Fergus Ewing MSP

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Fergus Ewing MSP

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  • Member for: Inverness and Nairn
  • Region: Highlands and Islands
  • Party: Scottish National Party

Fergus is a member of the following Committees:

Fergus is a member of the following Cross-Party Groups:

Parliamentary Activities

Search for other Speeches made by Fergus Ewing

Meeting of the Parliament 09 October 2014 : Thursday, October 09, 2014
The Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Tourism (Fergus Ewing)

Thank you, Presiding Officer.

No formal discussions have taken place with HM Revenue and Customs. The matter is reserved, but I have written to the UK Government to express our concerns, to highlight our policy of no compulsory redundancies in the Scottish public sector, and to ask what alternative employment options the United Kingdom Government has in place to protect jobs in Scotland.

We will continue to support and assist the redeployment of staff through existing mechanisms, and our directorate officials will liaise with HMRC and monitor the situation.



Meeting of the Parliament 09 October 2014 : Thursday, October 09, 2014
Fergus Ewing

I am inclined to agree with Mr Hepburn, who has pursued this matter assiduously on behalf of his constituents. HMRC says that it will need fewer people in certain roles across the whole of the UK, including post handling roles. In June, HMRC announced that it will close two of its five regional post rooms by the end of 2014. We believe that its current thinking is that the remaining three, including the one in Cumbernauld, will close by March 2015. HMRC has said that it will be able to tell its staff more by mid-October.

One has to say that that is not a very good way in which to handle staff relations. We in the Scottish Government, who try to treat our public servants with appropriate respect, strongly advocate that the UK Government starts to look a bit more carefully at the way in which it handles these matters and that, in particular, it adopts the no-compulsory-redundancy policy of the Scottish Government.

I am grateful to Mr Hepburn for allowing us an opportunity to make our position clear. I express my concern for his constituents, who face a very uncertain future.



Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee 08 October 2014 : Wednesday, October 08, 2014
The Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Tourism (Fergus Ewing)

Yes, convener, and thank you very much. Good morning, everyone.

I am grateful for today’s opportunity to address the committee in respect of the motion that was lodged by the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Employment and Sustainable Growth on 8 August. As you will know, the United Kingdom Government’s Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill was introduced in the House of Commons on 25 June and will shortly begin its Westminster committee stages. It aims to remove what are regarded as unnecessary impediments to business and includes a wide range of measures that are aimed at promoting economic growth.

The majority of the bill’s provisions are reserved to the UK Parliament, but what we are concerned with today are the provisions that fall within this Parliament’s devolved competence and which require a legislative consent motion to allow the UK Parliament to legislate on them. I will therefore concentrate on the areas that are contained within the motion and will be happy to address in writing any other queries outwith today’s proceedings, should the committee so require.

The LCM covers three areas: improving access to finance through the assignment—or, as we say in Scotland, the assignation—of receivables; the sharing of information in relation to education and training; and corporate insolvency. I will briefly outline each area.

First, the ban on assignment of receivables measure—as it is referred to in the UK bill; in Scots law, it is called the ban on assignation of receivables—is aimed at improving small businesses’ access to finance by removing legal barriers that can prevent them from selling their invoices to third-party finance providers, and thereby seeks to improve liquidity and cashflow for small business and increasing prospects of sustainability and growth. Viable businesses need access to finance for investment and growth; indeed, the committee recognised as much in its report on access to finance and alternative financing models, which it published earlier this year. This change, which is aimed at delivering a positive impact by nullifying the impact of clauses in business contracts that prohibit a business from selling its invoices to a third-party finance provider, should directly benefit small businesses. As the provision affects contract law, which falls within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament, it will require the Scottish Parliament’s consent.

The second measure that is outlined in the LCM relates to the extension of the sharing of information about individuals for the purposes of assessing the effectiveness of training and education. Under existing legislation, the Scottish ministers, the secretary of state and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs are able to share information about benefits, tax and education for the purposes of assessing the effectiveness of the provision of training and further education for people aged over 18. However, information about higher education is specifically excluded, so the measure will enable the assessment functions to include people aged under 18 in order to capture all school leavers as well as those in higher education, and to allow us to identify wage and employment outcomes for those who have undertaken training, or further or higher education in Scotland. As the measure will affect the assessment of education and training services, it falls within the Scottish Parliament’s devolved competence and therefore requires the Scottish Parliament’s consent.

