Section 12A — Short Scottish secure tenancies

Antisocial Behaviour etc (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 – in the Scottish Parliament at 10:15 am on 17th June 2004.

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Photo of George Reid George Reid None 10:15 am, 17th June 2004

Group 5 concerns antisocial behaviour orders and short Scottish secure tenancies. Amendment 49, in the name of the minister, is grouped with amendments 80 and 81.

Photo of Margaret Curran Margaret Curran Labour

Amendments 49, 80 and 81 return to an issue that we debated at stage 2. I hope that members will understand our reasons for seeking to overturn amendments that the Communities Committee agreed to at that stage. It is not something that Mary Mulligan or I do lightly. Members of the committee will know that this is the only issue in the entire bill on which we have sought to challenge the decisions of the committee at stage 2. I repeat how seriously I take the views of committees on legislation, but we seek to overturn the stage 2 amendments because we believe strongly that it is the right thing to do.

Contrary to the intentions of those who supported the amendments lodged by Elaine Smith and Stewart Stevenson at stage 2, those amendments would mean that more families faced the prospect of eviction from their homes because of antisocial behaviour by one of the family members. I recognise the intention behind Elaine Smith's argument, but I genuinely believe that it would offer a perverse incentive that would be contrary to what she is trying to achieve.

The issue is not straightforward. Before I explain in more detail why we have lodged amendments 49, 80 and 81, I will give some of the background. As members of the committee will know, ASBOs for adults were introduced by the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. The next development was that section 35 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001, which I am sure some of us remember very well, allowed public sector landlords, local authorities or registered social landlords to serve a notice on a tenant to convert their tenancy to a short Scottish secure tenancy when the tenant or a person residing with the tenant was subject to an ASBO. It is important to note that that is a power; it is not a duty. Crucially, if a tenancy is converted to an SSST, obligations on the landlord to support the tenant kick in. Landlords must provide support to enable the tenant to convert back to a full Scottish secure tenancy after 12 months. In addition, the tenant has a right of appeal to the courts if they do not agree with the conversion of their tenancy to an SSST. That is the present position; it is where we were before the introduction of the bill.

Members who were involved will remember that considerable discussion took place on section 35 of the 2001 act. However, I recall that, once people understood why we wanted a link between ASBOs and SSSTs, and understood the support arrangements that would be put in place when that link was made, they offered general support for the idea. I believe that that was correct.

From my experience and from what I have heard from other MSPs, I know that landlords have used the link on a number of occasions and have done so responsibly. They have converted a tenancy to an SSST because an adult in the property was subject to an ASBO. They have put in support and successfully changed the difficult behaviour, after which the tenancy has been converted back to an SST. Without that intervention, recourse to an eviction would have been much more likely.

It is because of such experience that we have sought to allow tenancies to be converted to SSSTs if the ASBO has been made in respect of someone who is under 16 or if the ASBO has been imposed by a criminal court. Let me be as clear about this as I can—that is what Elaine Smith and Stewart Stevenson's stage 2 amendments would prevent. I recognise their motives but believe them to be misguided. Their amendments would not have the impact that they intended.

I strongly defend the need to maintain the option to convert a tenancy to a short SST if ASBOs are made in respect of someone who is under 16. Members should not be under the illusion that preventing the use of SSSTs in cases when an ASBO has been made on a child will protect the interests of that child. On the contrary, without the option of an SSST, landlords who have to deal with the sometimes very difficult behaviour of young people in their properties will move straight for an eviction. That will undoubtedly be their imperative.

Without the link to tenancies in ASBO cases that involve 12 to 15-year-olds, we would be failing to provide a safety net. The short SST provides a buffer and is always backed up by support. When a tenancy is converted to an SSST, obligations on the landlord to support the tenant kick in. We know that that support can work. As I have said, landlords must provide support to enable a tenant to convert back to a full SST after 12 months.

