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Departure directions

New clause 3 – in the House of Commons at 4:15 pm on 29th June 1995.

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17. The Scheme ought to make provision for the Secretary of State to direct, in cases involving—

  1. (a) multiple injury;
  2. (b) sexual assault;
  3. (c) chronic psychiatric illness; or
  4. (d) injuries to children
that the compensation should be calculated having regard to awards for pain, suffering and loss of amenity at Common Law.'.

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael , Cardiff South and Penarth

The purpose of the new clause and the schedule is to lay down some important principles under which the criminal injuries compensation scheme should operate. We have two main aims. First, the proposed changes will achieve the transparency that is so lamentably lacking in the Bill. We have said from the beginning that the Bill leaves far too much of the decision making in the hands of the Home Secretary and fails to include some details and principles. Time and again in Committee, we drew attention to the Government's failure to provide adequate details in the Bill.

We accept that every detail cannot be contained in the legislation; that would of course make it cumbersome and difficult to amend minor details. That is the excuse that the Minister has given on a variety of occasions for not putting basic principles in the Bill. We accept that some details can be contained in statutory instruments. The trouble with the Bill is that too many key aspects of the scheme are to be buried in statutory instruments, and other important elements, for example, in relation to reviews, appeals and time limits do not have to come before Parliament. Parliamentary scrutiny of the criminal injuries compensation scheme is of particular importance because of the history of this set of proposals and the Home Secretary's attempt to evade parliamentary scrutiny, even when he needed to observe it.

Our difficulties in Committee were compounded by the fact that the Government are yet to publish the scheme, which is the subject of the Bill. Opposition amendments have prised more details out of the Minister. Indeed, on 13 June in Committee, in column 57 of the Official Report, he gave us what he called a "golden assurance" that, if provision were included in the 1990 common law scheme, the new tariff scheme would operate in the same way.

Operating in the same way as the 1990 scheme is a clear principle, but it is also clear from the Minister's other answers that people will lose out. The cutting of finances by some £700 million demonstrates that there will be changes. That will be to the detriment of some of the people who seek support from the scheme.

The failure to have the schedule in draft makes it much more difficult for the Committee, Members of Parliament and people outside the House who take an interest to be absolutely clear on what principles the Home Secretary is operating. That is not unusual. I recall the Immigration Act 1988—the first piece of legislation in which I was involved as a Whip. In meeting after meeting, we asked the Home Secretary to bring forward the immigration rules, without which that legislation meant virtually nothing. We have the same position with this legislation.

The Minister went part way by at least offering a letter to members of the Committee, together with information on the 1990 scheme and on the interim scheme that was found to be illegal, and he sidelined both those documents in such a way as to show which elements he intended to incorporate eventually in his scheme. That was helpful and I commend him for at least going part way, but he said to us that it would not be long before the scheme was prepared.

We know that the Bill will reach its Second Reading in the House of Lords in a couple of weeks. Will the Minister ensure that the scheme is published in full before Second Reading in another place? If those details are about to be prepared, presumably on the time scale in which the Minister expected to have the legislation through the House before the summer recess, will he give us a cast-iron guarantee that they will be published before the recess so that we can examine them?

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael , Cardiff South and Penarth

Will the Minister give us a golden assurance, as my hon. Friend suggests, that the full draft will be available to us before the summer?

This refers in a way to the previous debate, where the Minister cast aside the offer of advice from people involved in litigation by suggesting that his scheme would be available shortly and that they would be able to comment on it. There are plenty of reasons why the Minister should give us a golden promise to publish his scheme before the recess.

Publication before the recess would have a second benefit: it would enable the people who will deal with the debates and the people who will advise them in another place fully to consider the matter and the Minister's intentions before the debates in October in Committee, on Report and on Third Reading in another place. It would give an opportunity therefore for the Bill to proceed with some hope of its coming back to us, towards the end of this parliamentary Session, with reasonable amendments having been made in another place and with many of the difficulties that we have highlighted in Committee having been met by Ministers.

I hope that the Minister will give us that assurance because there is no excuse not to do so. From his own words at the beginning of Committee proceedings, it was clear that the draft was at a complete stage in his in-tray. On the basis of his own assurances in Committee, it is clear that it would be bad faith for the Home Office not to publish the draft scheme, as well as its final draft of the tariff, before the summer and, certainly, before the debates in another place after the summer. There is no reason therefore for the Minister not to give a clear and unequivocal commitment on that aspect.

Our new clause and schedule show how the basic principles of the scheme could have been set up in legislation in the first place so that people were aware of the key elements of the scheme. That is the right way to proceed. Our proposal is transparent, clear and fair. The Minister should therefore accept those improvements, as well as promise to give us in quick time the small and more detailed elements that will be in the schedule.

Our second aim is to list some of those key principles which should be in the scheme. The first is that compensation paid under the scheme should be broadly the same as that available before the passing of the Act. From comments that have been made and quoted in the debate already, it seems that the Minister accepts that as a principle, but does he? It is crucial. In Committee, the Minister tried to tell us that victims would not lose out—which would mean accepting that principle—but the one thing that is transparent about the Bill is that the Government's key intention has been to cut the money available to innocent victims of crime.

The explanatory and financial memorandum to the Bill makes that crystal clear. The amount that the Government intend to save over the next five financial years is £700 million, in a drop of 40 per cent. on planned expenditure. It surely cannot be said that no one will lose out. Many victims will lose out as a result of the proposals. The victims of the most serious crimes of violence will lose out.

