Baroness Sugg, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL7317):
Question by Lord Alton of Liverpool:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of whether they have sufficient powers under the new Hong Kong British National (Overseas) Visa scheme to prevent the benefits of the scheme being enjoyed by individuals who have (1) participated in, (2) planned, or (3) encouraged, the perpetration of human rights abuses in Hong Kong. (HL7317)
Tabled on: 27 July 2020
The offer we have set out for British Nationals (Overseas), BN(O)s, is a special, bespoke, set of arrangements developed for the unique circumstances we face, and in light of our historic commitment to the people of Hong Kong.
The Home Secretary set out in Hong Kong British National (Overseas) Visa Policy Statement on 22 July. In line with the eligibility requirements for the Hong Kong BN(O) Visa, BN(O)s and their dependants will need to be able to demonstrate that they have no serious criminal convictions, have not otherwise engaged in behaviour which the UK Government deems not conducive to the public good, or be subject to other general grounds for refusal set out in the Immigration Rules.
Date and time of answer: 06 Aug 2020 at 16:15.
Uniquely, people with disabilities are they only group of people who may be legally aborted right up to birth. That’s what happens to over 90% of people with Downs. Now, rather than challenging this endless killing, the U.K. Government says it will make it even easier. Care and kill, defend and destroy, equality and discrimination, can never be used as synonyms. Search and destroy should be replaced by love and embrace.
In a statement today, The Don’t Screen Us Out campaign say:
Govt announce roll-out of new Down’s syndrome test that will likely see rise in abortions
The number of babies with Down’s Syndrome aborted is likely to increase following a decision announced by the Government.
People with Down’s syndrome, their families and campaign groups are very disappointed that a new prenatal test that is projected to lead to a profound increase in the number of children with Down’s syndrome screened out by termination is going to be rolled out by the Department of Health and Social Care without responding to the very real concerns of those in the Down’s syndrome community.
The UK Government has announced plans to procurement and roll-out of the non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) technique called ‘cell-free DNA’ (cfDNA) to all health boards in England.
Recently, an investigation by The Sunday Times found that the number of babies born with Down’s syndrome has fallen by 30% in the small number of NHS hospitals that have introduced the new form of screening.
This situation is set to get worse as the Government with the rollout of the test across England.
The National Institute for Health and Research RAPID evaluation study projects that the proposed implementation will result in more babies with Down’s syndrome being identified each year and based on the current 90% of parents with a diagnosis that terminate a pregnancy, this is projected to result in more terminations where babies have the condition.
In its 2017 report on NIPT the Nuffield Council of Bioethics warned that the UK National Screening Committee should take better consideration of the particular consequences, some perhaps unintended, of prenatal screening programmes where termination of pregnancy is an option.
The Don’t Screen Us Out campaign calls on the government to halt the implementation of cfDNA screening and to introduce reforms which would support those with Down’s syndrome and their families. The group adds that cfDNA may only worsen the culture of informally eugenic anti-disabled discrimination that exists in the Fetal Anomaly Screening Programme.
Lynn Murray, spokesperson for the Don’t Screen Us Out campaign said:
“As a mother of a daughter who has Down’s syndrome, I see every day the unique value she brings to our family and the positive impact she has on others around her.
“Figures released earlier this year show that the fears of the Down’s syndrome community that rolling out these tests would lead to a large drop in the number of babies with Down’s syndrome were not unfounded.
“While the screening itself is being heralded as a move to reduce the number of miscarriages associated with invasive amniocentesis, figures published in the Sunday Times last December revealed that the number of babies born with Down’s syndrome fell by 30% in NHS hospitals that have already introduced the new test. When this test is rolled out across the country, we can expect to see this situation replicated elsewhere. Such outcomes are likely to have a profoundly negative impact on the Down’s syndrome community.”
“We are calling on the Government to halt the further roll-out of the tests on the NHS immediately and to undertake an urgent inquiry into the impact that these tests are having on birth numbers of babies with Down’s syndrome.”
“There also needs to be greater support for parents who are expecting a child with Down’s syndrome.”
“Despite Nuffield Council of Bioethics’ 2017 call for RCOG to take immediate action and introduce professional guidance to cover the continuation of pregnancy after a diagnosis of fetal anomaly there are still no guidelines to support women who choose to continue their pregnancies after finding that their baby has Down’s syndrome.”
“There is mounting evidence that an unconscious bias exists in the FASP programme. We need the right reforms to turn things around and ensure that the tenets of diversity and inclusivity extend to screening conversations in the NHS.”