In a similar way, we are moving to reverse the effect of Stewart Stevenson's stage 2 amendment that would limit the power to convert a tenancy to a short SST to ASBOs made in the civil court under section 4. The Executive's intention is that the power to convert a tenancy to an SSST should also be available when an ASBO is made on conviction in the criminal court. There is no reason why an ASBO that has been made in a criminal court should not have the same consequences as one made in a civil court. As with other ASBOs, we will ensure through guidance that, when an ASBO that is imposed by a criminal court does not relate to behaviour in and around the locality of the tenancy, the conversion of the tenancy does not take place.

I will now deal with a number of the arguments that have been made about the Executive's position on the proposals. A number of members who have been involved in the debate expressed concern about the principle of the link. They argue that we are punishing innocent members of a household because of the actions of another member, but that is not the case.

First, SSSTs are not about punishment. They are about the provision of support to improve the behaviour of difficult households. The two members who have been most involved in the debate have consistently argued for support provisions and have spoken about the impact and effect that those can have.

Secondly, those who make the case that we would be punishing the innocent forget that, in allowing the link in relation to adults who are subject to an ASBO, we are providing that the children of the family may live in a house that is subject to an SSST because of the behaviour of their parents.

Thirdly, landlords already have the power to evict where a person residing or lodging in the house with a tenant or a person visiting the house has engaged in an antisocial manner towards people in the locality of the tenancy. Given that that provision applies to children under 16, it would be ridiculous for the power of eviction to be available in the case of antisocial behaviour that was caused by a young person and not to have the power to convert the tenancy of the house in which they reside to an SSST. That is especially the case given that conversion to an SSST with support can be used by landlords as an alternative to eviction. The stage 2 amendment could have the opposite effect to that which was intended. If the option of the SSST and the related support were not made available, more families would face speedier eviction.

Others have argued against our position on the basis that it is unjust that such a tool is available in relation to public sector tenants when no equivalent exists for people who live in private rented accommodation or in their own homes. Again, I am convinced that those arguments are wrong.

Obviously, we have to accept that people live in different types of housing—that is a fact. Because of that, we need to have different tools to deal with antisocial behaviour in those different types of tenure. For example, parts 7 and 8 of the bill relate exclusively to antisocial behaviour in the private rented sector. I do not think that arguments were put forward against those provisions on the ground that they discriminate against private sector tenants.

Another factor that we need to consider in this context is that private sector tenants or owner-occupiers will not have available to them the support that must accompany the serving of an SSST. Again, we are talking about different tools for different situations. Given that more support is available to those in the social rented sector, our position is a reasonable one to take—indeed, it is appropriate.

Finally, our opponents have argued that support to change behaviour should be available irrespective of tenure and that therefore the support that goes with an SSST is not the strong argument that we have held it up to be. I disagree.

A landlord's first priority must be to help to improve the behaviour of their tenants and thereby to protect tenants whose behaviour does not cause problems. The responsibilities of landlords are enshrined in legislation, the principle of which has never been questioned. Although additional support could be provided on its own, the short SST establishes a contract: it makes it clear that there are obligations on the part of the landlord and the tenant. Again, members of the Scottish Parliament have never objected to that principle.

We want to change behaviour for the better. I remain convinced that the option to convert a tenancy to a short SST in the circumstances that an ASBO has been served on a child should be available.

Photo of Sylvia Jackson Sylvia Jackson Labour

The minister talked about the support that would be available. Obviously, that support would be provided by social services. What structures will need to be put in place in housing associations in respect of short SSTs?

Photo of Margaret Curran Margaret Curran Labour

I am afraid that I cannot list off the top of my head the details of those structures. From our work in the registered social landlord sector, we know that short SSTs have been very effective. They work by stopping antisocial behaviour, preventing tenants from going down the road of eviction and allowing them to return to the SST. The detailed interventions have been put in place because they are known to be effective. Although SSSTs can involve a range of support mechanisms, the key factor is that the responsibility is that of the landlord. Because that responsibility was enshrined in section 35 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001, it works. I would be happy to give Sylvia Jackson the details of the different models that are used.

