against 62, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 107 disagreed to.

Amendment 36 moved—[Ross Finnie]—and agreed to.

Amendment 93 moved—[Fiona McLeod].

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

The question is, that amendment 93 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Division number 23

For: Adam, Brian, Aitken, Bill, Campbell, Colin, Canavan, Dennis, Crawford, Bruce, Cunningham, Roseanna, Davidson, Mr David, Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James, Elder, Dorothy-Grace, Ewing, Fergus, Ewing, Mrs Margaret, Fabiani, Linda, Fraser, Murdo, Gallie, Phil, Gibson, Mr Kenneth, Goldie, Miss Annabel, Harding, Mr Keith, Harper, Robin, Hyslop, Fiona, Ingram, Mr Adam, Johnstone, Alex, Lochhead, Richard, MacAskill, Mr Kenny, MacDonald, Ms Margo, Marwick, Tricia, Matheson, Michael, McIntosh, Mrs Lyndsay, McLeod, Fiona, Monteith, Mr Brian, Morgan, Alasdair, Mundell, David, Neil, Alex, Paterson, Mr Gil, Quinan, Mr Lloyd, Robison, Shona, Russell, Michael, Scanlon, Mary, Scott, John, Sheridan, Tommy, Stevenson, Stewart, Sturgeon, Nicola, Ullrich, Kay, Welsh, Mr Andrew, Wilson, Andrew, Young, John
Against: Alexander, Ms Wendy, Baillie, Jackie, Barrie, Scott, Boyack, Sarah, Brown, Robert, Butler, Bill, Chisholm, Malcolm, Craigie, Cathie, Curran, Ms Margaret, Deacon, Susan, Ferguson, Patricia, Finnie, Ross, Fitzpatrick, Brian, Gillon, Karen, Godman, Trish, Grant, Rhoda, Gray, Iain, Henry, Hugh, Hughes, Janis, Jackson, Dr Sylvia, Jackson, Gordon, Jamieson, Cathy, Jamieson, Margaret, Kerr, Mr Andy, Lamont, Johann, Livingstone, Marilyn, Lyon, George, Macdonald, Lewis, Macintosh, Mr Kenneth, MacKay, Angus, Maclean, Kate, Macmillan, Maureen, Martin, Paul, McAllion, Mr John, McAveety, Mr Frank, McCabe, Mr Tom, McLeish, Henry, McMahon, Mr Michael, McNeil, Mr Duncan, McNeill, Pauline, McNulty, Des, Morrison, Mr Alasdair, Muldoon, Bristow, Mulligan, Mrs Mary, Munro, John Farquhar, Murray, Dr Elaine, Oldfather, Irene, Peacock, Peter, Peattie, Cathy, Radcliffe, Nora, Raffan, Mr Keith, Rumbles, Mr Mike, Scott, Tavish, Simpson, Dr Richard, Smith, Elaine, Smith, Iain, Smith, Mrs Margaret, Stephen, Nicol, Thomson, Elaine, Wallace, Mr Jim, Watson, Mike, Whitefield, Karen, Wilson, Allan

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

The result of the division is: For 45, Against 63, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 93 disagreed to.

Amendment 108 not moved.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

I propose to suspend consideration of amendments at this stage. The remaining three groupings will be debated in the afternoon.