'Her Majesty's Government shall not bring into effect a new Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme unless and until the relevant provisions of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 shall have been repealed and a new scheme introduced not by executive order pursuant to the Royal Prerogative but by Act of Parliament.'.—[Mr. Blair.]
New clause 48—Criminal Injuries Compensation Board—
'. In section 171 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988, for subsection (2) there is substituted the following subsection— "Sections 108 to 117 of and Schedules 6 and 7 to this Act (as amended by the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994) shall come into force six months after that Act is passed.".'
New clause 49—Factors to be considered in determining compensation—
'. Schedule 7 to the Criminal Justice Act 1988 is amended as follows:—
The new clause deals with the new criminal injuries compensation scheme. Nothing so completely exposes the hollowness of the Government's claims on law and order than scrapping the existing system of compensation for criminal injuries.
We have one of the finest systems in the world for the individual compensation of victims. It is a model that other countries have agreed to and followed. That system is to be replaced by a wholly different one, based on a crude tariff drawn up by the Government, which will ignore the circumstances of victims when compensating them for their injury.
The new scheme was introduced after a sham consultation, and was denounced by Victim Support, the police and organisations representing the criminally injured. The chairman of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board—a distinguished former Cabinet Minister—described it as "fundamentally flawed" and "manifestly unfair", and two former Law Lords said that it was illegal. It was also introduced with a deplorable lack of candour about its true motivation. Even for this Government and their legislation, that is quite a record.
Of the people whose views were sought, I know no one who supported the new scheme, and it is the subject of a case for judicial review in the courts, which is to be heard in May.
The present scheme was introduced in 1964, and compensates victims of violent crime on roughly the same basis as the civil law—compensation is based on the loss to the individual, which is the very nature of the criminal injuries compensation scheme. The present scheme therefore takes into account any future loss of earnings, as well as loss of amenity. In the case of a fatal injury, compensation is assessed on the same basis as that provided by the Fatal Accidents Act 1976—with some measure for the dead person's loss of income.
When the present scheme was introduced, payments were made on an ex gratia, non-statutory basis, but from a very early stage in its development it was anticipated that it would be given a proper statutory basis. That anticipation became firmer following a royal commission report in 1979; and in 1988, during proceedings on the Criminal Justice Bill, the intention to make the scheme statutory so that payments were no longer ex gratia but of right was reaffirmed.
Section 171 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 thus placed a specific duty on the Home Secretary to introduce the scheme in a statutory form. Discretion was allowed as to when the scheme should come into effect on a statutory basis, but not whether it should do so. For various reasons, that duty was not carried out, and the Government used that fact to try to introduce the new scheme, using prerogative powers rather than by seeking the proper consent of Parliament.
It is true that, under the new tariff system, awards will often be roughly the same as under the present scheme. However, thousands of people every year—a significant number—will lose, and, according to parliamentary answers given by Ministers, about 25 per cent. will lose substantially. The victims of violent crime who lose will often be those with the worst injuries. The new scheme, therefore, hits hardest those people who are most in need.
There are four principal objections to the new scheme. First, it fails to take proper account of any loss of future earnings, although that is often the major element of any award. For example, 18-year-olds may suffer criminal injuries identical to those of 80-year-olds, but because the former would go out to work and would hopefully have a lifetime of earnings in front of them, their circumstances are plainly entirely different from those of elderly people. Yet they will receive the same awards, irrespective of their circumstances.
Recently, a nurse was badly injured and received about £126,000 as compensation, of which £17,000 only was for loss of amenity. If her case came up under the new scheme, she would receive only £5,000. The police officer who was criminally injured while carrying out his duties and received £120,000 would, in similar circumstances under the new scheme, receive only £7,500.
Although civil law will still compensate for negligence on the basis of loss, where criminal injuries occur, the connection between injury and loss—based on the future earnings capacity of the injured person—will be broken as a result of the Government's changes.
The same will apply to fatal awards. Dependency awards will go. For example—to take another recent case—in the Slater case in June last year, a woman who witnessed her husband's fatal stabbing, which took place in front of her children, received £170,000. Under the new system, she would receive only £17,000.
The examples that I have given are of real cases of loss suffered by some of the most needy people and by the victims of the most serious and violent crimes. The Government cannot expect us to take their protestations about victims of crime seriously while they are undermining the basis of compensation for those victims—the money they desperately need to rebuild their lives.
Secondly, as the noble Lord Carlisle pointed out in another place, the new system will often be unworkable. For example, the psychological effects of rape or armed robbery on the criminally injured will vary enormously, yet they are effectively to be treated as the same in many cases. The scheme is not merely wrong in principle, but unworkable in practice.
Thirdly, some of the judgments under the tariff system are extraordinary. Details of the system were issued in a White Paper at the end of the parliamentary Session last year. One suspects that it was announced then for news management purposes rather than for any other reason. As far as I can see, the system outlined in that White Paper has changed very little.
I shall give the House some examples of the tariffs in the system that the Government intend to drive through. Sexual abuse of a child is apparently to be worth about £1,000, and loss of a front tooth about £1,500. Heaven only knows how any sensible person could reach such a conclusion. Rape or buggery will be worth £7,500, as will a fractured kneecap. A fatality might result in an award of about £10,000 to the dependants of the deceased, which will be the same as compensation for the loss of an ear.
The new tariff system is not merely unworkable and wrong in principle because it fails to take future earnings into account; in some circumstances, it will be entirely unfair and arbitrary.
Finally, the basis for the introduction of the new scheme has changed completely, and the House is entitled to feel some anger at the way in which that has been done. When the then Home Secretary announced the new criminal injuries compensation scheme on 23 November 1992, it was said to be necessary, not to cut costs but because it offered the
best prospect of providing quicker payments to claimants through a means that is fair, straightforward and understandable.
That deception, which is what it was, was carried on until the White Paper was issued in December last year, when the Government claimed that the purpose of the new scheme was to offer a "better service to victims". No mention was made of the fact that the purpose of the proposal was to cut the costs of the scheme; rather, the Government claimed that it would make the scheme more administratively efficient, fairer and more easily understandable. One would have thought that the primary purpose of introducing the new proposal was merely to provide a better type of service to victims.
A few weeks ago, my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Simpson) had an Adjournment debate on the issue, when the Minister dismissed as cynical those who said that the Government's proposal was about cost cutting. He said that those people did not understand the true basis of the Government's thinking. It was Ministry of Truth stuff, because it is now absolutely clear that the basis of the new scheme has nothing to do with providing a better service for victims.
The Home Secretary may frown, but that suggestion cannot seriously be maintained, since not a single organisation that supports victims has come out in favour of his new scheme. Perhaps the right hon. and learned Gentleman would care to mention one. I may be wrong, and I do not want to overstate the case, but I think that I am right to suggest that not a single organisation of any nature has come out in favour of the new scheme.
The way in which the scheme has been driven through is quite extraordinary. It has been done on the basis of providing a better system for victims, but the fact that victim organisations have contradicted that claim and that no one has stepped forward to support it simply exposes the entirely sham nature of the consultation exercise.
The original reason for the Government's proposal, which was first given in another place and will no doubt be repeated here tonight, is that costs are spiralling out of control. That reason has never been part of the consultation process. The Government have never attempted to spell out why those costs will spiral out of control. On what basis do they suggest that costs will rise from between £170 million and £200 million to £500 million? The reason for the Government's assertion has never been published in any consultation paper so that we can assess whether it is right or wrong. That figure was simply plucked out of the air to justify a decision taken once the original justification was blown apart.
Upon what putative crime figures is the suggested cost based? If it is the case that the cost of the scheme is set to double in the next few years, I assume that that is because the Government take a rather less than sanguine view of how crime and violence are set to develop. Whether the figure is genuine or not we simply do not know, but it is quite wrong for it to be dragged out of the Government under duress, without any proper consultation. They have made no attempt to consult people properly to reach the best and fairest solution.
This is a necessarily short debate, and I know that a number of my hon. Friends, and perhaps one or two Conservative Members would like to speak. The introduction of the new scheme exemplifies the sorry mixture of incompetence and arrogance that sometimes cover the conduct of the Government. If they were serious in their protestations of support for victims of crime, it is contradictory to introduce the scheme, without proper consultation, when it will damage the interests of many thousands of victims a year.
