HL Deb 13 January 1987 vol 483 cc484-94

3.4 p.m.

The Lord Advocate (Lord Cameron of Lochbroom)

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.

Some two years ago I was glad to be able to move the Second Reading of the measure which is now the Bankruptcy (Scotland) Act 1985. In doing so, I paid well-deserved tribute to the work of the Scottish Law Commission in producing the report on which that Bill was based. The Bill which we are considering today has a similar genesis and results from perhaps the largest and most intensive programme of work undertaken by the commission. This programme began in 1968, led through eight research reports and five consultative memoranda and culminated in the two-volume report published in November 1985. I should like to record here my appreciation of the commission's sterling work in producing the thorough and well-researched report on which the present Bill is based.

In addition, there was further public consultation thereafter on the commission's recommendations, in particular to seek views on those matters, such as the proposed debt arrangement schemes, where the commission had obtained on its own consultation a mixed reaction to its provisional proposals. We received most useful written comments from a wide range of bodies and individuals and my officials have had helpful continuing discussions, in particular with the Law Society of Scotland and the Society of Messengers-at-Arms and Sheriff Officers as well as with the Scottish Consumer Council. I am grateful to all those who have commented, whether to the Scottish Law Commission or more recently to me. The Bill which we are considering today has benefited considerably from these successive consultations.

The issues addressed by the Bill have long been considered of importance by Scottish legislators. For instance, to pick but one example, the Diligence Act 1661 noted that if promises, pactions, obligements and debts were not faithfully performed and satisfied there could be no trust and consequently no society intercourse and commerce at home. In recent years, concern has shifted to the harsh effect on consumer debtors of the diligence of poinding and warrant sale and I think it is widely recognised that reform here is long overdue. The present procedures in poindings and warrant sales are after all based on the Debtors (Scotland) Act 1838.

I should perhaps explain that poinding and warrant sale is the procedure by which moveable goods (but not money) possessed by the debtor can be attached by the creditor. The goods are left in the debtor's possession until they are put up for sale by public auction, under a warrant of sale granted by the sheriff. The creditor is entitled to payment of his debt and expenses out of the proceeds of sale. If the goods are unsold because no bids above the values appraised at the poinding are made, the goods are delivered to the creditor in satisfaction of the debt. The diligence is carried out by a sheriff officer and some of the procedures are supervised by the sheriff. The Bill before the House this afternoon is therefore the first comprehensive reform of the law in this area since 1838 and is designed to usher in a new system of debt enforcement more suitable to the needs and expectations of a modern society.

It is perhaps a sobering thought that possibly most adults are in debt, since debt, in the broadest sense, is what one person owes to another. For instance, as the Scottish Law Commission pointed out, a very large number of Scottish households live in rented public sector housing and most owner-occupiers finance the purchase of their homes by a loan from a building society or other institution. The present Bill, however, is concerned with debt in the connotation of a debt which cannot be enforced until there has been obtained a court decree finding the debtor liable to pay a stated amount. The extract, or authenticated copy, of the court decree authorises diligence, diligence being the legal term used to denote primarily the methods of enforcing unpaid debts due under decrees of the Scottish courts.

I should emphasise that the Bill deals with the later formal stages of debt recovery. The earlier informal stage is the one at which the creditor, or an agent acting on his behalf, attempts to obtain payment. The research commissioned by the Scottish Law Commission indicated that the informal recovery procedures resulted in satisfactory arrangements for payment being made in the great majority of default debts. The later formal stages are, first, a court action for payment raised by the creditor; and, secondly, when following the court decree for payment there are further attempts at collection and, if necessary, the enforcement of the decree by diligence. The provisions in the Bill come into operation when the creditor has finally decided that informal arrangements will not secure payment and that there is no alternative to court proceedings.

Some of your Lordships may, I suppose, consider that credit is too readily available and that a restriction on the extension of credit would help to reduce the distress and social hardship resulting from indebtedness and debt recovery. But important as such issues are, they go far beyond the scope of the present Bill.

In its report the Law Commission set out what it sees as the two general objectives of a good system of enforcing debt by diligence. The first is that of effective enforcement: the provision of effective machinery in which creditors can have confidence and by which they can obtain payment of their debts. The second objective is debtor protection: to secure that within the constraints imposed by the need for an effective system of enforcing debts there are available procedures which protect debtors who are subject to diligence from undue economic hardship and personal distress. The Government entirely accept and endorse those two objectives. We share the view of the commission that people who are able to pay their legally binding debts should be required to do so.

