Michael McMahon MSP

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Meeting of the Parliament 29 October 2014 : Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Michael McMahon (Uddingston and Bellshill) (Lab)

Ten years ago, in March 2004, the tragedy of the Rosepark nursing home fire occurred in my constituency. Fourteen elderly people lost their lives in that appalling event. When they should have been safe and secure, they were not; when they should have been protected, they were not; when they put their trust in others, they were robbed of their final years, their families were bereaved and the community was left in shock. It is therefore with my deepest sympathy and respect for their memory that I lodged the motion and speak to it this evening.

There has been progress on fire safety since that day. The previous coalition Administration put the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 on the statute book and, quite recently, in March, the present Scottish Government produced the long-awaited “Practical Fire Safety Guidance for Care Homes”. Obviously, the Rosepark incident occurred before the act and its associated secondary legislation. As subsequent investigations demonstrated, the fire should never have taken place. One of the key findings in Sheriff Principal Lockhart’s determination, after hearing the evidence at the fatal accident inquiry in Hamilton, was that the fire risk assessment at the care home was inadequate and that the person who had carried it out was not qualified to do so.

Care homes are of course only one type of business. They are now systematically and actively visited by the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service. However, the 2005 act dealt with fire safety in all commercial premises. Part 3 of the act concerns fire safety, and section 53 sets out the requirement to carry out fire risk assessments in premises on owners, employers and persons who are responsible for those premises. Those so-called duty holders must also keep fire safety under review.

As Sheriff Principal Lockhart noted, at the time of the Rosepark incident, there was

“no statutory requirement as regards the qualifications”

of those carrying out a fire risk assessment, but neither the act nor any subsequent regulations has altered that situation. The reason was and remains that, in many premises, duty holders can carry out a self-assessment. In many small premises, such as a one or two-room greengrocer’s shop, the risks are minimal and fire exits are obvious to staff and customers. That is not necessarily the case in, for example, factories or care homes or indeed a building such as the one that we are in now.

I emphasise that many duty holders can rely safely on their judgment and self-assessment. That is perfectly acceptable in some circumstances but, with complex buildings, advice should be readily available and should be of the highest standard. Accordingly, in those situations a duty holder is heavily reliant on the capability and professionalism of the fire risk assessor and has to take his or her qualifications at face value.

This is the crux of what I have to say this evening: is it really good enough to impose a statutory duty on people if the Parliament and the Scottish Government do not ensure that there is a reasonable chance of people being able to meet their obligations, in all circumstances? In other words, how can a duty holder in a business be confident that the fire risk assessor is competent and that the advice given is sound and up to date?

The answer lies in Sheriff Principal Lockhart’s determination:

“An alternative approach, short of statutory regulation, would be the use of third party accreditation schemes, with appropriate support being given to the importance of using accredited assessors in non-statutory guidance to those responsible for running Care Homes and in the actions of regulators. The inquiry heard evidence that there are now registration or accreditation schemes for fire risk assessors run by four bodies (all but one of them post-dating the fire at Rosepark), and that the industry is actively engaged in developing third party certification schemes.”

Third-party certification schemes are indeed in existence, including those of British Approvals for Fire Equipment, Warrington Certification Ltd, IFC Certification Ltd and Registrar of Skilled Persons, or ROSP.

What is the Scottish Government’s role in relation to enhancing fire safety? In my view, three things must happen—and must happen soon. First, the Scottish Government must, in conjunction with other agencies, lead and co-ordinate an awareness campaign among businesses about the requirement to have a fire risk assessment. There are numerous opportunities to do that, which time precludes my listing, but direct contact is possibly the best approach. For example, why not ask the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities to seek the agreement of local authorities to send out a notice or leaflet alongside business rates demands? The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, too, has a key role to play in disseminating information, in addition to its enforcement role.

Secondly, the Scottish Government must embrace and advocate third-party certification. The current firelaw website is inadequate, in that it fails to highlight sufficiently the benefits of using a third-party certificated assessor and fails to advise duty holders to ask for such certification.

Thirdly, under the 2005 act the Scottish ministers have powers to make regulations. It is time to consult the industry and stakeholders on making third-party certification mandatory for people who offer their services as fire risk assessors. Such provision would not affect duty holders who opt for self-assessment and would make the industry responsible for setting and ensuring standards.

I thank all the people who have drawn my attention to the need for vigilance. British Approvals for Fire Equipment has been active in promoting third-party certification—and not, I may say, for any commercial advantage. The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service’s business engagement forum has been looking carefully into that and other fire safety issues. Other bodies and groups have been involved, too.

I hope that the Parliament and the Scottish Government will agree that we owe it to the memory of all those who lost their lives at Rosepark 10 years ago, and to their friends and relatives, to act decisively to prevent further fires. Although much has been done, more remains to be achieved in the area of fire risk assessment. Let us take matters forward so that we can all be confident in saying that everything possible, everything imaginable, everything practical and everything sensible is in hand to prevent another such tragedy.

