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I beg to move amendment 1, page 3, line 16, at end insert—
‘( ) Regulations under subsection (3)(b) or (3)(d) must provide that—
(a) the time period within which a claim may be made ends no earlier than 42 days from the date of the riot;
(b) the time period within which details and evidence must be submitted ends no earlier than 90 days from the date the claimant first made the claim.”
With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:
“, except in the circumstances described in subsection (2A).
‘(2A) Where a claimant’s home is rendered uninhabitable, the amount of compensation may reflect costs that the claimant incurs as a result of needing alternative accommodation.”
Amendment 3, in clause 8, page 5, line 26, at end insert—
‘( ) considerations that decision-makers must take into account in deciding the amount of compensation payable as a result of a claimant needing alternative accommodation (and the regulations may include provision limiting the amount of time for which the costs of alternative accommodation may be claimed),”
Amendment 8, in clause 8, page 5, line 29, at end insert—
‘(3A) Money received by the claimant from emergency or recovery funds, whether funded publicly or privately, in the aftermath of a riot must not be taken into account by the decision maker when deciding the amount of compensation to be paid.
This amendment would ensure that money received by the claimant for the purposes of emergency relief or recovery in the immediate aftermath of a riot is not seen in the same category as compensation under the purposes of this Bill and therefore reduce the amount a claimant might receive.
May I convey my sympathies and add to the tributes that you paid to Harry Harpham, Mr Speaker? I know that the sympathies of all right hon. and hon. Members will be with his family and friends at this difficult time. Even from the short time in which we saw Harry in this House, it is clear what a loss he will be.
Amendment 1 is a consequence of amendments that were tabled by Mr Lammy but not voted on in Committee, and it seeks to clarify and extend the time limit allowed for someone to communicate their intention to make a claim, and the provision of details, evidence and support of such a claim following a riot. Following concerns raised in Committee, the amendment would allow a 42-day period as originally set out in the Bill, but it clarifies that that is from the date of the riot. As Ministers have made clear, that time limit should come with some flexibility, and I hope that in interpreting the date of the riot, authorities will have the good sense to show flexibility in making that date start at the end of the riot where appropriate, rather than necessarily the date on which the damage was suffered.
The main change in amendment 1 relates to the second period: the 90 days from the date the claimant first made the claim. That would mean, potentially, a minimum of 132 days from the date of loss in which we expect businesses or residents to submit details of their claim and to provide the evidence to support it. I hope that that will provide some reassurance to Members who raised concerns in earlier stages.
Amendments 2 and 3 were tabled following comments made on Second Reading and in Committee, and representations made directly to me outside the Chamber, in particular by Gavin Barwell. As I made clear on Second Reading, while there are very good reasons for excluding consequential losses from the claims that can be made against the police in the event of a riot, concerns were raised about what would happen if people’s homes were left uninhabitable following a riot. Social tenants would usually be rehoused and for owner-occupiers with building and contents insurance, the insurance would normally pay for the additional costs of rehousing. However, that would still leave a significant number of people, particularly in the private rented sector, who could find themselves, through absolutely no fault of their own, having to find new housing. They could struggle to find new housing at the same cost as their current mortgage or rent, and that is what amendments 2 and 3 intend to tackle. They seek to cover the costs of alternative accommodation, whether in a bed and breakfast, a hotel or other short-term rent. Amendment 3 clarifies that and allows the regulation that could include in the provision time limits for such additional costs.
During the passage of the Bill, in particular on Second Reading, Members on all sides brought to the attention of the House heart-wrenching stories of hardship as a result of the 2011 riots. Those stories explain the thought process behind amendments 2 and 3. I still do not believe that consequential losses should be covered, but it would not be just if people were made to suffer unnecessarily in their hour of need. I am certainly not prepared to see people effectively rendered homeless while they wait for their homes to be inhabitable once again. I must stress, however, that covering a consequential loss in this way must be the exception, not the rule. It is intended only to assist individuals to recover costs incurred while staying in alternative accommodation following a riot. The details of the provisions will be clarified in regulations.
