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Clause 8 — Reviews and appeals

Riot Compensation Bill – in the House of Commons at 11:00 am on 5th February 2016.

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Amendments made: 2, page 5, line 23, at end insert

“, 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, 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),”—(Mike Wood.)

Photo of David Lammy David Lammy Labour, Tottenham

I beg to move amendment 10, page 6, line 17, at end insert—

(a) after any riot in relation to which compensation was paid under this Act;

(b) after each period of five years beginning on the date that section 8 came into force.”

This amendment would require the Government to undertake post-legislative scrutiny.

Amendment 10 is about making and returning to the House with a proper assessment after there has been a riot and after the Bill has taken effect. With all that has been written by Mr Kinghan, all the work that has gone into the production of this Bill—I pay tribute to Mike Wood for everything he has done—and all that I, and shadow Ministers, have sought to do through it, we have learned a lot from the 2011 riots. Much of what we have learned finds effect in this Bill.

All riots are different. The hon. Gentleman said earlier that the 2011 riots were a particular case in that they were in London, and that he therefore believes that, in terms of regional impact, the £1 million cap is set about right. He will understand, though, that in the past few years we have seen anarchist groups marching in our country and things sometimes getting out of hand. They have marched in parts of the capital that have very expensive retail areas. We do not know where a riot could take place; they are all a bit different.

Given the impact of those riots and our understanding of them, and in terms of how this Bill works and its effectiveness, the issue of what compensation was paid out is hugely important. That is what amendment 10 speaks to. I sincerely hope that Conservative Members understand that and might be able to indicate that they do see the need for a mechanism, given that we are now updating the legislation. We are putting in place new mechanisms such as the bureau, which has not been discussed this morning but was discussed in Committee and on a previous occasion. It would therefore be very beneficial to provide for some assessment after a riot takes place; we do not know when. I hope that I might get some comfort from the hon. Member for Dudley South or the Minister following my decision to table this amendment.

Photo of Mike Wood Mike Wood Conservative, Dudley South

Although I absolutely agree with Mr Lammy that the effectiveness of legislation needs periodically to be reviewed, I am less convinced of the need to set that out in the Bill. Of course, we all hope and pray that there will be no repeat any time soon of the kinds of riots we witnessed in August 2011, but should such riots occur in future it would be absolutely appropriate to consider how well the legislation is working and whether any changes are required, which is what happened following the 2011 riots.

The amendment proposes that the legislation should be reviewed after any riot, but that means that that provision would be triggered by any relatively small disturbance that leads to a claim being made under the riot compensation scheme. That would be unnecessarily bureaucratic and it is certainly not needed, because, as I have said, there is a Government commitment in place to review all new legislation within three to five years of the date it receives Royal Assent. That timeframe provides an opportunity for post-legislative scrutiny in the early years and consideration of non-legislative processes and support systems. I would like us to go further after that three to five-year period.

Photo of David Lammy David Lammy Labour, Tottenham

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that, if there had been an assessment mechanism in the ineffective Riot (Damages) Act 1886, it might have been better legislation in the first place? There might be a riot—we hope not—during the period of three to five years. I understand that he may not accept the amendment as drafted, but surely the Government should be prepared to consider some sort of assessment mechanism after a riot, which, thank God, happen so infrequently in our country. Perhaps that could happen in the other place when the Bill receives further scrutiny.

Photo of Mike Wood Mike Wood Conservative, Dudley South

The right hon. Gentleman makes the point that I was about to move on to. Although the initial three to five-year period provides an important chance to reflect on the early years and to consider whether all the commas are in the right place and all the details are right, it is important that regular reviews take place after that period. I hope the regulations will allow for such reviews. If there is a repeat of anything like what happened in August 2011, it is inconceivable that there would not be a review. That should be a given. Outside of the times of serious riots—which, of course, we hope will last many years or even decades—it is important to have some sort of periodical review, but I do not believe that there is a particular case for this Bill to carry a specific provision for post-legislative scrutiny. As I have said, such a provision could be triggered by a fairly small and limited disturbance, but we must make sure that it does not take another 130 years before we next review whether the legislation is working.

