Crime and Courts Bill: Lords completes third reading

19 December 2012

Members of the House of Lords completed third reading of the Crime and Courts Bill, the final chance to amend the bill, yesterday (Tuesday 18 December). There were two divisions (votes) in the chamber.

The debate included discussion of Amendment 2, which sought to introduce regulation and an independent appeals process to the bailiff industry. Baroness Meacher (Crossbench), who tabled the proposal, described it as one which ‘seeks to provide some protection for vulnerable people who have suffered unacceptably at the hands of a bailiff'.

She continued: ‘We also know that hundreds of thousands of households could be confronted by bailiffs for the very first time when further cuts and caps are applied to the welfare benefits system at the end of March next year.’

Lord Lucas (Conservative), declared an interest as chairman of the Enforcement Law Reform Group, and spoke in favour of the amendment saying: ‘Without it [regulation and a complaints process], the bad practice will not disappear. The serious members of the bailiff profession very much want it to, but they need the government's help.’

Responding on behalf of the government, Lord McNally (Liberal Democrat) confirmed that the government recognised the problem of aggressive bailiff action and were looking to address the issue, with their proposals outlined in a forthcoming paper. He said: ‘I would therefore stress that it is important to await the response to the Transforming Bailiff Action consultation paper.’

Baroness Meacher thanked him for his response, but put her amendment to a vote. The division resulted in a government defeat with 187 members voting 'for' and 159 'against' the amendment.

The second division took place over Amendment 9, which addressed the requirement of probation trusts to make appropriate provision for the delivery of services to female offenders. Chairman of the Prison Reform Trust, Lord Woolf (Crossbench), tabled the amendment and outlined its debt to the 2007 report by Baroness Corston (Labour) on the vulnerabilities of women in the criminal justice system:

‘If I am wrong in what I have just said and the minister can indicate to me why, some five years after the publication of the Corston report, the amendment should not be the first recognition in legislation of what the report recommended, I will certainly consider my position further.’

Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws (Labour) supported the amendment to respond to the needs of women in the criminal justice system. She said: ‘About 80% of the women who come before the courts are victims, brought up in homes where domestic violence was part of the round or where they were sexually abused. They are more victims than many who readily bear that title. Over 60% of them suffer from mental illness and 66% are mothers with children. When we send them to prison, we actually visit the effects on whole families, bringing the care system into play. Housing is often lost and the consequences are dire.’

Lord McNally reiterated the government’s ‘strong commitment to providing the right support for women and young adult offenders’, but argued that: ‘Local innovation is critical if we are to have effective services for these groups. I believe the system we already have strikes a good balance between local innovation and central support. I do not believe that a statutory duty is necessary to deliver this.’

Lord Woolf then put the amendment to a vote. The division resulted in a government defeat with 187 members voting 'for' and 159 'against' the amendment.

All other amendments were withdrawn as the Crime and Courts Bill completed its passage through the House of Lords. The bill will be reprinted with the Lords amendments and return to the House of Commons for consideration of amendments.

What is consideration of amendments/ping pong?

Once the bill has completed its passage through the second chamber the bill will return to the Commons where they will consider the amendments made. Both Houses need to agree to the exact wording of the bill and the bill may 'ping pong' between both houses until this happens.

When the exact wording of the bill has been agreed by both Houses the bill is ready for royal assent. Once a bill receives royal assent it becomes an Act of Parliament (proposals in the bill become law).

Further information

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