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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Thursday, November 8, 2018

Meeting of the Parliament 08 November 2018

Agenda: General Question Time, First Minister’s Question Time, Motion of Remembrance, Care Homes (South Lanarkshire), Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Inclusive Education, Business Motion, Prescription (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3, Prescription (Scotland) Bill, Code of Conduct (Breach), Decision Time, Point of Order


Contents


Prescription (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Christine Grahame)

The next item of business is stage 3 proceedings on the Prescription (Scotland) Bill. In dealing with the amendments, members should have the bill as amended at stage 2—that is, SP Bill 26A—the marshalled list and the groupings.

The division bell will sound and proceedings will be suspended for five minutes for the first division of the afternoon. The period of voting for the first division will be 30 seconds. Thereafter, I will allow a voting period of one minute for the first division after a debate.

Members who wish to speak in the debate on any group of amendments should press their request-to-speak buttons as soon as possible after I call the group.

I ask members to refer to the marshalled list of amendments.

Section 3—Statutory obligations

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Amendment 1, in the name of Neil Findlay, is grouped with amendments 3 to 7.

Neil Findlay (Lothian) (Lab)

The bill makes a number of commonsense reforms, which the Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee accepted unanimously, but there are other areas in which I believe that further change is needed. Chief among those is the period of time for which authorities can chase council tax arrears and for which debts relating to reserved social security benefits and tax credits, including overpayments, can be recovered.

At the moment in Scotland, that period can be as long as 20 years. I ask members to think of all the things that have gone on in their lives over the past 20 years and then to think of what it would be like if they had a debt—one that they might not have been aware of—that at any time, with little warning, could be called in by a creditor, despite their having no records or recollection of that debt and despite not necessarily knowing that they had ever had such a debt. That cannot be right, but that is what is being proposed for debts that are owed for council tax and debts that are owed to the Department for Work and Pensions in relation to reserved benefits.

I do not understand why the Scottish Government appears to be taking its line from the DWP on the matter, nor do I understand why the Government is proactively seeking the endorsement of the DWP, as the Minister for Community Safety did in her letter to the agency, when, in England, the prescription period for the same benefits is six years.

The intention of my amendments is not to reduce the amount of money to which councils have access. Over the years, Scottish Labour has fought relentlessly for sustainable and meaningful solutions to the chronic underfunding of Scotland’s local authorities. We are talking about the collection of debt payments within a reasonable timescale. I make it clear that the exemptions that are proposed in the bill would not mean that the pursuer would have 20 years for the recovery of the entire debt or 20 years from when the debt was incurred; they would have 20 years from the most recent payment or acknowledgement. That situation could leave people in Scotland open to penalties for decades after the event in question occurred, even if they are not aware that it actually happened.

Many debtors in Scotland have already been pursued for council tax arrears or benefit overpayments more than five years after the debts allegedly arose. Citizens Advice Scotland and others have shown us numerous case studies involving clients who are being pursued for debts that they have never been notified about and where the historical records from councils and the DWP produce very little to back up the case. That causes stress, anxiety and family pressure.

On Tuesday, ministers and many of the rest of us rightly laid into the DWP for its shambolic handling of universal credit. At the same time, the minister has written to Esther McVey, of all people, to seek her advice on how the Government can agree the line and give answers to the Parliament about the more punitive debt recovery system in Scotland. Why is the Scottish Government asking for a period of five years for debt to the Scottish social security agency but a period of 20 years to continue in relation to reserved benefits?

The amendments would bring us more in line with England and Wales and are supported by Citizens Advice Scotland, the Govan Law Centre, StepChange, Money Advice Scotland, welfare rights organisations and the Law Society of Scotland.

With amendments 5, 6 and 7, we are offering a compromise through which we can delay the introduction of five-year prescription by five years to allow local authorities to collect the affected debts. I hope that members will support the amendments and ensure that we have a fair, humane and timeous debt recovery system.

The Minister for Community Safety (Ash Denham)

Will the member take an intervention?

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Have you concluded, Mr Findlay?

Neil Findlay

I have concluded.

I move amendment 1.

Graham Simpson (Central Scotland) (Con)

I will try to keep this brief. All the amendments in this group and the second group relate to section 3, which says that all statutory obligations to pay money should fall within five-year prescription, but then lists some exceptions that are to remain subject to 20-year prescription. The stage 3 amendments all relate to the exceptions in section 3. The policy debate is about whether debts relating to council tax and reserved social security benefits should be subject to five or 20-year prescription.

The first group of amendments are all from Neil Findlay, whom I thank personally for his time on the Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee. The amendments deal with exceptions for council tax. The question is whether we allow councils 20 years to recover debts or limit the period to just five years. On that, the submission from the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities is compelling. The committee wrote to all councils asking for their views. COSLA has said that any attempt to impose a five-year prescription period

“would have significant consequences financially and in terms of the social contract between citizens and their local authority area.”

Neil Findlay

Will the member take an intervention on that point?

Graham Simpson

I wish to carry on.

Moving to a five-year prescription period for local tax would undermine those aims. Councils would be forced to secure court decrees through affirmative court proceedings, which would increase costs for councils, citizens and the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service, and condensing the prescription period would potentially mean that local authorities would not have the space to be flexible and come to individual payment plans with a debtor, instead having to acknowledge the debt through early court action, resulting in decree.

More than £2 billion-worth of council tax is currently owed across Scotland, and £1.2 billion of that relates to debts that are more than five years old. That is money that could be spent on local services. Making the prescription period for those debts five years would likely force a change in the way that councils recover the debt. For those reasons, we do not support Neil Findlay’s amendments.

Tom Arthur (Renfrewshire South) (SNP)

I intend to be very brief. As a member of the Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee, I put on record my thanks to my fellow committee members and the clerks, legal advisers and researchers, who for me have shed light on a complicated piece of law. As I said at stage 2, when similar amendments to nearly all those that we are considering today were discussed and rejected, I have a great deal of sympathy for the aims and motivations behind the amendments. However, the concerns that I had at stage 2 remain. Fundamentally, they are about unintended consequences.