For interviews, contact Don’t Screen Us Out spokesperson Lynn Murray on 0784 0966 736 or email email@example.com
A 2015 UN report from the International Bioethics Committee (IBC) of the United Nations Educational, Social, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) issued a stern warning about the drive to adopt NIPT in national screening programmes, “the potential ethical disadvantages of NIPT can be summarised as routinisation and institutionalisation of the choice of not giving birth to an ill or disabled child”.
The Governmental enabling of such an approach, also violates the UK’s treaty obligations to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) to make sure that its health policies – including antenatal screening – are informed by and reflective of a ‘social model’ understanding of disability. As indeed does the haphazard medical support for parents whose child is found to have fetal disability, which leads to pressure on parents to abort their babies with disabilities such as trisomy 21 and causes the conditions that drive the low proportion of Down’s syndrome births. Both constitute a failure to implement article 23 of the CRPD to eliminate discrimination and to provide early and comprehensive support to families with children who have Down syndrome.
The Don’t Screen Us Out campaign calls on the government to halt the implementation of cfDNA screening and to introduce reforms which would support those with Down’s syndrome and their families. cfDNA may only worsen the culture of informally eugenic anti-disabled discrimination that exists in the Fetal Anomaly Screening Programme.
On 19 November 2015 the UK National Screening Committee published recommendations around the introduction of cfDNA as a contingent test within the UK Fetal Anomaly Screening Programme (FASP) for women receiving higher chance results from first line screening for trisomy 13, trisomy 18 and trisomy 21. The recommendations included further evaluative work to better understand what would need to be answered before full implementation, and approach to addressing these issues together with the practical impact to the screening programme if implemented. Also recommended was that the evaluative work should be informed by work on ethics and NIPT by the Nuffield Council of Bioethics. https://legacyscreening.phe.org.uk/policydb_download.php?doc=1266
Nuffield Council of Bioethics published a 169-page report on NIPT in March 2017. https://www.nuffieldbioethics.org/publications/non-invasive-prenatal-testing
NIPT techniques will shortly allow for the testing of the entire human genome, and the targeting of fetuses for abortion based on a range of illicitly considered characteristics. .https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/generation-genome-and-the-opportunities-for-screening-programmes
BGI Employee telling visitors that prenatal screening is a ‘cash cow’ (courtesy of Al-Jazeera) https://youtu.be/fCEKXY52X1U
Text of a Letter Sent Today To the International Criminal Court in the Hague
Ms Fatou Bensouda
Information and Evidence Unit
Office of the Prosecutor
Post Office Box 19519
2500 CM The Hague
sent by email
6 August 2020
Dear Ms Bensouda,
Re: The Situation in Nigeria
Following a meeting with Mr Phakiso Mochochoko and the team working on the situation in Nigeria last week, and further to our previous correspondence (14 February; 25 June; 23 July) we write to draw your attention to a new report by UK-based Igbo Councillors, which cites evidence of escalating attacks against Christians and Igbo people (one of the three major tribes in Nigeria) in south-eastern states.
One of the helpful and constructive outcomes of our meeting with your colleagues was the suggestion that we continue to send you authenticated information which, while not directly relevant to the specific cases which you are assessing, will be information which you will be able to examine in due course. What follows is certainly illustrative of the culture of impunity which we discussed.
According to the report: “During [the] period of strict lockdown…. [Fulani herders] have migrated in trailer and lorry loads with AK47s and other assorted weapons and ammunitions. They have taken occupation of the farmlands displacing the communities and causing havoc and damaging properties as well as senseless and traumatic killings of the villagers to take occupation of their lands and communities.” As of May 2020, 350 Igbo villages have reportedly been occupied by Fulani herders, as well as by Shuwa Arab mercenaries.
Their findings coincide with the launch of a report by the International Committee On Nigeria (ICON) and International Organization on Peace-building & Social Justice (PSJ), ‘Nigeria’s Silent Slaughter: Genocide in Nigeria and the Implications for the International Community’, which found that, since 2000, Fulani herders have killed 19,000 people (primarily Christian farmers) while Boko Haram have killed 43,000 people (the vast majority of women and children).
There is now a strong body of evidence to demonstrate a severe escalation of attacks by Islamist groups and a failure of the Nigerian courts to bring perpetrators to justice. We ask again, therefore, for an urgent review of the recently-submitted report by the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group on International Freedom of Religion or Belief, entitled ‘Nigeria: Unfolding Genocide?’ and to ensure that those responsible for these atrocities no longer oppress religious freedom with impunity.
