HC Deb 22 February 1982 vol 18 cc587-8
37. Mr. Charles R. Morris

asked the Attorney-General if the Lord Chancellor will lay down guidelines indicating the qualities sought and the criteria recommended in the selection of individuals to accompany court bailiffs in the execution of court orders to repossess factories during the course of industrial disputes.

The Attorney-General(Sir Michael Havers)

County court bailiffs are not accompanied when executing warrants of possession, otherwise than by a representative of the plaintiff and, where a breach of the peace is feared, by one or more police constables.

Mr. Morris

Is the Attorney-General aware that when a sledgehammer-wielding team of bailiffs repossessed the Laurence Scott factory in my constituency in August last year they were accompanied by a team of 34, which included a doctor, a farmer and an estate agent? Why are professional men moonlighting in that way and what sort of doctor uses a scalpel during the day and a sledgehammer at night in a team of bailiffs repossessing a factory that is the subject of an industrial dispute?

The Attorney-General

In spite of the fact that my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor has written to the right hon. Gentleman and sent him the report of the high sheriff and has, in the course of that correspondence, made it clear that what happened on that occasion was that sheriff's officers, for whom I have no ministerial responsibility, were involved, the right hon. Gentleman's initial question related to court bailiffs and not sheriff's officers.

Mr. Archer

Is the Attorney-General aware that in the case referred to by my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Openshaw (Mr. Morris) the union finally received a bill for £4, 000 in respect of that one episode? Is that not very disturbing?

The Attorney-General

I repeat that the case involved an enforcement of a High court writ for possession carried out by the under-sheriff with sheriff's officers. It is a matter for which neither my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor nor I have any ministerial responsibility.

Mr. Dalyell

Given the ghastly prospect of 141 mothers and grandmothers of my Plessey, Bathgate constituents being dragged through the High court on Friday, does the senior Law Officer of the Crown share the unease of the judiciary in having these delicate issues of industrial relations settled in the High court?

The Attorney-General

I am not aware of the matter that the hon. Gentleman has mentioned. We are discussing circumstances in which a writ for possession has been obtained and those to whom it is addressed have failed to obey. That has nothing to do with court bailiffs. It is a question of enforcement of the writ by sheriff's officers.