Photo of Lyn Brown Lyn Brown Shadow Minister (Home Office)

I completely get where Mike Wood is coming from—frankly, if I were the Minister in charge of his Bill, I would encourage him to say exactly what he has just said—but I am worried about where we are going with this. It has taken us 150 years to revisit the issue and there have been a number of disturbances—nay, riots—in this country during that time, and even when there have been really big riots, the system of dealing with victims has been wholly inadequate. I am concerned that we will find ourselves in 150 years’ time—well, we won’t, because we’ll be dead by then—saying, “Oh, yeah, we didn’t have very effective legislation. We had things for those old-fashioned things called cars, but the hover vehicles we’re driving around in now aren’t covered by this Riot Act.”

I say gently to the hon. Gentleman that even minor disturbances can wreck lives. We must make sure that any future Government have not only warm words to say to victims of riots, but effective legislation on the books so that they can help those victims effectively. I gently say to the Minister, who I have got a lot of time for—he has done an excellent job so far this morning—that we need to be more warm in our consideration of this Bill, so that we can ensure that the people who come after us in 150 years do not say the same kinds of things that we have been saying, with a little frustration, over the past few weeks.

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire Minister of State (Home Office) (Security and Immigration) 11:15 am, 5th February 2016

We are verging into the language used on Second Reading when we discussed how the terms of the existing Riots (Damages) Act 1886 are not fit for the purpose of providing compensation in the event of a riot. The Bill provides good flexibility. It is important to recognise that it enables matters to be dealt with by way of secondary regulation. If certain changes are required, we would not necessarily have to address them through primary legislation, with all that that entails. Indeed, as has been discussed, the Bill enables us to increase the overall cap by negative procedure.

In essence, our debate about amendment 10 is about whether primary legislation should include a mandatory requirement to review. In our judgment, that is not necessary, because of the flexibility given by the Bill, which has been well debated. The scrutiny the House has given it means that it is now fit for purpose for the years ahead, because of the latitude it contains. It enables changes to be made in a relatively straightforward way through the processes and procedures of this House and the other place.

The amendment addresses the question of the regularity of scrutiny and whether a review should be undertaken every time some form of riot takes place. In our judgment, that is bureaucratic and we question whether it would achieve the desired result. It is always open to Government to review legislation, and it is absolutely right and proper that they keep it under close review. That may not necessarily happen on a timed basis, but an event may occur whereby the Government will respond—indeed, the House may prevail on the Minister in question to do this—by conducting a review of the legislation, to judge whether it is still appropriate. The Bill does not prevent that flexibility—far from it. It can still happen.

My hon. Friend Mike Wood has spoken of the general approach to reviewing all legislation within three to five years of the date of Royal Assent. Therefore, in any event, come what may, there will be an assessment of the Bill. Rather than having fixed points, the Bill provides flexibility to make changes. The regulatory framework enables the issue to be contemplated in that way—it provides latitude—and that is the appropriate way to deal with it. Indeed, it is right and proper that, if such events were to happen, the House could say to the Government, “Look at the Bill now. This is the right time to do it,” without that being reflected formally in the Bill. For those reasons, we judge that the amendment is not needed.

Photo of Lyn Brown Lyn Brown Shadow Minister (Home Office)

Very brave. I say gently to the Minister that I was a bit flabbergasted by the length of time that passed before the introduction of such a Bill. There was a period of unrest in the 1980s, during my early childhood, and I can recall being in a restaurant in Leicester Square on my way to a concert during the poll tax riots. I am surprised, therefore, to be debating a Bill on a matter that has not been revisited during that time. Given that these things happen, given that there can be long periods of time between such occurrences and given that our predecessors did not see fit to revisit the legislation despite some fairly appalling riots in our capital city and elsewhere, why does the Minister genuinely believe and take comfort from the fact that the Bill is somehow different, and that 150 years will not pass before it is revisited?