With regards to council tax, COSLA has been very clear on its position. I recall that, when Mike Dailly gave evidence to the committee, he floated the idea of a compromise through which there would normally be five-year prescription but, in exceptional circumstances, such as where fraud was suspected, there could be 20-year prescription. That kind of idea merits further investigation, but unfortunately we have not had the opportunity to explore all those areas fully in scrutinising the bill, which is narrowly defined and technical.

I am sympathetic to the intentions and motivations that are behind the amendments, but unfortunately not enough work has been done on them to ensure that we are in a position to be absolutely sure that they would have no unintended consequences.

I am sympathetic to the point about reserved benefits, but we have been unable to explore any unintended consequences properly. I say gently to the Labour Party that the best solution is for benefits to be completely devolved to this Parliament, which Labour resisted absolutely in the Smith commission process.

Ash Denham

The bill is about the difficulties that negative prescription has had in practice. It is not an appropriate place to make substantial policy changes in specific areas, and it is not a short cut for Neil Findlay to make far-reaching and unrecognised changes to the recovery of council tax.

The bill’s aim is not to change the position of council tax, as suggested by Mr Findlay, but to maintain the status quo as it is understood. Local taxes form a substantial source of income for local authorities and pay for essential services such as education, housing and roads. COSLA told the Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee that a 20-year prescription period for the recovery of arrears allows local authorities to begin the recovery process quickly, at minimal cost to taxpayers, while protecting those who owe arrears by entering into long-term arrangements. All that would be jeopardised if the prescription period was shortened.

Andy Wightman (Lothian) (Green)

Does the minister accept that the current regime for recovering council tax debt is pernicious? Probably every member has had casework that has involved people who lost their jobs, who were students and then not students, who moved out of shared accommodation or who split up from their partners and who found themselves with the tyranny of sheriff officers knocking at their doors. Does she accept the powerful case, which we made as early as June 2016, for fundamental reform of how council tax is administered, to prevent the dire circumstances in which many people have found themselves?

Ash Denham

I take the member’s point, but the bill is not the place to address those issues.

Neil Findlay

Will the minister give way?

Ash Denham

COSLA said:

“It would be extremely rare for an action to be raised on an account which was more than 5 years old. However, it is common for debt to be repaid in small amounts over a period of more than 5 years—particularly as”

council tax

“debt is a recurring obligation.”

Although local authorities have 20 years before the debt that is owed is extinguished by prescription, that does not mean that they can wait 10, 15 or even 19 years before attempting recovery. Scots law recognises the separate doctrine of delay. If local authorities waited unduly before seeking to recover their debt, that defence might be available to the debtor to bar the pursuer from enforcing their rights.

The Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee wrote to seek further information and received an impressive number of responses. Of the 32 local authorities, 26 responded, and not one agreed that changing the prescription period was appropriate.

Johann Lamont (Glasgow) (Lab)

Will the minister take an intervention?

Ash Denham

Instead, the councils were all adamant that the status quo should not be changed. That even includes 10 councils that are under Labour leadership.

Daniel Johnson (Edinburgh Southern) (Lab)

Will the minister give way?

Ash Denham

Among the comments that local authorities made was the point that the policy reasons that justify excepting from the five-year prescription period taxes that are payable to the Crown—to Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs and Revenue Scotland—apply equally to taxes that are payable to local authorities. In other words, no distinction should be made between taxes that are owed to central Government and those that are owed to local authorities.

I will give way.

Neil Findlay

A distinction is made in relation to benefits, because the bill sets a 20-year period for reserved benefits but a five-year period for Scottish benefits. Why are the periods not being brought into line?

Ash Denham

For devolved benefits, the Scottish ministers have complete control over the policy and the processes. The Scottish ministers do not control the policies or processes of councils or the DWP.

Neil Findlay really ought to explain to Parliament why he thinks that all the councils in Scotland are wrong on the issue and he is right. Does he take no account of councils’ views on the issue? That includes Labour councils—the member’s colleagues are telling him that his proposal is inappropriate.

Johann Lamont

Will the minister take an intervention?

Daniel Johnson

Will the minister take an intervention?

The Deputy Presiding Officer

I ask both members to sit down, please. The minister is not taking an intervention.

Ash Denham

Councils pointed out that any change to prescription, by reducing it—

Gordon Lindhurst (Lothian) (Con)

Will the minister take an intervention?

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Mr Lindhurst, I do not know whether you are trying to intervene—

Gordon Lindhurst

I am.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

If the minister is not giving way, you have to sit down.

16:00  

Ash Denham

Thank you, Presiding Officer. Any reduction to the prescription period would likely force a change in the way in which councils recover the debt, potentially making it more expensive to recover the moneys owed. That would be all to the detriment of those who use and rely on our local services. In addition, local authorities are concerned that reducing the prescription period will create an incentive for those who wish to avoid paying their taxes in the first place.

Local authorities continue to recover a significant amount of arrears each year. More than £2 billion of council tax debt is currently owed across Scotland and more than £1 billion of that relates to debts that are more than five years old. Although we are told that we are reaching the end of austerity, that money is vital not just for the debtor, but for local services.

At the beginning of the week, we had Labour’s communities spokesperson, Alex Rowley, talking about an end to austerity for local government and a renewal of powers for our councils. At the end of the week, however, we have Neil Findlay not only making it more difficult for local government to collect the vital sums of money that it is owed, but making it even easier for those who do not want to pay council tax not to do so.

Gordon Lindhurst

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. The minister referred to the concept of delay in Scots law preventing the raising of legal actions—

The Deputy Presiding Officer

I am afraid that that is not a point of order.

Gordon Lindhurst

I want to know what she was referring to.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

That is not a point of order, Mr Lindhurst—thank you.

Ash Denham

Tell me, how is that fair to the millions of hard-working Scots who struggle to pay their council tax every month?

In this chamber on Tuesday, Mr Findlay talked about his time as a front-line housing officer. He said that he saw daily the struggles and challenges that are faced by people just trying to get by. How do his amendments help them if all that they achieve is to force local authorities to raise individual court actions—as they have told us that they would—to recover the debt?

It is because his amendments would make it easier for those who will not pay and more difficult for those who need more time to pay that I urge Neil Findlay not to press them.

