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Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 9:31 am on 8th June 2000.

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Photo of Alex Neil Alex Neil Scottish National Party 9:31 am, 8th June 2000

Mr Wallace said that my bill on arrestments has some flaws, but he has not yet seen it. I suggest that he examine the draft of the bill. He will realise that I deal with a number of the issues that he raises. Bank arrestments, as I am sure he is aware, total about 100,000 a year. This will be a useful measure—to say the least—pending the implementation of wholesale reform. I am willing to accept reasonable amendments from the Executive if it will give some backing to the bill.

My second point is in relation to the remit of the working party. One issue that has not been mentioned by Mr Wallace is loan sharking. I hope that part of the remit of the working party will be to deal firmly with loan sharking, which is a major problem in Scotland.

Thirdly, in addition to the secondary legislation to extend the exemptions, will the minister consider other immediate measures that could be taken, in particular to give a guarantee to local authorities that are not going to use poindings and warrant sales that they will not be penalised?

Will the minister issue guidance on the behaviour of sheriff officers, which is abominable in many parts of Scotland? Will he also issue guidance to all public sector agencies in Scotland that when they try to collect debt they should not send a one-off letter to people, threatening that if they do not pay the whole sum within 10 days they will be taken to court? A more humane way of communicating about debt should be established in the public sector as a matter of priority, given that 80 per cent of poindings and warrant sales are from public sector agencies.