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire Minister of State (Home Office) (Security and Immigration)

The hon. Lady makes a fair point. I am sure that anyone who has been caught up in a riot, and who has suffered loss or damage as a consequence, feels that hugely keenly. We are talking not just about the immediacy of the situation and the fear that it creates, but about what that means in restoring a life, putting property back into place and dealing with adverse effects on a business. That has been at the heart of our debates on the Bill, and that is why I welcome and strongly endorse the approach of my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley South in bringing forward the Bill and seeking to address the problem.

There are a couple of points that I would make. First, the Bill has been drafted in a manner that allows greater latitude than the Victorian legislation. I return to the point about not requiring primary legislation. Dealing with things in secondary legislation gives greater latitude and flexibility to make changes to the regulatory framework more swiftly. That reflects the fact that other items may need to be covered, or the cap may no longer be appropriate. The Bill provides a real benefit in offering that level of flexibility.

Secondly, the hon. Lady made a point about individual occurrences and events, and she pointed to some serious incidents that might have made a review appropriate. The latitude provided by the Bill lends itself well to that, because it will not be necessary completely to recast primary legislation. Some riotous disturbances may not lead to a significant number of claims, so it might not be appropriate to trigger a formal procedure such as that proposed in the amendment. The student riots in 2010, for example, involved significant policing challenges but attracted fewer than five compensation claims. We have the ability to carry out such a review, but we do not need anything with quite such a rigid structure. I suggest to the House that the Bill gives the Government the flexibility and the latitude that they need. In that context, I hope that the right hon. Member for Tottenham will be minded to withdraw his amendment.

Photo of David Lammy David Lammy Labour, Tottenham

The shadow Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, has expressed my views strongly from the Dispatch Box, and I hope that the matter will receive greater scrutiny in another place. Self-evidently, issues arise in the peculiar event of riots, and the Government ought to think seriously about producing some sort of impact assessment, which need not be onerous. I undertake to write to colleagues in the other place to ensure that that receives further examination.

As I have listened, not to myself but to my hon. Friend, I have been convinced of my own argument. Nevertheless, I will not press the amendment to a Division. This is an important Bill, and it must find its way to the other place. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Third Reading

Photo of Mike Wood Mike Wood Conservative, Dudley South 11:25 am, 5th February 2016

I thank right hon. and hon. Members from all parts of the House who have participated in debates on Second Reading, in Committee and here today. In particular, I thank Ministers and shadow Ministers for their supportive and constructive approach. I thank Mr Lammy, who has spoken persuasively and passionately on behalf of his constituents, and my hon. Friend Gavin Barwell, who has done a lot of work in support of the Bill but cannot speak in the Chamber today because of his other responsibilities.

On Second Reading, I stressed our responsibility as Members of Parliament to bring forward legislation that protects the most vulnerable from harm. That is why I am proud to promote this Bill, which proposes to help individuals and businesses recover from the devastating impact of widespread public disorder in communities. I spoke on Second Reading about my family connection, growing up as the son of a west midlands police officer during the football riots and other disturbances of the 1980s. I told the story of my father being bitten in the stables, and I said that I thought it was safe for me to do so, because my father rarely watches BBC Parliament. Sadly, he listens to BBC WM, so I was not able to keep that as secret as I had hoped.

Like all right hon. and hon. Members, I hope that the Bill will never be used. However, following Neil Kinghan’s review, it is abundantly clear that we need modern legislation that gives us clear guidelines and provisions in the event of any future riots. After the 2011 riots, many vulnerable communities were left counting the cost. The coalition Government responded by pledging to cover the costs incurred by the police to compensate homeowners and businesses under the measures set out in the Riot (Damages) Act 1886. Then, as today, it was clear that the “current”—130-year-old—legislation is outdated and inadequate in providing compensation in the modern world. The language is archaic, and it is unclear in what circumstances claims can be made. That means that decision making after a riot is difficult and time-consuming. There are too many inconsistencies, and it is not fair to those who need support or to those who pay the bill. That is what we need to change with this Bill.