The Government should withdraw their proposal until they have a proper scheme, subject to proper consultation, which protects the interests of the victim in a way that the British people wish to see.
The Home Secretary, by proposing a tariff-based scheme of compensation for victims, departs from the clear statutory duty that was placed upon him by Parliament in the Criminal Justice Act 1988. In doing so, he follows the lead of his predecessor, his right hon. and learned Friend who is now Chancellor of the Exchequer. He would have been wise mostly to ignore that lead in matters concerning his right hon. and learned Friend's conduct of the criminal justice system, because his White Papers have led to extensive criticism by all those who must deal with the criminal justice system.
The manner in which the Government have brought forward the proposals for compensation for the victims of crime is an example of how not to proceed. In a debate in another place, the chairman of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, Lord Carlisle of Bucklow, made it plain that neither he nor his colleagues on the board had been consulted about the principles that underlay the Government's proposals before they were announced.
That seems to me to be not merely a discourtesy, but a serious abuse, for no one better than that board could know of the practicality—or, as it believes, the impracticality—of the scheme that the Home Secretary has proposed. No one could know better than that board the practical consequences and injustices that will be wrought by a tariff scheme along the lines that the Home Secretary has proposed to introduce as at 1 April—originally without any parliamentary discussion.
On the hon. Gentleman's introductory remarks, perhaps he should take into account the reply given by Lord Elwyn-Jones to a parliamentary question about the Road Traffic Act 1974:
if the Act states that it shall come into force on a date to be fixed by order made by the Minister, and provides no more than that, it is within the discretion of the Minister as to when he brings the Act into force. Parliament may, of course, bring pressure to bear on him and require him to justify any inactivity. But, short of another Act, there is no way in which the Minister can be compelled by Parliament to bring that Act into operation."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 29 June 1977; Vol. 384, c. 1110.]
Does the hon. Gentleman agree?
No doubt it is open to a Minister to decide at what date he may discharge an obligation imposed upon him by Act of Parliament, but this is a very different matter. This is not a proposal to discharge an obligation imposed upon the Home Secretary by Act of Parliament; it is an announced proposal to repeal the very Act that imposed that duty upon him. The case that the hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs. Gillan) had in mind is not in pari materia with what the Home Secretary is doing.
The proposal is the more remarkable because, in the past, the Conservative Government have felt it appropriate to praise the criminal injuries compensation scheme and to draw to people's attention its exemplary work. Previous Home Secretaries have repeatedly undertaken to put it on a statutory basis. If one goes back to when the Government took office, when the Pearson commission on civil liability reported, indications were given then that the scheme would be put on a statutory basis.
That was not done originally, when the scheme was introduced by a Conservative Government—that led by Sir Alec Douglas-Home—because the consequences of the scheme could not be known. It was thought that it would be sensible to try it out to see if it worked fairly and in a manner which should be rendered firm in statute. In 1983 and 1988, following the Pearson commission, progress reports were given by Home Secretaries. Candidly, the Minister, in proposing to proceed in the way he has, has acted high-handedly, and, I believe, possibly illegally. That matter will be tested at a later date.
The contents of what is proposed must also raise questions about whether the Government have violated the provisions of the European convention on the compensation of victims of violent crimes. Article 4 of that convention requires us to provide compensation which covers
according to the case under consideration"—
that is, according to the specific circumstances of the individual case—
at least … loss of earnings … and, as regards dependants, loss of maintenance.
If the Government intend to derogate from provisions of
international conventions to which they have subscribed, they would do well to inform the House of their intentions. That has been normal in other spheres.
The hardship it is proposed to seek to dismiss is undoubted. The Government gave no sign of their true purpose in making the proposal. As Lord Ackner, an experienced former Lord of Appeal in Ordinary, said:
This is a cost-cutting exercise."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 2 March 1994; Vol. 552, c. 1072.]
He also regarded it as "an abuse of power", as did a number of other learned Lords in the debate which, thankfully, was held in another place—thankfully, because they turned a spotlight on what the Government were planning to do. In a debate in which there were, I believe, 16 participants, I do not think that a single one who was not a member of the Government thought it right to support the Government.
The nature of the compensation at present available under the scheme is closely related to the circumstances of the individuals who are adversely affected by crimes of violence. Principles of the common law, and of the statute law in the case of the Fatal Accidents Act 1976, are imported into the individual deliberations to ensure that the reality of the consequence of the sufferings by the victims of crime is reflected. It is there that the Government seem most disingenuous, for they have suggested in their White Paper that all that is necessary is for society to give some token of its concern about the consequence of violence on victims.
Hitherto, a genuine attempt has been made by the distinguished lawyers—40 of them—who sit as part-time servants of the public in determining those cases, to measure the reality of the suffering and the losses that it is to be anticipated will flow from it. The trouble with the new scheme is that the standard tariff leaves wholly out of account many of the matters that are most burdensome on the victims.
The people who suffer serious injury will be hardest hit—those who have to alter their homes and their way of life as a result of injury, those who have to confront the prospect of years of medical treatment, those who face loss of earnings, the dependants of those who have been murdered, or those who have suffered through manslaughter of their spouse. Their maintenance will not be taken into consideration. Those are serious changes that are proposed. Although it is possible, by averaging out to say that some people may prove better off, it is incontrovertibly true that those who suffer most will be the hardest hit.
New clause 1 and the related amendments give the Government an opportunity to reconsider their position. I hope that they will take it, for, if they do not, they will stand accused of paying no attention to the victims of violent crimes and controvert allegations that they have made that the victims are more in their mind than the criminals in the criminal justice system.
I appeal to the Minister to reconsider, to listen to the wise advice of the people who have administered the scheme as it operates and, if it is thought necessary to modify the statutory scheme for Treasury reasons, to enter into genuine consultations before abandoning the operative scheme.
The Government appear to speak with two voices on the subject, for the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has announced consultations. If he were to proceed on different lines from the Home Secretary, we could find ourselves in the strangely anomalous position in which the victims of violent crimes in Northern Ireland were treated according to a system that operated common law principles or statutory principles, but not the victims of comparable offences in Great Britain.
Because there is already a scheme there, as I understand it, which is statutory and which the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland apparently has it in mind to modify. Those are grave matters, and the present proposals of the Government will wreak great injustice.
May I recall to the Home Secretary the fate of the wife of one of the former members of the Conservative Government, Lady Tebbit, who was gravely injured for life, in circumstances that must come very close to his memory? That type of case is the type that will be adversely affected by what he has proposed. I do not think that it is defensible and I hope that he will not try to defend it.
I heard the hon. Lady refer to the scheme that we operate being the first in the United Kingdom, but the scheme that operates in Great Britain was not the first. Schemes operated in Ireland and Northern Ireland on a statutory basis for decades, if not centuries. I give the hon. Lady the opportunity to correct herself.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention, but Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom; this was one of the first schemes to operate in Europe and it certainly remains the most generous.
Even in the United States of America, in the most recent year for which figures were available the amount paid under compensation schemes was only marginally more than the total paid out in the United Kingdom. It is somewhat disingenuous for Opposition Members to say that we may be in contravention of European legislation because, as I understand it, Italy does not even have a compensation scheme. Indeed, during 1992 and 1993 the compensation scheme in the United Kingdom paid out more than those in all the other countries of the European Union put together.
The changes being made to move to a tariff-based scheme are necessary. There are inherent disadvantages in a scheme which operates under common law. Moreover, as everyone will agree, the number of claimants has, sadly, greatly increased. The projected figure for next year is some 70,000 claims.
If I were working on a building site and dropped a sledgehammer on the hon. Lady's leg and broke it, she would get the necessary civil compensation. She would receive compensation if she could no longer dance and for any drop in earnings. But if I became so angry that I smashed the sledgehammer into your leg in a criminal way, you would not get all that compensation. Is there any justification in that?
The thought of the hon. Member wielding a hammer on a building site leaves me speechless.
There have been great and unacceptable delays in awarding compensation to victims of crime. In December 1993 Roger Pannone, president of the Law Society, admitted that the average claim turnaround was 18 months. Most reasonable people would agree that that is far too long to wait for compensation.
For the hon. Gentleman's information, I have no Central Office brief in my hand.
The hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) also underestimated the current position when he referred to approximately £500 million being available as it was made clear in a House of Lords reply that over the next three years £558 million will be available for the scheme.
People who claim against the scheme do not have to identify their attackers, consider their prospects for success or run the risk of having costs awarded, as they would under a civil scheme. That will continue. Moreover, 94 per cent. of all claims are for less than £10,000; 59 per cent. are for less than £3,000; and 48 per cent. are for less than £2,000. The new tariff-based scheme has been arrived at by taking the median figure, not the mean figure, which reflects more closely the value of pain and suffering as an element of the award.
Some of the objections voiced by people such as the president of the Law Society may reflect the fact that, under the new scheme, the costly skills of specialist lawyers will no longer be needed.
I welcome the tariff-based scheme. It will produce awards reasonably quickly and in an understandable and predictable manner, which will be much better for victims of crime.
I am sponsored by Unison, which means that I, personally, receive no moneys from Unison; they are paid to my constituency party.
Unison is extremely angry with this proposal because its members—mainly nurses—are often the subject of attacks at the workplace. Public sector workers such as Unison members risk suffering criminal assaults at work. The tariff scheme is therefore likely to lead to considerable injustice to Unison members in the amount of payment. No weight can be given to the effect that an incident will have on an individual victim. Individuals will receive "the average award" for their injuries, irrespective of the consequences that the injury has had on them.
One Unison member received compensation by presenting evidence of her physiological discomfort following a modest physical injury sustained while on duty in a locked psychiatric ward. The award was initially rejected on the basis that it was below the £1,000 threshold for compensation. On appeal, under the present scheme, however, evidence was heard that the individual had experienced enormous psychological suffering on her return to work in the same closed environment and on having to deal with her assailant. Under the new system, that evidence would be discounted and the member would not qualify for compensation.
I will give a little more detail about the case to which my hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) referred. The exclusion of financial loss from the scheme will have a dramatic effect on the value of awards. For instance, compensation received by a Unison nursing sister who had to retire in her early thirties as a result of criminal injury was made up largely of financial loss. Of a total award of £126,943, £11,000 related to loss of wages up to the date of the hearing, £20,000 related to loss of pension rights and £63,162 related to future loss of earnings. Under the new arrangement, the nursing sister could recover no compensation for financial loss.
Unison members, especially nurses, will be placed at a grave disadvantage. I therefore place on record, on behalf of the union, its members' strong resentment of the fact that the policy was developed in a forum where the unions had almost no input and that they are now faced with the framing of poor legislation.
As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and my hon. Friend the Minister of State will know, I am not an enthusiast of the tariff-based scheme. I made my views on the matter extremely clear in an Adjournment debate on 18 March 1993, when I covered many of the points mentioned today. It so happens that, among my many interests, I am president of the Uxbridge victim support scheme and therefore take a special interest in victim compensation and the terrible injuries sustained by members of the public.
Some 90 per cent. of victims of crime are innocent. When the Government announced about 12 months ago that they intended to introduce this tariff-based scheme, they argued that it would provide the best prospect of quicker payment to claimants by clear, straightforward and understandable means. Following their announcement, I decided to raise the matter in an Adjournment debate because I believe that compensation by the state for criminal injustice is a vital part of our British way of life and that we should take care before moving away from the present satisfactory scheme. Although the proposed scheme may be quicker, it may provide claimants with what I can only describe, and what has been described to me, as rough justice.
Is my hon. Friend aware that about 8.5 per cent. of all the money that the Government put into the criminal injuries compensation scheme goes on lawyers' fees and administrative costs? Would he not be in favour of a system which ensured that most, if not all, of the money went to the victims themselves?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend, but I suggest that there are good reasons why that 8.5 per cent. is deployed on lawyers' fees. Under the present scheme, each case is carefully considered by a highly competent lawyer to determine the exact compensation that ought to be paid.
It is worth considering why the criminal injuries compensation scheme was brought into existence by a Conservative Government in 1964. It was realised that most of the victims of crime could not bring civil proceedings for compensation against their assailants because those assailants would be without funds. The Government of the day recognised that there was an increasing number of crimes, and the scheme was a recognition of how society had failed the victim by allowing him or her to be assaulted. That being so, it was only right that Governments should ensure that victims received compensation, and they have done so ever since the scheme was introduced.
Compensation is treated by victims as an important part of their recovery, fulfilling their desire for some sort of justice. The payment of compensation, coupled with successful prosecution of the offender, is usually a large factor in a person's recovery.
One important feature of the tariff-based scheme is the fact that it prohibits the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board from making awards for the loss of past or future earnings. I hope that I am wrong, but if not, that means that 90 per cent. of civilian applicants who suffer injuries so serious that they are unable to earn their livelihood will be obliged to rely on social security benefits, which would not usually make up the shortfall in their income. It would not be right for any new scheme to deprive the innocent victims of crime of the right to recover income lost due to violent crime. Indeed, that is one of the cardinal reasons why the current scheme has been well regarded throughout the country.
The essence of the tariff-based scheme is that it identifies types of injury, giving standard figures for damages for each injury—rather like the Northern Ireland model, which was mentioned earlier and which has been in existence for some time.
That is certainly the advice that I have received from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board. My concern, therefore, is that if we move to a tariff-based scheme a number of anomalies will appear.
In the guidance given to the CICB by the Judicial Studies Board, types of injury are identified and, according the seriousness of the injury, given a bracket within which compensation would be appropriate. Those brackets are often wide, because it is recognised that each individual experiences a different type of injury, and the compensation received should take account of that. One broken arm can be quite different from another, depending on the circumstances in which it was broken—as the hon. Member for St. Helens, South (Mr. Bermingham) was at pains to point out to my hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Ms Gillan). The present scheme allows experienced lawyers to study all aspects of a case. That is the job that they are paid for and they do it very well. The scheme over which they have presided is fair and puts the victim of a criminal in roughly the same position as a civil claimant.
It must be remembered that there can be no duplication of state benefits. All benefits paid by the state, all private pensions and much private insurance are counted as credit against damages, to reduce the state's outlay under the present system. If a victim is injured by a motor car used as a weapon—in other words, the person is deliberately run down—he can apply to the Motor Insurers Bureau for compensation under common law. But if a victim is injured by a very different piece of metal such as a crowbar—we would all deplore that, but it happens all too frequently these days—he would have to apply to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board and he would obtain much less by way of damages. Can that be justified? We should at the very least be concerned about it.
My other worry derives form the fact that it would be impossible to provide any meaningful tariff for many of the types of injury that people incur. Let us take, for instance, the horrible experiences of facial and bodily scarring, post-traumatic stress disorder, or sexual abuse, including rape—these are all obvious examples of what I am talking about. How can any standard figure be set for such injuries? Why should not the present system continue, under which the damages are assessed by one of the lawyers to whom my hon. Friend the Member for Shoreham (Mr. Stephen) referred? I remind the House that the lawyers concerned are usually Queen's Counsel and very experienced in their jobs.
What is the basic reason for the tariff-based scheme that my right hon. and learned Friend wishes to introduce? It is to save money, a perfectly respectable objective for any Home Secretary. There is no doubt that the cost of compensating victims for criminal injuries has been rising inexorably in the past few years, and is set to continue rising. A tariff-based scheme will ensure that the costs of compensation gradually flatten out and do not increase in line with the projections made for the present scheme. Obviously any Cabinet Minister has to take account of these matters and must listen to what the Treasury says about them. I have no objection to that. My right hon. and learned Friend has given many fine demonstrations of standing up to the Treasury, and I believe that on this occasion it is important that he do so again and say, "I am sorry, but we cannot go down this path."
If the Treasury wants to save money, I invite Treasury Ministers to come to any meeting of the Public Accounts Committee, on which the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) and I have the pleasure of serving. We could have offered my right hon. and learned Friend £48 million a couple of weeks ago from the Department of Employment's Field system, £43 million from the Wessex health authority, or a few hundred thousand pounds from the Development Board for Rural Wales. The list is endless. The PAC has identified savings of about £208 million a year; that is not chicken feed, and it would go quite a long way towards keeping the present scheme going.
All hon. Members who have spoken today have approached this difficult issue on what I would call a House of Commons basis. What we are considering is fundamental to the way in which victims are compensated and we should be very careful before we move away from the scheme that we have.
My hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham spoke of delays in settling claims. I have been reading the reports of the CICB; The figures for the year ending 31 March 1992 show that the board received about 61,400 applications, as against 50,820 in 1990ß91. As the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland pointed out, 80 per cent. of those claims were settled within nine months. That is a fine record.
I do not for a moment accept that the argument that a tariff-based scheme will lead to much quicker settlement of claims is sufficient to justify the diminution of available benefits. A parent came to see me in my constituency the other night whose son had lost the sight of his eye because he had been stabbed by a youth. He received £18,000 compensation. Would he have got that much under the tariff-based scheme? I think not.
I am sorry to have to disagree with my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary. On many occasions recently I have given him my full and unqualified support for just about every feature of the Bill, but I regret that I am unable to be enthusiastic about his proposed scheme and I shall find it difficult to support it.
I start by posing again the question that I put to the hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs. Gillan) in whose speech I intervened. I asked why the compensation paid to a person for criminal injury should be different from that paid to someone who suffers a civil injury.
I declare two interests. First, I am sponsored by the GMB which merely contributes towards my election expenses and pays a small sum per year towards constituency costs. Secondly, I am a practising lawyer.
Many members of the union that sponsors me work in jobs in which assaults take place. Members of the union that sponsors my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) are also regularly assaulted.
Sometimes one cannot immediately assess or "tarrify"—whatever word one wants to use—an injury because some injuries are stress related, and how can one assess continuing damage? For some people who are injured as a result of criminal assaults there is no recovery. That is sad, but it shows the sort of world in which we live. The Government are dedicated to the fight against—or rather the fight for law and order and against crime.
I know. It was a Freudian slip.
The Government say that they are dedicated to defeating crime, but their proposals make it appear that they are dedicated to penalising the victim. The hon. Member for Shoreham (Mr. Stephen) said that 8.5 per cent. of compensation scheme money went to lawyers. If the hon. Gentleman had any knowledge of what has to be done in the preparation of a criminal injuries compensation claim he would not make such a statement. Sometimes the forms are complicated and a great deal of information is required. There is no legal aid and costs are not paid. Therefore, the victims often pay the cost of assembling the evidence to substantiate their claims.
Injuries may be complex. I shall give an example of many years ago from my own knowledge. A young lady was struck with an iron bar outside a night club. On the face of it, there appeared to be a tiny fracture to her skull. No doubt on the tariff system a small sum would have been paid. But it was later discovered that she also had a fracture to the base of the skull and brain fluid was leaking down into the spinal column, causing infection. The ultimate injury to her was massive. Her loss of amenity was effectively the destruction of her life, because she could no longer work, dance or look after her family. Under the proposals, a straight tariff would be paid. Under the present system, such loss of amenities is added to the claim and covered.
Can the Government justifiably say that, although someone injured in a civil accident should be properly compensated, a person injured in a criminal attack should not? I know from the report some years ago on the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board by the Select Committee on Home Affairs, on which I sat, that most of the claims are for small amounts. Most are settled rapidly because the injuries are readily identifiable. However, for the small proportion of claims that cannot be readily identified or readily quantified, delay is not a problem. There are interim payments.
I can tell the hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham that, unless one wishes to be negligent, a motor accident claim is never settled until the full extent of the loss is known. Hon. Members should not pray in aid delay as a reason for destroying the rights of citizens to proper compensation when they have been criminally injured. A civilised society tends to look after the victim. The Home Secretary's proposal is not in aid of the victim but against him. It is a disgrace and it ought to be stopped.
I had not intended to speak, but, as the debate seems to be one sided, for the sake of fairness something should be said about the Government's justifiable reasons for taking this step. We are debating victims, and no Government have ever done as much for victims as this one. Not only have we paid out and helped in numerous ways more victims than ever before, but, compared with other countries, our help for victims is outstanding. We provide 20 times the rate provided by the Germans and about seven times as much as that provided by the French. The Italians do not even have a scheme.
We should not get too worked up on the premise that nothing is being done for victims. Not only do we give them money and support, but there is a victims charter to make sure that they are much better cared for than ever before. We have advice and counselling systems and we give substantial sums for victim support. I think that the figure this year approaches £10 million. Victim support agencies are not wholly opposed to the proposal because they see that there is an advantage in speeding up delivery of the system.
One result of all that the Government are doing for victims is showing forth. It is that more people than ever are reporting crime, for the simple reason that we have a much better attitude towards victims than has ever been displayed by any previous Government. I now come to the main point of contention.
I am about to deal with the system. I said that I would do that and the hon. Gentleman, who has not been here for most of the debate, suddenly got up and asked questions [Interruption.]
Very well, I concede that the hon. Gentleman has been here from beginning to end.
If hon. Members listen, perhaps they will hear the answers to their questions. The principal attack is that the tariff system which is to be imposed will somehow cause an injustice. The hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) conceded that most victims will be as well, or perhaps even better, off, but he said that thousands would lose. There are two ways in which one can lose. There is a loss if the amount of money a victim is to receive now is cut. There is also a loss if a victim has to wait indefinitely for a payment that is due. The hon. Member for St. Helens, South (Mr. Bermingham) shakes his head and winces. I am delighted that he is here to take part in the debate, because I know, as he knows, that one of the greatest complaints from both of us over the years is about the slowness of the payment of legal aid fees. He and I would much rather go to a cash delivery desk immediately we have finished a case and say, "Pay out £100" than wait for 12 or 18 months for £150 [Interruption.] I assure the hon. Gentleman that under that system that was all I got.
People would rather have the money in their hands now than have to wait indefinitely for perhaps a larger sum. I agree that having to wait for 18 months for the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board to pay out is a disgrace. Even if 80 per cent. is paid out in nine months, it is still a disgrace. That disgrace comes about because there is a backlog of 81,000 people waiting for some payment. The system has become overweight and inefficient. It is not delivering justice because people have to wait too long for payment.
Opposition Members say that there is something horrible, unpleasant and unacceptable about a tariff system but all these payments are made according to a tariff system. That is how it works. The courts use a tariff system, as does the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board. We are not substituting a tariff for a non-tariff system but a statutory tariff system for a judicial tariff system, which is not the same objection. If a statutory tariff system delivers more money, more quickly to more people, that will be the justification for my right hon. and learned Friend's plan.
The proposal will not cut the money paid out. My right hon. and learned Friend has already given an undertaking that the new scheme will pay out £500 million more over the next three years. It will make payment quicker and more certain. Recipients will be able to make disposition as to how they will spend the money because they will know months, sometimes years, in advance how much it will be.
I have not mentioned handicap in the labour market. I was arguing that if we can devise a tariff system that will deliver more benefit to more people more quickly, that is its justification. The judicial way of making assessments is not necessarily the best, because it is the slower way and does not necessarily deliver more ultimately.
The hon. Member for Sedgefield made a specific complaint about loss of earnings not being taken into account, but it will, indirectly, because the new tariffs will be assessed—there is a mathematical calculation— according to what the tariffs have been over a period. Those tariffs take into account awards that were made, including loss of earnings. As the new assessment will be based on the old assessment, which included loss of earnings, that element will be included. I agree that the new system may not be perfect. I do not like it—I like more work for lawyers. At the end of the day, however, more work for lawyers is less important than providing a benefit to victims.
After a year or two, there may be a few pounds more in loss of earnings, but that accounts for a small proportion of total awards made. Loss of earnings have not accounted for half the value of an award, but only a minute proportion—some of which, perhaps the larger part, will indirectly be taken into account by the new tariff.
It is easy for lawyers, pressure groups and Opposition Members, who always have an axe to grind—I do not blame them—to oppose the scheme. In a perfect world, such a scheme would not be needed. In a perfect world, more lawyers could do more work and earn more money, and awards could be tailored to the needs of the individual. But it is not a perfect world. What is most imperfect is that victims do not receive their payments for months and months. Almost anything that we can do in a reasonable system to speed the delivery of more money to more people is justified. All those who agree with that proposition will support my right hon. and learned Friend in the Lobby.
The hon. and learned Member for Burton (Sir I. Lawrence) tried to defend the Government's proposal, partly on the ground that it will cut delay—but that is often caused by the need to ascertain the extent of the injury and to be certain of an injured person's prognosis. Consequently, an element of delay is inevitable. If one compares delay in the payment of criminal injuries compensation with the delay that occurs in civil actions, it is clear that the latter is greater. While it is desirable to reduce delay, it is an inevitable element, so that point is overdone.
