Jackie Baillie MSP

Welcome to Jackie Baillie MSP's biography pages

Jackie Baillie MSP

Here you can find out about your MSPs' political activities and how to get in touch with them.

  • Member for: Dumbarton
  • Region: West Scotland
  • Party: Scottish Labour

Jackie is a member of the following Committees:

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

Parliamentary Activities

Search for other Speeches made by Jackie Baillie

Meeting of the Parliament 17 December 2014 : Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Jackie Baillie (Dumbarton) (Lab)

I welcome the statutory public inquiry into historical abuse and the cabinet secretary’s commitment to the issue.

I have constituents who have been affected by abuse and who consistently raise the time bar issue. I know that the cabinet secretary will agree with the Scottish Human Rights Commission’s view that the time bar is a barrier to survivors getting access to civil justice. A lack of flexibility would mean that survivors were denied justice. Will the public inquiry be able to comment on the time bar issue?



Meeting of the Parliament 17 December 2014 : Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Jackie Baillie (Dumbarton) (Lab)

The Deputy First Minister announced in March 2013 the launch of the “Oil and Gas Analytical Bulletin”. At that stage, the bulletin forecast that the price of oil would be $113 per barrel. Now the price has almost halved—it stands at $59 a barrel. Every member in the chamber recognises the impact of that fall on employment and the economy, but we need reliable figures and analysis, as I am sure the minister agrees.

Does the minister also agree with what professor of economics Ronald MacDonald said today about the importance of oil price estimates? Does the minister agree that it is time to have an inquiry into the validity of those estimates, because we need confidence in the predictions?

The minister’s prediction is currently higher than that of the Office for Budget Responsibility, and he has always suggested that the OBR is overoptimistic. Will he return to the chamber with a statement?



Meeting of the Parliament 16 December 2014 : Tuesday, December 16, 2014
Jackie Baillie

Will the member take an intervention?



Meeting of the Parliament 16 December 2014 : Tuesday, December 16, 2014
Jackie Baillie

No. I have already given way and I need to make progress. I will be happy to take an intervention later.

Another question is whether it is appropriate to provide goods rather than treat people with the respect and give them the dignity that I think we all believe they deserve by allowing them some choice. I will come on to that later.

The issue of eligibility was raised in the Welfare Reform Committee report and in briefings from third sector organisations. I welcome the committee’s recommendation that eligibility should be widened. We need to ensure that no vulnerable person is excluded from seeking support and we need to make information about the fund widely available. The language in the bill implies that the majority of the fund’s clients are already in the system, but that excludes some groups of vulnerable people who might not be on benefits. Many of the most vulnerable people might not be seen to fit the criteria that are currently laid out. I hope that the minister agrees that more work is needed on that.

My fear is that the language in the bill might be restrictive. Third sector organisations have noted that the definition of “qualifying individuals” excludes care leavers, families that are under exceptional pressure or people with disabilities. The language of “exceptional circumstances” may also discourage applicants. For example, it might discourage people whose benefits run out before they pay the bills that need to be paid, people who face intermittent costs such as that of replacing a broken cooker or people who face benefit delays or sanctions.

I believe that the language should be widened to include “families experiencing exceptional pressure”, as recommended by the Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland and the Poverty Alliance. People are facing a cost-of-living crisis the likes of which we have not seen for generations. We already know that families that are under exceptional pressure are underrepresented in Scottish welfare fund awards. In 2013-14, 20 per cent of community care grants were awarded to such people versus a figure of 53.6 per cent for the UK social fund in 2012-13. Clearly, there is more to be done on that.

I strongly disagree that the Scottish welfare fund should be outsourced to the private sector. We have all been very strong in our condemnation of what Atos has done just with assessments—so much so that it has withdrawn from part of the delivery of UK assessments. I genuinely believe that decisions on benefits must be made by Government, so I am absolutely delighted that the minister has had a change of mind. I take great comfort from her view that she does not want provision on outsourcing to be in the bill, and I look forward to amendments on that at stage 2. I congratulate her on listening to the members of the committee—although the point certainly was not made by the members of her party, who differed on the issue. Other members of the committee argued that point particularly strongly.

The bill should allow local authorities to undertake joint work with other local authorities, but outsourcing to the third sector would have produced a conflict of interest. Many third sector groups help people to apply for grants, so it would be difficult for them to advocate for clients and make benefits decisions. The possibility will be removed, and I am grateful for that.

I turn to the appeals process. It is essential for the Scottish welfare fund’s users that the review process be transparent, impartial and independent. In particular, given that the first-tier reviews are carried out by local authorities, it is crucial that an independent agency carry out second-tier reviews.

