HOUSE OF COMMONS
First Scottish Standing Committee
BANKRUPTCY (SCOTLAND) BILL
Tuesday 20 October 1992
Bill, as amended, to be reported.
Committee rose at twenty minutes to Eleven o'clock.
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[MR. MICHAEL J. MARTIN in the Chair]
Question proposed, That the Chairman do report the Bill, as amended, to the House.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Allan Stewart): On a point of order, Mr. Martin. May I take this opportunity—on behalf of the Committee, generally, I am sure—to thank you very much for the unfailing patience with which you have dealt with our proceedings. You have been the only Chairman of the Committee, Mr. Martin, and you probably thought, at the outset, that you would be in for a gentle jog—only to discover later that you were involved in something of a marathon. However, the Committee's last lap was covered in fairly record time. The Committee has sat long hours and we are grateful for the way in which you, with good humour, have as always kept us in good order. I wish to thank the Clerk and the Hansard writers. I wish also to thank the policemen who have looked after us with their customary efficiency. No doubt they have learnt more—much more—about Scottish bankruptcy law than they thought they would at the beginning of our proceedings. I thank all members of the Committee for their constructive contributions to our debates. I am sure that we wish the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) well for his future work on social security Committees in which he will no doubt be starring. The Committee also thanks those outside this Room who served us in the Tea Room in the wee small hours. We look forward to the Bill being discussed on Report when we shall return to the matters that we have already discussed. Again, I wish to express our thanks, Mr. Martin, for your excellent and patient chairmanship.
Mr. Donald Dewar (Glasgow, Garscadden): Further to that point of order, Mr. Martin. May I briefly follow on from the remarks made by the Under-Secretary, the hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart)? Today's debate is my swansong on Scottish Committees. I cannot say that that brings a tear to my eye, but our proceedings have ended on a remarkably harmonious and peaceable note. I wish to add another person to the list of those who have been thanked—the hon. Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker). Yesterday, he did us a great service in his usual trenchant way: first by his withdrawing the new clauses that would have imprisoned us here for some time, and secondly by calling for the resignation of the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. I do not know which service was greater, but probably the first has had more immediate impact. We look forward to further developments.
Sir Nicholas Fairbairn (Perth and Kinross): As a dying swan, the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) should have the dignity to suggest to the 470 Committee that it would be appropriate if my hon. Friend the Member for Tayside, North replaced the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry.
Mr. Dewar: Some careful thought would have to be given to whether that suggestion would represent an improvement. It is a matter of judgment. But if the hon. and learned Member for Perth and Kinross were to make a speech in which he advocated such action, no doubt it would receive some litte notice and re-establish his reputation with his Whips. On a serious note, the Bill has clearly been overtaken by great political events. But it still has to be discussed on Report and we shall wish to monitor its implementation. We has some reservations about the spirit in which the Bill was introduced and the likely impact that it would have. We have received assurances from the Under-Secretary, the hon. Member for Eastwood, and other Ministers that there will be no blocking of entry to the sequestration process in cases when it is clearly in the individual's interest to take such action. We have also had assurances that legal aid and the assistance by way of representation scheme will be extended. We want to ensure that that happens and that none of our fears and those that have been put to us come to pass. That is the only serious point that I want to make. I have some doubts about the Bill, but I console myself with the thought that they are nothing like the doubts of the hon. Member for Eastwood. Some people tell me that they move through the streets feeling unsafe and looking nervously over their shoulders. Many citizens in Eastwood will be doing that hoping that they do not meet an accountant. Mr. Martin, thank you for your tolerance. It has been a slog at times; we have perhaps tramped over the same ground with some energy for tactical purposes, but you took it with good nature and phlegm. On occasions you must have thought that you were back in Glasgow corporation in about 1955. I also thank my colleagues and all the people—the Clerk and everyone else—who have helped you, Mr. Martin, to keep the Committee running. I should thank in particular the English Members who have served with a blank disbelief but with a great deal of patience during our hours of deliberation.
Mrs. Margaret Ewing (Moray): Further to that point of order, Mr. Martin. It seems a long time ago that the Committee last met. Many of us anticipated a resumption of the sparring battles that occurred during the summer. However, we all recognise that we need to put our minds to other urgent matters. I should like to thank you, Mr. Martin, for your chairmanship of the Committee. I think that the Clerk, Mr. James, has found that Scottish Members can be quite friendly to each other while having their disagreements. Perhaps he and the Hansard writers have sometimes had difficulty understanding our terminology, but they have seen the stong passions on all sides of the House about matters pertaining to Scotland. The staff have also done so much: indeed, some of the policemen protected me as I slept on a bench in the Committee corridor during a boring stage of the Committee. We are all subjected to such exigencies during the Committee. However, it is a shame that some of the new clauses were not selected. Some may have been withdrawn by the hon. Members involved, but some of us tabled new clauses and new schedules for particular reasons. It is wrong that in 471 discussing debt collection, bankruptcy and diligence we have not attacked the problem of warrant sales in Scotland. I am sure that on Report hon. Members will have the opportunity to raise that matter. The Committee was portrayed in oils, gouache, charcoal, crayon and chalk. Despite my comments about improving my target shooting, I sincerely hope that the hon. and learned Member for Perth and Kinross (Sir N. Fairbaim) has recovered from the unfortunate events of the summer. We all wish him a full recovery to good health.
The Chairman: I thank hon. Members for their kind remarks. It has been an interesting Committee: not so much its subject matter but the activities that took place during it. I, like many hon. Members, received a crayon drawing from the hon. and learned Member for Perth and Kinross; it is in my office and it will be framed. When I look at it, I shall always remember this Committee. I shall also remember the Second Reading of the Bill. I thought that I was to chair the usual Scottish Grand Committee only to discover that all hell had broken loose. We settled that problem, then during a conversation before the recess the Whips said that they were worried that the Committee would not be wound up in the first week after the recess. That shows how things change. I suspect that this Committee is the least of their worries at the moment. 472 It has been an interesting Committee. Long nights are an accepted part of Committee work, but they are made so much easier by the staff. I would like to thank the Serjeant at Arms officers, the policemen, the Hansard writers and the civil servants who have given the Ministers the information that they have conveyed to the Committee. In addition, we must not forget the staff who are not directly involved with the Committee, but who take care of security and who work in the cafeteria. Thy have had to make arrangements with their families to ensure that we have had some comforts during the long nights. Finally, my sincere thanks to you, Mr. James, for all the guidance that you have given me during the proceedings. It only remains for me to put the question, which I am very happy to do.
Question put and agreed to.
Bill, as amended, to be reported.
Committee rose at twenty minutes to Eleven o'clock.
THE FOLLOWING MEMBERS ATTENDED THE COMMITTEE:
Martin, Mr. Michael J. (Chairman)
Coombs, Mr. Simon
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas
Robertson, Mr. Raymond S.
Squire, Ms Rachel
Walker, Mr. Bill