Ultimately, the short SST provides an important buffer for tenants and their families. It can help to prevent landlords moving to evict and it can also change behaviour before eviction is perceived to be the most appropriate option. The SSST protects communities, young people and their families. It must be maintained, which is why I have taken the very unusual step of seeking to overturn an amendment agreed to in committee at stage 2.

I move amendment 49.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

A considerable number of members wish to speak on this group of amendments, so I would be grateful if they would keep it tight.

Photo of Elaine Smith Elaine Smith Labour 10:30 am, 17th June 2004

As the minister said, amendment 49 seeks to remove the provisions that were inserted by a successful stage 2 amendment that broke the link between ASBOs for children and the tenancy of their whole family. I remain convinced that such a link is unjust, and that it would add to inequality by having one law for the poorer in society and another for the richer; the bottom line is that children in the social rented sector and their families would be treated in a harsher manner than those in owner-occupied houses for the same antisocial behaviour. There are many measures in the bill that should be supported because they will help to tackle unacceptable behaviour in our communities, but amendment 49 adds nothing to that aim. It is discriminatory.

My amendment was lodged at stage 2 to address concerns that had been raised by Shelter Scotland, the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations and Barnardo's Scotland, and it was supported by a majority of the committee. I am not sure what the precedent is for the Executive overturning a successful stage 2 amendment, but the fact that it is seeking to do so is disappointing.

The background is that the Executive seems to be applying ASBOs for children in the same way that it applies ASBOs for adults with regard to tenancy. The minister explained how the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001 linked ASBOs for adults to tenancy, which was contrary to the original concept that ASBOs should impact solely on the individual who performed the behaviour. If amendment 49 is agreed to, that system will be extended to children and the powers that are given to sheriffs to serve ASBOs on under-16s could lead to a child's behaviour impacting on the tenancy of their whole family, including other children, which could lead to homelessness. That would mean that there would be more innocent victims of antisocial behaviour—the people who live with the child.

Although I remain concerned about ASBOs for under-16s, welcome changes have been made, which recognise that children's ASBOs are different from adults' ASBOs. The stage 2 amendment ensured that ASBOs for children would be different from ASBOs for adults in the case of SSSTs, and that they would apply equally to all children. It ensured that a child's ASBO would not constitute grounds for converting a tenancy, which meant that the ASBO would impact only on the behaviour of the child in question, not on the whole family. That would not have undermined the Executive's view of ASBOs as effective measures for children. There would still be robust responses, but they would be the same for all children. Currently, support for adults with ASBOs is provided only when a tenancy is being converted. For under-16s, it would be more appropriate to link that support to the ASBO, so that all children would be treated the same, whatever housing type they lived in.

In a letter to the Communities Committee, the Deputy Minister for Communities stated:

"The alternative to maintaining the power for social landlords to convert a tenancy to a SSST is that landlords who have serious concerns about the behaviour of young people living in their properties may move straight for eviction. There is no doubt that the ASBO could be used as evidence to support the application for eviction on grounds of antisocial behaviour."

But it is not that easy to evict. The court has to give the go-ahead based on grounds that are given by the landlord, and it would be expected to take reasonableness and family circumstances into account. However, if the tenancy is converted to an SSST, eviction can take place on application without any grounds being given, so eviction is much easier and can be done on the whim of the landlord. That is ironic, given that the Executive, rightly, has just received an international award for having the most progressive legislation on homelessness in western Europe. This creation of the risk of eviction for families does not sit well with the Executive's progressive agenda, which I fully support.

Shelter believes that support is an alternative to eviction and that, as the costs are much the same, it is better to give support. Why cannot support be given without conversion to an SSST? The minister seemed to say that support could be given, so why not do it? That is a bit of a red herring, because if amendment 49 is agreed to, we will not be able to get away from the fact that the parents and family of a child who lives in social rented housing will be treated differently in law from those who live in owner-occupied housing. That is unfair, and it runs counter to the principles of social justice; antisocial behaviour, as we know, is not confined to the children of the working class who live in rented houses, so responses in law to antisocial behaviour should not discriminate on that basis. Surely the perpetrators of the same antisocial behaviour should be treated in the same way, regardless of their social background.

