|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
On amendment No. 15, I am not sure why the hon. Member for Braintree and others consider it necessary to include a specific provision for dealing with premises where the occupant is known to be a single woman, in
the sense of a woman alone. What about protecting women who are not known to be on their own? The distinction is arbitrary. The process is not intrusive in the way that searches by police officers are. We are talking about a bailiff knocking on the door and presumably, as a rule, seeking walking possession. That is not about personal searches or anything that requires gender-specific treatment, so we think there is no need for the amendment. The training requirements will include training in how to identify and deal with vulnerable and potentially vulnerable debtors.
After consultation, and if it is considered appropriate, regulations made under paragraph 24 of schedule 12 will reflect those parts of the national standards that state that, on discovering that the only person on the premises is a child, the enforcement agent should withdraw immediately, without making further inquiries. If those regulations were breached, remedies would be available under paragraph 66 of the schedule. That would put that part of the national standards into a higher, more immediate category, and a separate code of conduct and separate responsibilities to comply with the code would therefore become unnecessary.
Our proposals go beyond what amendment No. 41 is designed to achieve. In particular, the status of the guidance issued by the Lord Chancellor and the sanctions that would be available if an enforcement agent chose to ignore it are not clear. Concepts such as vulnerability are difficult to put in statutory terms, and generic definitions would make it difficult to predict who would fall into the vulnerable category. What is important is good character, accredited training and getting people who do not behave properly or understand their responsibilities out of the business entirely.
Amendments Nos. 1, 2, 12, 19 and 36 are about exempt goods and are similar to amendments that were debated in Committee. Our intention is that both the general definition of exempt goods and the specific list of goods themselves will be clearly set out in regulations. The hon. Member for Braintree will remember that during the Committee debate, hon. Members suggested a number of goods that, thanks to technical innovation, are now considered to be essential to a debtors livelihood. That made the point that any list put into statute could never be exhaustive because circumstances change.
Furthermore, to change a statute takes a lot of parliamentary time. A regulation made under a statute carries just as much statutory authority: it is the lawnot in exactly the same way, but just as patently as if it were statuteyet it can be refined, tidied up, added to and taken away from far more easily than amending a statute, which would occupy parliamentary time which, to be frank, ought to be occupied by much more high-level matters. Appropriate scrutiny is available for the list, but as I understand it, the hon. Gentlemans concern is not about the contents of the list, but about where the list is putinto which document. Our clear view is that regulation is the right place for it.
The hon. Gentleman will also remember that when an amendment suggesting a list of goods was debated in Committee, we looked at the list in the policy
statement that we issued some time ago stating how we would use the powers in the Bill and found some differences between the two lists. That made the point that if we make a list, someone will have a bright idea about an item that should be added to it. What is proposed in the amendment is far too rigid [ Interruption. ] The hon. Gentleman says, Okay.
I understand that hon. Members have concerns about debating the provisions in advance of seeing the regulations, but the policy statement fills that gap. In paragraphs 133 to 136 of that statement we set out the goods that we currently think should be exempted, and they include tools of the trade.
Under amendment No. 25, a debtor would have to sign a form stating that notice had been received before goods could be taken away. I understand the concern, but it would enable people to thwart efforts to take control of goods by declining to sign the form. That would undermine the remedy, which is quite a good one.
Vera Baird: My hon. Friend says that, but my response to his amendment No. 69, which would oblige post to be sent by recorded delivery, is that a person could easily thwart the whole process by refusing to sign the receipt for the recorded delivery. Other court notices are not sent by recorded delivery. Ours, at least, will by sent by first-class post, but many such notices are sent by second-class post. On amendments Nos. 16 to 20, a controlled goods agreement can be signed by a person other than the debtor; I think that that is clear.
Mr. Mitchell: I am sorry, but the Minister has given a trivial defence. The letter sent by recorded delivery could contain a large sum of money. No one would know what was is in it until they opened it.
Vera Baird: I did not really want to quibble on this subject, but the fact is that if recipients are knowing debtors, as we envisage they will be, if a recorded delivery letter came along, they would probably be very suspicious of it. The point is that we cannot say whether Mrs. X in Great Grimsby knew what the contents of the recorded delivery letter were, but we can say that refusing to sign for the letter is a sure way of thwarting the whole process. It would not allow us to go ahead with the seizure of goods or walking possession, although I thought that everyone in the Chamber, no matter what their party, thought that that was a desirable remedy that should be usedalbeit with great care, as we have been at pains to set out.
I have dealt with a great many of the other amendments. On amendment No. 26, it is suggested that we should limit the value of the goods to be seized to the value of the debt owed, but that is a difficult line to draw finely. We have said in paragraph 12(1) of schedule 12 that an enforcement agent will take control only of goods that are proportionate to the value of the debt owed, plus any future costs. That seems to us to be the right way forward.
Amendment No. 27 would make a distinction between goods seized on the highway and goods seized in other ways. I have already addressed the principle: we think that the measure would just add confusion and would not improve matters. On the issue of abandoned goodsagain, this is a concern raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsbythe goods have to be sold for the best price. If goods that have been in a legally conducted sale are left unsold, they will be deemed abandoned. That is intended to protect the debtor from an enforcement agent keeping the debtors goods indefinitely until they are eventually sold, possibly after many attempts.
Amendment No. 3 on information sheets is a Liberal Democrat amendment. We will provide a large amount of information, and the information on the sheet proposed by the hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes) is just a very small part of what we will make available. His amendment is, I fear, unclear, but he can rest assured that his aim, which is to ensure that people are entitled to know their rights, will be met. An enforcement agent has to provide a notice before action commences and after entering premises, as the hon. Gentleman knows. That is expressed in schedule 12.
make provision for legal aid to be available where financially necessary
in all actions that are to be brought in the High Court, irrespective of the merits of the application. We just could not tolerate that; as the hon. Gentleman knows, there are merits and means tests for all legal aid applications, so that would be a great crashing change.
I hope that I have reassured hon. Members. We will protect the public and we will ensure that there is good information available to them, so that they know their rights. Part of that process will take place through legislation. I have dealt in detail with most of the amendments in the group, and I hope that hon. Members now feel that they can withdraw them.
Mr. Bellingham: I am grateful to the Minister for her response. She has put my mind at rest on some points, and certainly on exempt goods, tools for trade, and the code of conduct for the vulnerable. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Braintree (Mr. Newmark) for his excellent contribution on the subject of protection of the under-16s and children. The Minister answered many of his points. I should be grateful if she would write to me at some stage about the power to withdraw bailiffs who have been unleashed in cases in which the debtor wants to seek relief from a disproportionate fine at a magistrates court. I do not expect a reply now, as we want to get on, but I would be grateful if she wrote to me in due course.
I am concerned that the Minister has not given us a favourable or satisfactory response to amendment No. 10, which we have discussed at great length. I believe that we have won the argument, so it is my wish to press the amendment to a vote.
the Due Diligence Guidelines for Museums, Libraries and Archives on Collecting and Borrowing Cultural Material published from time to time by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport in relation to that object and.
(including provenance and if appropriate ownership) on a public register for the purpose of inviting any person who asserts a claim to that object to raise an objection to its inclusion in the exhibition within a specified period..
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|