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Chamber and committees

Meeting of the Parliament

Meeting date: Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Agenda: Time for Reflection, Point of Order, Topical Question Time, Agriculture Support and Food Security, National Planning Framework 4, Remembrance Commemorations and Support for Veterans and Armed Forces Community, Urgent Question, Decision Time, Gene-editing Technology, Correction


National Planning Framework 4

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Annabelle Ewing)

The next item of business is a statement by Tom Arthur on national planning framework 4. The minister will take questions at the end of his statement, so there should be no interventions or interruptions.


The Minister for Public Finance, Planning and Community Wealth (Tom Arthur)

Today marks world town planning day, so it seems particularly appropriate to be publishing the fourth national planning framework, or NPF4 as it is known, and associated documents in Parliament. Last year, when I published the draft framework, the world had come to Glasgow for COP26—the 26th United Nations climate change conference of the parties. Right now, many of the world’s political leaders are in Sharm El Sheikh at COP27—although some of them are more willing participants than others, it seems—with the focus on the global imperative to reduce emissions and to help society to prepare for, adapt to and mitigate climate change.

We have some very important decisions to make about our places locally, and about our contribution globally, and the framework demonstrates that Scotland will not shy away from that task. It confirms that we support sustainable development in Scotland. We are not compromising; indeed, we are fully committing to tackling the twin crises of climate and nature.

We could not have anticipated Russia invading Ukraine, nor the extent of Westminster mismanagement amplifying the costs crisis here in the UK. However, Scotland’s fully devolved reformed planning system is well placed to play a key role in helping us address all those challenges. The framework creates the foundation upon which to build the fairer, greener Scotland that we want to see for the benefit of future generations.

Members will recall the extensive conversation and debate that we had on the draft NPF4 through public consultation and parliamentary scrutiny last winter. I thank the Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee for its thorough and constructive report and members for their wider input from across the Parliament. I also thank members of the Cabinet and ministerial colleagues for their involvement in what has been a truly collaborative and cross-cutting Government endeavour.

I especially want to thank the many people and organisations who gave their time, experience and expertise to engage with us and help create an NPF4 that reflects all our aspirations and which will help drive change. The wealth of evidence and opinion that they shared has guided our approach to revising NPF4 to produce the much clearer and stronger version that I have laid before Parliament today.

We engaged, we listened and we have responded. As a result, the revised version looks quite different from the draft. The changes respond directly to Parliament’s recommendations and stakeholder responses to the consultation, but the fundamental objectives have not changed and the policy intent remains. NPF4 is now more focused and, just as important, it is stronger where people told us that it needed to be.

We have substantially reworked the framework’s national spatial strategy, which sets out how our approach to planning and development will help achieve a net zero and sustainable Scotland by 2045. We have updated the strategy to reflect extensive comments on development priorities for different parts of Scotland. It recognises the unique contribution that each part of our country can make, enabling the national plan to be delivered locally, as appropriate.

The spatial strategy is now set out across three themes—“Sustainable Places”, “Liveable Places” and “Productive Places”—that better reflect the three pillars of sustainable development. We have restructured NPF4’s policy handbook to clarify expectations for local development plans and decisions on planning applications, and to bring greater confidence, predictability and consistency to decision making. We have also strengthened the language throughout the policies, directly responding to many people’s views that the use of words like “should” and “should not” left the policy intent lacking the necessary clarity and direction.

The final version makes it clear what is to be delivered, and how it will be delivered. It is now clear, through the weighting applied to different policies, that the climate and nature crises are the priority. That is reflected in a new policy called “Tackling the climate and nature crises”, which underpins all other policies in NPF4. There is now a clear expectation on the role that planning must play in delivering the expansion of renewable energy needed to realise the just transition from reliance on fossil fuels. Parliament specifically asked us to reflect on the views of the renewables industry, and the revised NPF4 now reflects the need to get behind the delivery of renewable energy to achieve net zero.

The planning system has a big part to play in both protecting and restoring biodiversity. That is a cross-cutting theme in the revised NPF4, and it means that new developments can include appropriate measures to conserve, restore and enhance biodiversity, including the creation of strong nature networks. Our local places will need to support lower carbon living. We have also responded to queries about the practicality of embedding 20-minute neighbourhoods across Scotland, and we have revised that policy to support a broader and more flexible approach to living well locally.

