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Bailiffs

Volume 707: debated on Monday 26 January 2009

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what safeguards they have put in place to control bailiffs' use of force when entering homes to recover outstanding personal debt. [HL503]

At present the law relating to enforcement by the seizure and sale of goods is complex and is contained in numerous statutes, secondary legislation and common law that does not provide for a single cohesive process.

The Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 prescribes or enables regulations to prescribe the entire process to be followed by enforcement agents and includes provisions on the powers of entry.

Under the current contracts between Her Majesty's Courts Service, and the private bailiffs companies which undertake work on behalf of magistrates’ courts, there are specific instructions to the bailiff companies requiring them to adhere to instructions and processes issued by HMCS on the use of forced entry. These processes must be agreed by Her Majesty's Courts Service Regional Management before there can be any use of forced entry by private bailiffs.

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To ask Her Majesty's Government what arrangements they have to monitor use of force by bailiffs when enforcing debt recovery against moveable goods on private property. [HL504]

At present the law relating to enforcement by the seizure and sale of goods is complex and is contained in numerous statutes, secondary legislation and common law that does not provide for a single cohesive process.

The Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 prescribes or enables regulations to prescribe the entire process to be followed by enforcement agents and includes provisions on the powers of entry.

Under the current contracts between Her Majesty's Courts Service and private bailiff companies there are specific requirements for the companies to report on the use of forced entry. These reporting procedures include the details of any complaints received by the bailiff companies on the actions taken when enforcing debt recovery. Any such complaints must be investigated thoroughly by the company itself. In addition, Her Majesty's Courts Service Regional Management will investigate the complaint to determine that the correct action was taken by the bailiff or if the situation requires further investigation.

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To ask Her Majesty's Government what new powers they propose to make available to bailiffs when enforcing debts against moveable goods on private property. [HL505]

The Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 clarifies and unifies, where possible, the law governing the activities of enforcement agents when taking control of and selling goods.

The Act introduces a single piece of law which brings together in one place a legal structure for all warrant enforcement, written in terms that are easily understandable and which clearly outline the rights and responsibilities of creditors, debtors, the police and enforcement agents. The reforms are part of a package of measures that will address concerns and will govern amongst other things:

when and how enforcement agents can enter somebody's premises;

what goods they can and cannot seize and sell; and

what fees they can charge.

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To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have to consult on any extension of powers available to bailiffs. [HL506]

It is intended that a major consultation exercise will be undertaken that will include a consultation paper setting out the draft regulations for enforcement by taking control of goods and the table of fees.

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To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have to set up a regulator to oversee the use of powers of recovery by bailiffs. [HL507]

A consultative partial regulatory impact assessment was issued on 30 January 2007 exploring the costs and impact of a regulatory body. The paper set out the options for the future of regulation of enforcement agents who are not Crown employees. Regulation by the Security Industry Authority is the preferred option. The Security Industry Authority has been commissioned to deliver a business case which will be reviewed and final decisions will be made in February 2009.

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To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will place in the Library of the House a copy of guidelines issued to bailiffs when enforcing debts against private property. [HL508]

A copy of HMCS's Search and Entry Powers (Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004) Guidance to Civilian Enforcement Officers and Approved Enforcement Agents has been placed in the Library of the House. The guidance contains a number of redactions for reasons of public interest and on health and safety grounds.