Fuel Poverty (Target, Definition and Strategy) (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3

– in the Scottish Parliament on 6th June 2019.

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Photo of Kenneth Macintosh Kenneth Macintosh Labour

The next item of business is stage 3 proceedings on the Fuel Poverty (Target, Definition and Strategy) (Scotland) Bill. Members should have with them: the bill as amended at stage 2; the marshalled list; the supplement to the marshalled list that contains manuscript amendment 99; and the groupings of amendments.

I also remind members that the division bell will sound and proceedings will be suspended for five minutes for the first division of the afternoon. The period of voting for the first division will be 30 seconds, but after that, the voting period will be one minute for the first division following a debate. Finally, members who wish to speak in a debate on any group of amendments should press their request-to-speak buttons as soon as possible after I call the group.

The Presiding Officer:

Group 1 is on the fuel poverty target: local authority areas. Amendment 1, in the name of Graham Simpson, is grouped with amendments 2, 20, 22, 72, 6 to 10, 46, 11, 13 and 14. I also draw members’ attention to the information in the groupings on the amendments in this group that pre-empt amendments in group 2.

I call Graham Simpson.

Photo of Graham Simpson Graham Simpson Conservative

It is great to be able to kick off this debate on the amendments to the bill. As a lot of cross-party work took place before stage 3, most of the amendments will, I hope, be agreed to without too much rancour.

Unfortunately for you, Presiding Officer, I have 10 amendments in this group. I will try not to take too long, but I have to cover all of them.

One of the key recommendations in the Local Government and Communities Committee’s stage 1 report on the bill was that the 2040 target be applied in each local authority area without the onus being put on councils to do that. I was pleased that my amendments giving effect to that measure were agreed to at stage 2.

It is very important that no part of the country is left behind in the drive to meet the fuel poverty target at the national level.

The Scottish Government has supported the amendments, and has pointed to minor issues with the wording of the stage 2 amendments. I have worked with the minister on the amendments in this group, which make consequential and tidying-up changes to ensure clarity and consistency throughout the bill. I am grateful to the minister for that.

The amendments will make it absolutely clear that each of the three elements of the 2040 target applies in each local authority area as well as nationwide. No more than 5 per cent of the households in each local authority area can be in fuel poverty, no more than 1 per cent can be in extreme fuel poverty, and the median fuel poverty gap should be no greater than £250 at 2015 prices before adjusting for inflation.

At stage 2, the minister said that local authority statistics are not made available quite as quickly as national ones. I said that I would be happy to work with him on that.

Having considered the reporting cycles for data on fuel poverty at the local authority level, I lodged an amendment that provides more time for reporting on whether the local authority area targets have been met following the end of 2040. That is because combined data for three years is required from the Scottish house condition survey in order to provide sufficiently robust results for each council area. Therefore, it will be December 2043 before all local authority-level data is available covering the three years after the target date—namely, 2040 to 2042. The amendment to section 9 reflects that.

Let me take each amendment in turn.

Amendment 1 sets out what section 1 does. It says:

“This section makes provision for the 2040 fuel poverty targets”,

now that there is also to be a second target—the local authority area one.

Amendment 2 sets out the 2040 local authority area target in a manner that is consistent with the wording of the existing 2040 Scotland-wide target, and clarifies that it is only households in a local authority area that are under discussion.

Amendment 72 will put the onus on the Scottish ministers—not councils—to meet the fuel poverty targets in each local authority area.

Amendments 6 to 8 are technical amendments that will remove references in sections 6(1)(a), 6(1)(b) and 6(1)(c) to meeting the targets at the local authority area level, as that is now provided for by amendment 9 instead.

Amendment 9 will insert a new subsection to provide for the periodic reports to include information on the steps taken during the reporting period to meet the target at the local authority area level, the progress that has been made towards meeting it, and the steps that are planned for the next reporting period. The effect of that is to bring together in one place the currently dispersed references that set out those requirements to make them more prominent and readily understandable. That route has been supported by the Existing Homes Alliance Scotland, which has called for local authority targets to also reflect the periodic reporting on the other fuel poverty targets.

Amendment 10 is consequential to amendment 9.

Amendment 11 will insert a new section after section 9 that sets out the requirement to report on the achievement of the 2040 target at the local authority level by no later than 31 December 2043. That reflects the fact that data on fuel poverty in each local authority area is only available based on a three-year average and will therefore be available only later than the reporting date under section 9.

Amendment 13—I am almost finished—is a consequential change to reflect that the Scotland-wide 2040 target is in section 1(1) only.

Amendment 14 is a consequential change to reflect the fact that the local authority area target is set out in section 1(1A) and in order to allow it to be referred to by name.

Amendments 20, 22 and 46, in the name of the minister, are technical amendments to ensure that terminology is consistent throughout the bill. We will support them.

I move amendment 1.

Photo of Kevin Stewart Kevin Stewart Scottish National Party

Before I speak to my amendments, I will deal with those of Mr Simpson.

I am happy that we have been able to work together on his amendments in relation to the local authority area target. They make sensible and necessary improvements to the current wording around those commitments.

My amendments 20, 22 and 46 have been lodged in recognition of the fact that the fuel poverty strategy must take a holistic partnership approach if we are to be successful in achieving the bill’s targets. That is particularly so in light of the introduction of the local authority area target, which will require us to work closely with local authorities. They also acknowledge that the Scottish Government does not have control over all the drivers that can push households into fuel poverty or, for that matter, propel them out of it. Nonetheless, we are committed to addressing all the drivers in our strategy. The amendments will, therefore, allow us, where appropriate, to set out in the strategy actions that must be taken by not only Scottish ministers but others.

Amendments 2 and 3 do similar things in respect of the steps that are needed to meet the 2040 target in local authority areas and to undertake periodic reporting.

Those measures will enable us to produce the kind of comprehensive strategy that will be needed if we are to end fuel poverty in Scotland.

Photo of Alex Rowley Alex Rowley Labour

The amendments in this group are broadly fine, in that they are technical or clarify language and definition. However, if Graham Simpson’s amendments 6 to 10 are accepted, the change made by Pauline McNeill’s stage 2 amendment on the need to include the cost of the steps that are laid out in the periodic report will be lost. We believe that that is a key part of the transparency and scrutiny of the periodic report and, for that reason, we will not be supporting amendments 6 to 10.

Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Liberal Democrat

I voice my support for Graham Simpson’s amendments. There were concerns about placing too onerous a responsibility on local authorities, but I think that it is imperative that we see consistent progress being made across all Scottish local authority areas towards the eradication of fuel poverty and extreme fuel poverty. Therefore, I welcome the pragmatic approach that the amendments appear to take.

Photo of Graham Simpson Graham Simpson Conservative

I do not think that there is anything else to say.

The Presiding Officer:

That concludes the debate on group 1. Unusually, before voting on the lead amendment, we will move to group 2. That is simply because the first amendment in group 2 will amend one of the amendments in group 1.

Group 2 concerns the 2032 fuel poverty target. Amendment 1A, in the name of Alex Rowley, is grouped with amendments 65, 2A, 66, 71, 73, 82, 84, 86, 9A, 88, 89, 91 to 94, 11A, 11B, 11C, 11D, 11E and 11F. I draw members’ attention to the information in the groupings on amendments in this group that are pre-empted by amendments in group 1.

Photo of Alex Rowley Alex Rowley Labour

The bill is badly lacking in ambition. Not only did the Government limit the scope of the bill by changing it from a warm homes bill to a definition bill, which prevented members from setting out in statute the measures that are required to eradicate fuel poverty, but it has clung to a target that, in the words of Energy Action Scotland, condemns another generation to fuel poverty.