However, tensions remain; indeed, they will always feature in planning to some extent. There is a balance to be struck in relation to protecting the landscape and promoting renewable energy developments. That will not be easy to achieve, and Scotland will look different in the future. People want liveable places with local services and thriving town centres and, as a Government, we want to cut car kilometres travelled by 20 per cent by 2030 to help cut transport emissions. However, many developments—in the retail, health and learning estates—are often still planned and made out of town.

Perhaps the biggest tension that emerged during the process was housing—and that tension remains, too. Sustainable, liveable and productive places look and feel very different and mean quite different things to different people and communities. That is perhaps most true when it comes to new housing and how we support the delivery of quality, affordable homes. Some people argued that our proposed figures would lead to too much house building, while others said that there would not be enough new housing.

I assure members that I considered all views carefully during the revision process. I determined to maintain a robust, evidence-based process for housing policy and targets. Let me be clear: this is about enabling development, not restricting it. The policy will ensure that housing delivery supports and is supported by democratically agreed local development plans.

Many other changes have been made in NPF4. I encourage members to read the explanatory report, which explains the changes in detail and sets out the rationale for them.

I hope that Parliament will approve the framework. I will, of course, make myself available to assist in that process, including by giving evidence to the Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee and engaging with groups or members who wish to discuss the framework’s content.

The Parliament and Government have spent considerable time reforming our planning system and developing the policy framework. Now we must move to implementation. Therefore, I am pleased today to publish the first iteration of the NPF4 delivery programme. It will be an evolving document, updated as delivery progresses, to support strong alignment between planning, infrastructure and place-based investment. The programme sets out how we will monitor and evaluate NPF4’s impact and how we will learn, progress and deliver over the years to come.

NPF4 does not stand alone—nor should it. It provides a crucial underpinning to strategic Government objectives and policies. Planning provides the base on which to deliver on those priorities, but delivery cannot be the sole responsibility of Government. Many aspects require investment by a range of partners, including the private sector. NPF4 can and will be supported by a range of funding and finance solutions, which will put the three pillars of sustainable development into practice. Working together will be key, and I am therefore announcing the establishment of a new planning, infrastructure and place advisory group to build collaboration, realise opportunities, identify barriers to delivery and strengthen the alignment of NPF4 with our plans and investment in place and infrastructure.

There is no doubt that delivering on the new framework will be challenging, given the current severe financial constraints. I am particularly alert to the pressures on planning authorities, which will now be expected to take NPF4 and develop local plans that flow from it. However, NPF4 will streamline current practice and make it more consistent, freeing up resource to take us in a new and bold direction. Such a shift in culture and approach will not be without its challenges, so it is vital that authorities feel supported and that we work together to deliver the framework. Let me be clear, though: our statutory and moral obligations to tackle climate change mean that change is necessary, urgent and desirable.

There is international interest in what NPF4 represents and seeks to achieve for Scotland. In June, I attended the World Urban Forum in Poland, which is a gathering of Governments to discuss the future of sustainable development. Everyone is in the space that we are in, but few are as advanced as we are in Scotland in putting planning and the sustainable development of our places at the heart of all that we do.

The planning profession is committed globally to addressing climate change and making better places in which people can live, work and play, but planners cannot achieve that on their own. Here in Scotland, we now have the framework that we need to enable planning to deliver the change that we seek—but only if everyone who has an interest in the design and creation of the spaces and places of Scotland commits to delivering on its policies and outcomes.

Today marks the end of the beginning of a process that shows that Scotland will not compromise on climate change and that we are determined to plan differently now, so that future generations get to live in a fairer, greener Scotland.

The minister will now take questions on the issues raised in his statement. I intend to allow about 20 minutes for questions, after which we will move on to the next item of business.

Miles Briggs (Lothian) (Con)

I thank the minister for advance sight of his statement and for a 160-page document to read in 50 minutes. I welcome many of the changes that he has outlined and the fact that he has taken on board many of the constructive proposals that the Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee put forward. That should be put on the record.

The number of new homes built in Scotland has fallen by 25 per cent over the past decade, at a time when previous national planning frameworks were meant to help deliver housing targets. In the past decade, Scotland has had the lowest number of new builds completed in any decade since during world war 2. The nation faces a housing crisis, especially in the capital. It is therefore essential that we see the homes that Scotland needs being built.

