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Meeting of the Parliament

Thursday 11 May 2006

Note: (DT) signifies a decision taken at Decision Time.

The meeting opened at 9.15 am.

  1. Council Tax and Pensioner Poverty: Mr John Swinney moved S2M-4363—That the Parliament recognises that the council tax is an unfair tax which is based neither on income nor on the ability to pay; further notes that the council tax, which has increased by over 60% since 1997, discriminates against those on a fixed income, particularly the elderly; notes that means-tested council tax benefit has failed to help many of the elderly, in particular older owner-occupiers, and calls for the abolition of the unfair council tax and its replacement by a local income tax based on the ability to pay.

    The Deputy Minister for Finance and Public Service Reform and Parliamentary Business (George Lyon) moved amendment S2M-4363.4 to motion S2M-4363—

    Leave out from first “council tax” to end and insert—

    “Scottish Executive has established the independent inquiry into local government finance consistent with the Partnership Agreement of May 2003; notes that the Labour Party has submitted clear and detailed proposals to support changes to the council tax, and further notes that the Liberal Democrats have submitted clear and detailed proposals to support a local income tax and that the inquiry is due to report in the future.”

    After debate, the amendment was agreed to ((DT) by division: For 62, Against 52, Abstentions 1). 

    Derek Brownlee moved amendment S2M-4363.1 to motion S2M-4363—

    Leave out from “recognises” to end and insert—

    “notes that the council tax has increased by 60% since 1997 and that it is this large rise which has made the cost of local council services a punishing burden for so many Scottish households, especially pensioners; calls on the Scottish Executive to fund fully the centrally-driven policies which it imposes on local councils; further calls on the Executive to ensure that those who are entitled to council tax benefits are in receipt of them, and notes that in 2004-05 councils collected only 92.7% of council tax and that, if the Scottish councils improved their average collection rate to that of England, 96.5%, an extra £41.50 could be shaved off the average band D council tax in 2005-06.”

    After debate, the amendment was disagreed to ((DT) by division: For 19, Against 89, Abstentions 7).

    Tommy Sheridan moved amendment S2M-4363.3 to motion S2M-4363—

    Leave out from “and calls for” to end and insert—

    “regrets the failure of the SNP and Liberal Democrat parties to vote for the replacement of the unfair council tax with an income-based alternative, when presented with such an opportunity during the February 2006 debate on the Council Tax Abolition and Service Tax Introduction (Scotland) Bill; notes the failure of either the SNP or Liberal Democrat parties to propose any concrete legislative alternative to the council tax over the last seven years, and believes that the overwhelming majority of Scottish citizens support the replacement of the council tax with a system based on income and designed to tax the wealthy more and ordinary workers and pensioners less.”

    Amendment S2M-4363.3 was pre-empted by S2M-4363.4.

    The motion, as amended, was then agreed to ((DT) by division: For 63, Against 51, Abstentions 1).

    Accordingly, the Parliament resolved—That the Parliament recognises that the Scottish Executive has established the independent inquiry into local government finance consistent with the Partnership Agreement of May 2003; notes that the Labour Party has submitted clear and detailed proposals to support changes to the council tax, and further notes that the Liberal Democrats have submitted clear and detailed proposals to support a local income tax and that the inquiry is due to report in the future.

  2. Scottish Enterprise: Jim Mather moved S2M-4367—That the Parliament views the current financial position of Scottish Enterprise with mounting concern, given that the overspend is now estimated to be in excess of  £60 million; is doubly concerned that this overspend will jeopardise jobs, skills and training, including those jobs of Scottish Enterprise employees; is disturbed to discover that Scottish Executive ministers were unaware of the true extent of the overspend for four months after it was first identified; criticises the failure to address this mismanagement at an earlier stage, and calls for urgent action to be taken to address the current problems facing Scottish Enterprise, for future guarantees that organisations must live within their established budgets and a recognition that the activity of enterprise agencies will never adequately compensate the people of Scotland for the lack of economic powers and the full means to manage the Scottish economy competitively and effectively in the interest of everyone in Scotland.

    The Deputy Minister and Minister for Enterprise and Lifelong Learning (Nicol Stephen) moved amendment S2M-4367.2 to motion S2M-4367—

    Leave out from “views” to end and insert—

    “recognises the important role of Scottish Enterprise in supporting the growth of the Scottish economy; endorses the strategic direction set by ministers for Scottish Enterprise in terms of business growth, regeneration and local development initiatives, training, skills and maximising international opportunities; welcomes the steps taken by the Scottish Executive to secure effective financial management by Scottish Enterprise in the future, in particular the commissioning of the robust report by KPMG and the commitment to the implementation of its recommendations; welcomes the additional non-cash resources to be made available to Scottish Enterprise, and confirms the important role that Scottish Enterprise will play in contributing to the growth of the Scottish economy.”

    Murdo Fraser moved amendment S2M-4367.1 to motion S2M-4367—

    leave out from “calls” to end and insert “believes that the time has come for Scottish Enterprise to be restructured, refocused and slimmed down, with the savings made being invested in transport infrastructure improvements and reductions in the business rate which would deliver real benefits to all businesses across Scotland.”

    Amendment 4367.2 was agreed to ((DT) by division: For 62, Against 46, Abstentions 7).  As a result, amendment S2M-4367.1 was pre-empted.

    The motion, as amended, was then agreed to ((DT) by division: For 86, Against 21, Abstentions 8).