Lord Alton of Liverpool
Baroness Sugg, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL7499):
Question by Lord Alton of Liverpool:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with the government of Nigeria about the prosecution of those responsible for (1) killings of, and (2) violent attacks against, Christians in Nigeria; how many Fulani people have been prosecuted for any such attacks; and what steps they are taking, through UK aid programmes, to assist with (a) upholding the rule of law, (b) the protection of minorities, and (c) supporting affected communities in Nigeria. (HL7499)
Tabled on: 29 July 2020
The UK Government condemns all killings and incidents of violence against innocent Nigerian civilians, including terrorist attacks in North East Nigeria and incidents of intercommunal violence in the Middle-Belt. These attacks have had devastating effects on communities of all faiths, including Christian communities. We continue to encourage the Government of Nigeria to take action to bring the perpetrators of these attacks to justice. Prosecutions of those responsible, who come from a range of ethnic and religious backgrounds, is primarily a matter for the Nigerian State.
In the North East of Nigeria, the UK is supporting efforts to tackle the terrorist threat and providing a comprehensive package of security, stabilisation and humanitarian assistance to support communities affected by the conflict. In the Middle Belt, the British High Commissioner and her team are increasing their diplomatic engagement with states affected by intercommunal violence. The UK Government is also providing technical support to the Nigerian Government for the development of the National Livestock Transformation Plan. The plan aims to promote cattle-rearing in one place, rather than the traditional nomadic practice, to limit competition over land and resources leading to violence.
The Prime Minister discussed insecurity in Nigeria with President Buhari at the UK Africa Investment Summit in January. More recently, the Minister for Africa discussed intercommunal violence in Nigeria with President Buhari’s Chief of Staff, on 29 June. We have made clear to the Nigerian authorities, at the highest levels, the importance of protecting civilians, including ethnic and religious minorities, human rights and upholding the rule of law.
Date and time of answer: 06 Aug 2020 at 16:41.
Baroness Sugg, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL7425):
Question by Lord Alton of Liverpool:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of (1) the statement by the Rt Rev Abiodun Ogunyemi, the Anglican Bishop of Zaria, on 24 July, that the campaign against Christians in Nigeria is a “genocide”, and (2) the responsibilities of (a) the government of Kaduna State, (b) the government of Nigeria, and (c) the international community, under the 1948 Convention on the Prevention of Genocide; what plans they have to reassess the causes of the attacks against Christians in Nigeria; and whether any such plans will discount climate change as the major cause of such attacks. (HL7425)
Tabled on: 28 July 2020
We are aware of the statement made by the Right Reverend Abiodun Ogunyemion on 24 July. The UK Government condemns all incidents of intercommunal violence in Nigeria, including the recently reported attacks in Kaduna State referred to in the Bishop’s statement. Intercommunal violence in Kaduna State and Nigeria more widely affects communities of all faiths. We have made clear to the Nigerian authorities, at the highest levels, the importance of protecting civilians and human rights for all.
It is UK Government policy not to unilaterally determine whether genocide has occurred, in line with the Genocide Convention. This is a matter for competent courts and tribunals, including the International Criminal Court, after consideration of all the evidence, rather than governments or non-judicial bodies.
The UK Government’s assessment remains that climate change is one of the drivers of intercommunal violence in Nigeria because of the resulting competition for natural resources. The Bishop of Truro also considered the effects of climate change on intercommunal violence in Nigeria in his independent report on the global persecution of Christians.
Date and time of answer: 06 Aug 2020 at 16:38.
Baroness Sugg, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL7424):
Question by Lord Alton of Liverpool:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of reports (1) that at least 80 people have been killed in July in southern Kaduna, and (2) that 620 Christians have been killed in the region in the last 18 months; and what they consider to be the major reason for these attacks. (HL7424)
Tabled on: 28 July 2020
The UK Government condemns all incidents of intercommunal violence in Nigeria, including reported attacks in southern Kaduna State. We are concerned by a recent increase in attacks in the state. These attacks have had devastating effects on communities of all faiths, including Christian communities. We have made clear to the Nigerian authorities at the highest levels the importance of protecting civilians and human rights for all. There are many underlying causes to intercommunal violence in Nigeria, which include disputes over natural resources and competition over land exacerbated by climate change and population growth. Religious identity is also a factor in some incidents of intercommunal violence, but we do not assess it to be the principal driver of the violence.