Access to land is an issue that I do not think has been fully addressed in the revised draft. I put to the minister the need to create a mechanism to address future land supply issues, particularly in areas such as the capital. The majority of land being suggested in local plans as suitable for brownfield development is already in use by businesses. I ask the minister what steps will be taken beyond that suggestion to help us adapt to situations in which land for housing development is not forthcoming?

The minister mentioned planning authorities, which face increased responsibilities and serious financial pressures. How will ministers ensure that local authorities actually have the staff and resources needed to deliver NPF4?

Tom Arthur

I welcome the member’s support for the changes that we have made in response to the report by the Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee.

To touch on the member’s final question, the issue of resourcing is absolutely critical. I said that a year ago when I introduced the draft framework to Parliament. We must ensure that our planning authorities, along with our other partners, are capable of delivering. We have taken a number of actions. We increased planning fees from April this year, which is providing additional resource. There is evidence to suggest that that resource is feeding directly into planning departments. Through the high-level group, we have also worked with partners such as Heads of Planning Scotland and the Royal Town Planning Institute to develop the future planners project to address the number of people in the profession, to encourage more people into it and to ensure that they are fully equipped with the skills that they need. That is a live issue.

We should note that the challenge of recruiting and retaining planners is not unique to Scotland. That does not excuse us from our responsibility to address the issue, but we are all aware that that challenge is echoed in many other professions. We need to retain people within the profession but also to attract more people into it. The national planning framework and the ambitions in the document create an opportunity to encourage more young people to go into the profession and to make them think that shaping our places as part of the moral imperative to reach net zero by 2045 is a great thing to be involved in.

I recognise that housing is a highly contentious issue. We have updated policy 16 on quality homes. It is important to recognise that that will have a crucial role in local development plans. We have set a minimum through the all-tenure housing land requirements, but we expect local planning authorities to go beyond that in their land allocations. We want to see a plan-led system. That is why it is so important for local planning authorities to allocate land in advance through their local development plans, and for there to be clarity about that.

We have also set out and clarified policies regarding the issue that the member raised of when development and build-out is happening quicker than anticipated. That is provided for within the revised planning policy. I appreciate that there is a lot of material to read, but I encourage the member to read the explanatory report, which contains quite a detailed commentary demonstrating how we have taken on board and considered the comments that we received about those matters and how that feeds into the revised policy. I would be happy to discuss that with the member in more detail in the coming weeks.

Mark Griffin (Central Scotland) (Lab)

I welcome the work done by the minister and by his officials and stakeholders to get the framework to this final draft stage and look forward to scrutinising it in more detail in committee.

I welcome the minister’s commitment to maintaining a robust and evidenced-based process on housing policy and targets. Why has the Government dismissed concerns about the all-tenure housing targets being based on historical, secondary data gathered through the housing need and demand assessment process? I have been told that up to 86,000 households have not been counted because they are either concealed or overcrowded, but, crucially, do not come into the category of being both. The Resolution Foundation reckons that about 1 million are uncounted across England for similar reasons, so the problem is not unique to Scotland.

The targets in the framework are minimums, but local authorities do not have the resources to undertake household surveys when they prepare their local development plans. Will the minister instruct and fund local authorities to undertake household surveys to properly determine demand in their areas and meet the housing need that we know is there?

Tom Arthur

I thank Mr Griffin for his contribution. I welcome his recognition of the work that has gone into responding to the consultation. It is important to stress, as I did in my answer to Mr Briggs—I appreciate that Mr Griffin acknowledged this—that the minimum all-tenure housing land requirement is a minimum and we expect planning authorities, in identifying their housing land requirements, to go beyond that.

However, we need to have a robust, evidence-based approach, and the housing need and demand assessment is the optimum tool that we have at our disposal. Indeed, it is a tool that other jurisdictions have been looking at and applying in their policy making.

Following the adoption of NPF4, subject to the Parliament’s agreement, the regulations will be introduced for local development plans. I am very keen to work with planning authorities to ensure that they are fully resourced to carry out their work on both development management and development planning.

