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Public Services Reform (Scotland) Bill

– in the Scottish Parliament at 3:45 pm on 25th March 2010.

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Photo of Alasdair Morgan Alasdair Morgan Scottish National Party 3:45 pm, 25th March 2010

The next item of business is a debate on motion S3M-6023, in the name of John Swinney, on the Public Services Reform (Scotland) Bill. I point out to members that we have less time available for the debate than we originally thought, so I invite them to be as brief as possible. Minister, you have no more than six minutes.

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party 3:58 pm, 25th March 2010

It is my pleasure to open the stage 3 debate on the Public Services Reform (Scotland) Bill. For the purposes of rule 9.11 of standing orders, I advise the Parliament that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the bill, has consented to place her prerogative and interests, in so far as they are affected by the bill, at the disposal of the Parliament for the purposes of the bill.

The bill is important and wide ranging, and it forms part of the Government's wider public services reform agenda. The fact that we are debating it the day after the United Kingdom budget simply brings into even sharper focus the importance of moving further and faster down the road of public services reform. The bill will help us to do exactly that.

The public bodies landscape in Scotland has evolved over time and has for too long been allowed to grow in an ad hoc manner. In part, that is due to decisions to establish individual organisations being taken on a case-by-case basis without wider strategic consideration. The resulting overlap and duplication of functions across some bodies is clear to see, and changes are required. With that in mind, the purpose of the bill is to remove overlap and duplication, to provide greater clarity for service users and improve service delivery, to align with the Government's overarching purpose of sustainable economic growth, and to promote more effective use of resources and better value for money.

The simplification programme has been taken forward since it was announced by the First Minister in October 2007. We have already delivered a reduction from a baseline of 199 devolved bodies to 161. The bill, together with the Children's Hearings (Scotland) Bill and the Scottish Parliamentary Commissions and Commissioners etc Bill, will deliver a further reduction to around 120 by 2011, thus delivering in full the First Minister's commitment to a 25 per cent reduction in the number of devolved public bodies. That is a real achievement in simplifying and streamlining the public sector in Scotland.

Our simplification programme, including the Public Services Reform (Scotland) Bill, will deliver net financial savings of around £127 million over the period 2008 to 2013, and recurring annual savings of around £40 million thereafter. In the current financial climate, we need to accelerate the reform agenda and ensure that our public services are delivering the best possible value for money, as well as delivering efficient and high-quality services to the people of Scotland. It is therefore essential that the Parliament be able to respond more quickly to changing circumstances and to take advantage of opportunities to further streamline the public bodies landscape and improve the delivery of public services.

That is why the order-making powers in part 2 of the bill, subject to appropriate safeguards and parliamentary scrutiny, are important. They provide an alternative and more responsive parliamentary mechanism for making changes to the public bodies landscape more quickly, as and when opportunities arise. As I made clear in the debate this morning, the Government has listened to the committees that took evidence on the bill and to representations from a number of stakeholders who had particular concerns about how the order-making powers might affect them. We lodged a comprehensive series of amendments at stages 2 and 3 that were designed to address those concerns.

I believe that the bill, as amended, will provide effective order-making powers, accompanied by appropriate procedural and statutory safeguards. Part 2 of the bill, as amended, is balanced, proportionate and reasonable. I pay tribute to the work of the various committees that took evidence on the bill, particularly the Finance Committee, which acted as the lead committee, and the Subordinate Legislation Committee, both of which produced detailed and helpful proposals on the order-making powers in part 2 of the bill, which we have implemented in full. Indeed, no fewer than seven committees considered the bill, which might be a record.

Following this morning's debate, it is fair to say that we did not agree on every issue, but there has been a great deal of constructive debate at committee, and I believe that we have a better bill as a result.

The bill covers a range of different topics—my colleague, Fiona Hyslop, will deal with a number of them in more detail in her closing speech. The bill includes provisions to establish creative Scotland as a single unified national body for the arts and culture. It is now accepted on all sides that that is the right way forward, and that the sooner that the new body is fully up and running, the better.

Parts 4 and 5 pave the way for the reorganisation of some of our scrutiny and improvement bodies, with the establishment of social care and social work improvement Scotland and healthcare improvement Scotland. The statutory duties and functions of those bodies will enable them to give effect to the Crerar principles of public focus, independence, proportionality, transparency and accountability, while contributing to simplification of the scrutiny landscape.