We have highlighted how those savings will be made: by not paying loss of earnings in the first 28 weeks, by failing to upgrade the tariff between 1994 and 1999 and by capping maximum amounts. That cap will affect a small number of people, but, again, the victims of the most horrendous injuries will suffer. Savings should not be made at the expense of individual victims.

Secondly, there must be adequate compensation for loss of earnings. A large part of the savings that the Government are generating results from the decision not to pay loss of earnings in the first 28 weeks after injury. The Minister suggested in our debate on 15 June that all the savings would be the result of that one measure alone. We do not believe that to be the case, but it is certainly a substantial element.

The Government have justified their choice of 28 weeks by pointing to statutory sick pay. The inference is that victims will be adequately recompensed during that period. That is not the case. Statutory sick pay is £52.50 a week—hardly an adequate recompense for those unable to work because of a serious criminal injury. Many people are not entitled to SSP, including the self-employed, those on a low income and those on short-term contracts. Some may be entitled to incapacity benefit, but that is no more generous than SSP. Others will get income support, but that is even less than SSP.

Some people have their SSP enhanced by occupational sick pay schemes, but there is considerable variation in entitlement from one scheme to another. It is common for five years' length of service to be a condition before a half-year's full sick pay is given. Taking all those factors together, it has been calculated that 12 million people—at least half those in employment—do not receive full pay during the first 28 weeks of sickness and will therefore be at risk under the Government's proposals. They will be worse off.

The third principle that we want to enshrine in the Bill is proper provision for special expenses to allow the individual to remain in employment or to retrain, to provide the additional costs of alleviating the effects of disability, to make provision for reasonable child care costs and to pay for medical treatment where that is not readily available from the national health service.

The scheme must make provision for relatives or others who give up their jobs to care for the victims of crime. Very often, Ministers and others pay lip service to the carers, who are often the silent sufferers after someone suffers an accident or is in ill health. Those silent sufferers should be provided for in the scheme and that should be made clear in the Bill.

I hope that the Minister's golden assurance means that all those areas of special expenses will be covered to help those incapacitated for more than 28 weeks. I hope that, even at this late stage, he will rethink his proposals and allow expenses to be paid where appropriate when the individual is incapacitated for less than 28 weeks.

The next point of principle is that provision should be made for the impact of a bereavement on the former dependants of the deceased. I do not think that this is a matter of contention between the Opposition and the Government. It was discussed in Committee and it would be helpful if the Minister would now make his commitment clear. In Committee, he responded positively when we referred to the impact of special requirements for funerals—for example, cultural and religious requirements may lead to additional costs for a family who are already in enormous pain and difficulty because of the death of a family member. That element should be allowed for in the Bill and I hope that the Minister will make as clear today as he did in Committee his agreement with us on that point.

We believe that the ability to make interim arrangements should be clearly written into the Bill. In Committee on 20 June, the Minister admitted that the wording of the original discredited tariff scheme for interim payments was unsatisfactory. He said that it needed a tweak. It needs more than just a tweak; clear principles need to be set out in the Bill.

The new schedule makes provision for reasonable time limits for the determination of reviews and appeals. It is important that victims receive prompt and efficient treatment. Many references to the tariff scheme have suggested that speeding up the system is one of the benefits. We want to ensure that the determination of reviews and appeals, as well as the original decision, happens quickly. Victims, especially those where there are special circumstances and therefore, in many cases, special stress, should not have to wait a long time for a determination of their cases simply because they have asked for a review or for an appeal against a decision. All those principles are important in ensuring that victims receive the prompt and efficient treatment that we believe they are entitled to expect.

We have attempted to bring flexibility into the scheme. That, too, is an important principle. When we suggested improvements in Committee, the Minister said that we were trying to constrain the scheme. We made it absolutely clear that we wanted a scheme that would respond quickly to the needs of victims and that could be flexible where necessary. I do not mean unnecessarily flexible, which might result in a long-winded system to deal with the cases that come before the body and the appellate body; we want a reasonable flexibility so that fairness can be guaranteed.

We propose that for multiple injury, sexual assault, chronic psychiatric illness and injuries to children there should be a mechanism to allow compensation to be calculated having regard to awards at common law. I think that the Minister will accept that those cases are difficult to value. That is especially true with children's cases, which do not readily fall within a tariff scheme. Complex injuries can have a traumatic effect on an individual. Those factors should be taken fully into account in decision making within the new system. We need some mechanism to ensure that awards in such cases are comparable with the awards available at common law.

We believe that the new clause and new schedule lay down clear and fair principles to underpin a just criminal injuries compensation scheme. We believe that the speeding up of matters through a tariff system that deals with the simpler cases quickly and effectively will be enhanced by building in the principles set out in the new schedule.

I commend both the new clause and the new schedule to the House.

Photo of Michael Connarty Michael Connarty , Falkirk East

I commend the diligent work of my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael). From the time of the original proposal by the Home Secretary to use the prerogative to destroy the 1964-based Act right through to this debate, my hon. Friend has harried the Government and made them amend many of their original proposals.

I also commend the work done in the other place. For me, it would be a happier circumstance if I could commend a second Chamber whose Members had been elected and were therefore representative rather than hereditary. However, it shows that where honest men gather the Government are tripped up and sent packing.

I declare an interest, as I am sponsored by the Union of Communication Workers. I do not represent that body with any lack of pride, although I do it with some sorrow because, on many occasions, it has been shown that the membership comprises people involved in a dangerous occupation. When, in parts of Northern Ireland, there was talk of the peace process, postal workers in Newry were being attacked and one was killed. Recently in Birmingham, while this Bill was being discussed, a postman emptying a post box was subjected to a fatal assault, just so that the attacker could rob the contents of the post box. I therefore commend the new schedule, which would provide for clearer details and more compensation for fatal injury cases.

