19 June 2003

S2M-137 Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Bill

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Murray Tosh): The next item of business is a debate on motion S2M-137, in the name of Malcolm Chisholm, on the Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Bill, which is UK legislation. I invite members who wish to participate to press their request-to-speak buttons now.
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Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): It is 125 minutes since Jack McConnell, in answer to Frances Curran in the chamber, stated:
"Devolution is about taking responsibility for our affairs".
That is the simple nub of the issue and it is why the Scottish National Party, on each and every occasion, will have the Scottish Parliament legislate on matters that affect people in Scotland and not cede that duty to another place, unless doing so has a clear and identifiable benefit to Scotland.
Alex Johnstone (North East Scotland) (Con): On the same ground, will the SNP begin to ignore European directives as well?
Stewart Stevenson: Where Europe has the legislative competence to legislate, Europe should legislate; where the Scottish Parliament has that legislative competence, we should do so. This current matter is an example of an area in which we have the competence to legislate and should do so. Mr Johnstone's views on Europe are well known and differ radically from mine.
I want to ask the minister some practical questions. It appears that the consideration that is financially associated with the proposal is some £7 million to £12 million a year. The figure is not entirely clear and will not be so until the proposal is implemented. The minister told us that he is considering having a £33,000 cap on the scheme, but it appears to me that a range of costs, which might be similar to or greater than the benefits that are to be derived, might be associated with implementing the changes. What will be the cost to underwriters of the process of negotiating the additional cover that they will need to write for a variety of insurance policy holders? What will be the cost of notifying the 1 million or so insurance policy holders in Scotland whose insurance will be affected by the proposal? What will be the cost to small businesses? Indeed, what are the views of the Federation of Small Businesses and the Forum of Private Business on the additional costs that might be borne by their members? It is quite reasonable that we seek equity, of course. What will be the cost to the national health service of implementing the proposal?
The minister told us that a tariff will be set. I assume—since I am not familiar with the tariff—that there will be a tariff for various kinds of incidents. Having the health service charge in that way will, of necessity, be relatively arbitrary. If the scope of this sort of recovery is extended, I foresee that it will be challenged on the basis that it does not reflect the costs that are incurred by the health service with regard to an individual incident. Does that mean that the NHS will have to introduce a timekeeping operation for all incidents that occur in accident and emergency departments against the possibility that such a claim might be made? If so, what would be the cost of that to the NHS?
I ask those questions not because I expect the minister to answer them, but as examples of the kind of questions that the Scottish Parliament should be asking when it considers this proposal. If we cede this matter to a Parliament elsewhere, where it will be hidden well from the media and MSPs, we will end up not knowing the cost to the Scottish Executive, the NHS, insurance companies and small businesses of legislation that is enacted elsewhere.
Mr Monteith: The member voted to remove the cap on the spending on the Scottish Parliament building at Holyrood at a time when he could not have known how much it would cost. Surely that fact does not fit with his current argument.
Stewart Stevenson: I am not entirely sure which vote the member is referring to, but I seem to recall that, within my first month in the Parliament, in June 2001, I voted differently to the way that Mr Monteith suggests.
I am into value for money. The costs of implementing the proposal could be extraordinarily high. Frankly, it might be better to cut out the middleman and get the insurance industry to sub the NHS £12 million a year, because that would reduce the amount of administration that would be needed. That suggestion is yet another example of the sort of issue that we should be debating in the Parliament in relation to all the Sewell motions that are used willy-nilly to pass power from here to another place.
I will oppose the motion.

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