The stage 2 amendment would have put all children on an equal footing in terms of ASBOs, regardless of housing tenure type. If amendment 49 is agreed to, some children will be treated differently from others, depending on whether they live in social rented or owner-occupied accommodation. That is discriminatory and unjust. The stage 2 amendment, which the Executive now seeks to overturn, ensured parity for all children, irrespective of parental wealth and social background. On those grounds, I cannot support the Executive's amendment 49 and I urge other members not to do so.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

I hope that the minister listened carefully to Elaine Smith's remarks, because I found little in them with which I could disagree. Margaret Curran said that this was not a straightforward issue, which I accept absolutely, because it ain't. When we deal with issues that are not straightforward, it is important that we return to the underlying principles and examine the associated complications against them.

A principle to which Elaine Smith referred, which I think is important, is that the effects of criminality on one party should not be borne by non-offending third parties. Members throughout the chamber are likely to support that principle. The argument that the minister deploys is that if a child offends and is subject to an antisocial behaviour order, it is positive for that to impact on the adult tenant. That is a respectable argument in one sense. However, when the principle is examined against the detail, it is relatively difficult to apply, because of the lack of other provisions. The minister differentiated between power and duty in relation to the SSST. It is precisely because we discriminate between categories of tenancy in the existing legislation and do not have similar provisions and duties to support people who choose to own their houses that we end up in this rather complicated morass.

The other important point is that we do not wish to extend the reach of the criminal law in relation to children. In a recent debate on the children's panel system, I made the point that the system needs further improvement; I will make that point again in the future when appropriate. Nonetheless, the system is at the core of the way in which we deal with children. Making it work in relation to ASBOs in a civil context is one thing; making it work in a criminal context is quite another.

Those are some of the arguments that we deployed in committee. We had a good and wide-ranging debate in which members listened to the arguments and were persuaded by them. I accept entirely that it is quite proper for the minister to propose the change to what the committee decided. I do not criticise her for doing so, because the argument was finely balanced. It is perfectly proper that the argument is shared with the wider Parliament and that responsibility for perfection in decision making is not just arrogated to the nine people on the committee. I respect the fact that the minister has understood that things are not clear cut in many other parts of the bill and that she has inserted new powers in relation to secondary legislation because she cannot make up her mind about one or two things, such as holiday homes—we will come to that in due course.

The argument remains in favour of the committee's decision and I will recommend to my colleagues that they vote against the minister's amendments.

Photo of Mary Scanlon Mary Scanlon Conservative

We often find at stage 3 that there are strange alliances throughout the chamber. I am pleased to say that the Scottish Conservatives will support Elaine Smith against the Scottish Executive.

As Stewart Stevenson said, there were wide-ranging discussions and arguments at stage 2. We still have problems with amendment 49, despite the case that the minister made. It cannot be right that a law-abiding family with one child who engages in antisocial behaviour should have their housing rights challenged on the basis of that child's behaviour. Surely the ethos of the bill is to address and correct the child's behaviour rather than to punish the family by changing the security of their tenancy and threatening them with eviction, thereby disrupting the family, who might be making every effort to correct the child's behaviour.

Photo of Mary Scanlon Mary Scanlon Conservative

I am sure that the member will have a chance to speak later.

Of all the briefings that we were sent for stage 3, I was probably most moved by the one from Barnardo's, which expressed that organisation's disappointment that the minister is seeking to overturn the amendment that was moved successfully by Elaine Smith at stage 2. The briefing also confirms that it needs to be acknowledged that a person under the age of 16 has no possibility of securing tenancy rights of their own. It says:

"This amendment by the Minister could lead to young people being encouraged to move away from their families in order to protect their parents, or carers' tenancies."