It became apparent from the Scottish Law Commission's work that the present system of diligence fulfils the first objective of effective enforcement. The system is generally regarded by creditors as satisfactory. Critics of the system argued that warrant sales of household goods were uneconomic so far as the creditor was concerned. But that does not point to the abolition of warrant sales in the interests of creditors. Warrant sales must be seen as the final stage in what is often a protracted process of debt recovery. The proper measure of the efficiency of the diligence is not its yield in the relatively few sales which are held but the extent to which the potential threat of a warrant sale serves to elicit payment in the vast majority of cases in which settlement is reached without recourse to a sale.

The commission's consultations confirmed that there was widespread dissatisfaction with aspects of the present law and practice of poinding and warrant sales. Some of this dissatisfaction is, however, based on misunderstandings. It is a mistake to assume that the procedure is an anachronistic survival from earlier and harsher times and that debt enforcement procedure against moveable goods is peculiar to Scotland. The commission records that such procedures are permitted in every country of which they are aware and that in England and Wales such procedures are used relatively more than in Scotland. The commission suggests that differences in public attitudes on either side of the Border are probably due to differences in procedures. For example, in England sales are generally held in auction rooms and not, as in Scotand, in the homes of debtors.

The commission concluded that no alternative method of enforcement could be devised which would be both as effective and more socially acceptable than the poinding and warrant sale procedure. Accordingly, the Bill retains the procedure but makes major reforms which remove the most resented aspects of the procedure.

The commission, however, concluded that the present system does not meet the second objective of debtor protection. The evidence obtained suggests that most debtors subjected to diligence are unable, rather than unwilling, to pay the debt outright whether from income or savings and can only pay by instalments. At present debtor protection depends upon exemptions from diligence of certain assets or income; certain restraints on the use of poinding and sale procedures recently evolved by the courts; and statutory powers to grant instalment decrees in certain debt actions. The commission considered, and the Government agree, that these safeguards are inadequate.

The commission's consultations revealed, however, a wide range of different views as to what form safeguards for the debtor should take. In considering what the preferable option was the commission was rightly very conscious that new and reformed procedures must be cost-effective, making the most economical use of financial and manpower resources.

The Bill implements the commission's preferred option. This was for a system which allows the creditor to pursue his debt by court action and diligence, as under the present law, but permits the debtor to apply to the court for an order or orders controlling diligence. These new orders which the court can make to protect the debtor from the rigours of diligence include time to pay directions; time to pay orders and new types of order such as an order for the recall of a poinding in appropriate cases.

The reforms in the Bill relate principally to the two main diligences: first, the enforced sale of the debtor's goods, usually household goods, by the procedure of poinding and warrant sale; and, secondly, the arrestment or attachment of the debtor's money in the hands of a third party so that it can be paid over to the creditor in satisfaction of the debt. The Bill proposes that sales in debtors' houses be prohibited unless the debtor gives his written consent for the sale to be held in his house.

Poinded goods will normally be sent to auction rooms for sale. Arrestment of earnings is reformed and improved with the introduction of three new forms of continuous diligence which I shall describe later. Complementary to these reforms are the provisions in the latter parts of the Bill. These include improvements of the administration of officers of court—that is, Messengers-at-Arms in the Court of Session and sheriff officers in the sheriff court—who are instructed on behalf of creditors to operate the procedures for debt recovery.

Civil imprisonment is abolished for non-payment of tax penalties and rates. The existing different summary warrant procedures for rates and taxes are replaced by a uniform poinding procedure incorporating some of the reforms proposed for ordinary poindings. Debtors will be encouraged to make use of the new and reformed procedures by the provisions which will enable a debtor to be represented in proceedings before the sheriff by someone other than an advocate or a solicitor. Further, no court dues or fees are to be payable in connection with court proceedings under this legislation and an express obligation is laid on sheriff clerks to provide information to debtors about these court procedures.

