HL Deb 21 March 1991 vol 527 cc747-59

4.39 p.m.

House again in Committee.

Clause 27 [Liability Orders];

Lord Stoddart of Swindon moved Amendment No. 108:

Page 20. line 32, at end insert:("; or (iii) the preferable option of Community Service Orders has been fully exploited. ").

The noble Lord said: It may be for the convenience of the Committee to consider Amendments Nos. 110 and 111 together with Amendment No. 108. Throughout the Committee stage it has become quite clear that the Bill is not really concerned with putting children first but with saving the Treasury money and pursuing unfortunate parents with a diligence which is usually reserved for hardened criminals. My noble friend Lord Houghton of Sowerby has used some very apposite descriptions of the Bill. His description of the Bill last Tuesday (at col. 577 of Hansard) as the grubbiest and most unprincipled Bill in his experience was very apt indeed. I should like to add the adjective "poisonous ". Much of the venom is contained in Clauses 27 to 32 and the related Scottish clauses which seek to criminalise parents, many of whom are already enduring stress and are also likely to be financially distressed.

The progenitors of the Bill seem to have had scant regard for the feelings of children and the effect upon them of criminalising and perhaps pauperising and gaoling their father, or perhaps even their mother. Of what long-term benefit is it to the children for the liable parent's goods and moneys to be seized? And what of the children of a second family, who will be devastated by such seizure? Heaven knows what benefit the children will derive from one of their parents being committed to prison, at a huge cost to the taxpayer, where he or she will have no opportunity to provide for the children in any way.

My amendments would have the effect of softening the whole process somewhat —not a lot, but somewhat —in that community service orders could be used in preference to a court appearance which might result in pauperisation or the loss of liberty. It would enable the liable parent to continue to work, or be available for work, and at the same time pay his or her debt to society—and I say "debt " for want of a better word.

Furthermore, the amendments require that no liability order should be made unless there has been a social services investigation of and report on the likely effect on the children of the absent parent and upon any child who might be resident with him. Surely nobody, not even the Government, can be against such a procedure. If such reports are not to be an important part of the whole procedure then in many cases family life will be thrown into utter chaos, with baleful effects on the children whom this Bill is supposed to protect. If we really believe that children come first, and if we are to take the Prime Minister seriously when he talks about a caring society, then the least the Government can do is to accept the amendments. I beg to move.

Lord Prys-Davies

I support the amendment that has been moved with great conviction by my noble friend Lord Stoddart. We believe that it is a helpful amendment because it makes available to the Secretary of State or to a court the power to make a community service order in lieu of distress, if distress is unlikely to be available or to be successful, or instead of committal to prison.

One had understood from paragraph 5.23 of Volume One of the White Paper that the agency would have the full range of powers which it might need in order to carry out its duties of collecting and enforcing maintenance. One power which is missing is the power to apply to the court for a community service order in lieu of a commitment order. There are provisions in other legislation for a community service order to be made, but I am not sure whether those provisions are as yet in force.

If the Committee makes that power available to the court or the Secretary of State it follows that the regulations should be made to define in what circumstances the remedy or power should be made available.

4.45 p.m.

The Lord Chancellor

Clause 27 deals with the making of a liability order. The purpose of a liability order is to make available certain of the court's powers. The clause is not concerned with imprisonment. The purpose of the liability order is to enable a declaration to be made that has the effect of establishing the existence of the debt.

Members of the Committee are aware that the agency is to have power to make assessments, but before it goes on to exercise certain of the enforcement powers it requires, as a preliminary, an order from the court in effect showing that the court is satisfied that the debt exists. Therefore, with the greatest respect to the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, I do not believe that we are in community service order country at this stage but when we come to the provisions of the Bill dealing with imprisonment the question of community service orders will have to be considered.

I am not aware of the provisions to which the noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, referred. There may be some confusion about the matter, but we shall have an opportunity to discuss it later.

However, at this stage the liability order is intended only to establish the existence of the relevant debt and to enable the Secretary of State to make use of some of the powers of enforcement which he could not use without the order. The imprisonment sanction comes right at the end of the procedure. It would be more convenient for me to explain in that context how a community service order might or might not fit in.

