Lord Lucas

22 Jan 2009 12:24:29

Lord Lucas wants better regulation of bailiffs

Lord_lucas_3The economic climate is causing a great deal of distress to many Britons. It is imperative that the Government considers what specific pressures people may be under. Yesterday in the House of Lords Lord Lucas called on the Government to expedite the redrafting of regulations concerning bailiffs.

This follows the tragic case of Andy Miller, a 78-year-old man who died of a heart attack after being taken to a cashpoint by a bailiff to pay a £60 speeding fine. Please note that this is an ongoing matter, and so any detailed comment about it would be inappropriate.

Lord Lucas was absolutely right to raise this issue:

"To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in light of the death on 7 January of Mr Andy Miller, whether they will bring forward their draft bailiff regulations.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bach): My Lords, the House will want to offer its condolences to Mr Miller’s family. My right honourable friend the Justice Secretary immediately ordered an urgent investigation into Mr Miller’s death. The Ministry of Justice has been working on the underlying draft regulations for the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007. Prior to implementation these far reaching reforms will require full public consultation and at least 12 months for careful preparation by the industry.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, I join the Minister in extending condolences to Mr Miller’s family. We have been waiting for these draft regulations for rather a long time. They were promised for the summer, for October and for before Christmas, and still we do not have them. Life is getting very rough out there because people are getting short of money. Bailiffs are finding it harder to extract money and we are getting a lot of cases where a serious level of distress is being caused. These are vulnerable people to whom we owe a duty, which we can exercise through these regulations. Should we not get on with it?

Lord Bach: My Lords, I pay tribute to the noble Lord, who in this field of enforcement has a well deserved reputation for being at the forefront of trying to improve things. Having said that, we want to move forward as fast as we can, but he will know that enforcement law in this area is complex, confusing and, frankly, difficult to understand. Since Royal Assent in 2007, we have commissioned and received a business case from the Security Industry Authority; we have commissioned and received a comprehensive assessment of bailiffs’ fee structures; and we have implemented the provisions of the Act on the registration of tribunal awards.

Bailiff law goes back, I am told, to 1267. It is found in common law and a number of statutes, many of which are centuries old. We need to get this right. If it takes a bit longer to get it right, that is better than doing it too soon."