Meeting date: Wednesday, May 16, 2018
Meeting of the Parliament 16 May 2018
Agenda: Portfolio Question Time, Erasmus+, Business Motion, Parliamentary Bureau Motions, Decision Time, Focused Ultrasound Device
- Portfolio Question Time
- Business Motion
- Parliamentary Bureau Motions
- Decision Time
- Focused Ultrasound Device
Portfolio Question Time
Communities, Social Security and Equalities
The first item of business this afternoon is portfolio question time. As always, members should try to be succinct, please.
Scottish Social Security System
To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on progress in delivering the new Scottish social security system. (S5O-02087)
As Audit Scotland recognises, we are on track to deliver the first wave of devolved benefits. The 13 per cent increase of the carers allowance supplement will be delivered this year, and the best start grant and funeral expense assistance will be delivered by summer 2019. We have started recruitment for the staff of our new social security Scotland agency both at the headquarters in Dundee and locally. However, we cannot deliver the devolution of social security powers in isolation, given the unavoidable central role of the Department for Work and Pensions in the safe and secure transfer of the benefits. It is imperative that the DWP matches our pace for delivery, and it is crucial that it has plans in place to prioritise that joint programme of work.
Does the minister agree that the Scottish Government is currently fighting child poverty with one hand tied behind its back, particularly given that new research confirms that the number of children who are growing up in poverty in working households will be 1 million higher than the number in 2010, because of the UK Government’s brutal benefits cuts? How will the Scottish Government make different choices with the limited powers that it has?
I agree with Jenny Gilruth’s central point in her supplementary question. The Scottish Government is already providing over £125 million this year to mitigate the worst effects of the UK Government’s austerity welfare agenda. We are the only country in the UK to set targets for the reduction and eradication of child poverty, and our new social security powers are embedded in legislation, which all members voted for, that says that social security is a human right. The best start grant, which we will introduce to replace the sure start grant, is, together with the increase in the carers allowance, a significant financial investment in young families.
We are talking about a partnership between the Scottish Government and the citizens whom we represent. However, I repeat: for us to deliver what we have promised requires the DWP to match our pace. We already have at least two instances in which it has fallen behind the agreements that we reached with it and it is delaying our progress.
I agree with the minister that the success of the social security system will rely on a close working relationship between the Scottish Government and the DWP. What steps have been taken to ensure that interactions between the DWP and the Scottish social security agency are as smooth as possible, particularly in areas of split competence?
As we have said before in the chamber and in the Social Security Committee, our Government social security officials and DWP officials are in constant—arguably daily—contact in order to ensure that we progress that work. However, we have a couple of recent examples of delays, which the Social Security Committee knows about. There was a four-month delay in receiving the integration software code from the DWP. That was received four months after the date that we agreed with the DWP and it agreed with us. There was also a delay of a year in implementing our commitment to mitigate the bedroom tax from the date that we agreed with the DWP.
Officials on both sides are doing their very best, but I need the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to give me an assurance that the warm words about co-operative joint work will be met by her ensuring that her department prioritises the work with us in the light of anything else that it may be doing. That has not been the case recently, and we will continue to pursue that matter with her.
Kate Durie, who is a constituent of mine, was diagnosed with motor neurone disease last year, at the age of 67. As personal independence payments do not apply to those who are over 65, she is not eligible for them, which means that she cannot access any mobility allowance or automatically qualify for a power chair. She has had to spend £1,700 of her own money on a power chair, and it is likely that she will have to buy another chair in addition to that.
Disabled Scots are looking for certainty about how the assistance will give them access to the equipment that they need for their lives. In the absence of any detailed disability assistance policy proposals—
Please come to your question.
—or a clear timetable for delivery, will the minister say whether disability assistance will cover all adults or whether she will open up a mobility component for older disabled people?
As I am sure that Daniel Johnson is well aware—we have talked about it for two years—the way in which we are designing the delivery and the content of the benefits that we are responsible for is through direct engagement with our experience panels and our stakeholder groups. They help us to devise what the system should be and how it should be delivered. We will continue to discuss with them matters regarding attendance allowance and the disability assistance, including—as this has been raised with me before—the possibility of offering a choice of a mobility component within attendance allowance, for example. We need to work all that through with them and we are doing that. As soon as we have a resolution, I will of course make the chamber aware of it.