Neil Findlay

I am sure that the minister welcomed her briefing from Esther McVey, because it seemed to provide the entirety of her speech. The reality is that the five-year period can be rolled over if a payment or an acknowledgement is made.

Ash Denham

That is not true.

Neil Findlay

It is absolutely true. Therefore, there is no barrier—the minister is, to be frank, wrong on that.

Councils were written to as part of the consultation, but it is hardly a surprise that when we write to council chief finance officers, they come back and say that they want to collect money—of course they will say that.

Let me say this, however. Is it not welcome that the Government listens to COSLA on something? I hope that it will listen to COSLA on the budget, on council workers’ pay and on the testing of primary school kids—or does it listen to COSLA only selectively? I think that it does.

What happened to poll tax debt? What did council chief finance officers say about that? And yet we dealt with that because this Parliament agreed to. The minister is wrong again. This is about putting in place a decent and fair regime for debt recovery in Scotland, in line with that in England.

What we will have now—what the Government is pursuing—is a more punitive regime for Scotland. So much for standing up for Scotland.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Mr Findlay, will you say whether you are pressing amendment 1? I am sure that you are, but will you just say so?

Neil Findlay

I shall press amendment 1.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Thank you. The question is, that amendment 1 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members: No.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

There will be a division. As this is the first division of the stage, the Parliament will be suspended for five minutes.

16:04 Meeting suspended.  16:09 On resuming—  

The Deputy Presiding Officer

We proceed to the division on amendment 1.

For

Baillie, Jackie (Dumbarton) (Lab)
Baker, Claire (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)
Beamish, Claudia (South Scotland) (Lab)
Bibby, Neil (West Scotland) (Lab)
Dugdale, Kezia (Lothian) (Lab)
Fee, Mary (West Scotland) (Lab)
Findlay, Neil (Lothian) (Lab)
Finnie, John (Highlands and Islands) (Green)
Grant, Rhoda (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)
Gray, Iain (East Lothian) (Lab)
Greer, Ross (West Scotland) (Green)
Griffin, Mark (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Harvie, Patrick (Glasgow) (Green)
Johnson, Daniel (Edinburgh Southern) (Lab)
Johnstone, Alison (Lothian) (Green)
Lamont, Johann (Glasgow) (Lab)
Lennon, Monica (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Leonard, Richard (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Macdonald, Lewis (North East Scotland) (Lab)
Marra, Jenny (North East Scotland) (Lab)
McDonald, Mark (Aberdeen Donside) (Ind)
McNeill, Pauline (Glasgow) (Lab)
Rowley, Alex (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)
Ruskell, Mark (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Green)
Smith, Elaine (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Smyth, Colin (South Scotland) (Lab)
Stewart, David (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)

Against

Adam, George (Paisley) (SNP)
Adamson, Clare (Motherwell and Wishaw) (SNP)
Allan, Alasdair (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP)
Arthur, Tom (Renfrewshire South) (SNP)
Ballantyne, Michelle (South Scotland) (Con)
Beattie, Colin (Midlothian North and Musselburgh) (SNP)
Bowman, Bill (North East Scotland) (Con)
Brown, Keith (Clackmannanshire and Dunblane) (SNP)
Burnett, Alexander (Aberdeenshire West) (Con)
Cameron, Donald (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Campbell, Aileen (Clydesdale) (SNP)
Carlaw, Jackson (Eastwood) (Con)
Carson, Finlay (Galloway and West Dumfries) (Con)
Chapman, Peter (North East Scotland) (Con)
Coffey, Willie (Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley) (SNP)
Cole-Hamilton, Alex (Edinburgh Western) (LD)
Corry, Maurice (West Scotland) (Con)
Crawford, Bruce (Stirling) (SNP)
Cunningham, Roseanna (Perthshire South and Kinross-shire) (SNP)
Denham, Ash (Edinburgh Eastern) (SNP)
Dey, Graeme (Angus South) (SNP)
Doris, Bob (Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn) (SNP)
Dornan, James (Glasgow Cathcart) (SNP)
Ewing, Annabelle (Cowdenbeath) (SNP)
Ewing, Fergus (Inverness and Nairn) (SNP)
Fabiani, Linda (East Kilbride) (SNP)
FitzPatrick, Joe (Dundee City West) (SNP)
Forbes, Kate (Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch) (SNP)
Fraser, Murdo (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Freeman, Jeane (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley) (SNP)
Gibson, Kenneth (Cunninghame North) (SNP)
Gilruth, Jenny (Mid Fife and Glenrothes) (SNP)
Golden, Maurice (West Scotland) (Con)
Gougeon, Mairi (Angus North and Mearns) (SNP)
Greene, Jamie (West Scotland) (Con)
Hamilton, Rachael (Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire) (Con)
Harper, Emma (South Scotland) (SNP)
Harris, Alison (Central Scotland) (Con)
Haughey, Clare (Rutherglen) (SNP)
Kerr, Liam (North East Scotland) (Con)
Kidd, Bill (Glasgow Anniesland) (SNP)
Lindhurst, Gordon (Lothian) (Con)
Lochhead, Richard (Moray) (SNP)
Lockhart, Dean (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Lyle, Richard (Uddingston and Bellshill) (SNP)
MacDonald, Angus (Falkirk East) (SNP)
MacDonald, Gordon (Edinburgh Pentlands) (SNP)
MacGregor, Fulton (Coatbridge and Chryston) (SNP)
Mackay, Derek (Renfrewshire North and West) (SNP)
Mackay, Rona (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP)
Macpherson, Ben (Edinburgh Northern and Leith) (SNP)
Maguire, Ruth (Cunninghame South) (SNP)
Martin, Gillian (Aberdeenshire East) (SNP)
Mason, John (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)
McAlpine, Joan (South Scotland) (SNP)
McArthur, Liam (Orkney Islands) (LD)
McKee, Ivan (Glasgow Provan) (SNP)
McKelvie, Christina (Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse) (SNP)
Mountain, Edward (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Neil, Alex (Airdrie and Shotts) (SNP)
Paterson, Gil (Clydebank and Milngavie) (SNP)
Rennie, Willie (North East Fife) (LD)
Robison, Shona (Dundee City East) (SNP)
Ross, Gail (Caithness, Sutherland and Ross) (SNP)
Rumbles, Mike (North East Scotland) (LD)
Scott, John (Ayr) (Con)
Simpson, Graham (Central Scotland) (Con)
Smith, Liz (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Stevenson, Stewart (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)
Stewart, Alexander (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Stewart, Kevin (Aberdeen Central) (SNP)
Todd, Maree (Highlands and Islands) (SNP)
Tomkins, Adam (Glasgow) (Con)
Torrance, David (Kirkcaldy) (SNP)
Watt, Maureen (Aberdeen South and North Kincardine) (SNP)
Wheelhouse, Paul (South Scotland) (SNP)
Whittle, Brian (South Scotland) (Con)
Yousaf, Humza (Glasgow Pollok) (SNP)

The Deputy Presiding Officer

The result of the division is: For 27, Against 78, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 1 disagreed to.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Amendment 2, in the name of Mark Griffin, is in a group on its own.

