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24 February 2005

S2M-2463 Identity Cards

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 24 February 2005

[THE DEPUTY PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 09:30]

… … …

Identity Cards

The Presiding Officer (Mr George Reid): The second Scottish Green Party debate this morning is a debate on motion S2M-2463, in the name of Patrick Harvie, on identity cards.

10:49

… … …

11:01

Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): Like some of the older members of the Parliament, I still have my identity card from the previous time. Identity cards were abolished when I was six so I have some experience of them, on which I will, of course, draw. When identity cards were abolished in 1952, they had 39 purposes as distinct from the three for which they were introduced. Patrick Harvie was right to remind us of function creep, just as we have seen mission creep in military campaigns.

In order to consider the matter pragmatically it might be useful to apply the tests that the Tories applied when they examined the issue in 1995, as I suspect that those tests are relevant, pragmatically, today. The tests are that identity cards have to be sufficiently reliable, they have to be accompanied by protections to civil liberties and they must not entail disproportionate cost. I hope that by the end of the debate we will be able to see that, on a pragmatic basis, the proposed ID card scheme fails all three of those tests. Of course, I also take principled issue with what is going on, but my colleagues will develop that aspect later.

I will test the proposals pragmatically. Let me look at the reply that Tony Blair gave in the House of Commons on 9 February. He stated that a biometric passport might cost £70 and an ID card a further £15. No price is given for an ID card on its own, but it is expected that it would cost between £55 and £70. It is not a cheap item for the individual.

On 11 January, Alistair Darling appeared to confirm to my Westminster colleague for Banff and Buchan that it would cost approximately £500 million to introduce these cards in Scotland. On 20 December, Charles Clarke illustrated the other side of the equation when he confirmed that he envisaged that we would reduce benefit fraud by only £50 million. That is compared to a cost of £5,000 million and rising for the introduction of the system. That is without even thinking about the costs that will not appear in the bill. It is clear that the technologies involved are challenging and would need to be operated by skilled operators. People from Mr Morrison's constituency would not be greatly pleased to find that if they wish to have access to an identity card or a biometric passport, they must get on a plane or a ferry to the mainland to go to one of the few centres that have the skills and equipment to issue the cards. Another issue is whether equipment for checking the cards will be available elsewhere.

Clause 1(6) of the Identity Cards Bill states that the database entry continues after death—even if someone is dead, they are in the database. Of course, the information is absolutely perfect in law, despite the fact that there are opportunities for the secretary of state to change it.

Let me, as a fan of Sewel motions, point to a fundamental issue that the Executive must consider carefully. It is perfectly clear that clause 17 of the bill treads on the feet of the Scottish Parliament. Clause 17 refers to "any other enactment" and clause 17(6) specifies that that includes

"an Act of the Scottish Parliament."

We need to debate the matter further in this Parliament. We should have a Sewel motion to do so; it would be improper to proceed further without that. I will wait with interest to see whether we get an opportunity to discuss the issue on an occasion when ministers respond to the debate.

I move amendment S2M-2463.1, to insert at end:

"and expresses concern that the data format and operation likely to be associated with proposed identity cards conform to no formal international standard and carry the real risk of data disclosure to commercial interests."

11:06

23 February 2005

S2M-2330 International Organisations Bill

Scottish Parliament

Wednesday 23 February 2005

[THE PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 14:30]

… … …

International Organisations Bill

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Trish Godman): The next item of business is consideration of motion S2M-2330, in the name of Cathy Jamieson, on the International Organisations Bill, which is United Kingdom legislation.

Motion moved,

That the Parliament recognises the need for the United Kingdom to implement the international obligations for which the International Organisations Bill makes provision, and agrees that those provisions in the Bill that fall within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament and have the effect of conferring functions on the Scottish ministers should be considered by the UK Parliament.—[Hugh Henry.]

16:58

Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): I thank you, Presiding Officer, for indulging me and allowing me a few seconds to speak.

First, although it is unusual for the Scottish National Party to support a Sewel motion, in this case, as ever, we have considered the detail of the motion and we see that we have acquired new powers. That is useful and we always think positively about such matters.

Secondly, I draw to the attention of members who have not had the benefit of reading the Official Report of last week's Justice 1 Committee meeting the fact that the new powers extend to an ability to veto orders in council in relation to the powers in the bill. In due course, the Procedures Committee might wish to consider incorporating that in the standing orders of the Parliament so that we do not miss a trick in relation to how things happen.

