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Public Services Reform (Scotland) Bill

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 4:29 pm on 25th March 2010.

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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.