At this stage the liability order is made, as Clause 27(3) makes clear, if the court is satisfied that the payments in question have become payable by the liable person and have not been paid. There is therefore an opportunity for the liable person to question his liability and the question of nonpayment. Those two matters have to be established before further powers can be exercised. I hope that in the light of that explanation the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

I do not believe that this is the place for me to answer some of the noble Lord's more general comments on the Bill. I do not accept for a moment what he said about the Bill being unprincipled. I believe that it is a Bill for putting children first and for ensuring, as far as possible, that where a parent is liable for their maintenance under the Bill that maintenance is enforced against the parent. There are many safeguards, which we shall come to, but the purpose of the Bill is to enforce the maintenance obligation of a parent in respect of his child. That is an obligation which has been contained in the law for a long time and which has been regarded as part of the ordinary responsibilities of parenthood. The Bill is intended to make that effective and to produce a reasonable system for making it effective.

I hope that in the light of what I have said the noble Lord will not press the amendment. We shall address some of his anxieties later.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

I do not wish to delay the Committee for more than a moment or two and I hope that my noble friend will forgive me for intruding a personal experience on the Committee. I have strong reservations about the use of "press-ganged " community service. For a number of years I was chairman and one of the trustees, along with the late Lord Selwyn Lloyd and the noble Lord, Lord Grimond, who is happily still with us, for the Young Volunteer Force Foundation. I believe that combining voluntary service with obligatory community service is not really the right sort of mix. In any case, I have my doubts about coercion for community service.

We should not be too ready to extend the area of use of this alternative to other forms of punishment; and of course it is other forms of punishment that we are considering when community service orders are made. This is not community service by a person who has been convicted but a method of "working off " a liability which might otherwise take a different form. I hope my noble friend will take account of that. I do not consider community service orders to be suitable for incorporation into this Bill.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

I first reply to my noble friend Lord Houghton. I understand his aversion to the use of community service orders—indeed, he has had a great deal of experience—but the fact is that, in my book anyway, it would be far preferable for the liable parent to be able to keep most of his assets which he may need for the upkeep of a second family. Certainly it would be better than going to prison for him to be required to embark upon some form of community service, in which case he would be able to continue to work in order to pay his maintenance and at the same time maintain his second family. Therefore, perhaps that is an option that must be considered.

Moreover, when we pass the Criminal Justice Bill we shall be encouraging the courts to make more community service orders. Indeed, magistrates are already making much more use of community service orders to keep people out of prison. Therefore, it may well be a legitimate use of the community service order in this particular case. However, I appreciate my noble friend's point of view. We are not in the realms of criminality but of non-payment of certain obligations.

To some degree I was encouraged by what the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor said. He seemed to accept that perhaps the community service order could be part of the remedy for non-payment. Whether he is going to say that at a later stage I do not know, but if he were to do so—

The Lord Chancellor

I should not like there to be any misunderstanding. It would be more comprehensible if we were to discuss community service orders in relation to imprisonment. I do not wish to anticipate the argument at this stage because that could lead to confusion, but it is in that context that the matter arises. Of course, I have a great deal of sympathy with the point of view that a community service order is preferable to imprisonment but I shall have to explain, in the context of the imprisonment provision, just how this does or does not fit. I should not like to give the noble Lord undue encouragement; all I am saying is that this is not really a suitable point at which to discuss the matter. I am not in any way wishing to inhibit the noble Lord but I think he will find that it is more appropriate to discuss this question in relation to the possibility of imprisonment, which we shall come to later.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

What the noble and learned Lord is saying, of course, is that I put down this amendment at the wrong point in the Bill. I will certainly take his advice upon that and perhaps it is a matter that we can discuss on Clause 32: indeed, I am sure we shall discuss it.

The noble and learned Lord did not mention, perhaps because he thought we should discuss it later, the social services report. I think such reports are most important and I would welcome his view on that. In my view it is essential, before any enforcement takes place, to consider all the circumstances of the child for whom the father is liable and perhaps the second family that the man has fathered or the woman has mothered. Also, bearing in mind that we have all kinds of social services reports for all sorts of crimes, surely in this regard it must be written into this Bill that there should be a social inquiry.

The Lord Chancellor

I did not deal with that expressly because I sought to explain that at this stage we are dealing with a liability order and the purpose of a liability order, as the last part of the wording says, is to deal with cases where, the payments in question have become payable by the liable person and have not been paid ".