16:59

10 February 2005

S2M-2402 Anti-racism Strategy

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 10 February 2005

[THE DEPUTY PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 09:30]

... ... ...

Anti-racism Strategy

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Murray Tosh): The next item of business is a debate on motion S2M-2402, in the name of Malcolm Chisholm, on an anti-racism strategy, and three amendments to the motion. Demand to speak in the debate is high, so I ask members to adhere to the indicative timings.

15:02

... ... ...

16:06

Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): I start by addressing a few remarks to Jamie McGrigor. He suggests—and I do not wholly disagree with him—that economic growth in Scotland is the key attractor that will ensure that we retain our existing talent and bring more here. However, that sits ill with the policies of his party, and indeed with those of the Executive and its colleagues. We have talent that is currently locked up. We have people who are fleeing as refugees from oppression around the world. They have tremendous qualifications to contribute to our economy. Would the politicians I referred to see those people economically active, or would they keep them locked up? We know the answer.

The Executive has done a great deal in this area on which I commend it. We welcomed the launch of the one Scotland, many cultures campaign in September 2002. The annual report on race equality that was published in February 2004 showed progress and the many useful steps that are being taken. I assume that we will shortly see the annual update.

On the launch of the fresh talent website, Jack McConnell said:

"The biggest single challenge facing Scotland is our falling population, and if we are to succeed in the global economy, we need a constant flow of fresh talent to flourish alongside our home-grown talent."

We agree with many of the principles and policies. If we criticise the Government, it is on its commitment to delivering on the steps that it is taking. The First Minister and the rest of his team have the opportunity to prove that our pessimism about the Government's current progress is misplaced—and I hope that I am being pessimistic beyond what is reasonable.

I turn to history now because we must draw from the past some very dark and important lessons and apply them to the present. I first confronted racial intolerance during the 1950s and 1960s when we went camping at Achmelvich in west Sutherland every summer holiday. One of the people who went there was a doctor—a very talented surgeon who lived in Glasgow. He had spent much of the war in a concentration camp because he was a Jew. He could not sleep at night without a slice of bread on the table beside his bed. He would wake up in the night tormented by his experience, but if he could feel that piece of bread beside his bed, he knew that he was free at last from the scourge of fascism. However, that fear and that experience were with him for the rest of his life. We must never return to the conditions that were generated in the 1930s.

My father spent a period of time in Brussels, where he helped Jews escape from the Nazis before the war, but let me quote what some Conservative politicians said in the 1930s. In the Daily Mirror of 22 January 1934, Lord Rothermere wrote:

"Timid alarmists all this week have been whimpering that the rapid growth in numbers of the British Blackshirts is preparing the way for a system of rulership by means of steel whips and concentration camps ... Young men may join the British Union of Fascists by writing to the Headquarters, King's Road, Chelsea, London".

Further, in the Daily Mail in 1933, he wrote:

"The German nation, moreover, was rapidly falling under the control of its alien elements. In the last days of the pre-Hitler regime there were twenty times as many Jewish Government officials in Germany as had existed before the war."

We saw the fascists of the British National Party win 100,000 votes in the 1999 European elections; the 1930s continue to haunt modern society. The BNP hyenas—if I may use that word, Presiding Officer—are feeding on the carcase of emotion that has been stirred up by the Tories, who are promoting racist policies because they are becalmed in the polls down south and are desperate to trade principle for votes. No members of this Parliament—apart from the Tories—will let the BNP and its fellow travellers succeed on that matter.

On 24 September 2002, Jim Wallace said:

"The diverse ethnic make-up of Scotland's population is something of which we should rightly feel proud. However the only way in which this diversity can be safeguarded and encouraged to flourish is if we all take a stand against racism and discrimination in any form."

I agree with Jim Wallace. The way in which the Tory amendment links immigration and race relations does democracy no service of any kind.

In closing, I quote unusually the first law of epigenetics, which states that the more highly optimised an organism is for one environment, the more adversely it is affected by a change in that environment. Diversity is strength; monoculture is a risk to our very futures.

16:12

Subject Debate: Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 10 February 2005

[THE DEPUTY PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 09:30]

Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Murray Tosh): Good morning. The first item of business is a debate on the reform of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, which will be concluded without any question being put.

09:30
... ... ...

