HC Deb 06 March 2001 vol 364 cc212-3W
Mr. Barry Jones

To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what progress has been made on Phase Two of the Review of Civil Enforcement. [152743]

Mr. Lock

We have been engaged in a comprehensive review of the enforcement of civil court judgments since 1998. I announced by way of a written answer on 26 July 2000,Official Report, column 715W, the completion of Phase One of the review. The rules of court arising from this phase are currently being drafted.

I also announced on 26 July last year the terms of Phase Two of the review. These were: To implement costed recommendations, including the production of a unified set of rules of court for enforcement, and To identify, in the light of the amended procedures and revised powers of bailiffs, the type of agent or form of agency, which should be responsible for carrying out those enforcement procedures, and to make costed recommendations.

I am pleased to announce that Phase Two of the review of enforcement procedures will now be broadened to include structures for, and the regulation of, civil enforcement agents generally, not just within the High Court and the county courts.

It would be a wasted opportunity not to attempt to go further and devise a single model encompassing not just civil court warrant enforcement agents, but other private sector civil enforcement agents collecting money for central or local government. This will involve my officials exploring systems across all areas of enforcement, and they will now examine various possible options, including issues surrounding a new class of enforcement agents who would be officers of but not necessarily employees of, the court.

For this reason we will publish in late Spring 2001 a Green Paper on the structure and regulation of enforcement, and a single piece of bailiff law, followed by a White Paper later in the year, setting out our proposals for legislation.

This approach offers the best prospect of ensuring that there are real gains from the Review. Continuing with the narrower focus would pass up the opportunity of achieving a fundamental improvement in our enforcement system.