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Meeting of the Parliament

Thursday 8 May 2008

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

The meeting opened at 9.15am.

1. Meeting Scotland’s Housing Needs: Johann Lamont moved S3M-1848—That the Parliament recognises the broad range of issues that must be tackled in meeting the diverse housing needs of people across Scotland; confirms that the Scottish Government must act to address these issues, including continued work to prevent and reduce homelessness, the further development of housing to meet particular and specialist need, dealing with the blockages to the supply of housing, providing affordable housing to buy and within the socially rented sector, ensuring higher quality and better managed housing for rent in the private sector, seeking solutions to the problems facing local authorities where tenants voted against stock transfer and recognising the distinctive challenges in rural areas, regeneration areas and areas of high demand; notes that the consultation responses to the Firm Foundations document exposed significant flaws in the Scottish Government’s approach; urges the Scottish Government to address these flaws and bring forward a coherent strategy for all of Scotland’s housing needs and, in particular, agrees that the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing should ensure that the Mazars report into second stage transfer issues in Glasgow Housing Association is subject to open, transparent and independent scrutiny.

Stewart Maxwell moved amendment S3M-1848.2 to motion S3M-1848—

leave out from “notes” to end and insert—

“calls on the Scottish Government to facilitate discussion and mediation between Glasgow Housing Association (GHA) and the relevant local housing organisations to ensure that second stage transfers proceed speedily and equitably in the interests of all tenants and urges the Scottish Government to bring forward a coherent strategy for all of Scotland’s housing needs and, in particular, agrees that the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing should ensure that the Mazars report into second stage transfer issues in GHA is subject to open, transparent and independent scrutiny.”

After debate, the amendment was disagreed to ((DT) by division: For 48, Against 75, Abstentions 1).

Jamie McGrigor moved amendment S3M-1848.1 to motion S3M-1848—

insert at end—

“regrets the failure of the Scottish Government to actively promote housing stock transfer by local authorities to community-based housing associations, with the approval of tenants, and urges the Scottish Government to co-operate with HM Treasury and councils to achieve the substantial debt write-offs of over £2 billion which are available and thereby facilitate new investment in social housing.”

After debate, the amendment was agreed to ((DT) by division: For 74, Against 46, Abstentions 3).

Jim Tolson moved amendment S3M-1848.3 to motion S3M-1848—

insert at end—

“regrets that after two parliamentary debates on the subject since the budget was passed, the Scottish Government has still failed to come forward with clear figures on its housing plans across all sector and tenure types including the number of affordable rented houses to be built from 2008 to 2011, and has further failed to produce a clear trajectory for how it intends to meet its commitment to abolish unintentional homelessness by 2012; calls for improved energy efficiency to be a key objective in plans for new housing, and opposes the Scottish Government's proposals for large scale procurement put forward in Firm Foundations.”

After debate, the amendment was agreed to ((DT) by division: For 74, Against 48, Abstentions 1).

The motion, as amended, was then agreed to ((DT) by division: For 74, Against 48, Abstentions 1).

Accordingly, the Parliament resolved—That the Parliament recognises the broad range of issues that must be tackled in meeting the diverse housing needs of people across Scotland; confirms that the Scottish Government must act to address these issues, including continued work to prevent and reduce homelessness, the further development of housing to meet particular and specialist need, dealing with the blockages to the supply of housing, providing affordable housing to buy and within the socially rented sector, ensuring higher quality and better managed housing for rent in the private sector, seeking solutions to the problems facing local authorities where tenants voted against stock transfer and recognising the distinctive challenges in rural areas, regeneration areas and areas of high demand; notes that the consultation responses to the Firm Foundations document exposed significant flaws in the Scottish Government’s approach; urges the Scottish Government to address these flaws and bring forward a coherent strategy for all of Scotland’s housing needs and, in particular, agrees that the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing should ensure that the Mazars report into second stage transfer issues in Glasgow Housing Association is subject to open, transparent and independent scrutiny; regrets the failure of the Scottish Government to actively promote housing stock transfer by local authorities to community-based housing associations, with the approval of tenants; urges the Scottish Government to co-operate with HM Treasury and councils to achieve the substantial debt write-offs of over £2 billion which are available and thereby facilitate new investment in social housing; regrets that after two parliamentary debates on the subject since the budget was passed, the Scottish Government has still failed to come forward with clear figures on its housing plans across all sector and tenure types including the number of affordable rented houses to be built from 2008 to 2011, and has further failed to produce a clear trajectory for how it intends to meet its commitment to abolish unintentional homelessness by 2012; calls for improved energy efficiency to be a key objective in plans for new housing, and opposes the Scottish Government's proposals for large scale procurement put forward in Firm Foundations.