A social services report cannot help on that point. That is a matter which does not depend on anything that the social services could help with. The agency will have the evidence and the information on which that is based. Clause 27 gives the liable person an opportunity to challenge allegations of fact before anything further happens in the way of enforcement which may be consequent on a liability order being taken. I am also happy to discuss social services reports in relation to Clause 32, but I think at this stage they may give rise to a certain amount of confusion. We must keep our debates on a reasonable level so that we understand the purpose of these reports. I am suggesting to the noble Lord that, although I understand why he has tabled the amendment at this stage, it is easier and more comprehensible to discuss it in relation to Clause 32.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

I understand that, and I see that I have Amendment No. 114 down on this very matter. In the light of what the noble and learned Lord has said, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord McGregor of Durris moved Amendment No. 109:

Page 20, line 39, at end insert ("subject to the provisions of subsections (4) and (5) below. (4) Where the Secretary of State applies for a liability order, the magistrates' court or (as the case may be) sheriff may remit the case to the Secretary of State who shall arrange for it to be dealt with by a child support officer. (5) The court may, in remitting any case under this section, give such directions as it considers appropriate. ").

The noble Lord said: This amendment does no more than attempt to fill what seems to a small gap: namely, there will be authority for the Secretary of State to apply to the magistrates for a liability order but there is no corresponding provision to enable the magistrates to return the case to the agency if circumstances have arisen in which the absent parent has no capacity to meet the liability order. Things may happen swiftly—for example, disability, illness or unemployment. Therefore would it not be sensible, rather than chasing the father to the court and then back again if it proves to be unnecessary, simply to enable the court to pass the case back to the agency for it to consider any new circumstances?

5 p.m.

Lord Prys-Davies

What I find particularly worrying about Clause 27, if I have correctly understood it, is that once the Secretary of State has obtained his liability order it is open to him to proceed to levy distress without further reference to the court. He will obtain his liability order if he can produce evidence that there is an order of the agency in existence and that the liable person has failed to make one or more payments. That is the only evidence that he would have to produce to the court and the court would then have no discretion in the matter but will issue a liability order.

Once the agency has the liability order it is obviously in business to enforce payment. My fear is that the official may fail to pay due regard to these circumstances and the liability of the parent and that his vision may be too limited. The amendment moved by the noble Lord is again helpful because it introduces a safeguard.

Perhaps the noble and learned Lord can also explain whether the Secretary of State will make an application exparte or will the liable person have notice of the application and have an opportunity to go to the court to explain his position, or indeed will he have a copy of the notice of the application? It may be that I missed the reassuring reply, but that is my worry.

The Lord Chancellor

As I said, the purpose of the liability order is in order to give in court a check that the payments in question are payments for which the liable person is in fact liable, and, secondly, that they have not been paid, as a preliminary to any further procedure of enforcement in respect of these matters. My understanding is that the magistrates' court would not make an order without due notice to the person against whom the order is sought, and also that the person against whom the order is sought will have an opportunity of disputing either or both of these branches of what the court has to be satisfied about before it can make a liability order. The liability order of course presupposes that the person in question—the liable person—has been given the notice of the agency's determination of the maintenance payable by that particular person.

If the Secretary of State applies for a liability order and these conditions have not been made out then that is the end of it so far as the Secretary of State is concerned. He cannot go further to make enforcement. What the noble Lord, Lord McGregor, has proposed is unnecessary if he is thinking of a case where the Secretary of State has failed, because in that situation it will go back in the sense that he cannot go any further forward in the way of enforcement without the liability order.

The only purpose of seeking the liability order is restricted to these two questions; namely, whether the payments in question have become payable and whether or not they have been paid. These are the only questions that arise in respect of a liability order. If the Secretary of State does not satisfy the court on these matters then the court will not make the order and the Secretary of State is thereby debarred from going any further in the enforcement procedure. That is how the matter is intended to work.

Obviously if circumstances change the Secretary of State may be able at a later stage to come back to the court for a liability order in different circumstances, but so far as the initial application is concerned, if he fails to prove one or other of these matters then the liability order will be refused and there is no need for a remit. That is the situation as I see it, and accordingly I do not see that it is necessary to give the court power to remit to the agency.

