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Public Services Reform (Scotland) Bill

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 4:12 pm on 25th March 2010.

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

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.