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Baliff petition;Stop them getting a legal right to forced entry;Peter Bard


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Just to add my twopence

I ve emailed most of the MP from north yorkshire(most are conservative and lib-dem) and in unison they all replied against this bill rushed through without proper consultation.

A shimmer of hope, i know.

 

Hi

 

Well done,

Letts hope the reading goes well today all we can do is try to increase the pressure.

 

Peter

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Hi all

 

As far as I can see, the following excerpt from yeterday's 7th reading of the bill is the only time the subject of bailiffs was discussed.

 

The bill has now gone to report!!:mad:

 

Regards, Pam

 

Clause 143

 

Commencement

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

 

 

Jenny Willott: Given that the clause is about when different parts of the Bill will come into force, I want to reiterate our concern about the proposal that there should be an interim regime in which bailiffs have extra powers before the registration system has been brought in to regulate them. We are concerned about the timing of the introduction of that part of the Bill, before the registration scheme is introduced. Throughout our proceedings, the Minister has commented on the timing of the introduction of various parts, but I wanted to say that we are not satisfied that the interim measures are appropriate. We feel that the introduction of the additional powers for bailiffs should be delayed until a registration scheme such as the one that was discussed can be introduced.

Vera Baird: I thought that the hon. Lady was here when I announced last week that the only new power for bailiffs, namely to make an application to the court for consent to use, as a last resort, reasonable force to enter private premises, will not come into force until the regulatory system is in place. The system in the Bill, which will—I have put it this way before—beef up the current certification process, will not be the system that applies to the use of that power. Again, the use of that power will be made available only when the full regulation system is in place. I hope that she is now twice assured.

Mr. Newmark: Again, I would like to ask the Minister for clarification. The explanatory notes state:

“Clause 143 provides for the Lord Chancellor”—

again, the next phrase appears in brackets—

“or the Secretary of State in relation to Chapter 3 of Part 5”

and so on. Can the Minister again clarify whether the provision refers to the Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs or the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry?

Vera Baird: Inreferences to chapter 3 of part 5, the responsibility will lie either with the Lord Chancellor or the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry.

Jenny Willott: I accept the point that the Minister made previously. However, we still have concerns that changes are being made to the bailiff system before the introduction of the registration scheme. Over the past few years, a lot of concern has been raised about the need for a proper registration scheme for bailiffs. We remain unhappy that that part of the proposals has been delayed significantly and that there is a need for an interim measure, which we do not agree with.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 143 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

VITAL - IF YOU HAVE AN ISSUE ABOUT THE INCREASED BAILIFFS' POWERS TO BREAK INTO YOUR HOME AND USE FORCE IN ORDER TO GET YOUR GOODS THEN JOIN THE PETITION HERE:

http://www.consumeractiongroup.c o....l#post53879 9

 

Anyone seeing this who wants to help by copying it to their signature please do.

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Hi

 

I have just got off the phone with Phillip Evans who is putting together a precis of yesterday and this mornings meetings regarding the Bill.

 

Apparently the Report Stage will take place in late April and there will be another chance to present amendments then.

 

The feeling is that support amongst the Tories is growing to the extent that they have voiced severe objections to certain parts of the Bill. This is something we need to work on but more importantly we must try and influence some of the Labour Back Benchers into our way of thinking, I

know that the last debates were a little disapointing but on the positive side we have been given another bite of the apple in that it has not gone straight to Report. I am perhaps being a little naive in hoping we might have something to do with that although Phillip thinks that there is possibly something going on behind the scenes and he is far more knowledgable than I. All we can do is keep sending the letters and some media interest would be of great help around about now so any ideas would be gratefully received.

 

Also if you want a laugh take a look at these answers to two of lord Lucas's questions here.

 

http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2007-03-27a.258.3&s=speaker%3A13301#g258.4

 

http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2007-03-27a.258.0&s=speaker%3A13301#g258.1

 

Keep up the fight we have not lost yet

 

 

Best regards

Peter

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Hi

 

Keep up the fight we have not lost yet

 

 

Best regards

Peter

 

If we can delay the vote for a week or two longer - till after the May elections, and Scots / Welsh Assembly elections - Labour will have been wiped out by then !