Our proposal for a target of 2032 is realistic if it is accompanied by an ambitious plan. We heard in committee that that date is supported by a broad range of stakeholders including the Existing Homes Alliance and Energy Action Scotland. Energy UK said that it would “focus minds”. That is the right way to look at the issue. There is an issue of practicalities, but there is also one of political will, and the Government is not coming close to doing everything that it can to improve energy efficiency and reduce fuel poverty. Funding consistently falls short of what is required for a national infrastructure project, which is what we need if we are going to tackle fuel poverty.

Our approach would be very different from that of the Government. It claims that measures must be targeted only at those who are living in fuel poverty. However, a sustainable and long-term approach to eradicating fuel poverty should mean effective behavioural change across Scotland—facilitating co-operatives, boosting people’s wages, reducing the cost of living and improving energy efficiency across our housing stock, because people move house and their financial situation changes. The economic and health benefits that would accompany such an approach across Scotland would be huge.

Importantly, we want to give the minister the best possible chance to eradicate fuel poverty; we are not setting the Government up to fail. We have lodged an amendment so that the target can be moved if independent expert opinion suggests that it cannot reasonably be met. The Parliament should support the amendments and back a radical plan to eradicate fuel poverty in Scotland as soon as possible.

I move amendment 1A.

Photo of Andy Wightman Andy Wightman Green

I would like to speak in support of Alex Rowley’s amendments in this group.

As members will know, at stage 1, the committee made the recommendation that we should stick with the 2040 target. However, amendments that were made at stage 2 have provided, among other things, enhanced scrutiny provisions and greater flexibility on the target. In particular, Alex Rowley’s amendment 70 provides for the Scottish fuel poverty advisory panel to recommend a different fuel poverty target date. Therefore, agreeing to a more ambitious 2032 target is not as objectionable as it might have been at stage 1. If 2032 becomes unachievable, the panel would be able to recommend, if it sees fit, that the target be extended beyond 2032—perhaps even back to 2040. As with the Government’s approach to climate change targets, when the evidence changes, so, too, should the response.

Photo of James Dornan James Dornan Scottish National Party

I want to speak against Alex Rowley’s amendment.

As Andy Wightman said, the committee said at stage 1 that 2040 was a pragmatic target. Ideally, we would all want this to be sorted in the next couple of years. However, 2032 was seen as a totally unrealistic target by those who would have to do the work to ensure that it became a reality.

The 2040 target is pragmatic and, as Andy Wightman said, there is now flexibility around it. If the technology comes into force, I hope that we will be able to bring the target forward. However, we should not set ourselves up to fail—as happened with a previous Administration, which had the best of intentions.

Let us make sure that people know what the target is and move on to taking it forward.

Photo of Graham Simpson Graham Simpson Conservative

We are going over a debate that we had extensively at stage 2—nothing has really changed. Although it was not an easy decision, the committee took the view that 2040 was the right date and that 2032 was too ambitious. Nothing has really changed from that position. Frankly, this feels like a rerun, and I think that the result will be the same.

Photo of Kevin Stewart Kevin Stewart Scottish National Party

Mr Simpson is absolutely right that we had this debate at great length during stage 2. I am disappointed that the amendments have been brought back, despite their having been clearly defeated, and their being contrary to the committee’s recommendations at stage 1—recommendations that Mr Rowley supported at that stage.

I remain strongly opposed to the amendments.

During the stage 1 committee debate, it was accepted that it was better to have realistic and achievable targets that all involved could work towards, as long as the Government brought forward amendments to include interim targets in the bill, which we did.

At stage 2, we debated the issue further—revisiting all the arguments that we had had before—and came to the conclusion that including interim targets would help us to demonstrate progress. We introduced a 2030 interim target at stage 2, and Graham Simpson’s amendment 4 would introduce a further 2035 interim target, which I fully support.

I remain strongly opposed to Mr Rowley’s amendments in the group. We have been through all the arguments before, but I will set them out again. We do not have powers over all the drivers of fuel poverty, in particular energy prices. Our action has to be through what we can do, which is why we are tackling fuel poverty by going for transformational change in homes through energy efficient measures. That relies on technologies, some of which are still in development; a skilled workforce; and local companies to take it forward. The target date has been agreed by those partners who will bring about this change—the businesses taking forward the work; the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities; and, of course, those who own homes—owner-occupiers, private landlords and registered social landlords.

Those sectors do not want a target that sets everyone up to fail; they want to work towards a target that we can achieve. None of the partners who has to deliver the 2040 targets—including COSLA, which wrote multiple times to the Local Government and Communities Committee at stage 1 with its concerns—agrees with these amendments.

There are clear risks to accelerating the timeframe, including losing the economic opportunities to develop skills and supply chains across Scotland that could support 4,000 jobs, because only larger businesses from outwith Scotland are ready to match an accelerated pace.

In addition, if demand exceeds supply, costs could escalate, potentially leading to increased rents and further pressure on public finances. There is also a risk of alienating the public by speeding up the pace of regulation, enforcement and mandatory action by 2024.

I have not yet seen an alternative to our comprehensive “Energy Efficient Scotland” route map, which commits us to a sensible phased approach to maximise the take-up of energy efficiency improvements voluntarily up to 2030, with mandatory action to follow.

As I have stated before, of course we want to go further. I want to go further; I want to go faster, if it is possible. That is why we are currently consulting on the impact of speeding up the programme. However, we must not risk our credibility by setting unrealistic expectations or take actions that lead to unnecessary costs for people and for the public finances.

We must have a realistic and achievable starting point for the fuel poverty target that is within our grasp and which we can strive for. We have already debated the risks and the issues and I urge Parliament to reject these amendments yet again.

Photo of Alex Rowley Alex Rowley Labour

As Mr Stewart said, the Tory members and the Scottish National Party members came together at stage 2 to block any attempt to be a bit more ambitious with the target, but I had hoped that the minister and his colleagues would have looked again.

The Parliament was established in 1999 and, early in the life of the Parliament, we introduced a bill to eradicate fuel poverty by 2016. Today, we are talking about getting fuel poverty down to 5 per cent by 2040. As I said previously, I will be in my 70s when we reach that target—if we reach it, because the doom and gloom around it would suggest that we cannot.

The minister has raised a few myths. For example, he says that this is all down to technologies. That is simply not the case. I have written to him about housing in Ballingry and Lochore in Fife; the houses are expensive to treat and it is expensive to put in place energy efficiency measures. The lack of budget is what is causing the people there to be living in fuel poverty—the lack of budget and the lack of ambition. It is not simply about technologies. The minister says that it is about a skilled workforce; why are we not being more ambitious about tackling fuel poverty and putting in place a skilled workforce to do the jobs that could ensure that people live in warmer houses?

As I said previously, we have covered in another amendment the possibility of shifting the target if it looks as though we will get to 2032 and not reach the target, but I would rather be ambitious for Scotland and say that nobody in Scotland should be living in fuel poverty. It is the Tory and SNP members who lack ambition and lack vision; that is why people will continue to be in fuel poverty.

I press amendment 1A.

The Presiding Officer:

The question is, that amendment 1A be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

The Presiding Officer:

There will be a division. As it is the first division of the afternoon, I suspend the meeting for five minutes while I call members to the chamber.

14:45 Meeting suspended.

14:50 On resuming—

We move to the division on amendment 1A.

Division number 1 Fuel Poverty (Target, Definition and Strategy) (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3

Aye: 25 MSPs

No: 85 MSPs

Nos: A-Z by last name

The Presiding Officer:

The result of the division is: For 25, Against 85, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 1A disagreed to.

Amendment 1 agreed to.

Amendment 65 not moved.

I remind members that if amendment 2 is agreed to, I cannot call amendment 66.

Amendment 2 moved—[Graham Simpson].

Amendment 2A not moved.

Amendment 2 agreed to.

Group 3 is on the modification of the 2040 target. Amendment 67, in the name of Alex Rowley, is grouped with amendments 68 to 70.

