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Clause 3 — Regulations about claims procedure

Part of Riot Compensation Bill – in the House of Commons at 9:34 am on 5th February 2016.

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Photo of Mike Wood Mike Wood Conservative, Dudley South 9:34 am, 5th February 2016

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.