11:42

Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): I congratulate Colin Boyd on the achievement of his first lustrum. I was greatly concerned by his tone of voice earlier—I thought that we were about to see a change of personnel, which I would definitely regret. I am glad that we did not hear that. The Lord Advocate has indeed tholed his assize. In particular, I congratulate him on his innovative and correct use of parliamentary opportunities by participating in a members' business debate last year on an issue about which he felt strongly. I hope that he and the Solicitor General will make use of such opportunities in future, where appropriate.

Since I became a member of the Parliament, a considerable amount of change has occurred in the service, almost all of which has been welcome. So much change has there been that, occasionally, newsreaders in London can pronounce the words "procurator fiscal" without stumbling, which is a substantial advance. On the person who holds the office of Lord Advocate, I must say the three words that I hear most often about him, although not always joined together, which are "integrity", "honesty" and "commitment". I congratulate him on his service to date and hope that it continues in a similar manner.

In view of certain comments in a national newspaper today, I apologise to FM—by which, of course, I mean Fordyce Maxwell. I have found a long-sleeved shirt today and I am wearing my jacket. I have brought to this debate the solemnity that certain people thought that I denied yesterday's debate.

Alex Johnstone (North East Scotland) (Con): Hear, hear.

Stewart Stevenson: I see that Mr Johnstone applauds me.

I will say a word or two about information technology modernisation. Members will be aware that I spent 30 years—during which I might have engaged with wider society—as a technologist. I welcome the fact that the accounts appear to show that about £5 million or £6 million has been spent on modernisation, which is a substantial amount. However, although the benefits to the service of IT modernisation are enormous, I hear of a difficulty when I talk to the people who have to input data directly. That was previously done in ways that made it more difficult to share information, such as keeping data on bits of paper or annotating documents. However, although the change benefits others and improves the system's efficiency, we must ensure that we resource the people who input directly to the system, because their workload may increase.

Like other members, my colleagues in the SNP and I substantially welcome the announcements on communication with victims on matters that they will not readily understand simply by looking at them. No pros, reductions in charges and deals are all a proper part of the system, but nonetheless they are often puzzling to victims, who may feel that they reinforce their victimhood. We require an appropriate monitoring system to enable the Lord Advocate to report on the success of the scheme, perhaps through testing the opinions of those who receive communications from the Crown Office. That would allow the Lord Advocate to refine the system as he gains experience and it would allow the Parliament to support him in further efforts.

Many changes are taking place in our courts. I do not know whether we are planning to introduce a supreme court—perhaps Jeremy Purvis was in the United States on the occasion to which he referred.

Jeremy Purvis rose—

Stewart Stevenson: One moment, Mr Purvis.

Like others, Jeremy Purvis admitted to being a comparative novice on legal matters. Being a mathematician and a software engineer, I certainly profess no particular training or expertise, albeit I have thoroughly enjoyed my times on the justice committees. However, help is at hand for Jeremy. The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service has produced a helpful series of publications to make understanding of the system more accessible to those of us who come to it cold.

Jeremy Purvis rose—

Stewart Stevenson: One moment.

In particular, I commend "Going to Court as a Witness?", which is an excellent document, although I must say that it is for schools and for people who are aged five to 12. However, it is a useful primer for the Jeremys and Jemimas of this world.

Does Mr Purvis still wish to intervene?

Jeremy Purvis: I will intervene as Jeremy. I am sure that that reference work will be useful for Mr Stevenson and that he will find within it the fact that we have a supreme high court of judiciary, in which I served as a juror in an attempted murder case, in the Royal Mile. I am sure that he would wish to correct his error.

Stewart Stevenson: I am told that it is called the High Court of Justiciary. Perhaps the London newsreaders will now be able to pronounce that, too.

Annabel Goldie did not display the commitment to the debate that we expect of all parliamentarians. I welcome the opportunity to have a free-flowing debate on a range of subjects; it does not let the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service off the hook, nor does it mean that the service will not have to ensure that we receive information in the future. I was interested in Kenny MacAskill's suggestion that our courts should sit for 27 hours a day, which I hope the Executive will pick up.

Over the years, we have seen huge change in what is an important part of our criminal justice system. In the previous session of Parliament, the Justice 2 Committee started its work on the subject almost exactly when I became a member of the Parliament and I was happy to be part of that work. Many of the issues that that committee raised are being substantially addressed, but issues remain. We have achieved a lot—we have made progress on victims and on efficiencies—but there is more to do.

