Homeless People

Open Question Time — Scottish Executive – in the Scottish Parliament at 9:31 am on 2nd July 1999.

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Photo of Keith Harding Keith Harding Conservative 9:31 am, 2nd July 1999

To ask the Scottish Executive whether it has any plans to set and monitor targets to reduce the numbers of homeless people. (S1O-159)

Photo of Wendy Alexander Wendy Alexander Labour

On 17 June I announced that the Deputy Minister for Communities is to lead a major new task force to take an in-depth look at the causes of homelessness in Scotland, with the aim of developing a long-term strategy. The Government is already committed to ensuring that by the end of this session of Parliament no one will have to sleep rough.

Photo of Keith Harding Keith Harding Conservative

I thank the minister for that reply and I am glad that the Government is beginning to address that situation. Labour has been in power for two years and homelessness has increased by 14 per cent. What immediate initiatives does the minister intend to implement to reduce the level of homelessness?

Photo of Wendy Alexander Wendy Alexander Labour

There is consensus that one of the reasons for the rise in homelessness is the increase in applications from homeless people through the new code of better reporting that we have introduced. All housing organisations acknowledge that our legislation is 21 years out of date. It does not tell us what we need to know. We have an opportunity to legislate and we will do that based on recommendations as to how homelessness can be prevented, and how we can assist those who are homeless.

Photo of Keith Harding Keith Harding Conservative

I thank the minister for that comprehensive answer, but why is that not in the legislative programme for the coming year?

Photo of Wendy Alexander Wendy Alexander Labour

We have already discussed this and, in keeping with the spirit of consultation in this Parliament, the consultation period for the green paper on housing closed just a few days ago. We have said that we will consult on those proposals and we look forward to introducing legislation.

We picked the area of homelessness because there was unanimity to move forward and to set up a review straight away. Jackie Baillie is now leading that review.

Photo of Malcolm Chisholm Malcolm Chisholm Labour

The minister will know that Shelter and many others have welcomed new housing partnerships, but have expressed concerns about the loss of homeless people's statutory rights under the new arrangements. When the Executive brings forward housing legislation, will it consider legislating in that area, or does it consider that contractual rights are adequate?

Photo of Wendy Alexander Wendy Alexander Labour

That is an area that we will consider. There is increasing consensus that we should move towards common registers and common allocations policies that will allow those sorts of issues to be taken into account.