Ken Macintosh MSP

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Ken Macintosh MSP

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Parliamentary Activities

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Meeting of the Parliament 16 December 2014 : 16 December 2014
Ken Macintosh

Mr Doris, please calm down. I was just trying to tease former members of the committee and Mr Stewart, who is still a committee member. We were in agreement on the proposal, but Mr Stewart’s principles were clearly compromised by the minister’s instructions. The minister has now changed her mind, and the chamber should welcome that.

The second issue that I want to highlight, which came up a number of times, is that of making cash payments as opposed to providing support in kind. For community grants, which help to furnish a new flat in an emergency, for example, I have no doubt that good arguments were put for providing white goods, furniture packages and so on. However, the evidence in favour of that approach was much weaker when it came to crisis grants. Many witnesses talked openly about being judged and stigmatised by the welfare system, and many voluntary organisations such as Oxfam said that, if we are serious about wanting to maintain the dignity of and respect for individuals and families in the system, we could consider allowing clients to exercise choice. That theme was expanded on by Alex Rowley, Jackie Baillie and other members. In a particularly thoughtful speech, Willie Rennie talked about the difficulty of grappling with such issues and said that our fine words need to be reflected in our actions if we want to end stigma and build a system that is based on trust and respect.

The argument was put most succinctly by the Scottish campaign on welfare reform. In its evidence to the Scottish Government, it stated:

“There is a risk that by systematically ... allocating goods rather than cash payments local authorities will remove choice and undermine the dignity of the individual.”

For instance, handing out vouchers can not only limit the choice available to applicants but create stigma, undermine dignity and lead people to feel that they are receiving handouts rather than exercising a legitimate right to assistance during a crisis. I leave the minister with the thought that the Scottish Government’s own statistics show that, in the first year of the interim scheme, more than 80 per cent of the spend was in kind rather than by way of cash, cheque or bank transfer.

The final issue that I want to highlight is the decision by the Scottish Government to set a two-day deadline for turning round crisis payments, rather than the 24-hour target that the DWP laid down. I do not doubt the minister’s good intentions in wanting the process to be as speedy as possible, but when I asked her about the issue in committee, she said:

“The DWP’s 24-hour deadline for decisions applied only once all the information was there. Sometimes such a decision could take three weeks because the DWP said that it did not have all the information. I am simply saying that that is not happening now.”—[Official Report, Welfare Reform Committee, 4 November 2014; c 40.]

According to the Child Poverty Action Group,

“This is not entirely accurate.”

I should stress that that is a quote from written information that CPAG provided after we had taken evidence from it. It pointed out that the current SWF guidance and the draft regulations state that the deadline kicks in only after all the information has been gathered. In other words, there is no difference between what they say and what the DWP says in that respect.

CPAG went on to point out that any lengthy delays in the processing of crisis loans under the old DWP system were more likely to have related to the need to make a decision about whether the applicant was likely to be able to repay the loan rather than their eligibility for an award. It said that, as ability to repay was clearly not a concern in relation to the Scottish welfare fund, it should not slow down the process of decision making.

Crucially, CPAG highlighted the Scottish Government-produced crisis loan statistics that show that, in the last year of the DWP scheme’s operation, a decision was made within two days in 98.6 per cent of cases whereas, in the quarter to June 2014, the SWF achieved only 94 per cent against the same measure. CPAG concluded:

“There is no implicit reason that processing times should be longer in relation to crisis grants than they were for crisis loans.”

It also made the point that Alex Johnstone made earlier. It was concerned that the inclusion of a reference to a 48-hour time limit once all relevant information is received might lead some decision makers to request evidence when it is not needed.

That is not a minor or unimportant matter. Just in the last week, the “Feeding Britain” report on the use of food banks across the UK highlighted the impact of benefit delays and the number of people who are left with no income at all, forcing them to turn to food banks. The Scottish Government’s own review of the interim scheme, which was carried out by Heriot-Watt University, made a number of recommendations on that very point, including the recommendation that

“The maximum target processing time for Crisis Grants should be ‘by the end of the working day’.”

