Twenty Seventh Report Contents

Instruments of interest

Draft Debt Respite Scheme (Breathing Space Moratorium and Mental Health Crisis Moratorium) (England and Wales) Regulations 2020

32.These draft Regulations supersede an earlier instrument which the Committee reported to the House.14 The new draft Regulations correct two drafting errors in the earlier instrument. The policy remains unchanged: the draft Regulations propose a debt respite scheme for people in problem debt who receive professional debt advice. They are to be given a 60-day ‘breathing space’ in which fees, charges and interest are frozen and enforcement action is paused. The instrument also proposes an alternative route by which people receiving mental health crisis treatment may access these protections for the duration of their crisis treatment. We welcome that HM Treasury (HMT) has revised the Explanatory Memorandum, as we requested in our report on the earlier instrument, to provide a fuller explanation of the new scheme. In our report, we also highlighted that, given the large number of people who are under pressure with problem debt and could benefit from the new moratorium and the limited number of people who are authorised to provide professional debt advice, it would be important for people to be given clear and timely advice as to who is qualified to initiate a moratorium. We urged the Government to consider establishing a register of authorised professional debt advisers that may help in directing people to where they can receive the appropriate support. The new draft Regulations do not include proposals for such a register. HMT told us that:

“The Government considered the SLSC’s recommendation on a register of debt advice providers. [The Money and Pensions Service] MaPS’ existing free tools (their Debt Advice Locator Tool, and Money Navigator Tool) have been developed for the purpose of helping to direct people to free money advice that is appropriate for their needs whether they have sought debt advice specifically or support with their finances more generally. MaPS is also supporting the Money Adviser Network to deliver PACE, a pilot scheme to help creditors to direct individuals in financial difficulty to free debt support. MaPS’ provision across these different channels is intended to cater for the specific needs of individuals facing problem debt. The Government considers that these tools will be sufficient but recognises the need, identified by the committee, to make sure that these tools are clearly signposted to those who search for information about the Breathing Space scheme. MaPS, the FCA and Insolvency Service have been consulted on this approach.”

33.We note HMT’s commitment to ensure effective signposting to professional debt advice and the new debt respite scheme: Parliament should be kept informed of the work undertaken to achieve this. We also take the view that HMT should consider bringing forward the launch of the new scheme, currently intended for May 2021: there is a particular urgency as a result of the serious impact the pandemic has had on many people’s income and finances.

Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996 (Code of Practice) Order 2020

34.This Code sets out the way police officers are to record, retain and reveal to the prosecutor material obtained in the course of a criminal investigation. This affirmative instrument is to bring into effect a revised Code that implements the recommendations of the Attorney General’s Review of the efficiency and effectiveness of disclosure in the criminal justice system, which was published in November 2018. The Review found that there are certain items of material that almost always assist the defence and therefore meet the test for disclosure, but which are sometimes not disclosed until there has been significant correspondence and challenge from the defence, wasting time and resources. Revisions to the code therefore introduce a rebuttable presumption that certain types or categories of unused material meet the disclosure test. The opportunity has also been taken to make other amendments designed to improve clarity.

14 Draft Debt Respite Scheme (Breathing Space Moratorium and Mental Health Crisis Moratorium) (England and Wales) Regulations 2020, see: 24th Report, Session 2019-21 (HL 116).

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