 

Good work Peter.

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Thank you so very much Peter for all the hard work you are doing.

 

I myself have been the subject of bailiffs collecting council tax I could not afford to pay.

 

I was held a prisoner in my home all last summer.

 

And with the help I got from ths site Martin3030 Chris, Elsinor, but to name a few I would have gone out of my mind with worry.

 

If this goes through I can only imagine the horrific outcome,

 

At least I had the option to keep the bailliff outside my home and my few and paltry possesions. Worthless in monetery terms but everything to me and my children.

 

If this becomes law I shudder to think of the outcome.

 

I can only applaude the hard work you and others are douing in this horrid new law.

 

Thank you so very much, from one of the people it would destroy both mentaly and physicaly.

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Peter

 

This story could be useful in your campaign - drugs-raid Police smash their way into 72 year old pensioners house, then discover they have the wrong address !

 

BBC NEWS | England | South Yorkshire | Police apology for pensioner raid

 

I wonder just how many occurances of this will happen when the bailiffs have extra powers?

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HI

 

Thanks for all the support. i have just had an e-mail from Rev.Paul Nicolson regarding a possible Judicial Review that his legal team are working on to try and get the whole of section 3 reviewed.I will keep you upto date on their progress.

Good work Watcher you certainly have the right name well spotted it wil come in very usefull.

 

Best regards

 

Peter

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Guest Herbie

Unless the TCE Bill ensures that ALL bailiffs are Certificated, we are going to get more and more stories about people who purport to be bailiff but are really "bogus". This is one story that was sent to our office a few months ago. I personally have details of scams like this in two other local authorities. The LA's themselves want to hush things like this up.......

 

 

Bogus bailiffs’ [problem] leaves victims in fear

 

 

THIEVES are posing as bailiffs to break into people's homes to steal TVs and furniture.

Council benefits chiefs admit they are very concerned and have alerted police. They also want people to check for identification and to call the council if in any doubt.

 

They say the illegal ‘repossession’ racket has been running in xxxxxx for several months.

Residents have received fake letters, including some on council-headed paper, warning of imminent repossession if money is not paid, even though they owe nothing.

There have also been malicious phone calls, including threats to break down residents' front doors, which the police are investigating.

 

Simon xxxxxx, head of revenues and benefits at xxxxxxx Council, said: “The issue is getting serious now with threats being made. The problem is escalating and we are becoming very worried. What concerns us is what they will try next. We are convinced that it is the same person, or people, posing as bogus bailiffs.”

 

Benefits officers began getting reports of threatening letters, supposedly from the bailiffs themselves, several months ago.

 

Somebody had blanked out their own name and address from a letter sent by genuine bailiffs – used by the council – and sent off photocopies with false details.

These have since progressed to fake letters from the council itself and now the threatening phone calls.

Mr Bailey said: “Residents are understandably alarmed because they are being told that the bailiffs will be back to break their door down and take their TVs and furniture if they don't pay the money. These are people who owe nothing.

 

“We don't know if anyone has actually paid up yet, but if anyone isn't aware that they owe any money they should call us immediately on the number on their council tax bill. They should also notify the police.”

He said the council always notified people by letter of imment legal action and rarely phoned them.

Detective Inspector Martin Jeffs said: “People must be made aware of these bogus bailiffs.We are worried about the phone call reports because they have been when children have been in the house alone. They could be sounding places out for future reference.

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Hi Herbie

Just one more reason why this bill has to be stopped,Vera Baird talkes about simplification.How about no one has the rirght to enter unless with a police man in pusuit of criminal activity, no room for ambiguity or missunderstanding not a police man you cannot come in simple.

 

Another point that disturbs me is." the enforcement agent can enlist unqualified help in order to gain control of goods." The new regulations may CRB check all their "new"certified bailiffs but whats the point if joe bloggs is with him casing the joint. And herbies point about children is well taken also.