I made reference to what we have done on planning fees. An area that we are actively looking at around resourcing is full cost recovery. That is a complex area and there is potential for unintended consequences, but I am directly engaging with planning authorities on it through the high-level group. I am happy to keep Parliament updated on that and to provide the member with more information and detail if he is interested.

It is important to recognise that we need a plan-led system. We have set the numbers for the minimum all-tenure housing land requirement, but it is for local planning authorities, in devising, developing and implementing their local development plans, to go beyond that, based on evidence that they are best placed to make a judgment on.

Audrey Nicoll (Aberdeen South and North Kincardine) (SNP)

The revised NPF4 uses tighter policy language than the draft, following the minister’s proactive response to recommendations that were made during the consultation period. Can he explain what effect that strengthened policy wording will have on the delivery of NPF4?

Tom Arthur

I thank the member for her question. In response to stakeholder views, we have, in the revised version, restructured the document to make it easier to navigate and understand. That addressed a key issue that was raised by stakeholders and the committee.

The wording has been refined and clarified and the structure and layout have been made more user friendly with the aim of bringing greater predictability to planning decisions. The provision of clarity of intent across the themes and policies will allow the Government and planning authorities to provide investors with certainty, but also to give communities confidence in the system and indeed to give decision makers greater clarity on the policy intent.

Douglas Lumsden (North East Scotland) (Con)

The Scottish Retail Consortium has raised concerns that the framework would in effect ban all out-of-town retail development. Can the minister confirm that local decision makers will have the flexibility and ability to approve retail developments that are more appropriately sited in out-of-town locations, such as garden centres and agricultural merchants? I cannot see anything in policy 28 that would allow that.

Tom Arthur

The member raises a very important point. I note that the particular issue that he highlights is recognised in the national planning framework 4. From memory, the policy on green belts allows for the accommodation of limited types of development there. We recognise that that is a distinct category of retail, and it is reflected in NPF4.

Paul McLennan (East Lothian) (SNP)

I am delighted with the proposals in the framework, and particularly those on support for renewables. As we can see, circumstances in the world around us can change very quickly.

How does the Scottish Government intend to monitor and evaluate the key objectives that are highlighted in NPF4? What can he say about the delivery plan being a live document that will continue to develop?

Tom Arthur

Monitoring and evaluation is already an important part of the planning system in Scotland. As I indicated in my statement, we fully recognise the importance of effective monitoring and evaluation in assessing the impact and performance of the NPF over time. That is why I have also published today the first iteration of the delivery programme, which sets out how we will work to do that. We also link the monitoring of NPF4 to wider work on assessing and improving planning performance as we move to a more outcomes-focused system.

As part of that, we are continuing our engagement and collaboration with a range of stakeholders, including through the high-level group on planning performance, so as to keep our focus on positive planning outcomes through NPF4. I stress the point about the delivery plan being a first iteration. We will very much welcome comment and feedback from stakeholders as we take the plan forward.

Alex Rowley (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)

The minister said that

“Scotland’s fully devolved reformed planning system is well placed to play a key role in helping”

to address the challenges. However, as he knows, Scotland’s planning departments are underresourced, understaffed, underfinanced, undervalued and struggling to cope.

I was grateful that the minister came to Dunfermline and met representatives of more than 100 community councils in Fife—we had a really good session. One of the main conclusions from all the community councils represented was that planning services are struggling now. How on earth are they going to deliver on the present ambition?

Will the minister get audits done on every planning service in Scotland and then publish them? If we do not know the extent of the problems and challenges, we will not fix them.

Tom Arthur

I thank Mr Rowley for his question and for the invitation to the event that he hosted in Dunfermline. I was very grateful for the opportunity to go along, and I found it a very productive morning. I certainly got a lot out of it. He is absolutely right to raise the issue of resource, and I am conscious that that is a concern for many members.

I do not want to repeat the points that I made earlier about the work that we are doing with the high-level group and on the increase in fees and full cost recovery. We are also considering performance. I recognise that, if NPF4 is going to deliver on the ambitions that have been set, as we all want it to do, we need a high-performing planning system, we need planners to feel valued and we need more people going into the profession. I assure the member that I am absolutely committed to working to achieve that. It will not be easy and there will be no overnight fixes, but I am committed to continued engagement with the planning profession to achieve that. I am more than happy to engage with the member on specific proposals about how we can take that agenda forward.

