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Scottish Law Commission

Volume 978: debated on Wednesday 6 February 1980

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40.

asked the Solicitor-General for Scotland when he expects next to meet the Scottish Law Commission.

Neither I nor my right hon. and noble Friend the Lord Advocate at present has any plans to meet the Scottish Law Commission, but meetings are held when and as necessary.

Will the Solicitor-General remind the Law Commission that we have been waiting for almost 10 years for a report of its inquiry into the conduct of warrant sales under the law of diligence?

Will the Government therefore support my Bill to ban warrant sales at least until such time as the Law Commission produces a Bill with acceptable alternative proposals?

No, Sir. In 1977, for example, out of 91,666 debt decrees granted, only 285—under 0·3 per cent.—resulted in warrant sales.

Will my hon. and learned Friend ask the Law Commission to consider the anomaly that local authorities can impound property belonging to other individuals on sites such as caravan sites, when rates have not been paid?

I shall certainly consider the matter. If the hon. Gentleman cares to write to me on the subject, I shall consider it in greater detail.

Is the Solicitor-General aware that those of us who, unlike himself, are not familiar with the law, feel that the present system of warrant sales mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for West Stirling-shire (Mr. Canavan) is fair to neither debtor nor creditor? We cannot understand why it is that the Law Commission is taking such a long time—even allowing for the fact that it is a complex matter—to bring about a satisfactory system for debtors and creditors.

I understand the right hon. Gentleman's difficulty. The law of diligence is much wider than warrant sales in themselves, and we cannot deal with them separately. If the right hon. Gentleman thinks that he can, in 10 years, revise the whole of the law of diligence better than the Law Commission and the working parties whose members give their diligent application without any cost to public funds, I do not believe that he will be successful.

Will the Solicitor-General consult the Law Commission about legislation on solvent abuse? Despite what was said in an earlier reply, will the Solicitor-General remember that he and two of his colleagues sitting on the Front Bench now voted for an amendment to make the supply of solvents to minors a criminal offence in the last Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill, and carried the support of the entire Tory side of the Committee? Why was it such a good idea then, and why is it such a bad idea now?

I have no doubt that the hon. Gentleman will remember that I was convinced by the argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton), and voted for it, whereas the hon. Gentleman voted against it, as did other Opposition Members. It hardly lies in their mouths to seek to teach us.

Let me say this, which is important. Solvent abuse is an increasing danger, not only for minors. It is a matter that causes a great deal of criminal activity among minors and others, and is a great danger to the public. We must treat it as a matter of enormous urgency and consider what can be done to prevent it.