Part 6 contains other provisions for scrutiny improvement and focuses on striking a balance between the need for independent external scrutiny and the ability of service providers to undertake robust self-assessment and self-improvement.

Finally, we have introduced a package of amendments that will improve the constitution and governance of the Mental Welfare Commission.

The bill is only one part of the Government's public service reform agenda and is by no means the end of the story. However, it represents a well thought through, coherent and effective package of proposals that will make a real difference to the quality, delivery and efficiency of public services in Scotland.

I move,

That the Parliament agrees that the Public Services Reform (Scotland) Bill be passed.

Photo of David Whitton David Whitton Labour 4:03 pm, 25th March 2010

This has been a long process, so a speech of no more than five minutes is perhaps a bit of a godsend.

At last, at last, we are debating the final throes of the Public Services Reform (Scotland) Bill. Only time will tell just how much reform we are going to see.

As a result of this morning's votes, Waterwatch is being disbanded and its staff and responsibilities are to be split between the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman and Consumer Focus. I have to say that that is a pity. Earlier, the cabinet secretary said that the move would save £300,000 a year, but at what cost to the efficiency of investigating customer complaints against Scottish Water? I am told that the money is mostly being saved by abolishing the regional board structure, which could have been done without disbanding the organisation altogether.

When the Finance Committee spoke to the bill team, we were told that the bill was not about saving money, but about better government.

However, I think that the decision on Waterwatch seems to reverse that policy intent.

In his opening comments this morning, the cabinet secretary got quite exercised about my speech on order-making powers and demanded an apology from me for misleading Parliament. I have taken the time to look again at my speech and I do not believe that I have anything to apologise for.

Let me give the facts. Committees are vital to the proper working of the Scottish Parliament. The Finance Committee undertook a consultation on the Public Services Reform (Scotland) Bill, which closed on 14 August 2009. Among other things, the bill sought to reduce the number of public bodies in Scotland, to introduce order-making powers, to impose duties on scrutiny bodies to co-operate and ensure appropriate user focus, and to amend the corporate governance of Audit Scotland.

All the committee's members supported the bill's general principles, but there was concern about the proposed order-making powers in part 2. The provision to Scottish ministers of order-making powers to improve the exercise of public functions by scheduled bodies, and to remove or reduce burdens in the public, private and third sectors was not welcomed. That is the position that Labour took in the Finance Committee at stage 2, when we warned that we could not support the provisions of part 2 of the bill as they stood. We said that we looked to the cabinet secretary to introduce some new proposals to address the concerns that had been expressed.

We were not alone in expressing our disquiet at the cabinet secretary's proposals. Three other parliamentary committees were similarly minded. Many respondents said that the proposals would vest too much power in the hands of current and future ministers, and a number of public bodies believed that, despite the preconditions that cover the use of the powers, their organisations might be subject to future changes that would have implications for their independence.

Mr Swinney could have avoided some of the mess if he had followed normal procedure with some pre-legislative consultation on the principle or practical implementation of the order-making powers. He said that the benefit of the powers is that they will avoid the need to find legislative time and allow him to move further and faster in his reform agenda. I suppose that I should count it as a victory that Labour came within one vote of having the order-making powers removed from the bill this morning. The fact that the vote was so close should serve as a warning to Mr Swinney to be careful as he proceeds with whatever reform plans he has in mind.

As a natural optimist, I take it as a positive thing that the Scottish Government knew that it had to lodge amendments in response to the Subordinate Legislation Committee's recommendations, which required proposals for an order made under section 10 or section 13 of the bill to be subject to an enhanced form of super-affirmative procedure. I simply point out again that none of those proposals was included in the first draft of the bill. However, at least the cabinet secretary listened and made a gesture towards dealing with the criticism.

I am afraid that the same cannot be said for his colleague Mr Ingram, the Minister for Children and Early Years. It was, to say the least, patronising of him to accuse my colleague Karen Whitefield of not understanding what the Government was doing with the merger of Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Education and the Social Work Inspection Agency and the impact that it would have on child protection inspections. HMIE is a universal service and social work is not. Not all children are already in the social work net. HMIE was brought into the child protection regime to drive up standards and to take the lead as the universal service. We are two thirds of the way through the child protection cycle and to remove HMIE now could adversely affect the continuity of the inspection regime.

If the Government had supported Labour's amendment on the matter, that would have sent a message to education services that they must continue to take their share of responsibility for child protection throughout Scotland. Again, however, we lost the vote on that amendment by only one vote, so I am sure that ministers have been warned.