The hon. and learned Gentleman stated accurately that courts operate a tariff system with regard to loss of amenity, pain and suffering—but there is no tariff system with regard to loss of earnings. The hon. and learned Gentleman said that it played only a small part in criminal injury compensation in the past. That must be because the injuries were largely non-incapacitating. Where there is serious injury leading to loss of earnings, the need for fair compensation is greatest.
While some elements of the scheme must be conventional and have a tariff element, with other aspects of it a tariff is totally inappropriate. Justice demands that individual circumstances are properly taken into account. It must be obvious from my remarks that I consider the Government's proposals to be retrograde.
I am almost entirely in agreement with the criticisms and remarks of the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair), except when he said that the scheme operating in England and Scotland is the best in the world. It is not as good as that which operates in Northern Ireland. I must point out to the hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs. Gillan) that the Northern Ireland scheme is quite different. It is a statutory scheme and has a tariff element—
Of course it does, but it also offers compensation for loss of earnings. As a statutory scheme, it also offers the right to compensation. It has always been a statutory scheme, dating back to the 18th century. It offers a right of appeal to the courts. On all three counts, and certainly the last two, it is preferable to the English and Scottish scheme.
While I appreciate that the Home Secretary's scheme would operate only in Great Britain and would not immediately be applicable to Northern Ireland, the scheme's announcement and nature are causing considerable alarm in Northern Ireland. I use the word "alarm" consciously and without exaggeration. As far as I am aware, all relevant bodies in Northern Ireland are worried in case the new scheme is introduced there. They are anxious to ensure that that does not happen. Among those most concerned are members of the security forces, police, Royal Irish Regiment, prison service and so on—many of whom have suffered severe incapacitating injuries over the past few decades. They are anxious that if the new scheme comes to Northern Ireland, they will be left with wholly inadequate compensation to cover their financial loss.
I was interested to note that the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) referred to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland going out to consultation. My memory must be at fault, because I cannot recall the Secretary of State saying anything on that matter, and nor can the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon). That might reflect the way that the Northern Ireland Office habitually works. I wrote to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland nearly two months ago, but have not yet received a reply.
In response to my written question to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the right hon. Member for Westminster, North (Sir J. Wheeler) replied that the Government are
currently considering what lessons might be learnt for Northern Ireland from the forthcoming changes in the criminal injuries compensation scheme in Great Britain."—[Official Report, 17 March 1994; Vol. 239, c. 844.]
So it is likely that the scheme is under serious consideration. The right hon. Gentleman said that, prior to the scheme being introduced in Northern Ireland, it will go out for consultation—which did not happen in Great Britain.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for that information, which reflects on the way in which the Northern Ireland Office works. Things often happen without Northern Ireland Members being informed. It is interesting to know the identity of the Minister who replied to the hon. Gentleman's question, because it confirms the suspicions of those who have to deal with the Northern Ireland Office about who is the villain of the piece in attempts to cut compensation in Northern Ireland.
I think that I have said enough to show the anxiety that exists and to make it clear to the Home Secretary that there is real worry about changes to the Northern Ireland system. There will be substantial opposition among members of the Ulster Unionist party and all Northern Ireland Members to any attempt to degrade the system that operates in Northern Ireland by reducing it even to the level of the existing system in England and Wales, let alone to the level of the system that he now proposes.
The best thing that the Home Secretary can do is extend the statutory Northern Ireland scheme to the rest of the United Kingdom. It would benefit everyone. If the Home Secretary wishes to cut costs—as the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Shersby) said, it is perfectly legitimate to wish to cut costs—the first thing that he should consider is recovering more from criminals by way of reparation. Not enough is done in that respect.
Many criminals are able to compensate. Many criminals' gains from their criminal activities could be recovered by the state. It is not appropriate or fair to leave it to the victim to pursue the criminal by civil actions. The state can and should do much more. It could recover sums that would go a long way toward defraying the compensation bill. Such a system would probably save as much as, if not more than, the proposed scheme.
I declare an interest as a parliamentary adviser to the Police Federation. Police officers are among the people who will be most affected by the changes. One in 12 applicants to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board are police officers who have often suffered from the rising toll of assaults with which police officers have to cope.
Criminal injuries compensation is a permanent and substantial programme of public expenditure. Therefore, as a matter of parliamentary propriety, it ought to have statutory authority. The Royal Commission on civil liability and compensation for personal injury and the Public Accounts Committee have made that point. The Criminal Justice Act 1988 made an attempt to put compensation on a statutory basis. The view of Parliament was clear: it wanted a statutory basis. That was expressed in the 1988 Act. The Government have failed for various reasons to implement that provision. Yet Parliament's view is clear. The Government's neglect of the clear view expressed by Parliament, and their attempt to introduce instead an administrative scheme when an Act of Parliament is still on the statute book to deal with the matter, amounts to contemptuous disregard of Parliament and parliamentary propriety.
We are changing the system from one that is commonly regarded, although it has some delays, as attaining a standard of fairness. Parliament should give the full consideration that it gives to a statute to such important changes that would lead to unfairness. Fairness in dealing with the widely differing circumstances of victims is important if victims are not also to see themselves as victims of the unfairness of the system of compensation.
Each case is different; it has its own factors. A 24-year-old person blinded in a criminal attack, who has a family and two children to support, and is unlikely to be able to carry on his livelihood is in a different position from that of an 80-year-old in an old folks' home who has been injured. The injury may be the same, but the impact on the people injured is different. The law recognises that difference and seeks to regard it with fairness. The system of varying tariffs in the common law system recognises the different circumstances of assaults.
Does my hon. Friend agree with the representations made by the CICB to Ministers that the intention throughout the history of the criminal injuries compensation scheme has been to compensate a victim of a crime of violence in exactly the same way as he would have been compensated if he had sued his assailant in the civil courts? It suggested that, instead of moving towards a scratch-card system of compensation payments, it would be much better to tailor the payment on a structured settlement basis which took precisely the account that my hon. Friend suggested of differences in the impact of injuries throughout a person's life and according to the stage in a person's life at which the injuries occurred.
That is a much fairer system than that proposed by the Government. When the Home Secretary replies to the debate, will he explain why a person who has been injured by a hit-and-run driver and is entitled to claim against the Motor Insurers Bureau should receive compensation under common law principles that would be denied to a victim of a criminal attack with an iron bar? What is the moral difference? The system that the Home Secretary intends to create would result in those two victims receiving different amounts of compensation.
The Government's proposed scheme is about the Treasury saying that it wants money at the expense of the victims of crime. It is about compensation without compassion for victims.
Does my hon. Friend agree that the game was given away in a letter written on 31 March 1993 by the Minister of State's predecessor, the hon. Member for Fylde (Mr. Jack), to the chairman of the CICB, Lord Carlisle, in which he said:
The tariff scheme will not therefore aim to 'compensate' people in the same way as before. It will however maintain the underlying purpose of the scheme which is to provide a tangible recognition of Society's sympathy and concern for the victim"?
Does my hon. Friend agree that "sympathy and concern" do not pay the mortgage? Is he aware that a Conservative Member who saw me reading a brief from the CICB expressed the view that the new scheme would have the same effect on the Government as the Child Support Agency—the new scheme would go through and the Government would live to regret it?
I hope that the Government do regret it. The proposals are a betrayal of the people about whom the Government have trumpeted their concern for so many months. They will rob those who have suffered the worst and most serious injuries of the fair compensation that was part of a criminal justice system which otherwise does little or nothing for victims.
Although speed of delivery is important, it should not be bought at the price of unfairness and injustice in the quality of what is delivered. Speeding up the process can be done without arbitrary tariffs. The Government say that the new scheme will be much quicker, but that is not necessarily the case. The main cause of delay is often the receipt of medical reports, police reports and certificates.
The Government's scheme will do little or nothing about that. The very small savings in time will not be sufficient to justify the increased unfairness that the system creates.
I shall give a few examples of unfairness. I have many examples, but I shall give only a few because I do not want to delay the House. In the case of Storier, a 34-year-old police constable was assaulted in April 1988 and suffered permanent damage to the base of his spine. He lost his job in December 1990 and was unable to work again. He received damages of £21,000 under the old scheme, but would receive £7,500 under the Government's new scheme.