The aim behind the Bill is to protect communities from the devastating losses to which I have referred. It makes much-needed changes to address the concerns that have been raised, while still providing support to households and businesses affected by riots. It proposes to end the unlimited compensation afforded through the 1886 Act, while making sure that victims of riots receive the support that they need. The new compensation cap has been discussed at some length, so I will not add anything further. Suffice it to say that the new provisions will not just save money but improve and modernise the claims process to bring it up to date and make it fit for the 21st century.

The old Act’s short timescales for submitting and evidencing a claim are simply not feasible for many potential claimants. As the House will remember, temporary changes were made to the timescales at the time of the 2011 riots in order to provide a more realistic timeframe. The Bill is intended to put that change into legislation.

The time period set out in the original legislation is clearly not long enough. Many homes and places of business are inaccessible for a considerable period after disturbances of the kind we saw in 2011. Allowing a period of 42 days after a riot to submit a claim and a further 90 days to evidence the claim and provide the details to support it will provide people with a fairer deal at a time when they need the extra breathing space and time to think about and prepare such a claim. As has been said, in many cases they will have to work out whether they ever had a receipt, let alone whether they know where the receipt is after a fire or a riot.

The minimum time allowed is now stated in the Bill. I emphasise that it is the minimum time: it remains entirely within the Government’s competence to decide to have a longer period if and when they think that that would be appropriate. As the Minister said earlier, we must ensure that there is flexibility so that people are not unfairly disadvantaged in extraordinary circumstances —for example, when, whether through illness or another reason, it is not reasonable for them to submit paperwork within the timeframe set out in the Bill.

The reason for switching away from replacement value—old-for-old, as it were—to new-for-old is one of basic fairness for the victims of riots. It is not reasonable to expect people whose homes or businesses have just been devastated by riots, first, to find out what loss adjusters think is the current value of machinery, equipment or property however many years after their purchase, and then to try to source a replacement product of equal value. On Second Reading, I gave the example of a four-year-old dry cleaning machine. It would be difficult to source it, because such machines do not show up every day on eBay. Switching to new-for-old, as most of the insurance industry has done, is sensible, more efficient and, above all, fairer.

Many Members have welcomed the riot claims bureau, which will have responsibility for managing riot compensation claims. The Bill is intended to ensure that there is greater consistency, particularly, as we saw in the 2011 riots, when riots spill over into more than one police force area. In such a case, it may be appropriate for the Secretary of State to assume such powers to ensure that someone can expect the same kind of service, timescales and treatment wherever they make a claim. Again, that is an issue of basic fairness for people affected by riots. The provision will be used if the rioting breaks out in or spreads across more than one area, and for that matter, if the local police decide that they do not have the capacity or expertise to consider such claims—why should they do so? That will particularly affect smaller police forces.

The Bill will allow local policing bodies and the riot claims bureau to place the day-to-day management of claims in the hands of experts. That is significant because although we expect our police forces to do an extremely important job—they do their job extremely well and we can be proud of the role they play—it is not reasonable to expect them to carry out claims handling or loss adjusting. Allowing police and crime commissioners to utilise people trained to play such a role makes sense and enables commissioners to retain full control over financial decisions.

As I have said, the Bill provides for the first time for motor vehicles covered by third-party insurance. It was pointed out on Second Reading that 1886, the date of the current legislation, was coincidentally the same year that the diesel engine was first demonstrated. Unsurprisingly, therefore, the legislation on which we currently rely was not designed around the world of the motor car. We do not know what the nature of riots will be in the future, but there may be widespread damage to motor vehicles. It does not seem fair, and it would not be equitable, for people’s motor cars—if they do not own their own home, their car is probably the most expensive thing they own—to be outside the scope of a compensation claim if they are not covered by their own insurance.

The purpose of the compensation scheme is not to pick up bottomless bills for criminal activity, but to provide a safety net for those in greatest need, while recognising the police’s responsibility to maintain order. That is why we must absolutely recognise the serious implications for communities recovering from major public disorder. Since the 2011 riots, my right hon. Friends in government have worked tirelessly, first by commissioning the Kinghan review and then by holding the Home Office consultation that followed it.