Photo of Alex Rowley Alex Rowley Labour

I introduced amendments at stage 2 to allow the target to be moved if independent expert opinion suggested that it could not be reasonably met. We want the Parliament to work together so that we have the best possible chance of eradicating fuel poverty at the earliest opportunity. The target is just a means to an end. Unfortunately, the Government has chosen to stick with its target date of 2040. If the statutory advisory panel feels that the target date should be brought forward, we hope that it will be moved and that the panel will be able to give the Government the guidance that it needs in order to achieve that target.

I move amendment 67.

Photo of Kevin Stewart Kevin Stewart Scottish National Party

At stage 2, I agreed that the statutory Scottish fuel poverty advisory panel should have the power to make recommendations that would allow Parliament to revisit the target date, but only by pushing it back. I am pleased that Mr Rowley and I have been able to work together on the amendments, which now allow ministers the flexibility to modify the target date both backwards and forwards. The amendments also ensure that reporting deadlines can be adjusted if the 2040 target date for the local authority target or the national target is changed. I urge members to support the amendments.

Amendment 67 agreed to.

Amendments 68 to 70 moved—[Alex Rowley]—and agreed to.

The Presiding Officer:

Group 4 is on the interim fuel poverty target. Amendment 3, in the name of Graham Simpson, is grouped with amendments 4 and 12

.

Photo of Graham Simpson Graham Simpson Conservative

There are three amendments in this group, all in my name. I was pleased that, at stage 2, the Government decided to act on the recommendations of the Local Government and Communities Committee and lodged an amendment to put an interim target for 2030 in the bill. During stage 2, there was a discussion on having further milestones to keep things on track, and I have worked with the Government on these amendments to address that.

The fuel poverty strategy included a target for the overall fuel poverty rate to be less than 20 per cent by 2030 and for the median household fuel poverty gap to be no more than £450. A Scottish Government amendment at stage 2 improved the bill, so that it includes a target that, in 2030,

“no more than 15% of households in Scotland are in fuel poverty ... no more than 5% of households in Scotland are in extreme fuel poverty” and

“the median fuel poverty gap of households in Scotland in fuel poverty is no more than £350”,

taking into account changes in the value of money.

The amendments to section 1A are in line with that and set a further interim target, to be introduced for 2035. There is one target for 2030 and an extra one for 2035. That second target is that, in 2035,

“no more than 10% of households in Scotland are in fuel poverty ... no more than 3% of households ... are in extreme fuel poverty” and

“the median fuel poverty gap ... is no more than £300” in 2015 prices.

Those figures are based on a straightforward linear progression from the 2030 interim target to the 2040 end target. I believe that the new interim target will ensure that attention continues to be focused on reducing fuel poverty and, crucially, maintaining momentum towards achieving the 2040 target.

Amendment 12 to section 9A is technical, in recognition of the fact that, although the bill will include interim targets, that wording is not used. As all the targets are classified together as fuel poverty targets, the panel will already be considering the progress that is being made towards meeting them.

Amendment 3 expands section 1A to include more than one interim target.

The interim targets will be classified as “fuel poverty targets” under the existing definition in section 12A. Therefore, the periodic reporting duties and duties about the strategy will apply to the new interim target, just as they apply to the 2030 interim target.

Amendment 4 adds an additional interim target for 2035 at section 1A. I have already gone over what that will do, but the purpose of the amendment is to ensure that the momentum is maintained.

Amendment 12 removes reference to “interim targets” on the basis that interim targets have been provided for but the label of “interim targets” has not been used, as this new interim target is already covered by the reference to “fuel poverty targets”.

I apologise for the fact that some of that was technical, but that is the nature of the bill.

I move amendment 3.

Photo of Kevin Stewart Kevin Stewart Scottish National Party

I am pleased that Mr Simpson and I have been able to come to an agreement on these amendments, which bring forward an additional interim target. I confirm my support for the amendments.

Amendment 3 agreed to.

Amendment 71 not moved.

Amendment 4—[Graham Simpson]—and agreed to.

The Presiding Officer:

Group 5 is on enhanced heating. Amendment 15, in the name of Jackie Baillie, is grouped with amendments 16 and 17.

Photo of Jackie Baillie Jackie Baillie Labour

I rise to speak to all the amendments in the group, which are in my name. I declare an interest as an honorary vice-president of Energy Action Scotland and I thank it and other organisations for their help with stage 2 amendments.

Section 2 sets out two heating regimes, standard and “enhanced”. As we would expect, the enhanced heating regime has a higher temperature and longer heating time than the standard regime. Under section 2(4), Scottish ministers can make regulations that

“specify the types of household for which enhanced heating is appropriate”,

so that specified households get enhanced heating and others get standard heating.

At stage 2, I lodged a series of amendments that suggested that households with people of pensionable age or children under five should be entitled to the enhanced heating regime. It is a matter of regret that I was not able to persuade the committee or, at that stage, the Scottish Government, despite a wealth of support from experts and organisations involved in the field of tackling fuel poverty.

However, I do not give up easily and I am pleased to say that I have managed to persuade the minister that there is need to look at the issue and I am glad that we have been able to come to a compromise. The minister is smiling, Presiding Officer. It is probably the first time that he has enjoyed compromising with me.

I think that we would all agree that the introduction of a flexible range of enhanced heating regimes is important to the proper measurement of fuel poverty. We know that certain groups are more at risk of fuel poverty because they require higher temperatures for longer, meaning that they spend more on fuel costs. If we do not reflect that in our measurement of fuel poverty, we run the risk of letting people slip through the net. We would fail to capture the fact that vulnerable groups are being faced with a choice between heating their homes or being left without enough money to maintain an acceptable standard of living.

To address that, the purpose behind my three amendments is to introduce two additional enhanced heating regimes to provide a more accurate picture of fuel poverty. The two additional regimes are a higher temperature for standard hours and a standard temperature for longer hours. Instead of having a single enhanced heating regime, which applies both higher temperatures and longer hours of heating to a household, there will also be the option to apply either higher temperatures or longer hours.

Essentially, some households might need longer heating hours but not higher temperatures, and vice versa. The amendments will enable a more flexible range of enhanced heating regimes to be applied, which can be better tailored to the needs of different household types. I therefore urge members to make a difference and support the three amendments in the group.

I move amendment 15

Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Liberal Democrat

I welcome the perseverance of Jackie Baillie. She is right that at stage 2 she had a fair go at lodging amendments, which the minister resisted. The flexibility that these three amendments will deliver is very welcome and we will be supporting them.

Photo of Kevin Stewart Kevin Stewart Scottish National Party

I have a funny feeling that my face was probably as bright a red as Jackie Baillie’s jacket when she was talking about a compromising situation.

As Jackie Baillie outlined, these amendments enable a more flexible range of enhanced heating regimes to be applied, which can be better tailored to the needs of different household types. Ms Baillie has taken a close interest in the bill from its introduction, particularly in relation to our enhanced heating regime, and she has advocated for change. I am pleased that we have been able to work together to agree this new approach and I am happy to support the amendments.

Amendment 15 agreed to.

Amendments 16 and 17 moved—[Jackie Baillie]—and agreed to.

The Presiding Officer:

Group 6 is on the meaning of fuel poverty: benefits received for a care need or disability. Amendment 18, in the name of the minister, is grouped with amendment 19.

Photo of Kevin Stewart Kevin Stewart Scottish National Party

At stage 2, an amendment from Jackie Baillie was agreed to that required that

“benefits received for a care need or disability” be deducted from incomes at the second part—-section 2(1)(b)—of the fuel poverty definition when determining whether a household has enough remaining money

“to maintain an acceptable standard of living”.

I was happy to support that change, as it will result in a fairer comparison to the minimum income standard for those households.

Amendments 18 and 19 are subsequent tidying amendments. Amendment 18 will mean that all the relevant benefits, including “severe disablement allowance”, will be deducted from incomes, and amendment 19 will make sure that

“benefits received for a care need or disability” are also deducted from incomes as part of the definition of “extreme fuel poverty”. I therefore ask members to support amendments 18 and 19.

