Page last updated at 20:03 GMT, Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Government suffers two defeats over Crime and Courts Bill

The government has suffered two defeats in the House of Lords, as peers voted to amend the Crime and Courts Bill at third reading.

The two amendments, both passed on 18 December 2012, dealt with those mistreated by bailiffs, and the rehabilitation of female offenders.

The crossbench peer, Baroness Meacher, tabled an amendment allowing people who feel mistreated by bailiffs to appeal to an ombudsman.

Lady Meacher predicted that cases involving bailiffs will "soar" next year when state payments to many vulnerable people are reduced.

Peers backed her amendment by 233 votes to 191, a majority of 42.

Later, peers backed a proposal from the retired senior judge, Lord Woolf, and a former Chief Inspector of Prisons, Lord Ramsbotham.

Their amendment forced probation trusts to do more to rehabilitate female offenders.

Peers backed the change by 187 votes to 159, a slimmer majority of 28 votes.

Opening the debate on her amendment, Lady Meacher said it would provide protection for vulnerable people who had "suffered unacceptably at the hands of a bailiff".

The proposal would allow people to appeal to the Legal Ombudsman if internal complaints procedures against bailiffs had been unsatisfactory.

She said she would like to see independent regulation of the bailiff industry but her amendment was "just one small element of such a system - but a very important one".

For the opposition, Lord Beecham backed the third reading amendment, saying: "It's important to get some movement here."

But Justice minister Lord McNally opposed it, insisting he could give no commitment beyond what he had said at previous stages in the bill's progress that the issue was being dealt with.

Later, the government was defeated a second time when peers backed a move requiring contracts made with probation trusts to make "appropriate provision for the delivery of services to female offenders".

Lord Woolf said there was nothing in the amendment that cut across the government's "good intentions" in this area.

But there was a difference of view with ministers on the need for the special position of women in the judicial system to be recognised in statute.

Lord McNally denied there was any division between the two sides and accused peers of re-running debates held during previous stages of the bill.

The Crime and Courts Bill was given a third reading in the Lords and returns to the Commons for MPs to consider amendments made to the bill by peers.

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