11:49

3 February 2005

S2M-1916 Local Benefits Services

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 3 February 2005

[THE PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 09:30]

... ... ...

Local Benefits Services

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Trish Godman): The final item of business is a debate on motion S2M-1916, in the name of Brian Adam, on cuts in local benefits services. The debate will be concluded without any questions being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament expresses great concern about the impact of the proposed cuts by the Department of Work and Pensions in local provision of benefits advice; regrets the likely reduction in benefits uptake by many vulnerable people; deplores the unfair geographical spread of the cuts, leaving Grampian, Tayside and Fife without any local offices; recognises the consequential increased workload that will fall on local authority and voluntary sector money advice services, and believes that the Scottish Executive should make representations to protect the interests and incomes of the vulnerable in Scotland.

17:12

... ... ...

17:27

Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): I listened with considerable interest to Richard Baker's speech. He said many interesting and valuable things. Of course, the jobcentre plus staff are committed and engaged. During the recent problems at Richards, they went beyond the narrow brief of their job. That is an example of why the public services, in many instances, have an advantage over the services that are provided by private companies. The problem is that the proposed changes put at risk the public service ideal. I am sad that Richard Baker was unable to sign the motion in Brian Adam's name, but I take it that he is supportive of it. If MPs failed to relay their constituents' concerns, whatever their individual views, they would reap the whirlwind. If those MPs are part of the Administration that is making changes that could potentially disadvantage their constituents, they will be judged not on their ability, but on their achievement.

There are some important general issues around all this. We must consider innovative ways of delivering benefits and ensuring that people in our community are able to access the benefits to which their situation entitles them. In Aberdeen, there are encouraging signs and, in some places, one can go to one address and access a range of services. However, it appears that the changes that are envisaged might well put that at risk and mean that people will have to visit many doors to get the same support as they received before.

We should not underestimate the real difficulties that people have with paperwork. My wife, like me, is a mathematician, who has made a successful business career for herself. However, like many others, faced with her tax form, she kept it right to the end until, finally, on 25 January, she said, "I need your help." By the way, I refused to give her help, on the basis that she is at least as intelligent as I am—and probably more intelligent—and that she might blame me for making a mess of it. The point is that the people who most need the support of a range of benefits are those who are least able to deal with the paperwork.

If we take that further, it is obvious that moving support to the telephone will create more barriers. As my colleague Brian Adam mentioned, it will create an economic barrier because the 0845 dialling code, which was originally introduced as a local-rate call that could be delivered nationally, is now tied to a fictional local rate that no telephone company charges that now exceeds what the telephone companies charge for national calls. The practice has been severely criticised in a recent Office of Communications report, which also criticised the charges for 0870 numbers, so I hope that we will see some change on that.

However, the proposed closures will also remove the essential across-the-desk contact that allows the adviser to see the body language of the person who is seeking help and the recipient to get feedback. Those with the greatest needs are precisely the people who will not get what they need without human access. Like other members, I suspect, I have used the services of DWP staff for many of my constituents who I thought would benefit from the benefits check facility that is available. That service is put at risk by the proposed changes across Scotland.

I say yes to innovation and to delivering services through a single door. However, simply paying off staff and closing offices will contribute nothing to addressing social exclusion.

17:31

S2M-2361 Economy

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 3 February 2005

[THE PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 09:30]

Economy

The Presiding Officer (Mr George Reid): Good morning. The first item of business this morning is a debate on motion S2M-2361, in the name of Nicola Sturgeon, on the economy, and four amendments to that motion.

09:30

... ... ...

10:41

Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): Let me start with the essential paradox at the core of the Government's argument. Maureen Macmillan espoused and articulated it extremely well. It is very simple. She tells us that we have an enormous and growing deficit, but she concludes that we must therefore change nothing, stick with the people who are managing our economy and refuse to take the levers of power that would enable us to do anything about it. She says that we must endorse failure.

There is considerable discussion about efficiency in government spending. Efficiency is not about how much or how little we spend; it is about what we get for what we spend. We might be more efficient by employing more people in government; we might be more efficient by employing fewer people in government—it could be either.

In the most recent issue of Holyrood magazine, George Kerevan highlights an area where we in Scotland should perhaps be doing better. He indicates that women in Scotland are earning less than women in the UK as a whole and that the margin of difference is greater than that for the working population as a whole. That is a blot on our equality and economic ambitions. He also refers to the insidious price that we have to pay for the existing regime, in that we have to subsidise the people whom the Government chooses to have as its civil servants in London, while reneging on long-standing promises to transfer civil servants working in oil-related areas to Aberdeen, where such subsidies would not be required.