Date and time of answer: 06 Aug 2020 at 16:35.
Baroness Sugg, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL7423):
Question by Lord Alton of Liverpool:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of (1) the killing of ten people, (2) the injury of others, and (3) the destruction of homes, during an attack by armed assailants on Zikpak, Nigeria, on 24 July; and how (1) UK aid, and (2) diplomatic influence, is being used (a) to protect vulnerable minorities, and (b) to address any escalation in attacks in Nigeria. (HL7423)
Tabled on: 28 July 2020
The UK Government condemns all incidents of intercommunal violence in Nigeria, including a recently reported attack in Zikpak, Kaduna State on 24 July. There are many underlying causes to intercommunal violence in Nigeria, which include disputes over natural resources and competition over land exacerbated by climate change and population growth. The British High Commissioner and her team are increasing their diplomatic engagement with states affected by intercommunal violence, including Kaduna state. Officials from the British High Commission are engaging with State Governments, faith and community leaders, peacebuilding organisations, the Federal Government and others. The FCO co-hosted a conference at Wilton Park in February on Fostering Social Cohesion in Nigeria, which brought together a wide range of stakeholders to discuss the complex causes of intercommunal violence. Discussions helped to form recommendations to tackle intercommunal violence in affected states in Nigeria. The Minister for Africa discussed intercommunal violence with the Nigerian President’s Chief of Staff in June.
The UK is also providing technical support to the Nigerian Government for the development of the National Livestock Transformation Plan. The plan aims to promote cattle-rearing in one place, rather than the traditional nomadic practice, to limit competition over land and resources leading to violence.
We will continue to encourage the Government of Nigeria to take urgent action to protect those at risk of intercommunal violence, to bring perpetrators to justice and to implement long-term solutions that address the root causes and meet the needs of all communities.
Date and time of answer: 06 Aug 2020 at 16:34.
Yet, while one arm of the Foreign Office endlessly attributes Nigeria’s killings to climate change and denies that religious ideology is a principal driver of the violence, another arm of the Foreign Office issues this advice to its citizens:
The UK Foreign Office also revealed that “Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa (ISWA) are continuing to actively plan to kidnap foreigners.
“As well as in north-east Nigeria, extremist groups operate in some northern and middle belt states including Bauchi, Gombe, Kano, Kogi, Kaduna, Niger and Adamawa.”
Systematic violence against Nigerian Christians by Fulani herdsmen constitutes genocide, according to a leading Catholic bishop who stressed that Muslims are also falling foul of the violence. Following the execution of five aid workers by Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP), Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of Sokoto told Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) he believed the recent violence was genocidal in nature.
When asked whether he agreed that that Fulani killings of Christians can be categorised as genocide according to international law, he said: “I believe so”
Lord Alton of Liverpool, UK House of Lords
Prof. Ahmed Shaheed, Essex Law School, UN Special Rapporteur on FoRB
Prof. Mariz Tadros, University of Sussex, IDS, CREID
Please RSVP via Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/preview?eid=116035301711/
Maira Shahbaz and b) Maira’s mother, Nighat (second from right), and Maira’s sisters and brother
By John Pontifex ACN News: Tuesday, 4th August 2020 – PAKISTAN
THE campaign to free a 14-year-old Christian girl from the clutches of a man who abducted her and held her hostage in his home in Pakistan lies in tatters after Lahore High Court unexpectedly decided in his favour.
Judge Raja Muhammad Shahid Abbasi today (Tuesday, 4th August) overturned last week’s ruling of the Faisalabad District and Sessions Court which ordered that Maira Shahbaz be removed from Mohamad Nakash’s house and placed in a women and girl’s refuge, pending further investigations.
Mr Nakash claimed he had married Maira but, in spite of evidence invalidating the marriage certificate and showing that she is underage, Lahore High Court ruled in his favour, stating that the teenager has embraced Islam.
Witnesses said Maira was in tears in the court today and afterwards her clearly distressed mother, Nighat, declined to speak to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), the Catholic charity which has been closely following the case.
Family friend and advocate Lala Robin Daniel said: “With this ruling, no Christian girl in Pakistan is safe.”
Lawyer Khalil Tahir Sandhu, who represented Maira in court, told ACN: “It is unbelievable. What we have seen today is an Islamic judgement.
“The arguments we put forward were very strong and cogent.”
In the courtroom, Mr Tahir Sandhu detailed 11 arguments in support of his client, chief of which involves an official birth certificate showing Maira was only 13 last October, the month of her alleged marriage to Mr Nakash.
