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compensation is assessed on the same basis as that provided by the Fatal Accidents Act 1976--with some measure for the dead person's loss of income.

When the present scheme was introduced, payments were made on an ex gratia, non-statutory basis, but from a very early stage in its development it was anticipated that it would be given a proper statutory basis. That anticipation became firmer following a royal commission report in 1979 ; and in 1988, during proceedings on the Criminal Justice Bill, the intention to make the scheme statutory so that payments were no longer ex gratia but of right was reaffirmed. Section 171 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 thus placed a specific duty on the Home Secretary to introduce the scheme in a statutory form. Discretion was allowed as to when the scheme should come into effect on a statutory basis, but not whether it should do so. For various reasons, that duty was not carried out, and the Government used that fact to try to introduce the new scheme, using prerogative powers rather than by seeking the proper consent of Parliament. It is true that, under the new tariff system, awards will often be roughly the same as under the present scheme. However, thousands of people every year--a significant number--will lose, and, according to parliamentary answers given by Ministers, about 25 per cent. will lose substantially. The victims of violent crime who lose will often be those with the worst injuries. The new scheme, therefore, hits hardest those people who are most in need.

There are four principal objections to the new scheme. First, it fails to take proper account of any loss of future earnings, although that is often the major element of any award. For example, 18-year-olds may suffer criminal injuries identical to those of 80-year-olds, but because the former would go out to work and would hopefully have a lifetime of earnings in front of them, their circumstances are plainly entirely different from those of elderly people. Yet they will receive the same awards, irrespective of their circumstances.

Recently, a nurse was badly injured and received about £126,000 as compensation, of which £17,000 only was for loss of amenity. If her case came up under the new scheme, she would receive only £5,000. The police officer who was criminally injured while carrying out his duties and received £120,000 would, in similar circumstances under the new scheme, receive only £7,500.

Although civil law will still compensate for negligence on the basis of loss, where criminal injuries occur, the connection between injury and loss --based on the future earnings capacity of the injured person--will be broken as a result of the Government's changes. The same will apply to fatal awards. Dependency awards will go. For example--to take another recent case--in the Slater case in June last year, a woman who witnessed her husband's fatal stabbing, which took place in front of her children, received £170,000. Under the new system, she would receive only £17,000.

The examples that I have given are of real cases of loss suffered by some of the most needy people and by the victims of the most serious and violent crimes. The Government cannot expect us to take their protestations

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about victims of crime seriously while they are undermining the basis of compensation for those victims--the money they desperately need to rebuild their lives.

Secondly, as the noble Lord Carlisle pointed out in another place, the new system will often be unworkable. For example, the psychological effects of rape or armed robbery on the criminally injured will vary enormously, yet they are effectively to be treated as the same in many cases. The scheme is not merely wrong in principle, but unworkable in practice.

Thirdly, some of the judgments under the tariff system are extraordinary. Details of the system were issued in a White Paper at the end of the parliamentary Session last year. One suspects that it was announced then for news management purposes rather than for any other reason. As far as I can see, the system outlined in that White Paper has changed very little.

I shall give the House some examples of the tariffs in the system that the Government intend to drive through. Sexual abuse of a child is apparently to be worth about £1,000, and loss of a front tooth about £1,500. Heaven only knows how any sensible person could reach such a conclusion. Rape or buggery will be worth £7,500, as will a fractured kneecap. A fatality might result in an award of about £10, 000 to the dependants of the deceased, which will be the same as compensation for the loss of an ear.

The new tariff system is not merely unworkable and wrong in principle because it fails to take future earnings into account ; in some circumstances, it will be entirely unfair and arbitrary. Finally, the basis for the introduction of the new scheme has changed completely, and the House is entitled to feel some anger at the way in which that has been done. When the then Home Secretary announced the new criminal injuries compensation scheme on 23 November 1992, it was said to be necessary, not to cut costs but because it offered the

"best prospect of providing quicker payments to claimants through a means that is fair, straightforward and understandable."

