Hugh Henry MSP

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Member of the Scottish Commission for Public Audit
Member of the Conveners Group

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Meeting of the Parliament 28 January 2015 : Wednesday, January 28, 2015
Hugh Henry

No, thanks—not just now.

We have moved some way, but with regard to giving credit where credit is due—and taking at face value Michael Matheson and Paul Wheelhouse’s comments that they want to work with outside stakeholders and across party lines—I want to make a suggestion that I made in a number of debates last year and the year before. The much-mentioned Strathclyde Regional Council, which has come in for a lot of criticism over the years, had officer/member working groups that produced reports. They brought in experts and politicians of all parties to work together. Women offenders is one such issue on which we could all come together and share our collective wisdom. If we are to do that, the one person whom we need to involve is Richard Simpson.

I do not want to be particularly nit-picking but, in a few years, Richard Simpson put in place a number of policies that have stood the test of time. He listed some of them—DTTOs, tagging on remand, restorative justice, the issue of the children of female offenders, abuse victims at Cornton Vale and fine default initiatives. He did all that in a short time. I was able to take credit for some of that through, for example, the time-out centre. He was the man who made the difference. I contrast that with Kenny MacAskill’s tenure in office. If Michael Matheson wants to make a difference, he must not only engage all the parties but try to involve Richard Simpson.

We need smaller facilities across Scotland. Jayne Baxter talked about Fife, where we have nothing that keeps not only female but male offenders closer to their communities. We need to look at such issues. However, our biggest problem by far for female and male offenders is the issue of remand. Too many people are on remand who do not go on to serve a sentence. That is costing us a fortune; the money would be better spent elsewhere. If we can all work together to solve the problem, let us do that—let us make a difference.

As many outside stakeholders have said, it not just a question of alternatives to imprisonment—Kezia Dugdale said that some people do not like to use the word “alternatives”—but a question of working with offenders while they are in prison and helping them to change their ways so that when they come back out they do not reoffend.

The question of rehabilitation needs to be addressed. We also need to look at support services outside prison. The pressures that social work and criminal justice authorities are under are making it difficult for that to happen. We all need to face up to that, not just the Scottish Government.

We have an opportunity with this debate and the decision that was taken by Michael Matheson to change how we work as a Parliament. It would be wrong of us to turn away from that. The public, the experts, those who are interested in the issues and the prisoners will not thank us if we do not rise to the challenge. I hope that, in a few years’ time, we will be able to look back and say that initiatives such as the 218 time-out centre that Richard Simpson was involved in starting up are working effectively across the country. I hope that we will be able to say, “Look at these figures” and they will show that fewer women are going to prison than ever before. By all means, let Michael Matheson and the SNP Government take the credit, but we will also be there saying that we helped to deliver that, too, because we are all in this together.

What is happening with women offenders is a scandal. Member after member has pointed out the number of women who go to prison for relatively trivial offences, with mental health problems, who have been the victims of sexual and physical abuse and with alcohol and drug addiction problems. We know what the issues are; so far, we have not come up with an effective solution although, up until 2007, a number of initiatives were tried and they have stood the test of time.

This is the opportunity for the cabinet secretary to build on the praise that he has rightly received today for his decision. This is the opportunity for him to show courage yet again in taking the next decisive step, to involve all the parties and to challenge us to face up to what he has done and co-operate. Let us build bridges with those outside who know the issues inside out; let us work together finally to make a difference.



Meeting of the Parliament 28 January 2015 : Wednesday, January 28, 2015
Hugh Henry (Renfrewshire South) (Lab)

One thing that frustrates me greatly about debates in the Parliament is the number of times we all troop in here, grind our gums, say how much we agree with one another, how wonderful the debate is, how what we are talking about is fantastic and how it will make a great difference to the people whom we represent, and then all troop out, satisfied that we have done the right thing, only for absolutely nothing to happen. We go through the motions, we pay lip service and nothing changes.

I hope that, as Christine Grahame said, today is the day that we grasp the thistle. I hope that today is the day that we take the opportunity that Labour’s debate has presented to say that we will do something that makes a difference. I do not underestimate the difficulty that Michael Matheson faced in making his decision. Some people have said that he has taken his time to come to a decision. I have been in government and I know just how slowly the wheels of government move, so given that Michael Matheson made his decision in less than two months, it is a remarkably swift decision. In some senses, it is unprecedented, and for that I pay tribute to him.

I think that the decision is courageous—and right. It cannot have been easy for Michael Matheson to make, not just because of some of its financial implications but because it will not have been easy to completely reverse and overturn a decision that was made by his colleague and predecessor, particularly given that under the doctrine of Cabinet responsibility, the present First Minister will have sat through discussions on and signed off the previous decision that Michael Matheson has now overturned. For that, he deserves credit. It took courage; it was the right thing to do; and it is right for the Parliament to associate itself with his decision and to give credit where it is due. I will come back to that and touch on various related points during the debate.