Mark Griffin (Central Scotland) (Lab)

Amendment 2 is the same as the amendment that I submitted at stage 2 and withdrew with the agreement of the committee. As I explained then, I am seeking to reduce the prescription period for reserved and DWP debts to five years. The amendment removes the exception to the five-year rule that the Government wishes to pursue. To be clear—something that was missing earlier today—that would not consolidate the debt-recovery process into five years; it would mean that recovery must begin in those five years.

Not only is my amendment 2 consistent with the Scottish Law Commission’s original principle that all debts should be covered by a five-year rule, but it would put the rules in line with debts that are owed to Social Security Scotland under our new system that is built on dignity and respect. In their joint briefing in support of my amendment, Citizens Advice Scotland, Money Advice Scotland and StepChange explained that, if it is passed in its current form today, the Prescription (Scotland) Bill will afford the DWP a more privileged status to recover debts than Social Security Scotland.

Given that DWP debts do not have an explicit place in the Prescription and Limitation (Scotland) Act 1973, the Government’s exceptions mean that Scots law would go further and explicitly extend the powers of the DWP. The DWP may implicitly rely on paragraph 2(a) of schedule 1 to the 1973 act, but to explicitly spell out new rights excepting it from the five-year rule would go further.

I am sure that that is not the intention of this chamber or our desired policy outcome, which is why I am asking members to support my amendment. At stage 2, I asked the minister what the Scottish Government’s view was on treating DWP debt in the same way that we will treat debt in Scotland. The minister’s response was that it was a matter for the DWP and that this bill is not the place to change that.

That is patently wrong. This is the Prescription (Scotland) Bill in the devolved Scottish Parliament; this is precisely where we change it. It is for this Parliament to decide on our own laws governing debt collection, and not for the DWP to dictate a timescale and the Government passively to accept that demand.

The minister told the committee repeatedly, whole-heartedly relying on the DWP’s evidence, that it was the DWP’s view that a five-year rule would cause hardship through over-zealous and rapid recovery. Since then, the minister has written to Esther McVey of the Tory Government, of all people, for answers to the points that I made at that stage 2 meeting. That is unbelievable. The minister is either looking for the DWP to tell her whether she should support the five-year rule, or she is looking for the DWP to tell MSPs that they are wrong.

Ash Denham

The reason why the Scottish Government was seeking clarity on some of the issues was because Mark Griffin had said that he thought that the amendments would affect only a very small number of people. The reality is that the number is 413,000. What does Mark Griffin have to say to that?

Mark Griffin

That was a good answer from Esther McVey that the minister read out. It is clear that the Scottish Government does not know why it opposes Labour’s amendment; it is only doing what Esther McVey tells it. However, the DWP’s assertion that it would need to collect all debts within the five years is wrong. It is built on a misconception of both the bill and how the five-year rule works.

Even if this bill passes unmodified, the DWP has a plethora of tools for collecting debts—and believe me, it does that. Earnings and bank attachments, deductions from live benefits and even seizures are used in some way or another before the DWP relies on a court process. As Citizens Advice Scotland reiterates, if the debt is called or acknowledged, or even a single payment is made using those recovery mechanisms, that five-year window restarts up to the hard 20-year limit that this bill will introduce.

16:15  

At stage 2, I told the Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee that the DWP should get its house in order. If it is doing its job and paying people the right benefits, it can surely recover debts in a timeous fashion. It is wrong for the DWP to wait years to chase up its debts or for it be given another 15 years to do so. Should it not have its house in order and collect those debts within five years?

We know that the DWP would prefer to recover debts through its reserved powers, not through a court decree or document of debt. However, if it did exercise its right under amendment 2 it would have five years to take action. That is far more reasonable than 20 years and, crucially, it is in line with the position of this Parliament and our own Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018. In May, the then Minister for Social Security said:

“If Parliament’s view is that five years is generally a fair and equitable period to allow for the recovery of debts, the Scottish Government’s view is that it fits best with the aim of treating people with dignity and respect by that general rule. Where there has been an overpayment, people should expect the agency to act promptly in deciding whether to recover it.”

Surely, given that Parliament agreed accordingly in April, the same principle applies to DWP debts.

This debate is in stark contrast to Tuesday’s debate. Just two days ago, the whole chamber, apart from the Tories, collectively condemned the United Kingdom Government, and the DWP in particular, for their handling of universal credit and the misery and poverty that it is causing. Today, the Scottish Government is doing the bidding of the DWP and the Tory Government—the DWP and the Tory Government of the rape clause, the two-child limit, the benefits freeze, sanctions, the bedroom tax and everything else—by imposing far longer periods for the recovery of reserved social security debts than the Scottish social security agency has.

I move amendment 2.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Before I call Tom Arthur, I remind members that if they want to speak to an amendment, it is helpful if they press their request-to-speak buttons as soon as we move on to that amendment.

Tom Arthur

The arguments put forward by Mr Griffin are almost identical to those that he put forward at stage 2. As I said at that stage, and as I said to Neil Findlay this afternoon, I am sympathetic to the motives and the intentions, but clearly there is a concern for unintended consequences, given that he is referring to reserved benefits. I asked Mr Griffin at stage 2 what engagement he had had with the DWP in order to clarify the position. His answer was “none”. I ask him what work he has done ahead of stage 3 to clarify the point because, ultimately, there is a danger of unintended consequences and it is our responsibility and duty as legislators to fully investigate those matters.