I turn to amendment 4 tabled by the right hon. Member for Tottenham. At every stage of the Bill, he has raised a number of valid concerns. He has been an extremely effective spokesman for his constituents and for businesses in his constituency. Ministers made clear on Second Reading and in Committee that we would not expect payments made through charitable funds, or other appeals of that kind, to affect the payments made through the compensation scheme. It would certainly not be right for such payments to be deducted from compensation due under the Bill.
That said, while I strongly support what the right hon. Member for Tottenham seeks to achieve, I cannot support his amendment because I do not think it would be right to extend the assurances given by Ministers in relation to private funds to also cover public payments, whether from local government or central Government. Having spoken to the right hon. Gentleman, I know that a particular concern is where funds, particularly business-led, have been set up in the private sector and initial funding has come from contributions by local authorities.
I am grateful for the manner with which the hon. Gentleman is putting his points. Central Government or local government will often put up the money to persuade big business to get engaged, because businesses want to see match funding. In those circumstances, I am concerned that that money will then be counted against those who go on to claim compensation.
The right hon. Gentleman makes an extremely important point, one with which I think we would all agree. That is why, to make sure that in that kind of joint venture we do not preclude local authorities or central Government from contributing to what are essentially private, business-led appeals, I would not expect that kind of fund to be deducted from riot compensation payments. This is not a black and white issue, however, and to clarify the issue there are points in the spectrum where that kind of detail is far better placed within regulations rather than in a clause of this kind in the Bill. I therefore cannot support the amendment. It is sensible that payments from public funds should not be provided for the same purpose twice, because we have a duty to limit unnecessary burdens on the taxpayer. The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right in saying that there are occasions when public funds contribute to private appeals. I hope the regulations drawn up to implement the provisions in the clause will allow for such initiatives.
I rise to give my support to amendments 1, 2 and 3 in the name of my hon. Friend Mike Wood. I congratulate him on his hard work in getting the Bill to this stage. He deserves a great deal of credit.
Amendment 1 seeks to insert substantial time limits into the Bill and introduce a two-tier system for making a claim. That will allow those affected by the riots to register a claim within 42 days of the riots starting and then submit evidence within a further 90 days after that. As my hon. Friend says, that gives those affected 132 days from the start of the riots to make their claim and submit evidence. It is crucial that those affected have adequate time to make their claim, especially considering the likelihood that paperwork and/or laptops will have been destroyed in the riots.
Riots are not only physically destructive but emotionally draining. With that in mind, it is important to consider the priorities of those forced from their homes and stripped of their possessions. The immediate reaction is probably not to call the insurance company but to be in deep consideration of where they and their families are going to sleep that night and to ensure that everyone in the family is safe and well. Time will also be needed to process what has happened. I have no doubt we have all been in a position where something so distressing has happened that we fail to take in all the details straightaway.
The days available to make a claim also give the police force in an area struck by riots the ability not only to get the community back into some sort of order but to get their own house in order. There may well be internal processes to decide the best way to proceed or establish the date the riot started. I am sure that many cities, since the 2011 riots, will have put in place better protocols. We hope they will not have to use them, but every police force would need time to get everything in order before considering compensation claims. It has taken us 130 years to modernise the law on riot damages and compensation. I am happy we are doing it and that it is being considered in a measured way on both sides of the House. I therefore support amendment 1.
Amendment 2 is another very good amendment. I am thankful that my constituency was fortunate enough not to experience the riots that gripped many areas of the country in 2011. Despite threats on social media of rioting in Exeter, Plymouth and Truro, Bristol was the only area in the south-west unfortunate enough to be confronted with violent disorder. During the riots in London, more than 100 people were forced from their homes, driven from their livelihoods and forced to make alternative arrangements while their homes were under repair. While unfamiliar with riots, the west country is sadly very familiar with flooding. Floods in my constituency in 2012 caused damage to more than 180 homes, with many forced to seek alternative arrangements, so I know how important the provision of alternative accommodation is when exceptional circumstances occur.
