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Column 678effectively the destruction of her life, because she could no longer work, dance or look after her family. Under the proposals, a straight tariff would be paid. Under the present system, such loss of amenities is added to the claim and covered.
Can the Government justifiably say that, although someone injured in a civil accident should be properly compensated, a person injured in a criminal attack should not ? I know from the report some years ago on the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board by the Select Committee on Home Affairs, on which I sat, that most of the claims are for small amounts. Most are settled rapidly because the injuries are readily identifiable. However, for the small proportion of claims that cannot be readily identified or readily quantified, delay is not a problem. There are interim payments.
I can tell the hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham that, unless one wishes to be negligent, a motor accident claim is never settled until the full extent of the loss is known. Hon. Members should not pray in aid delay as a reason for destroying the rights of citizens to proper compensation when they have been criminally injured. A civilised society tends to look after the victim. The Home Secretary's proposal is not in aid of the victim but against him. It is a disgrace and it ought to be stopped.
Sir Ivan Lawrence (Burton) : I had not intended to speak, but, as the debate seems to be one sided, for the sake of fairness something should be said about the Government's justifiable reasons for taking this step. We are debating victims, and no Government have ever done as much for victims as this one. Not only have we paid out and helped in numerous ways more victims than ever before, but, compared with other countries, our help for victims is outstanding. We provide 20 times the rate provided by the Germans and about seven times as much as that provided by the French. The Italians do not even have a scheme.
We should not get too worked up on the premise that nothing is being done for victims. Not only do we give them money and support, but there is a victims charter to make sure that they are much better cared for than ever before. We have advice and counselling systems and we give substantial sums for victim support. I think that the figure this year approaches £10 million. Victim support agencies are not wholly opposed to the proposal because they see that there is an advantage in speeding up delivery of the system.
One result of all that the Government are doing for victims is showing forth. It is that more people than ever are reporting crime, for the simple reason that we have a much better attitude towards victims than has ever been displayed by any previous Government. I now come to the main point of contention.
Mr. Harry Barnes (Derbyshire, North-East) : If we are doing so well and if the compensation is so honourable and decent, why are we making changes ?
Sir Ivan Lawrence : I am about to deal with the system. I said that I would do that and the hon. Gentleman, who has not been here for most of the debate, suddenly got up and asked questions [Interruption.]
Mr. Barnes rose
Sir Ivan Lawrence : Very well, I concede that the hon. Gentleman has been here from beginning to end.
If hon. Members listen, perhaps they will hear the answers to their questions. The principal attack is that the tariff system which is to be imposed will somehow cause an injustice. The hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) conceded that most victims will be as well, or perhaps even better, off, but he said that thousands would lose. There are two ways in which one can lose. There is a loss if the amount of money a victim is to receive now is cut. There is also a loss if a victim has to wait indefinitely for a payment that is due. The hon. Member for St. Helens, South (Mr. Bermingham) shakes his head and winces. I am delighted that he is here to take part in the debate, because I know, as he knows, that one of the greatest complaints from both of us over the years is about the slowness of the payment of legal aid fees. He and I would much rather go to a cash delivery desk immediately we have finished a case and say, "Pay out £100" than wait for 12 or 18 months for £150 [Interruption.] I assure the hon. Gentleman that under that system that was all I got. People would rather have the money in their hands now than have to wait indefinitely for perhaps a larger sum. I agree that having to wait for 18 months for the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board to pay out is a disgrace. Even if 80 per cent. is paid out in nine months, it is still a disgrace. That disgrace comes about because there is a backlog of 81,000 people waiting for some payment. The system has become overweight and inefficient. It is not delivering justice because people have to wait too long for payment. Opposition Members say that there is something horrible, unpleasant and unacceptable about a tariff system but all these payments are made according to a tariff system. That is how it works. The courts use a tariff system, as does the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board. We are not substituting a tariff for a non-tariff system but a statutory tariff system for a judicial tariff system, which is not the same objection. If a statutory tariff system delivers more money, more quickly to more people, that will be the justification for my right hon. and learned Friend's plan.