Affordable Homes (Fife)
To ask the Scottish Government how much it is investing in delivering more affordable homes across Fife in 2018-19. (S5O-02088)
The Scottish Government has allocated affordable housing supply programme funding of more than £30 million to Fife in this financial year. That will be for housing association and Fife Council projects to deliver a range of housing in a mix of affordable tenures that primarily focus on social rented housing, which is a key Government priority. We aim to deliver 35,000 social rent homes across Scotland as part of our 50,000 affordable homes programme.
Will the minister commit to publishing a breakdown of that funding across all Scotland’s local authority areas? How does our level of funding for affordable homes across Scotland compare to that in other parts of the United Kingdom?
The Scottish Government’s spend per head on the affordable housing programme is three times higher than that of the UK Government on its affordable homes programme. A full breakdown of the £568 million allocated to all Scotland’s local authority areas for 2018-19 is published on the Scottish Government’s website, and I would be happy to make that available to the member.
During 2016-17, only 7,336 affordable homes were completed. If that rate continues, only around 36,000 homes will be completed by March 2021, and the SNP’s target of 50,000 will not be achieved until two years later. Delivering a sufficient supply of affordable housing—
Will you come to the question, please?
—should be a matter of urgency. What is the Scottish Government doing to ensure that it is a matter of urgency?
As I explained at the Local Government and Communities Committee this morning, the target is not 10,000 a year; it is 50,000 over the course of this parliamentary session. Many housing associations and councils, now that they have the resource planning assumptions for the next three years of £1.79 billion, are putting in place plans to ensure delivery. Our target is extremely ambitious, but a recent report by Shelter Scotland, the Chartered Institute of Housing and the Equality and Human Rights Commission agrees that we are on track to deliver 50,000 affordable homes during this session.
Equality Act 2010 (Bank Closures)
To ask the Scottish Government what discussions it has had with the Equality and Human Rights Commission regarding whether the recent and proposed bank closures contravene the Equality Act 2010. (S5O-02089)
I believe that the proposed bank closures and their replacement with mobile banking services will have serious implications for disabled people. That is why I have written to the Scotland commissioner at the Equality and Human Rights Commission, asking her to consider those implications in the light of the requirements placed on organisations by the provisions of the Equality Act 2010 to ensure that a disabled person can access the same services and premises, as far as possible, as someone who is not disabled. I am happy to share that letter with Gordon MacDonald.
The mobile banks that have been introduced in my constituency of Edinburgh Pentlands do not provide disability access. Does the minister share my concern that the 30-minute stopping timeframe is inadequate to meet the demands of individuals and the areas that are served?
I very much share the concerns that the member has articulated, and I know that they are shared by many members across the chamber. In my view, it is unacceptable that disabled people could in effect be excluded from conducting their financial affairs in bank facilities because the physical barriers presented by the mobile banking fleet may make it impossible for them to use those services. That is why I have raised the issue with the EHRC. The Equality Act 2010 places a requirement on organisations to take positive steps to ensure that, as far as possible, a disabled person can access the same services and premises as someone who is not disabled. If the proposed mobile banking alternative does not meet that standard, the potential implications would be considerable.
On the time constraint, I urge the bank in question to reconsider that. People should have sufficient time to conduct their transactions without having to worry about a time limit.
Proposals by Link, which runs the United Kingdom’s largest cash machine network, have raised fears that many automated teller machines could disappear from the high street. Age Scotland warns that that will hit older people hard. Does the minister agree that banks should invest more in the ATM network? Does she welcome the bill proposed by Ged Killen MP that seeks to ban ATM charges and protect access to free cash withdrawals?
The member raises a very considered point. A range of financial and banking services are important to us all. The ATM network improves access for everybody, but particularly for people who may have disability issues or other issues to contend with in life. Therefore, it is worth while to have an ATM service that is as available as possible. I echo the concerns of Age Scotland and others about charging for ATM services. If the member would like ministers to pick up aspects of the matter that she has raised, we could certainly do that. I have outlined the action that we have taken in my portfolio, but ministers in other portfolios are engaging with the bank in question as a business in relation to how it could be more inclusive.
Time is moving on, and we are not getting terribly far through the questions. I ask the questioners and those who answer to bear that in mind.