Part I of the Bill provides the new arrangements with regard to time to pay directions and time to pay orders, extending the time which the debtor has to pay the debt. The Bill's provisions on time to pay directions considerably improve the present system of instalment decrees in sheriff court summary cause actions where the debt is under 1,000. Time to pay directions are to be available in the Court of Session or the sheriff court for debts under £10,000. These directions will allow payment either by instalments or by deferred lump sum. The court will have discretion as to whether or not to grant a direction; while the direction is effective it will be incompetent for the creditor to carry out diligence by way of, for example, a poinding and sale or an earnings arrestment. The court has power to vary or recall direction if it is satisfied that it is reasonable to do so. If the debtor fails to make payment by instalments the time to pay direction will lapse if on the day on which the instalment is due there are unpaid sums due of not less than the total of two instalments.

Time to pay orders are very similar to time to pay directions. Time to pay orders are obtained after decree for payment has been granted and after a charge—the formal demand for payment—has been served, provided that the diligence has not reached an advanced stage. These time to pay orders are only obtainable in the sheriff court and not in the Court of Session. On receiving an application for a time to pay order the sheriff makes an interim order sisting, or halting, diligence against the debtor.

The reforms of the procedure of poinding and warrant sale are contained in Part II of the Bill. As I have already said, the Government accept the commission's conclusion that no alternative method of enforcement can be devised which would be as effective and more socially acceptable than poinding and warrant sale procedure. The Bill therefore retains the procedure but makes a number of major reforms. I should like to highlight some of these reforms. The exemptions from poinding of household goods are to be extended to include, for example, children's toys, medical equipment, curtains and floor coverings. That is found in Clause 16. Officers of court executing poindings are not allowed to enter a house where there is either nobody present or only children under the age of 16 without having given at least four days' prior notice. That is set out in Clause 18.

Debtors are given greater opportunities to redeem goods at their appraised value, that is, the value that they would be likely to fetch if sold on the open market, as provided in Clause 21. Debtors are also given the right to apply to the sheriff to release items from the poinding on the grounds that their inclusion is unduly harsh by the provisions of Clause 23. A number of grounds are provided on which sheriffs can recall a poinding or, at a later stage of the procedure, refuse to grant a warrant for the sale of the poinded goods in terms of Clauses 24 and 35. A poinding is not to last for longer than one year unless extended to allow instalment payments to be made under the provisions of Clause 27. Particularly significant are the innovations with regard to the warrant sale itself which have the effect that sales of poinded household goods will normally take place in auction rooms without publicity which identifies the debtor, as is set out in Clauses 32 and 34.

Finally, poinding of goods owned by the debtor in common with a third party is to become competent, subject to provisions to safeguard the interest of the third party. as set out in Clauses 40 and 41. This provision is essential because of the presumption, which was introduced by the Family Law (Scotland) Act 1985, though not yet brought into operation, that goods in matrimonial homes are in common ownership.

Along with the procedure of poinding and warrant sale, the other most commonly used procedure once a court has granted decree for payment of a debt is that of arrestment against the debtor's earnings. An arrestment of earnings attaches a debtor's earnings due at the next pay day but does not affect the earnings due on later pay days. This results in two major defects in the procedure. The first is that repeated arrestments, for the expenses of which the debtor would be liable, may be needed to clear a debt. The second is that the proportion of an individual's earnings in any pay period which is exempt from arrestment for an ordinary debt—that is to say a debt other than maintenance—is too low and does not leave enough for the debtor's subsistence. If the arrestment is in respect of maintenance or rates, the whole pay is attached leaving the debtor with nothing.

To remedy these defects the Bill provides in Part III for the replacement of the present system by three new forms of continuous diligence against earnings. These are: earnings arrestments for ordinary debts; current maintenance arrestments for aliment and periodical allowance payable, for example, on divorce; and conjoined arrestment orders in cases where two or more creditors wish to arrest the debtor's earnings. I should add that the Bill does not affect the arrestment of funds or property other than earnings.

In the new form of earnings arrestment enforcing ordinary debts, the deduction from earnings is to be fixed by reference to the tables of deductions which are set out in Schedule 2 to the Bill. This procedure of fixed deductions has the advantage that it avoids the trouble and expense of having to apply to the court to fix the amount of deductions or to have a compulsory means inquiry. On every pay day the employer is required to deduct the appropriate sum from the debtor's net earnings. These deductions are much smaller than under the present law. For instance, net wages below £35 per week are totally exempt from arrestment. The Bill requires the employer who makes the deductions to pay them over to the arresting creditor. There is to be no need, as at present, for an action of forthcoming to be raised or a mandate to be obtained from the debtor to secure payment of the sums to the creditor.

