Before section 155B

Housing (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 – in the Scottish Parliament at 3:00 pm on 24th November 2005.

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Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative 3:00 pm, 24th November 2005

Group 18 is on registered social landlords and the delegation of functions. Amendment 64, in the name of the minister, is the only amendment in the group.

Photo of Malcolm Chisholm Malcolm Chisholm Labour

Amendment 64 will introduce a new section that will give ministers a power, in defined circumstances, to direct certain registered social landlords to authorise other registered social landlords to exercise their housing management functions. As I am sure members will be aware, the amendment is intended to remove potential legal obstacles facing Glasgow Housing Association. A commitment was made to tenants in Glasgow at the time of the transfer vote to devolve control of housing to local communities as quickly as possible. The GHA feared the impact that European Union procurement laws might have on renewing the interim management contracts that it has with local housing organisations. The bill gives us the chance to nail that issue on the head and to ensure that local control is maintained.

Amendment 64 will enable ministers to ensure, through use of a power of direction, that there can be no doubt that the LHOs have an exclusive right to carry out housing management functions locally. The power of direction is a limited one. It will apply only where there has been a whole-stock transfer from a local authority, and ministers will need to be satisfied that the direction is appropriate to meet the spirit of the proposals that were put to tenants before the stock transfer. Moreover, use of the power is time limited to five years from commencement of the provision. The amendment will not affect any stock transfers that are currently going through, including Edinburgh's.

Our commitment to second-stage transfer and to devolving power to local communities remains absolute. It is right and sensible to take these powers now to protect the guarantees that we gave to tenants, rather than to leave it to chance. As a result of amendment 64, the GHA and the local housing organisations in Glasgow will be able to concentrate on working towards delivering second-stage transfers.

I move amendment 64.

Photo of Tricia Marwick Tricia Marwick Scottish National Party

The SNP will support amendment 64, as it will tighten any legal loophole—real or perceived—that is being used to stop the devolving of management agreements to local housing organisations in Glasgow by Glenrothes housing association—that is a Freudian slip; I mean Glasgow Housing Association, but the issue is the same.

I welcome the minister's firm statement, but I also seek a number of assurances from the minister on the role of the GHA, the future functions of the local housing organisations and the timetable for second-stage transfer.

Amendment 64 is permissive—it will allow the minister to take action but will not require him to do so. Does the Executive intend to introduce or to impose an arrangement, or will the minister be content to allow the GHA and the local housing organisations to negotiate the next steps? Will any new agreement between the GHA and the local housing organisations be binding on all parties? Some interim arrangements expire in December and the bill will not receive royal assent until January. What action does the minister expect the GHA to take in the meantime? The GHA has a meeting tomorrow. Does the minister expect the GHA to rescind the decision of 28 October, which charged staff with making preparations for direct management? Is he considering whether Communities Scotland should take responsibility for the second-stage transfers, given the Executive's commitment that progress must be made and local communities' genuine frustration at the failure of the second-stage transfer process to date? The GHA wanted the new, post-December agreements to limit the LHO committees to dealing with consultation matters. Does the minister agree that the new arrangements should make the local housing organisations the responsible bodies?

Photo of Linda Fabiani Linda Fabiani Scottish National Party

Like Tricia Marwick, I welcome amendment 64, provided that it will stop the debacle that the GHA has suffered of late. I cannot help feeling that if the Executive had accepted the SNP amendment to the bill that became the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001 that would have enshrined in legislation a right to community ownership, we would not be in the position that we are in now. I am concerned that the Executive has never been able to define what it means by community ownership. I have asked it that question repeatedly, but I have never had a response that has given any kind of answer.

Can the minister guarantee that the second-stage transfer in Glasgow will go ahead for all tenants and will not just be a token gesture that involves some people in specific areas? Will all tenants of Glasgow Housing Association now have the right to proceed to second-stage transfer? If necessary, will resources follow the bill to allow that to happen?

The minister mentioned the stock transfer in Edinburgh but, as far as I am aware, amendment 64 makes no reference to second-stage transfers. Will the right to proceed to second-stage transfer be given to all tenants who are the subject of large-scale voluntary transfers? Will they be able to take control of their own housing destiny and to shape their areas and communities in the way they want to? Surely that is the spirit of all the talk that there has been.