Can the minister say a bit more about how NPF4 will reshape places for local people and, in doing so, assist with Scotland’s response to the climate emergency?

Tom Arthur

NPF4 puts climate change at the front and centre of our planning system while tackling long-standing challenges and inequalities. The six core spatial principles include local living, which is about improving our places to support health and wellbeing through ensuring easy access to services, green space, learning, work and recreation. The 20-minute neighbourhood concept, which is at the core of that, facilitates delivery of the place principle while providing compact growth, promoting town centres, encouraging the reuse of assets and reducing the need to travel unsustainably. The approach to local living and 20-minute neighbourhoods is not designed as a template, but it is expected to be applied according to the circumstances of each plan area, including in rural areas and islands. The place-based investment programme, NPF4, local development plans and local place plans will support and enable communities as they tackle local challenges while becoming better connected and greener.

Willie Rennie (North East Fife) (LD)

The minister confidently said that the revised NPF4 now reflects the need to get behind the delivery of renewable energy to achieve net zero, yet permitted development rights for solar are limited to 50kW. In England, the limit is 20 times higher, at 1MW, yet the Minister for Zero Carbon Buildings, Active Travel and Tenants’ Rights, Patrick Harvie, is refusing to exempt bigger schemes to help businesses to get behind renewables—which the Minister for Public Finance, Planning and Community Wealth has just cited. Will the minister investigate that issue and deliver the change on permitted development rights so that we can advance solar?

I am grateful for Mr Rennie’s question, and I am already ahead of him. We are working on permitted development rights, and the first phase will have renewables in it.


I call—

Can I—

I thought you had finished, minister.

I heard the sedentary comment “When?” Very soon in the new year.

That was two bites at the cherry.

Emma Harper (South Scotland) (SNP)

NPF4 provides needed flexibility in planning, which will better enable local authorities and communities to deal with eyesore, vacant, abandoned and derelict buildings, which, evidence shows, have a negative impact on the wellbeing of communities. The minister will be aware of my campaigning for buildings in South Scotland, such as the George hotel in Stranraer, the Central hotel in Annan, the N Peal building in Hawick and the Interfloor factory in Dumfries, which need to be dealt with. I have a current petition on the Interfloor factory, which I encourage Dumfries and Galloway folk to sign.

Will the minister comment specifically on how NPF4 will allow for the matter of derelict buildings in our communities to be addressed?

Tom Arthur

As Emma Harper will appreciate, it would not be appropriate for me to comment on individual cases. Nonetheless, I understand that vacant and derelict land and buildings can be a blight on communities and can often result in local authorities and other agencies bearing costs to keep them safe. Those bodies are often the owners of some of those sites and buildings, which can be historic and challenging to deal with.

NPF4 will change how we plan our places and will strengthen national planning policy to encourage, promote and facilitate the reuse of derelict buildings to reduce impacts on communities and contribute to meeting climate change targets. We want to direct development to the right location and maximise the use of existing assets, with local development plans setting out opportunities for the sustainable reuse of brownfield land and empty buildings.

However, planning is only part of the solution, which will also involve working with regeneration interests, local communities and other stakeholders to help to deliver place-based solutions to dereliction. The aim is to improve wellbeing and transform our places into more sustainable, liveable and productive places. Of course, one of the biggest challenges to making change happen, particularly in the current climate, will be funding and affordability.

Ariane Burgess (Highlands and Islands) (Green)

The national planning framework is key to turning commitments in the Bute house agreement into reality, accelerating the transition to net zero and ensuring that development works to support and enhance the natural environment. Will the minister outline what the Scottish Government will do to ensure that new developments conserve and restore diversity, and will he say what support it will provide to enable developers to meet those expectations?

Tom Arthur

NPF4 will rebalance the planning system so that climate change and nature recovery are the primary guiding principles for all plans and all decisions. Improving biodiversity is a cross-cutting theme that runs throughout NPF4. More detailed provision is set out in policy 3 of NPF4, which requires any large-scale development or any development that requires an environmental impact assessment to demonstrate

“that the proposal will conserve, restore and enhance biodiversity, including nature networks so they are in a demonstrably better state than without intervention.”

Policy 3 also requires proposals for relevant local development to

“include appropriate measures to conserve, restore and enhance biodiversity”,

to be supported by NatureScot’s “Developing with Nature” guidance.