 

Best Regards

Peter

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this is dreadful, what about people just posing as police officers, it has been done, the criminal fraternity are rather creative when it comes to this kind of thing,fake ID's available at the right price to all and sundry, and IF there is to be no notice of bailiffs calling, 'so people do not remove their goods' then what chance is there to check fake documents, notices of distress if at a time when the coucil or whoever is closed.

'rise like lions after slumber, in unvanquishable number, shake your chains to the earth like dew, which in sleep had fall'n on you, ye are many, they are few.' Percy Byshse Shelly 1819

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Hi

I recieved a copy of an exchange between Reverand Paul Nicolson and Vera Baird this morning. I think it illustrates the problem with the perception of the relationship between poverty and the role of Baillifs in real world, see what you think. the first letter is from Rev Paul to Vera Baird MP.

 

For Vera Baird MP.

 

Dear Minister,

 

Your Bill is the place where poverty and law enforcement clash. We have asked for a procedure to ensure that fines against poverty incomes are proportionate and if not the bailiff returns the defaulter to court to make it so.

 

I am very concerned that no one mentioned the actual poverty incomes against which bailiffs are enforcing disproportionate fines with uncontrolled forced entry in the debate about schedule 12 yesterday.

 

Many lone parents and couples do not "manage" on unemployment benefits without being forced over the line into breaking the law by failing to pay a TV licence or shop lifting or borrowing from door to door lenders at extortionate interest rates by the need to survive in a very expensive economy. Survival is a powerful motivator. Some get caught and borrow to pay the fine and the bailiffs fees. As you know all unemployment benefits are below the government's poverty threshold.

 

I am currently dealing with a case of an unemployed lone parent with six children whose benefits were stopped because HM revenue and customs did not believe the children were living with her. They habitually shoot first and ask questions after. They sent someone to count them. The benefit was reinstated after two weeks. Replacing the benefit lost in those two weeks has taken months. The bailiff threatened to break in while she did not have any money to enforce a debt. The bailiff had the wrong address,

 

The Home Office has reported that the overriding motivation for off street prostitution is survival and care of children. Off street prostitution to finance addiction is also a poverty issue. I had rich parishioners who did not have to resort to the oldest profession to fund their addictions.

 

Fining hoodies whose unemployment benefit is £45.50 a week aged 18-24 and £57.45 at £25 + is bringing the law into disrepute, because they cannot pay - their income is half the government's poverty threshold; they cannot pay so prisons overflow.

 

Failure to keep an ASBO is another source of ridiculously high fines against either very inadequate benefits or no income at all. Often they are without money because it has been stopped by the Job Centre because they did not turn up at an interview; it can then takes weeks to reinstate.

 

Women are conceiving while receiving the unemployment benefits of childless adults, which I repeat are half the government's poverty threshold. Poor maternal nutrition is inevitable at conception and during pregnancy with sometimes catastrophic results for the foetus and baby. A disproportionate fine makes a disaster worse.

 

Young people have to leave care at 16 - they have no financial or family support; local authorities take months to assess their needs; if or when that is done the young people get £34.60 a week to live independently. They inevitably end up in trouble.

 

Please may I come and see you about all this,

 

With best wishes,

 

Paul Nicolson,

 

Now the reply from VB

 

 

Tribunals and Enforcement Bill

 

Thank you for your e-mail of the 21 March.

 

You raise a number of important and wide- ranging issues in your e-mail, covering matters such as poverty levels and sentencing policy. I am afraid that these are not issues for this Bill and indeed probably go beyond the scope of the Bill (which determines what can and cannot be debated in committee).Part 3 of the Bill is, as you know. more about codifying a clarifying the law governing the activities of bailiffs and other enforcement agents, while Part 5 of the Bill offers a package of measures to help the over-indebted.

 

The points you raise go beyond these measures and indeed beyond this Department’s remit and so I do not believe much could be gained from a further meeting

 

Thank you for your ongoing interest in the Bill.