The proposal will not cut the money paid out. My right hon. and learned Friend has already given an undertaking that the new scheme will pay out £500 million more over the next three years. It will make payment quicker and more certain. Recipients will be able to make disposition as to how they will spend the money because they will know months, sometimes years, in advance how much it will be.
Ms Jean Corston (Bristol, East) : Is the hon. and learned Gentleman, as a respected lawyer, saying that he does not see the relevance to applicants under the CICB scheme of damages for handicap in the labour market ?
Sir Ivan Lawrence : I have not mentioned handicap in the labour market. I was arguing that if we can devise a tariff system that will deliver more benefit to more people more quickly, that is its justification. The judicial way of making assessments is not necessarily the best, because it is the slower way and does not necessarily deliver more ultimately.
The hon. Member for Sedgefield made a specific complaint about loss of earnings not being taken into account, but it will, indirectly, because the new tariffs will be assessed--there is a mathematical calculation--
Column 680according to what the tariffs have been over a period. Those tariffs take into account awards that were made, including loss of earnings. As the new assessment will be based on the old assessment, which included loss of earnings, that element will be included. I agree that the new system may not be perfect. I do not like it--I like more work for lawyers. At the end of the day, however, more work for lawyers is less important than providing a benefit to victims. After a year or two, there may be a few pounds more in loss of earnings, but that accounts for a small proportion of total awards made. Loss of earnings have not accounted for half the value of an award, but only a minute proportion- -some of which, perhaps the larger part, will indirectly be taken into account by the new tariff. It is easy for lawyers, pressure groups and Opposition Members, who always have an axe to grind--I do not blame them-- to oppose the scheme. In a perfect world, such a scheme would not be needed. In a perfect world, more lawyers could do more work and earn more money, and awards could be tailored to the needs of the individual. But it is not a perfect world. What is most imperfect is that victims do not receive their payments for months and months. Almost anything that we can do in a reasonable system to speed the delivery of more money to more people is justified. All those who agree with that proposition will support my right hon. and learned Friend in the Lobby.
Mr. Trimble : The hon. and learned Member for Burton (Sir I. Lawrence) tried to defend the Government's proposal, partly on the ground that it will cut delay--but that is often caused by the need to ascertain the extent of the injury and to be certain of an injured person's prognosis. Consequently, an element of delay is inevitable. If one compares delay in the payment of criminal injuries compensation with the delay that occurs in civil actions, it is clear that the latter is greater. While it is desirable to reduce delay, it is an inevitable element, so that point is overdone.
The hon. and learned Gentleman stated accurately that courts operate a tariff system with regard to loss of amenity, pain and suffering--but there is no tariff system with regard to loss of earnings. The hon. and learned Gentleman said that it played only a small part in criminal injury compensation in the past. That must be because the injuries were largely non-incapacitating. Where there is serious injury leading to loss of earnings, the need for fair compensation is greatest.
While some elements of the scheme must be conventional and have a tariff element, with other aspects of it a tariff is totally inappropriate. Justice demands that individual circumstances are properly taken into account. It must be obvious from my remarks that I consider the Government's proposals to be retrograde.
I am almost entirely in agreement with the criticisms and remarks of the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair), except when he said that the scheme operating in England and Scotland is the best in the world. It is not as good as that which operates in Northern Ireland. I must point out to the hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs. Gillan) that the Northern Ireland scheme is quite different. It is a statutory scheme and has a tariff element
Mr. Trimble : Of course it does, but it also offers compensation for loss of earnings. As a statutory scheme, it also offers the right to compensation. It has always been a statutory scheme, dating back to the 18th century. It offers a right of appeal to the courts. On all three counts, and certainly the last two, it is preferable to the English and Scottish scheme.