In her speech, Kezia Dugdale talked about the length of time that the women’s prison at Greenock had been live, how long it had been under consideration and, indeed, the money that had been spent on it.



Meeting of the Parliament 28 January 2015 : Wednesday, January 28, 2015
Hugh Henry

I do not know yet whether that money has been wasted; I do not know, for example, whether it will all translate into delivering the replacement of HMP Greenock. If none of that money is wasted, then fair play. However, we have been told that £8 million has been spent; we do not know whether it will translate into anything else, and it makes the £1.5 million that has been promised pale into insignificance. Had that £8 million been spent on alternatives, many of the community-based projects would be significantly better off.

Kezia Dugdale talked about the time that this has taken. My colleagues have been exhorting me to engage with Twitter; I have just discovered what texting is about, so Twitter is a bit of mystery to me. Nevertheless, I look at it and I was pleased to see that Kenny MacAskill had not lost his well-known sense of humour since leaving office. He has tweeted that he fully supports Michael Matheson’s decision. Sometimes I wonder about things that happen in this chamber. When one party moves out of government, it is fair enough for the party that comes in to diss the previous lot and kid on that nothing good happened under them, but for Kenny MacAskill to say that he supports Michael Matheson’s decision when, up until this month, his own decision was still extant is somewhat bizarre and, indeed, a bit humorous. Actually, I thought that it was a spoof tweet, but seemingly it is not.

We have also heard about the coalition of support that is out there, but one of the things that I find disappointing about the Government’s amendment is that it is not willing to put on record its welcome for the coalition of support that has made it possible for the cabinet secretary to reverse his decision. Sometimes I think that we should give credit where it is due, not just to the cabinet secretary but to all the groups out there that made this decision possible. I find it slightly disappointing and think it curmudgeonly that that has not happened in this case.



Meeting of the Parliament 15 January 2015 : Thursday, January 15, 2015
Hugh Henry (Renfrewshire South) (Lab)

There are some things in life that we have come to take for granted. Thanks to the struggles of previous generations, we take for granted the right to an education, a health service and decent housing. We expect our power supply to be available when we need it and we expect that in an emergency our emergency services will be there for us.

In one respect, it is good that, as a civilised society, we have high expectations; mostly, those expectations are met. However, taking things for granted should never be an excuse for ignoring or saying nothing about those whose efforts help to meet our high expectations.

Emergency services are a good example of services that we want, need and value but always hope that we will never have to use. The Scottish Government is right to pay tribute to those it describes as

“the brave and dedicated men and women of Scotland’s emergency services”.

They are there for us 24 hours a day, each and every day of the year. They do not ask for praise or recognition. They just do their job and, by God, they do it exceptionally well.

The cabinet secretary is right to mention the contribution of emergency services to the Ryder cup and the Commonwealth games. In a sense, that passes without comment, because there were no serious incidents. Unfortunately, we focus on what the emergency services do only when there is an emergency or a disaster. Tragically, such incidents happen all too often—that is sometimes through malice, neglect, accidents or the force of nature. I think back to the Lockerbie tragedy—human destruction in Scotland caused by an evil attack on a scale that we have not seen in recent times. The response from our emergency services was swift, thorough and professional, and the situation must have been harrowing for all those who had to respond.

Over the years in Glasgow, we have witnessed a number of devastating fires leading to major loss of life, including the loss of fire service personnel. It is fitting that the fire service still remembers its comrades who lost their lives. We saw again the professionalism of the fire service in the Stockline disaster, which was caused by neglect. I know that Patricia Ferguson will speak about that.

In the space of just over 12 months, Glasgow has witnessed two horrific events that will live with us for a long, long time. It was our emergency services that had to respond to the dreadful consequences of the bin lorry crash in Glasgow just before Christmas.

Just over a year ago, when the police helicopter crashed into the Clutha Vaults pub, all our emergency services responded magnificently. They worked tirelessly for three days in difficult and dangerous conditions, which included having to tunnel through rubble to help victims who were trapped at the scene. The fire service area commander Paul Connelly was right to speak of his pride following his crew’s bravery in the face of what he described as a truly harrowing scene.

It is worth repeating that all our emergency services show not just dedication and commitment but often bravery. The bravery of ambulance staff at the Clutha Vaults incident was also recognised, as was the contribution of watch manager Stuart English, based in Paisley, who normally covers my constituency. He was off duty, enjoying a night out at the Clutha. He escaped from the crash scene but went back in with members of the public to attempt to locate and rescue those who were trapped. Like other emergency workers, such people are never truly off duty; they are always ready to spring into action if required. It is also worth recognising that in those two tragedies, as well as in others, the public responded magnificently in support of our emergency services.