Photo of Des McNulty Des McNulty Labour

Like other members, I have some questions that I would like the minister to answer. First, I want him to give more information than he gave in his initial comments about how amendment 64 will resolve the issue around European procurement law. I understand that the basis of the argument on that is to do with the special circumstances that are associated with registered social landlords, but more detail would be helpful.

Secondly, I invite the minister to say something about how the power of intervention that he seeks would be used and about the relationships between ministers and the trustees of the GHA. Thirdly, will the housing management functions to which amendment 64 refers cover investment? I do not think that that is entirely clear. Fourthly, will the Government's overall approach to efficiency, whereby different procurement and delivery mechanisms—especially those that relate to back-office functions, such as finance—are being brought together, be applied to the second-stage transfer and the transfer arrangements that affect LHOs? Those all seem to be relevant questions.

Photo of Christine Grahame Christine Grahame Scottish National Party

Once again, the Executive has lodged a substantial 11 th hour amendment. The fact that the amendment was not produced at stage 2 means that the committee has not had time to take evidence on it or to consider it thoroughly. That is simply not good enough.

Why does amendment 64 take the form that it takes and what is its purpose? It is my understanding that amendment 64 is required to allow the devolution of the Glasgow stock transfer from the GHA to the 63 local housing organisations. Ministers have known about the thorny issue of a breach of European competition law since the middle of last year, so why is amendment 64 required? Frankly, I believe that in their rush to push through the Glasgow housing stock transfer against tenant resistance, ministers made a mess of the procedures for the transfer. Ministers were able to sell the transfer to tenants who agreed by a slim majority on the basis that there would be a second stock transfer—a measure with which we agree.

It is a matter of fact that the relationship between the GHA and the LHOs is contractual. I have it on sound legal opinion that they are separate legal entities and I will be pleased to hear what the minister's legal advice is in that regard. The problem with the current process is that it falls foul of European competition law, thereby imperilling the devolving of the stock transfer to the LHOs.

Several issues arise. Who are the bad guys in all of this? Is it the GHA or is the smoking gun to be found elsewhere? Amendment 64 is an endeavour by ministers to find a remedy to a legal mischief of their making. It allows them to lay the blame for the halting process at the feet of the GHA when, both in terms of the legislation and the funding that is required, it lies at their feet.

Will the remedy work? The minister must be in a position today to tell the chamber that his clear legal advice is that amendment 64 is competent and, further, that once it is agreed to—SNP members will support it, because we want the LHOs to succeed—the GHA will be able to conduct its affairs legally. The minister must put that on the record. We require a clear statement on the matter. The point is a fundamental one.

Will the minister explain the meaning of proposed new section 68A(1)(c) of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001, which states:

"RSL 1 is to manage its houses in a manner which is consistent with the spirit of any notice served on tenants".

What on earth does

"the spirit of any notice" mean? What would it mean in a court?

Instead of devolving power down to local organisations, proposed new section 68A(2) will give ministers the power to interfere with RSL 1 and, indeed, RSL 2. It will allow ministers to put the work elsewhere. The provision is top heavy; it does not come from the grass roots up. I would like explanations on all those points.

Photo of Malcolm Chisholm Malcolm Chisholm Labour

Well, there are certainly several points to answer. I will begin with the points that Christine Grahame raised. She said that we had made a mess of the procedures in the months gone by. All I can say in response is that she made a mess of explaining it.

As I have been saying for several weeks, it is absolutely clear that second-stage transfer is quite different from the particular procurement issue that has arisen. I assure Christine Grahame that we are clear that amendment 64 is perfectly compatible with European law; so, too, will be any direction that we make under the power.

In response to Des McNulty, I will explain in more detail how the provisions will work. Amendment 64 does not involve legislating to alter procurement law—obviously, we cannot do that. However, the procurement regulations do not apply where there is an exclusive right for one contracting entity to provide services. Amendment 64 will create a power that will enable ministers, through a direction to the GHA, to remove any scope for doubt that the LHOs have such an exclusive right to carry out the functions concerned. The provision will ensure that the interim management arrangements take advantage of the existing exemption in European Union procurement law.