Ruth Maguire (Cunninghame South) (SNP)

The Ardeer peninsula is marked out in NPF4 as

“a significant site for redevelopment”.

With the special development order still in place, there remain concerns locally about the potential impact of development free from the usual planning restrictions. Can the minister provide an update on the commencement of provisions to deal with SDOs, and can he assure my constituents that environmental considerations and the important biodiversity of the site are of key importance to the Scottish Government?

Tom Arthur

Yes, I can, and I recognise Ruth Maguire’s particular interest in the issue. Following the adoption of NPF4, we will continue our programme of work to implement the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019, with a focus on delivering its priorities and proposals. We remain committed to bringing forward regulations and compensation on revocation of development orders as part of that. We will progress that work in 2023. In the meantime, NPF4 provides strong protection for biodiversity and sets out requirements for developments to contribute to nature restoration.

Roz McCall (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)

I have some concerns about the productive pillar. As the minister mentioned, business and investment will be important as we seek to achieve our net zero targets. Footfall in Scotland’s high streets fell by 17.5 per cent in February 2022 in comparison with February 2020. That was the sharpest fall across the whole of the United Kingdom, which highlights the need for concerted action to help our high streets to recover from the impact of the pandemic. Will the minister outline how the refreshed framework will support businesses of all sizes?

Tom Arthur

There are a range of policies. There are the spatial principles, and there are specific policies in the productive pillar, including policy 27, on “City, town, local and commercial centres”; policy 28, on “Retail”; policy 26, on “Business and industry”; and policy 25, on “Community wealth building”. Other policies also have an important bearing on the issue—for example, policy 8, on “Green belts”, can help to promote urban densification, which is very important for our town centres. We recognise, through the “Local living” policy, that we want to see more people living in our town and city centres, as that is vital for sustaining local commerce and services.

That aligns strongly with other work that we have undertaken, such as the town centre action plan and the retail strategy. A range of actions are contained in the policies and in the spatial strategy and the spatial principles, which are all aligned with the town centre action plan and with our city centre recovery task force, because we want to see thriving towns and city centres. That is vital for our communities, and NPF4 will help to deliver it.

Sarah Boyack (Lothian) (Lab)

I refer members to my entry in the register of members’ interests.

Will the minister explain why the number of houses to be developed in Edinburgh has been reduced by 4,500 homes at a time when the city faces a long-standing, deepening housing crisis? Will he say whether new general practitioner and local health services will be included in planning proposals for the new housing that is proposed across the Lothians, given the challenges that we already face with GP capacity in areas where significant new development has taken place and is now being planned through NPF4?

Tom Arthur

On the latter point, policy 8, “Infrastructure First”, embeds an infrastructure-first approach in planning across Scotland, which could help to address the issues that the member raises.

With regard to the minimum all-tenure housing land requirement allocations for the Lothians, we will publish an addendum to the explanatory report that we published with the draft NPF4. I would be happy to send that to the member, to provide details of how that was arrived at.

I think that I have responded to all the points made by the member.

I think so, minister. If not, the minister can write to the member, because we are running out of time.

Graham Simpson (Central Scotland) (Con)

The minister knows that I have had concerns about the protection of woodlands and wild land. I sent him some specific wording that I felt could improve matters. Some of that was around the language, particularly in relation to woodland, but there were also ideas such as compensatory planting, enhancing peatland and introducing wild land impact assessments. Has the minister responded to any of that?

Tom Arthur

We have made changes to policy 6, on forestry, woodland and trees, including clearer requirements and stronger language. That was directly in response to the Woodland Trust campaign, which I believe is what Mr Simpson is referring to. We have also worked closely with Scottish Forestry to define ancient woodlands, purposely referring to

“Land that has maintained continuous woodland habitat”

and not just to woodland itself. I am happy to take those measures forward, and I am grateful to the member for his contribution and engagement throughout the process.

We have set out a policy for wild land, which can be found under “Natural places” and policy 4. I will allow the member the opportunity to consult the explanatory report. However, if he would like to follow up with any specific questions, I would be more than happy to respond.

That concludes the statement on national planning framework 4. There will be a short pause before we move to the next item of business, to allow front-bench teams to change position.