My hon. Friend referred to the Government's proposal for 28 weeks without compensation, other than whatever might come through a Government scheme. The Government are treating the matter like a workplace injury. Of course, such an injury should not necessarily be demeaned. It is ridiculous to treat an injury that is the result of a criminal act—in the case of a postal worker, it will probably be an attempt to seize money, postal orders or some other thing in the custody of the Post Office—in the same way as any trip-and-fall accident at work. Clearly, the Government have made no allowances for the difference. This is all about saving £700 million, as my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth said, regardless of the impact on the victim.

5 pm

Clearly, additional living costs and traumas come with a criminal injury that would not come with any other form of injury and such injuries should not be compensated by a tariff method. They should not be put into a banding. Although the tariff has been increased after a splendid campaign by the Trades Union Congress and other honourable people, it is not adequate and I think the Government realise that. Previous compensation schemes took into account the concept of trauma: one may get over a physical injury quickly and go back to work, but one will not necessarily get over the trauma of having been the victim of a criminal attack.

I am pleased to see some consideration for carers in the scheme in the new schedule. Often, the burden of the traumas, deterioration in life style and inability to cope with life some years after a criminal attack fall on the family and the carers. The Government take no account of that and have, in fact, ignored it, pretending that it is not real. It is as if medical science is ignored by the Government if it cannot be afforded by the Government.

I am unhappy about the fact that the Government have not considered tariff levels that would be adequate for cases of sexual criminal attacks. It is clear that they are turning away from something of which more and more people are becoming aware—that the traumas caused by a sexual attack will last for the rest of the victim's life.

The maximum awards will be capped, which will adversely affect the small number of victims with the most catastrophic injuries. It is as if the Government are saying that previous compensation was too generous—they use that word pejoratively. How can compensation for a criminal attack be too generous? Presumably, the assessments are made on the basis that the trauma, the injury and its life-long effects are such that the money paid will never rub them out but will help to make life a little more bearable—that is all that the money ever does.

The Government's proposal is not tough on crime and the consequences of crime but tough on the victims and the families of victims, especially as regards members of professions who handle money regularly and are likely to be attacked regularly. Statistics show that members of the Union of Communication Workers—formerly the postal workers—are attacked regularly. If the Government do not take on board my hon. Friend's suggestion and introduce a scheme based on the new schedule, they should be ashamed.

Photo of Mr George Stevenson Mr George Stevenson , Stoke-on-Trent South

When we attempted in Committee to convince the Minister of the merits of the issues in new clause 3 and amendment No. 4, it would be fair to say that his general view was that he did not want to burden the Bill with details and minutiae. We tried to convince him that the issues were not details or minutiae but important principles. Although we accepted his argument that we were clearly not arguing for every t to be crossed and every i dotted—clearly that would be irresponsible and unrealistic—by the same token, he appears to have gone to the opposite extreme: he views all the issues of principle that we try to incorporate in the Bill as minutiae that should be discounted.

To be fair, the Minister told us that the details would be there for everyone to see when the scheme was made available. "Trust me" was the general tenor of his proposition. Fair enough, but if we are talking about principles, why on earth can they not at least be reflected in a schedule to the Bill? What does the Minister find so objectionable about the principles to which my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael) referred?

We are not talking about details and they will not burden civil servants in the Home Office, making them burn the midnight oil. They are important principles and I hope that, even at this late stage, the Minister will reflect on that fact and recognise it. It is important for those principles to be contained in the Bill, albeit in a schedule.

In Committee, when the Minister described the Government's scheme, he repeatedly said that it is the best in the world.

Photo of Mr George Stevenson Mr George Stevenson , Stoke-on-Trent South

But if the scheme is so good, why is the Minister so secretive about it? What is wrong with spelling out in the Bill the principles on which this world-beating scheme is based?

Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Minister of State (Home Office)

I think that the hon. Gentleman will know that, every time I said that our scheme is the best in the world, I was referring not merely to how it is administered but to the huge sums available. Financially, it is as big as the United States scheme and bigger than those of the rest of Europe put together. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the extra money that we envisage making available during the next few years is spelt out in the explanatory and financial memorandum to the Bill? That is not something that the Opposition have spelt out.

Photo of Mr George Stevenson Mr George Stevenson , Stoke-on-Trent South

I am grateful to the Minister for pointing out that important issue. I am prepared to recognise that the Government intend to cut the resources available to people injured by criminal activity by £700 million. That is part of the financial package to which he referred.

I will not be deflected from my argument. If the scheme is so good, why are the Government so secretive? The Minister has yet to answer that question, but it is a fair one. Why not list in the schedule the principles on which this so-called world-beating scheme—although it will cut £700 million from the available resources—is based?

Another significant matter that all hon. Members should consider is that the Bill is the result of Government mistakes during the past couple of years. The Government rushed through their first attempt to introduce a tariff scheme and did not consider the implications carefully enough. They had to backtrack on it because of the mistakes made, and here we are considering a revised tariff scheme. That is a direct result of the fact that the sort of principles that we want included in the Bill were not being fully considered in the first place.

One can give example after example of Acts of Parliament that the Government have bulldozed through the House without thinking them through. Minister after Minister has had to come to the Dispatch Box and do U-turn after U-turn. If the Minister would agree with us about anything, I am sure that he would agree that the Government do not want to be in that position again; but unless those principles are contained in the Bill, we suspect that that is inevitable.