That deception, which is what it was, was carried on until the White Paper was issued in December last year, when the Government claimed that the purpose of the new scheme was to offer a "better service to victims". No mention was made of the fact that the purpose of the proposal was to cut the costs of the scheme ; rather, the Government claimed that it would make the scheme more

administratively efficient, fairer and more easily understandable. One would have thought that the primary purpose of introducing the new proposal was merely to provide a better type of service to victims.

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A few weeks ago, my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Simpson) had an Adjournment debate on the issue, when the Minister dismissed as cynical those who said that the Government's proposal was about cost cutting. He said that those people did not understand the true basis of the Government's thinking. It was Ministry of Truth stuff, because it is now absolutely clear that the basis of the new scheme has nothing to do with providing a better service for victims.

The Home Secretary may frown, but that suggestion cannot seriously be maintained, since not a single organisation that supports victims has come out in favour of his new scheme. Perhaps the right hon. and learned Gentleman would care to mention one. I may be wrong,

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and I do not want to overstate the case, but I think that I am right to suggest that not a single organisation of any nature has come out in favour of the new scheme.

The way in which the scheme has been driven through is quite extraordinary. It has been done on the basis of providing a better system for victims, but the fact that victim organisations have contradicted that claim and that no one has stepped forward to support it simply exposes the entirely sham nature of the consultation exercise.

The original reason for the Government's proposal, which was first given in another place and will no doubt be repeated here tonight, is that costs are spiralling out of control. That reason has never been part of the consultation process. The Government have never attempted to spell out why those costs will spiral out of control. On what basis do they suggest that costs will rise from between £170 million and £200 million to £500 million ? The reason for the Government's assertion has never been published in any consultation paper so that we can assess whether it is right or wrong. That figure was simply plucked out of the air to justify a decision taken once the original justification was blown apart.

Upon what putative crime figures is the suggested cost based ? If it is the case that the cost of the scheme is set to double in the next few years, I assume that that is because the Government take a rather less than sanguine view of how crime and violence are set to develop. Whether the figure is genuine or not we simply do not know, but it is quite wrong for it to be dragged out of the Government under duress, without any proper consultation. They have made no attempt to consult people properly to reach the best and fairest solution.

This is a necessarily short debate, and I know that a number of my hon. Friends, and perhaps one or two Conservative Members would like to speak. The introduction of the new scheme exemplifies the sorry mixture of incompetence and arrogance that sometimes cover the conduct of the Government. If they were serious in their protestations of support for victims of crime, it is contradictory to introduce the scheme, without proper consultation, when it will damage the interests of many thousands of victims a year. The Government should withdraw their proposal until they have a proper scheme, subject to proper consultation, which protects the interests of the victim in a way that the British people wish to see.

Mr. Maclennan : The Home Secretary, by proposing a tariff-based scheme of compensation for victims, departs from the clear statutory duty that was placed upon him by Parliament in the Criminal Justice Act 1988. In doing so, he follows the lead of his predecessor, his right hon. and learned Friend who is now Chancellor of the Exchequer. He would have been wise mostly to ignore that lead in matters concerning his right hon. and learned Friend's conduct of the criminal justice system, because his White Papers have led to extensive criticism by all those who must deal with the criminal justice system.

The manner in which the Government have brought forward the proposals for compensation for the victims of crime is an example of how not to proceed. In a debate in another place, the chairman of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, Lord Carlisle of Bucklow, made it plain that neither he nor his colleagues on the board had been consulted about the principles that underlay the Government's proposals before they were announced.

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That seems to me to be not merely a discourtesy, but a serious abuse, for no one better than that board could know of the practicality--or, as it believes, the impracticality--of the scheme that the Home Secretary has proposed. No one could know better than that board the practical consequences and injustices that will be wrought by a tariff scheme along the lines that the Home Secretary has proposed to introduce as at 1 April--originally without any parliamentary discussion.

