Richard Baker MSP

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Richard Baker MSP

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Parliamentary Activities

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Finance Committee 04 February 2015 : Wednesday, February 04, 2015
Richard Baker

The Scottish Taxi Federation wishes to be clear whether, if a local authority applies for that power, the cost of the overprovision section and the possible court challenges will only be charged back to licensees for private hire care operators, or whether they will be charged back to the regime in general.



Finance Committee 04 February 2015 : Wednesday, February 04, 2015
Richard Baker

What assessment have you made of the impact that the legislation might have through additional or increased costs for licence fees for taxi drivers?



Finance Committee 04 February 2015 : Wednesday, February 04, 2015
Richard Baker (North East Scotland) (Lab)

I want to return to the submission from the Scottish Taxi Federation. It said that the bill will impact on its members because of the Government’s comments that additional costs should be charged to licence fees. Paragraph 170 of the financial memorandum gives an indicative value of the cost to drivers, vehicles and booking offices, with examples of fees in five licensing authorities. Do those examples include any additional costs for the implementation of the bill, or do the comments from the Scottish Taxi Federation reflect the fact that those costs are likely to increase in the future because of additional costs through appeals and other impacts of the legislation?



Meeting of the Parliament 29 January 2015 : Thursday, January 29, 2015
Richard Baker (North East Scotland) (Lab)

As a new member of the Finance Committee, which the convener informs me I am highly privileged to be a member of, I have had the chance to hear the evidence on the bill and, along with the majority of members who have spoken today, I support the legislation.

It is quite wrong to link the issue of outstanding community charge debt to electoral registration. Indeed, I have some issues with local authorities using electoral rolls to pursue wider debts as well. Such matters should not affect efforts to encourage as many people as possible to take part in the democratic process. That is why I asked the cabinet secretary whether other legislative solutions had been sought to address the issue that the bill rightly seeks to resolve.

It would have been legitimate for the Scottish Government to look at other ways of ensuring that local authorities did not use the electoral register after the referendum to pursue those debts. Although I support the bill, it is regrettable that there was, in effect, no consultation with anyone before its introduction.

I understand the reasoning behind the Government acting speedily, but the fact that COSLA was simply informed in a phone call of the Government’s intention to legislate on the same day that the announcement was made to Parliament is not acceptable. The committee refers to that in its report. To be fair, the cabinet secretary acknowledged to the committee that the situation was not optimal. Given the place that the Scottish Government was at when the announcement was made, I suspect that the cabinet secretary might not have had a huge influence over arrangements for the former First Minister’s statement.

There was also a case for at least curtailed public consultation on the bill, but given that the matter is of great importance to local authorities, whatever our views on the merits of the legislation, consultation with COSLA should have taken place. Frankly, it was disrespectful to councils not to have done so.

There has been no great political divide among councils in pursuing the debt. The council that will receive the greatest proportion of the financial settlement is Dundee City Council, which is an SNP administration, because it has been the most assiduous in pursuing the debts. When the SNP formed the administration in Aberdeen and convened its finance committee, the local authority recovered almost £155,000 in poll tax arrears between 2007 and 2012.

Other authorities have effectively ceased collecting the debts already. Although it is right that the committee raised the question of fairness for those who paid their debts despite opposing the poll tax whereas others, who did not pay, are now exempt, the issue of practicality is rightly taken into consideration. Many local authorities have found that the costs of collection have not justified pursuing the debt.

It is important that we send out a message that we are in an exceptional circumstance with regard to an historic, deeply unpopular and unfair tax, and that we must all pay our contributions to local authority taxation so that our councils can carry out their vital work.

I am disappointed that there was not proper consultation with councils on the bill. It would have been appropriate to give at least some time to looking at other legislative options, but ultimately I agree with the principle of the bill. In essence, it simply gives legal effect to the approach that is already being taken by most councils in Scotland, and if it is looked at from the perspective of ensuring that the poll tax is now fully consigned to history, that can be no bad thing.

16:35  

Finance Committee 28 January 2015 : Wednesday, January 28, 2015
Richard Baker

Is the Scottish Government in a position at this point to say what those powers should be, or is it something that you are going to leave for a later date?



Finance Committee 28 January 2015 : Wednesday, January 28, 2015
Richard Baker

I want to follow up on one question, cabinet secretary. The convener raised the issue of dialogue with the UK Government on powers beyond what has been proposed by the Smith commission. Reflecting on your response to the convener, is it fair to represent your view—please tell me if this is not fair, as I would not wish to be unfair to you—by saying that it is the Scottish Government’s intention to make representations after the next UK election for the further devolution of powers through the proposed legislation to the extent of full fiscal autonomy?



