Claire Baker MSP

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Claire Baker MSP

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Parliamentary Activities

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Meeting of the Parliament 08 October 2014 : Wednesday, October 08, 2014
14. Claire Baker (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)

To ask the Scottish Government what the head count, enrolment and full-time equivalent figures are for female students at colleges in 2014 compared with 2011. (S4O-03584)



Meeting of the Parliament 08 October 2014 : Wednesday, October 08, 2014
Claire Baker

The trend that we have seen over recent years is that, while the full-time equivalent figure has gone up, the head count number has been going down, indicating that fewer women are studying in our colleges.

When I had a roundtable discussion with single parents from Levenmouth, they said that the biggest barrier to women going into college was the affordability and availability of childcare. There is an on-going review of the childcare workforce, but what analysis has the Government done of capacity in the childcare sector, which could specifically address the needs of parents who are seeking to go back to college?



Meeting of the Parliament 08 October 2014 : Wednesday, October 08, 2014
Claire Baker

That is outrageous.



Meeting of the Parliament 02 October 2014 : Thursday, October 02, 2014
Claire Baker (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)

I am pleased to be taking part in the debate. The bill sets out the operational detail for food standards Scotland. I think that everyone in the chamber supports the general principles, but I will make one point about the board’s membership. Although the committee supports the Government proposals on the board’s membership, it does not support the proposal on sectoral representatives. I ask the minister to reflect on the Mather commission’s report, which the Scottish Government welcomed at the time, which recommends employee directors for public body boards. The establishment of food standards Scotland gives the Government the opportunity to act on the issue. Given the particular responsibilities of food standards Scotland and the key importance of the consumer, it would be important to have employee representation on the board in some form.

Although it was the Health and Sport Committee that scrutinised the Food (Scotland) Bill and it is the Minister for Public Health who is putting the case to us today, food standards Scotland is an organisation whose responsibility will extend to the food inspection regime in Scotland, covering work in abattoirs and meat plants, as well as issues around accurate labelling and food fraud. I will focus on those issues.

A few weeks ago, I spoke at The Scotsman conference on food and drink during food and drink fortnight. At the conference there was a clear emphasis on Scotland’s strong brand, on our international reputation and on provenance and transparency in our food sector. It was recognised that if Scotland’s food and drink sector is to grow, make a significant contribution to our economy and offer quality employment opportunities, those strengths must be promoted and protected.

The establishment of a new food standards body—we all support the necessity of a separate Scottish body for the reasons that others have outlined—gives us an opportunity to be clear about our expectations on the operation of the food sector and to introduce a robust regulatory regime that puts the consumer firmly at its centre.

There are some real challenges in the sector. It is a tough sector and food production is highly competitive. It operates on very narrow profit margins and we can see the impact of that. Recently, four free-range chicken producers’ contracts with Hook 2 Sisters were terminated. That will result in the total number of independent chicken producers in Scotland falling from 28 to 16 and the number of chickens produced in Scotland falling by 7 million birds at a time when chicken consumption is increasing.

We all recognise the pressures that are on food producers—rising prices, pressure from the supermarkets and increasing competition from overseas—but we cannot allow them to lead to any weakening of our regulation. The numbers of meat inspectors and meat inspections have fallen in recent years. They exist to protect the consumer, but they also protect Scotland’s brand and reputation.

In a recent Bank of Scotland report on the food and drink sector, 64 per cent of those questioned identified regulation and compliance as a significant challenge for their sector, but any damage to our sector, which would be left vulnerable with light-touch regulation, would take years to recover from. We know that from recent examples. We need to ensure that the sector’s well-earned reputation is protected. Although all effort must be made to have regulation that is proportionate, it must also be robust and effective.

Let us consider some of the realities within the sector. A recent freedom of information request by Unison Scotland showed that, since April 2012, meat inspectors and vets have prevented more than 1 million cases of diseased animal carcases from entering the food chain. That included 659,000 instances of liver fluke parasite and 427,000 instances of pneumonia in red meat carcases. The figures are pretty concerning, but the fact that we have a meat inspection regime means that diseased carcases are being detected before they reach the human food chain.