The Parliament will have the opportunity to return to the subject of welfare later this week. I hope that we will have a broader discussion on our approach to the powers that will be delivered under the Smith agreement. I recognise that there are differences to explore in that debate but, today at least, we have before us a relatively uncontentious bill, on the need for which we all agree. We all agree on the broad approach, and I hope that we can focus in a practical and collaborative manner to get the proposed legislation right.



Meeting of the Parliament 16 December 2014 : 16 December 2014
Ken Macintosh

The point is the caveated statement versus the minister’s actions. The minister has now removed the measure from the bill. [Interruption.] I was just trying to tease Mr Stewart.



Meeting of the Parliament 16 December 2014 : 16 December 2014
Ken Macintosh

Oh, he is!



Meeting of the Parliament 16 December 2014 : 16 December 2014
Ken Macintosh

That must be why Labour suggested removing the proposal from the bill but the SNP voted instead for this trenchant line:

“However, in light of the evidence received the Committee recommends that the Scottish Government consider the issue of outsourcing in light of EU procurement laws”.

That was a bold statement from Mr Stewart, who is not jumping to his feet this time.

Kevin Stewart rose—



Meeting of the Parliament 16 December 2014 : 16 December 2014
Ken Macintosh

The very person—Mr Stewart. I will give way to him.



Meeting of the Parliament 16 December 2014 : 16 December 2014
Ken Macintosh

Thank you, Mr Don—I was in fact being ironic. On that consensual note, it is worth noting that not only Labour, but every party in the chamber, supports the general principles of the bill and will vote for it at decision time.

Although there have been relatively heated discussions between SNP and Labour members on such matters in the Welfare Reform Committee, we are broadly aligned in opposing the Tory welfare reforms and on taking action to mitigate their effect in Scotland. Our position on this bill is no exception.

The bill is relatively straightforward. The UK Government has decided to abolish the old social fund and to devolve responsibility for emergency welfare payments, along with most—if not all—of the funding, to Scotland and to local authorities in England. The Labour Party supports the Scottish Government in passing on the administration of emergency welfare payments to our local authorities; in replacing the system of loans with a system of grants; and—crucially—in trying to make good at least some of the shortfall in funding.

In taking evidence, the committee found a broad consensus on that general approach from most stakeholders, including welfare recipients, local authorities and the voluntary sector. It is fair to say that a few misgivings were expressed about the bill’s other notable feature: namely, the appointment of the SPSO as the body responsible for adjudicating on second-tier appeals. However, as several members have highlighted, we also broadly agreed that, on balance, the SPSO is probably best placed to take on the task in the circumstances.

That said, a few issues have emerged in evidence in relation to which the Scottish Government could undoubtedly make improvements to the bill. The committee’s convener, Michael McMahon, listed a few, including the importance of reviewing eligibility criteria, notwithstanding Bob Doris’s comments in defence of not doing so. The convener also highlighted the need to reconsider the redistribution of funding among local authorities and the need for regulations to be subject to affirmative procedure. My colleague Jackie Baillie also made the important point that the current fund has been underspent. Although the Government has made funds available, if we do not advertise their availability to recipients, they will not help to satisfy the need that exists in Scotland.

I will focus on three issues in particular. The first and most notable is the minister’s odd insistence, initially, that she should take powers in the bill that would allow her to privatise the service at some future date. Witnesses from the third sector were unanimous in opposing that measure and were universally hostile to the prospect of allowing private companies to deliver state benefits for profit. Given the vocal comments of SNP back benchers on the issue both this afternoon and previously, I do not think that I was alone in being surprised when the SNP committee members at Westminster voted to keep the proposal in the bill at stage 1.



