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Clause 54

deputy, and temporary additional, masters etc.

Amendments made: No. 43, page 41, line 37, leave out ‘and (3)’ and insert ‘to (3B)’.

No. 44, page 41, line 38, leave out subsection (2) and insert—

‘(2) In subsection (1)—

(a) for “the Lord Chief Justice, after consulting the Lord Chancellor,” substitute “the Lord Chancellor”, and

(b) for “the Lord Chief Justice may, after consulting the Lord Chancellor,” substitute “the Lord Chancellor may”.’.

No. 45, page 41, line 39, leave out subsection (3) and insert—

‘(3) After subsection (1) insert—

“(1ZA) The Lord Chancellor may not appoint a holder of relevant office under subsection (1) without the concurrence of the Lord Chief Justice.

(1ZB) Section 85 of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 (selection of certain office holders) does not apply to an appointment to which subsection (1ZA) applies.

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(1ZC) In this section a “holder of relevant office” means a person who holds, or has held within two years ending with the date when his appointment under this section takes effect—

(a) any office listed in column 1 of Part 2 or 3 of Schedule 2, or

(b) the office of district judge.”’.

No. 46, page 42, line 7, at end insert—

‘(3A) For subsection (3) substitute—

“(3) An appointment under this section may extend until the day on which a person attains the age of seventy-five years if it is an appointment of a holder of relevant office.”

(3B) In subsection (7) for “subsection (1)” substitute “subsection (1ZA)”.

(3C) In section 92(1) of the Supreme Court Act 1981 (c. 54) after “this section” insert “, to section 91(3)”.’.

No. 47, page 42, line 8, leave out ‘3’ and insert ‘2’.

No. 48, page 42, line 10, leave out from ‘entry’ to ‘, insert’ in line 12 and insert

No. 49, page 42, line 13, leave out ‘Section 91(1ZA) of the Supreme Court Act 1981’ and insert

No. 50, page 42, line 20, leave out subsections (5) and (6).— [Vera Baird.]

Clause 57

enforcement by taking control of goods

Mr. Bellingham: I beg to move amendment No. 10, page 43, line 28, at end insert—

‘(2A) The Lord Chancellor shall issue National Standards or other guidance requiring enforcement agents and those acting on their behalf not to act oppressively or disproportionately with regards to vulnerable and other persons.’.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments:

No. 68, in clause 59, page 44, line 36 , at end insert—

‘(h) requiring enforcement agents to work subject to a published contract when enforcing court fines, council tax and non-domestic rate arrears and road traffic debts.’.

No. 8, in clause 84, page 53 , leave out lines 13 to 15.

No. 11, in Schedule 12, page 205, line 27, at end insert—

‘(5) In exercising any of their powers or duties under this procedure enforcement agents and any persons authorised to act on their behalf shall act in accordance with National Standards and any guidance issued by the Lord Chancellor.’.

No. 1, page 206, line 16, after ‘means’, insert—

‘(a) ’.

No. 2, page 206, line 17, at end insert—

‘(b) such tools, books, vehicles and other items of equipment as are necessary to the debtor for use personally by him in his employment, business or vocation;

(c) such clothing, bedding, furniture, household equipment and provisions as are necessary for satisfying the basic domestic needs of the debtor and his family;

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(d) money where an enforcement agent has reasonable cause to believe that this would be necessary for the immediate domestic needs of the debtor and his family;

(e) domestic pets;’.

No. 19, page 206, line 17, at end insert—

‘(b) goods that fall within paragraph 4A(1);’.

No. 13, page 206, line 31, at end insert—

3A (1) The Secretary of State shall issue a code of conduct to ensure that the poor, vulnerable and socially excluded are protected from disproportionate enforcement.

(2) Enforcement agents, courts, creditors and others with responsibility for an enforcement action shall comply with the code of conduct.’.

No. 41, page 206, line 31, at end insert—

No. 12, page 207, line 3, at end insert—

‘4A (1) The following fall into the definition of exempt goods so as to preclude seizure of—

(a) any goods which are fixtures or fittings attached to the premises including goods which are plumbed in or connected to water, fuel or power supplies,

(b) domestic animals and animals kept as pets,

(c) guard dogs,

(d) any dog on which a blind person relies,

(e) any animal which is kept for commercial gain, save as allowed through common law and where provision for the welfare of the animal has been arranged in advance,

(f) in the case of domestic dwellings no sum of money of £500 in cash or below,

(g) in the case of domestic dwellings no sum of money which would leave the debtor with less than £500.