Finance Committee 28 January 2015 : Wednesday, January 28, 2015
Richard Baker

We could debate that for some time, but I will move on to my final question.

We have had some discussion about whether the Smith proposals go far enough, and we have talked about the detailed proposals. As members have mentioned, proposals have been made in the debates at Westminster and in the wider political sphere that the proposed legislation needs to go further. The Scottish Government has also expressed that view. Has there been any official dialogue by the Scottish Government with the UK Government about what it sees as the deficiencies of the proposals and the Scottish Government’s specific proposals on where the legislation should go further?



Finance Committee 28 January 2015 : Wednesday, January 28, 2015
Richard Baker

That is helpful information.

Would the principle of a Scottish cash reserve also be part of those discussions? On the same issue, the committee previously looked into a proposal from the UK Government that, in the use of funds from such a reserve, priority must be given to dealing with potential future deficits or outstanding debt. However, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Constitution and Economy has argued that there should be flexibility to spend surplus tax receipts as part of Government spending in other ways. There may be sound economic reasons to do that. What is your view on the degree of flexibility that there should be? How would the discussions take place to establish such a reserve?



Finance Committee 28 January 2015 : Wednesday, January 28, 2015
Richard Baker (North East Scotland) (Lab)

I return to the issue of borrowing. I sat on the Scotland Bill Committee earlier in the current session and, even then, when we discussed the issue, we had cross-party agreement that the Scottish Parliament’s borrowing powers should be increased. Chief secretary, you said that you agree that, with the new powers through the Smith commission, there should be another look at the Parliament’s borrowing powers.

In the Scotland Bill Committee, the idea that we had was for the borrowing to be in addition to current capital borrowing powers, rather than a replacement for the prudential borrowing regime. In the interest of ensuring that whatever new limits or powers are proposed can be scrutinised properly by both Parliaments, what timescale are you looking at for establishing what the new powers should be and their extent and what the new borrowing limits should be?



Meeting of the Parliament 28 January 2015 : Wednesday, January 28, 2015
Richard Baker

Does the minister agree that, despite the recent contraction in the oil and gas sector, it is important to emphasise to pupils that there are still great opportunities in the industry? Does he welcome the work of Northfield academy in Aberdeen in working with oil and gas businesses to enable pupils to attain the skills for a career in the industry? What support will ministers provide to schools, particularly in the north-east, to take forward similar collaborations in the future?

Vote DetailMSP VoteResult

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

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

S4M-12385 Liz Smith: STEM Education in Scottish Schools—That the Parliament agrees that a solid grou
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YesCarried

S4M-12395.1 Fergus Ewing: An Energy Strategy for Scotland—As an amendment to motion S4M-12395 in the
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NoCarried

S4M-12395.2 Patrick Harvie: An Energy Strategy for Scotland—As an amendment to motion S4M-12395 in t
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AbstainDefeated

S4M-12395 Murdo Fraser: An Energy Strategy for Scotland—That the Parliament notes with concern the l
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NoCarried

S4M-12385.3 Alasdair Allan: STEM Education in Scottish Schools—As an amendment to motion S4M-12385 i
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NoCarried

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

S4M-12382.1 Gavin Brown: Building Scotland’s Infrastructure for the Future—As an amendment to motion
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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 Richard Baker
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Motion S4M-12204: Richard Baker, North East Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 29/01/2015 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11599.1: Richard Baker, North East Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 02/12/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11573: Richard Baker, North East Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 17/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11516: Richard Baker, North East Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 12/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10431: Richard Baker, North East Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 23/06/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10306: Richard Baker, North East Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 12/06/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09903: Richard Baker, North East Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 01/05/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-08985: Richard Baker, North East Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 06/02/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-08291: Richard Baker, North East Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 13/11/2013 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-08214: Richard Baker, North East Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 06/11/2013 Show Full Motion >>
Search for other Questions asked by Richard Baker
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Question S4W-24486: Richard Baker, North East Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 17/02/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24485: Richard Baker, North East Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 17/02/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24487: Richard Baker, North East Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 17/02/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24488: Richard Baker, North East Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 17/02/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24440: Richard Baker, North East Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 13/02/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24154: Richard Baker, North East Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 22/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24151: Richard Baker, North East Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 22/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24152: Richard Baker, North East Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 22/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24153: Richard Baker, North East Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 22/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03955: Richard Baker, North East Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 19/01/2015 Show Full Question >>

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