Tricia Marwick asked several questions about the gap between 14 December and the enactment of the bill. Given that the act will come into force very early in 2006, we are in discussion with the GHA on how to manage the short period of time between 14 December and the time at which the direction is made.

Photo of Tricia Marwick Tricia Marwick Scottish National Party

The GHA has a meeting tomorrow. Does the minister expect, or will he direct, the GHA to rescind the decision that was made on 28 October that charged staff with making preparations for direct management? That is the key question. If we expect the bill to become law in early January, we must ensure that provision is made to replace the interim arrangements that expire in December. The minister has a duty both to the GHA and to the local housing organisations in Glasgow to make the position clear. The minister must say what, as of this moment in time, he expects the GHA to do tomorrow.

Photo of Malcolm Chisholm Malcolm Chisholm Labour 3:15 pm, 24th November 2005

We expect that decision to be rescinded tomorrow. We are working actively with the GHA all the time to ensure that that will be possible. The direction will be binding, and will make it absolutely clear what is required for future arrangements. We will work with all parties to define the way forward.

Tricia Marwick asked about retaining the powers in the new arrangements. The substance of what is in the interim management agreements will be retained because of amendment 64.

Linda Fabiani raised several points. I repeat what I have said consistently over the past few weeks: we are absolutely committed to second-stage transfer, but it should be a bottom-up process that goes at the pace of the tenants. She complained about resources, but I do not think that they are complaining in Glasgow, with £716 million from the Executive coming on top of £1 billion of debt write-off. She also asked about second-stage transfers elsewhere, but we follow a tenant-led process in that regard. As an Edinburgh MSP, I am not aware of demands from tenants in Edinburgh for second-stage transfers. If there were such demands, no doubt we would consider them seriously. There were demands in Glasgow where, of course, the number of council houses is four times that in Edinburgh.

Photo of Linda Fabiani Linda Fabiani Scottish National Party

It is obvious that Edinburgh does not have the same tradition of community ownership as Glasgow. Did anyone take the time to explain to the tenants of Edinburgh what the options were in relation to true community ownership before it was decided what would go in the ballot proposal?

Photo of Malcolm Chisholm Malcolm Chisholm Labour

As I have explained, strong devolved arrangements are part of what is proposed in Edinburgh, which is what tenants there wish.

Des McNulty asked about efficiency. That is very much at the heart of our policies, as is tenant control of the management of Glasgow housing. I do not believe that those two fundamental principles are in conflict. There is already a good tradition of housing associations working together and sharing services. Obviously, the precise number of second-stage transfer vehicles will be discussed in the coming period. We will do all that we can to ensure that second-stage transfer takes place as soon as possible.

Clearly, the procurement issue is a serious distraction from that, and it has caused great concern to tenants in Glasgow, but I do not detect the kind of reaction from the tenants of Glasgow that we saw a moment ago from Christine Grahame. They have welcomed amendment 64. Indeed, when we announced it last Friday, the GHA welcomed it as well.

Photo of Christine Grahame Christine Grahame Scottish National Party

I was simply asking whether amendment 64 will legally repeal the current situation in which, as I understand it, the relationship between the GHA and the local housing organisations is contractual. That is why the minister is in this legal quagmire. I take his assurance that tomorrow, or the day after the bill is enacted, the GHA will be able to conduct its affairs legally and not breach European law. That is all I ask.

Photo of Malcolm Chisholm Malcolm Chisholm Labour

When the bill is enacted, we will be able to give a direction that will place that position beyond doubt.

Christine Grahame said that the bill's wording is top-heavy. If she has a better way of solving the particular difficulty that has arisen, I would be delighted to hear it. I do not hear the tenants of Glasgow complaining to us that what we are doing is top-heavy. They have welcomed it hitherto, and if we vote to pass the bill this afternoon, they will welcome it even more later today.

Amendment 64 agreed to.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

Group 19 is on registered social landlords and permissible purposes. Amendment 65, in the name of the minister, is the only amendment in the group.

Photo of Malcolm Chisholm Malcolm Chisholm Labour

I am sure that many members agree that a number of registered social landlords are well placed to play a valuable role beyond their housing role in communities. That wider role can benefit communities in a number of ways: it can help to create jobs and provide training; it can improve people's health or the environment in which they live; or it can provide first-class community facilities in some of our most disadvantaged areas. I am keen that we facilitate and encourage RSLs to make the most of their assets—financial and human—so that they can maximise their positive impact in communities.