I move amendment 18.

Amendment 18 agreed to.

Section 2A—Meaning of extreme fuel poverty:

Amendment 19 moved—[Kevin Stewart]—and agreed to.

Section 3—Preparation of strategy:

Amendment 20 moved—[Kevin Stewart]—and agreed to.

The Presiding Officer:

Group 7 is on strategy and periodic reports: approach to addressing the drivers of fuel poverty and definitions of those drivers. Amendment 21, in the name of Andy Wightman, is grouped with amendments 74 to 76, 23 to 28, 78, 77, 79, 33, 81, 42, 83, 85, 43, 87, 47 and 97.

Photo of Andy Wightman Andy Wightman Green

Amendment 21 would simply add a paragraph to section 3(2) requiring that the fuel poverty strategy sets out

“the approach the Scottish Ministers intend to take” to tackle all four drivers

“of fuel poverty to ensure that the fuel poverty targets are met”.

I am very glad that we ended up getting the four drivers of fuel poverty in the bill, and a number of the amendments that we are debating today are adjustments to that provision.

Amendment 33 is consequential to amendment 21 and ties the four drivers that are referred to in amendment 21 to the definition that is provided in section 9A.

Claudia Beamish’s amendment 78 is useful in spelling out clearly the requirement to “improve energy efficiency” across the board, and we will support the amendment.

Amendments 42 and 43 and the consequential amendment 47 would add a duty to report on the extent to which the four drivers of fuel poverty have been addressed in each periodic report under section 6.

I draw particular attention to Alex Rowley’s amendment 97, which restates the four drivers of fuel poverty in more accurate terms. Amendment 97 talks about

“low net adjusted household incomes”.

It was frequently stated by members at stage 1 that income is not a driver that the Scottish Government or the Parliament has any control over. Of course, the relevant metric for the purposes of measuring fuel poverty is not gross incomes but net incomes after the deduction of “housing costs”, “childcare costs” and “fuel costs”. The Parliament does—but perhaps should do more to—influence house prices and rents through fiscal measures and housing tenure reform. We also influence childcare and, of course, we control income tax, which determines how much income folk have to start with.

We will not support Alexander Burnett’s amendments 77, 81 and 85, but we will support his amendment 83, which picks up on my amendments to require that the periodic reporting includes progress that “has been made” on “energy efficiency”.

I move amendment 21.

Photo of Jackie Baillie Jackie Baillie Labour

I will speak briefly to amendments 74, 75 and 76.

I think that we would all agree that a new definition and target are useful only if they lead to meaningful action. Everyone accepts that those who require an enhanced heating regime are more at risk of fuel poverty, because of the increased costs that they face in sufficiently heating their homes. We must understand who those people are and reach them with the assistance that they require to lift them out of fuel poverty. That could be done through financial support or help to make their homes more efficient.

My amendments would enable ministers to set out their approach to identifying and supporting those people who are more at risk of fuel poverty because they require an enhanced heating regime. I hope that members will support my amendments.

Photo of Kevin Stewart Kevin Stewart Scottish National Party

The fuel poverty strategy will be vital in delivering the ambitions that are set out in the bill and there have been a number of amendments to section 3 throughout the process, which I will address in turn.

I welcome and support the amendments in Andy Wightman’s name in this group, which make it clear that the fuel poverty strategy will set out the approach that we will take on all four drivers of fuel poverty. That is the approach that we took in the draft strategy.

There is no doubt that how we use energy in the home is important. That is a large part of the work of our award-winning advice service, home energy Scotland, but I note that it does not contribute towards measuring progress against the fuel poverty targets in the bill, which are based on the cost of heating homes to the temperatures that are set out in section 2.

On amendments 74, 75 and 76, I have been working with Ms Baillie on the enhanced heating regime and I acknowledge her championing of the issue. I reassure her that we are absolutely committed to setting out in the strategy what we will do to help people who are in fuel poverty as a result of being in a household for which enhanced heating is appropriate. However, the amendments are unnecessary, as their provisions do not need to be in primary legislation. I hope that my commitment reassures Ms Baillie on the matter, and I urge her not to move amendments 74, 75 and 76.

Amendments 23 to 28, in my name, are largely technical in nature. At stage 2, I supported an amendment in the name of Alexander Burnett that provided that the fuel poverty strategy should set out our approach to identifying properties with a low energy efficiency rating. At the time, I said that we were happy to support the amendment but would need to revisit the issue at stage 3. The amendments will strengthen the bill by making it clear that the strategy will set out the approach that we intend to take in order to identify homes with low energy efficiency—as opposed to the approach that we could take, which is the current position in the bill. They also make it clear that the aim is to identify homes in which the households are fuel poor, which is obviously the focus of the bill and the strategy. Amendment 27 ensures that the wording is in line with the energy efficient Scotland approach, and the other amendments are technical and tidying amendments.

I turn to Mr Burnett’s amendments. Amendments 81 and 85 are unnecessary, as the issue will be dealt with by amendments 42 and 43, in the name of Andy Wightman, which take a stronger approach in that they will require the Scottish ministers to set out the steps that have been and will be taken on all four drivers of fuel poverty, not just on one of the drivers. For that reason, I urge Mr Burnett not to move amendments 81 and 85 but, instead, to support amendments 42 and 43.

Amendment 83, also in Mr Burnett’s name, does something slightly different in that it requires ministers to set out what progress has been made, so I am more than happy to support it.

I urge Mr Burnett not to move amendment 77, on the basis that it is unnecessary. The provision that it would amend explicitly builds on the approach that is referred to in section 3(2)(aa), which provides that the strategy must

“set out the approach the Scottish Ministers intend to take to ensure that the” fuel poverty targets are met.

Amendment 78, from Claudia Beamish, and amendments 79 and 87, from Pauline McNeill, are unnecessary. They would add a long list of tenures and would require financial incentives to be created whether or not households were in fuel poverty. The key purpose of the bill is to tackle fuel poverty, but nowhere in the amendments is there a single mention of fuel poverty. The wider issue of home energy efficiency is being addressed elsewhere, and the approach that is proposed in amendments 78, 79 and 87 would detract from the core purpose of the bill while adding nothing of benefit.

Furthermore, there are potential issues with the drafting of amendment 78, on which amendments 79 and 87 are contingent. The list of housing tenures is incomplete and does not cover some private tenancies, such as tenancies under agricultural and crofting legislation. Also, amendment 78 would confer on ministers the power to expand the list by regulation. Until this morning, when a manuscript amendment was lodged, the power was not going to be subject to parliamentary procedure. That has now been rectified, but problems remain with amendment 78 that have not been addressed. For example, the power does not allow tenancy types to be removed if they are no longer relevant.

For all those reasons, I cannot support amendments 78, 79 and 87.

Nevertheless, I have always made it clear that I am determined that the fuel poverty strategy will set out how we intend to help fuel-poor households of all types and in all tenures of housing and how we intend to use all the available means to support people. At stage 2, the bill was amended to require that the strategy set out how we intend to remove poor energy efficiency as a driver of fuel poverty. That means removing it for all households—regardless of tenancy type—in order to meet the targets. I hope that that provides reassurance to members.

I ask Ms McNeill not to move her amendments 79 and 87 and Ms Beamish not to move her amendment 78, as those amendments are flawed. I also ask Ms Beamish not to move her newly lodged manuscript amendment 99.

Both today and during the earlier stages of the bill, there have been many references to the four drivers of fuel poverty, all of which are important. At stage 2, Alex Rowley lodged an amendment to establish the Scottish fuel poverty advisory panel by statute and to require it to report on the extent to which the drivers are being addressed. The Scottish Government has worked closely with Mr Rowley on his amendment 97, which is a technical amendment that clarifies what the four drivers are. Those clarifications also address concerns that Mr Wightman has raised. I hope that all members will support amendment 97, which now more accurately reflects what the drivers of fuel poverty are.