Meeting of the Parliament 16 December 2014 : 16 December 2014
Ken Macintosh (Eastwood) (Lab)

I thank the minister for her foresight in instigating a debate on welfare reform within one hour of my promotion to the social justice brief, thereby elevating me to the job of closing the debate. I say to Jackie Baillie, my immediate predecessor in the role, that she should read absolutely nothing into the fact that the tone of today’s debate, on a subject that is normally very fractious and disputatious, has been very consensual. There is no link between my appointment and the consensual tone of the debate.



Meeting of the Parliament 11 December 2014 : 11 December 2014
Ken Macintosh (Eastwood) (Lab)

Parents in East Renfrewshire and throughout Scotland who face drastic cuts to their children’s school budgets will be particularly anxious about the line in the cabinet secretary’s statement in which he referred to

“teacher numbers as an important contributory factor”

in our children’s education. Will he confirm that that means that he has officially abandoned his commitment to maintain teacher numbers, which he has singularly failed to meet in any event?



Welfare Reform Committee 09 December 2014 : 09 December 2014
Ken Macintosh

Thank you very much.



Welfare Reform Committee 09 December 2014 : 09 December 2014
Ken Macintosh

When you have had a bad experience, it is difficult to see what will happen next.

Vote DetailMSP VoteResult

S4M-11901.3 Neil Findlay: Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce—As an amendment to motion S4M-11901
>> Show more
YesDefeated

S4M-11901.1 Mary Scanlon: Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce—As an amendment to motion S4M-11901
>> Show more
YesDefeated

S4M-11830.2 John Swinney: The Smith Commission—As an amendment to motion S4M-11830 in the name of Ru
>> Show more
Not VotedCarried

S4M-11830 Ruth Davidson: The Smith Commission—That the Parliament welcomes the publication of the Sm
>> Show more
Not VotedCarried

Amendment 6 moved by Dr Richard Simpson on motion S4M-11826 Maureen Watt: Food (Scotland) Bill—That
>> Show more
YesDefeated

S4M-11825.3 Claire Baker: End of Year Fish Negotiations—As an amendment to motion S4M-11825 in the n
>> Show more
YesDefeated

S4M-11825.2 Jamie McGrigor: End of Year Fish Negotiations—As an amendment to motion S4M-11825 in the
>> Show more
YesDefeated

S4M-11825.1 Tavish Scott: End of Year Fish Negotiations—As an amendment to motion S4M-11825 in the n
>> Show more
AbstainDefeated

S4M-11825 Richard Lochhead: End of Year Fish Negotiations—That the Parliament welcomes the successfu
>> Show more
AbstainCarried

S4M-11763.3 Margaret Burgess: Private Sector Rent Reform—As an amendment to motion S4M-11763 in the
>> Show more
NoCarried

Search for other Motions lodged by Ken Macintosh
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Motion S4M-11340: Ken Macintosh, Eastwood, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 29/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11310: Ken Macintosh, Eastwood, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 27/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11273: Ken Macintosh, Eastwood, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 22/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10819: Ken Macintosh, Eastwood, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 15/08/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10766: Ken Macintosh, Eastwood, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 10/08/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10023: Ken Macintosh, Eastwood, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 12/05/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09878: Ken Macintosh, Eastwood, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 30/04/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09633: Ken Macintosh, Eastwood, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 04/04/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-08406: Ken Macintosh, Eastwood, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 25/11/2013 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-07580: Ken Macintosh, Eastwood, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 04/09/2013 Show Full Motion >>
Search for other Questions asked by Ken Macintosh
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Question S4W-23406: Ken Macintosh, Eastwood, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 24/11/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23407: Ken Macintosh, Eastwood, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 24/11/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23382: Ken Macintosh, Eastwood, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 21/11/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23190: Ken Macintosh, Eastwood, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 17/11/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23186: Ken Macintosh, Eastwood, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 17/11/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23093: Ken Macintosh, Eastwood, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 10/11/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23092: Ken Macintosh, Eastwood, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 10/11/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23095: Ken Macintosh, Eastwood, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 10/11/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23094: Ken Macintosh, Eastwood, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 10/11/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03690: Ken Macintosh, Eastwood, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 03/11/2014 Show Full Question >>

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