§ 29. Mr. Wareing
To ask the Attorney-General what plans he has to transfer the enforcement of cases against individuals involving debts of less than £25,000 from magistrates courts to county courts.
§ The Solicitor-General (Sir Nicholas Lyell)
The rules for the enforcement of debts in the magistrates courts and the county courts are currently under study by the Law Commission, which expects to report in the early spring of next year.
§ Mr. Wareing
Does the Solicitor-General agree that there is no need to wait for that report? Under the present system and under the community charge or poll tax regulations, ordinary people can be dispossessed of their vital goods and essentials by private bailiffs as a result of liability orders dealt with by magistrates courts. Those private bailiffs are unqualified people, any Tom, Dick or Harry, and they could be thugs or have criminal records. Is not it about time that the regulations were changed so that county court qualified bailiffs could bring at least some professionalism into this dastardly business?
§ The Solicitor-General
The hon. Gentleman will have read the National Consumer Council report, which I suspect lies behind his question. That report contains constructive suggestions. The council recognises that any question of transfer of all such debt collecting to the county courts is a long way down the road. The report makes constructive suggestions about monitoring and control of the present bailiffs who, after all, have been collecting the rates for a long time.