Mrs. Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham) : On the hon. Gentleman's introductory remarks, perhaps he should take into account the reply given by Lord Elwyn-Jones to a parliamentary question about the Road Traffic Act 1974 :

"if the Act states that it shall come into force on a date to be fixed by order made by the Minister, and provides no more than that, it is within the discretion of the Minister as to when he brings the Act into force. Parliament may, of course, bring pressure to bear on him and require him to justify any inactivity. But, short of another Act, there is no way in which the Minister can be compelled by Parliament to bring that Act into operation."--[ Official Report , House of Lords , 29 June 1977 ; Vol. 384, c. 1110.]

Does the hon. Gentleman agree ?

Mr. Maclennan : No doubt it is open to a Minister to decide at what date he may discharge an obligation imposed upon him by Act of Parliament, but this is a very different matter. This is not a proposal to discharge an obligation imposed upon the Home Secretary by Act of Parliament ; it is an announced proposal to repeal the very Act that imposed that duty upon him. The case that the hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs. Gillan) had in mind is not in pari materia with what the Home Secretary is doing.

The proposal is the more remarkable because, in the past, the Conservative Government have felt it appropriate to praise the criminal injuries compensation scheme and to draw to people's attention its exemplary work. Previous Home Secretaries have repeatedly undertaken to put it on a statutory basis. If one goes back to when the Government took office, when the Pearson commission on civil liability reported, indications were given then that the scheme would be put on a statutory basis.

That was not done originally, when the scheme was introduced by a Conservative Government--that led by Sir Alec Douglas-Home--because the consequences of the scheme could not be known. It was thought that it would be sensible to try it out to see if it worked fairly and in a manner which should be rendered firm in statute. In 1983 and 1988, following the Pearson commission, progress reports were given by Home Secretaries. Candidly, the Minister, in proposing to proceed in the way he has, has acted high- handedly, and, I believe, possibly illegally. That matter will be tested at a later date.

The contents of what is proposed must also raise questions about whether the Government have violated the provisions of the European convention on the compensation of victims of violent crimes. Article 4 of that convention requires us to provide compensation which covers

"according to the case under consideration"

that is, according to the specific circumstances of the individual case

"at least . . . loss of earnings . . . and, as regards dependants, loss of maintenance."

If the Government intend to derogate from provisions of

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international conventions to which they have subscribed, they would do well to inform the House of their intentions. That has been normal in other spheres.

The hardship it is proposed to seek to dismiss is undoubted. The Government gave no sign of their true purpose in making the proposal. As Lord Ackner, an experienced former Lord of Appeal in Ordinary, said :

"This is a cost-cutting exercise."--[ Official Report, House of Lords , 2 March 1994 ; Vol. 552, c. 1072.]

He also regarded it as "an abuse of power", as did a number of other learned Lords in the debate which, thankfully, was held in another place-- thankfully, because they turned a spotlight on what the Government were planning to do. In a debate in which there were, I believe, 16 participants, I do not think that a single one who was not a member of the Government thought it right to support the Government.

The nature of the compensation at present available under the scheme is closely related to the circumstances of the individuals who are adversely affected by crimes of violence. Principles of the common law, and of the statute law in the case of the Fatal Accidents Act 1976, are imported into the individual deliberations to ensure that the reality of the consequence of the sufferings by the victims of crime is reflected. It is there that the Government seem most disingenuous, for they have suggested in their White Paper that all that is necessary is for society to give some token of its concern about the consequence of violence on victims.

Hitherto, a genuine attempt has been made by the distinguished lawyers--40 of them--who sit as part-time servants of the public in determining those cases, to measure the reality of the suffering and the losses that it is to be anticipated will flow from it. The trouble with the new scheme is that the standard tariff leaves wholly out of account many of the matters that are most burdensome on the victims.