I do not want to limit unduly the kinds of activities in which RSLs may get involved, but that broad encouragement is balanced by the keen interest that Communities Scotland, as regulator, maintains in the relationship between an organisation's wider role and landlords' activities. Communities Scotland's policy on RSLs' wider role clearly states that they must have the support of their residents before getting involved in wider work. Amendment 65 will provide a sound legal foundation on which to facilitate the broad objective of ensuring that RSLs play as full a part as possible in improving the communities in which they operate.

I move amendment 65.

Amendment 65 agreed to.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

Group 20 is on home energy efficiency. Amendment 85, in the name of Karen Whitefield, is grouped with amendments 1, 1A, 1B, 1C, 1D and 86. I will put the question on the amendments to amendment 1 before I put the question on amendment 1 itself. I will remind members of that when we come to the vote.

Photo of Karen Whitefield Karen Whitefield Labour

My amendment 85 offers a workable and comprehensive approach to encouraging improvements in energy efficiency. I recognise that the domestic sector has a vital role in increasing energy efficiency, as it consumes so much energy. I understand why Patrick Harvie, and other members to whom I have spoken, are eager to include provisions on energy efficiency in the bill.

If agreed, amendment 85 will ensure that the Executive acts on its intentions in relation to domestic energy efficiency. It will mean either that the comprehensive energy efficiency strategy that the Executive is developing will contain an explicit strategy on domestic accommodation, or that a separate strategy will be produced. Amendment 85 ensures that any strategy will be kept under review and will require reports on its implementation.

Amendment 85 also allows ministers to include certain measures in the strategy and to say what they expect those measures to achieve by way of reductions in carbon emissions. That is a sound and practical approach, which, because it is linked to measures in the strategy, will ensure that the Executive considers how it will manage those measures and what levers it can pull to require or encourage their use. My proposed approach will also give us targets against which to assess the Executive's performance in implementing its strategy.

Not surprisingly, I believe that my amendment offers the most constructive way of achieving what we want. It addresses the strongly—and rightly—held views of the various energy efficiency groups in Scotland.

I move amendment 85.

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green

Karen Whitefield has laid out the position quite accurately. Her amendment 85 calls for a strategy, something to which the Executive is already committed. My amendment would insert into the bill statutory targets for improvements in energy efficiency. Statutory targets are the key point that we should be addressing.

The main difference between amendment 1 and the amendment that the Communities Committee rejected at stage 2 is that the stage 2 amendment contained a secondary target for further improvements on home energy efficiency by 2020. I have removed that, so I am giving the Parliament the opportunity to vote today on the single target on its own.

Statutory targets are the meat of the issue. Other legislatures in Europe, including Westminster, have acknowledged the need to include statutory targets in legislation on this subject to ensure that there is a deadline for Government to live up to. To agree an amendment without statutory targets would fall short of a half-measure.

On Frances Curran's amendments to my amendment, I am honestly not sure how necessary amendments 1C and 1D are, but they seem to add, rather than detract, so I would be happy for them to go through. The Communities Committee has already rejected the secondary target that I proposed, and that is unlikely to change today. I am keen that we have the opportunity to vote on the first target alone. I therefore do not intend to support Frances Curran's amendments 1A and 1B.

I know that the Conservative group is particularly concerned about the cost of the measures that we propose. There will of course be a short-term cost to society in becoming more energy efficient. The savings come later. In these times, when all the talk is of an energy gap and fans of nuclear power, including the Conservatives, are calling for new build, the task of preparing our society for the energy problems that we will face in the coming century will have a cost. We can choose to pay the immense financial, social and environmental cost of the nuclear option, or of runaway climate change, or we can choose as a society to pay the lower cost in all three senses of preparing ourselves for the dramatic reduction in the use of energy that will be required of us.

For generations we have been living with the delusion that energy is a cheap commodity and building the domestic equivalent of gas-guzzling four-by-fours. To focus only on the need to keep the lights burning is as short-sighted as the road fuel lobby's demand for an absolute right to keep putting cheap petrol in their tanks.