Public concern about maintenance payments is focused not so much on the protection of debtors as on the interests of maintenance creditors. These are wives, former wives and children who are generally considered to be in greater need of assistance than other classes of creditors. Maintenance differs from other debts in that it is a continuing obligation to pay periodic amounts. These amounts will already have been fixed by the court at levels reflecting the debtor's ability to pay. Normally, therefore, it is appropriate that the whole of the maintenance instalments should be deducted from the debtor's earnings. The object of maintenance is current support and it is preferable to prevent arrears arising rather than to provide for their recovery when they do arise. The Bill therefore provides that a current maintenance arrestment attaches in each pay period the maintenance due for that period. The employer is obliged to make the deductions and remit them to the maintenance creditor. The maintenance creditor is entitled to apply for a current maintenance arrestment when a sum of not less than the total of three instalments of maintenance is unpaid.

With a Bill as large as the present one, I do not think that your Lordships will expect or indeed want a description of all the provisions of the Bill. I have spoken of three important sets of reforms which the Bill introduces with regard to time to pay arrangements, poinding and warrant sales, and the arrestment of earnings. Part IV of the Bill reforms the arrange- ments for the recovery of rates and taxes and in particular it abolishes civil imprisonment for failure to pay rates or any tax. I should also draw your Lordships' attention to the Bill's provisions with regard to officers of court. These are contained in Part V of the Bill.

Officers of court hold public office as either Messengers-at-Arms in the Court of Session or sheriff officers in the sheriff court. They are also independent contractors who receive instructions to execute diligence on behalf of creditors. An officer of court has a duty to act when instructed and cannot refuse to do so. His fees are laid down by rules of court, and he is subject to disciplinary authority. This independent, fee-paid contractor status is paralleled by the arrangements in the English High Court (the sheriffs officers) and in France. Views were put to the Scottish Law Commission that a system of salaried officers employed within the Scottish court service should be introduced. The commission was, however, of the view that the present system of fee-paid independent contractors should be retained.

But the Bill contains a number of provisions dealing with the regulation, appointment, training, supervision, control and discipline of officers of court. Regulations about these matters are to be made by the Court of Session after consulting a proposed new body—the Advisory Council on Messengers-at-Arms and Sheriff Officers. The sheriffs principal are to have the power, even in the absence of a specific complaint, to order an inspection of the work of sheriff officers.

The Court of Session is to have similar powers in relation to messengers-at-arms. The power to approve persons for appointment as messengers-at-arms and to discipline them is to be transferred from the Lord Lyon King-of-Arms to the Court of Session. It clearly emerged, however, from the consultations carried out by the Scottish Law Commission that the historic connection between the Lord Lyon and messengers-at-arms is highly valued. Accordingly, the Lord Lyon, on receipt of a Court of Session recommendation that a person should be appointed as a messenger, grants the applicant a commission. Similarly, in disciplinary proceedings, it will be the Lord Lyon who will act on the Court of Session's interlocutor suspending a messenger or depriving him from office. Finally, the Lord Lyon will be a member of the advisory council.

The Bill also contains important provisions further regulating debt collection by officers of court. As at present, officers will be prohibited fromenforcing debts due to themselves and this rule is to be extended to enforcement on behalf of members of their family, business associates and firms or companies in which they have a controlling interest. Officers are to be expressly prohibited from using their official designations when collecting debts before decree. They are to be obliged to seek authorisation from the sheriff principal before doing so in a private capacity or through a debt collection agency. However, collection of debts which have been constituted by court decree will be part of the official functions of officers of court.

It has been generally agreed for some while that the procedures by which creditors can enforce unpaid debts in Scotland need to be reformed. This Bill incorporates the necessary reforms based on the painstaking and intensive work of the Scottish Law Commission. An antiquarian may perhaps regret that the Bill repeals a long list of historic Acts, starting with the Diligence Act of 1503. However, all those concerned with achieving in the late twentieth century the twin aims of debtor protection and effective enforcement of debts in Scotland will, I am sure, accord the Bill the support which it justly deserves. I commend this Bill to your Lordships. I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(Lord Cameron of Lochbroom.)

3.30 p.m.

Lord Morton of Shuna

My Lords, this Bill, as the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate said, is the Government's response to a very comprehensive and thorough review by the Scottish Law Commission of the problems of debt collection. If, as is the case, this is the first serious reform for the past 150 years, it is all the more welcome that it comes at last.