I repeat how disappointed I am that my attempt to establish a separate negotiating body for people in non-departmental public bodies also failed to gain support. However, I paid attention to what the minister said about progress, so I will watch that with interest.

In conclusion, I, too, thank the clerks, particularly the clerks to the Finance Committee, for their hard work. I do not know how many amendments we have debated and discussed, but it has been a lot.

Photo of Derek Brownlee Derek Brownlee Conservative 4:08 pm, 25th March 2010

It is ironic that we all think that this is the end of the Public Services Reform (Scotland) Bill, because public service reform will probably be one of the dominant issues of the next five to 10 years in the Parliament.

I take the opportunity to thank the clerks to the Finance Committee for their forbearance given the number of amendments that I lodged with them, most of which found their way to a vote, although some did not. It was interesting for a member of a committee who does not often get the opportunity to amend bills to find out just how liberating it can be for Opposition members to have the freedom to amend legislation so easily. I encourage the Scottish Government to create other opportunities for us to amend legislation. It has been a constructive process and, I am sure, the Government will reflect carefully on that.

Mr Whitton mentioned the Government going "further and faster" in relation to public service reform. If we look back to the unanimous report that the Finance Committee published following its consideration of the bill, our assessment was that the bill did not go far enough. The issue of whether the bill delivers fundamental public service reform was well debated.

The test in reality will be how and where the Government chooses to exercise the powers that it will have, especially under part 2 of the bill. When we take a view on how we will vote on the sunset clause that we have inserted, our judgment will be based partly on the extent to which the Government has demonstrated a need to use the powers and partly on the way in which it has exercised them. Given that the sunset clause will not come into effect for five years, it may not be the same Government that will exercise the powers at that point.

We need to think about the bill in the context of the spending squeeze that we all know is inevitable. Members will not be surprised to learn that I think that the transparency provisions that we have inserted in part 2A will help to bear down on spending by forcing people to realise that they need to defend spending decisions in public.

Conservative members support the creation of creative Scotland; there will be broad support for the eventual establishment of that body.

I turn to an issue that Malcolm Chisholm raised at stage 2. Initially, I did not have a great deal of sympathy for his position but, as time has gone on, I have come around to his way of thinking, which is probably very rare. Because the bill covers so many different areas of policy, from the Mental Welfare Commission and creative Scotland to matters that might more normally be considered to be part of the Finance Committee's remit, there was a scrutiny issue when we came to consider amendments at stage 2. We need to reflect more generally on whether the skills of other committees, especially specialist committees, can be harnessed when the lead committee at stage 2 does not typically deal with all of the issues to which a bill relates.

Scrutiny of the provisions relating to non-finance areas would have been strengthened if we had been able to square that circle. That is not an issue for the Government, but a consequence of the fact that the bill is a collection of different provisions. Parliament should reflect on whether there is a better way of proceeding, to ensure that we harness specialist scrutiny earlier in the process, especially at stage 2, instead of referring bills to only one committee. At stage 1, there was a powerful scrutiny process in which, as has been mentioned, many committees were able to assess the bill.

I will close, as I have no desire to detain members any longer. We will support the bill at decision time, but the test will be for the Government to deliver on the promises that it has made in relation to public sector reform. Given the extent to which it has hyped up the order-making powers for which the bill provides, we will see how much it delivers.

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None

I will allow Jeremy Purvis up to four minutes. All other members who take part in the debate must speak for one minute less than they have been advised, as we must finish the debate at 4.45.

Photo of Jeremy Purvis Jeremy Purvis Liberal Democrat 4:12 pm, 25th March 2010

The Government has indicated that the bill is similar to the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill that the UK Parliament has passed. It is worth reflecting on the fact that the official Opposition at Westminster, far from underhyping the UK bill, did a fair share of hyping it by claiming that key elements of it were the "abolition of Parliament bill". I hear Mr Brownlee say from a sedentary position that the difference is a result of devolution; he is a late convert, but a convert nevertheless.

The policy memorandum oversold the bill. When it was introduced, the Government suggested that it was a key part of radical reform of the delivery of public services in Scotland. That suggestion was part of the Finance Committee's consideration of the bill.

Photo of Jeremy Purvis Jeremy Purvis Liberal Democrat

I am afraid that I do not have time.

