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Clause 3 — Regulations about claims procedure

Part of Riot Compensation Bill – in the House of Commons at 9:45 am on 5th February 2016.

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Photo of Anne Marie Morris Anne Marie Morris Conservative, Newton Abbot 9:45 am, 5th February 2016

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.

Amendment 3 gives the Secretary of State the power to make regulations setting out the

“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.