Junior Minister

– in the Scottish Parliament at 2:45 pm on 8th May 2002.

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Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party 2:45 pm, 8th May 2002

The next item of business is a debate on motion S1M-3070, in the name of the First Minister, on the appointment of a junior Scottish minister. Members who wish to speak in the debate should press their request-to-speak buttons now.

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour 2:50 pm, 8th May 2002

The role of the deputy minister is vital to the relationship between ministers and the Parliament and in helping ministers to meet the responsibilities that they carry. Over the past three years, the excellent work that has been carried out by deputy ministers has made a real difference to the reputation of the Parliament, to the effectiveness of legislation and to Executive decision making.

Through his experience in the chamber and the contribution that he has made to the work of the Parliament, Frank McAveety is well placed to join the team of deputy ministers who serve us so well. Frank McAveety represents an area of Glasgow where health is a central issue and where the link between poor health and poor prospects is evident every day. It is a constituency where the number of people who are registered and claiming disability allowance is twice the Scottish average; where the number of live births with a low birth weight is twice the Scottish average; and where the levels of heart disease, stroke and cancer are higher than in the rest of the country.

When Frank McAveety was the leader of Glasgow City Council, he demonstrated his understanding of the critical relationship between the health of that great city's citizens and their economic and social circumstances. It is that understanding, combined with his ability to work with people and to focus on taking the action that is needed to solve problems and open up opportunities, that fits him well for the post of Deputy Minister for Health and Community Care.

Hugh Henry will bring to his new role as Deputy Minister for Social Justice that shared understanding of health and his experience as part of the successful team that has taken action, in recent months, to solve the problems at the Beatson cancer clinic, to reduce the level of delayed discharge and to raise the standards of care and cleanliness in our hospitals.

Frank McAveety will join our work to deliver improved health services in partnership with health workers, health boards and—most of all—patients throughout the country. He will join a health team that is led by Malcolm Chisholm, which is committed to using the significantly increased investment that we are making to secure the health reforms that we badly need.

I am pleased to commend Frank McAveety's appointment.

I move,

That the Parliament agrees that Frank McAveety be appointed as a junior Scottish Minister.

Photo of Annabel Goldie Annabel Goldie Conservative 2:52 pm, 8th May 2002

I cannot help feeling that, when he was informed of his appointment, Frank McAveety must have thought that he was listening to the last blast of music in the never-ending game of musical chairs that is ministerial appointments to the Scottish Executive.

I have no personal angst about Mr McAveety—he seems to be a harmless fellow. His appointment is no surprise, as he seems to possess the three attributes that are necessary to secure appointment to the Scottish Executive: a time-served council background; the friendship of the First Minister; and, most important, no visible experience of or connection with the portfolio in which he is to deputise.

I wish Mr McAveety no ill—I wish him well in his new office—but I fear that, if precedent is anything to go by, he will be in position for a relatively short time and we will all reconvene in the chamber to make the same speeches again.

Photo of Dennis Canavan Dennis Canavan Independent 2:53 pm, 8th May 2002

I congratulate Margaret Curran on her appointment. If Frank McAveety is successful in being resurrected, I shall congratulate him too. He will not be the first Lazarus to have emerged from Glasgow City Chambers.

I would welcome a fuller explanation from the First Minister of the circumstances that have led to this ministerial reshuffle, which has been caused by the resignation of Wendy Alexander. I do not doubt Wendy's competence. However, some of the comments that have been made about her replacement, Iain Gray, have been completely over the top. If we are to believe some commentators, the Scottish economy has been delivered such a devastating blow that it is a wonder that it is not reflected in the stock exchange and the value of sterling. I somehow think that the stock exchange, the value of sterling and, indeed, the Scottish economy will survive Wendy's demise. Nevertheless, I would welcome an explanation from the First Minister—or indeed from Wendy herself at a later stage—of the circumstances that led to her resignation and the implications, if any, for the Scottish economy.

We have been led to believe that there were complaints about Wendy Alexander being overburdened with ministerial responsibilities. We have also heard that Iain Gray will be burdened with various responsibilities as the minister with responsibility for enterprise, lifelong learning, transport and other matters. I notice that, when Wendy had Cabinet responsibility for transport, she invariably called upon her deputy Lewis Macdonald to respond to transport matters. I do not question Lewis Macdonald's competence, but one of the reasons why transport was not given a higher profile was that no one in the Cabinet was fighting hard enough for it. Similarly, one of the reasons why the Scottish Transport Group pensioners have been waiting so long for justice is that no one of Cabinet rank has been fighting hard enough for them.

I hope that the First Minister will take those matters on board and ensure that there is an equitable distribution of portfolios among his Cabinet ministers and that transport is given adequate recognition and priority.

Photo of Robin Harper Robin Harper Green

Oh, sorry. I did not want to speak.

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party

In that case, Robin Harper, you get nothing.

I call the First Minister to wind up the debate. You have three minutes.

