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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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?
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.
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?