A person’s home is at the centre of their life. People’s day-to-day lives revolve around it. The home is a place of stability, and when that is taken away, it is the most traumatic experience, particularly given the circumstances of a riot. Many who were caught up in the riots across the country experienced activity totally unknown to them. Vandalism, arson, violence and theft are not day-to-day happenings, so we need to make the healing process as smooth as possible, which includes support with alternative accommodation, should we face a similar situation again.
Without the amendment, those put at the peril of riotous offenders would be left to pick up the bill for the alternative accommodation required through no fault of their own. I have no doubt that some people who took out insurance will have been told, after their home was destroyed and deemed uninhabitable, that the insurance would not cover the additional costs incurred while essential repairs were carried out on the home. The British Insurance Brokers Association said in 2011 in an article in the Financial Times that
“some insurance policies will also cover people for alternative accommodation costs if they cannot stay in their home”.
I emphasise the word “some”. It means that some were not covered, and although I am not sure on which side the majority falls, if it affects anyone, it is too many.
The amendment is purely a reflection of the clauses normally included in commercial insurance policies that pay out compensation for financial loss incurred due to disruption. In the instance we refer to, we are compensating the loss of a home incurred due to disruption. Not having a home can inconvenience essential tasks, such as going to work to continue earning or taking children to school. Although neither the amendment nor the Bill replaces insurance, they do provide a safety net for the unexpected circumstances we are all exposed to at some point in life. In the instance of rioting, it is imperative we legislate to compensate people sufficiently, and that is why the amendment is particularly important.
“considerations that decision-makers must take into account in deciding the amount of compensation payable”.
It is right that she have the power to take these situations into account when making regulations regarding the amount payable to those who need it after riotous behaviour. The ability to curtail the amount one can claim is welcome. Although we must help those who genuinely need support to get back on their feet, we must not allow the taxpayer to pay for the support longer than is necessary.
The extra cost incurred from having to stay in hotels or other rented accommodation would put pressure on most people, but those who have also lost a business are in even greater need of support and assistance. Business owners are the backbone of the British economy, and it is only right that we support them, after they have contributed to our growing economy, by helping them back on their feet and back into their own homes. Of course, the Secretary of State does not have to use the powers—with any luck, she will not have to—but her having them at her disposal will I hope be a comfort to those affected previously by reassuring them that the House has heard their cries for help and support and is taking them seriously. On that note, I add my support to amendments 1, 2 and 3.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I tabled a named day written parliamentary question to the Prime Minister for answer today. That question was whether the Prime Minister himself had seen a copy of the draft childhood obesity strategy document, which we suspect the Government have long-grassed. I received a letter from No. 10 Downing Street today advising me that the Prime Minister had asked for the question to be transferred to the Secretary of State for Health for answer. Surely the Prime Minister knows whether the Prime Minister has seen said document. In my 10 years as a Member of the House, I have never been treated with such contempt. Can you advise me whether it is in order for the Prime Minister to refuse to answer a very simple question?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order and his characteristic courtesy in giving me advance notice of his intention to raise it. My initial reaction, off the top of my head, is that it is not disorderly, though it might be considered unhelpful. In my experience, it constitutes a somewhat odd transfer.
Transfers are commonplace, but where the question is as specific as his, it is an odd, perhaps unconventional transfer that might have been requested by people acting on behalf of the Prime Minister who are perhaps not as well versed in our procedures as the hon. Gentleman is or as the Chair likes to consider himself to be. I advise him to make the short journey from the Chamber to the Table Office to seek guidance on how he can take the matter forward. Knowing him as I do, I think it improbable in the extreme that he will allow the matter to rest there.
Hon. Members will be aware that Croydon was hit very hard in the 2011 riots. Many members of the public, seeing the damage caused to local businesses, homes and property, wanted to help those seeking to recover and deal with the losses incurred, and they generously gave money to a fund set up by the mayor of Croydon for precisely that purpose.
