What assessment he has made of the performance of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority.
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Performance is monitored and managed on a monthly basis by my Department and by me. Assessment to date shows that the size of the CICA's live case load has reduced and is the smallest that it has been in 20 years. Its unit cost per case has reduced, the time for registering an application has reduced, and the time that it takes to reach a first decision has reduced.
I thank the Minister for those comments. Does she believe that the new criminal injuries compensation scheme properly addresses the discrepancies between the compensation awarded by the CICA and awards made by the civil courts?
The CICA scheme and its predecessor were never meant to ape the civil courts in every respect. The scheme is meant to enable victims of crime who cannot use the civil court to get some consideration from society of the fact that they have been victimised. It is not meant to be a parallel scheme that pays out the same as a civil court would.
The CICA does a good, important job. Will the Minister look into a problem that delays cases, meaning that it is often years between an application being made and a decision being reached? It often results from poor or slow co-ordination between the authority, the police and other agencies. I can send her details of cases that have gone on years too long and have not been resolved.
Yes. I am happy to look at any cases that the hon. Gentleman wishes to send to me, which have come to his attention as a local Member of Parliament. Many Members will have come across such cases, and some of the issues that he identifies were raised by the National Audit Office in its report on the performance of the CICA. Its recommendations were accepted and we are implementing them to improve the aspects that the hon. Gentleman identified. Hon. Members will see that the performance of the CICA is improving as we go forward because we are focusing on those very issues. That said, there will be always be problems getting the right medical evidence and the right prognosis, and making sure that offers are properly made and accepted and that future loss of earnings is properly calculated. These things can never be done instantly, but I hope the hon. Gentleman and other Members will see the performance of the CICA steadily improve.
Does the Minister understand my concerns that the welcome increase in compensation for military injury in the battlefield has not been reflected in the civilian damages paid to people who are affected by terrorism? I have a constituent who was injured in the July 2005 bombings—she suffered more than 22 serious injuries. I do not accept that the tariff in the new scheme will properly reflect that, particularly when the assessment of that constituent was performed about three months after the injuries were incurred. The problems that she faces are increasing and will probably get worse during the years she lives. She is in her 20s.
Indeed, I accept the point that the hon. Gentleman makes—that a tariff-based scheme such as the CICA scheme will never be able to reflect as fully as a full civil litigation case could the true extent of injuries into the future. The CICA scheme is not intended to do that; it is meant to provide a measure of compensation for those who were the victims of, in this case, terrorism. The hon. Gentleman's constituent will, I hope, have benefited from the ex gratia payments from the charitable arrangements that were made. I hope that those will help her. It is important to realise that a tariff-based scheme that is meant to provide a measure of compensation to the victims of crime can never be expected fully to compensate, in the way that civil litigation could, for the full injuries that some people unfortunately incur.
I recognised in the Minister's opening response the word "reduced" on a number of occasions, but I did not hear any meaningful figures. Will she therefore update the House on the number of cases in the authority's backlog? In recognition of the fact that in 2007-08 the proportion of cases decided was only 64 per cent., will she tell us whether she thinks that is good enough? Will she improve on that this year?
I could bore the House for some time with a list of figures. I will tell the hon. Gentleman, subject to your indulgence, Mr. Speaker, that the case load has reduced over the past year from 83,986 cases to 73,813 cases; that the time taken to reach a decision over that period has reduced from 14 months to 12 months, with a target of 10 months looming on the horizon; that the time to register cases has reduced from a baseline last year of 15 days to 8.3 days, with a target of three days; that the unit cost of each case has reduced from £400 last year to £359; that the target for resolving cases for next year—
Order. I would say that the Minister should place a letter in the Library.
"A victim of rape should not have any compensation reduced because of their drinking" alcohol, yet a month before, the Minister introduced in Parliament a new compensation scheme that becomes effective next week, which the CICA confirmed does not exempt drunk rape victims from having their awards reduced? When will Ministers realise that what drives victims nuts, to use the Justice Secretary's phrase, is 11 years of posturing about victims of crime but not delivering real justice?
As I recall, when the slight changes to the scheme that come into force next week were debated in Committee, no party, including the hon. Gentleman's, objected to them or voted against them. May I make it clear that what the Under-Secretary, my hon. Friend Bridget Prentice said in respect of that case is the current policy and always has been the policy. Those people who wrongly had their compensation reduced because they were supposed to have been drinking alcohol have had ex gratia payments, to the extent that we have discovered who they are, and any others who feel that they have had their compensation reduced on that basis will, if they come forward, get an ex gratia payment to make good that reduction.