Almost a year ago—it was probably more than that—I raised the question of social security commissioners with Nicola Sturgeon when she held the relevant Cabinet post. She denied that such an appeals mechanism was necessary, so I am again delighted that the Government is listening and changing its mind on that.

We need to understand why the number of appeals that there have been so far is so low. Are people content with the decisions, are they not being informed that they have the right to appeal, or is their crisis so bad that they cannot hang around and wait for an outcome?

I ask those questions because there is a significant overturn rate for appeals. There were 2,700 reviews for community care grants and crisis grants in 2013-14, and, in both cases, more than 50 per cent of the decisions were changed. I welcome that because we can learn from it but we need to understand exactly what is going on so that we truly learn the lessons from the process.

We need to ensure that there is a statement in every decision letter that informs people of their right to appeal. Local authorities must make applicants aware of their rights, regardless of whether they are given an award. Whatever agency carries out the second-tier reviews, its decisions must be binding. I am happy that—if I understand this correctly—the SPSO will be able to overturn decisions rather than simply consider the decision-making process. That is a change to how it operates but it is a welcome change indeed.

We need to consider timescales so that we have timely decisions. At the moment, the bill is vague on the review process. Perhaps that is for understandable reasons and the matter is one for guidance, but we must set out somewhere in statute our expectations on timelines and reporting requirements, because we need an approach that is consistent nationwide. Consistency matters, and it matters in relation to reviews and appeals as well.

It is interesting that those who gave evidence to the committee also perceived the SPSO to be the most fair and impartial body to carry out reviews, and that local authorities just did not cut the mustard. Bill Scott from Inclusion Scotland said:

“nobody—not one single disabled person whom we asked—said that the local authority should do it. People said that that would not be perceived as fair. Even if the decision was correct, the local authority would still be reviewing its own decision, and that was just felt to be unfair.”—[Official Report, Welfare Reform Committee, 7 October 2014; c 29.]

A key issue that people on low incomes experience is the stigma that comes with living in poverty. The most vulnerable of us should not be made to feel small simply because we are poor. You and I, Presiding Officer, expect to be treated with dignity and respect; the most vulnerable among us should be treated in the same way. Therefore, I welcome the committee’s recommendation that trust of, and respect for, applicants be among the fund’s underlying principles.

However, with those principles of trust and respect comes choice. Vulnerable people should be given a choice in decisions that concern their lives. They should have a choice between receiving goods and receiving a cash payment instead, if the situation calls for that. Simply giving out goods reverses decades of agreed policy and practice in relation to benefits, and I am sure that the minister would not want to do that. Having that choice helps to reduce the stigma of poverty and enables people to live a dignified life.

I welcome again the general principles of the bill and look forward to the minister continuing to listen so that improvements are made at stage 2.



Meeting of the Parliament 16 December 2014 : Tuesday, December 16, 2014
Jackie Baillie

I do not think that there has even been a debate on that. The power to top up is exactly that. I would not anticipate clawback. I genuinely think that to top up means to increase. I think that the member is probably getting excited before something happens.

The Scottish welfare fund was established without statutory underpinning. I agree that it was the right approach to test the operation of the fund before legislating, because there has been much to learn. There are a number of concerns and, as we know, guidance has been changed a number of times to reflect those concerns, including on the ability to provide funds to people who have been sanctioned.

The operation of the fund was devolved to local authorities, and it is fair to say that the results have been mixed. Naturally, the 32 local authorities did things in different ways. In some instances, that was not always to the benefit of those in need, although I am sure that that was completely unintentional. Decision making was inconsistent. Some authorities were tougher than others on awarding grants, and others had trouble spending their budget. Some local authorities that cover our most disadvantaged areas could have done with more money, because the need in their areas was greater than they could meet.

While I am on the budget, I record how disappointed I was that the fund was underspent at the end of the year. Time after time, we came to the chamber asking about the underspends, from the very first quarter to the very last quarter, and we were assured that the money would be spent. It is not as if there is not a need out there, as we are experiencing our worst cost-of-living crisis in generations and the level of sanctions is rising at a staggering rate. Therefore, for me, to underspend the fund borders on the criminal. The total underspend at year end was £4 million, which was 12 per cent of the overall budget. That money could have helped to stave off hardship for families in the past year.



Meeting of the Parliament 16 December 2014 : Tuesday, December 16, 2014
Jackie Baillie (Dumbarton) (Lab)

Oh my goodness, Presiding Officer—I am not often made such an offer by you, so I shall take you at your word.