There is implied in the noble Lord's approach to the matter the giving of some further powers to the court over and above what this clause deals with; but on the basis of what the clause deals with the amendment is not necessary because the matter is left with the agency if the Secretary of State fails in his application to the court by failing to prove one or other, or both, of the necessary prerequisites for a liability order.

Lord Prys-Davies: If at the hearing it became clear to the court that the liable person might have been in great difficulties in complying with the order—he might have been ill or he might have lost his job—the court would be in no position to make a recommendation to the child agency. It would not be in a position to require the child agency to conduct an inquiry into the circumstances of the liable person. The child agency would get a liability order because it had established that there was an order and that he was in default. It seems to us that the court ought at that stage to be able to make a direction that the child agency should consider the circumstances of the liable person before it proceeds to take action because it has obtained a liability order.

The Lord Chancellor

The situation is that if the Secretary of State—and it is a power in the Secretary of State to enforce the maintenance obligation—is in a situation to demonstrate that the person in question has the obligation for a particular amount and that the amount has not been paid, then it is for the court to decide that question. If there is some situation developed under which circumstances have changed, then there are of course ways in which you can undermine—as we looked at earlier—the existing assessment. For example, if the person had lost his job, then the existing assessment would be capable of being changed in order to take account of that circumstance.

The liability order is intended simply as a check by the court, and putting the court in the position to check that the necessary conditions for enforcement have been established. Obviously the situation so far as enforcement is concerned is then in much the same case as would be any other debt of this character. It will come finally to the ultimate enforcement situation, which is dealt with in Clause 32, and the conditions that must be satisfied. The purpose of Clause 27, which we are dealing with just now, is simply the one that I mentioned, and it is not intended to take account of any supervening circumstance. That is supposed to be taken into account under the procedures for assessment by the agency.

Lord McGregor of Durris

I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord for his explanation. I certainly do not wish to press the amendment at this stage, although I should like to read carefully what has been said and if necessary come back to it later. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 110 not moved.]

Clause 27 agreed to.

Clause 28 [Regulations about liability orders]:

[Amendment No. 111 not moved.]

On Question, Whether Clause 28 shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

May I ask one question about Clause 28? It is on the word "regulations ". I am anxious that a misunderstanding may be cleared up. If there was a misunderstanding I ought to say that it was entirely my fault.

A matter of great importance, because this is an enabling Bill, is when we shall see the regulations. I understood the noble Lord, Lord Henley, to say that we would see them before Third Reading. However, he may well have intended to limit that commitment to the regulations under Clause 22. If there was an error, it was mine because when I read Hansard I believe that the commitment should be understood as limited to Clause 22.

I should like to know when we shall see the various regulations. Until we see them we cannot understand this legislation.

The Lord Chancellor

My noble friend Lord Henley gave an undertaking which is superseded in the event because the Committee took out Clause 22. The undertaking was to provide before Third Reading, first, the information which was asked for about the proportion of reduction in the relevant benefit that would be allowed under the provision, and, secondly, the maximum duration for which that reduction would be permitted. The clause having been taken out, there is no subsisting obligation on my noble friend in that respect.

I take the view that it would not be appropriate to have the regulations until the powers are granted. A good deal depends on the terms in which the powers are granted. We have indicated strongly that we would wish to have very wide consultation before the final terms of the regulations are settled. It is in order to deal with that general problem that we have used a method, with which I know my noble and learned friend is not entirely happy, of indicating in at least some cases the heads of subject matter with which the regulations may deal. I am in no position to promise that the regulations in anything like their final form will be available until the Bill has gone to another place. Indeed, I would not expect the regulations to be in their final form until after the Bill has been enacted. Obviously one has to take account of the full terms of the Bill in considering the proposed regulations.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

I confess that I cannot understand why, if sight of regulations can be vouchsafed under Clause 22 before the power to make them is enacted, that cannot be so with other regulations. It is important that we should be able to see these regulations. It is not sufficient to say that we have indicated in the Bill the kind of regulation that they will be when a large number which are very important can be made under the general heading which is particularised often also in an ensuing subsection.

I hope that my noble and learned friend will be able to do something better for us. Perhaps he will let us see the regulations in draft before we reach Third Reading of the Bill.

Clause 28 agreed to.

Clause 29 [Enforcement of liability orders by distress]:

5.15 p.m.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon moved Amendment No. 112:

Page 21. line 26, at end insert: ("(iii) any item relating to the children's family background or which it might reasonably be expected that the children will inherit; and ").

