Clause 12 — Insolvency

Part of Scotland Bill – in the House of Commons at 8:45 pm on 7th March 2011.

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Photo of Michael Connarty Michael Connarty Labour, Linlithgow and East Falkirk 8:45 pm, 7th March 2011

Allow me to recommend that optimism to the hon. Lady, who is new to the House. That optimism, which I have carried with me for 18 years, might stand her in good stead if she survives as long as I have in this place. They do say—I am quoting Gramsci, the socialist—that pessimism of the intellect should breed optimism of the will. She will certainly require that again and again if she sits on the SNP Benches in this place, I can tell her that.

I am deeply involved in fighting a case involving a bad insolvency in my constituency. In a sense, I have had to step over a line that I have drawn for myself since devolution, where I have had to say, “This is not a matter for me: I have a remit as a UK parliamentarian and my colleagues”—Members of the Scottish Parliament—“have a remit devolved to them.” I try to keep the two apart quite strictly. I try to encourage devolved organisations to write not to me but to my MSP colleagues, and to engage them properly in the process. I was involved in the scrutiny of bankruptcy in Scotland legislation here in Westminster between ’92 and ’97, and knew quite a lot about that. I therefore find the current environment frustrating, as many companies are facing serious challenges because of economic conditions and are having to go through the insolvency process.

Although the case I took on involves what is currently a devolved matter, I knew that re-reservation was being reconsidered, so my conscience was somewhat assuaged. The reality is that the insolvency process is not very pleasant. It is never pleasant for people to be bankrupted or to have their goods and chattels sold by a bankruptcy administrator who seems to be their friend until the moment when they sign the form, and who then turns out to be their enemy. In the case I am currently involved in, there is a house for sale. The insolvency administrator has allowed it to be vandalised, so quite a lot of the financial benefit to the creditors has been lost, and seems to be ignoring any offer from anyone to buy the property.

This issue should be a responsibility across all the Chambers, and I think it makes sense for the same rules to apply in Scotland as in the rest of the UK. The Bill’s provisions would bring them into line. We should all realise that it does not matter which side of the border people are living on or trading in, and that they must be dealt with properly by the insolvency laws and its practitioners. I have serious reservations about the way they are currently regulated. I look forward to this being returned to being a reserved matter so that I can fully engage in it.