Consumer Focus

Scottish Executive Question Time — General Questions – in the Scottish Parliament at 11:40 am on 4th November 2010.

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Photo of Rhona Brankin Rhona Brankin Labour 11:40 am, 4th November 2010

To ask the Scottish Executive what discussions it has had with the United Kingdom Government regarding its decision to abolish Consumer Focus and what it considers the devolved implications to be for Scotland. (S3O-11819)

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

In response to the UK Government's changes to consumer protection functions, the Scottish Government is working with local government partners and Scottish stakeholders more widely to develop practical proposals that will serve the needs of consumers and service providers here.

Photo of Rhona Brankin Rhona Brankin Labour

Does the cabinet secretary share my concern that the decision by the Tory-Liberal UK Government to abolish Consumer Focus will undermine consumers' and citizens' rights? Does he agree that Citizens Advice Scotland might not have the resources that will be necessary to fill the gap in service provision that is brought about by the decision, especially bearing in mind its increased workload following the welfare cuts that have been announced under the comprehensive spending review? Does he agree that the £70 million of refunds from npower that Consumer Focus secured last month is just one example of the good work that the organisation has done? Will he commit to ensuring that consumers' rights continue to be championed in Scotland?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

I reassure Rhona Brankin that, notwithstanding the decision that the UK Government has taken, the Scottish Government entirely shares her view that the interests of consumer protection must be assured in any future arrangements.

Clearly, the UK Government has taken certain decisions that have implications for Citizens Advice Scotland. As I said in my original answer, we have to engage in a discussion with various stakeholders to ensure that the type of consumer protection that Rhona Brankin clearly wishes to see in place can be assured for people in Scotland. I give a commitment that the Government will constructively explore that proposal in the period ahead. If Rhona Brankin wishes to make specific representations to the Government on the matter, I will be happy to receive them.