17:13  

Welfare Reform Committee 28 October 2014 : Tuesday, October 28, 2014
The Convener (Michael McMahon)

Good morning and welcome to the 15th meeting in 2014 of the Welfare Reform Committee. We have apologies this morning from Linda Fabiani. I ask everyone to make sure that they have their mobile phones and electronic devices switched to either silent or airplane mode.

Agenda item 1 is a decision on whether to take in private item 4, which is consideration of the committee’s work programme. Do members agree?

Members indicated agreement.



Welfare Reform Committee 28 October 2014 : Tuesday, October 28, 2014
The Convener

Agenda item 2 is the committee’s third evidence session on the Welfare Funds (Scotland) Bill. In previous weeks, we have taken evidence from local authorities and third sector organisations. This week, we will take evidence from users of the Scottish welfare fund, as well as representatives of non-traditional banking and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities. We will round off our evidence taking on the bill next week with evidence from the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman, the Office of the Social Fund Commissioner for Northern Ireland and the Minister for Housing and Welfare, Margaret Burgess.

I thank the various organisations that have worked with us to enable us to have our first panel here today. We are joined by Connor, Laura, Charlene, Peter and Lana. We have invited you here today so that you can share your experiences of the Scottish welfare fund. The committee will ask you a range of questions. We are keen to hear about what you think worked well and about anything that you think could be improved in any aspect of the process, from application to receiving the grant and interactions with Scottish welfare fund staff. However, if at any point you feel uncomfortable or do not wish to answer, that is entirely okay. Simply signal that to me, and we can move on to the next question.

I will kick things off with the first question, and you can indicate to me who wants to answer. How were you first made aware of the Scottish welfare fund, and what was your initial impression of it?



Welfare Reform Committee 28 October 2014 : Tuesday, October 28, 2014
The Convener

You had already been working with an organisation that was aware of the Scottish welfare fund. Had you heard of the Scottish welfare fund yourself?



Welfare Reform Committee 28 October 2014 : Tuesday, October 28, 2014
The Convener

But you were looking for assistance, and Barnardo’s pointed you towards the Scottish welfare fund.



Welfare Reform Committee 28 October 2014 : Tuesday, October 28, 2014
The Convener

Is that something that all of you recognise, or did you find your way to the welfare fund yourselves?



Welfare Reform Committee 28 October 2014 : Tuesday, October 28, 2014
The Convener

Okay, we will come to that later when we talk about your experiences.

We have heard a lot of evidence about jobcentres, which administered the fund before it was transferred to the Scottish Government and then on to local authorities to administer. Witnesses have told us that jobcentres did not signpost—as it is called—people to the fund. Your experience, however, is that it was—



Welfare Reform Committee 28 October 2014 : Tuesday, October 28, 2014
The Convener

Laura, did you want to say something?



Welfare Reform Committee 28 October 2014 : Tuesday, October 28, 2014
The Convener

Had you had experience of the community care grant before?



Welfare Reform Committee 28 October 2014 : Tuesday, October 28, 2014
The Convener

Someone else told you it was still there.

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 Michael McMahon
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Motion S4M-11220: Michael McMahon, Uddingston and Bellshill, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 15/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11175: Michael McMahon, Uddingston and Bellshill, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 09/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10370: Michael McMahon, Uddingston and Bellshill, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 17/06/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10129: Michael McMahon, Uddingston and Bellshill, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 26/05/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09800: Michael McMahon, Uddingston and Bellshill, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 23/04/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09594: Michael McMahon, Uddingston and Bellshill, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 02/04/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09190: Michael McMahon, Uddingston and Bellshill, Scottish Labour, On Behalf of Welfare Reform Committee, Date Lodged: 27/02/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-08873: Michael McMahon, Uddingston and Bellshill, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 28/01/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-08793: Michael McMahon, Uddingston and Bellshill, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 17/01/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-08713: Michael McMahon, Uddingston and Bellshill, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 06/01/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Search for other Questions asked by Michael McMahon
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Question S4O-03621: Michael McMahon, Uddingston and Bellshill, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 20/10/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03581: Michael McMahon, Uddingston and Bellshill, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 29/09/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03553: Michael McMahon, Uddingston and Bellshill, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 22/09/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03514: Michael McMahon, Uddingston and Bellshill, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 15/09/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22080: Michael McMahon, Uddingston and Bellshill, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 10/07/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22081: Michael McMahon, Uddingston and Bellshill, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 10/07/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22039: Michael McMahon, Uddingston and Bellshill, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 03/07/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22040: Michael McMahon, Uddingston and Bellshill, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 03/07/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22038: Michael McMahon, Uddingston and Bellshill, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 03/07/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03188: Michael McMahon, Uddingston and Bellshill, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 28/04/2014 Show Full Question >>

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