(2) In the case of domestic dwellings no sum of money above £500 is to be removed without the civil enforcement officer recording the purpose for which the money is to be used.’.

No. 3, page 207, line 42, at end insert—

6A (1) Her Majesty’s Court Service shall prepare an information sheet to inform debtors of the rights and remedies available to them with respect to an enforcement power.

(2) Regulations must make provision for the information to be included in an information sheet to include—

(a) powers of entry and re-entry;

(b) limits and controls on the power to use reasonable force;

(c) exempt goods;

(d) ways of taking control of goods;

(e) permitted costs and charges;

(f) rights to redress;

(g) how to complain;

(h) how to ask for time to pay;

(i) where to go for advice and assistance.

(3) Regulations must make provision for the form, ordering and prominence of information.

(4) The Lord Chancellor shall consult such persons and bodies he considers appropriate on the content of regulations under this paragraph.’.

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No. 25, page 208, line 2, at end insert—

No. 69, page 208, line 2, at end insert—

No. 36, page 208, line 28, at end insert—

(2) Regulations may clarify, limit or expand the exemptions in subparagraph (1), including but not limited to placing an upper monetary limit on the value of a protected item where necessary.’.

No. 26, page 209, leave out line 6.

No. 38, page 209, line 14, leave out paragraph 13.

No. 27, page 209, line 21, leave out sub-paragraph (2).

No. 20, page 209, line 29, at end insert ‘or other competent person’.

No. 16, page 209, line 34, at end insert—

‘(5) In this paragraph a “competent person” is any person either residing at the relevant premises or working at the relevant premises where these are premises where the debtor carries out trade or business at the time when control is taken, who—

(a) is 18 years of age or over; and

(b) fully understands the consequences of the procedure being carried out.’.

No. 15, page 209, line 34, at end insert—

No. 28, page 213, line 2, at end insert—

No. 70, page 213, line 2, at end insert—

‘(1A) There shall be no enforcement action until notice has been served by recorded delivery mail, and in the event of any failure of delivery, by personal visit by the enforcement agent, acknowledged by the signature of the debtor.’.

No. 29, page 213, line 7, at end insert—

No. 30, page 213, line 12, leave out sub-paragraphs (3) and (4) and insert—

‘(3) The enforcement agent must deliver the notice to any relevant premises in a sealed envelope addressed to the debtor.

(4) Premises are relevant if the enforcement agent reasonably believes that they are the place, or one of the places, where the debtor—

(a) usually lives, or

(b) carries on a trade or business.’.

No. 31, page 213, line 37, leave out ‘Before the end of the minimum period’ and insert—

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No. 32, page 214, line 1, leave out sub-paragraph (2).

No. 40, page 217, line 24, leave out sub-paragraph (2).

No. 7, page 221, line 28, at end insert—

‘(4A) Regulations must make provision for legal aid to be available where financially necessary in all such actions.’.

Government amendments Nos. 64 and 65.

Mr. Bellingham: The amendments relate to enforcement by taking control of goods, and the relevant procedure. I shall say a word about the amendments in my name and that of my hon. Friends. Amendment No. 10 is about protection for vulnerable people. Amendment No. 11 makes it clear that enforcement agents must act in accordance with national standards. Amendment No. 19 is about exempt goods. Amendment No. 13 is about a code of conduct to protect the vulnerable, and is closely related to amendment No. 10. Amendment No. 12 deals with the tools of trade. Amendment No. 3, which is about rights and remedies information, was tabled by the Liberal Democrats but we have signed it. Amendments Nos. 16 and 20 are about the competent persons test. Amendment No. 15 is about protection for the under-16s.

We have heard today about vulnerable groups and the pressure that they may come under. Although the vast majority of bailiffs act correctly and properly and do an excellent job, there are those who do not do such a good job and who abuse their power. We have already debated whether it would appropriate to bring in tougher regulation for those who do abuse their power, but too many cases have come to our attention of bailiffs turning up on the doorsteps of vulnerable people.

4.15 pm

I want to refer to one or two cases that should never have happened. A case in 2001 involved a man from Southwark suffering from serious learning difficulties, who might well have been a constituent of the hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes), and the local council outsourced the collection of the debt to a private bailiff. This man had a council house debt of £235.10, plus the costs of a hearing, and he received a summons, parts of which were highlighted and in bold type. Many such summonses are despatched every day. It said:

That person had no support or help whatever and he ended up committing suicide.

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