Mr Tahir Sandhu also argued that the marriage certificate was faked, citing evidence denouncing the document given by the Muslim cleric whose name appears on the document.
The lawyer also quoted from state law in Pakistan to show that, as Maira is underage, she can only change her religion with her mother’s permission.
Mr Tahir Sadhu said: “I became so upset as the proceedings went on, I feared I might be asked to leave the court room.”
The lawyer said he would appeal the decision, first at Lahore High Court and, if this fails, in the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
With pictures of a) Maira Shahbaz and b) Maira’s mother, Nighat (second from right), and Maira’s sisters and brother (© Aid to the Church in Need (ACN))
And, in a second example of Pakistan’s failure to protect its minorities the murderer of Tahir Ahmed – accused of blasphemy- was greeted with hugs and kisses. In a letter,one man who campaigns for his fellow citizens says:
The attached report reflects the true image of the situation of FoRB in Pakistan which has raised many questions on the role of the UK Govt and what has been achieved so far.
DIFD has pumped millions to improve the situation of FoRB in Pakistan – yet we see a murderer who killed a blasphemy accused becomes a hero and yet we see a nationwide campaign to promote murderer and pay him tribute on the social media supported by millions.
We see no response from the Pakistan Govt or any step to crack down the social media campaign to promote a murderer as a hero. The Pakistan Govt didn’t condemn this horrific incident of the killing of a person in front of a Judge on blasphemy charges.
We urge you to kindly take a prompt action to raise this case to the Prime Minister of Pakistan and other authorities.
And, in a third example of failure to protect minorities, campaigners, say that the Lahore High Court Bar Association, has sent a letter to the Minister of Interior in the Punjab, during the festive season of Eid al-Adha about prohibitions on Ahmadi taking part in certain religious activities.
They say that the Lahore High Court Bar Association has urged the Interior Minister to circulate a notice to all district police officers to make arrests if any Ahmadi found performing this religious ritual.
Mohammed Ali Jinnah – Pakistan’s enlightened founding father who insisted that minorities should be given respect and protection in the new country.
Our reference: MC2020/13928
The Lord Alton of Liverpool
House of Commons
4 August 2020
Thank you for your emails of 10 and 16 July about Christian persecution in India and a proposed new anti-conversion law in the state of Haryana. I am responding to both emails.
I am grateful to you for highlighting the reports by ( ) ) and ( ) , which I have passed on to my officials at the British High
Commission in New Delhi who have taken note of the findings.
As you know, we condemn any instances of discrimination because of religion or belief, regardless of the country or faith involved. India’ strength, like that of the UK’s, is in its diversity and we trust the Government of India to address the concerns of people of all
We continue to engage India on the full range of human rights matters.
Most recently, I discussed the situation for India’s minorities with the Acting High
Commissioner of India on 22 May. Where we have concerns, we will continue to
raise them with the Government of India.
LORD (TARIQ) AHMAD OF WIMBLEDON
Minister of State for South Asia and the Commonwealth
Prime Minister’s Special Representative on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict
Baroness Williams of Trafford, the Home Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL7067):
Question by Lord Alton of Liverpool:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they will take, when determining the eligibility of British National (Overseas) passport holders to settle in the UK, to ascertain whether the applicants (1) have supported the Chinese Communist Party in the past, and (2) are committed to democracy, human rights and the rule of law. (HL7067)
Tabled on: 21 July 2020
Baroness Williams of Trafford:
The Home Secretary was pleased to recently announce details of the new immigration route for Hong Kong British National (Overseas) citizens, which can be found at:
The eligibility requirements are set out in the policy statement.
Date and time of answer: 04 Aug 2020 at 11:20.
Baroness Sugg, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL7421):
Question by Lord Alton of Liverpool:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of (1) the decision to convert the Hagia Sofia into a mosque, and (2) the impact of that decision on marginalised religious minorities in Turkey and the Middle East; and what steps they are planning to take to ensure that the rights of religious minorities in the region are safeguarded. (HL7421)
Tabled on: 28 July 2020
While we note the concern that President Erdoğan’s decision to turn Hagia Sophia into a mosque has caused internationally, the Government regards this as a sovereign matter for Turkey. However, we would expect that Hagia Sophia – part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site – remains accessible to all, as testament to its global cultural and religious significance and Turkey’s rich and diverse historical and cultural legacy, and that its precious artefacts are preserved. We therefore welcome the public statements by Turkish leaders that this historic building will continue to be accessible to people of all faiths and nationalities, which would be consistent with the Turkish constitution’s provisions for freedom of conscience and religion for all. We strongly support all minority groups in Turkey and encourage the Turkish authorities to safeguard their welfare and respect their human rights.