 

Vera Baird QC MP

 

Now Rev Pauls reply

 

For Vera Baird QC MP

 

Dear Minister,

 

Thank you for your attached letter of the 26th March answering mine,

 

Perhaps it would be right to seek the advice of the Speaker as to whether the issue of proportionality of fines and the payment of them and of civil debt repayments enforced by the courts and by the bailiffs on the order of the courts are issues within the scope of a Bill covering enforcement by courts and bailiffs.

 

You make no comment about the issue of proportionality in your letter.

 

In any event the interests of joined up Government would be better served if the DCA took poverty into account, in particular the absolute poverty of childless adults, against whom the courts and bailiffs are enforcing fines and civil debts, were taken into account.

 

Yesterday I had to explain to a single mother with one child on benefits, and already with debts that reduce her income to £80 a week, who cannot afford a TV licence of £131 let alone the fine for non payment, that the bailiffs would break into her house if she did not go to court to sort it our. She burst into tears. I could have said before the 27 March 2006 "Don't worry the bailiff cannot break in, come to court with me and we will sort it out".

 

The current Bill is an opportunity to require bailiffs enforcing fines to get a warrant for forced entry with all the safeguards that are being created for civil debts.

 

Sadly, and in the light of your letter and our brief discussion, I can only agree with you that any meeting with you about poverty and proportionality is unlikely to be productive.

 

With good wishes,

 

Paul Nicolson

 

This in my opinion typical QC's reply it only answers the questions it wants to and is more interested in "codifying" and simplifying proceedure than what is in the public interest. The truth is bad law is bad law you can call it simplification or getting all the legislation in one place but if that legislation is bad you just compound the effects of it by making it more accessable and ignoring the fallout raining down on the average member of society.

 

Best regards

Peter

 

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IM...............................

Speechless.

 

If I write down how I feel about her response, getting evicted from the forum would be the least of my worries. Defamation of character springs to mind.

 

If only every member of society had her guarded upbringing. To be so blinkered in the face of overwhelming evidence beggars belief.

Im Gobsmacked.

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Hi

Below is a tanscript of a debate tabled by Mr Austin Mitchel it's a bit of a read but worth it. It shows yet again the growing concern and anger against the actions ao bailiffs and the way they missue thie current powers.

I think they clamped the wrong person here.

 

1.3 am

 

Mr. Austin Mitchell (Great Grimsby) (Lab): I am very lucky to be speaking to the House at this witching hour. However, the Table Office has somewhat marred the beauty, simplicity and elegance of my title, which was “The Enforcement of Road Traffic Fines by Bailiffs”. I want to raise that issue because it is producing a huge extortion racket, with local authorities—which should protect the people—colluding with cheating bailiffs to impose huge and excessive charges that are then justified by lies and enforced by bullying. Those charges are imposed on motorists who have unpaid fines, many of whom do not even know that they have offended. That is the group I wish to talk about in particular. I am talking about the innocent, not the Nigerian embassy or the American embassy, or habitual offenders who do not seem to get caught. This is an extortion racket against the innocent.

I want to give an example involving my daughter, Susan Mitchell. She lives in Dulwich—all my kids are middle-class and have moved up in the world faster than I have. She arrived home from work on 5 March this year and set off to take the kids to their swimming class only to find that her car had been clamped by an enforcement firm called JBW. It was demanding £706.22, plus £1 if she paid by credit card—£707.22—to release it. It said that if that was not paid it would tow the car off and sell it.

This incident was related to an unpaid parking charge from 8 September last year. My daughter says that a ticket was not stuck on the car, and given that she was moving house at the time to a house two streets away, it seems clear that any reminder to pay and any notice of the court order had gone to the old house. We have this obstinate British habit of not sending court orders, reminders to pay and other such documents by recorded delivery. Every other European country requires proof of delivery; we do not, but we should.