To be positive, here is some of the budget speech that I would like to hear being made:

"The theme of the speech and ... the Budget as a whole"

is

"Open for Business ... a natural restructuring process was commencing within our economy and I"

give

"notice that the Government"

will

"do everything in its power to ensure that"

our businesses

"remain competitive."

I speak

"of the need to sustain success in the face of ... changing times".

Our priorities are to remain

"competitive within an international marketplace, in which new rivals could emerge from anywhere around the globe and impact upon our ability to maintain our current standard of living and ... high quality public services ... However, in so doing,"

we must

"remember the social needs of all our citizens, especially those who are ... unable to directly participate".

I might continue:

"We have received confirmation of our Triple A credit rating from both Standard and Poors and Moody's rating agencies, providing further evidence of the esteem in which our finances are viewed externally ... In 2004-05, our economy is set to grow at a rate of 4.5% in real terms, a figure that exceeds the expectations of most other countries. We have a capital programme that will continue to afford work to many, full employment continues in all sectors".

We might take initiatives to create small but significant opportunities for us to position ourselves for the future—a future that Jim Wallace is unable to see. For example, we might launch a

"zero rate of tax to businesses operating within the space industry".

We might talk of the new opportunities in a

"small but exceedingly promising area",

which would

"encompass the manufacture, operation, sale or other activities provided in respect of launch vehicles".—[Official Report, Tynwald Court, 17 February 2004; Vol 121, pp 729-738.]

Where is the country where that speech was made within the past 12 months? It was the Isle of Man—not a big country, and one that is a mere 30 minutes' flying time from here. If a little country with a modest budget and modest resources, including a modest human resource on which to draw, has the confidence and ability to engage in the modern world and to build up surpluses in its budget, how much better could Scotland do by comparison, given the assets that we have, both those of our people and those that lie offshore?

Instead, what we have, and what I want to engage Jim Wallace on, is an Executive that is not even prepared to speculate as to how the world might look in 10 years' time. I asked a range of questions on that subject, but hardly an answer did there come. There was certainly nothing in relation to the economic world.

Such long-term planning is routine in the business world. Over the last three years of my business life, I was helping the Bank of Scotland to look 25 years ahead. We had to understand the future to be able to engage with and influence it. I would remind Jim Wallace of the old saying that those who do not know to where they travel will be sure to arrive there.

Success comes to those who see the future that they want and are prepared to pay the price to create it. However, the Executive is blind to the future and deaf to the opportunity and it prefers to be a victim of world circumstances, rather than influencing the future of this country and the world and delivering for people in Scotland, whose needs continue to grow and whose future continues to suffer under a lacklustre and visionless Executive.

10:47

S2M-2318 Local Government Finance (Scotland) Order 2005

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 3 February 2005

[THE PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 09:30]

... ... ...

Local Government Finance (Scotland) Order 2005
(SSI 2005/19)

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Trish Godman): The next item of business is a debate on motion S2M-2318, in the name of Mr Tom McCabe, on the Local Government Finance (Scotland) Order 2005, and one amendment to the motion.

15:29

... ... ...

16:23

Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): As we are in some danger of indulging in navel-gazing, I want to begin by quoting an external view from the most recent edition of Holyrood magazine. It says:

"As expected by some, the establishment of the Parliament has resulted in the centralisation of power,"

which, as we have just heard, is firmly supported by Murdo Fraser,

"an increase in"

ring-fencing

"to develop the Executive's priorities and a growth in central dictat."

The article continues:

"This year will also see the Executive squeeze local government for a disproportionate share of efficiency savings."

Those are not my words; they belong to an analyst who is outside the narrow confines of this debate.

Mike Rumbles: Name him.

Stewart Stevenson: Interestingly, the article does not come with a name. I, too, will be interested to find out who wrote it. The point, of course, is not who wrote the article, but the fact that someone outside the Parliament who observes what we do is seeing the same things that we see.

The whole subject of local taxation is under review by a very excellent fellow called Peter Burt, who used to be my boss. I am reminded of a question I was asked a few years ago, when the Scottish Parliament had just been established. Peter Burt's colleague Gavin Masterton—who subsequently became the boss of the bank—asked me whether he should join a Government task force. I said, "Yes, of course you should, Gavin. To keep an eye on the"—I cannot repeat the word that I used, because the rules of parliamentary language forbid it. However, engagement between business and Government is certainly appropriate.