Neil Findlay rose—

Mark Griffin rose—

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Have you concluded?

Tom Arthur

I have concluded.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

I am sorry—the member has concluded so he cannot take interventions. I call the minister.

Ash Denham

I begin by reiterating that the aim of the bill is not a fundamental reform of the law of negative prescription but rather to fix problems that have arisen in practice. The amendment that Mark Griffin has lodged departs from the status quo.

I listened to the speech that Mark Griffin made in the chamber on Tuesday, in which he urged MSPs to act to help people who are suffering. However, his amendment changes the length of time in which the DWP can recover overpayments of reserved benefit, reducing it from the current 20 years to five years. Why does that matter? It matters because it would force the DWP to take debtors to court so that they can have the same amount of time that they already have under the current system.

In terms of the potential impact, the value of debt owed to the DWP that is more than five years old stands at just over £1.2 billion, and it belongs to 413,000 debtors. For those who can pay off their debts, but only in periods of time over the five-year mark—for example, in six, seven, eight or more years—Mark Griffin’s amendment would have an enormous impact. It would make a large number of families face even more hardship. That is especially so given that the rate of deductions taken from benefits is set out in legislation and other debts can take priority.

It was only on Tuesday that Mark Griffin talked about the growing number of arrears as a result of universal credit. The amendment will mean that debtors not only will have to pay off their debt but may have the extra expense of legal proceedings over and above the original sum. They will also have to pay an annual judicial rate of interest of 8 per cent. To put that into context, the current UK base rate of interest is 0.75 per cent. Not only that, the debtor will then have a mark on their credit score that will affect their ability to gain credit in the future.

Writing about wider income pressures, the head of advocacy at the Carnegie UK Trust, Douglas White, recently pointed out that, for many people, credit is something to be relied on as part of normal life. As a result of Mark Griffin’s proposed changes, debtors may find it more difficult to pay for unexpected bills.

Johann Lamont rose—

Ash Denham

Mark Griffin has suggested that it is unfair to have a debt hanging over someone’s head for 18 years before the DWP takes action. Does he not realise that Scots common law recognises the doctrine of delay? That law sits alongside negative prescription but is separate from it, and the bill does not affect it. That means that, if a pursuer were to wait 18 years before raising an action, as he suggested, the debtor would be able to rely on that defence to bar a pursuer from enforcing their rights.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Excuse me, a minute.

Ms Lamont, when the member is not taking an intervention, please resume your seat. [Interruption.] She is not taking an intervention. She has waved you away. Minister, are you taking an intervention?

Ash Denham

No.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Ms Lamont, please resume your seat. [Interruption.] I have asked you to resume your seat, politely. Thank you. Minister, please continue.

Ash Denham

Mark Griffin is trying to alter the behaviour of the DWP by changing the period of prescription from 20 years to the shorter period of five years but—this is the important point, so members may wish to listen to this—without fully understanding and taking cognisance of the unintended consequences. There has been no widespread public consultation on what the amendment would mean.

Neil Findlay

Does the minister think that Citizens Advice Scotland would have put forward that case if what she says is correct? Does she think that the Govan Law Centre, the Law Society of Scotland and StepChange would have done so? The minister is wrong and she knows it. She is trying to blank out all the advice that they have had from the money agencies.

Ash Denham

The Scottish ministers are not in control of the policies and processes of reserved benefits. I had assumed that that would be clear to the Labour Party. Am I a fan of universal credit? No, I am not, and I am on record saying that. However, is this bill the place to make changes to try to control that?

Members: Yes.

Ash Denham

No, it is not. I assure members that I have the debtor firmly in my mind as I think about this issue. When I say that the unintended consequences of the amendment are very likely to increase hardship, I ask members to please take consideration of that.

Neil Findlay

Go and sit over there with the Conservatives!

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Mr Findlay. [Interruption.] Minister, please sit down.

This is a very passionate debate, which I understand. However, I want courtesy. We have an interventions system, and it is up to the member whether they wish to take an intervention. I do not want shouting across the chamber; it does nobody any good service.

Minister, please. You will have to conclude.

Ash Denham

Thank you, Presiding Officer.

Amendment 2 would have unintended consequences, which could be extremely far reaching. After all, it seems like common sense that, if a person is told that they will have more time to recover a debt if they take out court action, that will result in more court actions. The bill is intended to bring clarity to this area of the law. Accepting the amendment would create uncertainty, which is highly undesirable. For those reasons, I urge Mark Griffin not to press the amendment.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

I call Mark Griffin to wind up and press or withdraw amendment 2.

Mark Griffin

I say in answer to Tom Arthur’s question that I looked carefully at the DWP’s evidence. I also looked carefully at the evidence from Citizens Advice Scotland, StepChange, Money Advice Scotland, the Govan Law Centre and members who gave evidence. The key is that, after reading that evidence, I came to the informed position that I have now. I will press the amendment. The difference between the Labour side and the Government side is that I have come to my own conclusion and I am not reading from a DWP script.

Amendment 2 would mean that recovery action would have to be taken within five years for reserved DWP debts. If any action was taken to recover debt within that five years, that five-year period would then extend another five years from the point of collection. If a single payment was made, the clock would start again for another five years. If an acknowledgement is made of the debt, the five-year clock starts again on another five years to collection, all up to a hard limit of a total of 20 years as set out in the bill. That seems to be a sensible position to take. It is the position that Parliament took in relation to Social Security Scotland debts, and the Government’s reasoning for that at the time was that it was considered to give people dignity and respect and the ability to challenge decisions.

From our extensive casework, we know that there are many occasions on which the DWP makes overpayments to people through agency error. Where is the ability for someone to look back 20 years to challenge a DWP decision on overpayment and see whether it was their fault or the agency’s fault? Who keeps records for 20 years?

I urge members to support amendment 2 for the reasons that I have set out and for the reasons that have been set out by the Govan Law Centre, Citizens Advice Scotland, Money Advice Scotland, StepChange and a whole range of public debt advocates. I urge members to reject the DWP arguments that the minister has brought to the chamber today.