In the case of Parslow, a Birmingham security officer was assaulted by robbers and received severe leg injuries. His compensation under the old scheme was £74,500. Under the new scheme, it would be £5,000. In the case of Burleigh, a man received a brain injury after being hit with a snooker cue. The compensation under the old scheme was £500,000. Under the new scheme, it would be less than half that.
A recent analysis of the case of Colin Hickman, a solicitor who was recently stabbed to death, shows that under the old scheme his compensation would have amounted, because of his earnings and circumstances, to about £100,000. Under the new scheme, a fatality amounts to £10,000. The new scheme is a betrayal of victims and victims' families.
The tariffs were arrived at by studying the median award for each case. The median was used because it did not, in the words of the White Paper,
distort by factors such as loss of earnings".
In other words, the scheme will say to future victims of crime who are unable to work for lengthy periods—perhaps never again—"Tough luck, mate". In a sense, that is precisely the message that the Home Secretary is sending victims: "Tough luck—my mates down at the Treasury want some more money, and you are going to have to pay the price".
The new clauses have a common theme: in one way or another, they are designed to prevent the introduction of our new tariff scheme for criminal injuries compensation on 1 April.
I remind the House that the present scheme for compensating victims of crime was designed no fewer than 30 years ago. In 1965–66, the first full year of the scheme, 2,452 applications were made to the board, and the amount of compensation paid totalled £400,000. Since then, there has been a staggering increase in both the number of new applications and the compensation paid.
For example, by 1987–88—when the Criminal Justice Bill that included provisions to make the present scheme statutory was passing through Parliament—there were 43,000 applications to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, and the amount of compensation paid had risen from £400,000 to £52 million. By 1992–93, the number of applications had increased by a further 50 per cent. to 66,000, and the amount of compensation had increased threefold from the 1987–88 figure to £152 million. In 1993–94, that figure will be around £170 million—a further increase of 12 per cent.
The current scheme was not intended to cope with that volume of business. Change is, therefore, needed to provide a simpler, faster and more transparent service for victims.
If we are talking of the speed with which claims are settled, we should at least proceed on an accurate basis. I do not know the origin of the figure introduced into the debate by, I think, the hon. Member for St. Helens, South (Mr. Bermingham), who suggested that 80 per cent. of claims were settled within nine months. I have the board's latest report in front of me: it gives the percentage of cases resolved within three, six and nine months. The figure given for claims settled within nine months is 30.6 per cent. That is an improvement on the 1991–92 figure, which was only 26.8 per cent., but it falls far short of the 80 per cent. cited, for some reason, by the hon. Gentleman. Clearly, it leaves considerable room for further improvement.
It is hugely out of proportion to the increase in crime. Between 1965–66 and 1992–93, violent crime increased fivefold—an appalling statistic. The number of applications to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board increased by a multiple of 27, and the amount of compensation from the board increased by a multiple of 378.
If the hon. Gentleman consults paragraph 6.2 of the board's 29th report, entitled "Accounts for the year ended 31 March 1993", he will see a table, very clearly set out, showing the time taken to process applications to the relevant stage for each year that is given. I hope that he will then see that my arithmetic—the calculation that I have made during the debate—is accurate.
Perhaps the Home Secretary will tell us what period is covered by that report. Lord Carlisle was absolutely clear about the matter when he said:
I remind the Minister that that has now dramatically changed and that in 80 per cent. of all our applications a decision is now given to the victim within a nine-month period."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 2 March 1994; Vol. 552, c. 1083.]
The year that I quoted was 1992–93, the latest for which full figures are available. The calculation that I made was accurate for that year.
Given that I caused all this discussion, let me remind the Home Secretary that figures in reports are often misleading. It is a question of the decision that is made, rather than the sum paid. The decision that someone is entitled to an award is crucial, rather than the date on which the sum is paid. I think that Lord Carlisle would agree. I merely suggest that the Home Secretary should be wary of figures, which can often cause problems even for Home Secretaries.
With respect to the hon. Gentleman, they have not done so on this occasion. Paragraph 6.1 provides the following definition of the time involved:
A case is considered to have been resolved either when the applicant accepts the Board's assessment or, in the case of applications which have been disallowed and no application for a hearing has been lodged, three months after the date of notification of the decision.
There is no question of taking the date of payment as the relevant decision, as the hon. Gentleman suggested.
That is not what I am saying. I am saying, very simply, that it is a case of the decision. The decision may be to refuse, which is non-appealed; a decision to grant compensation may be further delayed because of assessment. Those are the dates that I am taking into account, not the date of payment.
As I have made plain to the hon. Gentleman, the date of payment does not enter into the matter; it is not part of the definition set out in paragraph 6.1 of the report, which is the definition that I am using. The reference to payment is a complete irrelevance, as it was never part of the figures that I cited.
I make no bones about the fact that change is also needed to control the costs of compensation, which are becoming unsustainable. We estimate that, without reform, the annual cost of the present arrangements could be in the region of £500 million by the end of the decade. Under the new tariff scheme, the cost is likely to be about £250 million—still a very large sum by the standards of any other state scheme. My hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs. Gillan) gave the figures for some other countries; my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Sir I. Lawrence) pointed out that Italy has no scheme at all.
Our scheme will remain the most generous state scheme anywhere, as it is now. We pay more compensation than all the other European Union countries put together—and that will continue under our proposed new arrangements.
We all know that, in the real world, resources are not unlimited. If we retained the present arrangements, the amount spent on compensation between now and the year 2001 would be about £2.5 billion. That level of expenditure is simply not sustainable, which is one of the reasons why we need a radically different approach—and why we need it quickly. The tariff scheme will achieve that.
Under the tariff scheme, about £1.4 billion is expected to be spent on compensation between now and the year 2001—over £1 billion less than under the current scheme. I make no apologies for stating that bluntly. It is vital to secure the best value for what is, after all, still a huge amount of taxpayers' money. That is an objective which any prudent and responsible Government should always bear in mind.
If the current scheme continued, the taxpayer would have to provide an extra £250 million a year by the end of the century. Is the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) committing the Labour party to that extra expenditure? He should choose his words with care. He should remember that under the Dunfermline doctrine, which was laid down by the shadow Chancellor, even though nothing said outside this Chamber counts, anything that is said here does count. The hon. Gentleman and his colleagues can traipse around the broadcasting studios making pledge after pledge, but they will not count for a bean under the Dunfermline doctrine. On the other hand, anything that is said here will be used in evidence, as even the hon. Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown) concedes.
The Government want a scheme that is generous, as ours is and will continue to be, while ensuring that it offers victims an effective service. That means an efficient scheme that will remain affordable in the future. A scheme based on common law damages, which is time consuming and complex to administer, and under which the average award has risen each year by 5 per cent. more than the rate of inflation, can no longer provide that service. The time has come for a simpler, more straightforward scheme that is easier to administer, gets awards to claimants more quickly, and does all that within a realistic and controllable budget. That is exactly what our tariff scheme aims to do.
In future, as hon. Members know, payments will be made from a tariff of awards for injuries of comparable severity. All eligible applicants with the same injury will receive the same award. They will be able to see from the tariff how much that award is likely to be, and they will receive their compensation more quickly and with less fuss. It is inevitable that some people will get less under the new scheme than under the present one, but most claimants will receive as much as, or more than, they would under the current arrangements. At least 54 per cent. will be in that position when the tariff scheme is introduced. A further 16 per cent. will lose £500 or less, and—an important consideration to many victims—they will get their awards more quickly.
Much has been made of the few cases in which applicants will not receive large sums for loss of earnings and future medical care, which might have been payable under the existing scheme.
There are two matters that I should like my right hon. and learned Friend to address. First, what burden of proof is required to establish that injuries are genuine and claims are not false? Secondly, would not a system of appeal—by the Crown in the case of the effects of injury becoming less severe, and by the victim in the case of the effects of injury worsening—get over the difficulty caused by payments being made too quickly?
I do not quite follow the logic of my hon. and learned Friend's second point. With regard to the first, the burden of proof is the balance of probabilities.