The local authority, Southwark council, had been notified of my daughter’s move. It had the change of address, but it did not bother to check its records; it simply handed the case to the bailiffs. The attitude was, “Here’s a nice contract for JBW. Let’s give them a nice little earner.” JBW, the enforcement agency, claim to have checked with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency—indeed, it charged my daughter £5.32 for that check—which had been notified of the change of address, so JBW knew of that change. Nevertheless, it claims to have made three visits to the old address, for which it charged my daughter £152. Incidentally, the new residents at the old address did not notice those visits, so they cannot have been door-knocking visits.

JBW also claims to have written to the old address warning of distraint action, as it is required to do. Again, it did not send that letter by recorded delivery. It explained to my daughter that it is too expensive to send these things out by recorded delivery. It gets only a statutory allowance for writing one letter—£11.20. Recorded delivery costs 68p and a first-class stamp 32p—a total of £1. So it prefers the certainties of second-class mail for the delivery of these documents, to the wrong address. It did not waste any more stamps writing to the new address, when it found it. In fact, it did not write to it at all; it simply snuck round and clamped the car.

This is the fundamental problem. Bailiffs do not want people to pay up on a first approach, which my daughter would have done once the situation had been explained to her. There is no money for the bailiffs if the person coughs up. They get fees only if they visit the house, so we get these phantom claims for calls that were never in fact made. The streets of London are presumably filled with ghostly visitors flitting from house to house, unnoticed by the householders. They get money only if they distrain or clamp the vehicle, because that entitles them to charges, which they set.

JBW clamped my daughter’s car and charged her £240 for doing so, which is double the rate that it says it charges for that service. That made a total of £707, of which £155 went to Southwark. Jamie Waller, the boss of JBW, says in an affidavit that he varies charges by area, so presumably the posh areas get the higher charges and the less well-off ones get the lower charges. My daughter must therefore live in a middling-posh area.

Eventually, once my daughter had paid, JBW came to remove the clamp—at 6 o’clock in the morning the next day. Anybody in that situation would be as distressed as my daughter was. What do they do? Who do they turn to? Naturally, she rang Southwark council for help. It told her that the charge was “not unreasonable”. A charge of £707 seems to me absolutely monstrous, but to Southwark council it is not unreasonable. It must pay its staff very well indeed if they can afford to pay such charges out of their own pockets. The council is very courageous in committing itself to the phrase “not unreasonable”.

Southwark council also told my daughter that this was none of its business—it was between her and JBW. That is not true, because the council has a duty of care toward its residents; however, it also has a contract with JBW. However dodgy JBW might be, Southwark has a contract with it to perform this service. That makes it liable for the acts of its agents, because JBW is acting as the agent of the council. Instead of giving that useless and untrue information, the council could have told my daughter that she could have made a statutory declaration in the county court, which would have cost her £5. That would have gone to the Northampton parking fines centre, stayed the process and the clamp could have been removed. However, Southwark council was spectacularly useless and did not give my daughter that information. It did not do so because it is in collusion on this issue with JBW, because it has a contract with JBW for the charges. People are left defenceless and bullied by the bailiffs into coughing up. My daughter coughed up £707.22.

I was appalled by that enormous and ridiculous charge, so I began to investigate with the help of the London motorists action group. Sheila Harding, Philip Evans, Alison Laughton and others were all very helpful and very angry. Through those investigations, I have built up a picture of what is a huge extortion racket operated by a £6 billion industry, primarily in London but all over the country. They are private contractors on contract to public bodies.

The industry is cutting corners, lying and pretending that it has done things that it has not, because the fee structure does not pay it for simply getting the money, which is what the local authority presumably wants. That is not the real job of bailiffs. Their real job is to distrain goods. That is their traditional role and they only get any fees if they distrain goods—or clamp cars. So they fabricate charges, claim for phantom visits and use uncertified staff. In fact, Sheila Harding keeps a record of 103 inquiries about acts that should have been done by certified bailiffs, but when checked only 47 had been. I do not know whether Mr. Marsh, who clamped my daughter’s car, is certified. Southwark council does not seem to know and the firm is not saying. He may be certified or he may not be. All I know is that I do not like his tone or aggressive attitude in a recording of his interview with my daughter.