    Accordingly, the Parliament resolved—That the Parliament recognises the important role of Scottish Enterprise in supporting the growth of the Scottish economy; endorses the strategic direction set by ministers for Scottish Enterprise in terms of business growth, regeneration and local development initiatives, training, skills and maximising international opportunities; welcomes the steps taken by the Scottish Executive to secure effective financial management by Scottish Enterprise in the future, in particular the commissioning of the robust report by KPMG and the commitment to the implementation of its recommendations; welcomes the additional non-cash resources to be made available to Scottish Enterprise, and confirms the important role that Scottish Enterprise will play in contributing to the growth of the Scottish economy.

  3. General Question Time: Questions were answered by Scottish Ministers and junior Scottish Ministers.

  4. First Minister’s Question Time: Questions were answered by the First Minister (Mr Jack McConnell).

  5. Themed Question Time: Questions on Finance and Public Services and Communities and on Education and Young People, Tourism, Culture and Sport were answered by Scottish Ministers and junior Scottish Ministers.

  6. Drugs and Hidden Harm: The Minister for Justice (Cathy Jamieson) moved S2M-4370—That the Parliament welcomes the publication by the Scottish Executive of Hidden Harm - Next Steps: Supporting Children - Working With Parents; acknowledges the wide range of work currently being undertaken to protect and support children living in substance-misusing families; recognises the serious risks and problems faced by many children in drug-abusing households and the incompatibility of serious and chaotic drug use with effective parenting; acknowledges the important role of the extended family in helping to safeguard and nurture children who have been affected by substance misuse, and supports the Executive’s commitment to further improvements in the way that agencies protect and support children in these circumstances.

    Fiona Hyslop moved amendment S2M-4370.2 to motion S2M-4370—

    Leave out from the first “acknowledges” to end and insert—

    “notes that in 2002 the current First Minister, formerly minister with responsibility for children, said that the Executive and relevant agencies had three years to get their collective act together on child protection; recognises that child protection issues generally, including the increasing number of cases where drugs misuse is a factor, are complex and need thought-through policy solutions and concerted action for delivery, and calls on the Executive to redouble its efforts to complete implementation of the child protection recommendations contained in the 2002 report, It’s everyone’s job to make sure I’m alright, which it committed to fulfil but which are still outstanding, and to ensure that it adopts a comprehensive policy approach to proposed legislation for child protection, adoption and fostering and children’s hearings which puts the child at centre stage and which addresses support for kinship care, listens to children and to professionals in the field and also addresses support services where current spend on children’s services by local authorities on average far exceeds GAE allocation to a disproportionate extent.”

    After debate, the amendment was disagreed to ((DT) by division: For 27, Against 64, Abstentions 24).

    Miss Annabel Goldie moved amendment S2M-4370.1 to motion S2M-4370—

    Insert at end—

    “but believes that progress will be impeded unless there is an increase in the availability of rehabilitation for those addicted parents, as well as a greater emphasis on educational and preventative measures to stop people getting involved with drugs in the first place.”

    After debate, the amendment was disagreed to ((DT) by division: For 47, Against 64, Abstentions 4).

    Margo MacDonald moved amendment S2M-4370.3 to motion S2M-4370—

    Leave out from “; recognises” to end and insert-

    “and to that end guarantees to investigate properly alternative regimes that aim to reduce the harm done by drug abuse and stabilise the lifestyle of persistent drug abusers; acknowledges the important role of kinship carers in helping to safeguard and nurture children who have been affected by substance misuse and recognises this role by financially recompensing them to an agreed national standard, and supports the Executive’s commitment to further improvements in the way that agencies protect and support children in these circumstances.”

    After debate, the amendment was disagreed to ((DT) by division: For 13, Against 102, Abstentions 0).

    The motion was then agreed to (DT).

  7. Decision Time: The Parliament took decisions on items 1, 2 and 6 as noted above.

  8. Ensuring the Independence of Scottish National Statistics: The Parliament debated S2M-4171 in the name of Jim Mather—That the Parliament, in light of the proposals from HM Treasury for the establishment of an independent UK Office for National Statistics, notes that no proposals were made for Scotland; further notes that such proposals for Scotland are the responsibility of the Scottish Executive, and considers that, in light of previous statistical issues such as the loss of Objective 1 funding for the Highlands and Islands through statistical error, the Executive should take similar measures to place the production of Scottish statistics on a statutory basis, incorporating the National Statistics Code of Practice, and establish an independent Office of Scottish Statistics with independent governance answerable directly to the Scottish Parliament.

The meeting closed at 5.30 pm.

P E Grice
Clerk of the Parliament
11 May 2006

Appendix
(Note: this Appendix does not form part of the Minutes)

New Bills introduced or reprinted on 10 May 2006

Scottish Schools (Parental Involvement) Bill—The Bill was reprinted as passed (SP Bill 45B) (Executive Bill).

Subordinate Legislation

Affirmative Instruments

The following instruments were laid in draft before the Parliament on 11 May 2006 for approval by resolution—

The Public Appointments and Public Bodies etc. (Scotland) Act 2003 (Treatment of Public Transport Users’ Committee for Scotland as Specified Authority and Amendment of Specified Authorities) Order 2006

laid under section 18(4) of the Public Appointments and Public Bodies etc. (Scotland) Act 2003

The Student Fees (Specification) (Scotland) Order 2006

laid under section 34(4) of the Further and Higher Education (Scotland) Act 2005

Negative Instruments

The following instrument was laid before the Parliament on 11 May 2006 and is subject to annulment

The Public Transport Users’ Committee for Scotland Order 2006 (SSI 2006/250)

laid under section 52(2) of the Transport (Scotland) Act 2005