We are determined to protect debtors from aggressive behaviour by enforcement agents while balancing that against the need for effective enforcement of debts. We launched a public call for evidence on 25 November to help us to understand the extent of the problem, and it is open until 17 January.
A constituent of mine, John Stevens, lost thousands after he was threatened by bailiffs in connection with his son’s debt, which arose through no fault of his own. My constituent was never told his rights, and there was no independent regulator to which he could appeal. Given that 40% of people contacted by bailiffs are threatened or intimidated, will the Minister take action following the call for evidence to right those wrongs?
I am sorry to hear about the experience of my hon. Friend’s constituent and I am happy to discuss the matter further with him. The 2014 reforms require bailiffs to send a letter before they visit to set out where a debtor can go for advice, but we want to ensure that that mechanism and others are working. We are asking that question in our consultation, so I encourage his constituent to tell us more about his experience in our call for evidence.
I welcome the Government’s call for evidence. Since it was launched, the Minister has said that a small number of bailiffs are breaking the law. The truth is that a YouGov poll shows that a third of people contacted by bailiffs in the past year have experienced law breaking, so this is much more than a small problem. Will the Government therefore change the language and see where the evidence takes them, rather than concluding that a minority of bailiffs are behaving in this way?
It is important to gather the evidence, which is what this consultation will do. As the hon. Lady will know, because she asked a question at the previous Justice questions when the Citizens Advice report had just come out, we want to examine the evidence fully, and we are asking for evidence not just from individuals, but from the enforcement agencies themselves. My officials have asked Citizens Advice for a meeting to discuss the content of the report, which identifies a large amount of inappropriate behaviour.