While I appreciate that the Home Secretary's scheme would operate only in Great Britain and would not immediately be applicable to Northern Ireland, the scheme's announcement and nature are causing considerable alarm in Northern Ireland. I use the word "alarm" consciously and without exaggeration. As far as I am aware, all relevant bodies in Northern Ireland are worried in case the new scheme is introduced there. They are anxious to ensure that that does not happen. Among those most concerned are members of the security forces, police, Royal Irish Regiment, prison service and so on --many of whom have suffered severe incapacitating injuries over the past few decades. They are anxious that if the new scheme comes to Northern Ireland, they will be left with wholly inadequate compensation to cover their financial loss.
I was interested to note that the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) referred to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland going out to consultation. My memory must be at fault, because I cannot recall the Secretary of State saying anything on that matter, and nor can the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon). That might reflect the way that the Northern Ireland Office habitually works. I wrote to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland nearly two months ago, but have not yet received a reply.
Mr. Barnes : In response to my written question to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the right hon. Member for Westminster, North (Sir J. Wheeler) replied that the Government are
"currently considering what lessons might be learnt for Northern Ireland from the forthcoming changes in the criminal injuries compensation scheme in Great Britain."--[ Official Report , 17 March 1994 ; Vol. 239, c. 844 .]
So it is likely that the scheme is under serious consideration. The right hon. Gentleman said that, prior to the scheme being introduced in Northern Ireland, it will go out for consultation--which did not happen in Great Britain.
Mr. Trimble : I thank the hon. Gentleman for that information, which reflects on the way in which the Northern Ireland Office works. Things often happen without Northern Ireland Members being informed. It is interesting to know the identity of the Minister who replied to the hon. Gentleman's question, because it confirms the suspicions of those who have to deal with the Northern Ireland Office about who is the villain of the piece in attempts to cut compensation in Northern Ireland.
I think that I have said enough to show the anxiety that exists and to make it clear to the Home Secretary that there is real worry about changes to the Northern Ireland system. There will be substantial opposition among members of the Ulster Unionist party and all Northern Ireland Members to any attempt to degrade the system that operates in Northern Ireland by reducing it even to the level of the existing system in England and Wales, let alone to the level of the system that he now proposes.
The best thing that the Home Secretary can do is extend the statutory Northern Ireland scheme to the rest of the
Column 682United Kingdom. It would benefit everyone. If the Home Secretary wishes to cut costs--as the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Shersby) said, it is perfectly legitimate to wish to cut costs--the first thing that he should consider is recovering more from criminals by way of reparation. Not enough is done in that respect.
Many criminals are able to compensate. Many criminals' gains from their criminal activities could be recovered by the state. It is not appropriate or fair to leave it to the victim to pursue the criminal by civil actions. The state can and should do much more. It could recover sums that would go a long way toward defraying the compensation bill. Such a system would probably save as much as, if not more than, the proposed scheme.
Sir Nicholas Fairbairn (Perth and Kinross) : Can the hon. Gentleman tell me of a single case in which someone involved in a diamond robbery, a bank robbery or any other major robbery who is convicted has been made to pay compensation to anyone ?
Mr. Trimble : I thank the hon. and learned Member for that intervention. I am not in a position to answer his question. I am sure that the Home Secretary has heard it and will give him an answer when he replies to the debate.
Mr. Mike O'Brien (Warwickshire, North) : I declare an interest as a parliamentary adviser to the Police Federation. Police officers are among the people who will be most affected by the changes. One in 12 applicants to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board are police officers who have often suffered from the rising toll of assaults with which police officers have to cope.
Criminal injuries compensation is a permanent and substantial programme of public expenditure. Therefore, as a matter of parliamentary propriety, it ought to have statutory authority. The Royal Commission on civil liability and compensation for personal injury and the Public Accounts Committee have made that point. The Criminal Justice Act 1988 made an attempt to put compensation on a statutory basis. The view of Parliament was clear : it wanted a statutory basis. That was expressed in the 1988 Act. The Government have failed for various reasons to implement that provision. Yet Parliament's view is clear. The Government's neglect of the clear view expressed by Parliament, and their attempt to introduce instead an administrative scheme when an Act of Parliament is still on the statute book to deal with the matter, amounts to contemptuous disregard of Parliament and parliamentary propriety.