The people who suffer serious injury will be hardest hit--those who have to alter their homes and their way of life as a result of injury, those who have to confront the prospect of years of medical treatment, those who face loss of earnings, the dependants of those who have been murdered, or those who have suffered through manslaughter of their spouse. Their maintenance will not be taken into consideration. Those are serious changes that are proposed. Although it is possible, by averaging out. to say that some people may prove better off, it is incontrovertibly true that those who suffer most will be the hardest hit.

New clause 1 and the related amendments give the Government an opportunity to reconsider their position. I hope that they will take it, for, if they do not, they will stand accused of paying no attention to the victims of violent crimes and controvert allegations that they have made that the victims are more in their mind than the criminals in the criminal justice system.

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I appeal to the Minister to reconsider, to listen to the wise advice of the people who have administered the scheme as it operates and, if it is thought necessary to modify the statutory scheme for Treasury reasons, to enter into genuine consultations before abandoning the operative scheme.

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The Government appear to speak with two voices on the subject, for the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has announced consultations. If he were to proceed on different lines from the Home Secretary, we could find ourselves in the strangely anomalous position in which the victims of violent crimes in Northern Ireland were treated according to a system that operated common law principles or statutory principles, but not the victims of comparable offences in Great Britain.

Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington) : Why in Northern Ireland ?

Mr. Maclennan : Because there is already a scheme there, as I understand it, which is statutory and which the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland apparently has it in mind to modify. Those are grave matters, and the present proposals of the Government will wreak great injustice.

May I recall to the Home Secretary the fate of the wife of one of the former members of the Conservative Government, Lady Tebbit, who was gravely injured for life, in circumstances that must come very close to his memory ? That type of case is the type that will be adversely affected by what he has proposed. I do not think that it is defensible and I hope that he will not try to defend it.

Mrs. Gillan : I am pleased to have an opportunity to contribute to the debate on new clause 1.

The scheme that we operate in the United Kingdom not only was the first of its type in Europe, but has remained

Mr. Trimble : I heard the hon. Lady refer to the scheme that we operate being the first in the United Kingdom, but the scheme that operates in Great Britain was not the first. Schemes operated in Ireland and Northern Ireland on a statutory basis for decades, if not centuries. I give the hon. Lady the opportunity to correct herself.

Mrs. Gillan : I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention, but Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom ; this was one of the first schemes to operate in Europe and it certainly remains the most generous.

Even in the United States of America, in the most recent year for which figures were available the amount paid under compensation schemes was only marginally more than the total paid out in the United Kingdom. It is somewhat disingenuous for Opposition Members to say that we may be in contravention of European legislation because, as I understand it, Italy does not even have a compensation scheme. Indeed, during 1992 and 1993 the compensation scheme in the United Kingdom paid out more than those in all the other countries of the European Union put together.

The changes being made to move to a tariff-based scheme are necessary. There are inherent disadvantages in a scheme which operates under common law. Moreover, as everyone will agree, the number of claimants has, sadly, greatly increased. The projected figure for next year is some 70,000 claims.

Mr. Gerald Bermingham (St. Helens, South) : If I were working on a building site and dropped a sledgehammer on the hon. Lady's leg and broke it, she would get the necessary civil compensation. She would receive compensation if she could no longer dance and for any drop in earnings. But if I became so angry that I smashed the sledgehammer into your leg in a criminal way, you would not get all that compensation. Is there any justification in that ?

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Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman is not saying that he would get angry with me.

Mrs. Gillan : The thought of the hon. Member wielding a hammer on a building site leaves me speechless.

There have been great and unacceptable delays in awarding compensation to victims of crime. In December 1993 Roger Pannone, president of the Law Society, admitted that the average claim turnaround was 18 months. Most reasonable people would agree that that is far too long to wait for compensation.

Mr. Maclennan : Will the hon. Lady give way ?

Mrs. Gillan : No, I wish to make some progress now.

Mr. Maclennan : Will the hon. Lady give way on that point ?

Mrs. Gillan : Very well.