I shall deal with just a couple of issues in the time available as I do not wish to repeat what my hon. Friends have said. The first issue worth underlining is the principle of uprating contained in amendment No. 4. The new tariff scheme will be based on 1994 tariffs, will not come into effect until 1 April 1996 and will not be reviewed for three years. That means that a five-year period will pass before those tariffs are reviewed. Is that not a matter of profound principle? Will not families and everyone who is tragically injured as a result of criminal activity be interested in that? Could not the Minister reasonably seek to deal with that? Is it right that people should be faced with a built-in devaluation of the tariff award? Five years of inflation will eat away at the value of the tariff award. That is an important principle, not detail or minutiae.

The second point relates to the Government's insistence on the 28-week rule. Having listened to their arguments, I am convinced that they insist on it because it is administratively convenient—it happens to fit in with activities in other areas and it saves money. After a criminal injury, many people will have no income, other than £52 a week if they qualify for statutory sick pay, which many will not. The income of others will be dramatically reduced. Their lives will have been transformed through criminal injury and they will need support. I can think of no time when they will need that resource more than in the first 28 weeks; to deny them it during that period is the worst thing that the Government could do.

For those and many other reasons, I hope that, even at this late stage, the Minister will recognise the strength of the arguments in both the new clause and the amendment, and consider our points sympathetically.

Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Minister of State (Home Office)

Perhaps I might deal briefly with the last point the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Stevenson) made and the sheer illogicality of his suggestion. He said that people who receive lesser injuries and are off work for 28 weeks need support immediately after the injury or trauma. With the best will in the world, in those first, crucial, few weeks, there is no chance of anyone applying to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority, completing the paperwork, being assessed and having an award made. Even the most efficient scheme in the world will take a few months to process the application, so the hon. Gentleman's argument that, by setting a 28-week threshold, we are disadvantaging people who would have had an instantaneous pay-out from the moment that they were injured does not hold water.

5.15 pm

New clause 3 and amendment No. 4 seek to prescribe on the face of the Bill some of the features of the new scheme which, although not mandatory—the Secretary of State would, in theory, have to have regard only to general principles that are cast in such terms as the scheme "ought" to make the provisions in question—would, in practice, clearly circumscribe the Secretary of State's actions. He would obviously be vulnerable to challenge if, without good reason, the scheme did not reflect each and every one of the principles.

We have a much more fundamental objection, however. I am afraid that, while we have no difficulty with some of the principles set out in the new schedule, others are unacceptable, as Opposition Members will know from the lengthy and detailed debates that we have had on the Floor of the House and especially in Committee.

I do not propose to discuss all the principles in great detail yet again. The arguments are clearly set out in the Official Report for all to see. I shall, however, mention just a few of the more unacceptable items. First is the requirement that compensation payable under the new scheme should be broadly the same as that available under the old one. We have made no secret of the fact that one of the main reasons for seeking to bring in a new scheme was to rein back the cost of the old scheme, which was rising at an unsustainable rate. It is inevitable, therefore, that we shall spend less under the new scheme than we would have under the old scheme if it had continued unchanged.

It is also clear that we shall spend huge and increasing sums of money. I remind the House and the hon. Member for Falkirk, East (Mr. Connarty), who kept talking about cuts, cuts, cuts, that, under the enhanced tariff scheme proposed in the Bill, we anticipate that the liability to compensation in 1996–97 will rise to £175 million. In 1997–98 it will rise to £190 million—some cut. The year after, it will rise to £205 million, and the following year we reckon that it will be up to £240 million.

Under the scheme that I recommend to the House today, and which the Opposition keep saying is mean and will impose cuts, the annual liability will have risen to no less than £260 million by 2000, and the cumulative liability in the five years to then will be no less than £1.1 billion.

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael , Cardiff South and Penarth

Does the Minister agree that the words that he used were carefully chosen? He said that he anticipated an increase in liability. That is not the same as an increase in what is available to compensate individual victims of serious crime. Surely the Minister understands the difference.

Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Minister of State (Home Office)

I understand the difference, but the Opposition do not. That remark is typical of them. They call for more money for individuals, but everyone will get more money. The shadow Chancellor, the hon. Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown), says that, overall, the Labour party will not spend more. "We are going to be prudent. We shall be tighter than the Tories in global expenditure terms," says the Labour party, but in every debate in Committee, it sought through its amendments to spend more money, widen the banding, increase the awards by 20 per cent. and remove the 28-week threshold.

Every argument advanced by Opposition Members in Committee and here today is to increase the amount of money available. I do not criticise that view if they want to give even more money than we are giving to victims of crime, but if that is their policy, they should have the decency to say so and spell it out clearly that, by 2000, the scheme will cost £700 million more than the £1,000 million that we estimate it will cost.

It is no good the Opposition uttering weasel words and saying, "We won't change the scheme if you won't." The Bill shows that we are changing the scheme because the exponential growth in awards—they are rising higher and higher each year and way above inflation—is not sustainable.

Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Minister of State (Home Office)

Once I have finished this point I shall happily give way to the hon. Gentleman.

With our new, enhanced tariff scheme, not only will liability increase each year, but we expect it to remain the most generous in the world.

The starting point for what we are doing in the Bill is the fact that, in the United Kingdom, the money paid to innocent victims of crime is as much as the whole of the United States of America, with its huge economy and large number of victims of violent crime, can muster. Little old Great Britain is paying out in compensation to victims of crime more than every other country in Europe put together.