The Government is firmly committed to protecting religious minorities in the Middle East region and providing assistance on the basis of need, irrespective of race, religion or ethnicity. We believe that one of the most effective ways to tackle injustices and advocate for respect among different religious and racial groups, is to encourage states to uphold their human rights obligations. The UK is committed to defending Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB), and promoting respect between different religious and non-religious communities.
Date and time of answer: 05 Aug 2020 at 15:41.
5 August 2020
The Lord Alton of Liverpool
House of Lords
Oral question: Response to the report by the Centre for Social Justice ‘Collecting Dust: A path forward for government debt collection’ – 23 July 2020
Dear Lord Alton,
I read your comments on the oral question answered on 23 July about the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) report, Collecting Dust: a path forward for government debt collection. I hope that the following letter and attached briefing is helpful.
CIVEA comprises 38 companies that make up over 95% of the entire enforcement industry. CIVEA’s members work to enforce civil debt on behalf of local authorities and Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) including council tax, business rates, parking and traffic penalties, magistrates’ court fines and compensation, employment tribunal awards, child support payments, B2B and commercial rent arrears.
This amounts to over £500 million (half a billion pounds) of unpaid taxes and fines recovered each year at no cost to the public bodies themselves. Each year CIVEA members receive over 3.5 million warrants and court orders. Enforcement is a part of our social justice system, which is a last resort option for public bodies to recover outstanding debt.
The CSJ rightly recognises that in England and Wales the rise in household problem debt is largely due to debts owed to public bodies. However, it’s report suggests some significant knowledge gaps.
Where the CSJ report draws on nationally-accredited data it makes some pertinent points on the debate about household problem debt. It acknowledges debt collection agencies (DCAs) have achieved significant reforms in debt collection and comments positively about treatment of vulnerable customers.
I note your comments comparing debt collection in the commercial sector with public debt collections methods, particularly the use of pre-action protocols.
Much of the good practice identified within the commercial creditor market is already embedded within CIVEA member organisations. For example, engagement with the money advice sector, communication with customers, support for vulnerable people and affordability assessments for repayment plans. All of these practices can be seen in the enforcement industry and, as in private debt collection, have become integral to daily operations.
The fee structure is standardised and more transparent. Debtors are able to avoid incurring additional charges by engaging at an early stage and working with the creditor to reach a payment agreement. Approximately half of all paid council tax liability orders now incur only the Compliance Stage fee of £75, and do not have an agent visit. This is a sea change from before the 2014 regulations were introduced, when every single council tax liability order would have had enforcement visits undertaken (and charged for).
As well as being subject to highly prescriptive regulations under the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 and Taking Control of Goods Regulations 2013, all CIVEA members must comply with an independently monitored code of practice that sets a new standard for bailiffs.
Those who oppose the resumption of enforcement are primarily concerned about council tax debt. The courts have a backlog, so there will be a lag of months before overdue council tax is enforced. The priority will be to enforce magistrates’ courts fines, traffic offences and other penalties. These are debts that were incurred prior to the lockdown restrictions and it will be many months before debts incurred as a result of the pandemic are enforced, assuming they are not paid on time. Of course, councils do not want to pursue people who can’t pay, but we need enforcement visits to be able to identify those in need and get them the appropriate support.
There are 150 councils at risk of financial problems, according to a BBC survey. One council reports losing £500m each month of lockdown in parking charges alone. A blanket ban on enforcement visits is a blunt instrument that puts more councils in jeopardy.
These are unusual times and the enforcement sector has led the way in publishing a post-lockdown support plan that enables councils to recover much-needed funds safely and responsibly. I attach a summary of the additional measures that have been put in place to protect staff and the public.
There will always be those who are uncomfortable that the government uses the courts process to recover its debt, but enforcement is complex, highly specialised, and essential work to ensure that taxpayers do not subsidise non-payers. I hope that this has provided a new insight to the enforcement industry. I would be happy to discuss this in more detail at your convenience. In the meantime, I wish you a peaceful and safe recess.
Chief Executive, Civil Enforcement Association
The Civil Enforcement Association
PO Box 745
Tel: 0844 8933922
Fax: 0844 8546322
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