Mr. Maclennan : She must know that the chairman of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board has made it plain that 80 per cent. of cases are dealt with within nine months.

Mrs. Gillan : I made it clear that I was quoting the president of the Law Society.

Mr. Campbell-Savours : Central Office brief.

Mrs. Gillan : For the hon. Gentleman's information, I have no Central Office brief in my hand.

The hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) also underestimated the current position when he referred to approximately £500 million being available as it was made clear in a House of Lords reply that over the next three years £558 million will be available for the scheme. People who claim against the scheme do not have to identify their attackers, consider their prospects for success or run the risk of having costs awarded, as they would under a civil scheme. That will continue. Moreover, 94 per cent. of all claims are for less than £10, 000 ; 59 per cent. are for less than £3,000 ; and 48 per cent. are for less than £2,000. The new tariff-based scheme has been arrived at by taking the median figure, not the mean figure, which reflects more closely the value of pain and suffering as an element of the award. Some of the objections voiced by people such as the president of the Law Society may reflect the fact that, under the new scheme, the costly skills of specialist lawyers will no longer be needed. I welcome the tariff-based scheme. It will produce awards reasonably quickly and in an understandable and predictable manner, which will be much better for victims of crime.

Mr. Campbell-Savours : I am sponsored by Unison, which means that I, personally, receive no moneys from Unison ; they are paid to my constituency party.

Unison is extremely angry with this proposal because its members--mainly nurses--are often the subject of attacks at the workplace. Public sector workers such as Unison members risk suffering criminal assaults at work. The tariff scheme is therefore likely to lead to considerable injustice to Unison members in the amount of payment. No weight can be given to the effect that an incident will have on an individual victim. Individuals will receive "the average award" for their injuries, irrespective of the consequences that the injury has had on them.

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One Unison member received compensation by presenting evidence of her physiological discomfort following a modest physical injury sustained while on duty in a locked psychiatric ward. The award was initially rejected on the basis that it was below the £1,000 threshold for compensation. On appeal, under the present scheme, however, evidence was heard that the individual had experienced enormous psychological suffering on her return to work in the same closed environment and on having to deal with her assailant. Under the new system, that evidence would be discounted and the member would not qualify for compensation.

I will give a little more detail about the case to which my hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) referred. The exclusion of financial loss from the scheme will have a dramatic effect on the value of awards. For instance, compensation received by a Unison nursing sister who had to retire in her early thirties as a result of criminal injury was made up largely of financial loss. Of a total award of £126,943, £11,000 related to loss of wages up to the date of the hearing, £20,000 related to loss of pension rights and £63,162 related to future loss of earnings. Under the new arrangement, the nursing sister could recover no compensation for financial loss. Unison members, especially nurses, will be placed at a grave disadvantage. I therefore place on record, on behalf of the union, its members' strong resentment of the fact that the policy was developed in a forum where the unions had almost no input and that they are now faced with the framing of poor legislation.

Mr. Shersby : As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and my hon. Friend the Minister of State will know, I am not an enthusiast of the tariff-based scheme. I made my views on the matter extremely clear in an Adjournment debate on 18 March 1993, when I covered many of the points mentioned today. It so happens that, among my many interests, I am president of the Uxbridge victim support scheme and therefore take a special interest in victim compensation and the terrible injuries sustained by members of the public.

Some 90 per cent. of victims of crime are innocent. When the Government announced about 12 months ago that they intended to introduce this tariff- based scheme, they argued that it would provide the best prospect of quicker payment to claimants by clear, straightforward and understandable means. Following their announcement, I decided to raise the matter in an Adjournment debate because I believe that compensation by the state for criminal injustice is a vital part of our British way of life and that we should take care before moving away from the present satisfactory scheme. Although the proposed scheme may be quicker, it may provide claimants with what I can only describe, and what has been described to me, as rough justice.

