WestminsterThe Government has been defeated in the House of Lords as peers backed an independent complaints system for people bullied by bailiffs.

Baroness Meacher, an independent crossbench peer who led the successful move, warned hundreds of thousands of people could be confronted with bailiffs for the first time next year when new benefit cuts take effect.


Peers backed her amendment to the Crime and Courts Bill by 233 votes to 191, majority 42.

Lady Meacher said her plan would provide protection for vulnerable people who had "suffered unacceptably at the hands of a bailiff".

It 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.

"The Government is clear that aggressive bailiff action is unacceptable and we remain committed to bringing forward reform that will protect the public from this," he said.

And he added: "I'm not too apologetic that we are taking a little time to take this matter forward."