I will press amendment 2.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

The question is, that amendment 2 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members: No.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

There will be a division.

For

Baillie, Jackie (Dumbarton) (Lab)
Baker, Claire (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)
Beamish, Claudia (South Scotland) (Lab)
Bibby, Neil (West Scotland) (Lab)
Dugdale, Kezia (Lothian) (Lab)
Fee, Mary (West Scotland) (Lab)
Findlay, Neil (Lothian) (Lab)
Finnie, John (Highlands and Islands) (Green)
Grant, Rhoda (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)
Gray, Iain (East Lothian) (Lab)
Greer, Ross (West Scotland) (Green)
Griffin, Mark (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Harvie, Patrick (Glasgow) (Green)
Johnson, Daniel (Edinburgh Southern) (Lab)
Johnstone, Alison (Lothian) (Green)
Kelly, James (Glasgow) (Lab)
Lamont, Johann (Glasgow) (Lab)
Lennon, Monica (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Leonard, Richard (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Macdonald, Lewis (North East Scotland) (Lab)
Marra, Jenny (North East Scotland) (Lab)
McDonald, Mark (Aberdeen Donside) (Ind)
McNeill, Pauline (Glasgow) (Lab)
Rowley, Alex (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)
Ruskell, Mark (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Green)
Smith, Elaine (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Smyth, Colin (South Scotland) (Lab)
Stewart, David (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)
Wightman, Andy (Lothian) (Green)

Against

Adam, George (Paisley) (SNP)
Adamson, Clare (Motherwell and Wishaw) (SNP)
Allan, Alasdair (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP)
Arthur, Tom (Renfrewshire South) (SNP)
Ballantyne, Michelle (South Scotland) (Con)
Beattie, Colin (Midlothian North and Musselburgh) (SNP)
Bowman, Bill (North East Scotland) (Con)
Briggs, Miles (Lothian) (Con)
Brown, Keith (Clackmannanshire and Dunblane) (SNP)
Burnett, Alexander (Aberdeenshire West) (Con)
Cameron, Donald (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Campbell, Aileen (Clydesdale) (SNP)
Carlaw, Jackson (Eastwood) (Con)
Carson, Finlay (Galloway and West Dumfries) (Con)
Chapman, Peter (North East Scotland) (Con)
Coffey, Willie (Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley) (SNP)
Cole-Hamilton, Alex (Edinburgh Western) (LD)
Corry, Maurice (West Scotland) (Con)
Crawford, Bruce (Stirling) (SNP)
Cunningham, Roseanna (Perthshire South and Kinross-shire) (SNP)
Denham, Ash (Edinburgh Eastern) (SNP)
Dey, Graeme (Angus South) (SNP)
Doris, Bob (Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn) (SNP)
Dornan, James (Glasgow Cathcart) (SNP)
Ewing, Annabelle (Cowdenbeath) (SNP)
Ewing, Fergus (Inverness and Nairn) (SNP)
Fabiani, Linda (East Kilbride) (SNP)
FitzPatrick, Joe (Dundee City West) (SNP)
Forbes, Kate (Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch) (SNP)
Fraser, Murdo (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Freeman, Jeane (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley) (SNP)
Gibson, Kenneth (Cunninghame North) (SNP)
Gilruth, Jenny (Mid Fife and Glenrothes) (SNP)
Golden, Maurice (West Scotland) (Con)
Gougeon, Mairi (Angus North and Mearns) (SNP)
Greene, Jamie (West Scotland) (Con)
Hamilton, Rachael (Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire) (Con)
Harper, Emma (South Scotland) (SNP)
Harris, Alison (Central Scotland) (Con)
Haughey, Clare (Rutherglen) (SNP)
Kerr, Liam (North East Scotland) (Con)
Kidd, Bill (Glasgow Anniesland) (SNP)
Lindhurst, Gordon (Lothian) (Con)
Lochhead, Richard (Moray) (SNP)
Lockhart, Dean (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Lyle, Richard (Uddingston and Bellshill) (SNP)
MacDonald, Angus (Falkirk East) (SNP)
MacDonald, Gordon (Edinburgh Pentlands) (SNP)
MacGregor, Fulton (Coatbridge and Chryston) (SNP)
Mackay, Derek (Renfrewshire North and West) (SNP)
Mackay, Rona (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP)
Macpherson, Ben (Edinburgh Northern and Leith) (SNP)
Maguire, Ruth (Cunninghame South) (SNP)
Martin, Gillian (Aberdeenshire East) (SNP)
Mason, John (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)
McAlpine, Joan (South Scotland) (SNP)
McArthur, Liam (Orkney Islands) (LD)
McKee, Ivan (Glasgow Provan) (SNP)
McKelvie, Christina (Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse) (SNP)
Mountain, Edward (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Mundell, Oliver (Dumfriesshire) (Con)
Neil, Alex (Airdrie and Shotts) (SNP)
Paterson, Gil (Clydebank and Milngavie) (SNP)
Rennie, Willie (North East Fife) (LD)
Robison, Shona (Dundee City East) (SNP)
Ross, Gail (Caithness, Sutherland and Ross) (SNP)
Rumbles, Mike (North East Scotland) (LD)
Scott, John (Ayr) (Con)
Scott, Tavish (Shetland Islands) (LD)
Simpson, Graham (Central Scotland) (Con)
Smith, Liz (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Stevenson, Stewart (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)
Stewart, Alexander (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Stewart, Kevin (Aberdeen Central) (SNP)
Todd, Maree (Highlands and Islands) (SNP)
Tomkins, Adam (Glasgow) (Con)
Torrance, David (Kirkcaldy) (SNP)
Watt, Maureen (Aberdeen South and North Kincardine) (SNP)
Wheelhouse, Paul (South Scotland) (SNP)
Whittle, Brian (South Scotland) (Con)
Yousaf, Humza (Glasgow Pollok) (SNP)

The Deputy Presiding Officer

The result of the division is: For 29, Against 81, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 2 disagreed to.

Amendment 3 moved—[Neil Findlay].

The Deputy Presiding Officer

The question is, that amendment 3 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members: No.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

There will be a division.