Sheila Harding’s research also shows that there are only 1,521 certified bailiffs in the country. Those 1,521 certified bailiffs are dealing, on 2006 figures, with4 million liability orders for unpaid council tax, 900,000 unpaid parking charges in London and 1.6 million people in arrears of child support. They cannot do that, so they are using uncertified staff. Sheila Harding’s research shows that the local authority contracts, which should be open and used to regulate the bailiffs, are useless. Some of them are secret and people have had to apply under freedom of information legislation to find out about them, none of them is published, and many of them have lapsed. One contract, Hammersmith’s, was lost and all of them are weak. The result is that the extortion racket is unchecked.

I shall give some examples. Equita, which is a subsidiary of Crapita—I am sorry, I mean Capita—is the biggest firm in the business. Alex Henney was clamped by Equita and he took the case to the local ombudsman and proved that Equita and Camden had both lied about the visits made—phantom armies making phantom visits. Simon Aldridge was charged £704. He took Equita to court and the judge accepted that the visits had been claimed for but not made. Duncan McGowan was charged £2,084 and he got £1,426 back through the small claims court. I have many more examples—these are just a sample. In one case, a man had a letter dropped through his letter box saying that a certified bailiff had visited him. He dashed out and followed the man who had delivered the letter. That man was delivering a sheaf of similar letters, and he turned out not to be a certified bailiff but just a messenger. In 2004, Equita’s pre-tax profits amounted to £7.4 million, against capital employed of £5.8 million—a return on capital of 127 per cent. The company does not make that much from £10 letters and regulated fees.

Bailiff certification is a licence to filch money from people over unpaid charges. That was exposed by the BBC’s “Whistleblower” programme last September. Given what I have learned through my daughter’s experience and my research, the question that I want to ask is, “What should we do about it?” The problem is that private bailiffs are working on public authority contracts, so my first suggestion is that local authorities must exert tighter control over contractors. The Transport Committee recommended that in 2005. It wanted careful regulation by the local authority to ensure that charges, operations and practices were all transparent. That should be put in place: when they hand out a contract, local authorities should exercise their powers to ensure that it is not a nice little earner, but a duty to be fulfilled.

Secondly, the fees need to be regulated. The present structure is based on the old fashioned view that bailiffs distrain goods, but it should recognise that nowadays they are about getting the money to pay charges. We need a structure that places the emphasis on getting the fines paid, not on grabbing goods—something that bailiffs want to do because that gives them access to bigger fees. Some industry leaders are trying to develop a more transparent fee scale. Good on them—I hope that they are successful and that the Government encourage them.

Finally, we need a regulator. Cowboys need a sheriff, and the mafia cannot be regulated by the mafia. Crooks—and I use that word in the Australian sense, to describe people who are “crook”—need a rule-maker to control them. The Government have proposed that the Security Industry Authority should be the regulator, but I do not think that it is up to the job. The SIA is a licensing authority, not a regulator, and bailiffs are not part of the security industry. We need a proactive regulator who can investigate complaints.

The Government began a consultation process in January but, unfortunately, they have set their face against giving the regulator the ability to investigate complaints. It is essential that someone protects people who suffer the sort of problems that I have described. It is daft to exclude investigation from the regulator’s role. The regulator should disqualify, discipline, regulate fees, hear appeals, and be available to help people faced with the sort of bullying that my daughter experienced.

I must warn my hon. and learned Friend the Minister that the best that her consultation paper proposes is not good enough, and that it is a shame to see the Government back-tracking. In the 2001 Green Paper, they suggested a dedicated regulator, and that was a good idea. However, they had pulled back a little by 2003, and the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Bill still has not got the matter right.

It is a rare pleasure to be here at 1.18 in the morning and chatting up my hon. and learned Friend. I am enjoying the experience, and I am delighted that she is replying to the debate, as I know that she has a concern for justice and fairness. I hope that she will be bold and make sure that the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Bill gets this matter right.