We are usually criticised by the Opposition at every opportunity—whenever they perceive that countries in Europe are better than Britain. No one is better than the Opposition at criticising Britain for not being as good as other countries in Europe but, in Committee and on Report today, we have heard not a cheep from the Opposition about other countries in Europe. They cannot say anything, because they know that the figures I have given to the House are correct.

Photo of Michael Connarty Michael Connarty , Falkirk East

I did not know whether the Minister would ever be able to stem that flow, he was getting so carried away with his own words. It is a pity that no one else believes what he says these days.

The proposed new schedule refers to fatal injury. Does the right hon. Gentleman think it unreasonable to operate a scheme that provides adequate compensation for "appropriate funeral expenses"? Does he not think it reasonable that the scheme should provide for the dependants of people such as the members of my trade union who were killed while on work duties? The cost to the state of such families falling into benefit and encountering other problems because of the loss of their main breadwinner and fathers would be offset by an adequate payment from a compensation scheme in the first place. Does not all the money come out of the same pocket at the end of the day? Compensation stops further deprivation, so does not that save the state money?

Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Minister of State (Home Office)

If the hon. Gentleman had bothered to read any of our debates in Committee, he would have known fine that those commitments were given. I assured hon. Members that those who were eligible in broad terms under the 1990 scheme would be covered by the new scheme, which we intend should mirror the 1990 one. I gave the assurances sought on benefits and fatal awards. I give a similar assurance now to the hon. Gentleman about the different expenses of multi-cultural funerals.

I have no problem with some of the provisions suggested in the "principles" because I have already given the assurance that we intend to bring forward as soon as possible a scheme that mirrors the 1990 scheme in most respects. I have also said, however, that I cannot accept some of the other principles that the Opposition have proposed, which would mean spending more and more money without declaring when the bottom line would be reached.

The "principles" also suggest that loss of earnings should be payable from the date of the injury. Our scheme will make provision for the loss of earnings, so that those most seriously affected by their injury receive generous compensation. There needs to be a trigger for that, however, so that the extra help is given to the more seriously injured, and so that the authority is not swamped with a large number of comparatively small claims for loss of earnings—which are very time consuming to process.

It is not acceptable that loss of earnings should be payable from the date of the injury. That would, in effect, be a recipe for a return to the old scheme and all its attendant shortcomings. We must not forget that there is still an element for loss of earnings and the other heads of damage payable under the old scheme in every tariff award, since the tariff award was based on the median—the most typical—award for the injury concerned.

We have made it clear that we are going to pay special expenses; we have also made it clear what is meant by that term. In broad terms, it means that if something qualified for expenses under the 1990 scheme, it will qualify for special expenses under the enhanced tariff scheme. If it did not qualify under the 1990 scheme, it will not qualify under our new enhanced tariff scheme. I do not think I can make things much plainer than that. I repeat the golden assurance that I gave in Committee.

We will not extend the scope of special expenses to cover the completely new items mentioned in the schedule, which would cost a lot more money than the Opposition suggest.

In fatal cases, in addition to the basic tariff award which all qualifying claimants will receive, we shall pay reasonable funeral expenses. I confirm to the hon. Member for Falkirk, East that reasonable funeral expenses will be paid in all cases. That will reflect not only regional differences in costs, but differences in religious or cultural practices and expectations. We are, of course, well aware of the different funeral arrangements that are necessary in different circumstances and the different costs that can arise. The new authority, just like the old Criminal Injuries Compensation Board will, of course, consider all claims sympathetically and reimburse reasonable expenses.

Where there was financial dependency on the victim, payment for that dependency will be payable as well as payment for loss of parental support. In that case, too, provision is generous and will be broadly in line with what is payable under the present scheme.

The "principles" next mention interim awards. Here, too, we are one jump ahead. We have made it plain that interim awards will be paid whenever it is considered appropriate.

The "principles" finally suggest that there should be a return to the common law method of assessment for cases involving multiple injury, sexual assault, chronic psychiatric injury or injuries to children. I have to say there can be no question of returning to the common law method of assessment for any class of injury.

The tariff scheme was derived from 20,000 awards made by the board. That extensive exercise showed quite clearly that it was perfectly possible to group all injuries into bands of comparable severity and to assign a typical value—the median value—to each band. We believe that the enhanced tariff fairly reflects the relative seriousness of the injuries listed, and we see no justification for assessing the basic award other than on the basis of the enhanced tariff. If victims are more seriously affected by their injury, they will, as I have just explained, be eligible for loss of earnings and the costs of special care.

I must tell the House about the inevitable consequence of allowing individual assessment in the case of multiple injury. Most claimants—or, more probably, their clever representatives—would claim that they had suffered multiple injury. They would therefore demand individual assessment. Even where the claim turned out to be manifestly bogus, it would still take time and resources to investigate it. Our formula for determining multiple awards—100 per cent. of the tariff award for the most serious injury, plus 10 per cent. of the award for the next injury and 5 per cent. for the third—broadly reflects what happens under the present scheme and in the civil courts. I believe that it is the right way to assess those cases quickly and fairly.

In conclusion, I think our enhanced tariff scheme is already based on the right "principles". I can tell hon. Members that we hope to be able to make a draft of the new scheme available to the House shortly. It will set out more clearly and more fully just what the new scheme will cover and what it will not cover. The so-called "principles" set out in the amendment are overly prescriptive and, in many instances, unnecessary.