I hope that, before they press their voting buttons, every MSP will consider that point.

Photo of Cathie Craigie Cathie Craigie Labour

I fear that members who have spoken in the debate—and even Barnardo's—do not understand that point that we are debating. Members will be aware—if they are not, they should be—that, under the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001, which roused great interest when it was debated in the Parliament, power was given to local authorities and housing associations to convert tenancies to SSSTs. That power can be applied across the board, even if there is a baby in the house. The measure was provided not as a way of penalising those families who have young people in the house or as a way of getting at the young person, but as a way of inserting an extra measure before a local authority or a registered social landlord moved to eviction. It was intended to be a way of putting in place a package of measures to ensure that the behaviour that was causing offence to the neighbours and the community could be tackled.

Members such as Elaine Smith have asked why those measures cannot be put in place before the situation has got to that stage. Local authorities and housing associations try to engage with the tenant to get them to take up the package of measures that, as elected representatives, we know are available. However, some people simply do not want to do that and they must be sent a message that they are being given a final opportunity. They need to be told that they have a year in which to sit down and engage with the local authority or the housing association and accept the help that is available.

I understand the sentiment that lay behind the amendment that Elaine Smith moved at stage 2 and I accept that her arguments about the differences between the owner-occupied sector and the rented sector are compelling. However, we must accept that those differences exist and that we will not be able to change that situation with this bill. I have been trying to ensure that the rights of residents in the private and the public sector are maintained and improved. I am proud of the work that the Scottish Parliament has undertaken on behalf of tenants in the social rented sector.

I believe that Elaine Smith, some other members of the Communities Committee and some of the lobbying groups have got it wrong. If we follow their suggestions, we could end up with a situation in which a family with a 10-year-old child who live in a house in which there is a problem with antisocial behaviour could have their tenancy converted to an SSST, but families with children between the ages of 12 and 15 would not have the opportunity to access a support package that could provide them with a final protection against eviction.

Before members vote on this issue, they should ensure that they understand the full details. Elaine Smith said that, if we support the Executive's amendment, people in the social rented sector will be treated more harshly. Far from that, if we do not support the Executive's amendment, those who have young folk between the ages of 12 and 15 in their families will be denied a vital tool for correcting their behaviour.

In my local authority area, and in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dundee, I understand that several tenancies have been converted to short Scottish secure tenancies since the introduction of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001. My information is that, as of last week, none of those SSSTs had resulted in the person being evicted; in fact, they had converted back to secure tenancies.

Photo of Donald Gorrie Donald Gorrie Liberal Democrat 10:45 am, 17th June 2004

During the committee's deliberations, I found this to be a difficult issue and, rather atypically, I abstained. I still find the issue extremely difficult and some of today's speeches, especially Cathie Craigie's, have been very helpful, as have some of the discussions that we have had outside the chamber.

The objectives are to ensure, first, that people are not evicted; secondly, that the families who need support get that support; and thirdly, that the neighbours are protected from unhelpful people. Party colleagues who represent other areas have given me examples of families who use the delinquency of their children as a sort of smokescreen. They say, "Ha ha, you can't evict me" and the children go on and on antagonising the neighbours. In such cases, the neighbours have to be protected, as do the families who have one tearaway who they are trying to control, which is what Elaine Smith and others are arguing.

I am persuaded that the Executive's proposal will provide better support for the families and, in the end, will lessen the chances of an eviction taking place. In such instances, we have to take someone's word for it. We are speculating on what effect the laws might have, but I find the evidence of past experience that was quoted by Cathie Craigie to be influential. Although I am convinced by some of Elaine Smith's arguments about treating people equally, we have to help people who have serious problems and the Executive's proposal on dealing with this very difficult issue is marginally better. I might be wrong, but on this occasion I will go with the Executive.