We are changing the system from one that is commonly regarded, although it has some delays, as attaining a standard of fairness. Parliament should give the full consideration that it gives to a statute to such important changes that would lead to unfairness. Fairness in dealing with the widely differing circumstances of victims is important if victims are not also to see themselves as victims of the unfairness of the system of compensation.
Each case is different ; it has its own factors. A 24-year-old person blinded in a criminal attack, who has a family and two children to support, and is unlikely to be able to carry on his livelihood is in a different position from that of an 80-year-old in an old folks' home who has been injured. The injury may be the same, but the impact on the people injured is different. The law recognises that
Column 683difference and seeks to regard it with fairness. The system of varying tariffs in the common law system recognises the different circumstances of assaults.
Mr. Alan Simpson (Nottingham, South) : Does my hon. Friend agree with the representations made by the CICB to Ministers that the intention throughout the history of the criminal injuries compensation scheme has been to compensate a victim of a crime of violence in exactly the same way as he would have been compensated if he had sued his assailant in the civil courts ? It suggested that, instead of moving towards a scratch-card system of compensation payments, it would be much better to tailor the payment on a structured settlement basis which took precisely the account that my hon. Friend suggested of differences in the impact of injuries throughout a person's life and according to the stage in a person's life at which the injuries occurred.
Mr. O'Brien : That is a much fairer system than that proposed by the Government. When the Home Secretary replies to the debate, will he explain why a person who has been injured by a hit-and-run driver and is entitled to claim against the Motor Insurers Bureau should receive compensation under common law principles that would be denied to a victim of a criminal attack with an iron bar ? What is the moral difference ? The system that the Home Secretary intends to create would result in those two victims receiving different amounts of compensation.
The Government's proposed scheme is about the Treasury saying that it wants money at the expense of the victims of crime. It is about compensation without compassion for victims.
Ms Corston : Does my hon. Friend agree that the game was given away in a letter written on 31 March 1993 by the Minister of State's predecessor, the hon. Member for Fylde (Mr. Jack), to the chairman of the CICB, Lord Carlisle, in which he said :
"The tariff scheme will not therefore aim to compensate' people in the same way as before. It will however maintain the underlying purpose of the scheme which is to provide a tangible recognition of Society's sympathy and concern for the victim" ?
Does my hon. Friend agree that "sympathy and concern" do not pay the mortgage ? Is he aware that a Conservative Member who saw me reading a brief from the CICB expressed the view that the new scheme would have the same effect on the Government as the Child Support Agency--the new scheme would go through and the Government would live to regret it ?
Mr. O'Brien : I hope that the Government do regret it. The proposals are a betrayal of the people about whom the Government have trumpeted their concern for so many months. They will rob those who have suffered the worst and most serious injuries of the fair compensation that was part of a criminal justice system which otherwise does little or nothing for victims.
Although speed of delivery is important, it should not be bought at the price of unfairness and injustice in the quality of what is delivered. Speeding up the process can be done without arbitrary tariffs. The Government say that the new scheme will be much quicker, but that is not necessarily the case. The main cause of delay is often the receipt of medical reports, police reports and certificates.
Column 684The Government's scheme will do little or nothing about that. The very small savings in time will not be sufficient to justify the increased unfairness that the system creates.
I shall give a few examples of unfairness. I have many examples, but I shall give only a few because I do not want to delay the House. In the case of Storier, a 34-year-old police constable was assaulted in April 1988 and suffered permanent damage to the base of his spine. He lost his job in December 1990 and was unable to work again. He received damages of £21,000 under the old scheme, but would receive £7,500 under the Government's new scheme.