Scottish Universal Credit Flexibilities (Take-up)
To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on the take-up among claimants of the Scottish universal credit flexibilities. (S5O-02090)
The latest data, which we published on 24 January, shows that, between 11 November and 31 December last year, 5,800 people had been offered one or both of the Scottish choices. Around 2,500 people have taken up either one or both of those. Subject to the provision of data by the Department for Work and Pensions, we plan to publish management information covering the first six months of the operation of the Scottish choices in the summer this year.
A recent Channel 4 investigation found that some 70 per cent of DWP staff say that the roll-out of universal credit should be stopped. That follows a Trussell Trust figure showing that food bank use is up by 52 per cent in areas that have had full universal credit roll-out for 12 months or more. Does the minister agree that the overwhelming evidence points to the roll-out of universal credit being nothing short of a disaster? Will she join me in once again calling for the United Kingdom Government to halt its roll-out or, if it will not do so, to devolve universal credit fully to the Scottish Parliament so that we can make different choices in the best interest of the people of Scotland?
Layer upon layer of evidence over the past two years has demonstrated repeatedly that universal credit—in terms of the policies, the freezing of the benefits and the systems—is not fit for purpose and is causing significant hardship to many individuals across the country and to organisations and local authorities. Most recently, we have learned from the Chartered Institute of Housing, the Institute of Revenues, Rating and Valuation and the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations of the particular difficulties that they have with the way in which the DWP schedules the payments of rent. The evidence is overwhelming, but the UK Government continues to pursue a policy and delivery mechanism that all the evidence shows is failing.
Contrary to the myths that have been perpetrated, most recently in the Alloa Advertiser by a Conservative MP, this Government is not shying away from its benefit responsibilities. On the contrary, simply give us more powers and the resources to match them and I will happily show the UK Government how much better we can do, going with the grain of the people of Scotland with a system that is based on human rights.
I recognise that ministers like to give full answers and all the information that they can, but I ask them to bear in mind that many members wish to ask questions.
Remote and Rural Areas (Support for Older People)
To ask the Scottish Government how it supports older people in remote and rural areas. (S5O-02091)
That was a really good short question. You caught me unawares.
We provide support to older people living in rural communities through our investment across a number of areas, including improving digital engagement, providing accessible housing, transport—specifically the bus pass, the air discount scheme and road equivalent tariff fares on the Clyde and Hebrides routes—reforming adult social care and funding free personal and nursing care, which helps nearly 78,000 older people. In addition, our new social security powers include responsibility for benefits that will be particularly helpful to older people, and our current ground-breaking draft strategy on social isolation and loneliness is taking positive steps to consult older people, particularly in rural communities, on what we might do next.
Older people regularly find themselves the target of scams, mis-selling and pressurised door-to-door sales, and evidence from Age UK suggests that almost half of older people have been targeted in that way. Cracking down on scams has been raised by the Scottish older people’s assembly, which visited Parliament this month, and trading standards has agreed to look into the views of older people. What actions will the minister take, or is she taking, to protect older people from those targeted actions by unscrupulous individuals and businesses?
Some of the areas that Jamie Halcro Johnston raised relate to the new consumer powers that we have, and I will raise the matter with the cabinet secretary concerned. In addition, I know that my colleague Mr Matheson, the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, is keenly aware of the matter and is discussing it with our police service and others.
Highland Council (Meetings)
To ask the Scottish Government when the cabinet secretary last met officials from Highland Council. (S5O-02092)
Scottish Government ministers and officials regularly meet council officers across Scotland, including from Highland Council.
In the past 20 years, there has been a 55 per cent increase in the number of people aged 75 and over living in the Highlands, with a corresponding reduction in the number of younger people. Given Audit Scotland’s report on local government in Scotland, Highland Council has accepted a need for a fundamental redesign of service provision. What specific financial actions will the Scottish Government commit to in providing help to Highland Council in the huge redesign of the provision of local services?
Mr Mountain has raised a really interesting question. The issue of an ageing population and depopulation in the Highland area and other parts of Scotland is a very real concern, both for the provision of public services and for parts of the economy, and also more broadly in terms of strong, cohesive and resilient communities. The question that he asked touches on many areas of Government.
In my own portfolio, I highlight our investment in housing. Highland Council currently benefits from £40 million in capital for affordable housing, and that will increase to £45 million by the end of this session of Parliament. There is also the work that we are doing on the review of local governance.
This is about not just local government services, but the public service as a whole. The strong thread that runs through all that work is about how we empower communities and enable citizens to have more say in the decisions that are taken at a local level.