The transition that will be forced on our society one way or the other can be sudden, dramatic and traumatic or we can rouse ourselves from the fantasy of cheap energy and start laying the foundations of a society that can offer a high quality of life to all without living beyond our ecological means.

I would describe that as a Green society, but, whatever political interpretation one offers, we must all recognise the challenge that lies before us. Labour, Liberal Democrat and Conservative MPs at Westminster have recognised that challenge by supporting similar measures to include statutory targets in their legislation.

I welcomed the SNP's support at stage 2 and I hope that it will support my amendment 1 today. I sincerely hope also that members of other parties will see that firm, clear statutory targets are a step in not just the right direction, but the only direction that we will be able to take. If we do not take that step now, when will we take it?

Photo of Frances Curran Frances Curran SSP

The reason for amendments 1A to 1D is that every time we discuss energy in the Parliament—we did so two weeks ago—ministers get to their feet and wax lyrical about the energy efficiency savings that they are making and the investment that is going into energy efficiency in housing. The issue is crucial. There is a report that says that a child living in a damp house for a year experiences the same lung damage that they would get from smoking 20 cigarettes a day. Some 46,000 children in this country live in fuel poverty.

If the Executive is so committed to efficiency, what is the problem with statutory targets? The Executive is wriggling to try to get off the hook of statutory targets. Karen Whitefield's amendment 85 will allow it to do so, so I imagine that the Executive will support it. Look how pathetic the amendment is. It would mean that the Executive had a strategy that should be reviewed "from time to time" and it could "revise it". It could be revised up as well as down, because there are no targets. The amendment would provide that

"The Scottish Ministers must publish the strategy and any revisions to it in such manner as they think fit."

That is not exactly binding the Executive to anything on energy efficiency. The 20 per cent target is a Department of Trade and Industry target.

There has to be consultation with residents and tenants organisations on any strategy that is drawn up. Gypsy Travellers must be involved in that, given the cost of fuel and the need for warm homes in their community—their accommodation counts too. I ask members to support my amendments.

Photo of Malcolm Chisholm Malcolm Chisholm Labour

We have heard strong arguments, which are sincerely felt, for Patrick Harvie's amendment 1 and for Karen Whitefield's approach. Frances Curran's view is that we should go further than Patrick Harvie proposes. There has not been a hint of disagreement with the underlying proposition that we must do all we can to tackle global warming by reducing carbon emissions. The Executive supports that sentiment entirely. The question is how best to proceed.

As Karen Whitefield has suggested, energy efficiency is a major policy concern for the Executive. We think that it is vital that the issue is addressed in a comprehensive way. We are seeking to intervene in the vastly complex system that is the nation's economy in order to find ways that energy—the lifeblood of that system—can be used more efficiently. In a modern democracy, our powers to affect the decisions of individuals in all walks of life at home and at work are properly limited, so we will have to use ingenuity and imagination as well as our ability to legislate.

We need to influence people, and to do that we need to send out credible messages that are meaningful and relevant to people's everyday lives. That is what we are seeking to do as we develop our energy efficiency strategy, to show everyone in Scotland that there are practical, meaningful things that we can all do to improve energy efficiency. We will give the greatest emphasis to those measures that can make the biggest impact on the level of emissions.

Where do targets fit in? On 30 June, the First Minister announced a commitment to establish Scottish climate change targets in devolved areas and we are developing a framework for those through the review of the Scottish climate change programme. Taking its lead from the Scottish climate change programme, the comprehensive energy efficiency strategy will set out its specific contribution in that area. Within that overall context we think that the component parts of the strategy should be driven by specific measures encouraging tangible, concrete action.

Our warm deal and central heating programmes are prime examples of how that approach can work. Highly practical and effective action is tackling fuel poverty and energy efficiency simultaneously. The warm deal has insulated 218,000 homes and, in the private rented sector, has reduced tenants' annual fuel bills by an average of £99. The central heating programme has achieved average annual savings of £376 for people over 60 in the private sector. Those programmes have been driven by expectations of what they can achieve and have exceeded those expectations, fully justifying the investment of £200 million of taxpayers' money. It is that type of approach that is needed to make a practical difference for housing, rather than the targets that amendments 1, 1A, 1B, 1C and 1D propose, which take us no further forward on what housing measures should be used and what they will achieve. Targets should be considered in the appropriate context. In the case of energy efficiency, that context is the Executive's overall strategy, which will be launched next year.