Photo of Claudia Beamish Claudia Beamish Labour

My amendment 78, which the minister mentioned, seeks to ensure that, in preparing the fuel poverty strategy, ministers give appropriate consideration to different housing tenures. I stress that the list of tenures in the amendment is not exclusive. I welcome Andy Wightman’s support for amendment 78.

My amendment 99 would ensure that the regulations would be made subject to the affirmative procedure. I thank the legislation team for dealing at this late stage with my manuscript amendment to that effect, and the Presiding Officer for accepting it.

Fuel poverty can affect people’s lives regardless of their housing arrangements. In amendment 78 members can see the list of housing tenure types, including owner occupation, private tenancies, local authority tenancies, social housing, multiple occupancies, Scottish secure tenancies and—contrary to what the minister said—agricultural tenancies and multiple types. The amendment—

Photo of Claudia Beamish Claudia Beamish Labour

I will just finish this sentence.

The amendment would allow ministers to prescribe other types by regulation.

Photo of Kevin Stewart Kevin Stewart Scottish National Party

The list does not include agricultural and crofting tenancies, so amendment 78 is flawed. I know that Ms Beamish has tried to deal with some aspects by means of a manuscript amendment today. However, it is fair to say that missing out those forms of tenancy still makes the amendment flawed.

Photo of Claudia Beamish Claudia Beamish Labour

I have not changed amendment 78 today; with the Presiding Officer’s permission, I have simply lodged amendment 99, which proposes that regulations should be made by means of the affirmative procedure.

I will read out amendment 78, which says that it is in relation to

“a 1991 Act tenancy (within the meaning of the Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act 2003)”.

That wording is in amendment 78, which has not been changed today.

I will carry on with what I wanted to say. Each of those designations has its own unique challenges that should be addressed, and people who have different types of tenure will also have differences in their income, their motivation for living under a type of tenure, or their need to live under that type of tenure. I acknowledge that some forms of tenure will include higher or lower proportions of people who live in fuel poverty. Scottish Labour believes that support for people who live in fuel poverty should be prioritised. However, it would be short-sighted of the Government to limit such action to those who are in direct fuel poverty. We should be looking for a long-term, sustainable solution, which was what many people expected from the Government’s commitment to introduce a warm homes bill, which was also in Scottish Labour’s manifesto. The Fuel Poverty (Target, Definition and Strategy) (Scotland) Bill is much narrower in scope. Ultimately, we need to bring all housing stock up to standard. People will always move house or encounter changing circumstances, so the bill should be preventive and not simply reactionary.

For example, private sector tenants can often have landlords who are reluctant to make energy efficiency improvements, and people in multi-occupancy tenancies can face difficulties in relation to sharing the cost of improvements, which is also a complex issue. As I have seen with my own eyes, agricultural tenancies can often be in older rural buildings, and conflicts with landlords can arise. I lodged a similar amendment—although it was narrower in scope—to a bill in the previous parliamentary session. The then minister stressed that improvements to private rented accommodation would be addressed through the fuel poverty forum and action groups, but that has not happened.

The Government has rightly committed to a target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045, and it has accepted that that will require a step up in policy action. Given the climate emergency, it is important to acknowledge that the bill could provide co-benefits in relation to tackling climate change and—need I say it—addressing physical and mental wellbeing. The right to a home, as set out by the United Nations, must surely mean that people in Scotland have the right to a warm home. Any Government must oblige those with the responsibility to provide such homes. Given the climate emergency, amendment 78 has, at its core, a focus on providing a just transition, in that it aims to support individuals who cannot necessarily afford to take action on fuel poverty, and those who do not have the power to take such action because of the type of accommodation that they live in. I argue that, in many cases, the responsibility for action lies with not the tenant, but the landlord.

Even at this late stage, I hope that the Government will consider agreeing to my amendments. I look forward to hearing any further comments from the minister.

The Presiding Officer:

Thank you, although I point out that the minister will not have another chance to speak to this group of amendments.

Photo of Alexander Burnett Alexander Burnett Conservative

I refer members to my entry in the register of members’ interests regarding construction and property management.

I will move my amendments 77 and 83, but I will not move my amendments 81 and 85, as we feel that Andy Wightman’s amendments will help to adequately tackle the drivers of fuel poverty, and the Scottish Conservatives agree with that approach.

Amendments 77 and 83 seek to hold the Government to account by ensuring that low levels of energy efficiency are addressed. Amendment 77 seeks to help lift residents out of fuel poverty within target remits that must be laid out by the Government. That will ensure that this or any future Scottish Government must stick to reducing fuel poverty on a targeted timeline.

Amendment 83 builds on amendment 77 by ensuring that, when the Scottish Government reports on hitting targets or reducing fuel poverty, it specifically analyses progress on tackling low levels of energy efficiency. Poor energy efficiency is a driver of fuel poverty, so it is important that amendment 83 is included in the bill to ensure that any Scottish Government will need to report on progress on improving energy efficiency in homes across Scotland.

Photo of Pauline McNeill Pauline McNeill Labour

I will speak to my amendments 79 and 87, and to other amendments in the group—particularly amendment 21, in the name of Andy Wightman, which is very important; amendment 78, in the name of Claudia Beamish; and amendment 97, in the name of Alex Rowley.

My amendment 79 sets out that ministers must use the strategy to set out the “financial and fiscal incentives” that are available to people who live in each type of housing tenure. The Government’s decision to introduce a fuel poverty bill, not a warm homes bill, is illustrative of the narrow approach that it takes to eradicating fuel poverty. Although it might not be desirable, amendment 79 is certainly competent. We suggest that there should be a much wider focus on improving energy efficiency and tackling fuel poverty, given the impact that that would have on energy efficiency and fuel poverty levels and on tackling climate change, as Claudia Beamish said. If we do not address those issues through the bill, we will need to address them somewhere else, and I do not see where that would be. We should offer the widest level of support to groups of people across all tenures and housing stock, and lay out the financial incentives that are available to them.

Amendment 87 calls for periodic reports to include a review of

“the effectiveness of any financial and fiscal incentives contained within the strategy”.

Home energy Scotland reports that 845 households applied for loans to install energy efficiency measures, but we do not know how effective those actions have been. If better advertising was done, more people might well apply for those loans to install energy-efficient options.

The emphasis is on loans, but a look also needs to be taken at other incentives. According to the consumer futures unit, home owners prefer, by some margin, the option of a one-off rebate of council tax in the year following installation. We must address the question of how we get more people to take measures to use less fuel and to use it more efficiently, and the Fuel Poverty (Target, Definition and Strategy) (Scotland) Bill seems to be the appropriate place to do that. It is imperative that we approach fuel poverty as a warm homes issue, as well as looking at how we can encourage greater fuel efficiency.

Photo of Alex Rowley Alex Rowley Labour

We support amendment 97 and the other amendments in the group, most of which are broadly technical. I want to thank the Government for its support and for the work that it has done on the amendments. Even though there have been areas of disagreement in the bill, there has been some productive joint working. I put on record that that is because of Kevin Stewart’s open-door approach. He says that he wants to work with other parties on the strategy: I look forward to that.

Photo of Annabelle Ewing Annabelle Ewing Scottish National Party

I will speak against Claudia Beamish’s amendments 78 and 99 and Pauline McNeill’s amendments 79 and 87. Similar proposals were put forward at stage 2, but they did not gain traction. For my part, I find the amendments to be somewhat confusing. As we have heard, amendment 78 lists a number of tenancies, but it does not capture all tenancies, which is the danger of such an approach. For example, I understand that tenancies under the Crofters (Scotland) Act 1993 would not be covered, as the minister outlined.