There is intense lobbying at European Union level for lighter-touch regulation that increasingly looks to pass the responsibility from the public sector to the industry. There are real concerns about the consequences of that for the consumer. Already, 37 out of the 87 poultry plants across the UK have employed their own meat inspectors. For me, that raises issues of accountability and conflict of interest.

The creation of a new body in Scotland gives us an opportunity to ensure that regulation acts in the interests of the consumer. Two of the body’s objectives clearly emphasise protection of the consumer. Although measures must be proportionate and support the industry, it must also be demonstrated that they deserve the public’s trust. Trust must be at the heart of the new body. It needs to be able to hold the public’s confidence. Sections of the industry are failing and we certainly need to work with them to challenge that and to raise standards.

However, they also need to be transparent and accountable. Meat inspectors and vets must be able to carry out thorough, independent inspections, free from food sector influence. Of course there are people in the sector who recognise that and the value of the system, but we need only to speak to some of the people who work on the factory floor to get an understanding of how tough the sector can be, how hard the working conditions are, how pressured the sector is to produce the end product quickly, how difficult it can be to go in and enforce the inspection regime and how essential it is to have a robust regulatory regime with independent scrutiny.

The new body—food standards Scotland—must have a clear position on that and support its staff who work at the sharp end, because another reality is that produce at the lower end of the sector is more vulnerable. The demand for cheap food from the retail sector and the consumer puts pressure on the sector, but we cannot allow the low-income consumer to be left vulnerable to poor practice. The recently highlighted growth in food fraud, which ranges from counterfeiting to mislabelling and substitution, is also a significant challenge for the new body to address.

I will close with some concerns about environmental health officers—in particular, issues of capacity and underfunding.

At the height of the horsemeat scandal last year, the pressure on local authority services became clear. In 2008, more than 16,000 food safety samples were taken throughout Scotland but budgetary pressures meant that, by 2012, that had dropped to just over 10,000 samples. There had also been a 21 per cent drop in the number of specialist food safety officers who were employed by local authorities.

Increasingly, the capacity does not exist to carry out regular checks. If we want a service to be delivered that meets the challenges of the modern world, it needs to be better supported by not just local government, which faces financial pressures, but central Government and the new food standards body.

The bill establishes the legal standing of food standards Scotland. The debate will now move on to the new body’s policy and practice. If we are prepared to put the interests of the consumer first, everyone—including the industry—will benefit from the advantages of safe, high-quality, respected and trusted Scottish produce.



Meeting of the Parliament 02 October 2014 : Thursday, October 02, 2014
Claire Baker

Although the member is correct in his description of the horsemeat scandal, does he recognise that substitution is an issue in Scotland? There have been cases of substitution involving, for example, white fish and lamb, particularly in the restaurant sector. Despite the fact that the horsemeat scandal was not linked to Scotland, we still face issues with food fraud and substitution that we need to deal with.



Meeting of the Parliament 25 June 2014 : Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Claire Baker (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)

8. To ask the Scottish Government when it last met the Scottish Further and Higher Education Funding Council and what issues were discussed. (S4O-03408)



Meeting of the Parliament 25 June 2014 : Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Claire Baker The cabinet secretary may be aware of Fife College’s decision to replace the adult programme courses with a two-year community skills course. Concerns have been raised with me that, for more than 100 students who have additional support needs and who currently benefit from non-certificated courses, the new course will not meet their needs and they will be excluded from college opportunities and the related social and educational benefits. What direction does the cabinet secretary give to the Scottish funding council regarding educational opportunities for adults with additional support needs within the college sector and does he recognise that the reduction in non-certificated courses is having an adverse impact on people who have additional support needs?



Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee 11 June 2014 : Wednesday, June 11, 2014
Claire Baker (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab) I welcome the minister’s opening remarks. I hope that members who are committed to land reform can bring forward a radical agenda.

On cost, at last week’s meeting, stakeholders expressed a feeling that although transparency is important, there might be other ways to achieve it than by completion of the land register. It was suggested that the money could be better spent and bring greater gains.

At stages 2 and 3 of the Land Registration etc (Scotland) Bill, Fergus Ewing was pretty clear about the costs, which was one of the reasons why he did not commit to a timescale. At the time, some of the language in the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee was not particularly helpful. Members were asked whether they wanted money to be spent on the land register instead of on schools and hospitals—that might have been committee banter, but Fergus Ewing certainly identified an issue to do with how much registration would cost. More clarity on the issue would be welcome.

