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Political Editor Brian Taylor
"This was a triumph for the parliament over the executive"
 real 28k

Labour MSP Malcolm Chisholm
"It's a spectacular own goal to table a wrecking amendment"
 real 28k

Justice Minister Jim Wallace
"It's important we ensure that there is a proper system of debt recovery"
 real 28k

Thursday, 27 April, 2000, 18:01 GMT 19:01 UK
Green light for warrant sales Bill
Tommy Sheridan
Labour MSPs said they will back Tommy Sheridan's bill
The Scottish Executive has withdrawn its amendment to block Scottish Socialist MSP Tommy Sheridan's bill to abolish poindings and warrant sales, minutes before a crucial vote on the matter.

Justice Minister Jim Wallace had moved the amendment, promising the executive would instead bring in a similar Bill before 2001 which would include a more "humane alternative to debt collection".

But Deputy Communities Minister Jackie Baillie said that the mood of the debate had convinced ministers to allow the Bill to go through to the next stage.

It was passed by 79 votes to 15, with 30 abstentions.
Sheridan holding report
A law commission report has backed warrant sales

Such was the anger among backbench Labour MSPs, the executive was faced with an embarrassing defeat on the matter.

Glasgow Pollok MSP Johann Lamont was the first Labour member to rebel when she urged ministers to withdraw their amendment.

To applause, she warned that if they did not comply she and other Labour MSPs would have no choice but to vote against them.

Crisis talks between ministers and backbenchers prior to the debate on Thursday had failed to reach a compromise.

'Archaic and inhumane' system

The executive had said it was committed to getting rid of poindings and warrant sales, but only when satisfactory measures were ready to replace them.

Ministers will now set up a working group to establish a more humane form of debt collection.

Justice Minister Jim Wallace had told BBC's Good Morning Scotland the executive was committed to consigning an "archaic and inhumane" system to the history books, but only when a suitable replacement system was in place.

He said: "It's important that there is a proper system of debt recovery which can protect the poorest people but which does not allow those who can pay, but won't pay, to get off with their debts."

Mr Wallace said the amendment he planned to table would mean that legislation could be brought in during the 2001-2 parliamentary session.

In the meantime, he said, he was proposing secondary legislation, which can be brought in immediately, to expand the list of goods exempt from poindings.

Labour MSP and former Scottish Office minister Malcolm Chisholm insisted, though, that ministers would be scoring a massive own goal by blocking Tommy Sheridan's Bill.
Jim Wallace
Jim Wallace: Reform within two years

He proposed it be passed to the second stage and a commencement date announced, meaning that, in the interim, alternative measures for debt recovery could be put together.

Mr Chisholm added: "The political danger for the executive is that motives can be misinterpreted, and it would be a big political mistake to vote against the bill.

"There is a serious danger of sending the wrong message to many of our core supporters, and we're quite determined to see Labour in the vanguard of abolishing warrant sales and poindings."

A report by the Scottish Law Commission on poindings and warrant sales earlier this month recommended that the mechanisms should remain.

Mr Sheridan has already gained the support of three parliamentary committees on the issue - two of which are chaired by Labour MSPs.

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See also:

10 Sep 99 | Scotland
Warrant sales 'should stay'
18 Aug 99 | Scotland
MSP lobbies for debt law change
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