I love to see Peter Burt's signature—especially on banknotes, rather than reports. Let me warn the minister that Peter Burt is a dangerously innovative man. It will be fascinating for the minister to hear what he says. I have sat and discussed taxation and private finance initiatives with him. PFI projects, in general, lock in a payment stream for 25 or 30 years. However, in this morning's debate and in parliamentary answers that I have received, I have heard from various ministers that the Government does not know what will happen even 10 years from now. Does local government have psychic powers meaning that it can be forced to plan its expenditure 30 years ahead? Is such an approach common?

The SNP would use a different financing model that would raise the money in a different way. When we consider the PFI payments that local government has to pay, should we not align them as far forward as we are able to foresee? In France, for example, la concession—which is the French equivalent—is generally for a period of between seven and nine years, rather than for a period of 30 years.

On 8 December, the minister and I had a little exchange on collection rates in local government. The minister suggested that one thing that local government could do to improve its income would be to step up the collection rate. That was an absolutely fair comment, but, of course, the minister was making no allowance for the fact that some councils are relatively efficient. I am sure that the minister will be glad to be reminded that the Lanarkshire councils are doing pretty well. Some of the McCabes can get some things right some of the time.

However, councils that have been highly efficient have less scope and less headroom to improve their performance. The minister and the Executive are looking for significant efficiency savings from councils, but the playing field out there is not level. We are in danger of penalising the very people who have been successful.

The law of unintended consequences also applies to the subject of roads. I do not necessarily come at this issue from the same position as Tommy Sheridan, although I welcome—as would Tommy—the minister's preparedness to sit down with local government to discuss the way in which distribution of money is worked out.

Aberdeenshire has a rather high proportion of roads that are unadopted and therefore not the responsibility of the council. Quite properly, those roads are not taken into account in considerations of the money that the council should receive. However, many of those roads are important roads for public services. For example, several of them are privately owned unadopted roads that are the only access to schools. The paradox is that the council is unable to take into public care roads that are used for public purposes.

I note that we are increasing the hardship fund for white-fish relief by the grand sum of £28,000. The reality is that we are paying out very little.

We have to look into the power ratio between central Government and local government. We passed a very useful act that created the power of well-being. However, I say to the minister that that phrase has a very hollow ring as long as we control the purse strings as we do. We should give councils limited financial independence. It is time to look at the system again.

16:29

2 February 2005

S2M-2243 Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill

Scottish Parliament

Wednesday 2 February 2005

[THE PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 14:00]

... ... ...

Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Trish Godman): We now move on to the proper script. The next item of business is a debate on motion S2M-2243, in the name of Cathy Jamieson, on the Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill, which is United Kingdom legislation, and one amendment to that motion. Before I call the minister, I remind opening speakers to stick very closely to their time limit, as I want to try to get in all the back benchers who want to speak and, at the moment, I may not be able to do so.

16:06

... ... ...

16:37

Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): I was impressed by Jeremy Purvis's plea to abolish Scots law, the Parliament and the distinctive nature of Scotland, which are so inconvenient in the United Kingdom context.

Alternatively, as the opening words of the bill say, this Parliament can

"by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal,"

legislate for Scotland. Ladies and gentlemen, I prefer to legislate by the democratic decision of the people in this place, who understand Scotland's needs and traditions.

I will highlight a few points that we would address if we were to discuss the content of the bill. Clause 2(3) refers to the Serious Fraud Office. Scotland has no serious fraud office, so SOCA's powers in Scotland will exceed its powers in England.

Clause 3(4)(c) appears to give water bailiffs power to act in a particular way under the bill and clause 6 says that

"SOCA must send a copy of the annual plan to ... the Scottish Ministers".

However, unlike in England, it is not required that local authorities in Scotland be shown the annual plan—I refer to clause 6(8). Similarly, under clause 7(5), local authorities will not see the annual reports.

Clause 55 refers to an offence under schedule 4 to the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 and to common law thereafter. That raises huge issues, which we would discuss in Scotland if we could.

Clauses 59, 56 and 57 deal with restrictions on the use of statements and will take people outside the criminal justice system. The challenge is for Westminster to delete the iniquitous power to create an offence of trespass in this country.

16:39

Stewart Stevenson
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