The key point of the bill is that it covers all households, regardless of tenure or tenancy. The bill does that as it stands, so amendment 78 is not necessary; indeed, it risks creating confusion.

Amendment 99 is a manuscript amendment that would facilitate the process that would be required if amendment 78 were to be agreed to, but as I have said, amendment 78 is confusing and is not in keeping with the spirit of the bill. Therefore, I suggest that amendment 99 be rejected, too.

Amendments 79 and 87 do not reflect the fundamental tenet of the bill, which is that the people who are most in need should be targeted. The application of amendments 79 and 87 would not be limited to households that are defined to be in fuel poverty, but would cover all properties in the categories that Claudia Beamish has set out. Therefore, amendments 79 and 87 would not be in keeping with the fundamental tenet of the bill, which is a bill to address fuel poverty. The members concerned perhaps had an alternative approach in mind.

I ask that if Claudia Beamish and Pauline McNeill move their amendments, they be rejected because they are confusing, would not add anything to the bill and are not in keeping with its fundamental tenet.

Photo of Graham Simpson Graham Simpson Conservative

We will support Andy Wightman’s amendments. He was quite right to introduce into the bill the four drivers of fuel poverty. There was a debate in the Local Government and Communities Committee about whether the Scottish Government has influence over all four of the drivers. I accept that it does not have total influence over all four of them, but it does have some influence over them.

We accept—as does my colleague Alexander Burnett—that amendments 81 and 85 have been superseded by Mr Wightman’s amendments, so he will not be moving them.

However, Alexander Burnett’s amendment 83 would insert a requirement to report on the progress of

“removing low levels of energy efficiency as a driver of fuel poverty”.

I think that that makes perfect sense, as others have said.

We will not support Claudia Beamish’s or Pauline McNeill’s amendments. Unfortunately, the latter has been caught up in the former’s legislative slipstream and her amendments are tied into Ms Beamish’s amendments. If she had gone for something separate, she might have had support.

The Presiding Officer:

I call Andy Wightman to wind up on group 7, and to press or withdraw amendment 21.

Photo of Andy Wightman Andy Wightman Green

I do not have a great deal to say—serendipity often decides who opens and closes groups. On Claudia Beamish’s amendment 78, the minister said that the strategy already deals with all tenures, so by that logic the fact that the amendment misses out agriculture and crofting should not really matter at all. It is the case, of course, that two identical homes—maybe in a terraced street—in which one family is in fuel poverty and the other is not will have very similar solutions to improving their energy efficiency. The strategy need not distinguish between fuel-poor households and non-fuel-poor households, because in most, if not all, cases the solutions will be the same and are vital to reducing carbon emissions.

I accept some of the minister’s critique of amendment 78; nevertheless, I still think that it would be a useful means by which to focus ministers’ attention, in the strategy, on particular tenures of housing.

I thank Alexander Burnett for his kind comments. He will possibly go down in history as the minister—

The minister! No. I mean the member. [

Interruption

.] He may go down in history as a minister, one day. Alexander Burnett will go down in history as—everyone is waiting with bated breath—the member who moved the £60 million amendment at stage 2. I am glad that he secured a more modest amendment today.

I press amendment 21.

Amendment 21 agreed to.

Amendment 22 moved—[Kevin Stewart]—and agreed to.

The Presiding Officer:

I remind members that, if amendment 72 is agreed to, I cannot call amendment 73.

Amendment 72 moved—[Graham Simpson]—and agreed to.

I call Jackie Baillie to move or not move amendment 74.

Photo of Jackie Baillie Jackie Baillie Labour

On the basis of the commitments that the minister has placed on the record, I am happy not to move my amendments in the group.

Amendments 74 to 76 not moved.

Amendments 23 to 28 moved—[Kevin Stewart]—and agreed to.

Amendment 78 moved—[Claudia Beamish].

Photo of Kenneth Macintosh Kenneth Macintosh Labour

The question is, that amendment 78 be agreed to. Are we all agreed?

Members:

No.

The Presiding Officer:

There will be a division. As this is the first vote after a debate, we will have a one-minute division.

Division number 2 Fuel Poverty (Target, Definition and Strategy) (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3

Aye: 27 MSPs

No: 89 MSPs

Nos: A-Z by last name

The Presiding Officer:

The result of the division is: For 27, Against 89, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 78 disagreed to.

Amendment 77 moved—[Alexander Burnett].

The question is, that amendment 77 be agreed to. Are we all agreed?

Members:

No.

Division number 3 Fuel Poverty (Target, Definition and Strategy) (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3

Aye: 27 MSPs

No: 89 MSPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Nos: A-Z by last name

The Presiding Officer:

The result of the division is: For 27, Against 89, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 77 disagreed to.

Amendment 79 not moved.

Group 8 is on strategy and periodic reports: consultation and revision. Amendment 29, in the name of the minister, is grouped with amendments 30 to 32, 34, 35, 80, 36 to 41, 44, 45, 90, 95, and 98.

Photo of Kevin Stewart Kevin Stewart Scottish National Party

At stage 2, an amendment in the name of Alex Rowley MSP was agreed to that obliged ministers to keep the fuel poverty strategy under review on an on-going basis. For the strategy to have real purpose, ministers must also be able to revise it whenever unforeseen changes are identified that have to be addressed or whenever they have to respond to comments on the strategy from the new advisory panel that will be established under the bill. At present, the wording of that amendment does not explicitly give ministers that authority, and I have lodged amendment 29 to provide for it.

I also said at stage 2 that we might need to revise Mr Rowley’s amendment slightly from a technical perspective to ensure that it worked as everyone would want it to. At the moment, not all the rules that apply to the strategy would apply to a revised strategy. For example, the new statutory panel would not have the function of proposing changes to a revised strategy. To ensure that the bill is consistent in its treatment of the fuel poverty strategy and any revised strategies, amendment 30 seeks to apply a default rule to make sure that that is the case throughout sections 3 to 5. As repeated references to a revised strategy will not be needed, a number of tidying amendments have been lodged to remove them.

Finally, to ensure that, if a revised strategy is developed, there will always be a periodic report every three years, amendments 44 and 45 have been lodged with the purpose of making sure that the three-yearly reporting cycle is not recalculated. At the moment, because of stage 2 amendments, the reporting cycle would restart if the strategy were to be revised.

On amendment 35, I thank Ms Baillie for working with me on a revision of her stage 2 amendment on consulting specific groups on the preparation of the fuel poverty strategy. At the time, we could not agree to the amendment because of its wording, and Ms Baillie chose not to press it so that we could discuss the matter further. Her new amendment keeps to her policy proposal while being consistent with wording used elsewhere in the bill, and I am happy to support it.

Finally, I am also happy that Alex Rowley and I have been able to work together on his amendments in this group, which seek to expand and consolidate the statutory role of the fuel poverty advisory panel by making it a mandatory consultee on the periodic reports and the development of the strategy. That will be very important in the fight to tackle fuel poverty in Scotland, and I am therefore happy to support amendments 80, 90, 95 and 98.

I move amendment 29.

Photo of Jackie Baillie Jackie Baillie Labour

I rise to speak to amendment 35, in my name.

As the minister has already alluded to, at stage 2 I lodged an amendment that would have ensured that the Government had to involve a wide variety of people in preparing the fuel poverty strategy. Specifically, they were people who have lived experience of fuel poverty, people who are disabled or suffer from a long-term illness, older people, and people who live in rural areas. They are some of the most vulnerable groups in our society, particularly when it comes to fuel poverty, so it is crucial that they are brought into the process of developing policies to address the issue.

The Scottish Government supported the principle of that amendment, but not its specific wording, so I withdrew it with a view to bringing it back at stage 3 in a format that we could all agree on.