In the housing context, the measures that we should focus on are specific actions, and what levers are available to us and how we should use them. Just as important, we should consider how we can join up wherever possible to meet fuel poverty and other objectives in just the way we are already doing with the central heating and warm deal programmes. I therefore support Karen Whitefield's amendment wholeheartedly and ask members to vote for it. I also ask members to support amendment 86, which is a consequential amendment, following on from the repeal of part VIII of the Housing (Scotland) Act 1987.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour 3:30 pm, 24th November 2005

A considerable number of back benchers wish to speak, so they will get a very tight two minutes.

Photo of Tricia Marwick Tricia Marwick Scottish National Party

On a point of information, Presiding Officer. If amendment 85 is agreed to, does amendment 1 fall?

Photo of David Davidson David Davidson Conservative

No one in the chamber can have any doubt that energy efficiency is important for our nation, and not only for housing. Energy efficiency in housing, however, raises the issue of building standards. Where do we start to tackle that? If we continue to have regulations on building standards, does that mean that we will select different housing sectors? The minister has not mentioned that. Are we talking about new build or about renovation schemes? Should building standards be part of this bill or the planning bill? What about the European directive on building standards that is about to come before us?

The minister has said that there will be a strategy—or whatever he will call it—in the new year. The issue is how we get there. We have to deal with waste of energy. We have to deal with the impending crisis in energy production in this country and the fact that an energy shortage will affect not only people and houses, but our economy. The Conservatives do not feel that Karen Whitefield's amendment 85 is enough. On Patrick Harvie's amendment 1, I ask what a target is. What about the cost and the bureaucracy associated with that proposal? It is time we asked the minister to respond positively and to tell us whether he has a programme to collate the scientific and technical knowledge so that we can properly evaluate what is going on. Will he also evaluate health benefits, and the big issue of fuel poverty, which is being felt by more and more people, particularly pensioners and the working poor? We need to do that holistically, not by just grabbing a piece of this and adding it on as an amendment here or there. We need clearly thought out policies on how we will achieve energy efficiency.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

I support Karen Whitefield's amendment 85 because I believe that we urgently need a strategy to tackle home energy efficiency. However, there must be a wider energy efficiency strategy. Members of the Environment and Rural Development Committee were told during our work on climate change that we could deliver half of the 60 per cent reduction in CO 2 emissions that we must make over the next few decades by energy efficiency alone. There must be a case for joined-up thinking about this, with which we can tackle fuel poverty and ensure that we create energy efficiency in all our new housing.

Karen Whitefield's amendment would be a step forward, but I would like the Executive to go further. If the minister replies to the debate, I would be interested to know from him whether he sees a role for targets in the energy efficiency strategy for housing. I know that the Minister for Environment and Rural Development has talked about that in the context of climate change generally. We need to examine all our opportunities for delivering energy efficiency and do it in a joined-up way, particularly with the review of the warm deal and central heating programmes. That is an opportunity to tie together action on fuel poverty and energy efficiency with the opportunities that small-scale renewables bring.

I welcome Karen Whitefield's amendment and hope that it is agreed. This must be seen as the start of the process, however, and a lot more action must follow. By bringing the issue back to the Parliament, I hope that we will reflect the consensus across the parties, which is that we need to take urgent action.

Photo of Donald Gorrie Donald Gorrie Liberal Democrat

I support Karen Whitefield's amendment 85. The issue is important and her amendment presents good ideas for dealing with it. I would also like to argue for Patrick Harvie's amendment 1, which does not propose some weirdo, obscure, Green thing. The English do it, for god's sake. They do not always do everything right, but the fact that they do what amendment 1 proposes shows that the proposal is not off the wall and that it is quite a credible, sensible thing.

Scandinavia is colder than Scotland and they deal with their houses infinitely better and have done for years. We have really got to get a grip on this. The minister made a good speech and the right noises, but the fact is that many people do not believe that we will take energy conservation seriously enough and deliver on it. Targets become a sort of symbol or flag.