Photo of Ms Rosemary Byrne Ms Rosemary Byrne SSP

We are talking about under-16s and children. We already have the tools to support those young people who need support. We have the children's hearings system, as we have just heard from Stewart Stevenson. We also have social services. If those tools are resourced properly, I do not see any need to go down the road of taking punitive and draconian measures against families.

If amendment 49 succeeds in removing section 12A, council and housing association tenants will be discriminated against. As we heard from Elaine Smith, they will be treated differently from everyone else. The ability to convert the tenancy for someone who is living in social housing has built a major inequality into housing law. Those who live in social housing could face eviction as a result of the behaviour of a child, while those who live in the private sector face would no such threat. Making a family homeless on the basis of the behaviour of one member of the household, particularly that of a child, is not a just or effective way of preventing, or responding to, antisocial behaviour. Evicting a whole family, or putting that family under threat of eviction, because of the behaviour of one child will only put the family under more pressure and that is no way in which to protect children.

We should consider the care and protection of our young people and make moves that are not punitive or draconian. We should try to offer support in the best sense of the word, which means supporting the family and the child in the existing system. Shelter Scotland says:

"The link between ASBOs and tenancies can impact not just on those who carry out antisocial behaviour but also on members of their household. This is particularly unjust given that it can lead to homelessness among children who have never carried out antisocial behaviour."

Amendment 49 would represent a backward step. I urge members to oppose it.

Photo of Sandra White Sandra White Scottish National Party

Two main issues arise in the debate on amendment 49. First, as the Executive admitted, an ASBO would not be granted in relation to a child as a result of a one-off incident. I assume—I think that anyone with a piece of common sense would assume—that a child in respect of whom an ASBO was made would be known to social services, the police and other authorities. As Rosemary Byrne and others rightly said, that is the point at which the help should kick in.

Secondly, Sylvia Jackson asked the minister what packages would be put in place if the link between ASBOs for children and short Scottish secure tenancies is restored, but the minister has not yet given an answer. I hope that she will do so. Surely any package should be in place before a tenancy is converted. After all, if an ASBO were made, families would live under the threat of an SSST before any help was offered. That is an important point.

Cathie Craigie said that it is all about helping people. Surely there are packages that would help kids without threatening the whole family. If someone commits a crime, we do not lock up their whole family.

Photo of Sandra White Sandra White Scottish National Party

I will let the member in in a minute.

Cathie Craigie talked about the rented sector and the private sector. Amendment 49 would create a law that would treat people who live in rented housing entirely differently from people who live in private housing. That cannot be right. Cathie Craigie said that we must accept that there is a difference and she gave an example of how the situation would affect different children. In a block of four flats, a 10-year-old who lives in a rented flat would be treated differently from the kid who stayed across the landing in a bought house.

Amendment 49 is ludicrous. The Communities Committee got it right from the start and it is ridiculous that the Executive is trying to change the bill in this way. I wait to hear what the minister says about the packages that would be put in place, but we cannot create a two-tier society in Scotland. Help is available for kids. I urge members not to support amendments 49, 80 and 81, which are all wrong.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

I call Johann Lamont. You have a tight three minutes.

Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour

I support amendment 49. We simply have to recognise that there are different tenures. We must ensure that there is a balance of rights across different tenures, but do the members who oppose the amendment think that it would be logical to argue that people in the social rented sector should never be evicted, because there is no process for evicting someone who owns their home?

Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour

I cannot take an intervention, because I have only three minutes.

Equally, if taking action against one person in a family has an impact on the rest of the family, does that mean that we should never take punitive measures against anyone who has a family? That does not seem logical.

We must acknowledge that we need to use the levers that are available. I do not recognise Elaine Smith's characterisation of ordinary working-class people as living in the social rented sector and the rich as living in privately owned homes. The reality is that ordinary people bought their own homes because they felt that they were getting insufficient protection when they were tenants. If we are to sustain the social rented sector, we must ensure that the rights of tenants and their families are protected. If my child was being bullied by the youngster next door, I would have the right to ask someone to act.

Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour

I am sorry, but I have only a limited amount of time.