Further to Edward Mountain’s question, and specifically on housing, will the cabinet secretary outline how the partnership between the Scottish National Party Government and Highland Council through the Highland infrastructure fund is helping to deliver affordable housing around the region?
Scottish Government housing officials meet representatives of Highland Council each week through the Highland housing hub, which is a strong partnership arrangement that helps to deliver affordable homes in the area. Highland Council leads on the overall management of the Highland infrastructure loan fund. All developers can bid for the fund through the council. Six million pounds has already been invested and £4 million is currently available for further developments. I am aware that there are two significant projects—one in Drumnadrochit and the other in Inverness—which will enable 618 new affordable homes to be delivered, alongside private housing developments, in those locations.
Infrastructure Development (Planning)
To ask the Scottish Government how it ensures that the planning system supports the development of infrastructure in areas with a growing population. (S5O-02093)
Planning authorities are required to prepare development plans to guide future development and infrastructure. An infrastructure-first approach to development is an important part of our planning reforms.
Constituents in Edinburgh who live in communities where there is a large increase in the number of new houses and flats that are being built are becoming increasingly concerned about the huge pressure that growing populations place on vital local health services, with many surgeries restricting their patient lists. What future public service scoping plans are being undertaken to make sure that we meet the future needs of new and existing communities?
As I have pointed out, we are looking at that through the Planning (Scotland) Bill. The Scottish Government has provided and supported investment in three health centres in Lothian in recent times—the Blackburn, Firrhill and north-west Edinburgh partnership centres, which have all recently become operational. We also opened phase 1 of the new Royal Edinburgh hospital last year.
I want to ensure that local development plans, local authorities and the health service talk to one another in order to make sure that their plans are utterly intertwined. That is one of the reasons why I have spoken so often about intertwining community planning with spatial planning, because that will lead to essential changes.
I hope that that answers Mr Briggs’s question, as I see that you are telling me to move on, Presiding Officer.
I was not motioning at you, but please do not get up again. [Laughter.]
A good example of the issue is Robroyston in my constituency, where another 1,600 new homes have been proposed on top of several other completed developments, and the local community is rightly concerned about the lack of clarity on provision of facilities in an area that already suffers from lack of provision. How does planning legislation ensure that adequate facilities including schools, health centres and other local amenities are provided to cover the increased population in such areas?
Our approach to developing the Planning (Scotland) Bill has involved extensive engagement, including with children and young people. It is important that they are involved because they are the future. For example, we undertook a survey with Young Scot, which showed that young people want to be more involved in planning.
Although I cannot comment on specific planning applications, as Mr McKee well understands, I agree that new housing developments should be supported by facilities that meet local needs. To help to achieve that, the planning bill will introduce stronger development plans that will be prepared with local communities, linked with community planning and supported by clearer delivery programmes. That will be good for all.
Non-departmental Public Bodies (Public Participation)
To ask the Scottish Government how it encourages non-departmental public bodies to promote and facilitate public participation in their decisions and activities. (S5O-02094)
In 2016, we refreshed the national standards for community engagement, which play a crucial role in helping all sectors, including non-departmental public bodies, to promote and facilitate public participation in their decisions and activities.
In addition, the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 provides a new right for community bodies to make participation requests to certain bodies, including a number of non-departmental public bodies. That provides opportunities for community bodies to be involved proactively in improving outcomes on their terms.
The minister will be aware that officers who have responsibility for public participation who work in the islands and have to travel to the Scottish mainland for work will soon have to pay car parking charges at island airports. Which Government budget will pay that cost?
I beg your pardon, Presiding Officer, but I missed the last part of Mr Scott’s question.
He was asking you to pay for something.
That does not surprise me.
On the serious matter of parking charges at island airports, I know that Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd is consulting extensively on the extension of car parking charges to Kirkwall, Stornoway and Sumburgh airports. That consultation includes passenger surveys at each airport, as well as discussions with local authorities and elected representatives. I hope that the discussions will continue and that we will see positivity from them.
On HIAL, will the minister commit to a proper, meaningful and urgent consultation of people on Lewis who will be severely affected by the proposed imposition of car parking charges at Stornoway airport?
As I have said, HIAL is consulting people in Kirkwall, Stornoway and Sumburgh airports, and I hope that that consultation comes to some positivity. Obviously, the matter is not in my portfolio, but I am sure that Mr Yousaf will be in touch with all the members on the matter.