The tales of police officers’ bravery are legion. The police are our front-line protection in towns and cities when drunken behaviour often spills over into violence. They are there to protect the public when very occasionally a minority act violently at major events or demonstrations. The police are the ones who have to step up to the plate when lives are threatened in firearm or knife incidents. They step in when arguments get out of hand and lead to violence.

Last year saw the launch of a book called “Beyond the Call of Duty”, which features an incident that involved officers from Police Scotland. Police constables Craig McCall, Brian Manchester and Andy Kendall were attacked by a man wielding a samurai sword, and PC Craig McCall was left seriously injured.

It is not just attacks that endanger life. Last year, PC Tonianne Ewart rightly received a bravery award from the First Minister for risking her life to save the life of a man who attempted to jump from the top floor of a multistorey car park. The problem in one sense for the debate is that there are too many examples to be able to list every single act of bravery and dedication.

Let us not forget our accident and emergency staff, who have to cope with the consequences of accidents and disasters. As we know from recent press reports, they work under extremely difficult conditions. They have to cope with large numbers of patients, and the system is creaking even without any major incidents, but cope they do. Despite the pressures, they too do their best for those they serve.

It would be wrong to suggest that emergency services start and stop with the police, fire and ambulance services and with A and E. Over the past few months, we have been starkly reminded of the power of what is sometimes described as the cruel sea. The cabinet secretary mentioned this month’s loss of the cargo vessel Cemfjord, with the loss of eight crew members. That was a stark reminder of the power and danger of the sea, as were the battering that a Spanish fishing trawler took last month during the so-called weather bomb and the threat to the lives of the crew of the disabled fish carrier Norholm, which was caused by a force 7 gale and an Atlantic storm off Cape Wrath.

As is expected of them, the coastguards responded unhesitatingly, and so too did the brave volunteers of the RNLI, which operates 47 stations in Scotland. The RNLI is a voluntary organisation that depends on the public’s contributions. In all those incidents, those brave volunteers were on hand to do their bit to save lives.

The cabinet secretary has rightly commended the work of our mountain rescue services. I defer to his greater knowledge and experience, but I too pay tribute to their heroism and bravery. We have 27 volunteer teams, involving 1,000 volunteers, to back up three police teams and one Royal Air Force team. Already this month they have been in action, helping to save lives, and I have no doubt that there will be further demands on them over the winter. In the past few months we have seen the dedication of power supply workers who have battled to restore supplies in fierce weather conditions.

A common theme that runs through the stories of staff and volunteers is that of heroism, bravery, dedication and selflessness. As I said, they do not ask for praise or recognition, but I am sure that it is nice when it comes, whether through bravery awards or from us taking opportunities such as this to put our thanks on the record.

While those staff and volunteers will not ask for thanks, there is perhaps a responsibility on all of us collectively in the Parliament to reflect on and consider whether we owe them more than warm words. Do we ever give them the opportunity to come and tell us what it is really like on the front line? Why do we not give them the chance to brief the Parliament on their work, their successes and the pressures that they face? Should we not repay their dedication by saying that we will look at the resilience and resourcing of our emergency services?

The saying goes that talk is cheap. Today, we have the chance to do more than talk and offer warm words. We have the chance to say to those brave men and women not only, “Thank you and well done,” but, “Come and tell us how we can help to improve what you do. We know the outcome is that lives are saved, but we also know that, in doing that, you are putting your lives on the line, so the least we can do is listen.” What have we got to fear in listening to those fearless heroes?

That is why I have lodged an amendment that calls for a parliamentary inquiry. Let us give a voice to those brave men and women and listen to their stories. Let us pledge that we will repay their efforts by doing what we can to ensure that they are ready and equipped to face whatever is thrown at them.

I move amendment S4M-12060.2, to insert at end:

“; welcomes the cross-party support for the efforts of the emergency services but also recognises the challenges and pressures that they face and therefore commits to doing everything that it can to provide the necessary resources to enable them to do their jobs effectively; to that end, agrees to hold an inquiry into the resilience of the emergency services, including voluntary, to allow frontline staff and volunteers to have their voices heard and to explore the resources required to allow them to do their jobs effectively, and further agrees that the Justice Committee and the Health and Sport Committee should lead in relation to their respective remits.”

14:57  

Meeting of the Parliament 15 January 2015 : Thursday, January 15, 2015
Hugh Henry

Those are warm words, but there is no commitment from the minister to actually do anything. There is also some indication of double standards.

Can the minister tell us why the Scottish Government believes—quite rightly—that emergency workers need specific protection and why the Solicitor General believes that victims of domestic abuse need specific protection, yet they believe that workers who are assaulted at work do not?