The noble Lord said: This is a simple and I hope easily understood amendment. It seeks to protect items, perhaps of value, from seizure where such items might have an important link with the past, might have been in the family for a long time and would form part of the child's identity and inheritance. Noble Lords opposite understand more clearly than I do the value of inheritance and family identity. I have never inherited anything in my life unfortunately; I feel deprived. I am sure that noble Lords opposite would not wish possessions which provide identity and continuity to be seized and lost for ever to the children simply to satisfy the short-term needs of the Treasury.

I shall take no more of the Committee's time. I believe that that explains the amendment. I hope that for once the noble and learned Lord will he sympathetic and will accept the amendment.

The Lord Chancellor

I am not sure whether the noble Lord included me among those noble Lords opposite who were concerned with inheritance. I am sure that he has inherited a great many of the characteristics which he displays for all our interest, instruction and entertainment from time to time.

The effect of the amendment would be to say that the officer exercising the powers of seizures under this provision would be restricted from taking such matters as related to the children's background of which it might reasonably be expected that the children will inherit. That would put an impractical and rather unreasonable burden on the bailiff in this country and the sheriff's officer in Scotland executing his responsibilities. It would mean that before any goods could be taken in satisfaction of the debt, the bailiff would have to consider whether any of the goods could possibly be those which would be passed to the children on the death of the liable person.

The noble Lord is seeking to protect the interests of the children, and I sympathise with that intention. However, I doubt whether this is a practical way of doing that. The noble Lord always refers to the Treasury. Important as the Treasury is, this is not primarily a matter for the Treasury. It is a matter between the parent and child. It is the parent's obligation to maintain the child at the time that the enforcement is going ahead that is in issue. One knows very well that in seeking sometimes to evade obligations, promises are made about payment at a future time. I am sure that the "cheque in the post " reply in respect of debts is one well known to Members of the Committee. When the post arrives sometimes the expectation is not entirely fulfilled.

It would be even more remarkable for me to seek to fulfil my present obligations to pay for my children by saying that I intend to meet those obligations in due course when I pass away and that I shall leave some item to my children as part of their inheritance. That is a deferred way of dealing with the matter.

Apart from that consideration it is difficult to see how the officer in question could properly perform such a duty. How will he find out the information? Will he accept the liable person's word that he proposes to leave something to the children, or what? How does one determine what would be regarded as being reasonable to leave to the children? Secondly, the amendment does not specify directly which children are referred to. However, I assume that they are the children in respect of whom the liability for maintenance arises.

I sympathise with the view that it would be good to protect for the child in the future an item that might be available for him. However, the important point is that there is a present obligation of maintenance and it is that to which the enforcement relates. It is not practicable to restrict the goods which can be used in order to satisfy that obligation in the manner proposed by reference to a fairly vague possibility of future inheritance. I hope that in the light of that explanation the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

I am obliged to the noble and learned Lord for the manner in which he dealt with the amendment. I accept that I have inherited my character, which I hope is good, and my general demeanour from my parents and their ancestors who came from north of the Border, Wales and England. I am a true Briton and I suppose that is why I am chairman of the campaign for an independent Britain. However, I was trying to point out that I have not inherited any material wealth.

I realise that it might be difficult to define exactly the items that have been in the family for a long time. It could be difficult to be certain that they would be handed on to the children for whom the parent was liable. It is a difficult problem. People who have long family histories and old homes and estates will understand, although they may not be involved, that something that one desires to be passed on to one's children to be kept in the family in perpetuity could be distrained upon simply to have cash to help the Treasury, or to help the person who for the time being has charge of the child. Something which is of long-term significance could be sacrificed for short-term expediency. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Aylestone)

If Amendment No. 112A is agreed to I cannot call Amendments Nos. 112B or 113. There is a misprint in Amendment No. 112B. It should read:

Page 21, line 46, leave out paragraph (h) ".

Lord Simon of Glaisdale moved Amendment No. 112A:

Page 21, line 43, leave out subsection (8).

The noble and learned Lord said: I shall speak also to Amendment No. 112B. The clause is concerned with the grave remedy of distress. That is a powerful mode of execution and in this case it is used to execute generally on goods for liability orders.