It would be wrong for millions of pounds of public money to be handed over—in essence, to insurance companies—for people who are in a position to insure themselves. That was the thinking behind the cap, and it is also why I limited the extension for motor vehicles to people who would not be covered by their motor insurance.

The provisions in the Bill provide a balance between the responsibility of the police to maintain order and the Government to protect the vulnerable, and the interests of the taxpayer. It retains the principle that the police are responsible for maintaining order, ensures that local accountability remains in the right place and provides local communities with the mechanisms they need to recover quickly from serious disorder.

We all hope and pray that riots of the kind, and certainly of the scale, that we saw in August 2011 will not happen in the future, but hoping for the best can never be an alternative to preparing for the worst. The Bill is about preparing for the worst. I hope it will proceed through the other place as swiftly as reasonably possible so that we can put in place the system we will need should riots take place. The Bill provides a fair deal for the victims of riots and for those who will have to pick up the bill for serious damage caused by them in our communities. I commend the Bill to the House.

Photo of Lyn Brown Lyn Brown Shadow Minister (Home Office) 11:39 am, 5th February 2016

The Opposition will support the Bill this morning, as we have throughout the legislative process.

The 2011 riots were a traumatic event for London and for other cities and towns up and down the country. More than 5,000 crimes were committed in a few short days, five people lost their lives, and it is estimated that the material cost of the London riots alone was over half a billion pounds. They were truly devastating. The unfortunate truth is that when those wounded communities needed help to get back on their feet, the help that was available proved utterly inadequate.

My magnificent right hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham has demonstrated to the House yet again this morning his true understanding of and commitment to his constituents. His passionate and well-spoken words showed that he understands the devastating impact the riots have had on the wider community. Frankly, it was not possible for the Government to respond as quickly as was needed to that impact.

I also pay tribute to my hon. Friend Mr Reed for his work on this issue. His constituency was hit hard by the 2011 riots and he has worked tirelessly to highlight the difficulty that his constituents have had in receiving the compensation to which they should have been entitled. He used the Freedom of Information Act to show that three years after the riots, 133 victims in London were yet to receive a penny in compensation. Just 16% of the requested compensation had been paid out at that point.

Those victims of rioting must have felt really let down, especially considering the Prime Minister’s promise that they would not be left out of pocket by those unprecedented actions. Without the tireless work of my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon North and others, including my right hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham and my hon. Friend Dr Huq, I doubt that the Bill would be before the House today, but it is and that is to be celebrated.

To be fair to the Government, they recognised the problems that people had had in receiving compensation and commissioned an independent review. The Kinghan review was published in 2013 and, as we have heard, the Bill before us has the support of the Government and takes up many of the review’s recommendations.

I warmly congratulate Mike Wood on making such an important contribution so early in his parliamentary career. I hope his father forgives him for the horse story, which I remember well. How amazing it is that an Act will be published in his name. I hope that he celebrates this momentous event suitably over the weekend. I know that he has had a lot of support from the Government, which makes these things a lot easier and gives a Bill a fair passage. None the less, it takes a lot of work and commitment to get a Bill through, and I congratulate him on being equal to that task—congratulations!

I have to thank the Minister for being so accommodating, unlike some other Ministers. I look forward to seeing him opposite me when we consider further Bills, because he has been really quite good.

I thank my Labour colleagues who have worked on the Bill—my hon. Friend Jack Dromey, who led scrutiny of the Bill in Committee, and my hon. Friends the Members for Ealing Central and Acton, for Birmingham, Ladywood (Shabana Mahmood) and for Croydon North, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham, who also sat on the Committee. They have all helped to improve the Bill.

The amendment that the House accepted today to give riot victims a guaranteed time in which to claim compensation was the result of probing by the Opposition in Committee, so we are grateful to the hon. Member for Dudley South and the Government for accepting it. The Bill is better for it.

