Section 30 — Section 17C arrangements: persons with whom agreements can be made

Part of Tobacco and Primary Medical Services (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 – in the Scottish Parliament at 3:45 pm on 27th January 2010.

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Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party 3:45 pm, 27th January 2010

I will respond first to Jackie Baillie's question. If a community co-operative is also a charitable organisation—and if entering into the agreement is not at odds with the basis of its charitable status—the community co-operative will be able to hold such a contract provided that it fulfils the involvement criteria that are laid down in the bill. I think that we clarified that point at stage 2.

I thank Helen Eadie for lodging amendments 36 to 45: I certainly respect her motives for doing so. As Ross Finnie does, I have some sympathy for the notion that charities should be able to hold such contracts, but the bill will already allow many charities to enter into GMS or section 17C contracts, provided that the charity fulfils the criteria that apply to all contract holders. However, we will not support Helen Eadie's rather complex amendments partly because—as Ross Finnie and Mary Scanlon have said—her amendments are in very different form to the amendments that we considered at stage 2, so there has not been the opportunity to scrutinise the detail of them.

In addition, amendments 36 to 45 include some inconsistencies that, I believe, could put them outwith the competence of the Parliament. The first inconsistency is that, for a qualifying charity, the amendments do not require that all the trustees of the charity should meet the criteria on involvement in patient care. Instead, the amendments would require that a minimum of one trustee be involved in patient care. That inconsistency would undermine a key principle of part 2 of the bill, which is that all those who are party to a primary medical services contract should have direct involvement in patient care.

The second inconsistency is that, under amendment 42, the qualifying charity's trustees would all be required to reside in the area to which the contract related. Such a residency requirement seems to be discriminatory and would create an uneven playing field in respect of bidding for contracts, given that the residency requirement would not apply to other categories of providers. In my view, that lack of consistency in the treatment of contractors would carry the real and significant risk of putting the bill outwith the legislative competence of the Parliament on the ground that the provisions might not be compatible with European Union law, in particular the European treaty principles of equal treatment, transparency and non-discrimination.

Finally, let me reiterate the point that I made at the outset. Under the bill as it stands, many charities will already be able to enter into a GMS contract or section 17C agreement with a health board, albeit that they will need to fulfil the involvement criteria.

Although I understand and have some sympathy with Helen Eadie's comments, I ask members, for the reasons that I have outlined, to vote against her amendments.