Medically Trained and Qualified Refugees (Registration)
I refer members to my entry in the register of interests.
To ask the Scottish Government how it is supporting medically trained and qualified refugees in Scotland to achieve medical registration and contribute their skills to NHS Scotland. (S5O-02095)
The Scottish Government is providing funding to the refugee doctors project, which is run by a partnership that is led by the Bridges Programmes. It aims to support refugees who were fully qualified doctors in their home countries to achieve General Medical Council registration and a licence to practise medicine. The new funding provided for this year means that the project has been expanded to include dentists, for the first time. I am delighted to say that 37 doctors have benefited from the project since funding was first provided in April 2017.
Will the cabinet secretary take this moment to acknowledge recent analysis that shows that Scotland has stood by its claim to be a sanctuary for people who are fleeing conflict—in particular, the city of Glasgow, which has had the highest intake of Syrian refugees and asylum seekers relative to its population?
Recent analysis by the BBC looked at Home Office statistics for refugees and asylum seekers alongside population statistics. I am pleased to quote the article, which stated:
“It appears that Scotland has generally embraced its claim to be a ‘sanctuary’ for those fleeing conflict. Glasgow has taken 63 refugees and asylum seekers per 10,000 in the city—the highest level in any local authority.”
I pay tribute to Glasgow’s knowledge and expertise in supporting refugees and asylum seekers. It has been vital to the collaborative work on our “New Scots Refugee Integration Strategy 2018-2022”. That shared vision and partnership approach to new Scots has supported local authorities the length and breadth of Scotland that have, since 2015, welcomed about 2,200 refugees through the Syrian resettlement programme.
Sale of Public Buildings and Land (Planning Requirements)
To ask the Scottish Government what planning requirements there are for public input prior to the sale of large public buildings and public land. (S5O-02096)
There are no town and country planning requirements related to the sale of land or buildings, whether public or private, because planning is concerned with the physical changes to land and buildings or material changes in their use, but not with the sale of land or buildings or who owns them.
When a public building is sold to a private developer, it is not just the public sector but the entire community that loses an asset. Discussions are under way with NHS Lothian about the disposal of the Astley Ainslie hospital and its surrounding site in my constituency. For many people, that is not just a hospital but a green space, a walking route and part of the community.
Does the minister agree that large public sell-offs should go through the highest levels of pre-sale planning processes, to allow public scrutiny and consultation? Will he consider what could be done in the Planning (Scotland) Bill to require public bodies to meet such detailed planning requirements prior to sale? After all, publicly owned buildings belong to all of us—
You have asked your questions. Thank you, Mr Johnson.
We should have a say in how such buildings are used in the future.
As I said in the first answer, planning is concerned with the physical changes to land and buildings or material changes in their use, but not with the sale of land or buildings or who owns them.
I understand that, as part of the process of disposing of surplus assets, NHS Lothian is committing to engagement with all key stakeholders, including the public, MSPs, councillors, the City of Edinburgh Council’s planning department, Historic Environment Scotland and other interest groups, to collate ideas and issues that are important to people in the community.
Housing Needs (Assessment)
To ask the Scottish Government whether there has been a recent assessment of Scotland’s future housing needs. (S5O-02097)
As the statutory local housing and planning authorities, local authorities undertake regular and continual need and demand assessments to support the development of their local housing strategies and development plans. Those plans are assessed by the Scottish Government to ensure that they are robust and credible.
In 2015, Sheffield Hallam University undertook an assessment of affordable housing need across Scotland that was commissioned by the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, the Chartered Institute of Housing in Scotland and Shelter, to which Scottish Government analytical staff contributed.
I remind members of my registered interest as the landlord of a small flat in Edinburgh.
Under the Scottish National Party, the number of long-term empty properties has risen by 83 per cent from 20,328 in 2007 to 37,135 in 2017, which is the highest-ever recorded level. What action is the Government taking to tackle that rise, solve the housing crisis and enable more people to realise their dream of having a home?
We are co-operating with Shelter and have doubled the size of the empty homes fund to bring homes back into use. Through the partnership with Shelter, we have encouraged all local authorities to put in place empty homes officers. In local authorities that have such officers, a number of properties have come back into use. We have doubled the budget for the empty homes fund and we are co-operating with Shelter. I encourage all local authorities that have not yet put in place empty homes officers to do so, because that makes a difference.