In the case of Parslow, a Birmingham security officer was assaulted by robbers and received severe leg injuries. His compensation under the old scheme was £74,500. Under the new scheme, it would be £5,000. In the case of Burleigh, a man received a brain injury after being hit with a snooker cue. The compensation under the old scheme was £500,000. Under the new scheme, it would be less than half that. A recent analysis of the case of Colin Hickman, a solicitor who was recently stabbed to death, shows that under the old scheme his compensation would have amounted, because of his earnings and circumstances, to about £100,000. Under the new scheme, a fatality amounts to £10,000. The new scheme is a betrayal of victims and victims' families.
The tariffs were arrived at by studying the median award for each case. The median was used because it did not, in the words of the White Paper,
"distort by factors such as loss of earnings".
In other words, the scheme will say to future victims of crime who are unable to work for lengthy periods--perhaps never again--"Tough luck, mate". In a sense, that is precisely the message that the Home Secretary is sending victims : "Tough luck--my mates down at the Treasury want some more money, and you are going to have to pay the price".
The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Michael Howard) : The new clauses have a common theme : in one way or anothe they are designed to prevent the introduction of our new tariff scheme for criminal injuries compensation on 1 April.
I remind the House that the present scheme for compensating victims of crime was designed no fewer than 30 years ago. In 1965-66, the first full year of the scheme, 2,452 applications were made to the board, and the amount of compensation paid totalled £400,000. Since then, there has been a staggering increase in both the number of new applications and the compensation paid.
For example, by 1987-88--when the Criminal Justice Bill that included provisions to make the present scheme statutory was passing through Parliament--there were 43,000 applications to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, and the amount of compensation paid had risen from £400,000 to £52 million. By 1992-93, the number of applications had increased by a further 50 per cent. to 66,000, and the amount of compensation had increased threefold from the 1987-88 figure to £152 million. In 1993-94, that figure will be around £170 million--a further increase of 12 per cent.
The current scheme was not intended to cope with that volume of business. Change is, therefore, needed to provide a simpler, faster and more transparent service for victims.
Column 685If we are talking of the speed with which claims are settled, we should at least proceed on an accurate basis. I do not know the origin of the figure introduced into the debate by, I think, the hon. Member for St. Helens, South (Mr. Bermingham), who suggested that 80 per cent. of claims were settled within nine months. I have the board's latest report in front of me : it gives the percentage of cases resolved within three, six and nine months. The figure given for claims settled within nine months is 30.6 per cent. That is an improvement on the 1991-92 figure, which was only 26.8 per cent., but it falls far short of the 80 per cent. cited, for some reason, by the hon. Gentleman. Clearly, it leaves considerable room for further improvement.
Mr. John Gunnell (Morley and Leeds, South) rose
Mr. Howard : I am happy to give way to the hon. Gentleman, while the hon. Member for St. Helens, South is thinking about what I have said.
Mr. Gunnell : The Home Secretary has complained about the increase in volume and cost. Would he say that that was out of proportion to the increase in crime that has occurred over the same period, along with an increase in inflation ?
Mr. Howard : It is hugely out of proportion to the increase in crime. Between 1965-66 and 1992-93, violent crime increased fivefold--an appalling statistic. The number of applications to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board increased by a multiple of 27, and the amount of compensation from the board increased by a multiple of 378.
Mr. Blair : As far as I know, the authority for the statistic that a decision is given within nine months in 80 per cent. of cases can be found in a speech made by Lord Carlisle in the other place. He is, after all, chairman of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, and that is precisely what he said.
Mr. Howard : If the hon. Gentleman consults paragraph 6.2 of the board's 29th report, entitled "Accounts for the year ended 31 March 1993", he will see a table, very clearly set out, showing the time taken to process applications to the relevant stage for each year that is given. I hope that he will then see that my arithmetic--the calculation that I have made during the debate--is accurate.
Mr. Maclennan : Perhaps the Home Secretary will tell us what period is covered by that report. Lord Carlisle was absolutely clear about the matter when he said :
"I remind the Minister that that has now dramatically changed and that in 80 per cent. of all our applications a decision is now given to the victim within a nine-month period."-- [ Official Report , House of Lords, 2 March 1994 ; Vol. 552, c. 1083.]