I rise to speak in favour of amendment 8, which was tabled by my right hon. Friend Mr Lammy. I am sorry I missed the start of his contribution, but I heard the end, and it was typically magnificent. I would like those who give generously to help their neighbours who have suffered a loss to have the reassurance that the money they contribute will not subsequently be deducted from official compensation payments, but tragically that is exactly what happened in Croydon in 2011. Money was donated to the mayor’s fund and was then distributed to individuals and businesses that had suffered a loss, but those generous payments were then deducted from the official compensation payments that were made. That is clearly wrong and a disincentive to people to give generously, as they did in Croydon to help their friends and neighbours. It is entirely wrong that such generosity should be discouraged by the deduction of those contributions from official payments. I strongly support my right hon. Friend’s amendment, which I hope will have the support of the House.
I rise to support amendments 1, 2 and 3, which my hon. Friend Mike Wood has tabled. It is encouraging that he took the opportunity afforded to him in Committee to listen to the representations made to him by others and tabled these amendments for consideration this morning. They are relatively modest but important amendments. It is important that the Bill should set out clearly the time period within which claims should be made, as amendment 1 provides, so that there is no confusion and it is not left up to others to make such a determination by way of regulation. It is for the House to decide that claims must be brought within 42 days and further evidence provided within 90 days after that.
I particularly support the intention behind amendment 2. It seems perfectly reasonable that where someone’s home is rendered uninhabitable as a result of a riot, the costs of their moving into alternative accommodation should be taken into account. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for tabling amendment 2 and the consequential amendment, amendment 3.
If it is okay with you, Mr Speaker, I would like to associate myself with your kind and apposite remarks about Harry. My sympathies go to his wife Gill and all those who mourn him. My friends on these Benches are in real shock and great sadness at his passing.
Amendment 1 would ensure that victims of rioting had at least 42 days in which to make a claim for compensation and then a further 90 days in which to submit the necessary evidence. We support that amendment. The Bill is about supporting riot victims, and in order to do that we need to give them adequate time to complete claims for compensation. Can any of us imagine trying to rapidly process a legal claim when our papers have been destroyed, we have no access to our home or business, and our life has been completely and utterly turned upside down? That is exactly the situation in which many riot victims found themselves in 2011. That situation was made all the more difficult by the fact that so many of the victims were unaware that they were entitled to compensation. They needed the time to get their affairs in order.
In 2011, the Home Office appeared to recognise that a short time limit on claims was unfair, and extended the time limit from 14 to 42 days. Amendment 1 gives us certainty that any future victims will be guaranteed at least 42 days in future. That has to be right. The amendment also provides an additional 90 days for victims to gather the necessary evidence to complete their application for compensation. Three months’ breathing room seems entirely appropriate, given the total upheaval that can be wrought to businesses and individuals by the kind of rioting we saw.
My right hon. Friend—the magnificent Member for Tottenham—spoke movingly in Committee about some of the challenges faced by his constituents in 2011. Many had English as a second language, some had their health devastated by the riots, and all had their daily routines completely shattered. They desperately needed more time to put their lives back together before they could deal with compensation claims. I congratulate him on raising the issue of time limits in Committee. If the House accepts amendment 1 today, he will have played a vital role in ensuring that any future victims of rioting are not left in the lurch, as his constituents and those of my hon. Friend Mr Reed were.
My hon. Friend will know, perhaps more than anybody else in this House, the juxtaposition between shopping centres such as Westfield, where there is big business, and small businesses, which in a constituency such as hers are often run by people newly arrived in this country, making the very best of their lives. Her experience in this matter needs to be recorded.
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right—the businesses that were affected in my constituency were small businesses along the Barking Road in Canning Town and, indeed, some in Green Street. As he rightly says, they are not like the businesses in Westfield that have massive resources behind them to enable them to make the claims, clean up quickly and get on with their economic lives.