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael , Cardiff South and Penarth

Could the Minister offer us a definition of the word "shortly"? That word has been used on many occasions. We were told that the Committee stage would be completed "shortly". I asked for a specific commitment from the Minister that he would publish the details of the scheme before the recess, and preferably before Second Reading in the Lords. That would enable proper consideration to be given to the details prior to the debate in the House of Lords after the recess.

Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Minister of State (Home Office)

May I say to the hon. Gentleman in the nicest possible way that "shortly" means "not long"? It is my intention to publish those details as soon as possible. Perhaps I may be more unkind to the hon. Gentleman. It is a bit rich for him to ask me to define the word "shortly" and to be more specific about when I will be able to produce the details of the scheme when he has had ample time to add up the costs of his proposals.

Time after time, I have said from the Dispatch Box that we have included costs in the Bill. The hon. Gentleman has spoken about cuts, but I have pointed out today that we will increase the amount of money available year after year. We expect liability to increase year after year. By 2000, we expect to be paying out £260 million as opposed to £175 million next year. We have been able to spell all that out, but the hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael) and other Labour Members, although calling for more money for victims here, there and everywhere, and promising that a Labour Government would be more generous, while saying that we are mean-spirited, have never once added up the figures.

We do not know the bottom line on the hon. Gentleman's proposals, just as we do not know the bottom line on any of the Opposition's policies. That is why the Labour party has been instructed not to cost its policies—just in case some wicked Tory points out that all its promises will cost an awful lot. That is just not good enough. I call on the hon. Gentleman to state quite clearly how much his proposals would cost. We do not want to hear the weasel form of words that the Opposition have used in the past, to the effect, "If you don't change the scheme, we won't either." I am telling him: we are changing the scheme. There it is. We have produced the Bill and we know what it will cost. What is he going to do?

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael , Cardiff South and Penarth

I am glad that the Minister has finally come clean—he is no longer saying that the scheme will be more or less the same as the 1990 scheme. He has accepted that the compensation payable under the scheme will be cut dramatically. He is cutting the compensation available for victims of the most violent crimes. He has admitted that he is cutting criminal injury compensation by £700 million in the next five years.

How on earth does the right hon. Gentleman have the cheek to ask for plain language from the Opposition when he talks about such cuts? How can he put such contradictions before the House? How can he say, "I am not cutting anything, but I am cutting £700 million"? He made that contradiction explicit this evening.

Plain language—that will be the day, when we get plain language from Home Office Ministers. "Shortly"—when does "shortly" mean? "Shortly" might have a clear definition; it might have the definition "tomorrow". The Minister might say, "I shall publish the details of the scheme tomorrow." He might promise to publish them next week. He could have published them during the Committee stage, because we know that the document has been drafted. We know that it is there in his in-tray. We know that it is available. He has simply chosen to delay its presentation until after Committee and Report.

The Minister cannot get away with continued prevarication. He needs to publish the details of the scheme before the summer recess. It was obviously his original intention to do so, because he believed that the Bill would have passed through the House by that time. There is no excuse for his not publishing the scheme and putting the details in the public domain before debates take place in another place. It could not be plainer than that.

5.30 pm

The weasel words of the Minister, who finds it so difficult to define the word "shortly", give no satisfaction to the House. He says that he accepts some of the principles that we propose in the new schedule. I welcome the fact that he dealt positively with the matter of funeral expenses. He also tried to say that things would be broadly the same as under the existing scheme but, effectively, everything that he says is an admission that he is cutting cash for victims, although he has continually tried to say that no one will lose out.

Listen to the Minister's words during the debate, Mr. Deputy Speaker. He says that he anticipates that liability will increase in the next few years. We have always known that. An increase in liability has been predicted—although the figures are not totally dependable—by the Home Office and other organisations such as the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board. What is being cut is the cash compensation available to individual victims of the most serious crime. Such people have been penalised by the Government.

The Home Secretary and the Minister tried to tell us that there had been a drop in crime—that crime is 5 per cent. down. The Minister knows as well as I do that violent crime has increased by about 7 per cent., and that the criminal injuries compensation scheme deals only with the victims of violent crime—only with the victims of that increasing violence.

The Minister pulls schemes out of the bag, as his colleague the Home Secretary does. Do you remember schemes for secure places, Mr. Deputy Speaker? They were promised four years ago. Not a place has been provided. Youngsters were going to be locked up. Where are the places? What is happening? No, we get only rhetoric and talk about being tough on crime from the Government, not the action or the resources necessary to tackle the problems.

The Minister has no credibility when he tries to castigate us, when we have made it clear that we would maintain the level of compensation available for individual victims of violent crime. I said that clearly, in the words—to which I am glad that the Minister has listened, even if he has not understood—"If you do not cut the scheme, Mr. Minister, we will not cut the scheme." The Government are determined to make the victims of violent crime pay for the failings of the Conservative party in government. That is what it comes down to. That is what it is about.

Our proposal for urgent compensation in respect of loss of earnings is not as generous as the Minister suggests. We need a trigger; the trigger is the loss of earnings. Pain and loss do not start after 28 weeks. Indeed, very often pain, suffering and the problems of the individual and the family are greater during the first 28 weeks than afterwards. They are immediate. What is proposed is a cut. If the Minister is one jump ahead of the principles, if the scheme is so good, if he has the details of it so well sorted out, as he suggested, why does not he publish it? Why has he kept it secret from us? Why has he not given us the details?

