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Volume 463: debated on Monday 23 July 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what steps his Department plans to take to ensure that local authorities, magistrates courts and bailiffs (a) are aware of and (b) comply with the 2002 National Standards for Enforcement Agents, with particular reference to page 9, covering vulnerable situations. (150925)

The leaflet “Effective Enforcement—National Standards for Enforcement Agents” was produced with the assistance of and endorsed by industry and Government, including local authorities. The guidance is not legally binding; rather it sets out what the Department, those in the industry and some major users including creditor groups regard as a benchmark for professional standards within enforcement.

Much of the content within the national standards leaflet will now be reflected in the underpinning regulations arising from provisions in the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Bill, which finished its parliamentary passage on 17 July. This will include training requirements for bailiffs for an enhanced and extended certification regime. Agents will be required to have a working knowledge of all the relevant areas of enforcement law and of the national standards in particular how to deal with vulnerable and potentially vulnerable debtors and others present at the premises. This will provide considerable protection for genuinely impoverished and vulnerable debtors.

As part of the development of the underpinning rules and regulations and implementation of the provisions in the Bill HMCS will now be re-engaging with all interested parties. We will use this opportunity to remind the industry including local authorities, magistrates courts and bailiffs themselves of the contents and purpose of the national standards. The outcome of this consultation process will inform the implementation timetable.