At stage 1, the committee considered the overall efficiency of the public sector, whether it is the right shape to deliver services and who should deliver them. We had considerable sympathy with some elements of the legislation, but at stage 3 it has been acknowledged that there are significant problems with it. We cannot ignore the fact that the part 2 powers are very flawed. That they are flawed has been demonstrated by today's stage 3 process. The cabinet secretary was correct to say that any statutory instrument must receive Parliament's approval, but he did not dispute the point that I made this morning, which was that statutory instruments cannot be amended.

The cabinet secretary said that he had listened to the Finance Committee. His alternative approach is that a draft instrument will be laid. Of course, it will not be incumbent on the Government to listen to any representations that are made and to make changes, and Parliament will not be able to make changes. Some changes might be made on policy matters, because the powers in the bill can be used to change any children's panel or health board. The powers are broad, even with the protections that the Government says exist, and they allow several proposals for changes in one statutory instrument.

The Government has said that that does not pose any problems because Parliament will still have to approve any such instrument. However, today at stage 3, we considered 16 amendments in the name of Shona Robison to make improvements to a bill that the Government introduced and which it had already amended successfully at stage 2. If those 16 amendments—some of which we support and some of which have considerable merit—were required at the conclusion of the process for introducing primary legislation to make what are, in effect, changes that the Government says are simply procedural, that is argument enough that the Government has not made a sufficient case on the powers under part 2.

Photo of Jeremy Purvis Jeremy Purvis Liberal Democrat

I am conscious of the time, but I would like to give way because I have named the minister.

Photo of Shona Robison Shona Robison Scottish National Party

I am a little confused because, on the one hand, the member seems to be criticising the Government for not listening and then, when we listen and lodge amendments on the basis of what members have said, we get criticised as well. Is not that just a bit bizarre?

Photo of Jeremy Purvis Jeremy Purvis Liberal Democrat

My point is that the Government made changes to proposals that it had introduced. Many of the amendments that have been made today are drafting changes that the minister made to proposals that she had already introduced in a bill. Under a statutory instrument process, no changes could be made, which would have the effect of making considerably bad legislation. That is why, because of part 2, we simply cannot support the bill.

Photo of Linda Fabiani Linda Fabiani Scottish National Party 4:17 pm, 25th March 2010

Today's passing of the Public Services Reform (Scotland) Bill will be a welcome step towards achieving the Government's commitment to deliver improvements in a public sector landscape that has, over decades, become cluttered and complicated. An overlapping and duplicating network of public sector bodies causes unnecessary difficulties for members of the public and for the voluntary and private sector groups that have to work with those bodies.

The Finance Committee had interesting discussions on the bill, with contributions from throughout the relevant sectors. There was agreement that it is time for public sector reform. I hope that we can now streamline decision making and improve transparency in the network of Scottish public bodies, as well as reduce bureaucratic complexity for the private and voluntary sectors and individual citizens.

It is interesting that the Finance Committee is moving on to consider public sector reform more widely. I am pleased that we are doing so in conjunction with Scotland's Futures Forum, because it is time for radical thinking about the future of the public sector and the services that it provides. I urge all members to watch what happens as that inquiry unfolds under the convenership of Andrew Welsh.

I will close by quoting again something that I quoted in the stage 1 debate, which is a letter from the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth to the Finance Committee. It states:

"Parliament must be able to respond more quickly to changing circumstances and take advantage of opportunities to further streamline the public bodies landscape and improve the delivery of public services".

Today, we have established a foundation for that on which we can build.

Photo of Malcolm Chisholm Malcolm Chisholm Labour 4:19 pm, 25th March 2010

The debate is certainly the end of the beginning, and not just for the reason that Derek Brownlee gave, which was that public service reform will be a major theme of the next few years, but because regulations will assume a new importance under the bill. I will not go over the debates about part 2—I hope that there might not be too many regulations made under it—but there have not been many comments about how the rest of the bill depends to a new extent on regulation. I will concentrate on part 4.

I regret that parts 4 and 5 have not in general attracted more discussion and amendment. To an extent, that is because members have a great deal of confidence in the existing bodies that those parts deal with—the Social Work Inspection Agency and the Scottish Commission for the Regulation of Care, which will turn into social care and social work improvement Scotland, and Quality Improvement Scotland, which will turn into healthcare improvement Scotland. I pay tribute to their work. However, there are significant shifts in the inspection regime—for SCSWIS in particular—that merit discussion. I hope that we will have further discussion when the regulations come before the Parliament.