Meeting of the Parliament 15 January 2015 : Thursday, January 15, 2015
5. Hugh Henry (Renfrewshire South) (Lab)

To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to protect people who serve the public from abuse or violence at work. (S4O-03905)



Meeting of the Parliament 15 January 2015 : Thursday, January 15, 2015
Hugh Henry (Renfrewshire South) (Lab)

George Adam makes an eminently sensible suggestion. I cannot understand why the minister will not look at a pilot project that encourages football fans to be treated as responsible adults, in the same way that rugby fans are.



Meeting of the Parliament 07 January 2015 : Wednesday, January 07, 2015
Hugh Henry

That was a slightly disappointing answer.

Two years ago this month, there was a major fire at the waste recycling plant in Johnstone, in my constituency. It resulted in one of the highest turnouts of fire service personnel that had been seen in the west of Scotland for many years. Thankfully, because of the prevailing wind, the fire did little damage to adjacent houses or to Johnstone town centre. However, it resulted in the main railway line to Ayrshire being closed for a number of hours.

I realise that there is little that can be done in terms of retrospective legislation but, frankly, I do not think that it is acceptable to say that it is a matter for the local authorities to address using their existing powers. I am asking the minister to say what the Scottish Government will do, using its powers to legislate and set regulations, to change the regulations and the rules to prevent such plants from being located next to town centres or residential areas in future.



Meeting of the Parliament 07 January 2015 : Wednesday, January 07, 2015
1. Hugh Henry (Renfrewshire South) (Lab)

To ask the Scottish Government what action it will take to prevent waste recycling plants being located next to residential areas or town centres. (S4O-03861)



Public Audit Committee 17 December 2014 : Wednesday, December 17, 2014
The Convener

Thank you very much. With that, we move into private session.

11:13 Meeting continued in private until 11:33.  
Vote DetailMSP VoteResult

S4M-12423.1 Alex Rowley: Commission on Local Tax Reform—As an amendment to motion S4M-12423 in the n
>> Show more
Not VotedCarried

S4M-12423 Marco Biagi: Commission on Local Tax Reform—That the Parliament supports the establishment
>> Show more
Not VotedCarried

S4M-12385 Liz Smith: STEM Education in Scottish Schools—That the Parliament agrees that a solid grou
>> Show more
Not VotedCarried

S4M-12395.1 Fergus Ewing: An Energy Strategy for Scotland—As an amendment to motion S4M-12395 in the
>> Show more
Not VotedCarried

S4M-12395.2 Patrick Harvie: An Energy Strategy for Scotland—As an amendment to motion S4M-12395 in t
>> Show more
Not VotedDefeated

S4M-12395 Murdo Fraser: An Energy Strategy for Scotland—That the Parliament notes with concern the l
>> Show more
Not VotedCarried

S4M-12385.3 Alasdair Allan: STEM Education in Scottish Schools—As an amendment to motion S4M-12385 i
>> Show more
Not VotedCarried

S4M-12382.3 Mary Fee: Building Scotland’s Infrastructure for the Future—As an amendment to motion S4
>> Show more
YesDefeated

S4M-12382.1 Gavin Brown: Building Scotland’s Infrastructure for the Future—As an amendment to motion
>> Show more
YesDefeated

S4M-12382.2 Willie Rennie: Building Scotland’s Infrastructure for the Future—As an amendment to moti
>> Show more
NoDefeated

Search for other Motions lodged by Hugh Henry
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Motion S4M-12135: Hugh Henry, Renfrewshire South, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 21/01/2015 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-12060.2: Hugh Henry, Renfrewshire South, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 14/01/2015 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11823: Hugh Henry, Renfrewshire South, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 05/12/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11543: Hugh Henry, Renfrewshire South, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 13/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11506: Hugh Henry, Renfrewshire South, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 11/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11369: Hugh Henry, Renfrewshire South, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 30/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10941: Hugh Henry, Renfrewshire South, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 08/09/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10547: Hugh Henry, Renfrewshire South, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 04/07/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10544: Hugh Henry, Renfrewshire South, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 03/07/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10419: Hugh Henry, Renfrewshire South, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 20/06/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Search for other Questions asked by Hugh Henry
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Question S4W-24130: Hugh Henry, Renfrewshire South, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 22/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24131: Hugh Henry, Renfrewshire South, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 22/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03905: Hugh Henry, Renfrewshire South, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 07/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03861: Hugh Henry, Renfrewshire South, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 15/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23619: Hugh Henry, Renfrewshire South, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 10/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23564: Hugh Henry, Renfrewshire South, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 05/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23565: Hugh Henry, Renfrewshire South, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 05/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23562: Hugh Henry, Renfrewshire South, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 05/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23563: Hugh Henry, Renfrewshire South, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 05/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03532: Hugh Henry, Renfrewshire South, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 16/09/2014 Show Full Question >>

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