For

Baillie, Jackie (Dumbarton) (Lab)
Baker, Claire (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)
Beamish, Claudia (South Scotland) (Lab)
Bibby, Neil (West Scotland) (Lab)
Dugdale, Kezia (Lothian) (Lab)
Fee, Mary (West Scotland) (Lab)
Findlay, Neil (Lothian) (Lab)
Finnie, John (Highlands and Islands) (Green)
Grant, Rhoda (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)
Gray, Iain (East Lothian) (Lab)
Greer, Ross (West Scotland) (Green)
Griffin, Mark (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Harvie, Patrick (Glasgow) (Green)
Johnson, Daniel (Edinburgh Southern) (Lab)
Johnstone, Alison (Lothian) (Green)
Kelly, James (Glasgow) (Lab)
Lamont, Johann (Glasgow) (Lab)
Lennon, Monica (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Leonard, Richard (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Macdonald, Lewis (North East Scotland) (Lab)
Marra, Jenny (North East Scotland) (Lab)
McDonald, Mark (Aberdeen Donside) (Ind)
McNeill, Pauline (Glasgow) (Lab)
Rowley, Alex (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)
Ruskell, Mark (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Green)
Smith, Elaine (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Smyth, Colin (South Scotland) (Lab)
Stewart, David (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)
Wightman, Andy (Lothian) (Green)

Against

Adam, George (Paisley) (SNP)
Adamson, Clare (Motherwell and Wishaw) (SNP)
Allan, Alasdair (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP)
Arthur, Tom (Renfrewshire South) (SNP)
Ballantyne, Michelle (South Scotland) (Con)
Beattie, Colin (Midlothian North and Musselburgh) (SNP)
Bowman, Bill (North East Scotland) (Con)
Briggs, Miles (Lothian) (Con)
Brown, Keith (Clackmannanshire and Dunblane) (SNP)
Burnett, Alexander (Aberdeenshire West) (Con)
Cameron, Donald (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Campbell, Aileen (Clydesdale) (SNP)
Carlaw, Jackson (Eastwood) (Con)
Carson, Finlay (Galloway and West Dumfries) (Con)
Chapman, Peter (North East Scotland) (Con)
Coffey, Willie (Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley) (SNP)
Cole-Hamilton, Alex (Edinburgh Western) (LD)
Corry, Maurice (West Scotland) (Con)
Crawford, Bruce (Stirling) (SNP)
Cunningham, Roseanna (Perthshire South and Kinross-shire) (SNP)
Denham, Ash (Edinburgh Eastern) (SNP)
Dey, Graeme (Angus South) (SNP)
Doris, Bob (Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn) (SNP)
Dornan, James (Glasgow Cathcart) (SNP)
Ewing, Annabelle (Cowdenbeath) (SNP)
Ewing, Fergus (Inverness and Nairn) (SNP)
Fabiani, Linda (East Kilbride) (SNP)
FitzPatrick, Joe (Dundee City West) (SNP)
Forbes, Kate (Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch) (SNP)
Fraser, Murdo (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Freeman, Jeane (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley) (SNP)
Gibson, Kenneth (Cunninghame North) (SNP)
Gilruth, Jenny (Mid Fife and Glenrothes) (SNP)
Golden, Maurice (West Scotland) (Con)
Gougeon, Mairi (Angus North and Mearns) (SNP)
Greene, Jamie (West Scotland) (Con)
Hamilton, Rachael (Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire) (Con)
Harper, Emma (South Scotland) (SNP)
Harris, Alison (Central Scotland) (Con)
Haughey, Clare (Rutherglen) (SNP)
Kerr, Liam (North East Scotland) (Con)
Kidd, Bill (Glasgow Anniesland) (SNP)
Lindhurst, Gordon (Lothian) (Con)
Lochhead, Richard (Moray) (SNP)
Lockhart, Dean (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Lyle, Richard (Uddingston and Bellshill) (SNP)
MacDonald, Angus (Falkirk East) (SNP)
MacDonald, Gordon (Edinburgh Pentlands) (SNP)
MacGregor, Fulton (Coatbridge and Chryston) (SNP)
Mackay, Derek (Renfrewshire North and West) (SNP)
Mackay, Rona (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP)
Macpherson, Ben (Edinburgh Northern and Leith) (SNP)
Maguire, Ruth (Cunninghame South) (SNP)
Martin, Gillian (Aberdeenshire East) (SNP)
Mason, John (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)
McAlpine, Joan (South Scotland) (SNP)
McArthur, Liam (Orkney Islands) (LD)
McKee, Ivan (Glasgow Provan) (SNP)
McKelvie, Christina (Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse) (SNP)
Mountain, Edward (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Mundell, Oliver (Dumfriesshire) (Con)
Neil, Alex (Airdrie and Shotts) (SNP)
Paterson, Gil (Clydebank and Milngavie) (SNP)
Rennie, Willie (North East Fife) (LD)
Robison, Shona (Dundee City East) (SNP)
Ross, Gail (Caithness, Sutherland and Ross) (SNP)
Rumbles, Mike (North East Scotland) (LD)
Scott, John (Ayr) (Con)
Scott, Tavish (Shetland Islands) (LD)
Simpson, Graham (Central Scotland) (Con)
Smith, Liz (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Stevenson, Stewart (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)
Stewart, Alexander (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Stewart, Kevin (Aberdeen Central) (SNP)
Todd, Maree (Highlands and Islands) (SNP)
Tomkins, Adam (Glasgow) (Con)
Torrance, David (Kirkcaldy) (SNP)
Watt, Maureen (Aberdeen South and North Kincardine) (SNP)
Wheelhouse, Paul (South Scotland) (SNP)
Whittle, Brian (South Scotland) (Con)
Yousaf, Humza (Glasgow Pollok) (SNP)

The Deputy Presiding Officer

The result of the division is: For 29, Against 81, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 3 disagreed to.

Amendment 4 moved—[Neil Findlay].

The Deputy Presiding Officer

The question is, that amendment 4 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members: No.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

There will be a division.

