Section 12A — Short Scottish secure tenancies

Part of Antisocial Behaviour etc (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 – in the Scottish Parliament at 10:30 am on 17th June 2004.

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Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party 10:30 am, 17th June 2004

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.