There are many ways in which we would hope to improve the Bill. The provisions regarding the changes in the law on arrestment of earnings are in general very welcome. This level of recovery was wholly ineffective and very expensive under the previous system where one had to arrest for each week's or month's payment as the wages became payable. With adequate safeguards, the recovery of debt by regular payments out of earnings is clearly the fairest and most painless method of achieving both justice for the debtor and justice for the creditor.

There is, however, a possible difficulty in the Bill as it is. If one creditor goes against a debtor by way of arrestment of his earnings at the same time as another creditor goes against the same debtor in the sheriff court or the Court of Session by the ordinary method of decree and gets an instalment decree, it may well happen that the instalment becomes impossible because the wages are being arrested and there appears to be no method of linking that, as the Bill is put forward by the Government.

It is also unfortunate, on the arrestment of earnings that the definition of "employer" is not wide enough to include the many people who are now technically self-employed, but in reality are people receiving regular pay for their work, whether they are labourers on a building site, bricklayers or share fishermen. It would be helpful, I suggest, if the definition could be extended to include the kinds of people who are really in the position of regular wage earners; otherwise they will not have the protection of Schedule 2 and all their earnings will be attachable.

In my view, of far more importance than the change in the arrestment—important and welcome though that is—is the fact that the Government have abandoned and ignored the Law Commission's recommendation regarding debt arrangement schemes. It is a common feature of the past 10 years—I had better not say seven years—or so that people have got into debt regularly and have difficulties, as the Law Commission found out. That is due in the main to their misfortune rather than their dishonesty. There is very useful work being done in the debt counselling schemes and there was recent publicity about Birmingham's debt counselling scheme. The debt arrangement scheme proposed by the Scottish Law Commission has a very great deal of sense, as one would expect from such a body, but, for some reason which the noble and learned Lord did not touch on, it has been ignored.

It is perhaps strange that the noble and learned Lord, having adopted, so to speak, three-quarters of the draft Bill by the Scottish Law Commission, and ignored the other quarter, did not tell the House why that was being omitted. The debt arrangement scheme provides a method for dealing, with the court's supervision, with the common situation where the debtor has more than one outstanding debt. The provisions regarding instalment payments which are to come into force are very welcome, but they only apply to the one debt.

The debt arrangement scheme put forward by the commission would deal with the situation where two or more creditors were chasing the one debtor who, through misfortune or illness or loss of employment, had not been able to pay. It would be able to give the court power to make arrangements that he would pay all the debts at once. That would have a great deal of sense in reducing the cost of diligence, reducing the rather unfortunate race that may occur between creditors to try to force payment out of the debtor, and no reason is put forward as to why that has been ignored.

The other major criticism is on the question of warrant sales. The retention of the warrant sale procedure is thought by the Government, and apparently also by the Law Commission, to be necessary. I suggest that with the changes in the arrestment of earnings, the need for warrant sales to sell household goods will diminish considerably. The warrant sales, as the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate pointed out, have caused considerable distress, especially in the case of sales in the house of the debtor. We on this side of the House are very glad to see that that has been dropped.

However, it is unfortunate and very much to be regretted that the Government have not gone the whole way and abolished the warrant sale of household goods. Because arrestment will be used in preference, the sale will now be used to recover the debts of the single parent, the sick, the person who has lost his job, the long-term unemployed and the small trader who cannot get his debts paid, because none of them can have his earnings arrested.

We are dealing, as the Law Commission has said, with the unfortunate and not with the dishonest. Why retain the warrant sale? If one looks at Clause 16 of the Bill, there is a massive list of articles which cannot be sold, and that is wholly good. The list includes clothing reasonably required for the debtor or members of his household; his implements, tools of trade; books or other equipment; medical aids; books required for education; children's toys; articles reasonably required for the care and upbringing of a child; bed or bedding; household linen; chairs or settees; tables; food; lights and light fittings; heating appliances; curtains; floor coverings; furniture; equipment or utensils used for cooking, storing or eating food, including not more than one refrigerator; articles used for cleaning, mending, or pressing clothes; articles for cleaning the house; furniture for storing clothing, bedding or household linen; articles used for safety in the dwellinghouse.