2. General Question Time: Questions were answered by Cabinet Secretaries and Ministers.

3. First Minister’s Question Time: Questions were answered by the First Minister (Alex Salmond).

4. Themed Question Time: Questions on Rural Affairs and the Environment, and Justice and Law Officers were answered by Cabinet Secretaries, Ministers and Scottish Law Officers.

5. Effective Public Services: The Minister for Parliamentary Business (Bruce Crawford) moved S3M-1849—That the Parliament welcomes the opportunity to debate proposals to deliver better public services by reducing duplication, bureaucracy and overlaps in the public sector with the aim of achieving greater focus and alignment with the Purpose of Government and the outcomes set out in the national performance framework.

Andy Kerr moved amendment S3M-1849.2 to motion S3M-1849—

leave out from “with the aim” to end and insert—

“but recognises that public service cuts seen all over Scotland are undermining those very services and that the cuts being experienced are not the result of reducing duplication, bureaucracy and overlaps but rather a failure to invest by the Scottish Government.”

After debate, the amendment was disagreed to ((DT) by division: For 45, Against 64, Abstentions 16).

Derek Brownlee moved amendment S3M-1849.1 to motion S3M-1849—

insert at end—

“believes that there is scope for continuous improvement in the design and delivery of public services, and rejects the notion that improvements in public services can only be achieved by increased levels of public spending.”

After debate, the amendment was agreed to ((DT) by division: For 63, Against 46, Abstentions 16).

Robert Brown moved amendment S3M-1849.3 to motion S3M-1849—

leave out from “opportunity” to end and insert—

“commitment from successive Scottish administrations to reduce waste, bureaucracy and duplication in Scotland’s public sector; notes with concern the current administration’s superficial approach, which appears to be driven by numerical and financial targets alone rather than principles of good governance, and the failure of the Scottish Government to consult properly with the interests affected by key decisions, and regrets that these decisions were taken without parliamentary approval.”

After debate, the amendment was disagreed to ((DT) by division: For 60, Against 65, Abstentions 0).

The motion, as amended, was then agreed to ((DT) by division: For 63, Against 60, Abstentions 2).

Accordingly, the Parliament resolved—That the Parliament welcomes the opportunity to debate proposals to deliver better public services by reducing duplication, bureaucracy and overlaps in the public sector with the aim of achieving greater focus and alignment with the Purpose of Government and the outcomes set out in the national performance framework; believes that there is scope for continuous improvement in the design and delivery of public services, and rejects the notion that improvements in public services can only be achieved by increased levels of public spending.

6. Decision Time: The Parliament took decisions on items 1 and 5 as noted above.

7. RNIB Scotland’s Right to Read Campaign: The Parliament debated S3M-1651 in the name of Alison McInnes—That the Parliament welcomes the Right to Read campaign by RNIB Scotland for equal access to textbooks and other educational material for blind and visually impaired children; notes the excellent example of schools such as Craigiebarns Primary School in Dundee in ensuring that blind and visually impaired children are included in mainstream schooling; believes that a national transcription service should be established, building on the work done by RNIB, other organisations and local councils; acknowledges that such a service could also be of use to other children with additional support needs, and so believes that prompt action is needed to move forward with this agenda.

The meeting closed at 5.42 pm.

P E Grice
Clerk of the Parliament
8 May 2008

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

Subordinate Legislation

Affirmative Instruments

The following instruments were laid in draft before the Parliament on 8 May 2008 for approval by resolution—

The Scotland Act 1998 (Transfer of Functions to the Scottish Ministers etc.) Order 2008

laid under section 115(1) of, and paragraphs 1 and 2 of Schedule 7 to, the Scotland Act 1998

The Advice and Assistance (Limits, Conditions and Representation) (Scotland) Regulations 2008

laid under section 37(2) of the Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 1986

The draft Advice and Assistance (Limits, Conditions and Representation) (Scotland) Regulations 2008 laid before the Parliament on 25 April 2008, has been withdrawn