I said in committee that we all accept the principle of a move towards risk-based inspection, but the detail of that merits more scrutiny. In committee, I raised the issue of the extent to which self-evaluation is beginning to take over from inspection. I had an amendment passed at stage 2 that I hope will modify that process to some extent. Inspection has to be reasserted as a key part of the scrutiny regime. There will be real dangers if we move too much towards self-evaluation.

The second issue that I want to raise, which should also be discussed when regulations are laid, is to do with the timing and frequency of inspections. Some members in the chamber—certainly the Minister for Public Health and Sport—will remember that nine years ago a major feature of debate about the Regulation of Care (Scotland) Bill was that there should be two inspections a year for all 24-hour services. That has disappeared from the new legislative regime without any discussion whatever. People might have different views on that—they might see it as being part of risk-based inspection—but it has served us well for nine years. When the regulations are introduced, we should think carefully and decide whether there is merit in having regular inspections as well as additional inspections for services that are in difficulty. We will need to pay particularly close attention to the regulations under section 47 when they are introduced.

The regulations under section 97, which pertain to joint inspection, will also be important. There is a particular concern, which I raised in the stage 1 debate, about access to medical records. I know that there will be work and consultation on that, but we need to look seriously at the British Medical Association's suggestion that there should be such access only with consent and that, if consent is not given, there should be anonymisation.

Photo of Christina McKelvie Christina McKelvie Scottish National Party 4:22 pm, 25th March 2010

It is always nice to warm our hands at a wee bonfire and it is lovely to have a wee toastie fire of the things that we do not need. I am delighted to see the first flames licking around the feet of the quango state. Being an accomplished fire walker, I know how that feels.

I like the fact that the Government will be able to change the functions and operations of quangos much more easily in the future. The role that Parliament will have in any decisions that ministers want to take in relation to quangos means that parliamentary scrutiny of the quango state will carry with it a rather large stick. I appreciate that some members might disagree with me on that point, but I am sure that they will come round in the fullness of time.

There are serious safeguards in the legislation now. The powers to change quangos, which the bill will introduce, are similar to the powers in the Local Government in Scotland Act 2003. I like the parts that require public bodies to publish details about their financial transactions and the pay of their top cats. I also like the idea that details of payments to special advisers will be published. Open and transparent government is one of the founding principles of this place.

I also like the idea of social care and social work improvement Scotland and the model that has been presented for it. Social work has so often been the Cinderella of public services, but it provides important services to our society. If we can create one single cohesive body that will benchmark services throughout the country, offer advice on improvements and produce regular reports on performance, we might go some way towards matching the professionalism of the modern social worker with the regulatory system that governs their working life.

Of course, SCSWIS will not stand alone. Part 6 of the bill will require scrutiny bodies to focus on service users and co-operate across agencies up to and including having joint inspections, where that is appropriate. I know that my colleague Karen Whitefield sought to place a requirement on SCSWIS to work jointly with Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Education on inspections, but that already exists and SCSWIS will have that expertise.

The extension of joint inspections to adult services is particularly welcome, especially for the most vulnerable adults in our communities. Each of the scrutiny bodies will have to ensure that it is delivering the best possible service and support for front-line workers.

When we clean up the landscape, we see the safe roads and the pitfalls ahead of us and the benefits and disadvantages stand in starker relief. Quangos will operate in a more streamlined and publicly accountable manner, with minds focused more on the job at hand.

When the bill is passed later today, there will be a good reason for quangocrats to keep a weather eye on what their organisation is doing and how well it is doing it, lest some of us politicians decide to have a closer look. I believe that Scotland will be well served by the Public Services Reform (Scotland) Bill.

Photo of Pauline McNeill Pauline McNeill Labour 4:24 pm, 25th March 2010

I will spend my three minutes talking about part 3, which will establish creative Scotland. After listening to this afternoon's debate, I stand by what I have said in previous debates: I would still prefer the creative Scotland provisions to be in a stand-alone bill. The rushed timings today and the fact that we cannot debate fully issues that I would like to be fleshed out more show me that two important subjects for debate should not be merged in one bill again.

However, we must celebrate the fact that we are finally here—or just about, if the motion to pass the bill is agreed to tonight—on the establishment of creative Scotland. I congratulate Andrew Dixon, who is the body's new chief executive, and I thank Ewan Brown, who has seen through the work of creative Scotland's shadow board in these difficult times. The time has also been difficult for artists, the Scottish Arts Council's staff and Scottish Screen, which have endured the delay in the passage of the bill, but at last it is here.

