Clause 10 - Compensation

Part of Anti-social Behaviour Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 6:30 pm on 6 May 2003.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath 6:30, 6 May 2003

I have a couple of brief points and I think that my hon. Friend the Member for South-East Cambridgeshire may wish to speak as well. We were concerned about taxpayers' money being used, and subsection (4), which relates to compensation from central funds, concerned us, but I could not think of an easy and straightforward way of amending the clause. I simply wanted to raise the issue, which is why it is appropriate to say a few words about it in the stand part debate. There will be great concern if a person allows their premises to be misused, but the decision is taken not to implement a closure order owing to a bizarre verdict in the courts, and the person against whom the closure order has been sought then claims for damages and receives money from the

taxpayer. My constituents would not be happy if that were to happen. I therefore thought that it was important to put those concerns on the record, and to see what the Minister has in mind.

One recognises, of course, that an action may have been completely misconceived—the wrong premises may have been chosen, for example. I touched on the fact that to err is human; someone might make a bureaucratic error and write down the wrong address. In such circumstances, in which the people who own the premises have done nothing wrong, they will want some redress if their doors have been broken in. I am, however, worried that a situation might arise in which someone who is not, as lawyers say, coming to equity with clean hands, receives damages from the taxpayer under the provisions of the Bill. I therefore think it important to place that concern on the record at this stage, because the clause as drafted might attract quite a lot of attention when the Bill reaches another place.

The Minister and I are familiar with the sort of points that are picked up by the very senior lawyers—Law Lords and the like—who have experience of dealing with such matters over many years. I thought that if we did not have a brief stand part debate on the clause, their lordships might think that we had completely ignored the difficult issues that compensation from taxpayers' money raises. I hope that the Minister will be able to address some of those issues and that he will take them seriously. We are not trying to eliminate the opportunity for redress to be made to the innocent property owner who has been wronged, but we are concerned about the inappropriate use of taxpayers' money.