There is not much left. It is not entirely clear why there is the special requirement of only one refrigerator, but no doubt at Committee stage we can go into that. It is difficult to see why, if somebody has a fridge-freezer, he is protected, whereas if he has the misfortune to have a freezer and a fridge as two separate units one of them has to go. One cannot imagine that the Government really think that debtors have multiple refrigerators in their houses. The only articles that I can see that are excluded for some reason—and perhaps there is a reason—are cupboards, sideboards or whatever one likes to call them for storing cups, saucers, cutlery and the like. For some reason, they can be attached and sold and no doubt advice can be given by citizens advice bureaux that if any such cupboard is used for storing food as well, then it is safe.

What is left? It appears to be only something of the nature of books, pictures, television, a video recorder or radio. I doubt whether many debtors in Easterhouse or Wester Hailes have expensive first editions or Impressionist paintings on their walls. The television set tends to be on hire purchase. What is the purpose of retaining the warrant sale for household goods for debtors? It would appear highly unlikely that anything very effective in the ordinary debtor's house would be caught by such a sale.

The cost is quite high, as revealed in the report. If there is to be a process of sale of household goods—and I suggest that there should not be—it should be one limited to a case where the debt excluding the expenses of diligence is over a substantial sum such as £500. No doubt the noble and learned Lord, when he comes to answer, will have to say that the Law Commission recommended the retention of the warrant sale, and I am aware of that. He will also say that there is no alternative—a phrase that we have heard from our sources. But there is. For a person who is earning there is the alternative of arrestment of his earnings. For others, there is sequestration. That is a real alternative if people have assets in their houses that are worth selling. The difficulty that has occurred concerns attempts to recover debts such as electricity bills when there is virtually nothing worth selling in the debtor's house.

In general, therefore, subject to the major criticism that there is the retention of the warrant sale and the ignoring of the recommendation of the debt arrangements scheme, we welcome the Bill.

3.43 p.m.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe

My Lords, I should like to apologise first for the absence of Lord Wilson of Langside who, as the noble and learned Lord Advocate will appreciate, has considerable experience in this field. He spoke to me on the telephone and promised—this may not be to the delight of the Lord Advocate—that by the time we reach the Committee stage of the Bill the Campsie Hills will be thawed out and he will be able to make the journey to offer professional and wise comment on these proceedings.

We, on these Benches, welcome the general intention of the Bill. In our society, more and more people are encouraged to incur debt, and the provision of easy credit facilities is advertised daily on our television screens. It is not unusual for many people to incur debt and this causes great social hardship. Therefore, we welcome the terms of the Bill that make the arrangements for recovery of debt more simple and perhaps more humane.

We very much welcome the new arrangements, particularly for the arrestment of earnings and the fact that this has been made a much more simple procedure. While we have some doubt regarding what the noble Lord, Lord Morton of Shuna, said about the abolition of warrant sale, we welcome the arrangements for warrant sales whereby the debtor will have these conducted outside his home.

I have had only one experience in my life of sitting on a jury. It was a case where the sheriff's officer had entered the house to sell off some of the furniture for recovery of a small debt. The item that he chose, which I believe was a sideboard, the debtor claimed belonged to his daughter, who was awaiting occupation of a local authority house. This was the item that the sheriff's officer felt was of greatest value in the home, and he proceeded to sell it. The debtor proceeded to resist, and found himself in court for assault.

Having listened to the case, I must say that the debtor appeared to me to be guilty, although there was great provocation. These warrant sale officers proceeded from one house to another in the course of the day and sold off sideboards, television sets or whatever, in the homes of debtors. totalling perhaps eight of 10 a day. Your Lordships can readily understand the humiliation and the distress caused in many homes as a result of that procedure. I am delighted that under the Bill there will be an improvement in that situation regarding the items that may be sold outside the home of the debtor.

As to the debt arrangement schemes, it is noted that the Bill does not accept the draft Bill provisions of the Law Commission, paragraphs 14 to 42. Like the noble Lord, Lord Morton of Shuna, I should be delighted to hear why that is so. Is it because of the cost, or the administrative burden on the sheriff's officer?

In general, therefore, we, on these Benches, very much welcome this attempt to make more sensible and more humane arrangements for debt collection in Scotland. This is long overdue. I can promise your Lordships that the noble Lord, Lord Wilson of Langside, will be giving detailed attention to the Bill, which I hope will be helpful.