I worked with the minister on amendment 35, and it is consistent with the wording that is used elsewhere in the bill. It will ensure that the views of the crucial groups of people that are listed are taken into account when the Government develops its fuel poverty strategy. A duty to consult individuals who are living in or have lived in fuel poverty is already included in the bill. Therefore, I hope that members across the chamber will support the amendment.

The Presiding Officer:

I call Alex Rowley to speak to amendment 80 and the other amendments in the group.

Photo of Kevin Stewart Kevin Stewart Scottish National Party

I will be brief. Once again, I thank Mr Rowley and Ms Baillie for working with me in order to improve sections of the bill. I cannot emphasise enough the importance of being able to come together to discuss improvements to bills in between their stages in order to gain agreement and strengthen them. The amendments will strengthen the bill, and I thank all members who have co-operated on them.

Amendment 29 agreed to.

Amendments 30 to 32 moved—[Kevin Stewart]—and agreed to.

Amendment 33 moved—[Andy Wightman]—and agreed to.

Section 4—Consultation on strategy:

Amendment 34 moved—[Kevin Stewart]—and agreed to.

Amendment 35 moved—[Jackie Baillie]—and agreed to.

Amendment 80 moved—[Alex Rowley]—and agreed to.

Amendments 36 to 40 moved—[Kevin Stewart]—and agreed to.

Section 5—Publication and laying of strategy:

Amendment 41 moved—[Kevin Stewart]—and agreed to.

Section 6—Preparation of periodic reports:

Amendment 81 not moved.

The Presiding Officer:

I remind members that, if amendment 6 is agreed to, I cannot call amendment 82.

Amendment 6 moved—[Graham Simpson].

The question is, that amendment 6 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Division number 4 Fuel Poverty (Target, Definition and Strategy) (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3

Aye: 94 MSPs

No: 21 MSPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

The Presiding Officer:

The result of the division is: For 94, Against 21, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 6 agreed to.

Amendment 42 moved—[Andy Wightman]—and agreed to.

Amendment 83 moved—[Alexander Burnett]—and agreed to.

I remind members that, if amendment 7 is agreed to, I cannot call amendment 84.

Amendment 7 moved—[Graham Simpson].

T he question is, that amendment 7 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Division number 5 Fuel Poverty (Target, Definition and Strategy) (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3

Aye: 93 MSPs

No: 21 MSPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

The Presiding Officer:

The result of the division is: For 93, Against 21, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 7 agreed to.

Amendment 85 not moved.

I remind members that, if amendment 8 is agreed to, I cannot call amendment 86.

Amendment 8 moved—[Graham Simpson].

The question is, that amendment 8 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Division number 6 Fuel Poverty (Target, Definition and Strategy) (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3

Aye: 93 MSPs

No: 20 MSPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Nos: A-Z by last name

The Presiding Officer:

The result of the division is: For 93, Against 20, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 8 agreed to.

Amendment 43 moved—[Andy Wightman]—and agreed to.

Amendment 87 not moved.

Amendment 9 moved—[Graham Simpson].

Amendment 9A not moved.

The question is, that amendment 9 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Division number 7 Fuel Poverty (Target, Definition and Strategy) (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3

Aye: 93 MSPs

No: 20 MSPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Nos: A-Z by last name

The Presiding Officer:

The result of the division is: For 93, Against 20, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 9 agreed to.

Amendment 88 not moved.

Amendments 44 and 45 moved—[Kevin Stewart]—and agreed to.

Amendment 10 moved—[Graham Simpson].

The question is, that amendment 10 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Division number 8 Fuel Poverty (Target, Definition and Strategy) (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3

Aye: 94 MSPs

No: 20 MSPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Nos: A-Z by last name

The Presiding Officer:

The result of the division is: For 94, Against 20, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 10 agreed to.

Amendment 89 not moved.

Amendment 46 moved—[Kevin Stewart]—and agreed to.

Amendment 47 moved—[Andy Wightman]—and agreed to.

Section 7—Consultation on periodic reports:

Amendment 90 moved—[Alex Rowley]—and agreed to.

Section 9—Report on the 2040 target:

Amendments 91 to 94 not moved.

After section 9:

Amendment 11 moved—[Graham Simpson].

Amendments 11A to 11F not moved.

Amendment 11 agreed to.

Section 9A—Scottish Fuel Poverty Advisory Panel:

Amendment 95 moved—[Alex Rowley]—and agreed to.

Amendment 12 moved—[Graham Simpson]—and agreed to.

The Presiding Officer:

We turn to group 9, on the Scottish fuel advisory panel. Amendment 96, in the name of Alex Rowley, is grouped with amendments 48 to 57, 59, 60, 60A, 61 and 62.

Photo of Alex Rowley Alex Rowley Labour

It is important that members of the Scottish Parliament outwith the Government have access to advice from the statutory panel in order to adequately scrutinise the impact of Government policy and understand what further action needs to be taken to meet the targets.

We are supporting the Government’s amendments, which will increase the financial cap and place it over a three-year period. That is a sensible approach, and the Parliament seems to agree that the panel should provide what is largely a scrutiny role. We also support Andy Wightman’s amendment 60A, which allows for the cap to be increased. It is plausible that a future Government might want to commission one-off research that could be cost saving in the longer term, and the amendment would allow for that.

I move amendment 96.

Photo of Kevin Stewart Kevin Stewart Scottish National Party

At stage 2, I gave my support to Alex Rowley’s amendment to establish a statutory Scottish fuel poverty advisory panel. I very much welcomed the principle of a cap on expenditure, as I would prefer to invest our resources in fuel-poor households and not in administration. However, I did say that the £20,000 cap might be too low, and I committed the Government to carrying out work to estimate the sums that are likely to be required for the panel to be able to perform its functions effectively.

Amendment 60 introduces a new three-yearly cost cap of £82,000, which can be adjusted to reflect any percentage increase in the annual average consumer price index. That figure is based on the panel being of a similar size to the existing non-statutory body and its meeting four times a year. It also assumes a reasonable level of remuneration and appropriate staff and secretariat costs. We believe that it would be better to provide for a multiyear cap on the panel’s costs instead of a single-year figure, because it is likely that the panel’s workload will vary from year to year. The first of those three-year periods will begin when this new section of the bill comes into force and will continue on a rolling basis thereafter.

The amendments in this group also make a number of tweaks in relation to the power to set out in regulations the details of precisely how the panel should be constituted and its functions. At present, the drafting of section 9A does not provide sufficient flexibility to properly address all the issues that are likely to arise in setting up and running a body such as the panel, including the arrangements for appointing members and our being able to make provision regarding things such as the panel’s legal status or to amend other legislation, which is not possible as the bill is currently drafted.

Alex Rowley’s amendment 96 proposes that the panel should be able to provide advice to the relevant parliamentary committee. That would be helpful, and the existing cost estimates are sufficient to cover that.

However, in relation to Mr Wightman’s amendment 60A, I do not support adding the ability for ministers to change the budget cap. Our amendments provide for adequate funding, and we have future proofed the level of funding to take inflation into account. There is no need to revisit the matter, and I am concerned that constant revision of the cap would simply push the costs up and reduce the focus and efficiency of the panel.

I welcome the establishment of a statutory panel, as I believe that that approach will provide us with the expertise that is required while offering us real value for money.

Photo of Andy Wightman Andy Wightman Green

I will restrict my remarks to amendment 60A, in my name. The amendment relates to the most important amendment that was lodged at stage 2—Alex Rowley’s amendment to establish a Scottish fuel poverty advisory panel. One hopes that having such a panel—together with the interim target, the periodic reporting and the scrutiny that is now embedded in the bill—will ensure, as far as possible, that the failure to meet the targets in previous legislation does not come to pass again.

I am a bit bemused by the minister’s objection to amendment 60A, which simply gives ministers the power to make regulations to vary the cap on the finances for the panel. The bill sets a target out to 2040, which is 21 years away, and there will be around four or five Administrations over that time. To me, it seems perfectly reasonable that a future Administration may wish to vary the cap, and I do not understand why the minister wishes to fetter the discretion in that regard. It is an eminently reasonable provision and I see no reason to reject it, but I guess that it might well be rejected—I have no idea.