The new body, creative Scotland, will face the challenges for the arts sector in a recession. The arts are a crucial part of our economy and it is arguable, for reasons that I will go into in the short time that is available to me, that they can be an important aspect of economic recovery.

I would have preferred creative Scotland to have a lead co-ordinating role specified in the bill, but the Minister for Culture and External Affairs made it clear today that it will be the lead body for the arts and culture in Scotland in its co-ordinating role.

I am still disappointed that the budget that Scottish Enterprise holds has not been transferred to the new body, but I hope that that will happen in the future, because that will provide the most potential for growth, and I would like creative Scotland to have access to as many resources as possible, in order to nurture that growth as best it can.

We have not had much opportunity to talk in detail about what people expect from the new body. I will say something about Scottish Screen, which will be abolished from tonight, when we establish creative Scotland. I have always argued that it is a shame that we will lose the Scottish Screen branding. The then Minister for Culture, External Affairs and the Constitution told me, in response to a question, that the new branding will be that of creative Scotland and that we will lose the Scottish Screen branding. I ask the Minister for Culture and External Affairs to clarify whether the Scottish Screen branding can be kept under the banner of creative Scotland.

Scotland's investment in film raises issues. Northern Ireland has a studio that is receiving some business that Scotland is not receiving because Scotland has no such studio. It was also drawn to my attention more recently that the framework of our smoking ban prevents some historical dramas from being filmed in Scotland, because they have no exemption.

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None

You must close now, please, Ms McNeill.

Photo of Pauline McNeill Pauline McNeill Labour

That is important if we believe that we should bring the production of films and drama to Scotland. I know that the health minister is here listening—

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None

I am sorry; I have no more time available. I can give Margo MacDonald one minute.

Photo of Margo MacDonald Margo MacDonald Independent 4:28 pm, 25th March 2010

Thank you for your forbearance, Presiding Officer. I will support the bill tonight not because I support power grabs by executives, but because the Government has demonstrated enough good will towards the points that Derek Brownlee, Malcolm Chisholm and others have made. The position will depend on how ministers exercise their new powers under part 2. We heard today a willingness from the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth to accept the suggestions of the Subordinate Legislation Committee, for example, which makes me think that he will bring pressure to bear on the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, who must assure us that the inspection of services for vulnerable children will be as good as we want it to be.

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None

I thank all members for speaking within the time that is available and I hope that members will continue to do that.

Photo of Jeremy Purvis Jeremy Purvis Liberal Democrat 4:29 pm, 25th March 2010

Concerns remain about aspects of the bill that have been discussed today. There is a concern that the fairly radical changes that relate to Waterwatch may well impact on how the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman operates and its relationship with constituents. I asked the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth about the effect of amendment 81, which was, regrettably, agreed to. That amendment disapplies the ombudsman's inability to investigate contractual or commercial transactions in relation to water services. That means that the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman will have the ability to investigate—in fact, there is now an expectation that it will—contractual or commercial transactions that cover Scottish Water, Scottish Water Solutions and any sub-contractor of Scottish Water or Scottish Water Solutions and, indeed, their work. Members in all parties will know that a regular amount of our casework deals with the local operations of Scottish Water. The ombudsman is very clear that the relationship with it now will be able to apply only without any investigations of commercial transactions or rectifying any issues. That is a considerable problem.

It is regrettable that the Government did not recognise that the further issue of bonuses is competent and that the case is clear. The cabinet secretary indicated that my amendments were discriminatory because they applied to only one element of the public sector in Scotland. If that is the case, considerable concerns will have to be raised about the status of the "Public Sector Pay Policy: Policy for Senior Appointments 2009-10" and its successor for 2010-11, because it states clearly that it applies only to chief executives or, in exceptional circumstances, directors. Given that, if my amendments were discriminatory, so is the Government's pay policy. The cabinet secretary gave the impression that there is no ability, in the review of a new appointment or the review that it is good practice to carry out for all existing chief executives, for bonuses to be excluded. I ask the Minister for Culture and External Affairs, when she sums up, to state clearly to the Parliament whether, in any of the discussions with the new chief executive of creative Scotland, bonuses were considered. Were bonuses considered by the Government in any discussions on their pay and conditions? What is the position? If the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth was right, the new chief executive of creative Scotland would have been able to demand bonus consideration as part of their pay and conditions. I will be interested to hear whether the minister can clarify that point in her summing up.