That being such a potent mode of execution, the first matter to which I wish to draw the Committee's attention is that this clause, like so many others in the Bill, is no more nor less than a peg on which to hang regulations. The regulations will bite on the individual citizen. Secondly, the regulations are subject only to the negative resolution procedure. I have tabled a later amendment to make the regulations under subsection (4) subject to affirmative resolution procedure. That is an error and should read "subsection (7) ". I am advised that in due course the correct way to deal with the matter is to ask the Committee to treat it as a printer's error. However, in doing so I must put on a white sheet and tell your Lordships how the mistake arose.

I draw the Committee's attention to the terms of subsection (7). It states: The Secretary of State may make regulations supplementing the provisions of this section ".

That would have been a provision close to the heart of Henry VIII or James II. It is nothing other than the taking of power to right Acts of Parliament supplementing what is in the statute. However, I shall return to that matter in due course when discussing Clause 38.

I draw attention to a matter to which my noble and learned friend has referred. Subsection (7) gives a general power to make regulations in a permissive form. Subsection (8) states, again in a permissive form, that the regulations may in particular do (a), (b) and (c). Since that is a particularity of a generality it is obvious that, strictly speaking, as my noble and learned friend always says, that subsection is unnecessary. I know that he will say that recently I reinforced his point in my plea to see the regulations before the Bill passes. Nevertheless, it is most unsatisfactory to have such a vague, general power and then to have particularities. That is all we have before we pass the Bill into law and it leaves us incognisant of what the supervening regulations will be under subsection (7).

Also, I should like to ask my noble and learned friend about subsection (8) (a) and (b). Subsection (8) (a) states:

"provide that a distress under this section may be levied anywhere in England and Wales

I have surmised—and my noble and learned friend will correct me if I am wrong—that that is because distress is levied by sheriffs' officers and that power extends only to the borders of the county. However, there may be another explanation. In any case, I do not see why this particular provision is necessary.

Paragraph (b) is the subject of a particular amendment. It provides that the Secretary of State may, by regulation, cure any defect or want of form in the liability order. Want of form would be serious enough because what is being asked for is power to cure something which is defective in law. However, it goes far beyond want of form in the preceding words as if any legal defect can be cured by the waving of a regulatory wand. I beg to move.

5.30 p.m.

The Lord Chancellor

We have gone over the general argument more than once and I cannot elaborate on what I have said before on that point. My noble and learned friend illustrates the importance of having such provisions by his comment on subsection (8) (b). I have considered carefully what he said. I think it may be right that we should reconsider the terms of that provision.

As regards paragraph (a), the idea is that it would be possible for the Secretary of State to make regulations which would make the authority of the court apply in England and Wales in respect of a liability order; in other words, a liability order would be given general effect.

In relation to the later amendment to which my noble and learned friend referred, on which he spoke about the possibility of wearing a white sheet, I do not believe that there is any need for that. I understand the provision which he had in mind.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

My noble and learned friend does not yet know that the fault was entirely mine.

The Lord Chancellor

I understand the situation, and I do not mind whose fault it was. I understand that the later amendment refers to subsection (7) and I shall be happy to consider it on that basis, without any necessity of a white sheet.

As I said, the situation as regards paragraph (a) is that it makes it clear that the authority of the court applies to England and Wales. The details of Scottish law on this matter are different. Therefore, it was thought right that an England and Wales provision should be provided for in regulations. In the light of that explanation, I hope that my noble and learned friend will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

I am grateful to my noble and learned friend for offering to reconsider this provision. I am grateful to him also for his generosity in saying what he did about the possibility of correcting my mistake.

With regard to paragraph (a), I did not altogether follow what my noble and learned friend said about the court levying distress. My understanding is that distress is always levied by the sheriff or the under-sheriff or his officers. I thought that for some reason that was intended to allow execution outside the shire boundary. However, if I have that wrong my noble and learned friend will perhaps reconsider the matter to see how far and in what respect it is necessary to make that provision.

As regards paragraph (b), my noble and learned friend, perhaps because it is not yet formally before the Committee, did not refer to that. However, it is symptomatic of this Bill that power is taken by regulation to cure an illegality; that is, not merely a defect as to form but, as is clear by the contrast, a defect as to substance. However, in the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 112E not moved.]

Lord Henley

My Lords, this may be a convenient time at which to take the second Statement. I beg to move that the House be now resumed.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.