Mr. Michael Stephen (Shoreham) : Is my hon. Friend aware that about 8.5 per cent. of all the money that the Government put into the criminal injuries compensation scheme goes on lawyers' fees and administrative costs ? Would he not be in favour of a system which ensured that most, if not all, of the money went to the victims themselves ?

Mr. Shersby : I am grateful to my hon. Friend, but I suggest that there are good reasons why that 8.5 per cent. is deployed on lawyers' fees. Under the present scheme,

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each case is carefully considered by a highly competent lawyer to determine the exact compensation that ought to be paid.

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It is worth considering why the criminal injuries compensation scheme was brought into existence by a Conservative Government in 1964. It was realised that most of the victims of crime could not bring civil proceedings for compensation against their assailants because those assailants would be without funds. The Government of the day recognised that there was an increasing number of crimes, and the scheme was a recognition of how society had failed the victim by allowing him or her to be assaulted. That being so, it was only right that Governments should ensure that victims received compensation, and they have done so ever since the scheme was introduced. Compensation is treated by victims as an important part of their recovery, fulfilling their desire for some sort of justice. The payment of compensation, coupled with successful prosecution of the offender, is usually a large factor in a person's recovery. One important feature of the tariff-based scheme is the fact that it prohibits the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board from making awards for the loss of past or future earnings. I hope that I am wrong, but if not, that means that 90 per cent. of civilian applicants who suffer injuries so serious that they are unable to earn their livelihood will be obliged to rely on social security benefits, which would not usually make up the shortfall in their income. It would not be right for any new scheme to deprive the innocent victims of crime of the right to recover income lost due to violent crime. Indeed, that is one of the cardinal reasons why the current scheme has been well regarded throughout the country. The essence of the tariff-based scheme is that it identifies types of injury, giving standard figures for damages for each injury--rather like the Northern Ireland model, which was mentioned earlier and which has been in existence for some time.

Mr. Trimble indicated dissent .

Mr. Shersby : That is certainly the advice that I have received from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board. My concern, therefore, is that if we move to a tariff-based scheme a number of anomalies will appear.

In the guidance given to the CICB by the Judicial Studies Board, types of injury are identified and, according the seriousness of the injury, given a bracket within which compensation would be appropriate. Those brackets are often wide, because it is recognised that each individual experiences a different type of injury, and the compensation received should take account of that. One broken arm can be quite different from another, depending on the circumstances in which it was broken--as the hon. Member for St. Helens, South (Mr. Bermingham) was at pains to point out to my hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Ms Gillan). The present scheme allows experienced lawyers to study all aspects of a case. That is the job that they are paid for and they do it very well. The scheme over which they have presided is fair and puts the victim of a criminal in roughly the same position as a civil claimant.

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It must be remembered that there can be no duplication of state benefits. All benefits paid by the state, all private pensions and much private insurance are counted as credit against damages, to reduce the state's outlay under the present system. If a victim is injured by a motor car used as a weapon--in other words, the person is deliberately run down--he can apply to the Motor Insurers Bureau for compensation under common law. But if a victim is injured by a very different piece of metal such as a crowbar--we would all deplore that, but it happens all too frequently these days--he would have to apply to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board and he would obtain much less by way of damages. Can that be justified ? We should at the very least be concerned about it.

My other worry derives form the fact that it would be impossible to provide any meaningful tariff for many of the types of injury that people incur. Let us take, for instance, the horrible experiences of facial and bodily scarring, post-traumatic stress disorder, or sexual abuse, including rape-- these are all obvious examples of what I am talking about. How can any standard figure be set for such injuries ? Why should not the present system continue, under which the damages are assessed by one of the lawyers to whom my hon. Friend the Member for Shoreham (Mr. Stephen) referred ? I remind the House that the lawyers concerned are usually Queen's Counsel and very experienced in their jobs.

