My Lords, while the gracious Speech addresses the great issues which face our country today, such as departure from the European Union, it also includes important justice legislation. I certainly welcome the inclusion of the draft domestic violence and abuse Bill, which provides a stronger and better defined framework to protect victims and, in particular, children. I observe only that it is very welcome that this issue, which for so long was swept under the carpet, is now given a high political profile and parliamentary time. I pay tribute to those inside and outside this House and another place who have campaigned tirelessly on this issue over the years.
I will also refer to a different issue, which relates to provisions in the civil liability Bill, which my noble friend Lord Faulks mentioned. I welcome the fact that the gracious Speech refers to the introduction of legislation which will help to reduce motor insurance premiums. The enhanced oversight of claims management companies is a very welcome development. The growth of the sector has brought a wholly predictable and detrimental culture of the encouragement of specious claims. Motor insurance fraud and the facilitation thereof has reached epidemic proportions and, in some circumstances, the creation of a whole new sector of crime. The continual push by claims management companies to encourage the public to make claims—for example, through television advertising and direct, unsolicited approaches by phone, text and email—is so very clearly wrong. I trust that the move to transfer oversight of claims management companies to the Financial Conduct Authority and the provisions of the civil liability Bill to tackle fraudulent whiplash claims will have considerable effect in strengthening the regulation of those companies, and will ensure that senior executives will be held personally liable for the actions of their businesses—something which has not occurred in the past.
I would like to raise another related but specific issue of crime, and that is the other major driver of very high motor insurance premiums, which is vehicle theft. We are facing an extraordinary rise in vehicle theft concerning motorcycles. We are advised by the Metropolitan Police that some 50,000 crimes a year in London relate to this issue. Indeed, there have been 13,000 thefts in the past 12 months, which is a rise of 40% over the previous period. It is worth bearing that statistic in mind: a 40% rise in a very specific area of crime. It seems that gangs are behind this. In London, there are thought to be 500 criminals, or thereabouts, who are pursuing this extraordinary level of crime. The results are raised insurance premiums, but there have also been many attacks on motorcyclists. I travel occasionally on two wheels and am fortunate not to have been a victim. There has been an extraordinary set of circumstances whereby gangs are, in broad daylight, stealing motorcycles which are then used to pursue other crimes—bag snatching and, in particular, the snatching of mobile telephones—in London.
At the centre of this appears to be a feeling of immunity by these criminals: that they cannot be pursued actively at pace by the police. The police have of course to think of the safety of other road users and, it appears, the safety of those individuals themselves, but we must find a way in which the police, whose efforts in this regard are to be commended—in particular, on Operation Venice, which has been set up specifically to address these issues—can outwit these criminals before another murder takes place. We understand that there was a terrible tragedy when someone who was attempting to prevent the theft of their machine was knifed to death by a gang. This is a rapidly growing crime and we need to find a solution. I would welcome all efforts that the Government can make, in co-operation with police forces in the large cities around the country, to tackle this crime.