Thirteen organisations have produced one of the prettiest bits of lobbying that I have ever received, which is a document that has all their logos on it, as members can see. If 13 Scottish voluntary organisations can agree on an issue, that shows that there may well be something in it.

Whether or not amendment 85 is passed, I suggest that the Executive takes seriously the idea of having some targets. They could be updated every two years, according to the proposal in Patrick Harvie's amendment 1, or in another way if the Executive wishes to do it better. However, the targets must convince people. I think that the Executive's intentions are honest, but it must convince the rest of the world, who are pretty sceptical about Governments in general, if not this Government. I suggest that the Executive takes the target issue seriously.

Photo of Euan Robson Euan Robson Liberal Democrat

There is no doubt that energy efficiency in housing is a key issue. It has been on the agenda for many years, in fact. It is welcome that Karen Whitefield has lodged her amendment 85, which proposes the right, proportionate approach.

The difficulty with Patrick Harvie's amendment 1 is simply this: it puts one target into a statutory context. I appreciate that that is done in other places, but it is not appropriate in the Scottish context.

Photo of Euan Robson Euan Robson Liberal Democrat

In a moment. It is better to ensure that the strategy that the ministers will produce has those targets in it, because that would make the strategy more meaningful. It would also mean that the targets could be improved with more flexibility than is the case when primary legislation is involved.

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green

I am grateful to the member for giving way.

Does Mr Robson accept that, if both amendments 85 and 1 are passed, the Executive would be perfectly free to incorporate the targets that would be included in the bill into its own strategy and the wider context that Sarah Boyack mentioned? There does not have to be a completely separate approach. However, my amendment would impose a deadline.

Photo of Euan Robson Euan Robson Liberal Democrat

Patrick Harvie has explained why his amendment 1 is superfluous. The point is that if the targets were incorporated into the strategy, they could be adapted more flexibly and quickly than would otherwise be the case.

Confusion often arises about fuel poverty and energy efficiency. In eliminating fuel poverty, energy consumption may increase, because people who hitherto could not, become able to afford tolerable levels of warmth in their homes. That is important. A distinction must be made between dealing with fuel poverty and reducing energy consumption. We need to eliminate fuel poverty and increase energy efficiency in dwellings, and Karen Whitefield's strategy is the right approach.

Photo of Tricia Marwick Tricia Marwick Scottish National Party

Energy efficiency is extremely important, which is why the SNP was happy to support Patrick Harvie's stage 2 amendment. We will also support his stage 3 amendment when we vote.

Karen Whitefield's amendment 85 would go some way towards meeting needs, but it is a pity that it was not lodged at stage 2. One is left with the feeling that it has been lodged simply to try to stop Patrick Harvie's amendment being agreed to and to allow the Labour and Liberal parties to vote on something.

I do not understand Euan Robson's comments about statutory targets not being appropriate. If statutory targets are appropriate for legislation in England and Wales, I fail to see why they are not appropriate in the Housing (Scotland) Bill. There are huge energy inefficiency issues in the private rented sector. Warm houses and proper insulation are needed. Lots of heat goes through the walls and roofs of houses in Scotland; sometimes only the pigeons that sit on the roofs are warm.

We will support Karen Whitefield's amendment 85 for the reasons that I have given, but we also urge members to go a bit further and support Patrick Harvie's amendment to ensure that there are statutory targets.

Photo of Karen Whitefield Karen Whitefield Labour

I appreciate the concerns expressed by many members in different parties. They are concerns that many of us share—including all the members of the Communities Committee. Where we sometimes differ is on how we achieve realistic solutions.

Patrick Harvie was correct to point out that his stage 3 amendment is almost identical to the amendment that he lodged at stage 2, but the arguments that were used to reject his amendment at stage 2 still stand.

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green

My amendment is similar to the amendment that was lodged at stage 2, but it is without the secondary target. It has one set of very achievable targets. It was argued against the stage 2 amendment that it went further than England and Wales had gone, but the stage 3 amendment asks us to go only as far as England and Wales have gone.

Photo of Karen Whitefield Karen Whitefield Labour

I did not say that the amendments were identical—I said that they were almost identical. I appreciate that Patrick Harvie has changed his proposal.

The point that I was trying to make was that some arguments that were used at stage 2 still stand. My concern is that if we introduce ad hoc targets now, we might disrupt the current comprehensive energy efficiency approach that the Executive is taking.