We need a regulator who can beat the bastards, bash the bullies, control the crooks, comfort the complaining and ease the pains of the people. Unless we get that, the sort of extortion racket that I have described will continue. I hope that my hon. and learned Friend will give us a regulator who can deal with these people.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs (Vera Baird): First, may I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) on securing parliamentary time for this important and timely debate? The Department for Transport is responsible for policy and the statutory framework for the enforcement of some road traffic regulations, including parking penalties and debts resulting from them. My Department is responsible for the bailiff certification process. Section 78 of the Road Traffic Act 1991 allows the Lord Chancellor to make orders for road traffic debts to be enforced by certificated bailiffs. It should be those certificated bailiffs, working for local authorities, who deal with the enforcement of road traffic debts. My hon. Friend referred to the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Bill, which finished its Committee stage in the House of Commons today. It includes important changes to enforcement agent law, which I hope he will find more convincing than he expects. Enforcement agent law is mixed up in myriad legislative fragments and in the common law. The role of bailiffs has evolved piecemeal over centuries. There is a need for the law to be clear, as well as a need to regulate the individuals and businesses responsible for the activities. What we are doing is to legislate and to regulate.

The Bill consolidates enforcement agent law and puts it all in one place, which is going to make it a lot easier for enforcement agents, creditors, the advice sector and debtors to understand it. Those provisions will apply to the enforcement of road traffic debts. Schedule 12 sets out a new procedure that must be followed when enforcing debts by taking goods. It is a framework, and further detail will be provided in the regulations to follow. A detailed policy statement has been laid before the House that sets out what we intend to include in regulations. In paragraph 160 of that statement, we set out what the enforcement agent will need to provide to the debtor when entering the premises. That information will include charges which have been made, information on any further charges that could be made in relation to the debt, and an outline of avenues of complaint and rights of appeal, including how to appeal against excessive fees.

There are different fees depending on the type of debt. The Bill provides for one fee structure and puts all fees in one place, which should empower people to resist abuse. Importantly, there will be an up-front fee element, payable to bailiffs so that they do not act entirely in pursuit of a cut of the cash recovered—we hope that that will help. It will be necessary, through the consultation on the detail, to ensure we get the level and nature of the fees right to avoid possible abuses such as grabbing goods and phantom visits of the kind discussed by my hon. Friend. As I said, there will be an appeal route and a complaint route. The Bill includes an enhanced and extended certification process, which will make a major contribution towards our goal of a fully regulated, trained and professionalised enforcement industry. No one at all save state employees can practise as an enforcement agent or bailiff unless they are certificated after that provision comes into force.

Under the new certification process, certificates will be issued by a county court judge, as they are now, but the conditions will be much stricter. There will be a greater emphasis on training, especially in diversity awareness, conflict avoidance and dealing with the vulnerable. In my view, that is about getting all members of the bailiff industry to understand, as many of them already do, that they are working in the public interest—they are not simply debt collectors working single-mindedly in the interests of their creditors on a commission. They are agents of the public authorities, notably the courts. However it is our longer-term intention for the whole enforcement industry, other than Crown employees, to be overseen by an independent regulatory body, and we are confident that the Security Industry Authority is an appropriate body to cover such bailiffs. An affirmative order under the Private Security Industry Act 2001 will bring bailiffs within the terms of the Act. On 30 January, as my hon. Friend said, a joint consultation paper was issued by the Department for Constitutional Affairs and the Home Office on the regulation of enforcement agents. The SIA contributed to that consultation, and we indicated that it is our preferred option. The consultation will end in about a month, and an announcement will be made in the summer.

The SIA’s regulatory structures are strong. Since it has been in a position of being able properly to regulate doormen, it has done a good job. It has raised standards immensely—the good-quality professionals are pleased with that—and it has got rid of many of the bandits.

Mr. Mitchell: I do not think that will be strong enough. The SIA is not a regulatory body; it is a recording and registration body. Bailiffs are not part of the security industry. Abuse is rife and there will be more cases—for example, as the police issue on-the-spot fines—that press further down the social scale, where difficulties are unique. People need a body to which they can appeal; the body needs to be able to investigate and hear appeals, and the SIA cannot do that.