We are not saying that action would be taken against people who have done nothing. Action would be taken only when a serious problem had been identified. For example, when youngsters in a family in Glasgow harassed vulnerable asylum seekers who lived next door, the only option was to move the asylum seekers or to evict the family. Amendment 49 would allow us to address the problem, to create harmony in the community, to work on the issues that are causing difficulties and to give people a chance. Elaine Smith says that if we are putting in place support packages we should just offer them to people anyway. However, the existence of the provision would concentrate minds.

I would understand the anxiety if we were creating a power to evict people immediately. That is not what amendment 49 would do; it would give a breathing space in which people would be asked to consider their behaviour and the behaviour of their youngsters. That is a protection for youngsters who are in the social rented sector, not a threat. People must be honest about the SSST; it is not a punitive measure, but a supportive one, although it is one step beyond voluntary support. Such measures are recognised in every field that we work in. We should not allow amendment 49 to be characterised in a false debate about equality—it is about protecting those in the social rented sector, not attacking them.

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green

I am minded to support Elaine Smith. However, I would be wrong to listen to my gut feeling on the equality issue without listening to the minister's argument. So far, sufficient commitments have not been made to convince me that evictions will be less likely to be granted and more difficult to achieve if amendment 49 is agreed to. The minister must be much clearer. The arguments are similar to those about electronic tagging, which has been described as an alternative to custody. Too many people describe such measures as just another tool in the box. There is a danger that the SSST will become just another tool in the box and an additional option instead of an alternative to eviction. I remind members of the vicious cycle of eviction and re-housing, which makes the problem worse. I ask the minister to be more explicit if she wants to convince.

Photo of Margaret Curran Margaret Curran Labour

The debate has been interesting. I am comforted by the fact that the Tories do not support me—I am sure that we will see a few unholy alliances this morning, which I look forward to. I recognise Patrick Harvie's points and Cathie Craigie and Johann Lamont made effective points.

Let me be clear that for the SSST to be used in conjunction with an ASBO, the antisocial behaviour must be linked to the tenancy—it will not be unconnected. If the behaviour is serious enough to justify an ASBO being granted, we must accept that it is our responsibility to ensure that the behaviour is tackled. We cannot just walk away and say, "What a shame for the family, their neighbours and the community. It is a shame that we cannot find an equal system that can deliver." It is incumbent on all members to find solutions to such problems. We must get real about just how serious antisocial behaviour is for some people, such as the asylum seekers that Johann Lamont mentioned. Many members have constituents in the social rented sector who feel that their plight is never properly attended to.

Patrick Harvie focused on the crux of the matter. If we do not allow the use of SSSTs, eviction is the only other option that social landlords will have. There is no doubt that many people would be pressed toward eviction because of a lack of support. We can all sit here and say that support should be provided and that the quality of professional intervention should be high enough to make things happen—

Photo of Margaret Curran Margaret Curran Labour

Bear with me while I follow the logic of my argument.

Sometimes, however, we have to make things happen. In the previous session of Parliament, when we debated the Housing (Scotland) Bill, that was the logic that we followed. When we deal with serious antisocial behaviour, we must ensure that support measures kick in before eviction takes place. The Tories supported that argument then—this is not the first time that they have been inconsistent. If we do not make landlords assume responsibility for sorting out the issues, their only option will be to move to eviction. A number of landlords might do that. The Executive is saying not that landlords should go straight to eviction, but that they must provide support and that they have another option in tackling antisocial behaviour.

When somebody accuses us of being unfair and treating people unequally, we take that seriously. However, different tenures exist. If members think that we should not recognise that and address the issues, the logic of their position—as Johann Lamont pointed out—is that we should abolish the social landlords' powers of eviction. Landlords have those powers, and we have all voted for measures that allow them to use them. We must recognise that different tenures exist. In the owner-occupied sector—and there are working-class people who own their homes—lenders sometimes move straight for repossession. That is damaging to owner-occupiers; it is unequal, too, and the Executive seeks to address that. Sometimes there are different realities.