I am afraid that the bill is not a bonfire of the quangos. It raises serious concerns about the role of the Parliament and that is why, regrettably, we cannot support it.

Photo of Gavin Brown Gavin Brown Conservative 4:32 pm, 25th March 2010

The Scottish Conservatives supported the principles of the bill at stage 1, with one or two reservations on matters contained therein. We made it clear that, unless changes were made to the bill, we would not support it at stage 3, but, as we heard from my colleague Derek Brownlee, the changes that we requested have been made, so we will support it at decision time. We need to streamline our public services and make them more efficient, not only for their own ends, but because we must do everything that we can to protect front-line services, given the tough times that will inevitably follow for Scotland. One of the best ways to protect those services is to make them more efficient, effective and streamlined.

John Swinney was correct when he said that the chamber did not agree on every issue during the course of the day. Indeed, that was perhaps something of an understatement. We think that the order-making power in part 2 is required, which is why we voted against various amendments from Mr Whitton. We think that the power is desirable and that it allows a more streamlined process than primary legislation. It allows faster, more nimble movement and we are satisfied that sufficient safeguards are contained in the provisions and that there has been sufficient movement from the Government to allow us to support it and, indeed, the bill as a whole.

In the amendments that my colleague Derek Brownlee lodged, he focused on the transparency of spending by Government and its agencies. We think that having transparency and making those agencies accountable for the money that they spend is, in itself, a good thing and we think that it will lead to a reduction in expenditure on non-essential items.

My final point is on the amendments to which Mr Purvis referred. We considered them, because we want there to be a reduction in the size of the public purse, but he needs to note a couple of points before he puts out his press release this evening. The first one is that Derek Brownlee pointed out that the measure would save approximately £88,000. No Liberal Democrat challenged that figure. If the measure was truly about saving money and saving the public purse, they did not come back with any larger figure that they felt would be saved. Perhaps they could put that on their press release. The Liberal Democrats might also reflect on the fact that, when push came to shove, only 17 members supported amendment 78. The Liberal Democrats were unable to convince any of the larger parties that the measures were legal and would make a tangible difference.

Reform will be a dominating issue during the next five to 10 years. What matters is what happens afterwards.

Photo of Andy Kerr Andy Kerr Labour 4:35 pm, 25th March 2010

This has been a day of retrograde steps and missed opportunities. Good arguments were made in the debate on Waterwatch Scotland, but they were not responded to effectively. The same can be said for the debate on the loss of powers to the Parliament and its parliamentarians. Concern was expressed about the measures on child protection but, again, no real response was given, as happened in relation to David Whitton's arguments on the need to streamline the negotiating machinery in Scotland.

I say with regret that the bill has been badly handled, badly managed and badly delivered. We should not be surprised to find ourselves in such a situation; the Government's approach echoed its previous attempt to establish creative Scotland. I advise the Government that if the bill did not contain provision to establish creative Scotland we would vote against it. It is a shambles, but we will reluctantly vote for it, because we do not want there to be further delay at the hands of the Government in the establishment of creative Scotland.

In many areas, the cabinet secretary has been unconvincing. The mood has been ugly at times, particularly when we consider the handmaidens of the Scottish Government, Mr Brownlee and his friends. A man who wants to ensure that £25,000 of expenditure by the Scottish Government is scrutinised is more than happy to divest the Parliament of its responsibilities and abilities to hold the Government to account. We should not be surprised. Did not David McLetchie say that the next best thing to a Tory Government is an SNP Government that does Tory things? A centralisation agenda is before us. Mr Purvis prosecuted the case against the Scottish Tories effectively when he commented on the different reaction of Tories in London to what has been called the abolition of Parliament bill. The irony is not lost on many members of the Scottish Parliament.

Photo of Andy Kerr Andy Kerr Labour

With respect, I have only four minutes.

The bill does not do enough to reform public services. We are in favour of streamlining quangos, which is why we support the establishment of social care and social work improvement Scotland. However, as many members said, such streamlining must be done in a way that improves the delivery of services to the public. The bill represents an exercise in crude arithmetic, with a view to getting a result and being able to talk about a bonfire of the quangos; the price that we will pay for that is too high.

