Jenny Marra MSP

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Meeting of the Parliament 30 October 2014 : Thursday, October 30, 2014
Jenny Marra (North East Scotland) (Lab)

It is my understanding that, since we debated the Procurement Reform (Scotland) Bill earlier this year, public authorities have awarded only four additional contracts to supported businesses in Scotland. I believe that there are still scores of public authorities that are yet to award even one contract to a supported business. What is the Government doing to encourage that?



Meeting of the Parliament 30 October 2014 : Thursday, October 30, 2014
Jenny Marra

The minister is misleading the chamber slightly with that comment. He knows as well as I do that there is a supported business in Bruce Crawford’s constituency that manufactures workwear uniforms and that every council in Scotland has to buy workwear uniforms. Therefore, to say that supported businesses are producing things that public authorities may not need is simply not the case. Will the minister clarify that for us?



Meeting of the Parliament 30 October 2014 : Thursday, October 30, 2014
Jenny Marra

Will the member take an intervention?



Meeting of the Parliament 30 October 2014 : Thursday, October 30, 2014
Jenny Marra (North East Scotland) (Lab)

I was pleased to see the debate on the Government’s agenda this afternoon, but I am not pleased or impressed—indeed, I am disappointed—with the minister’s opening speech. Although I entirely and whole-heartedly agree with his condemnation of Lord Freud’s comments at the Tory party conference just a couple of weeks ago, I believe that the minister is guilty of passing the buck on this issue.

I outlined to the minister in my interventions some of the figures and the sluggish progress that the Government is making on awarding public procurement contracts to supported businesses in Scotland, and yet he is not prepared to put his money where his mouth is and legislate to make those public authorities spend taxpayers’ money on supporting sheltered workplaces.



Meeting of the Parliament 30 October 2014 : Thursday, October 30, 2014
Jenny Marra

I will take your intervention in a minute, Mr Crawford, if that is okay.

The minister said that we could not legislate to require public authorities to award one contract to a supported business because they may not need to do so. There are 118 public authorities in Scotland, including local authorities—of which there are 32, as the minister knows—as well as health boards and quangos. I do not think that it is beyond the minister’s wit to pass an amendment to the Procurement Reform (Scotland) Act 2014 to mandate that local authorities and health boards, which all, as he knows, have to buy work uniforms—perhaps not the quangos but all the local authorities and health boards—buy them from a supported business.

The minister has put the nursing contracts out to a supported business in Bruce Crawford’s constituency, and there is no good reason why he cannot put out other contracts in the same way.



Meeting of the Parliament 30 October 2014 : Thursday, October 30, 2014
Jenny Marra

We should have the ambition to make those businesses have the capacity. I am sure that Bruce Crawford would agree that, if it his good enough for disabled workers in his constituency, it is good enough for disabled workers across the country. I will go on to outline the figures, but he knows as well as I do the number of workers with mental health issues and disabilities who would benefit from work in a sheltered workplace, supported by a public contract.

It has always struck me as a bit sad and quite ironic that the Victorians had the foresight to open these businesses and yet in our sophisticated modern world we fail to find a way to make them sustainable and keep them open. This Government let the Royal Blindcraft factory in Edinburgh close just a couple of years ago, after 200 years in operation. Just weeks ago, the Engine Shed in Edinburgh—a cherished social enterprise and supported business—announced its closure. For the past 25 years, the Engine Shed has provided work-based training placements for young adults with learning difficulties and supported trainees. Its model is transformative, it has a well-documented success rate, and it provides people with the skills and confidence to overcome barriers to work.

Royal Strathclyde Blindcraft Industries is another example of what can be achieved by supported employment business. RSBI is successfully diversifying its business into areas such as archiving and records management. It has more than 200 employees, of whom more than 50 per cent are disabled people. It gives work experience and training in furniture manufacturing to school pupils from additionally supported learning schools in Glasgow every week during the school term. It has also ring fenced posts for returning disabled ex-servicemen and women. I say to Bruce Crawford that those are good examples of how we can be ambitious and innovative and create the capacity for work in these areas.

Many years ago, Community, the union, worked with RSBI management through a difficult period of change on the funding and restructuring of the business. At the heart of Community’s work on supported businesses has been Robert Mooney, who joins us in the public gallery today with his colleagues from RSBI. A disabled worker from Glasgow; a champion of sheltered workplaces; a long-serving member of Community and, I hope I can say, a friend of mine, Robert has selflessly championed the cause of supported employment all his life, ensuring that opportunities for good work and fulfilling careers are available to disabled people.

Disabled people are at least 30 per cent less likely to be in employment than those without a disability. There is a moral imperative for Government intervention to support disabled workers and there is—I say to Bruce Crawford—an equally strong economic case. We on the Labour benches believe that other supported employment businesses could be just as successful and profitable as RSBI. However, it is clear that effective Government action through procurement and proper legislative backing for that procurement is needed for that to happen.