Our suspicion is justified by what the Home Secretary tried to do, without being held accountable to the House—changing the scheme dramatically and downgrading all its aspects. His U-turn does not go far enough. That scheme remains in essence a serious cut in the compensation available for the people who are most injured and damaged by violent crime.

That is why, in view of the unsatisfactory response of the Minister, we shall seek to place the new clause and the proposed schedule on the face of the Bill.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 201, Noes 257.

5.33 pm
AYES
Abbott, Ms DianeBennett, Andrew F
Adams, Mrs IreneBenton, Joe
Ainger, NickBermingham, Gerald
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)Berry, Roger
Allen, GrahamBetts, Clive
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)Blair, Rt Hon Tony
Armstrong, HilaryBray, Dr Jeremy
Ashton, JoeBrown, Gordon (Dunfermline E)
Austin-Walker, JohnBrown, N (N'c'tle upon Tyne E)
Barnes, HarryBurden, Richard
Battle, JohnByers, Stephen
Bayley, HughCaborn, Richard
Bell, StuartCallaghan, Jim
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)Khabra, Piara S
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)Kilfoyle, Peter
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)Kirkwood, Archy
Campbell-Savours, D NLewis, Terry
Cann, JamieLiddell, Mrs Helen
Carlile, Alexander (Montgomery)Livingstone, Ken
Church, JudithLloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)Llwyd, Elfyn
Clelland, DavidLoyden, Eddie
Clwyd, Mrs AnnMcAllion, John
Coffey, AnnMcAvoy, Thomas
Cohen, HarryMcCartney, Robert (North Down)
Connarty, MichaelMacdonald, Calum
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)McFall, John
Corbett, RobinMcKelvey, William
Corbyn, JeremyMcLeish, Henry
Corston, JeanMaclennan, Robert
Cousins, JimMcMaster, Gordon
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr JohnMcNamara, Kevin
Dewar, DonaldMacShane, Denis
Dixon, DonMcWilliam, John
Donohoe, Brian HMahon, Alice
Dunwoody, Mrs GwynethMarshall, David (Shettleston)
Eagle, Ms AngelaMarshall, Jim (Leicester, S)
Eastham, KenMeacher, Michael
Etherington, BillMeale, Alan
Evans, John (St Helens N)Michael, Alun
Fatchett, DerekMichie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Faulds, AndrewMoonie, Dr Lewis
Flynn, PaulMorgan, Rhodri
Foster, Rt Hon DerekMorley, Elliot
Foster, Don (Bath)Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon)
Foulkes, GeorgeMudie, George
Fyfe, MariaMullin, Chris
Galloway, GeorgeMurphy, Paul
Gapes, MikeO'Brien, Mike (N W'kshire)
Garrett, JohnO'Brien, William (Normanton)
George, BruceO'Hara, Edward
Gerrard, NeilOlner, Bill
Godman, Dr Norman AO'Neill, Martin
Godsiff, RogerOrme, Rt Hon Stanley
Gordon, MildredParry, Robert
Graham, ThomasPearson, Ian
Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)Pendry, Tom
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Grocott, BrucePrentice, Bridget (Lew'm E)
Gunnell, JohnPrentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Hain, PeterPrimarolo, Dawn
Harman, Ms HarrietPurchase, Ken
Harvey, NickQuin, Ms Joyce
Hattersley, Rt Hon RoyRadice, Giles
Henderson, DougRandall, Stuart
Heppell, JohnRaynsford, Nick
Hill, Keith (Streatham)Reid, Dr John
Hinchliffe, DavidRendel, David
Hodge, MargaretRobertson, George (Hamilton)
Hoey, KateRobinson, Geoffrey (Co'try NW)
Hogg, Norman (Cumbernauld)Roche, Mrs Barbara
Home Robertson, JohnRooker, Jeff
Hood, JimmyRooney, Terry
Hoon, GeoffreyRoss, Ernie (Dundee W)
Howarth, George (Knowsley North)Rowlands, Ted
Hoyle, DougRuddock, Joan
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)Salmond, Alex
Hughes, Simon (Southwark)Sheerman, Barry
Hutton, JohnSheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Illsley, EricShore, Rt Hon Peter
Jackson, Glenda (H'stead)Short, Clare
Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H)Simpson, Alan
Jamieson, DavidSkinner, Dennis
Jones, leuan Wyn (Ynys Mon)Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O)Snape, Peter
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW)Soley, Clive
Kaufman, Rt Hon GeraldSpearing, Nigel
Keen, AlanSpellar, John
Stevenson, GeorgeWareing, Robert N
Straw, JackWicks, Malcolm
Sutcliffe, GerryWilliams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)
Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)Wilson, Brian
Timms, StephenWinnick, David
Tipping, PaddyWise, Audrey
Touhig, DonWright, Dr Tony
Turner, DennisYoung, David (Bolton SE)
Walker, Rt Hon Sir HaroldTellers for the Ayes:
Wallace, JamesMs Estelle Morris and
Wardell, Gareth (Gower)Mr. Eric Clarke.
NOES
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey)Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby)Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Amess, DavidDover, Den
Ancram, MichaelDuncan, Alan
Arbuthnot, JamesDuncan-Smith, Iain
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)Dunn, Bob
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv)Dykes, Hugh
Ashby, DavidEggar, Rt Hon Tim
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)Elletson, Harold
Baker, Rt Hon Kenneth (Mole V)Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset)Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)
Baldry, TonyEvans, Jonathan (Brecon)
Banks, Matthew (Southport)Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)
Bates, MichaelEvans, Roger (Monmouth)
Batiste, SpencerEvennett, David
Beresford, Sir PaulFaber, David
Biffen, Rt Hon JohnFabricant, Michael