For

Baillie, Jackie (Dumbarton) (Lab)
Baker, Claire (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)
Beamish, Claudia (South Scotland) (Lab)
Bibby, Neil (West Scotland) (Lab)
Dugdale, Kezia (Lothian) (Lab)
Fee, Mary (West Scotland) (Lab)
Findlay, Neil (Lothian) (Lab)
Finnie, John (Highlands and Islands) (Green)
Grant, Rhoda (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)
Gray, Iain (East Lothian) (Lab)
Greer, Ross (West Scotland) (Green)
Griffin, Mark (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Harvie, Patrick (Glasgow) (Green)
Johnson, Daniel (Edinburgh Southern) (Lab)
Johnstone, Alison (Lothian) (Green)
Kelly, James (Glasgow) (Lab)
Lamont, Johann (Glasgow) (Lab)
Lennon, Monica (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Leonard, Richard (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Macdonald, Lewis (North East Scotland) (Lab)
Marra, Jenny (North East Scotland) (Lab)
McDonald, Mark (Aberdeen Donside) (Ind)
McNeill, Pauline (Glasgow) (Lab)
Rowley, Alex (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)
Ruskell, Mark (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Green)
Smith, Elaine (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Smyth, Colin (South Scotland) (Lab)
Stewart, David (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)
Wightman, Andy (Lothian) (Green)

Against

Adam, George (Paisley) (SNP)
Adamson, Clare (Motherwell and Wishaw) (SNP)
Allan, Alasdair (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP)
Arthur, Tom (Renfrewshire South) (SNP)
Ballantyne, Michelle (South Scotland) (Con)
Beattie, Colin (Midlothian North and Musselburgh) (SNP)
Bowman, Bill (North East Scotland) (Con)
Briggs, Miles (Lothian) (Con)
Brown, Keith (Clackmannanshire and Dunblane) (SNP)
Burnett, Alexander (Aberdeenshire West) (Con)
Cameron, Donald (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Campbell, Aileen (Clydesdale) (SNP)
Carlaw, Jackson (Eastwood) (Con)
Carson, Finlay (Galloway and West Dumfries) (Con)
Chapman, Peter (North East Scotland) (Con)
Coffey, Willie (Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley) (SNP)
Cole-Hamilton, Alex (Edinburgh Western) (LD)
Corry, Maurice (West Scotland) (Con)
Crawford, Bruce (Stirling) (SNP)
Cunningham, Roseanna (Perthshire South and Kinross-shire) (SNP)
Denham, Ash (Edinburgh Eastern) (SNP)
Dey, Graeme (Angus South) (SNP)
Doris, Bob (Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn) (SNP)
Dornan, James (Glasgow Cathcart) (SNP)
Ewing, Annabelle (Cowdenbeath) (SNP)
Ewing, Fergus (Inverness and Nairn) (SNP)
Fabiani, Linda (East Kilbride) (SNP)
FitzPatrick, Joe (Dundee City West) (SNP)
Forbes, Kate (Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch) (SNP)
Fraser, Murdo (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Freeman, Jeane (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley) (SNP)
Gibson, Kenneth (Cunninghame North) (SNP)
Gilruth, Jenny (Mid Fife and Glenrothes) (SNP)
Golden, Maurice (West Scotland) (Con)
Gougeon, Mairi (Angus North and Mearns) (SNP)
Greene, Jamie (West Scotland) (Con)
Hamilton, Rachael (Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire) (Con)
Harper, Emma (South Scotland) (SNP)
Harris, Alison (Central Scotland) (Con)
Haughey, Clare (Rutherglen) (SNP)
Kerr, Liam (North East Scotland) (Con)
Kidd, Bill (Glasgow Anniesland) (SNP)
Lindhurst, Gordon (Lothian) (Con)
Lochhead, Richard (Moray) (SNP)
Lockhart, Dean (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Lyle, Richard (Uddingston and Bellshill) (SNP)
MacDonald, Angus (Falkirk East) (SNP)
MacDonald, Gordon (Edinburgh Pentlands) (SNP)
MacGregor, Fulton (Coatbridge and Chryston) (SNP)
Mackay, Derek (Renfrewshire North and West) (SNP)
Mackay, Rona (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP)
Macpherson, Ben (Edinburgh Northern and Leith) (SNP)
Maguire, Ruth (Cunninghame South) (SNP)
Martin, Gillian (Aberdeenshire East) (SNP)
Mason, John (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)
McAlpine, Joan (South Scotland) (SNP)
McArthur, Liam (Orkney Islands) (LD)
McKee, Ivan (Glasgow Provan) (SNP)
McKelvie, Christina (Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse) (SNP)
Mountain, Edward (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Mundell, Oliver (Dumfriesshire) (Con)
Neil, Alex (Airdrie and Shotts) (SNP)
Paterson, Gil (Clydebank and Milngavie) (SNP)
Rennie, Willie (North East Fife) (LD)
Robison, Shona (Dundee City East) (SNP)
Ross, Gail (Caithness, Sutherland and Ross) (SNP)
Rumbles, Mike (North East Scotland) (LD)
Scott, John (Ayr) (Con)
Scott, Tavish (Shetland Islands) (LD)
Simpson, Graham (Central Scotland) (Con)
Smith, Liz (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Stevenson, Stewart (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)
Stewart, Alexander (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Stewart, Kevin (Aberdeen Central) (SNP)
Todd, Maree (Highlands and Islands) (SNP)
Tomkins, Adam (Glasgow) (Con)
Torrance, David (Kirkcaldy) (SNP)
Watt, Maureen (Aberdeen South and North Kincardine) (SNP)
Wheelhouse, Paul (South Scotland) (SNP)
Whittle, Brian (South Scotland) (Con)
Yousaf, Humza (Glasgow Pollok) (SNP)

The Deputy Presiding Officer

The result of the division is: For 29, Against 81, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 4 disagreed to.

Amendment 5 not moved.

Amendment 6 not moved.

Section 16—Commencement

Amendment 7 not moved.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

That ends consideration of amendments.

Before we begin the debate on the bill, as members will be aware, at this point in the proceedings the Presiding Officer is required under standing orders to decide whether, in his view, any provision of the bill relates to a protected subject matter—that is, whether it modifies the electoral system and franchise for Scottish Parliament elections. In the case of the Prescription (Scotland) Bill, the Presiding Officer has decided that, in his view, no provision of the bill relates to a protected subject matter, so the bill does not require a supermajority to be passed at stage 3.