Disabled people and those with long-term health conditions, learning disabilities or mental health issues face pronounced and complex barriers to sustaining employment in the mainstream jobs market. Many people who have worked in sheltered workplaces such as Remploy, which closed recently, have been directed to supermarket work or similar jobs. However, there were 8,000 applications for 350 jobs at an Asda store that opened recently in Dundee, which gives a picture of just how difficult that job market is.

How do we turn the situation around? How do we provide sustainable employment for the disabled and those who need more support? I believe and Labour believes that the answer is modern sheltered workplaces, supported by public contracts. When the coalition Government announced the closure of Remploy factories, I came up with a solution for the Dundee plant, which manufactured uniforms: a business structure of a social enterprise, supported by local authority, NHS, police and fire service uniform contracts. I moved amendments to that effect, which were voted down in this chamber by the SNP Government.

Article 19 of the European Union public sector procurement directive allows councils, Governments and all the public authorities that we have been talking about to bypass the commercial tender process and reserve contracts for sheltered workplaces. At the stroke of a pen, the Scottish Government could place its contracts for uniforms with sheltered workplaces all over Scotland. The Scottish National Party took that idea and made it happen in Stirling, but for some reason there was not the political will in the SNP to make it happen in Dundee.

Labour’s amendment revisits a debate that we had during the passage of the Procurement Reform (Scotland) Bill, because the issue is vital. We propose that each public authority in Scotland—all 118 of them; local authorities, health boards and quangos—awards at least one public contract to a supported business. During the passage of the bill, the SNP did not think that that was a good idea. The Deputy First Minister argued against the proposal, suggesting that public authorities would be confused and would think that they could award only one contract to a supported business and not more—not the strongest argument that I have heard, but an argument nonetheless.



Meeting of the Parliament 30 October 2014 : Thursday, October 30, 2014
Jenny Marra

I am running out of time.



Meeting of the Parliament 30 October 2014 : Thursday, October 30, 2014
Jenny Marra

Okay.



Meeting of the Parliament 30 October 2014 : Thursday, October 30, 2014
Jenny Marra

The minister knows as well as I do that the amendment would not have made it mandatory to award just one contract. It was about awarding at least one contract. I ask him to consider amending the Procurement Reform (Scotland) Act 2014 to provide that local authorities and health boards must award at least one contract to a supported business.

When I was putting together the plan for Remploy in Dundee, I got in touch with private uniform buyers to encourage them to place contracts with supported businesses. I wonder what private firms make of the fact that under this Scottish Government there is no imperative for local authorities to use public procurement to support sheltered workplaces. Private companies told me that they were looking for a lead from Government before placing contracts themselves.

A Scottish Labour Government would amend the 2014 act to require each public authority to place at least one contract with a supported business. However, disabled workers throughout Scotland should not have to wait until 2016, so I ask the Scottish Government to support the amendment in my name.

I move amendment S4M-11332.2, to insert at end:

“; notes the importance of public procurement in sustaining supported businesses; notes the slow progress of public authorities to award contracts to supported businesses, and requests an amendment to the Procurement Reform (Scotland) Act 2014 requiring all 118 public authorities in Scotland to award at least one contract to a supported business”.



Meeting of the Parliament 30 October 2014 : Thursday, October 30, 2014
Jenny Marra

Will the member give way?

Vote DetailMSP VoteResult

S4M-11332.2 Jenny Marra: Supported Business—As an amendment to motion S4M-11332 in the name of Fergu
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YesDefeated

S4M-11332.1 Gavin Brown: Supported Business—As an amendment to motion S4M-11332 in the name of Fergu
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-11332 Fergus Ewing: Supported Business—That the Parliament recognises the economic and social va
>> Show more
YesCarried

S4M-11304.3 Michael Russell: Addressing the Attainment Gap in Scottish Schools—As an amendment to mo
>> Show more
YesCarried

S4M-11304 Liz Smith: Addressing the Attainment Gap in Scottish Schools—That the Parliament believes
>> Show more
YesCarried

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

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

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

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

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

Search for other Motions lodged by Jenny Marra
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Motion S4M-11332.2: Jenny Marra, North East Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 29/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11163: Jenny Marra, North East Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 09/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10988.1: Jenny Marra, North East Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 24/09/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10829.3: Jenny Marra, North East Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 19/08/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10214.1: Jenny Marra, North East Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 04/06/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10051.1: Jenny Marra, North East Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 14/05/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09928: Jenny Marra, North East Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 02/05/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09600: Jenny Marra, North East Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 02/04/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09575.1: Jenny Marra, North East Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 02/04/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09462.1: Jenny Marra, North East Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 25/03/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Search for other Questions asked by Jenny Marra
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Question S4W-22942: Jenny Marra, North East Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 28/10/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22803: Jenny Marra, North East Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 08/10/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22804: Jenny Marra, North East Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 08/10/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22801: Jenny Marra, North East Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 08/10/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22333: Jenny Marra, North East Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 11/08/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22332: Jenny Marra, North East Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 11/08/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22334: Jenny Marra, North East Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 11/08/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22297: Jenny Marra, North East Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 07/08/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22298: Jenny Marra, North East Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 07/08/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22296: Jenny Marra, North East Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 07/08/2014 Show Full Question >>

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