We are happy to support this legislation. Like the hon. Member for Dudley South, I hope and pray that it is rarely, if ever, used because even the most effective legislation for riot compensation can but lessen the terrible pain that is inflicted on communities by looting, violence and wanton damage.

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire Minister of State (Home Office) (Security and Immigration) 11:44 am, 5th February 2016

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend Mike Wood for his excellent stewardship of the Bill. It takes enormous focus, dedication and drive to take a private Member’s Bill through this House. It is not straightforward. I commend him for identifying this important issue, which has affected so many of our communities, and for having the ability, early in his parliamentary career, not only to bring the Bill forward, but to chart its passage through this House. It will now go on to the other place and, I hope, become law so that he achieves what he wants, which is to provide the protection and benefit of a safety net for those who are drawn into something that we hope will never happen, but which experience tells us might happen. We need those protections to be properly in place so that we no longer need to fit into the Victorian legislative framework, with concepts such as “riotous or tumultuous assembly”, but have legislation that reflects the needs of our modern society.

As we prepare to send the Bill to the other place, I want to express my gratitude to Members on both sides of the House who have engaged in a constructive and thoughtful debate on these measures. They have added to our scrutiny and consideration, and have added benefit to the Bill. We have reflected on how best to support communities, families and people in recovering from the often devastating impacts of riots.

Some of the contributions with the greatest impact have been made by Members who represent riot-affected constituencies. They have spoken movingly and with passion about the difficulty and distress that is caused to individuals, families and business owners by riots, particularly those of 2011. Five people—Trevor Ellis, Haroon Jahan, Shahzad Ali, Abdul Musavir and Richard Mannington Bowes—lost their lives in those riots. It is right that we remember them at this time. Our sympathies remain with their families, friends and all who loved them. Their memory reminds us of the impact that these appalling events can have. Although our debate has rightly and inevitably been about issues of compensation, it is people’s lives that we are talking about. The contributions of many right hon. and hon. Members have underlined that point. This Bill is important because it will help people build their lives back up after such appalling events.

The Bill will not prevent riots, nor will it tackle the base criminality that often surrounds them, but it will provide the legislative platform for a modern, well thought-out package of compensation for people who, through no fault of their own, find themselves facing damage and loss to their homes and businesses. It will also help those caught in the wake of a riot to recover from the violence and criminality more easily.

The amendment that my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley South proposed to cover the cost of alternative accommodation for those who are left homeless in a riot is important. When these measures become law, the Government will work to ensure that the compensation can be accessed quickly by individuals in the aftermath of a riot, recognising that rapid support and reassurance are of the utmost importance. The further amendment to set out the time limits on the face of the Bill demonstrates our commitment to provide a more generous approach to the submission of claims and evidence. As I have indicated, further flexibility on deadlines to cover extenuating circumstances will be provided for in regulations.

The Bill provides an important legislative platform for outlining what individuals and businesses affected by riots will be entitled to. It will be supplemented by regulations that will cover a number of important aspects, such as underlining our commitment to afford new-for-old replacements in most circumstances, providing more detail on the riot claims bureau, and confirming that charity payments will not be deducted from riot compensation payments. In addition to the regulations, as stated in previous stages of the Bill, we will also publish guidance for the public and decision makers, to provide further awareness and understanding of the legislation. As has been said, this is not simply about the law; it is about how the schemes are applied so that people know how they can claim, what they need to provide, and when they need to do that. We must respond to those practical realities, and consider how we can learn from the experience of the 2011 riots, incidents of flooding and other events where support needs to be provided.

In conclusion, the Bill sets out the framework for a modern, fair and affordable compensation scheme that supports communities that are recovering from riots, without placing unreasonable burdens on the taxpayer. The amendments and improvements that have been made are in keeping with that principle, and the Government support them. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley South for using the time afforded to him to promote a private Member’s Bill to deal with an important issue that has affected so many lives. As the Bill proceeds to the other place, I believe that it will provide assurance and protection into the future, and the framework that it provides means that it will remain as relevant as it is now for decades to come.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.