The measure that we propose will not allow people to be unduly evicted, nor is it saying that people in the social rented sector are lesser. We are creating a means of ensuring that antisocial behaviour is prevented and dealt with before the stage of eviction is reached.

The power will ensure that support is provided. It will delay evictions, and it will help to solve antisocial behaviour. That is what we are here today to talk about. If any of us lived with antisocial behaviour, as some people in Scotland do, we would be keen to ensure that solutions were maximised. That is what this power will do.

Photo of George Reid George Reid None 11:00 am, 17th June 2004

The question is, that amendment 49 be agreed to. Are we agreed?



Division number 3

For: Alexander, Ms Wendy, Baillie, Jackie, Baker, Richard, Barrie, Scott, Boyack, Sarah, Brankin, Rhona, Brown, Robert, Butler, Bill, Chisholm, Malcolm, Craigie, Cathie, Curran, Ms Margaret, Deacon, Susan, Eadie, Helen, Ferguson, Patricia, Finnie, Ross, Gillon, Karen, Godman, Trish, Gorrie, Donald, Henry, Hugh, Home Robertson, Mr John, Hughes, Janis, Jackson, Dr Sylvia, Jackson, Gordon, Jamieson, Cathy, Jamieson, Margaret, Kerr, Mr Andy, Lamont, Johann, Livingstone, Marilyn, Lyon, George, Macdonald, Lewis, MacDonald, Margo, Macintosh, Mr Kenneth, Maclean, Kate, Macmillan, Maureen, Martin, Paul, May, Christine, McAveety, Mr Frank, McCabe, Mr Tom, McConnell, Mr Jack, McMahon, Michael, McNeil, Mr Duncan, McNeill, Pauline, McNulty, Des, Morgan, Alasdair, Morrison, Mr Alasdair, Muldoon, Bristow, Mulligan, Mrs Mary, Munro, John Farquhar, Murray, Dr Elaine, Oldfather, Irene, Peacock, Peter, Peattie, Cathy, Pringle, Mike, Purvis, Jeremy, Radcliffe, Nora, Raffan, Mr Keith, Robson, Euan, Rumbles, Mike, Scott, Tavish, Smith, Iain, Smith, Margaret, Stephen, Nicol, Stone, Mr Jamie, Swinburne, John, Turner, Dr Jean, Wallace, Mr Jim, Watson, Mike, Whitefield, Karen, Wilson, Allan
Against: Adam, Brian, Aitken, Bill, Baird, Shiona, Ballance, Chris, Ballard, Mark, Brocklebank, Mr Ted, Byrne, Ms Rosemary, Canavan, Dennis, Cunningham, Roseanna, Curran, Frances, Davidson, Mr David, Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James, Ewing, Fergus, Ewing, Mrs Margaret, Fergusson, Alex, Fox, Colin, Fraser, Murdo, Gallie, Phil, Gibson, Rob, Goldie, Miss Annabel, Grahame, Christine, Harper, Robin, Harvie, Patrick, Ingram, Mr Adam, Johnstone, Alex, Kane, Rosie, Leckie, Carolyn, Lochhead, Richard, MacAskill, Mr Kenny, Marwick, Tricia, Mather, Jim, Matheson, Michael, Maxwell, Mr Stewart, McFee, Mr Bruce, McGrigor, Mr Jamie, McLetchie, David, Milne, Mrs Nanette, Mitchell, Margaret, Mundell, David, Neil, Alex, Robison, Shona, Ruskell, Mr Mark, Scanlon, Mary, Scott, Eleanor, Scott, John, Sheridan, Tommy, Smith, Elaine, Stevenson, Stewart, Sturgeon, Nicola, Welsh, Mr Andrew, White, Ms Sandra
Abstentions: Tosh, Murray

Photo of George Reid George Reid None

The result of the division is: For 69, Against 51, Abstentions 1.

Amendment 49 agreed to.