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Enforcement Agents: Regulation

Volume 658: debated on Tuesday 23 April 2019

There is no excuse for aggressive tactics by bailiffs. I know that the hon. Lady has worked very hard to highlight the issues that have occurred in her constituency, and I was very grateful for her contribution to a recent Westminster Hall debate. She will know that we have undertaken a call for evidence, which addresses the regulation of the industry. Recently, we were very pleased to see the report of the Justice Committee, and we will respond both to the call for evidence and the Justice Committee’s report in the summer.

I thank the Minister for that answer. It is unacceptable that many people, including the disabled constituent of mine she referred to, have suffered at the hands of aggressive bailiffs, who seem to think that they are above the law. Debt collectors and debt advice charities are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, but bailiffs are an anomaly in all this and do not have independent regulation. I hear what she says about the timetable, but when the Government do respond to the call for evidence and the Justice Committee report, will that include plans for an independent regulator of bailiffs?

As the hon. Lady will know, regulation is one of the questions that we are asking in the call for evidence. We will look at the evidence—we have had quite a lot of evidence submitted—and we will be responding to that point about regulation. The Justice Committee made a number of interesting recommendations and put forward some proposals, and we will of course look at those in due course as well.

I rise as co-chair of the justice unions cross-party group. The number of public sector civilian enforcement officers is less than half what it was four years ago, while private bailiff firms receive millions from the taxpayer every year, and the Government recently admitted wasting almost half a million pounds on their cancelled private bailiff procurement process. When will they admit that privatisation is not worth it and invest instead in public staff?

Sometimes it is appropriate for the public sector to provide services; sometimes the private sector does it just as well, and sometimes better. It is appropriate to ensure that in all services we get the best service, not dictate who provides those services.