We have witnessed an unprecedented power grab by the Government today. It is unfortunate that that has happened. However, as Margo MacDonald and many other members said, if the bill is passed the Government should not assume that the Scottish Parliament will take its eye off the measures in it, even for a minute. I say with a heavy heart that Labour members will support the bill. We do so only because of the Government's previous cock-up on the establishment of creative Scotland. We have no desire for the power grab to the centre that the Administration is proposing.

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party 4:39 pm, 25th March 2010

I thank all seven parliamentary committees that were involved in scrutinising the bill, as well as the witnesses, various civil service teams and public body staff who all played a valuable part in developing the bill to this final stage.

The Public Services Reform (Scotland) Bill makes a significant contribution to the development of the Government's wider public services reform agenda. That agenda, which the First Minister announced two years ago, is focused on simplifying and integrating public services and on promoting the sharing of services through closer collaboration on matters such as procurement. We are working closely with local government and with public bodies as part of our effective public bodies programme to improve the alignment of objectives towards achieving the Government's overarching purpose of sustainable economic growth.

The Government's simplification programme, including the proposals in the bill, will deliver net financial savings of around £127 million over 2008 to 2013 and recurring annual savings of around £40 million thereafter. Derek Brownlee made points about the need to go further and faster, particularly bearing in mind the current economic climate.

Important points were made in the debate—not least by Derek Brownlee, Margo MacDonald and Malcolm Chisholm—about how the order-making powers in part 2 of the bill will be exercised. That is critical. None of us, whether in the Government or any party in the Parliament, should assume what will happen. The will of the Parliament will prevail in the exercise of those powers.

I am pleased that, if we pass the bill, we will take a further step on the way to establishing social care and social work improvement Scotland and healthcare improvement Scotland by April 2011. They will provide more streamlined, better co-ordinated, proportionate and risk-based scrutiny and will focus on supporting improvement, which is important. I emphasise that the expertise and staff of HMIE's current child protection team will move to SCSWIS and, in SCSWIS, will still be able to work with the remainder of HMIE. I hope that that gives members some reassurance, particularly on child protection. The new powers in the bill will allow bodies to build a comprehensive picture of how the needs of the people who use their services are met.

The Parliament has also approved a package of amendments in relation to the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland. The commission will focus on the needs of individuals with a mental disorder or learning disability and will be able to work with other scrutiny bodies. There is also an update to the commission's governance structure, which will ensure that service users and others with expertise and knowledge of mental health services are more formally involved in its work.

I am delighted to say that, if it is passed, the bill will also establish the long-awaited single, unified national body for arts and culture: creative Scotland. I regret the Liberal Democrats' rejection of that. The development of creative Scotland has not been smooth or easy, but the final organisation should be all the better for the work that has been undertaken over the past 12 months.

In successive generations, Scotland has produced musicians, sculptors, writers, painters, dancers and composers whose hugely varied talents have received national and international acclaim. That wealth of talent exists in Scotland and needs to be nurtured and supported. I expect creative Scotland to help realise the potential contribution of art and creativity to every part of our society and economy. I say to Pauline McNeill that the use of the Scottish Screen brand will be an operational matter for creative Scotland, and I will pass on her remarks to the body.

Creative Scotland will help to promote Scottish culture at home and internationally. It will be modern, vibrant and progressive; it will draw on our rich heritage but project Scotland in a contemporary way. I am ambitious for the body and what it can achieve. The appointment of its chief executive designate has been well received. His contract was negotiated as a new contract without a bonus—a negotiation that was without prejudice in law in advance.

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

No, I must finish.

A new state of the art office is being identified, a new business model is being established and we are now recruiting for a chair and board. Scotland owes immense gratitude to Ewan Brown and the team of Creative Scotland 2009 Ltd for getting us here. With the Parliament's approval, our new dynamic arts and culture body, creative Scotland, will shortly be established. The momentum and dynamic exist. I hope that it has the best will of Parliament.

I thank everyone who was involved in developing the bill. It is unusually large and varied in its scope. It is testament to the hard work and robust processes of all those involved—including John Swinney's determined and formidable leadership—that such an extensive bill can be brought together and reach fruition within a year.

I know that, across the Parliament, members have a keen sense of public service as individual MSPs. We may have different political views as to how public services are organised, but I am sure that, as a final note in the debate, members will join me in paying tribute to all the staff who work in our public bodies day in, day out to deliver quality public services to the Scottish people.

I ask members to endorse the Public Services Reform (Scotland) Bill.

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None

That concludes the debate on the bill. I am grateful to members for ensuring that we were able to bring the debate to a close on time.