Photo of Annabelle Ewing Annabelle Ewing Scottish National Party

I rise to speak against amendment 60A. At stage 2, I was pleased to support the proposal to put the Scottish fuel poverty advisory panel on a statutory footing. However, at that time, I raised concerns that, in doing so, we should not use scarce resources on administration and bureaucracy but should ensure that the focus remains on resources for the front line. The issue of a cap was raised at stage 2 and, as the minister said, he undertook to reflect on what would be a reasonable figure to allow the body to function in accordance with its remit while taking into account the need not to divert resource from the front line. That work has been done, and I am happy to support amendment 60, in the name of the minister.

I note that, at stage 2, Mr Wightman supported a cap approach on the basis that he is

“not a supporter of setting up a bureaucratic organisation using lots of resources”.—[

Official Report

,

Local Government and Communities Committee

, 27 March 2019; c 42.]

Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Liberal Democrat

I support Andy Wightman’s approach in amendment 60A. As far as I can see, it is an enabling provision that would allow ministers to make changes by regulation. Any such changes would be scrutinised by future Parliaments, which would be cognisant of the need to avoid resources being inappropriately diverted away from the front line. I see no real risk in the provision, and we will support it.

Photo of Graham Simpson Graham Simpson Conservative

It is unusual that we have a minister who does not want to take powers. I suppose that he is to be commended for that. Through amendment 60, he has already increased the budget for the panel, and the figure is inflation proofed, which I think goes far enough. Therefore, we will support amendment 60 but not amendment 60A.

Photo of Alex Rowley Alex Rowley Labour

We will support every amendment in the group, including Andy Wightman’s amendment 60A for the reasons that he and Liam McArthur have set out.

Amendment 96 agreed to.

Amendments 48 to 57 and 59 moved—[Kevin Stewart]—and agreed to.

Amendment 97 moved—[Alex Rowley]—and agreed to.

After section 9A:

Amendment 60 moved—[Kevin Stewart].

Amendment 60A moved—[Andy Wightman].

The Presiding Officer:

The question is, that amendment 60A be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Division number 9 Fuel Poverty (Target, Definition and Strategy) (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3

Aye: 31 MSPs

No: 83 MSPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Nos: A-Z by last name

The Presiding Officer:

The result of the division is: For 31, Against 83, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 60A disagreed to.

Amendment 60 agreed to.

Section 11—Regulation-making powers:

Amendment 99 not moved.

Amendments 61 and 62 moved—[Kevin Stewart]—and agreed to.

Section 12A—Interpretation:

Amendments 13 and 14 moved—[Graham Simpson]—and agreed to.

Amendment 98 moved—[Alex Rowley]—and agreed to.

The Presiding Officer:

Amendment 64, in the name of Andy Wightman, is in a group on its own.

Photo of Andy Wightman Andy Wightman Green

Amendment 64 is possibly the most exciting amendment that we will debate today—it appeals to the inner geek in me.

Since I arrived in Parliament, I have noted the importance of commencement provisions in bills, particularly when the Government is in a minority. Sometimes, such provisions can be used to frustrate Opposition amendments, so I have taken to keeping a close eye on commencement sections.

I lodged an amendment at stage 2 to commence the whole act, but the minister suggested—perhaps correctly—that it was inappropriate to commence the whole act at once, so I have gone through the bill with a fine-tooth comb.

It is interesting to note that we have arrived at a position where the day after the Fuel Poverty (Targets, Definition and Strategy) (Scotland) Bill receives royal assent, three sections will come into force: section 12A, which is the exciting section called “Interpretation”, on the meaning of the fuel poverty targets; section 13, which is the commencement section itself, which needs to come into force to enable us to commence the commencement section; and section 14, which is the most exciting section of the bill, describing the short title of the act.

Given that section 12A is to be commenced on the day after royal assent and it is the interpretation of the terms that are used in sections 1 and 1A and given that section 1A merely introduces the principal measures in the bill, namely a 2030 target and a 2040 target, I fail to see why the provisions in section 1 and 1A should not come into force the day after royal assent.

I understand that the minister takes a different view. That is fine, but those are my thoughts, for what they are worth.

I move amendment 64.

Photo of James Dornan James Dornan Scottish National Party

Mr Wightman mentioned stage 2 and I think that the response that the minister gave him at that stage explained clearly why it could not be done. As Mr Wightman said himself,

“Mr Stewart correctly drew attention to sections 2, 3, 4 and 5, which cannot come into force the day after royal assent.”—[

Official Report

,

Local Government and Communities Committee

, 3 April 2019; c 37.]

Also, for example, if the Government needed to commence section 2, it would then need to introduce regulations in relation to finance, stating the additional uplift for remote and island areas and so on after that. I do not believe that those sections could be implemented the day after royal assent.

Photo of Andy Wightman Andy Wightman Green

I entirely accept what James Dornan says, but I am not seeking to commence section 2 or any of the subsequent sections. I am just seeking to commence sections 1 and 1A. I would be interested to hear the member’s views on why on earth those sections cannot be brought into force immediately after royal assent.

Photo of James Dornan James Dornan Scottish National Party

It is important that we work on the basis of what there was agreement on in the committee. I do not really understand the push for the provision. It is not common for all the parts of the bill to be commenced the day after royal assent. I just do not understand why it is necessary here. To be fair, I am the anti-geek, so we are fighting from opposite corners.

Photo of Kevin Stewart Kevin Stewart Scottish National Party

During stage 2, I assured the committee that the Scottish Government has no intention of causing any delay to the commencement of the bill’s provisions. Once the bill becomes an act, my intention is to implement its substantive provisions as soon as is practicable. That means that section 13, which commences the “Interpretation”, “Commencement” and “Short title” sections, will come into force on the day after royal assent, with the other provisions to be commenced by regulations.

Amendment 64, in the name of Andy Wightman, would commence the section setting out the 2040 and 2030 targets on the day after royal assent, before we have a working definition of fuel poverty. That is not practical or sensible.

Because of the need to establish the final detail of the definition, there is a logical order to the commencement of the sections. For example, we need to commence section 2, then bring forward regulations in relation to enhanced heating and the additional uplift for remote rural areas, remote small towns and island communities. We went through that at stage 2, when Mr Wightman lodged a similar amendment. At the time, he withdrew the amendment because he accepted that we cannot yet commence the definition of fuel poverty and, if we cannot do that, it does not make sense to commence the targets on fuel poverty, which rely on that definition.

It is our intention to commence the sections that set out the targets at the same time as the definition of fuel poverty comes into force through regulations. We intend for that to be done before the end of this year.

I urge Mr Wightman not to press amendment 64.

Photo of Andy Wightman Andy Wightman Green

I will not detain members for much longer. There are more important arguments to be had in this place.

I press amendment 64.

The Presiding Officer:

The question is, that amendment 64 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

There will be a division.

Division number 10 Fuel Poverty (Target, Definition and Strategy) (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3

Aye: 27 MSPs

No: 87 MSPs

Nos: A-Z by last name

The Presiding Officer:

The result of the division is: For 27, Against 87, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 64 disagreed to.

That concludes consideration of the amendments.

As members are aware, at this point in the proceedings I am required under standing orders to decide whether, in my view, any provision of the bill relates to a protected subject matter: that is, whether it would modify the electoral system and franchise for Scottish parliamentary elections. In my view, no provision of the Fuel Poverty (Targets, Definition and Strategy) (Scotland) Bill relates to a protected subject matter. Therefore, the bill does not require a supermajority in order to be passed at stage 3.

As members might also be aware, we have decided to move the stage 3 debate to Tuesday afternoon.

Meeting closed at 16:14.