Recent research by Crisis has demonstrated the huge cost to councils of keeping people in temporary accommodation beyond seven days. What are the barriers to councils getting people out of unsuitable temporary accommodation and what can be done to reduce those barriers?
Like Elaine Smith, who has taken a keen interest in this issue for a long time, I want no one to be in unsuitable accommodation. That is why the Government has put so much effort into the homelessness and rough sleeping action group, which is due to report on the third question that it has been set, which concerns how we can improve temporary accommodation in Scotland. Its recommendations will be with us shortly; I am interested in seeing them, and we will respond accordingly. Elaine Smith will be aware that, thus far, we have accepted in principle all the recommendations that the group has made, and I look forward to seeing its next set of recommendations.
Carers Allowance Supplement (Payments)
To ask the Scottish Government on what date the first payments of the carers allowance supplement will be made. (S5O-02098)
The carers allowance supplement, which is a 13 per cent increase that will be uprated in line with inflation in future years, constitutes an overall investment of more than £30 million a year and will benefit more than 70,000 carers. The first payments will be made this summer.
Earlier this year, the Social Security Committee heard that a decision on the status of the carers allowance supplement for the purposes of calculating the council tax reduction was still to be taken as civil servants had not yet completed their analysis. People are concerned about the date on which the supplement will be introduced. Given that there are 8,700 carers in Mid Scotland and Fife, can the minister confirm whether the Government will ensure that the additional income will be disregarded if carers receive or apply for the council tax reduction?
As Claire Baker said, work is under way with our officials who work on the council tax reduction and in social security. I will be happy to update her as soon as we have completed that work and are clear that the council tax reduction and the carers allowance supplement will not contradict each other.
Gypsy Travellers (Rights)
To ask the Scottish Government how it ensures that public bodies respect the rights of Gypsy Travellers. (S5O-02099)
Scottish ministers expect public bodies to respect the rights of all the communities that they serve, and to be responsive to the needs of those communities in providing high-quality public services. Public bodies also have legal duties to eliminate discrimination, promote equality and foster good relations. That includes Gypsy Travellers, who are protected as an ethnic group in Scotland.
The cabinet secretary will be familiar with the definition, which refers to people
“who consider the travelling lifestyle part of their ethnic identity.”
I have read the ministerial working group’s extensive list of the matters that it intends to cover. I accept that the list does not seek to be exhaustive—
Can you get to the question, please?
Yes. Will the cabinet secretary engage with Gypsy Travellers on traditional stopping-over places, many of which have been sealed up, and encourage landowners, including local authorities and other public bodies, to open up the sites again in order to reinforce the value that we place on the travelling lifestyle?
The Scottish Government recognises the rights of the Gypsy Traveller community to a travelling lifestyle that is part of their way of life, tradition and history. I am, together with the Minister for Local Government and Housing, pursuing the issue of halting stops on traditional routes. There are a host of other issues to do with sites and access to other services that need to be resolved to support the right of the Traveller community to their travelling heritage.
Property Factors (Performance)
To ask the Scottish Government how it monitors the performance of property factors. (S5O-02100)
The Property Factors (Scotland) Act 2011 provides for the performance of factors to be regulated by requiring anyone who is acting as a factor to be registered and to comply with a code of conduct that sets out minimum standards of practice. The process provides a route of appeal to the housing and property chamber which, among other things, enables owners to have their concerns about their factor adjudicated by an independent judicial body. The tribunal notifies Scottish ministers of its decisions and when a property factor has been found to have failed to comply with any enforcement order that has been imposed by the tribunal.
Since 2013, the tribunal has issued 169 enforcement orders against factoring companies. One in five of those orders has never been complied with, which is pretty disgraceful. What is the minister doing about that? Has he struck off any factoring companies, especially those that are repeat offenders?
Two property factors have been removed from the register as a result of having failed to comply with the code and with property factor enforcement orders. Five property factors have been removed for technical reasons, and 78 have been automatically removed from the register as they did not reapply after the expiry of the three-year registration period. I know that Graham Simpson is taking an interest in the matter; I met him during the recess to discuss it. I have a determination to ensure that those folks who are not applying the code properly are dealt with. I know that Mr Simpson will be requiring regular updates from me on a particular point that he has raised and he can be assured that I will keep in touch with him about that issue because I want to see things done right for those folks who have had to thole property factors who might not be doing the job as they should.