Clause 248 - Income payments order

Enterprise Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 4:45 pm ar 14 Mai 2002.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Nigel Waterson Nigel Waterson Ceidwadwyr, Eastbourne 4:45, 14 Mai 2002

I beg to move amendment No. 555, in page 173, line 17, leave out 'before the discharge of the bankrupt' and insert

'within twelve months of the bankruptcy order'.

Photo of Mr Nigel Beard Mr Nigel Beard Llafur, Bexleyheath and Crayford

With this it will be convenient to take amendment No. 433, in page 173, leave out lines 19 to 23 and insert—

'(6) An income payments order must specify the period during which it is to have effect which period may end after the discharge of the bankrupt.'.

Photo of Nigel Waterson Nigel Waterson Ceidwadwyr, Eastbourne

To an extent, these amendments overlap slightly. They try to sort out the same problem as we perceive it and as it is perceived by some practitioners in this part of the law. As the Bill stands, it will be possible for bankrupts to be discharged as soon as the official receiver has decided that there is nothing calling for an investigation. In theory, that can happen quite quickly; within weeks or, certainly, two or three months. That means that the trustee will have little time in which to decide whether or not to apply for an income payments order, which gives the trustee an incentive to apply for such an order as soon as possible and gives the bankrupt an incentive to conceal his income from his trustee for as long as possible. If the amendment is accepted, it will put trustees and bankrupts on an equal footing and will stop possible variations between different official receivers' officers around the country.

Our justification for amendment No. 433 is that there should be no limit on the length of time for which an income payments order or an agreement can last. The decision about whether to cap the length of time should be left to the discretion of the court. Only the court will be in a position to give due consideration to an individual's circumstances and his ability to make future payments. The point is to ensure that debtors who can pay, do pay, and that they are not able to avoid their obligations. Both of the amendments are designed to ensure that, in the scramble to allow someone to come out of bankruptcy within less than the stipulated period of 12 months, creditors are protected and—as far as possible—assets are made available for them.

Photo of Miss Melanie Johnson Miss Melanie Johnson Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Trade and Industry

First, I shall address amendment No. 555. The administration of a bankruptcy case by the official receiver will enable IPOs to be dealt with at an early stage. In cases in which such information has not been made available, it is possible to suspend discharge until it has been delivered. The provisions introducing income payments agreements will speed up the process still further by avoiding court application. There is no real advantage in extending the time available for an IPO application, except in cases in which it is strictly necessary. That is already achieved by means of the facility to suspend discharge. Indeed, the amendment would affect those cases in which a bankrupt had been suspended from discharge. If, after 12 months, he co-operated, the trustee would be time-barred from making such an application. That does not seem to be a sensible consequence.

Turning to amendment No. 433, I agree that those bankrupts who are able to make contributions from their income should be required to do so. However, setting a 3-year limit to the duration of IPOs recognises that there must be a balance between the

benefits that that would bring to the bankrupt's creditors and the rehabilitation of the individual. It would not be fair or consistent to impose a far more stringent system than already exists, as would be the effect of the amendment. I therefore trust that both amendments will be withdrawn.

Photo of Nigel Waterson Nigel Waterson Ceidwadwyr, Eastbourne

I am happy to beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 248 ordered to stand part of the Bill.