Amendments 2 and 3 would ensure that victims were entitled to compensation for costs incurred as a result of having to seek alternative accommodation. We support those amendments too. Families should not be pushed into severe financial difficulty because their homes have been rendered uninhabitable by circumstances way beyond their control. Some families affected by the 2011 riots were not able to live in their homes for months, and some for years afterwards, putting them into severe financial difficulty. That was particularly the case in the private rented sector, but it also applied to some homeowners. We all know how expensive short-term rented accommodation can be, particularly here in London. It is only right, therefore, that that should be accounted for in the compensation awarded. I therefore urge the House to accept amendments 2 and 3.
Finally, let me turn to amendment 8, which would ensure that any money claimed in compensation for emergency relief in the immediate aftermath of a riot did not lead to a reduction in the amount of compensation a claimant might receive. It is shameful that this sort of deduction was made in 2011. We support, the amendment, because people putting money into charity buckets to help their neighbours through the turmoil of rioting do not expect the compensation due to those victims to be reduced as a result of their kindness. I am not surprised that my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon North reports that his constituents were aghast that their donations led to a reduction in the compensation doled out.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham also argued in Committee, I thought convincingly, that we do not want to discourage big businesses from helping out small businesses with which they share a high street. Deducting payments as a result of charitable giving would have precisely that unwelcome and rather unpleasant effect. I urge the House to accept amendment 8 so that, in the unwelcome event of future riots, the police and charities can work together to help communities, rather than treating support as a zero-sum game.
I heard what the hon. Member for Dudley South had to say on that matter, but I now look forward to hearing from the Minister on these issues, because I am sure he is going to make us very happy today.
I, too, want to associate myself with your comments, Mr Speaker, following the sad loss of Harry Harpham. Members throughout the House can all say that Harry was a dedicated public servant. Although we had the privilege of having him in the House only for a short time, he clearly served with distinction in his community, having sat on Sheffield City Council, and he was dedicated to public service. The fact that as recently as
I congratulate my hon. Friend Mike Wood on the manner in which he has sought to advance the Bill. He has clearly reflected on the helpful debates in Committee, to which the Minister for Policing, Crime and Criminal Justice responded. The Committee worked on themes that were started on Second Reading. I believe that my hon. Friend’s amendments are helpful additions and clarifications to the Bill.
Amendment 1 deals with the time limits, which are set at not less than 42 days and 90 days respectively for lodging claims and producing detailed evidence. That is the right approach to the lodging of an initial claim, and then it is right to allow more time for detailed information to be provided. We support placing those minimum requirements in the Bill.
For clarification and for the further assurance of right hon. and hon. Members, I underline that there might be some exceptional circumstances in which more time is required, perhaps when a claimant falls ill and cannot meet the deadlines, when evidence has been destroyed or cannot be accessed due to riot damage, or when final cost estimates are contingent on other processes such as planning permission or some other regulatory requirements. We expect the regulations sitting alongside the Bill to provide some flexibility in case of extenuating circumstances and to allow extensions of time, while recognising the framework and the statutory minimums set out in the Bill.
Amendments 2 and 3 deal with payments for alternative accommodation. They will allow compensation to be paid to uninsured individuals whose home has become uninhabitable as a result of a riot, to cover the cost of alternative accommodation. Amendment 3 makes it clear that regulations may provide for further details of considerations to be taken into account when such claims are made, as well as the length of time for which such costs may be covered.
During the passage of the Bill, Members have highlighted a number of cases in which their constituents had suffered significant hardship following the 2011 riots. We have certainly heard that from Mr Lammy and Mr Reed.
On the issue of constituents who live in private rented accommodation, I recognise that regulations might be the best place to indicate the length of time for which support will be given, but can the Minister provide us with any clarity about whether he considers that to be a matter of weeks or months? People can be living without virtually everything for a considerable length of time after a catastrophe of this sort.
At this stage, it is probably best for me to say that we will reflect further before we bring forward with the regulations. The right hon. Gentleman has made some important points on behalf of his constituents. I know from our discussions back in 2011 the direct impact of the issues that he rightly he took up on behalf of his constituents. Other Members also made direct challenges on behalf of their constituents. We will continue to reflect carefully on the issue as we move forward towards drawing up the regulations. That is the right approach and provides us with an opportunity to reflect further on the important and powerful points that have been made.