I start by saying what pleasure it gives me to speak in the debate on the Welfare Funds (Scotland) Bill on behalf of the Scottish Labour Party. As members might know, it will fall to Ken Macintosh to close the debate for Labour and to carry forward this portfolio in the future. I thank the Minister for Housing and Welfare, and I hope that she has enjoyed our tussles in the chamber over the piece. Perhaps she has not—I am sure that she will be glad to see the back of me.

I thank Michael McMahon, the convener of the Welfare Reform Committee, for his consideration of the bill, together with his colleague MSPs, the clerks to the committee and everybody who gave evidence. I also thank the staff in local authorities across Scotland who process and make decisions on the claims, because they play a vital role. It has been a learning process for them. Not everything that we have all done has been right, but I think that we are now starting to get there.

In a spirit of good will and new-found consensus—it is Christmas, after all—I indicate that Labour will support the general principles of the bill.

I well remember when the Scottish welfare fund was first created following the devolution of crisis loans and community care grants from the United Kingdom Parliament to the Scottish Parliament. I look forward to more of that in the future when the Smith agreement is implemented—that, of course, is a debate for Thursday afternoon. Suffice it to say that the Smith agreement represents the biggest-ever transfer of powers to the Scottish Parliament. It is a promise delivered, and I am excited at the potential that it presents: the potential to shape some benefits differently; the potential to top up existing benefits; and—perhaps the most imaginative of all—the potential to create new benefits in devolved areas. This will not be the last piece of legislation that we see on welfare; on the contrary, there is much more to come.



Meeting of the Parliament 16 December 2014 : Tuesday, December 16, 2014
Jackie Baillie (Dumbarton) (Lab)

I welcome the UK Government’s commitment and the Deputy First Minister’s comments. Can he tell us what planning the electoral registration officers could do now, in advance of the section 30 order, to ensure that we maximise the registration of 16 and 17-year-olds? I am conscious that that takes quite a bit of time.



Meeting of the Parliament 11 December 2014 : Thursday, December 11, 2014
Jackie Baillie

He did.—[Interruption.]



Meeting of the Parliament 11 December 2014 : Thursday, December 11, 2014
Jackie Baillie

The buck stops with the First Minister. For the second week running, I remind her that it was she who said that

“a party that is now in its second term of office cannot avoid taking responsibility for its own failings”—[Official Report, 12 December 2001; c 4711.]

Politics has always been about difficult choices. Labour will freeze gas and electricity bills, reform the energy market and improve housing stock in order to tackle fuel poverty. The First Minister and her party want to give the energy companies a massive tax cut. That is the difference.

The truth is that, as winter begins to bite, fuel poverty is up and millions of people throughout Scotland will be freezing. When the fuel poverty forum meets this afternoon, will the First Minister be there to apologise for abandoning the poor people in Scotland this winter?



Meeting of the Parliament 11 December 2014 : Thursday, December 11, 2014
Jackie Baillie

I can honestly say that, although it is wonderful to hear the First Minister call for consensus, she and her Government have, over the past seven years, rejected all the suggestions that members on the Labour side of the chamber have made on fuel poverty.

I know that the First Minister does not like to hear the truth, but she was responsible for tackling fuel poverty for the past two years, and in each of those years, on her watch, fuel poverty levels went up. That is happening in Scotland today, because of decisions that her Government made.

The buck stops—[Interruption.]

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 Jackie Baillie
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Motion S4M-11941: Jackie Baillie, Dumbarton, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 18/12/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11911: Jackie Baillie, Dumbarton, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 16/12/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11854: Jackie Baillie, Dumbarton, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 10/12/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11813: Jackie Baillie, Dumbarton, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 04/12/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11743: Jackie Baillie, Dumbarton, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 27/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11742: Jackie Baillie, Dumbarton, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 27/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11729: Jackie Baillie, Dumbarton, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 27/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11714: Jackie Baillie, Dumbarton, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 26/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11640: Jackie Baillie, Dumbarton, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 20/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11639: Jackie Baillie, Dumbarton, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 20/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Search for other Questions asked by Jackie Baillie
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Question S4W-23724: Jackie Baillie, Dumbarton, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 17/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23705: Jackie Baillie, Dumbarton, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 16/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23706: Jackie Baillie, Dumbarton, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 16/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23699: Jackie Baillie, Dumbarton, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 16/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23697: Jackie Baillie, Dumbarton, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 16/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23698: Jackie Baillie, Dumbarton, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 16/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23693: Jackie Baillie, Dumbarton, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 15/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23692: Jackie Baillie, Dumbarton, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 15/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23691: Jackie Baillie, Dumbarton, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 15/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23694: Jackie Baillie, Dumbarton, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 15/12/2014 Show Full Question >>