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Housing Energy Efficiency

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 12:23 pm on 30th March 2000.

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Photo of Robin Harper Robin Harper Green 12:23 pm, 30th March 2000

Well, the Tories should make that their policy.

The Executive's amendment is misleading. Although it has been consulting with councils on the effectiveness of the warm deal, it has still not revealed that survey's contents. I commissioned my own study last November, and Christie Ellis, an American politics intern from the politics department of the University of Edinburgh, produced a report based on responses from a third of Scottish local authorities.

That report was handed to the Executive, the SNP and the Liberal Democrats and is one of the many documents that I have shared with the parties in the chamber. The report's bottom line was that our authorities believe that the scheme is seriously underfunded, as member after member has pointed out this morning. The Executive must recognise and admit that fact, and tell us that it will find the money for the scheme.

HECA officers and everyone else involved have a great deal of expertise—and a great will—to tackle the problem. By 2007, with the present and future resources available, we will have dealt with at most a fifth of the total problem in publicly and privately owned properties of all types. Yet the Executive invites our congratulations.

We need a housing bill and the highest possible building standards. Although Sweden and Denmark are cited as being the best in that respect, we do not need to go to Scandinavia to see what can be done. People can just hop on a number 5 bus or take a healthy 25-minute walk down to Lower London Road to the LINK housing project, where 95 houses have been built with an NHER of 10, the highest possible rating, and a standard assessment procedure, or SAP, rating of 93 per cent, at a cost that is only 4 per cent higher than the average cost of building such tenements in Scotland. It is a fantastic project that should set the standard. There should not be any talk about setting higher standards in the housing bill. There is built proof at the foot of the Royal Mile that we can build to the highest standard.

The minister has a problem with my suggestions. Civil servants are paid to solve problems that Parliament sets for them. I care not whether guidelines are issued in green, white, yellow or purple papers, or in a simple letter to local authorities and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. It is simple as that. Why is the Executive unwilling to flag up ideas that might well be in the new housing bill? Why not give everyone a chance to try out these strategies if they wish to and to benefit from the experience as the bill is developed?

My motion is an attempt to make the housing debate as important as the debates on education and health, and I hope that it has had some effect in that respect. Housing should arguably be our topmost priority and is clearly not yet. My motion sets out a small agenda which should be helpful to local authorities and have minimal cost implications, with none for the Executive, unless the cost of paper is counted as significant. The amendment is smug, self-congratulatory, misleading and vapid; it is of little use and should not recommend itself to the chamber. In short, it should be rejected.

The Executive has a problem with my motion—oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. I appeal to the chamber to give the Executive another problem: vote for the motion and reject the amendment.