Vera Baird: I realise that my hon. Friend is not yet convinced that the SIA is the right body. I have already outlined step 1: nobody will be a bailiff unless they are certificated by the court, which should get rid of a large number of the bandits. As my hon. Friend says, there is not a large number of certificated bandits and many of the types of people to whom he referred are still in the business. Training will be part and parcel of the job of the SIA. I would have thought that my hon. Friend’s constituency experience was similar to mine, in that the quality of doormen has infinitely improved since the SIA had a proper role in regulating them. Although there is a difference between a bailiff and a doorman, it seems to us that the SIA is the right body to take the regulatory role.

The SIA has regulatory structures; it will have the right tools to encourage compliance and will work first to achieve it rather than using enforcement. However, it will set the competences required for individuals and accredit training, and ensure that all enforcement agents have achieved levels of competency. It will also licence the managers and supervisors of front-line operatives and provide a voluntary approved contractor scheme for business.

The SIA’s enforcement policy code sets out in detail that it will use oral and written warnings first if it finds that companies or individuals fail to comply, but there are also penalties in the Private Security Industry Act 2001—a fine of up to £5,000 maximum or six months’ imprisonment for various offences. In addition, we will be looking at the possibility of using alternative dispute resolution for complaints. There will thus be an interim system of enhanced certification with the emphasis on training, but there will be full-scale regulation soon. I urge my hon. Friend to respond to the consultation with some of the stories he has told us tonight.

On the actuality of the enforcement of road traffic debts, there is a set procedure which the Government believe gives motorists adequate opportunities to demonstrate that a penalty charge notice has been incorrectly issued. It is also intended to give them ample opportunity to pay. It is only when a motorist disregards the unpaid and unchallenged penalty charge notice that it becomes a debt and the matter will be sent to a bailiff. Only then will the motorist have a bailiff at their door. It is the motorist’s responsibility to settle their debts and avoid enforcement.

The parking operational guidance from the Department for Transport to local authorities is being redrafted and will be sent out for consultation later this year. We will take the opportunity then to enhance the existing guidance to local authorities on their contracts with bailiffs, so we will approach the matter from that angle, too.

Although my hon. Friend is clearly unhappy with the current position I hope he can see three things: first, that the Government are apprised of the problem; secondly, that we are legislating for simplification and certainty of bailiff powers, so that everyone will know what they are—the information will be promoted through leaflets and websites; and thirdly, that we are intent on regulating strictly and strongly the bailiff industry, a small part of which has been responsible for the kind of depredations to which he has referred tonight.

I am sorry that my hon. Friend has had such trouble in his family. He is right to bring it to the attention of the House and I congratulate him again on securing the debate. We intend to protect citizens against such things happening in the future.

Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at twenty-nine minutes past One o’clock

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Vera Baird : I am sorry that my hon. Friend has had such trouble in his family. He is right to bring it to the attention of the House and I congratulate him again on securing the debate. We intend to protect citizens against such things happening in the future.

 

How, Ms Baird .... HOW?

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If only every member of society had her guarded upbringing. To be so blinkered in the face of overwhelming evidence beggars belief.

Im Gobsmacked.

 

There are none so blind as those who will not see.

 

Els

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What poor education I have received has been gained in the University of Life

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Well put.

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HI Again

 

I have been reading some of the recent correspondence between my reverends Paul and Vera Baird.

 

After outlining a couple of particularly harrowing cases of depravation and social injustice she replied "They manage".

 

The words," let them eat cake" come to mind and we all know how Marie Antoinette ended up.

 

Best Regards

 

Peter

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If memory serves...didnt that result in a peasants revolt? :)

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If memory serves...didnt that result in a peasants revolt? :)

 

HI Smoothy

 

How old are you even i don't remember that ;) yep you are quite right she rather lost her head over it.

 

Peter

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