Bonsor, Sir NicholasField, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Booth, HartleyFishbum, Dudley
Boswell, TimForman, Nigel
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham)Forsyth, Rt Hon Michael (Stirling)
Bottomley, Rt Hon VirginiaForth, Eric
Bowis, JohnFowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Boyson, Rt Hon Sir RhodesFox, Sir Marcus (Shipley)
Brandreth, GylesFreeman, Rt Hon Roger
Brazier, JulianGale, Roger
Bright, Sir GrahamGallie, Phil
Brooke, Rt Hon PeterGardiner, Sir George
Brown, M (Brigg & Cl'thorpes)Garnier, Edward
Browning, Mrs AngelaGillan, Cheryl
Bruce, Ian (Dorset)Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair
Burns, SimonGoodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Burt, AlistairGorman, Mrs Teresa
Butler, PeterGorst, Sir John
Butterfill, JohnGrant, Sir A (SW Cambs)
Carlisle, John (Luton North)Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Carrington, MatthewGreenway, John (Ryedale)
Carttiss, MichaelGriffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)
Cash, WilliamHague, William
Channon, Rt Hon PaulHamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archibald
Chapman, SydneyHannam, Sir John
Churchill, MrHargreaves, Andrew
Clappison, JamesHarris, David
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ru'clif)Haselhurst, Sir Alan
Clifton-Brown, GeoffreyHawkins, Nick
Coe, SebastianHawksley, Warren
Colvin, MichaelHayes, Jerry
Congdon, DavidHeald, Oliver
Conway, DerekHeathcoat-Amory, David
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st)Hendry, Charles
Cope, Rt Hon Sir JohnHiggins, Rt Hon Sir Terence
Cormack, Sir PatrickHill, James (Southampton Test)
Couchman, JamesHogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham)
Cran, JamesHoram, John
Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon)Hordern, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Davies, Quentin (Stamford)Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Davis, David (Boothferry)Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A)
Day, StephenHowell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Deva, Nirj JosephHowell, Sir Ralph (N Norfolk)
Devlin, TimHughes, Robert G (Harrow W)
Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)Richards, Rod
Hunter, AndrewRiddick, Graham
Hurd, Rt Hon DouglasRobathan, Andrew
Jackson, Robert (Wantage)Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S)
Jenkin, BernardRobinson, Mark (Somerton)
Johnson Smith, Sir GeoffreyRumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)Ryder, Rt Hon Richard
Jones, Robert B (W Hertfdshr)Sackville, Tom
Jopling, Rt Hon MichaelSainsbury, Rt Hon Sir Timothy
Kellett-Bowman, Dame ElaineScott, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Kirkhope, TimothyShaw, David (Dover)
Knapman, RogerShephard, Rt Hon Gillian
Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Knight, Greg (Derby N)Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n)Shersby, Sir Michael
Kynoch, George (Kincardine)Sims, Roger
Lait, Mrs JacquiSmith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Lamont Rt Hon NormanSoames, Nicholas
Lang, Rt Hon IanSpencer, Sir Derek
Legg, BarrySpicer, Sir James (W Dorset)
Lennox-Boyd, Sir MarkSpicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)Spink, Dr Robert
Lidington, DavidSpring, Richard
Lightbown, DavidSproat, Iain
Lilley, Rt Hon PeterSquire, Robin (Hornchurch)
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Lord, MichaelSteen, Anthony
Luff, PeterStephen, Michael
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir NicholasStern, Michael
MacGregor, Rt Hon JohnStewart, Allan
MacKay, AndrewStreeter, Gary
Maclean, Rt Hon DavidSumberg, David
McLoughlin, PatrickSykes, John
Madel, Sir DavidTapsell, Sir Peter
Maitland, Lady OlgaTaylor, Ian (Esher)
Major, Rt Hon JohnTaylor, John M (Solihull)
Malone, GeraldTaylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)
Mans, KeithTemple-Morris, Peter
Marshall, John (Hendon S)Thomason, Roy
Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Martin, David (Portsmouth S)Thornton, Sir Malcolm
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Dr BrianThumham, Peter
Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir PatrickTownsend, Cyril D (Bexl'yh'th)
Merchant, PiersTracey, Richard
Mills, IainTredinnick, David
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)Trend, Michael
Mitchell, Sir David (NW Hants)Twinn Dr Ian
Moate Sir RogerVaughan, Sir Gerard
Monro Sir HectorViggers, Peter
Montgomery, Sir FergusWaldegrave, Rt Hon William
Nelson, AnthonyWalden, George
Neubert, Sir MichaelWalker, Bill (N Tayside)
Newton, Rt Hon TonyWaller, Gary
Nicholson, David (Taunton)Ward, John
Norris, SteveWardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Onslow, Rt Hon Sir CranleyWatts, John
Ottaway, RichardWells, Bowen
Page, RichardWheeler, Rt Hon Sir John
Paice, JamesWhittingdale, John
Patnick, Sir IrvineWiggin, Sir Jerry
Patten, Rt Hon JohnWilletts, David
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir GeoffreyWilshire, David
Pawsey, JamesWinterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'fld)
Peacock, Mrs ElizabethWolfson, Mark
Pickles, EricYeo, Tim
Porter, Barry (Wirral S)Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Portillo, Rt Hon Michael
Powell, William (Corby)Tellers for the Noes:
Redwood, Rt Hon JohnDr. Liam Fox and
Renton, Rt Hon TimMr. Timothy Wood.

Question accordingly negatived.