Clause 1 - Claims for compensation for riot damage etc

Riot Compensation Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:00 pm on 13th January 2016.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Mike Wood Mike Wood Conservative, Dudley South

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Howarth. This is my first Bill Committee, and for it to be on my own Bill is a particular pleasure.

I would like to express my gratitude to the people who have helped the Bill get this far. In particular, I have received support from the Home Office in drafting and preparing the Bill, both officials and Ministers, as well as from shadow Ministers and other Members in all parts of the House. They approached Second Reading in an extremely constructive fashion. I am very grateful for the widespread support for the principle that we are trying to achieve.

The Bill seeks to update the existing legislation, the Riot (Damages) Act 1886, and make it fit for the 21st century, not only to deal with factors that naturally would not have been considered when the Act was passed, but to adapt it for the changing nature of riot and riot damages. Particular thanks are also due to  Neil Kinghan, the independent reviewer, for his extremely valuable work in preparing the review that forms the basis for the Bill.

Clause 1 is a straightforward attempt to update the definition of a riot with more approachable language while maintaining the existing principle that police forces have some liability for damages caused during riots. As we will address under later clauses, however, that should not be unlimited liability.

Photo of Jack Dromey Jack Dromey Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Howarth.

The riots in 2011 saw disorder on a scale unprecedented for a generation, threatening life and limb, with businesses and homes burnt down and communities laid waste. What happened was nothing short of outrageous. I pay tribute to the police, fire and ambulance services for the role they played in the most difficult circumstances. I also pay tribute to the local communities that stood together in what were tough times. It was right that many people paid the price for what happened with their liberty, but there was then a price to be paid to the victims.

As the hon. Member for Dudley South has said—I pay warm tribute to him for pioneering the Bill, which we strongly support—the Bill is about updating the 1886 Act. There were many moving contributions on Second Reading about the severe losses of those affected by the riots in 2011 and how compensation was woefully inadequate, particularly in terms of the speed with which it was paid, as well as the scale of what was paid. My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing Central and Acton spoke movingly of her constituent, Ravi, a small business owner. It took 18 months for his shop to reopen at half the size, and he and his family were forced to live off their savings in the meantime.

My hon. Friend the Member for Croydon North spoke of the nine businesses and 40 flats that were destroyed in his constituency, putting poorer victims in severe financial difficulty. Some victims have not received the compensation that they are due to this day. The losses to people such as Ravi show that it is right that the legislation is updated to ensure that those who suffer the catastrophic consequences of riots are compensated fully and in a timely fashion.

Equally, there are other changes that we will come to shortly that necessarily deal with flaws in the existing legislation. For example, there was no mention of motor vehicles in the 1886 legislation, unsurprisingly, and no consideration of interim compensation for victims while claims were processed. There was no consideration of new-for-old replacement of damaged goods and no powers for the police to delegate administering the compensation process to experts. As a result, several years on from the 2011 riots, some victims are still waiting for more than £40 million to be paid out.

The Bill is a necessary update to very old legislation, and the broad thrust is welcome. There will be contributions during the passage of the Bill on particular issues to seek clarification and to address concerns from hon. Members who have constituency interests, but the Bill is welcome because it modernises the language of the 1886 Act and includes cars and other vehicles. It provides for much-needed interim payments and creates a new body to deal with insurance claims to avoid massive  delays and the kind of bureaucracy seen last time around. The Bill proposes the capping of payments by police forces. It is right that they are not asked to promise a blank cheque, not least because of the immense financial pressures on police forces.

In conclusion, my right hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham has spoken movingly in previous debates and on Second Reading about the impact of what happened on his community and many others. “Never again” is our determination, but we need to ensure that the victims of what happened are finally properly and fully compensated, and we need to learn the lessons of the inadequacies of the 1886 Act and bring arrangements up to date to ensure that victims are compensated. I am pleased that we are in agreement on this welcome measure, which has the support of the Opposition.

Photo of Mike Penning Mike Penning The Minister of State, Home Department, The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Howarth. This private Member’s Bill is a first for me as a Minster. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley South on piloting the Bill through. It has support from across the House. Tone is important when trying to persuade colleagues, and he is a champion of that. I apologise for not being in the House on the Friday when the Bill was debated on Second Reading, but I have read the Hansard report. I was not the duty Minister on that day, but my colleague, the Minister for Immigration, did very well to ensure that he read every note I gave him in the right tone.

I join the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington in paying tribute to the emergency services that were so valiant and brave in 2011 and in the other riots that sadly we have had over the years. We do need measures in statute to ensure compensation for those who need it; some would argue that we should have done that sooner, since this was first put in statute in 1886.

As someone born in Enfield and brought up in Tottenham, Mr Howarth, I found it very difficult to watch the riots on TV and later to visit the area where I have so many friends and relatives. That part of the world had done so much over the years, particularly since the terrible things that happened at Broadwater Farm. Politicians are supposed to be hardened, but we are not because those are our communities. I pay tribute to the right hon. Member for Tottenham, my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate, Nick de Bois and other hon. Members now here who had their communities blighted and devastated by the riots. I say as the Minister that it is right and proper that we are here today to help the Bill through.

I have looked extensively at the amendments and spoken to hon. Members from across the House to see how we could help. I also pay tribute to my officials, who have given an extensive amount of time to ensure that we debate the Bill and get it right so that we can enact it and help our constituents in the way they need.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 1 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.