Mr. Howard : The year that I quoted was 1992-93, the latest for which full figures are available. The calculation that I made was accurate for that year.
Mr. Bermingham : Given that I caused all this discussion, let me remind the Home Secretary that figures in reports are often misleading. It is a question of the decision that is made, rather than the sum paid. The decision that someone is entitled to an award is crucial, rather than the date on which the sum is paid. I think that
Column 686Lord Carlisle would agree. I merely suggest that the Home Secretary should be wary of figures, which can often cause problems even for Home Secretaries.
Mr. Howard : With respect to the hon. Gentleman, they have not done so on this occasion. Paragraph 6.1 provides the following definition of the time involved :
"A case is considered to have been resolved either when the applicant accepts the Board's assessment or, in the case of applications which have been disallowed and no application for a hearing has been lodged, three months after the date of notification of the decision."
There is no question of taking the date of payment as the relevant decision, as the hon. Gentleman suggested.
Mr. Bermingham : That is not what I am saying. I am saying, very simply, that it is a case of the decision. The decision may be to refuse, which is non-appealed ; a decision to grant compensation may be further delayed because of assessment. Those are the dates that I am taking into account, not the date of payment.
Mr. Howard : As I have made plain to the hon. Gentleman, the date of payment does not enter into the matter ; it is not part of the definition set out in paragraph 6.1 of the report, which is the definition that I am using. The reference to payment is a complete irrelevance, as it was never part of the figures that I cited. I make no bones about the fact that change is also needed to control the costs of compensation, which are becoming unsustainable. We estimate that, without reform, the annual cost of the present arrangements could be in the region of £500 million by the end of the decade. Under the new tariff scheme, the cost is likely to be about £250 million--still a very large sum by the standards of any other state scheme. My hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs. Gillan) gave the figures for some other countries ; my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Sir I. Lawrence) pointed out that Italy has no scheme at all.
Our scheme will remain the most generous state scheme anywhere, as it is now. We pay more compensation than all the other European Union countries put together--and that will continue under our proposed new arrangements.
We all know that, in the real world, resources are not unlimited. If we retained the present arrangements, the amount spent on compensation between now and the year 2001 would be about £2.5 billion. That level of expenditure is simply not sustainable, which is one of the reasons why we need a radically different approach--and why we need it quickly. The tariff scheme will achieve that. Under the tariff scheme, about £1.4 billion is expected to be spent on compensation between now and the year 2001--over £1 billion less than under the current scheme. I make no apologies for stating that bluntly. It is vital to secure the best value for what is, after all, still a huge amount of taxpayers' money. That is an objective which any prudent and responsible Government should always bear in mind. If the current scheme continued, the taxpayer would have to provide an extra £250 million a year by the end of the century. Is the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) committing the Labour party to that extra expenditure ? He should choose his words with care. He should remember that under the Dunfermline doctrine, which was laid down by the shadow Chancellor, even though nothing said outside this Chamber counts, anything that is said here does count. The hon. Gentleman and his colleagues can
Column 687traipse around the broadcasting studios making pledge after pledge, but they will not count for a bean under the Dunfermline doctrine. On the other hand, anything that is said here will be used in evidence, as even the hon. Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown) concedes. The Government want a scheme that is generous, as ours is and will continue to be, while ensuring that it offers victims an effective service. That means an efficient scheme that will remain affordable in the future. A scheme based on common law damages, which is time consuming and complex to administer, and under which the average award has risen each year by 5 per cent. more than the rate of inflation, can no longer provide that service. The time has come for a simpler, more straightforward scheme that is easier to administer, gets awards to claimants more quickly, and does all that within a realistic and controllable budget. That is exactly what our tariff scheme aims to do.