What is the basic reason for the tariff-based scheme that my right hon. and learned Friend wishes to introduce ? It is to save money, a perfectly respectable objective for any Home Secretary. There is no doubt that the cost of compensating victims for criminal injuries has been rising inexorably in the past few years, and is set to continue rising. A tariff- based scheme will ensure that the costs of compensation gradually flatten out and do not increase in line with the projections made for the present scheme. Obviously any Cabinet Minister has to take account of these matters and must listen to what the Treasury says about them. I have no objection to that. My right hon. and learned Friend has given many fine demonstrations of standing up to the Treasury, and I believe that on this occasion it is important that he do so again and say, "I am sorry, but we cannot go down this path."

If the Treasury wants to save money, I invite Treasury Ministers to come to any meeting of the Public Accounts Committee, on which the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) and I have the pleasure of serving. We could have offered my right hon. and learned Friend £48 million a couple of weeks ago from the Department of Employment's Field system, £43 million from the Wessex health authority, or a few hundred thousand pounds from the Development Board for Rural Wales. The list is endless. The PAC has identified savings of about £208 million a year ; that is not chicken feed, and it would go quite a long way towards keeping the present scheme going.

All hon. Members who have spoken today have approached this difficult issue on what I would call a House of Commons basis. What we are considering is fundamental to the way in which victims are compensated and we should be very careful before we move away from the scheme that we have.

My hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham spoke of delays in settling claims. I have been reading the reports of the CICB ; The figures for the year ending 31 March 1992 show that the board received about

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61,400 applications, as against 50,820 in 1990-91. As the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland pointed out, 80 per cent. of those claims were settled within nine months. That is a fine record. I do not for a moment accept that the argument that a tariff-based scheme will lead to much quicker settlement of claims is sufficient to justify the diminution of available benefits. A parent came to see me in my constituency the other night whose son had lost the sight of his eye because he had been stabbed by a youth. He received £18,000 compensation. Would he have got that much under the tariff-based scheme ? I think not.

I am sorry to have to disagree with my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary. On many occasions recently I have given him my full and unqualified support for just about every feature of the Bill, but I regret that I am unable to be enthusiastic about his proposed scheme and I shall find it difficult to support it.

Mr. Bermingham : I start by posing again the question that I put to the hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs. Gillan) in whose speech I intervened. I asked why the compensation paid to a person for criminal injury should be different from that paid to someone who suffers a civil injury.

I declare two interests. First, I am sponsored by the GMB which merely contributes towards my election expenses and pays a small sum per year towards constituency costs. Secondly, I am a practising lawyer.

Many members of the union that sponsors me work in jobs in which assaults take place. Members of the union that sponsors my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) are also regularly assaulted.

Sometimes one cannot immediately assess or "tarrify"--whatever word one wants to use--an injury because some injuries are stress related, and how can one assess continuing damage ? For some people who are injured as a result of criminal assaults there is no recovery. That is sad, but it shows the sort of world in which we live. The Government are dedicated to the fight against--or rather the fight for law and order and against crime.

Mr. Graham Allen (Nottingham, North) : My hon. Friend was right first time.

Mr. Bermingham : I know. It was a Freudian slip.

The Government say that they are dedicated to defeating crime, but their proposals make it appear that they are dedicated to penalising the victim. The hon. Member for Shoreham (Mr. Stephen) said that 8.5 per cent. of compensation scheme money went to lawyers. If the hon. Gentleman had any knowledge of what has to be done in the preparation of a criminal injuries compensation claim he would not make such a statement. Sometimes the forms are complicated and a great deal of information is required. There is no legal aid and costs are not paid. Therefore, the victims often pay the cost of assembling the evidence to substantiate their claims.

Injuries may be complex. I shall give an example of many years ago from my own knowledge. A young lady was struck with an iron bar outside a night club. On the face of it, there appeared to be a tiny fracture to her skull. No doubt on the tariff system a small sum would have been paid. But it was later discovered that she also had a fracture to the base of the skull and brain fluid was leaking down into the spinal column, causing infection. The ultimate injury to her was massive. Her loss of amenity was

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