However, I agree with Sarah Boyack. If my amendment 85 is agreed to—and I welcome the Executive's support for it—there will be no reason why the Executive cannot introduce targets. Many people in the Parliament want targets to be introduced, but we need to be sure and clear about what we want those targets to be and what we want to strive to do properly.

I am disappointed by Tricia Marwick's suggestion that the amendment is an attempt to give the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats something to vote on. She has been a member of the Communities Committee and the Social Justice Committee with me and knows that I have been concerned about the issue that we are discussing and that I have shown commitment to it throughout the six years that the Parliament has been in existence. Therefore, I am disappointed—although not in any way surprised—that she has taken such a cheap political shot. [Interruption.]

Photo of Karen Whitefield Karen Whitefield Labour

As for Frances Curran, I certainly do not think that amendment 85 is pathetic and nor do the energy efficiency groups. They may want to go further, as they always do—that is their legitimate right—but they certainly would not want my amendment to be rejected. I intend to press amendment 85.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

The question is, that amendment 85 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

There will be a division. I suspend the Parliament for five minutes.

Meeting suspended.

On resuming—

Division number 7

For: Adam, Brian, Alexander, Ms Wendy, Arbuckle, Mr Andrew, Baillie, Jackie, Baird, Shiona, Baker, Richard, Ballance, Chris, Ballard, Mark, Barrie, Scott, Boyack, Sarah, Brankin, Rhona, Brown, Robert, Butler, Bill, Chisholm, Malcolm, Craigie, Cathie, Crawford, Bruce, Cunningham, Roseanna, Curran, Ms Margaret, Deacon, Susan, Eadie, Helen, Fabiani, Linda, Ferguson, Patricia, Finnie, Ross, Gibson, Rob, Gillon, Karen, Glen, Marlyn, Gordon, Mr Charlie, Gorrie, Donald, Grahame, Christine, Harvie, Patrick, Henry, Hugh, Hughes, Janis, Hyslop, Fiona, Ingram, Mr Adam, Jackson, Dr Sylvia, Jackson, Gordon, Jamieson, Cathy, Jamieson, Margaret, Kerr, Mr Andy, Lamont, Johann, Livingstone, Marilyn, Lochhead, Richard, MacAskill, Mr Kenny, Macdonald, Lewis, Macintosh, Mr Kenneth, Maclean, Kate, Macmillan, Maureen, Martin, Paul, Marwick, Tricia, Mather, Jim, Maxwell, Mr Stewart, May, Christine, McAveety, Mr Frank, McCabe, Mr Tom, McConnell, Mr Jack, McFee, Mr Bruce, McMahon, Michael, McNeil, Mr Duncan, McNeill, Pauline, McNulty, Des, Morgan, Alasdair, Morrison, Mr Alasdair, Muldoon, Bristow, Mulligan, Mrs Mary, Munro, John Farquhar, Murray, Dr Elaine, Neil, Alex, Oldfather, Irene, Peacock, Peter, Peattie, Cathy, Pringle, Mike, Purvis, Jeremy, Radcliffe, Nora, Robison, Shona, Robson, Euan, Rumbles, Mike, Ruskell, Mr Mark, Scott, Eleanor, Scott, Tavish, Smith, Elaine, Smith, Iain, Smith, Margaret, Stephen, Nicol, Stevenson, Stewart, Stone, Mr Jamie, Sturgeon, Nicola, Swinney, Mr John, Turner, Dr Jean, Wallace, Mr Jim, Whitefield, Karen, Wilson, Allan
Against: Aitken, Bill, Brownlee, Derek, Byrne, Ms Rosemary, Curran, Frances, Davidson, Mr David, Fergusson, Alex, Fox, Colin, Fraser, Murdo, Gallie, Phil, Goldie, Miss Annabel, Kane, Rosie, Leckie, Carolyn, Martin, Campbell, McGrigor, Mr Jamie, McLetchie, David, Milne, Mrs Nanette, Scanlon, Mary, Scott, John, Sheridan, Tommy
Abstentions: Brocklebank, Mr Ted, MacDonald, Margo

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

The result of the division is: For 91, Against 19, Abstentions 2.

Amendment 85 agreed to.