In future, as hon. Members know, payments will be made from a tariff of awards for injuries of comparable severity. All eligible applicants with the same injury will receive the same award. They will be able to see from the tariff how much that award is likely to be, and they will receive their compensation more quickly and with less fuss. It is inevitable that some people will get less under the new scheme than under the present one, but most claimants will receive as much as, or more than, they would under the current arrangements. At least 54 per cent. will be in that position when the tariff scheme is introduced. A further 16 per cent. will lose £500 or less, and--an important consideration to many victims--they will get their awards more quickly.
Much has been made of the few cases in which applicants will not receive large sums for loss of earnings and future medical care, which might have been payable under the existing scheme.
Sir Nicholas Fairbairn : There are two matters that I should like my right hon. and learned Friend to address. First, what burden of proof is required to establish that injuries are genuine and claims are not false ? Secondly, would not a system of appeal--by the Crown in the case of the effects of injury becoming less severe, and by the victim in the case of the effects of injury worsening--get over the difficulty caused by payments being made too quickly ?
Mr. Howard : I do not quite follow the logic of my hon. and learned Friend's second point. With regard to the first, the burden of proof is the balance of probabilities.
I was explaining that we have set a generous upper limit of £250, 000 for awards. In the past three years, out of a total of 180,000 applications, just seven awards a year have, on average, exceeded that sum. Nor should it be forgotten that the criminal injuries compensation scheme is not the only source of state aid for those who have suffered criminal injuries. Such people also receive generous and long-term support from the national health service and from the Department of Social Security, and many occupational groups benefit from generous sick pay and pension schemes. Nor should we forget that there are many other kinds of injury or misfortune for which there is not and never has been a special state scheme of help.
From what I have said, it will be clear that we do not accept the thrust of the amendments. Nor do we accept the
Column 688argument that, in seeking to change the basis of the criminal injuries compensation scheme while the provisions of the Criminal Justice Act 1980 remain unimplemented, we have in some way acted improperly or unlawfully. As that matter is currently before the courts, it would not be proper for me to comment further on it. I do not say that the tariff scheme may not be capable of improvement. We have already made it clear that we shall monitor very closely the way it works and will be ready to listen to the views of responsible bodies and practitioners about how it might be improved. If we need to make changes or refinements, we will. Once the new scheme has settled down and can be seen to be working effectively, we shall be better placed to consider giving statutory force to the new arrangements. But the new arrangements constitute a framework within which claims will be quantified more simply, settled more speedily, ensure that more than 50 per cent. of claimants get at least as much as they do under the present scheme and yet cost the taxpayer substantially less than would have been the case had the present arrangements continued.
On that basis, I ask the House to reject the new clauses.
Mr. Blair : My reply will be very brief. The Home Secretary has given only two reasons for proceeding with the new scheme. The first is that it will be simpler, faster and more transparent for victims. That argument has been rejected by every victims' organisation. It is absurd to pretend that the scheme is being introduced for the benefit of victims, when the organisations that deal with victims unanimously decry its nature.
The second reason is that this is all about cutting costs. If that is the real reason--and I suggest that it is--the wretchedly deceptive White Paper should never have been issued, and we should have had proper consultation with the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board and others to work out some better type of scheme.
The introduction of the scheme in this way is, in our view, wholly reprehensible. If the number of applications for criminal injuries compensation has soared, the answer is not to cut support for victims but to take measures to cut the crime that gives rise to the applications. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has entirely failed to answer our case. We shall press the new clause to a Division, and I ask my hon. Friends and others who believe in the case of victims to support it.
Question put , That the clause be read a Second time :
The House divided : Ayes 269, Noes 296.
Division No. 181] [6.56 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane
Adams, Mrs Irene
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale)
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy
Banks, Tony (Newham NW)
Beckett, Rt Hon Margaret
Beith, Rt Hon A. J.
Bennett, Andrew F.
Bray, Dr Jeremy
Brown, Gordon (Dunfermline E)
Brown, N. (N'c'tle upon Tyne E)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Campbell-Savours, D. N.