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Clause 87

Part of Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:00 am on 22nd March 2007.

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Photo of Vera Baird Vera Baird Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs 10:00 am, 22nd March 2007

We are talking in this clause only about attachment of earnings orders, and the point of it is pretty clear, of course: it applies where somebody’s earnings are attached under an AEO and they change their job, but do not tell the court the new employer’s details. I am not quite sure what the hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey was referring to when he talked about tenancies or people having moved out of their addresses. The provision is about attaching earnings and facilitating the court in tracing somebody who has moved jobs and who does not want to let the court know that they have done so.

My understanding is that the DWP and HMRC share the same database, so it is the same issue. The clause will enable HMRC to provide to the courts, for the purpose of redirecting the AEO, information that it has on file about the employment of the judgment debtor. It enables an AEO to be reactivated if the situation lasts. It is likely that the judgment creditor will be the person who knows that the money has stopped, so they will need to come and tell the court in order to initiate the procedure. That probably requires them to fill in another form or make another application, but it seems hard to get around that requirement, since they will be the person who knows.

Apparently, there will be an ability to seek a hearing with a judge if either party is unhappy with the way in which things proceed. That is what one would normally expect, but it is hard to envisage the sort of mistake that the hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey described. All the provision is about is whether somebody has moved to a job wherever else; if that is confirmed, the court will contact the employer and transfer the AEO. If it is not confirmed, the information could be incorrect; the person may have moved on again, even before HMRC has had time to pin him down. That is really all that this issue is about.

Of course, there is a very great need—the hon. Gentleman asked how much information we should make readily available in these circumstances—to ensure that the Human Rights Act 1998 is complied with, and to ensure a proportionate balance between the privacy of the individual and the rights of the judgment creditor. Of course, article 8 of the European convention on human rights is a conditional one and in this case is rightly in balance because the rights of the judgment creditor are put high up. However, that is all the information that is required in order to make the power work. I hope that I have satisfied the hon. Gentleman that his fairly wide-ranging concerns are without foundation and that this is a pretty straightforward measure.