The land reform review group commented that land reform has been pursued in a pretty piecemeal and incoherent way. The Land Registration etc (Scotland) Bill is a key example of that. During the bill’s passage, it seemed that there was not much awareness of the land reform agenda. Can we ensure that when the community empowerment bill is introduced we have a more coherent approach in Government, so that the bill is regarded as a vehicle for community ownership and for taking forward the land reform agenda?



Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee 11 June 2014 : Wednesday, June 11, 2014
Claire Baker The review group looked to address the issue of offshore ownership to improve traceability and accountability. Does the minister accept the need for those things, and can he identify the difficulties with the current system when it comes to identifying ownership?

I have another brief question. The report says that the review group’s proposal that a legal entity would have to be registered within a European Union member state would not necessarily address the issue of beneficial ownership. Perhaps the minister would like to comment on that.



Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee 11 June 2014 : Wednesday, June 11, 2014
Claire Baker We are at an early stage, given that the bill has only just been announced, but can you say whether the consultation will address that issue? Do you accept that the solution that has been proposed by the review group might not be the one that the Government chooses to support? The proposal was made during the passage of the Land Registration etc (Scotland) Bill and the Government did not support it at that point. Will the need to address the issue of transparency and accountability be covered by the proposed land reform bill?

An amendment to the Land Registration etc (Scotland) Bill was lodged that dealt with beneficial ownership. At the time, the minister said that the matter could in some way be built into regulations around the land register or could be a condition of the land register. Is the minister able to say more about that today, or is that something that he could look into in more detail?

Vote DetailMSP VoteResult

S4M-11123 Joe FitzPatrick on behalf of the Parliamentary Bureau: Business Motion—That the Parliament
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NoCarried

S4M-11114.2 Kenny MacAskill: Policing—As an amendment to motion S4M-11114 in the name of Graeme Pear
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NoCarried

S4M-11114 Graeme Pearson: Policing—That the Parliament acknowledges that policing in Scotland contin
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NoCarried

S4M-11116.1.1 Patrick Harvie: Scotland’s Future—As an amendment to amendment S4M-11116.1 in the name
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NoCarried

S4M-11116.1 Nicola Sturgeon: Scotland’s Future—As an amendment to motion S4M-11116 in the name of Jo
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NoCarried

S4M-11116 Johann Lamont: Scotland’s Future—That the Parliament recognises the result of the independ
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NoCarried

Amendment 61 moved by Elaine Murray on motion S4M-11101 Kenny MacAskill: Courts Reform (Scotland) Bi
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YesDefeated

Amendment 62 moved by Margaret Mitchell on motion S4M-11101 Kenny MacAskill: Courts Reform (Scotland
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YesDefeated

Amendment 63 moved by Margaret Mitchell on motion S4M-11101 Kenny MacAskill: Courts Reform (Scotland
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YesDefeated

Amendment 64 moved by Margaret Mitchell on motion S4M-11101 Kenny MacAskill: Courts Reform (Scotland
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NoDefeated

Search for other Motions lodged by Claire Baker
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Motion S4M-11077: Claire Baker, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 02/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11075: Claire Baker, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 02/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11027: Claire Baker, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 29/09/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10399: Claire Baker, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 19/06/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10328: Claire Baker, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 13/06/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10025: Claire Baker, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 12/05/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09992: Claire Baker, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 08/05/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09916.3: Claire Baker, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 02/05/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09655: Claire Baker, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 07/04/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09622: Claire Baker, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 03/04/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Search for other Questions asked by Claire Baker
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Question S4O-03604: Claire Baker, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 22/10/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03584: Claire Baker, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 29/09/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-21925: Claire Baker, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 25/06/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-21926: Claire Baker, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 25/06/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-21924: Claire Baker, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 25/06/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-21927: Claire Baker, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 25/06/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03408: Claire Baker, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 18/06/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-21801: Claire Baker, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 17/06/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-21802: Claire Baker, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 17/06/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-21783: Claire Baker, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 16/06/2014 Show Full Question >>

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