I was explaining that we have set a generous upper limit of £250,000 for awards. In the past three years, out of a total of 180,000 applications, just seven awards a year have, on average, exceeded that sum. Nor should it be forgotten that the criminal injuries compensation scheme is not the only source of state aid for those who have suffered criminal injuries. Such people also receive generous and long-term support from the national health service and from the Department of Social Security, and many occupational groups benefit from generous sick pay and pension schemes. Nor should we forget that there are many other kinds of injury or misfortune for which there is not and never has been a special state scheme of help.
From what I have said, it will be clear that we do not accept the thrust of the amendments. Nor do we accept the argument that, in seeking to change the basis of the criminal injuries compensation scheme while the provisions of the Criminal Justice Act 1980 remain unimplemented, we have in some way acted improperly or unlawfully. As that matter is currently before the courts, it would not be proper for me to comment further on it.
I do not say that the tariff scheme may not be capable of improvement. We have already made it clear that we shall monitor very closely the way it works and will be ready to listen to the views of responsible bodies and practitioners about how it might be improved. If we need to make changes or refinements, we will. Once the new scheme has settled down and can be seen to be working effectively, we shall be better placed to consider giving statutory force to the new arrangements. But the new arrangements constitute a framework within which claims will be quantified more simply, settled more speedily, ensure that more than 50 per cent. of claimants get at least as much as they do under the present scheme and yet cost the taxpayer substantially less than would have been the case had the present arrangements continued.
On that basis, I ask the House to reject the new clauses.
My reply will be very brief. The Home Secretary has given only two reasons for proceeding with the new scheme. The first is that it will be simpler, faster and more transparent for victims. That argument has been rejected by every victims' organisation. It is absurd to pretend that the scheme is being introduced for the benefit of victims, when the organisations that deal with victims unanimously decry its nature.
The second reason is that this is all about cutting costs. If that is the real reason—and I suggest that it is—the wretchedly deceptive White Paper should never have been issued, and we should have had proper consultation with the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board and others to work out some better type of scheme.
The introduction of the scheme in this way is, in our view, wholly reprehensible. If the number of applications for criminal injuries compensation has soared, the answer is not to cut support for victims but to take measures to cut the crime that gives rise to the applications. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has entirely failed to answer our case. We shall press the new clause to a Division, and I ask my hon. Friends and others who believe in the case of victims to support it.
|Division No. 181]||[6.56 pm|
|Abbott, Ms Diane||Benton, Joe|
|Adams, Mrs Irene||Bermingham, Gerald|
|Ainger, Nick||Berry, Roger|
|Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)||Betts, Clive|
|Allen, Graham||Blair, Tony|
|Alton, David||Blunkett, David|
|Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale)||Boateng, Paul|
|Armstrong, Hilary||Boyes, Roland|
|Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy||Bray, Dr Jeremy|
|Ashton, Joe||Brown, Gordon (Dunfermline E)|
|Austin-Walker, John||Brown, N. (N'c'tle upon Tyne E)|
|Banks, Tony (Newham NW)||Burden, Richard|
|Barnes, Harry||Byers, Stephen|
|Barron, Kevin||Caborn, Richard|
|Battle, John||Callaghan, Jim|
|Bayley, Hugh||Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)|
|Beckett, Rt Hon Margaret||Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)|
|Beith, Rt Hon A. J.||Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)|
|Bennett, Andrew F.||Campbell-Savours, D. N.|
|Canavan, Dennis||Hoyle, Doug|
|Cann, Jamie||Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)|
|Chisholm, Malcolm||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)|
|Clapham, Michael||Hughes, Roy (Newport E)|
|Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)||Hughes, Simon (Southwark)|
|Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)||Hutton, John|
|Clwyd, Mrs Ann||Illsley, Eric|
|Coffey, Ann||Ingram, Adam|
|Cohen, Harry||Jackson, Glenda (H'stead)|
|Cook, Frank (Stockton N)||Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H)|
|Cook, Robin (Livingston)||Jamieson, David|
|Corbett, Robin||Janner, Greville|
|Corbyn, Jeremy||Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side)|
|Corston, Ms Jean||Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)|
|Cousins, Jim||Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O)|
|Cox, Tom||Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW)|
|Cryer, Bob||Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)|
|Cunliffe, Lawrence||Jowell, Tessa|
|Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE)||Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald|
|Dalyell, Tarn||Keen, Alan|
|Darling, Alistair||Kennedy, Charles (Ross, C&S)|
|Davidson, Ian||Kennedy, Jane (Lpool Brdgn)|
|Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral)||Khabra, Piara S.|
|Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)||Kilfedder, Sir James|
|Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)||Kilfoyle, Peter|
|Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'I)||Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil (Islwyn)|
|Denham, John||Kirkwood, Archy|
|Dewar, Donald||Lestor, Joan (Eccles)|
|Dixon, Don||Lewis, Terry|
|Dobson, Frank||Litherland, Robert|
|Donohoe, Brian H.||Livingstone, Ken|
|Dunnachie, Jimmy||Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)|
|Eagle, Ms Angela||Llwyd, Elfyn|
|Eastham, Ken||Loyden, Eddie|
|Enright, Derek||Lynne, Ms Liz|
|Etherington, Bill||McAllion, John|
|Evans, John (St Helens N)||McAvoy, Thomas|
|Ewing, Mrs Margaret||McCartney, Ian|
|Fatchett, Derek||Macdonald, Calum|
|Faulds, Andrew||McFall, John|
|Field, Frank (Birkenhead)||McKelvey, William|
|Fisher, Mark||Mackinlay, Andrew|
|Flynn, Paul||McLeish, Henry|
|Foster, Rt Hon Derek||Maclennan, Robert|
|Foster, Don (Bath)||McMaster, Gordon|
|Foulkes, George||McNamara, Kevin|
|Fraser, John||McWilliam, John|
|Fyfe, Maria||Madden, Max|
|Galloway, George||Maginnis, Ken|
|Gapes, Mike||Mahon, Alice|
|Garrett, John||Mallon, Seamus|
|George, Bruce||Mandelson, Peter|
|Gerrard, Neil||Marek, Dr John|
|Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John||Marshall, David (Shettleston)|
|Godman, Dr Norman A.||Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S)|
|Godsiff, Roger||Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)|
|Golding, Mrs Llin||Martlew, Eric|
|Gordon, Mildred||Maxton, John|
|Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)||Meacher, Michael|
|Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)||Meale, Alan|
|Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)||Michael, Alun|
|Grocott, Bruce||Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)|
|Gunnell, John||Milburn, Alan|
|Hain, Peter||Miller, Andrew|
|Hall, Mike||Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)|
|Hanson, David||Molyneaux, Rt Hon James|
|Hardy, Peter||Morgan, Rhodri|
|Harvey, Nick||Morley, Elliot|
|Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy||Morris, Rt Hon A. (Wy'nshawe)|
|Henderson, Doug||Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley)|
|Heppell, John||Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)|
|Hill, Keith (Streatham)||Mowlam, Marjorie|
|Hinchliffe, David||Mudie, George|
|Hoey, Kate||Mullin, Chris|
|Hogg, Norman (Cumbernauld)||Murphy, Paul|
|Home Robertson, John||Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon|
|Hood, Jimmy||O'Brien, Michael (N W'kshire)|
|Hoon, Geoffrey||O'Hara, Edward|
|Howarth, George (Knowsley N)||Olner, William|
|Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)||O'Neill, Martin|
|Orme, Rt Hon Stanley||Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)|
|Paisley, Rev Ian||Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)|
|Parry, Robert||Snape, Peter|
|Patchett, Terry||Soley, Clive|
|Pendry, Tom||Spearing, Nigel|
|Pickthall, Colin||Spellar, John|
|Pike, Peter L.||Squire, Rachel (Dunfermline W)|
|Pope, Greg||Steel, Rt Hon Sir David|
|Powell, Ray (Ogmore)||Steinberg, Gerry|
|Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lew'm E)||Stevenson, George|
|Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)||Stott, Roger|
|Prescott, John||Strang, Dr. Gavin|
|Primarolo, Dawn||Straw, Jack|
|Purchase, Ken||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)|
|Quin, Ms Joyce||Taylor, Matthew (Truro)|
|Radice, Giles||Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)|
|Randall, Stuart||Trimble, David|
|Raynsford, Nick||Vaz, Keith|
|Redmond, Martin||Walker, A. Cecil (Belfast N)|
|Robertson, George (Hamilton)||Walker, Rt Hon Sir Harold|
|Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)||Walley, Joan|
|Roche, Mrs. Barbara||Wardell, Gareth (Gower)|
|Rogers, Allan||Wareing, Robert N|
|Rooker, Jeff||Welsh, Andrew|
|Rooney, Terry||Wicks, Malcolm|
|Ross, William (E Londonderry)||Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)|
|Rowlands, Ted||Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)|
|Ruddock, Joan||Winnick, David|
|Salmond, Alex||Wise, Audrey|
|Sedgemore, Brian||Worthington, Tony|
|Sheerman, Barry||Wray, Jimmy|
|Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert||Wright, Dr Tony|
|Shore, Rt Hon Peter||Young, David (Bolton SE)|
|Skinner, Dennis||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)||Mr. John Cummings and|
|Smith, C. (Isl'ton S & F'sbury)||Mr. Dennis Turner.|
|Smith, Rt Hon John (M'kl'ds E)|
|Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey)||Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Budgen, Nicholas|
|Alexander, Richard||Burns, Simon|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby)||Butcher, John|
|Allason, Rupert (Torbay)||Butterfill, John|
|Amess, David||Carlisle, John (Luton North)|
|Arbuthnot, James||Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)|
|Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)||Carrington, Matthew|
|Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv)||Carttiss, Michael|
|Ashby, David||Cash, William|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Chapman, Sydney|
|Atkins, Robert||Churchill, Mr|
|Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E)||Clappison, James|
|Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)||Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)|
|Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)||Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey|
|Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North)||Coe, Sebastian|
|Baldry, Tony||Colvin, Michael|
|Banks, Matthew (Southport)||Congdon, David|
|Banks, Robert (Harrogate)||Conway, Derek|
|Bates, Michael||Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st)|
|Batiste, Spencer||Coombs, Simon (Swindon)|
|Bellingham, Henry||Cope, Rt Hon Sir John|
|Bendall, Vivian||Couchman, James|
|Beresford, Sir Paul||Cran, James|
|Biffen, Rt Hon John||Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire)|
|Blackburn, Dr John G.||Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon)|
|Body, Sir Richard||Davies, Quentin (Stamford)|
|Bonsor, Sir Nicholas||Davis, David (Boothferry)|
|Booth, Hartley||Day, Stephen|
|Boswell, Tim||Deva, Nirj Joseph|
|Bottomley, Peter (Eltham)||Dickens, Geoffrey|
|Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia||Dicks, Terry|
|Bowden, Andrew||Dorrell, Stephen|
|Bowis, John||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James|
|Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes||Dover, Den|
|Brandreth, Gyles||Duncan, Alan|
|Brazier, Julian||Duncan-Smith, Iain|
|Bright, Graham||Dunn, Bob|
|Brooke, Rt Hon Peter||Durant, Sir Anthony|
|Browning, Mrs. Angela||Dykes, Hugh|
|Eggar, Tim||Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n)|
|Elletson, Harold||Knox, Sir David|
|Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)||Kynoch, George (Kincardine)|
|Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)||Lait, Mrs Jacqui|
|Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)||Lang, Rt Hon Ian|
|Evans, Roger (Monmouth)||Lawrence, Sir Ivan|
|Evennett, David||Legg, Barry|
|Faber, David||Leigh, Edward|
|Fabricant, Michael||Lennox-Boyd, Mark|
|Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas||Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)|
|Fenner, Dame Peggy||Lidington, David|
|Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)||Lightbown, David|
|Forman, Nigel||Lilley, Rt Hon Peter|
|Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)||Lord, Michael|
|Forth, Eric||Luff, Peter|
|Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman||Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas|
|Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)||MacGregor, Rt Hon John|
|Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley)||MacKay, Andrew|
|Freeman, Rt Hon Roger||Maclean, David|
|French, Douglas||McLoughlin, Patrick|
|Fry, Sir Peter||McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick|
|Gale, Roger||Madel, Sir David|
|Gallie, Phil||Maitland, Lady Olga|
|Gardiner, Sir George||Malone, Gerald|
|Garnier, Edward||Mans, Keith|
|Gill, Christopher||Marland, Paul|
|Gillan, Cheryl||Marlow, Tony|
|Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair||Marshall, John (Hendon S)|
|Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles||Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)|
|Gorman, Mrs Teresa||Martin, David (Portsmouth S)|
|Gorst, John||Mawhinney, Rt Hon Dr Brian|
|Grant, Sir A. (Cambs SW)||Mellor, Rt Hon David|
|Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)||Merchant, Piers|
|Greenway, John (Ryedale)||Mills, Iain|
|Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)||Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)|
|Grylls, Sir Michael||Mitchell, Sir David (Hants NW)|
|Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn||Moate, Sir Roger|
|Hague, William||Monro, Sir Hector|
|Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie||Montgomery, Sir Fergus|
|Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)||Moss, Malcolm|
|Hampson, Dr Keith||Nelson, Anthony|
|Hanley, Jeremy||Neubert, Sir Michael|
|Hannam, Sir John||Newton, Rt Hon Tony|
|Hargreaves, Andrew||Nicholls, Patrick|
|Harris, David||Nicholson, David (Taunton)|
|Haselhurst, Alan||Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)|
|Hawkins, Nick||Norris, Steve|
|Hawksley, Warren||Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley|
|Hayes, Jerry||Ottaway, Richard|
|Heald, Oliver||Paice, James|
|Hendry, Charles||Patnick, Irvine|
|Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael||Patten, Rt Hon John|
|Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence L.||Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey|
|Hill, James (Southampton Test)||Pawsey, James|
|Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham)||Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth|
|Horam, John||Pickles, Eric|
|Hordem, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Porter, Barry (Wirral S)|
|Howard, Rt Hon Michael||Porter, David (Waveney)|
|Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A)||Portillo, Rt Hon Michael|
|Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)||Rathbone, Tim|
|Howell, Sir Ralph (N Norfolk)||Renton, Rt Hon Tim|
|Hughes Robert G. (Harrow W)||Richards, Rod|
|Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)||Riddick, Graham|
|Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)||Rifkind, Rt Hon. Malcolm|
|Hunter, Andrew||Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn|
|Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas||Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S)|
|Jack, Michael||Robinson, Mark (Somerton)|
|Jackson, Robert (Wantage)||Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)|
|Jenkin, Bernard||Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent)|
|Jessel, Toby||Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela|
|Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey||Ryder, Rt Hon Richard|
|Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)||Sackville, Tom|
|Jones, Robert B. (W Hertfdshr)||Sainsbury, Rt Hon Tim|
|Jopling, Rt Hon Michael||Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas|
|Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine||Shaw, David (Dover)|
|Key, Robert||Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)|
|King, Rt Hon Tom||Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)|
|Knapman, Roger||Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)|
|Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)||Sims, Roger|
|Knight, Greg (Derby N)||Skeet, Sir Trevor|
|Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)||Trend, Michael|
|Soames, Nicholas||Trotter, Neville|
|Speed, Sir Keith||Twinn, Dr Ian|
|Spencer, Sir Derek||Vaughan, Sir Gerard|
|Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)||viggers, Peter|
|Spink, Dr Robert||Waldegrave, Rt Hon William|
|Spring, Richard||Walden, George|
|Sproat, Iain||Walker, Bill (N Tayside)|
|Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)||Waller, Gary|
|Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John||Ward, John|
|Steen, Anthony||Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)|
|Stephen, Michael||Waterson, Nigel|
|Stern, Michael||Watts, John|
|Stewart, Allan||Wells, Bowen|
|Streeter, Gary||Wheeler, Rt Hon Sir John|
|Sumberg, David||Whitney, Ray|
|Sweeney, Walter||Whittingdale, John|
|Sykes, John||Widdecombe, Ann|
|Tapsell, Sir Peter||Wiggin, Sir Jerry|
|Taylor, Ian (Esher)||Wilkinson, John|
|Taylor, John M. (Solihull)||Willetts, David|
|Temple-Morris, Peter||Wilshire, David|
|Thomason, Roy||Wolfson, Mark|
|Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)||Wood, Timothy|
|Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)||Yeo, Tim|
|Thornton, Sir Malcolm||Young, Rt Hon Sir George|
|Townend, John (Bridlington)||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexl'yh'th)||Mr. Timothy Kirkhope and|
|Tracey, Richard||Mr. Michael Brown.|