The third and final area of the LCM is corporate insolvency. The measure aims to reduce complexity and to improve the efficiency of insolvency processes, which will reduce the costs of administering insolvency proceedings and could lead to higher returns for creditors. The UK Government believes that the whole package, not just the insolvency measures that are outlined in the LCM, will benefit creditors by an estimated £30 million per annum. Although the actual benefits remain to be seen, the aim clearly chimes with the principle that was set out by this Government in our Bankruptcy and Debt Advice (Scotland) Act 2014 of securing the best return for creditors by ensuring that the rights and needs of people who are in debt are balanced with the rights and needs of creditors and businesses. On that basis, we think it sensible that the measures be extended to cover Scotland. As the measures relate to devolved areas of corporate insolvency such as receivership and the process of liquidation, they fall within the Scottish Parliament’s legislative competence and therefore require legislative consent.

The committee should also note that a supplementary legislative consent motion on public sector exit payments might be brought before members at a later date. The bill includes a provision to ensure that exit payments are recovered when high earners return to the same part of the public sector within 12 months of their leaving. It was agreed that, due to the measure’s complexity and its late addition to the bill, UK and Scottish Government officials would continue their discussions on the detail of the policy and the desirability of an LCM on the provision. If agreement is reached on the policy, we will lodge a supplementary LCM in due course.

The Scottish Government is already creating a supportive business environment and has progressed a range of successful initiatives to deliver better regulation for all. In recognising that Scotland’s businesses are the primary drivers of sustainable economic growth, we welcome policies that complement our continuing programme to improve the performance of our businesses, and make Scotland a more open and competitive place for companies to do business.

I ask the committee to support the draft legislative consent motion.



Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee 08 October 2014 : Wednesday, October 08, 2014
Fergus Ewing

There are two points. CAS is concerned that the regulations give the AIB powers to revoke or suspend a money adviser’s approval, but the AIB would not revoke an adviser’s approved status without notification, representation and the right to review that in court. You will recall that we discussed in considering the Bankruptcy and Debt Advice (Scotland) Bill the fact that there must be a right of appeal. There were concerns about processes, and I made the point that there is always a right of appeal or review. That needs to be taken into account when discussing the idea that there is an overprescriptive or draconian power.

On the detail of the evidence, we have been perfectly clear all along that the regulations would be developed on the basis that money advisers should already comply with the existing requirements under the type II Scottish national standards for information and advice providers and in particular the requirement for advisers to collect

“information from client, social security/tax credit sources which enables an accurate, multiple benefit/tax credit check to be done manually or on computer and details kept on file.”

Given that, there should be no difficulties, as the evidence-gathering requirements are unlikely to change significantly from current practice.

Regulations 3(3) and 3(4) of the Common Financial Tool etc (Scotland) Regulations 2014 provide for discretion in the consideration of income and expenditure. Regulation 3(11) specifies that those using the common financial tool must have regard to guidance issued by the AIB on matters relating to

“the treatment of types of income and expenditure ... how income and expenditure are to be verified by the money adviser and the trustee; and ... the conduct of money advisers in carrying out their functions”.

Discretion is built in and the powers of suspension are subject to a right of review. The powers would of course never be exercised lightly. Such matters are extremely serious. Some of these matters are extremely technical, for which I apologise, but they have been considered in detail and dealt with in what I think is a satisfactory and fair fashion.



Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee 08 October 2014 : Wednesday, October 08, 2014
Fergus Ewing

Will you clarify what research you mean?



Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee 08 October 2014 : Wednesday, October 08, 2014
Fergus Ewing

I am advised that the Accountant in Bankruptcy, on behalf of the Scottish Government and in conjunction with members of the money advice sector, will develop a research framework that will allow the Scottish Government to monitor the new legislation’s impact. Once the findings of that research have been reviewed, the Scottish Government will consider whether any changes to the legislation or associated guidance are necessary.



Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee 08 October 2014 : Wednesday, October 08, 2014
Fergus Ewing

Maybe I am misunderstanding the member’s question. Because we are six months from the implementation of the new provisions, by definition, there can be no analysis of how they are performing. We are working extremely hard to prepare the way for the regulations that are before the committee and for the proposed guidance, which will be shared with stakeholders as soon as possible—some of it will be shared later this month. However, the new provisions are not yet in place, so no assessment or research can be carried out on how they are operating. We will look at that carefully after the provisions have come into force and the system has come into effect.

I have every confidence that the Accountant in Bankruptcy will perform its functions in respect of the implementation of the BADAS bill, as it is known on the street, just as effectively and competently as it performs all its other functions. We in Scotland are extremely fortunate to have in the Accountant in Bankruptcy a highly motivated and effective group of public servants who do a terrific job in handling difficult and sensitive matters.



Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee 08 October 2014 : Wednesday, October 08, 2014
Fergus Ewing

I have just consulted the officials. I will bring in Claire Orr, because I do not think that you have specified why ICAS thinks that DAS will not work effectively.



Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee 08 October 2014 : Wednesday, October 08, 2014
Fergus Ewing

You have not set out the basis of ICAS’s argument—



Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee 08 October 2014 : Wednesday, October 08, 2014
Fergus Ewing

Perhaps Claire Orr will do so and explain why we do not accept the argument, to help us to get to the nub of the matter.

Vote DetailMSP VoteResult

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

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

S4M-11114 Graeme Pearson: Policing—That the Parliament acknowledges that policing in Scotland contin
>> Show more
YesCarried

S4M-11116.1.1 Patrick Harvie: Scotland’s Future—As an amendment to amendment S4M-11116.1 in the name
>> Show more
YesCarried

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

S4M-11116 Johann Lamont: Scotland’s Future—That the Parliament recognises the result of the independ
>> Show more
YesCarried

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

Amendment 62 moved by Margaret Mitchell on motion S4M-11101 Kenny MacAskill: Courts Reform (Scotland
>> Show more
NoDefeated

Amendment 63 moved by Margaret Mitchell on motion S4M-11101 Kenny MacAskill: Courts Reform (Scotland
>> Show more
NoDefeated

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

Search for other Motions lodged by Fergus Ewing
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Motion S4M-11071: Fergus Ewing, Inverness and Nairn, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 02/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11070: Fergus Ewing, Inverness and Nairn, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 02/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11069: Fergus Ewing, Inverness and Nairn, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 02/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11068: Fergus Ewing, Inverness and Nairn, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 02/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10988: Fergus Ewing, Inverness and Nairn, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 23/09/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10305: Fergus Ewing, Inverness and Nairn, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 12/06/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10304: Fergus Ewing, Inverness and Nairn, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 12/06/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10303: Fergus Ewing, Inverness and Nairn, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 12/06/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10302: Fergus Ewing, Inverness and Nairn, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 12/06/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10051: Fergus Ewing, Inverness and Nairn, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 13/05/2014 Show Full Motion >>
This Member currently holds a ministerial post. First Minister and Ministers cannot ask the Government questions which is why no recent questions are displaying here. Please use the full search to find details of previous questions by this Member.
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Question S3W-06602: Fergus Ewing, Central Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 19/11/2007 Show Full Question >>
Question S3O-06602: Fergus Ewing, Glasgow Anniesland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 19/11/2007 Show Full Question >>
Question S3W-00002: Fergus Ewing, Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 09/05/2007 Show Full Question >>
Question S3W-00001: Fergus Ewing, Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 09/05/2007 Show Full Question >>
Question S3W-00000: Fergus Ewing, Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 09/05/2007 Show Full Question >>
Question S2W-32673: Fergus Ewing, Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 19/03/2007 Show Full Question >>
Question S2W-32686: Fergus Ewing, Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 19/03/2007 Show Full Question >>
Question S2W-32674: Fergus Ewing, Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 19/03/2007 Show Full Question >>
Question S2W-32675: Fergus Ewing, Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 19/03/2007 Show Full Question >>
Question S2W-32676: Fergus Ewing, Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 19/03/2007 Show Full Question >>

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