Points of Order

– in the Scottish Parliament at 2:15 pm on 21st June 2007.

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Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour 2:15 pm, 21st June 2007

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. I regret very much that I have again to take up chamber time. My point of order is further to the point of order that I raised earlier, and I thank you for your earlier response.

I was anxious that I may have understated or overstated my case in respect of the degree of concern that I have about the use of holding replies. However, as I left the chamber, a colleague told me that a journalist had advised him that a housing document would be issued this afternoon. As I have had no notice of or warning about the document, I asked the Scottish Parliament information centre whether a housing document was to be issued. SPICe said that it could not tell me, but that a document had been embargoed until 2.30 this afternoon. I repeat that I was not aware of any such document although I am the shadow housing spokesperson.

I went back to my desk and prepared to write my speech. I was so inspired by the issue of housing that I thought that I had better check my e-mails. I discovered that there were, in fact, written answers to the questions to which holding replies had been issued yesterday afternoon.

As you will recall, Presiding Officer, earlier I questioned the difficulty in answering a question about how many meetings ministers had had with organisations and when meetings were planned. At 1.30 this afternoon, the following statement was issued by Mr Maxwell:

"The Government will announce today a number of proposals for tackling Scotland's housing problems. I have spoken to the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations today, and in the coming weeks will discuss with them and others with an interest in the future of Scotland's housing how to take forward these proposals."

The statement is repeated in relation to Shelter: the minister has

"spoken to Shelter, informed it of the statement and will work with it in future."

It is a matter of grave regret and seriousness for Parliament that the SNP's housing spokesperson regards the chamber as being entirely irrelevant in the shaping of housing policy. I suspect that the new Administration does not reflect properly on past practice in the Parliament. In eight years of housing policy in the Parliament, we have built consensus and secured a real difference. However, statements are now being issued with no warning given—except to journalists and lobbying organisations. There is no opportunity to scrutinise those statements and there is malevolent use of the holding replies system to ensure the best possible timing.

Presiding Officer, I would ask you to reflect on the possibility of calling the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing to the chamber to discuss the answer as a matter of urgency, but Ms Sturgeon is so little interested in Scotland's housing issues that she is in London, speaking to English health authorities. That is a matter of regret. I therefore ask you to call Mr Maxwell to account for this disgraceful attitude to the chamber and his ridiculous way of dealing with the proper approach to the matter. I do not want to intervene in this afternoon's abridged debate and I hope that you will take this matter extremely seriously.

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None

I assure the member that I take the matter extremely seriously and I thank her for her point of order. Substantive issues are involved, so I hope that she will forgive me if I do not respond instantly. I would like a little time to think about the matter, and I will come back to the chamber with my thoughts on it before decision time this evening.

Photo of Hugh Henry Hugh Henry Labour

Further to that point of order, Presiding Officer, when you reflect on the matter, will you also consider Johann Lamont's request that the minister come to the chamber to give an explanation?

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None

I have said that I will reflect on the points that Johann Lamont raised.