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Rogue Bailiffs

Volume 649: debated on Tuesday 13 November 2018

The hon. Lady is right to highlight that we need to protect debtors from aggressive behaviour by enforcement agents. I have read the report that Citizens Advice has released today, and I am aware of the issues. We intend to launch a call for evidence before the end of the year to help to protect even further those in debt.

A constituent of mine, who is disabled and vulnerable, was petrified when she thought she was being burgled: two bailiffs aggressively entered her house without showing any ID, rummaged in her bag and took £240 out of her purse. She was made to pay another £180 on top of that. She only learned afterwards that this was due to a parking fine because her disabled badge was out of date. Given the shocking figures from Citizens Advice, which the Minister referred to, showing that a bailiff breaks the rules every minute, when will the Government urgently review the rules and introduce an independent body to police the rules?

I am very sorry to hear about the hon. Lady’s constituent’s situation. I would be very happy to discuss the individual case, as we look at evidence, following the call for evidence. As I have mentioned, we intend to launch the call for evidence before the end of the year, when we will look at these matters very carefully.

In relation to Question 9, Bishop Rachel of Gloucester has called for short-term prison sentences for women to be replaced with community-based rehab—

Order. The hon. Gentleman is ahead of himself. Let me explain to him that Question 9 was not asked, and he cannot shoehorn his inquiry into a question that was not asked. He can shoehorn his inquiry only into a question that has been asked, if it is germane and within scope. I was trying to be helpful to the hon. Gentleman, whose Question 22 is highly unlikely to be reached. I was very happy to accommodate him on an earlier question, on the premise that his supplementary to it is within its scope. Knowing the intellectual ferocity of the hon. Gentleman and the helpful delaying tactic I have just deployed to give him a little time to reflect, I feel sure that he can now produce a wonderful, perfectly formed and very brief inquiry.

22. Thank you, Mr Speaker. In terms of rogue activities, Bishop Rachel has called for community-based rehab for women prisoners; the high cost and the low outcomes for them are not very satisfactory. Does the Minister share my strong support for this proposal, which would reduce the number of rogues in prison and offer an important role for the high-quality rehab work of the Nelson Trust in Gloucester and Stroud? (907524)

That was a very intriguing question on one about bailiffs. This matter is reflected in our female offenders strategy, and I am sure that the Minister responsible, the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, my hon. Friend the Member for Charnwood (Edward Argar), will be very happy to discuss it further with my hon. Friend.

Following on from the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton North East (Emma Reynolds) about the experience of her constituent, 2.2 million people contacted by a bailiff in the past two years have experienced the bailiff pushing the legal limits—my hon. Friend’s constituent experienced that—including forced entry into a home, removing goods needed for work and refusing a reasonable payment plan. The 2014 reforms clearly are not working. Does the Minister not agree that it is time to have an independent bailiff regulator to get a grip on these abuses of justice?

I know that the hon. Lady cares deeply about the matters under discussion and was quoted this morning in relation to them. I recently met Peter Tutton, who is head of policy at StepChange. He made the point about independent regulation and we will consider it in due course.

We reviewed them recently and made a number of proposals to protect vulnerable people. Interestingly, although it criticises enforcement, the Citizens Advice report, which came out this morning, says that the changes we made in 2014 were largely positive.