It is the Government’s position that consequential losses should not be covered by the Bill, particularly bearing in mind the impact on the public purse. We agree that it would be unfair for legislation intended to help those in the greatest need not to provide support to people who have lost their homes, so we support the proposed exception to the prohibition on compensation for consequential losses to permit individuals to recover the additional costs of alternative accommodation following a riot.
As I have said, the best place for dealing with that is in the regulations. I envisage a system that will allow households to claim for additional costs that exceed the amount they would normally pay for rent or mortgage payments. That will include the cost of fees levied by letting agents or landlords for those who need to rent a new home while repairs are carried out, or the cost of reasonable hotel accommodation for those who need only short-term arrangements. It is not intended to be extended out to cover other incidental costs that may be incurred, such as increased commuting expenses.
I hope I have given Members at least a sense of what we envisage the regulations appropriately providing. Any such compensation is obviously additional to any claims for direct loss in relation to the home itself—damage to windows and doors, and related items, for example. In common with provisions dealing with motor vehicles, we intend compensation to be limited to those whose insurance policies do not provide such cover; insurers will not be permitted to subrogate these payments. With the help of the Metropolitan Police Service and the Home Office, we have determined that the cost of such provision should be relatively low—perhaps below £10,000 per claim on average. We will obviously reflect further on that as we move forward with the regulations.
Let me respond to amendment 8. I note that the right hon. Member for Tottenham has indicated that he will not press the amendment on the basis that we agree that moneys received from public or private emergency recovery funds should not be deducted from the amount of right compensation paid out to a claimant. On the issue of charities, which the right hon. Gentleman raised on Second Reading, we remain of the view—the Policing Minister made this clear in the Committee and in a subsequent letter to its Chair—that it is not fair to reduce right compensation settlements to reflect any payment given by charity. I am happy to restate that position today.
As for the proposal to prohibit deductions from riot compensation payments for a claimant who has received money from a public fund for losses that are also covered in the Bill, we have to consider the need to protect the public purse and to protect the taxpayer from making double payments.
I have one further piece of clarification. If a payment from a public fund has been given for a purpose not covered by the Bill, a deduction will not be made. For example, if payments were made for personal injury or to cover a loss of income, which would take us into the sphere of consequential loss, a deduction would not happen. In other words, it will be fine if a payment has been made for a purpose for which the Bill provides through the compensation schemes covered in it, but if payments have been made through schemes designed for other purposes, it will clearly not be appropriate for a deduction to operate. I hope that that clarification is helpful in explaining how we envisage the inter-relationship between compensation schemes under the Bill and other schemes.
I take the right hon. Gentleman’s point about the public purse, but what reassurances can he give that charitable donations from members of a community that were given to help victims in the locality will not be—rather than should not be—deducted from official compensation payments?
Again, the best place to deal with that and give clarity about the operation of the Bill is in regulations. I hope that given what I have said today about the intention to introduce regulations to sit alongside the Bill, hon. Members will be reassured on this important point about charitable donations. The right hon. Member for Tottenham indicated that he thought the best place to deal with that would be in regulations. That is our judgment too, but I hope that what I have said to the House is helpful in providing clarification and setting out the how the Government will seek to operate the provisions in the Bill. Obviously, right hon. and hon. Members will be able to examine the regulations when they are published, following Royal Assent—we hope that will happen, but both Houses need to give the Bill their consideration.
I appreciate the points the Minister has made. In the internet age, donations from the public often come through crowdfunding exercises. Will he confirm that the regulations will make it clear that funds raised in that way for the purposes he has just set out—I appreciate the distinction he made with respect to the purposes—will also be excluded?
The most important thing is that we define the charitable purpose for which contributions have been made, rather than reflecting on the manner in which those moneys have been given. It is about the fundamental purpose, although my hon. Friend makes an interesting point that people will want to examine as we introduce the regulations. I hope that my comments have helped in our consideration of the amendments.