I am pleased to follow Dr Whiteford, who has both conflated a lot of issues that are of obvious concern to her party and not been quite open about what happened on the Scottish Parliament’s Bill Committee. We have heard what seems to be a strange argument: the SNP is for devolution unless it does not win the vote, because on a devolved committee the SNP moved an amendment and lost. Then the committee concluded that it was
“content to recommend to the Scottish Parliament that it should give its legislative consent to the provisions in the Scotland Bill relating to the re-reservation of insolvency, subject to provisions being drafted which will secure capacity for devolved legislation to affect the winding-up of Registered Social Landlords”.
On the one hand the hon. Lady is conflating lots of issues of obvious concern to her party, but on the other she is denying the democratic process when it goes against her in the devolved Parliament.
The third thing that the hon. Lady has done is make a case as though that case were not recognised by everyone, on all sides, in the evidence given to this Parliament.
Hopefully, the Government are listening to that, and those on our Front Bench have stressed the same points. However, there is another fault that people show when trying to enthuse people—I think that the common phrase is “overegging the pudding”. There has not been a bankruptcy or insolvency of a registered social landlord in Scotland in 40 years, because of the way in which their arrangements are structured. I was active in the early days of the housing association movement as a leader of a council in Scotland. Across all the parties we created a structure that mainly secures registered social landlords from the problems experienced by those landlords who are thirsting for profit and therefore taking risks by borrowing and overextending themselves. Registered social landlords are to be commended because they tend not to get themselves into such situations, which is one of the reasons we set them up as we did.
Everyone takes seriously the point made by the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, including those on our Front Bench and, I hope, the Government. Therefore, we should have the necessary safeguards to allow the points made by the SFHA to be taken on board. The SFHA is worried about the speed of action should there ever be a problem, and hopefully the final legislation will recognise that. However, we cannot conclude from this that we should therefore go against the recommendation of the Scottish Parliament’s Bill Committee and against common sense in having a system across the UK to address a problem that faces a lot of the corporate bodies and private organisations in the UK at the moment.