Warrant Sales Bill set to become law.

SSP set for victory

Tommy Sheridan

The Scottish Parliament is continuing to debate the "Abolition of Poindings and Warrant Sales Bill" proposed by Scottish Socialist Party MSP and ISM supporter Tommy Sheridan, in the Scottish Parliament on Thursday 8th December. They have however sought to delay the implementation of the bill for two years to "find an alternative means of debt collection."

The passing of this bill is an indication of how far the SSP has come. The passing of this bill represents a concrete gain for the working class of Scotland.

Below is the report on the debate from the Scottish Parliament website.


Ian Jenkins (Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale) (LD): In Tommy Sheridan's report, one of the recommendations is that "The Scottish Parliament introduces legislation to impose a statutory obligation on local authorities"

How long would that take? Parliament can use consultation processes, yet Tommy Sheridan suggests that the whole matter could be cleared up by 1 April. That is nonsense.

Tommy Sheridan: We—as politicians—talk about waiting, taking our time and deliberating. The problem is that, meanwhile, thousands of families suffer the indignity of poindings and warrant sales. We must address that. We discussed the issue in April this year. Is Ian Jenkins saying that it was beyond the ability of Parliament to introduce alternative legislation in the
12 months between April this year and April 2001? Is that Ian Jenkins's argument?

Ian Jenkins: I asked whether we could do it in three months.

The Deputy Presiding Officer: Mr Jenkins, Tommy Sheridan is not taking an intervention.

Tommy Sheridan
: It has not happened because the Executive has done nothing in the past 12 months to produce an alternative. Instead of accusing us of being all spin and no substance, perhaps Angus MacKay should look in the mirror. It has also been suggested that I think that I know better than the Justice and Home Affairs Committee and that that is why I have lodged my amendment today to seek implementation of the bill on 1 April 2001. I do not know whether Angus MacKay or other members were listening, but I will not recite again the list of organisations that I recited earlier. I remind members that every single one of those organisations—such as Citizens Advice Scotland, Money Advice Scotland, the Scottish Association of Law Centres, Lothian Anti-Poverty Alliance, the Salvation Army and the Church of Scotland's church and nation committee—appealed to members to vote for implementation in April 2001. Perhaps, because members are politicians, they know better than all those groups and civic Scotland. Perhaps members know better than all those groups put together.

Mr McAveety shouts, "Yes." He is another member who abstained in the vote on the Abolition of Poindings and Warrant Sales Bill. He represents the poorest constituency in Scotland, but he abstained in that vote—he should be ashamed of himself.

Mr McAveety: Can Tommy Sheridan tell me what warrant sales have occurred in the poorest constituency in Scotland? I was an elected member in the City of Glasgow Council for 12 years. Three warrant sales occurred and I have intervened as an elected member to prevent three. Tommy Sheridan should not lecture me. He should not put his badge of poverty on the table or tell any member off in this chamber.

Tommy Sheridan: Frank McAveety should examine the statistics. While he was leader of Glasgow City Council, 6,000 poindings took place in Glasgow.

Mr McAveety rose—

Tommy Sheridan: Sit down, my friend. You have had your say.

Frank McAveety abstained in the vote. He refused to vote for the abolition of poindings and warrant sales. He should sit down.

I move on to Angus MacKay's comment about West Dunbartonshire Council. He tried to have a go at West Dunbartonshire Council for having the courage—which Frank McAveety's council did not have—to abolish poindings and warrant sales, rather than wait for Parliament to abolish them. That council abolished them because it thinks that they are inhumane and degrading.

In July of this year Mr McConnell visited West Dunbartonshire. I am sure that Mr McConnell will not mind me reminding him that he congratulated that council for improving its council tax collection rate. Brothers and sisters—[Interruption.]—I believe in humanity; I am prepared to refer to people as brothers and sisters. Is not it incredible that an authority that abolished poindings and warrant sales should then get a visit from a minister to congratulate it for improving its council tax collection rate? Above all, we must be honest in this debate. The Executive was opposed to the bill, which is why—to a person—ministers abstained from voting on it. It now wishes to delay the bill and subject 90,000 family members and children to the further indignity and humiliation of poindings and warrant sales. That is the substance, not the spin. I appeal to each and every member to vote for the early implementation date to send a message to the people of Scotland that their Parliament is listening to them—not to the privileged lawyers and the Society of Messengers-at-Arms and Sheriff Officers.