Homelessness (Families)

First Minister's Question Time — Scottish Executive – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:32 pm on 20th December 2001.

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Photo of Scott Barrie Scott Barrie Labour 2:32 pm, 20th December 2001

To ask the First Minister what action is being taken to tackle homelessness among families. (S1F-1518)

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

The Housing (Scotland) Act 2001 gave new rights to homeless people. For the sake of families with children in particular, we have acted to reduce reliance on bed and breakfast accommodation. We allocated £5.3 million to the 15 local authorities that had the highest use of bed-and-breakfasts, to fund new alternatives. That money provided 200 units of temporary accommodation, and another 64 are planned.

More generally, £27 million has been given to councils to help implement the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001. That money will also fund new and better temporary accommodation.

Photo of Scott Barrie Scott Barrie Labour

I welcome the reduction in the number of families who are living in temporary accommodation, but does the First Minister agree that it is grossly unsuitable for children to be brought up in such accommodation? Will he assure me that the Executive will continue to work to reduce the number of children living in such households?

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

Yes, I can give the member that assurance. This is a traditional time of year for addressing issues around homelessness, not just for children and families who face the prospect of spending Christmas or new year in bed-and-breakfast or temporary accommodation, but for many other people across Scotland who have to live with temporary homelessness or the threat of it. Our thoughts should be with them this Christmas and our support for them should continue in the new year.

Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament

We have run over time. Our next item of business is—

Photo of Alex Neil Alex Neil Scottish National Party

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. Given the importance of the closure of the individual learning accounts, will you under standing orders exercise your discretion to extend First Minister's question time by enough time to reach question 6? It is critical that the chamber receives the proper information on the closure of the accounts, because its cash effect could be very damaging to colleges and others over the holiday period.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

Yes. I already intended to raise the point of order. One of the companies to which the question refers contacted me immediately before question time to tell me that, because of lack of funding, it has been obliged to lay off training staff just before Christmas. As a result, I feel that it would be useful to proceed with the question.

Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament

It may be useful, but unhappily the business motion that the Parliament agreed to stipulates that, at 3.30 pm, we move to the next item of business. I have no power to vary that.

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. I want to clarify something to the chamber. We were aware that the chamber was rising this afternoon for the Christmas and new year recess. The announcement of the decision of and some of the technicalities around the suspension of ILAs in Scotland was due to take place tomorrow in conjunction with another announcement elsewhere in the UK. We brought the announcement forward to today and ensured that it took place before this question time session to give us a chance to address the matter if we reached question 6. The Minister for Enterprise, Transport and Lifelong Learning has written today to every MSP to set out the current position clearly and she will be happy to take further correspondence and questions from members before the chamber returns if necessary. I hope that that clears up the matter this afternoon.

Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament

Just a second. I want to return to the main point of order. The Parliament itself decides on the order and timing of business and I have no power to vary that. Sometimes we manage to reach question 6; very often we do not. The length and number of supplementaries is entirely in the hands of members. I do my best to keep things going.

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. Is it possible to lodge a motion without notice to change the business bulletin in order to put back the next item of business so that we can extend First Minister's question time and hear the answer to question 6?

Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament

That would require to be a Parliamentary Bureau motion. [Interruption.] Order. We have listened to the exchanges on this matter. The First Minister has given us a helpful answer and we should leave it at that.

Photo of Alex Neil Alex Neil Scottish National Party

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. I have been informed by the former Minister for Parliament that you have already set a precedent of extending question time at your own discretion. Given that you have already set that precedent and that the clear will of the chamber is that we should have the chance to ask the First Minister questions on the matter, I really think that you are duty-bound to give the proposal more serious consideration.

Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament

The member is quite correct. I occasionally turn a blind eye to the clock and allow question time to go on. However, I have no power to go from question 4 to question 6. Members must be reasonable. Frankly, the matter is in members' hands. We did not make much progress today either in question time or in First Minister's question time. The issue is all to do with the length of supplementaries and answers.

Photo of Michael Russell Michael Russell Scottish National Party

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. If Nora Radcliffe were to withdraw question 5—which she might be persuaded to do—we would be able to take question 6.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. It was said that the business managers would have to come forward with a further business motion to change the time for decision time. Perhaps, given this delay and the fact that we will almost certainly bring forward decision time, the business managers could ask for the concession that members so clearly want.

Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament

That is not a matter for me. I have no motion before me.

Photo of Margo MacDonald Margo MacDonald Independent

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. I seek clarification. Is it in order for a member to move a motion without notice after question time has concluded? As we know that the work has been done, the First Minister could lodge a motion to the effect that the Parliament notes it. Could that be done?

Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament

I have answered that question already. The motion would have to be a Parliamentary Bureau motion and I have no such motion before me. A motion cannot just come out of the blue.

Photo of Margo MacDonald Margo MacDonald Independent

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. I seek further clarification. Can only a bureau motion be accepted?

Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament

No. However, to change the order of business requires a bureau motion.

Photo of Alex Neil Alex Neil Scottish National Party

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. Would it be in order for me to move a motion that we do not conclude business at 3.40 pm, as has been agreed, but that we continue until well after 4 o'clock, if necessary, to give us the opportunity to find out what is going on with the ILAs?

Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament

We would still need a bureau motion to do that and I have not got one. We must proceed to the next item.