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour 2:57 pm, 8th May 2002

I welcome Robin Harper's contribution. It was easily the best so far this afternoon.

It is clear from Annabel Goldie's description of Frank McAveety as "harmless" that she has never had to play football against him. I hope that she will be reassured by the way in which our new team performs and works for Scotland in the months ahead.

I must correct Annabel Goldie's comment about time-served councillors serving in the Executive. Apart from me, only one other ex-councillor serves in the Cabinet, and I do not think that Ross Finnie could be described as a time-served Labour councillor. Members from all parties who have council experience have an important role in the Scottish Parliament. For example, we must remember the contribution made by Keith Harding, David Davidson and others for the Conservatives; by Colin Campbell and others for the nationalists; and by former councillors on the Labour and Liberal benches. Indeed, Dennis Canavan had a great career as a councillor before he became a member of Parliament. Such members' experience of local services and knowledge of the impact of legislation on those services make an important contribution to our work. That said, it is simply wrong to say that a precondition for serving in the Cabinet or on the Labour benches is that a member must have been a member of a local authority.

Before I turn to the points raised by Dennis Canavan, I want to congratulate him on becoming a father again. [Applause.]

With the creation of Scotland's transport delivery plan and the resolution of a key element in the delivery of the pensions for which the Scottish Transport Group pensioners have been waiting for so long, no one can doubt the priority that has been given to transport in the past few months. Recently, transport commitments have been vigorously developed in a number of other areas, and I congratulate both Lewis Macdonald and Wendy Alexander on the way in which they have carried out that work.

Dennis Canavan asked specifically about the press comments on Iain Gray's appointment. In my view, someone who gives up a career as a scientist to work in Africa and then comes back to this country to work in Oxfam shows more of a commitment to social justice and to making a better Scotland and a better world than most of us in the chamber can match. Iain Gray's record will be judged on the way in which he tackles his new portfolio in the months and years ahead.

I commend to Parliament the motion and the appointment of Frank McAveety. The appointment of Iain Gray, Margaret Curran, Hugh Henry and Frank McAveety to their new jobs will boost the Parliament, its reputation and our delivery of good public services in Scotland.

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party

The question is, that motion S1M-3070, in the name of the First Minister, on the appointment of a junior Scottish minister, be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Division number 2

For: Alexander, Ms Wendy, Barrie, Scott, Boyack, Sarah, Brown, Robert, Butler, Bill, Canavan, Dennis, Chisholm, Malcolm, Craigie, Cathie, Curran, Ms Margaret, Deacon, Susan, Eadie, Helen, Ferguson, Patricia, Finnie, Ross, Fitzpatrick, Brian, Godman, Trish, Gorrie, Donald, Grant, Rhoda, Gray, Iain, Harper, Robin, 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, Macdonald, Lewis, Macintosh, Mr Kenneth, MacKay, Angus, Macmillan, Maureen, Martin, Paul, McAllion, Mr John, McAveety, Mr Frank, McCabe, Mr Tom, McConnell, Mr Jack, McLeish, Henry, McMahon, Mr Michael, McNeil, Mr Duncan, 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, Robson, Euan, Rumbles, Mr Mike, Scott, Tavish, Simpson, Dr Richard, Smith, Iain, Smith, Mrs Margaret, Stephen, Nicol, Stone, Mr Jamie, Thomson, Elaine, Wallace, Mr Jim, Watson, Mike, Wilson, Allan
Abstentions: Adam, Brian, Campbell, Colin, Crawford, Bruce, Cunningham, Roseanna, Davidson, Mr David, Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James, Ewing, Dr Winnie, Ewing, Fergus, Fabiani, Linda, Fergusson, Alex, Gibson, Mr Kenneth, Goldie, Miss Annabel, Hamilton, Mr Duncan, Harding, Mr Keith, Ingram, Mr Adam, Johnstone, Alex, Lochhead, Richard, MacAskill, Mr Kenny, MacDonald, Ms Margo, Marwick, Tricia, Matheson, Michael, McGrigor, Mr Jamie, McGugan, Irene, McIntosh, Mrs Lyndsay, McLeod, Fiona, McLetchie, David, 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, Swinney, Mr John, Tosh, Mr Murray, Ullrich, Kay, Wallace, Ben, White, Ms Sandra, Young, John

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party

The result of the division is: For 60, Against 0, Abstentions 45.

Motion agreed to.

That the Parliament agrees that Frank McAveety be appointed as a junior Scottish Minister.

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party

I declare the result valid. Parliament has agreed the First Minister's recommendation. He may now invite Her Majesty to approve the appointment of Frank McAveety as a junior Scottish minister.

Photo of Michael Russell Michael Russell Scottish National Party

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. Further to the point that Mr Canavan raised, will you confirm whether you have had a request from Wendy Alexander to make a personal statement? That would appear to be the right way to proceed as it seems strange that the chamber has been told nothing about the circumstances of her resignation.

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party

It might be the right way to proceed, but the member has not contacted me. It is up to the member to decide whether she wants to make a personal statement.