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Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 4th December 2013.

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Photo of James Kelly James Kelly Labour

I am actually speaking, minister, in case you were not aware of that.

I thank Jim Hume for putting that on record. There is an issue with the data on housing; Alex Johnstone and Jackie Baillie both made pertinent points in that regard.

We will not support the Green amendment at 5 o’clock because it removes significant parts of the Labour motion, but I thank Patrick Harvie for his valid comments on the private rented sector. There has been real growth in that sector in recent years, although not everyone chooses to be in it. Patrick Harvie raised important issues around regulation and letting agents, and I look forward to addressing those when the housing bill comes to Parliament.

Mary Fee mentioned the issue of empty homes. We have 23,000 empty homes in this country, and a £4.5 million budget was allocated to get them opened and brought into the sector, but only 200 have been released. That is an area in which the Scottish Government has the powers to act just now, but it has clearly not been able to make progress on the issue. We need to assess the issues as we move forward.

Margaret McDougall made some pertinent points on fuel efficiency and the underspend in the retrofit budget. It is clear that the Government is not on top of some of the issues, which is why we need a housing action plan to address supply, homelessness and empty homes, and to get the most out of our budget.

People in this country will ask what the point is of the SNP housing minister, given that completions have halved and waiting lists have increased by a quarter since 2007. Young families who are living in overcrowded accommodation will have looked on aghast as the SNP held a debate on the census. While construction workers have languished on the dole, the SNP has had us debating the Ryder cup. While housing associations—[Interruption.]