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House of Commons

Friday 5 February 2016

The House met at half-past Nine o’clock


[Mr Speaker in the Chair]

death of a member

Mr Speaker: It is with great sadness that I must report to the House the death of Harry Harpham, the hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough. Harry entered the House at the last general election, following careers as a miner, a researcher for David Blunkett, now Lord Blunkett, and a representative of the National Union of Mineworkers at Clipstone colliery. Harry was also a councillor on Sheffield City Council for 15 years, holding important cabinet responsibilities in that time, and serving as deputy leader of the council. Harry was a diligent constituency Member of Parliament, who held the Executive to account on behalf of his constituents. Most recently, on Wednesday 20 January, he asked the Prime Minister what support the Government were providing to world-class companies such as Sheffield Forgemasters.

I must tell the House that Harry informed me a few weeks ago of his circumstances. Let it be recorded that he first fought bravely his illness, and then bore it with stoicism and fortitude, continuing to battle on behalf of his constituents to the very end. Harry will be sadly missed by us all, and our thoughts are with Harry’s wife, Gill, and the wider family at this very sad time.

Mr David Nuttall (Bury North) (Con): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. As the House knows, I come from Sheffield, which is where I was born and brought up, so I associate myself—as, I am sure, does the whole House—with your remarks. I offer my condolences to the family of Harry Harpham and to all those who knew him. It is a tragedy that he spent so little time with us in this House, and that we have been robbed of his help and advice. We will all mourn his loss today.

Mr Speaker: I thank the hon. Gentleman for what he has appropriately and graciously said.

Mr Nuttall: On a further point of order, I beg to move, That the House sit in private.

Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 163), and negatived.

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Riot Compensation Bill

Consideration of Bill, not amended in the Public Bill Committee.

Clause 3

Regulations about claims procedure

9.34 am

Mike Wood (Dudley South) (Con): I beg to move amendment 1, page 3, line 16, at end insert—

‘( ) Regulations under subsection (3)(b) or (3)(d) must provide that—

(a) the time period within which a claim may be made ends no earlier than 42 days from the date of the riot;

(b) the time period within which details and evidence must be submitted ends no earlier than 90 days from the date the claimant first made the claim.”

Mr Speaker: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 2, in clause 8, page 5, line 23, at end insert

“, except in the circumstances described in subsection (2A).

‘(2A) Where a claimant’s home is rendered uninhabitable, the amount of compensation may reflect costs that the claimant incurs as a result of needing alternative accommodation.”

Amendment 3, in clause 8, page 5, line 26, at end insert—

‘( ) considerations that decision-makers must take into account in deciding the amount of compensation payable as a result of a claimant needing alternative accommodation (and the regulations may include provision limiting the amount of time for which the costs of alternative accommodation may be claimed),”

Amendment 8, in clause 8, page 5, line 29, at end insert—

‘(3A) Money received by the claimant from emergency or recovery funds, whether funded publicly or privately, in the aftermath of a riot must not be taken into account by the decision maker when deciding the amount of compensation to be paid.

This amendment would ensure that money received by the claimant for the purposes of emergency relief or recovery in the immediate aftermath of a riot is not seen in the same category as compensation under the purposes of this Bill and therefore reduce the amount a claimant might receive.

Mike Wood: May I convey my sympathies and add to the tributes that you paid to Harry Harpham, Mr Speaker? I know that the sympathies of all right hon. and hon. Members will be with his family and friends at this difficult time. Even from the short time in which we saw Harry in this House, it is clear what a loss he will be.

Amendment 1 is a consequence of amendments that were tabled by the right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) but not voted on in Committee, and it seeks to clarify and extend the time limit allowed for someone to communicate their intention to make a claim, and the provision of details, evidence and support of such a claim following a riot. Following concerns raised in Committee, the amendment would allow a 42-day period as originally set out in the Bill, but it clarifies that that is from the date of the riot. As Ministers

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have made clear, that time limit should come with some flexibility, and I hope that in interpreting the date of the riot, authorities will have the good sense to show flexibility in making that date start at the end of the riot where appropriate, rather than necessarily the date on which the damage was suffered.

The main change in amendment 1 relates to the second period: the 90 days from the date the claimant first made the claim. That would mean, potentially, a minimum of 132 days from the date of loss in which we expect businesses or residents to submit details of their claim and to provide the evidence to support it. I hope that that will provide some reassurance to Members who raised concerns in earlier stages.

Amendments 2 and 3 were tabled following comments made on Second Reading and in Committee, and representations made directly to me outside the Chamber, in particular by the right hon. Member for Tottenham and my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon Central (Gavin Barwell). As I made clear on Second Reading, while there are very good reasons for excluding consequential losses from the claims that can be made against the police in the event of a riot, concerns were raised about what would happen if people’s homes were left uninhabitable following a riot. Social tenants would usually be rehoused and for owner-occupiers with building and contents insurance, the insurance would normally pay for the additional costs of rehousing. However, that would still leave a significant number of people, particularly in the private rented sector, who could find themselves, through absolutely no fault of their own, having to find new housing. They could struggle to find new housing at the same cost as their current mortgage or rent, and that is what amendments 2 and 3 intend to tackle. They seek to cover the costs of alternative accommodation, whether in a bed and breakfast, a hotel or other short-term rent. Amendment 3 clarifies that and allows the regulation that could include in the provision time limits for such additional costs.

During the passage of the Bill, in particular on Second Reading, Members on all sides brought to the attention of the House heart-wrenching stories of hardship as a result of the 2011 riots. Those stories explain the thought process behind amendments 2 and 3. I still do not believe that consequential losses should be covered, but it would not be just if people were made to suffer unnecessarily in their hour of need. I am certainly not prepared to see people effectively rendered homeless while they wait for their homes to be inhabitable once again. I must stress, however, that covering a consequential loss in this way must be the exception, not the rule. It is intended only to assist individuals to recover costs incurred while staying in alternative accommodation following a riot. The details of the provisions will be clarified in regulations.

I turn to amendment 4 tabled by the right hon. Member for Tottenham. At every stage of the Bill, he has raised a number of valid concerns. He has been an extremely effective spokesman for his constituents and for businesses in his constituency. Ministers made clear on Second Reading and in Committee that we would not expect payments made through charitable funds, or other appeals of that kind, to affect the payments made

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through the compensation scheme. It would certainly not be right for such payments to be deducted from compensation due under the Bill.

9.45 am

That said, while I strongly support what the right hon. Member for Tottenham seeks to achieve, I cannot support his amendment because I do not think it would be right to extend the assurances given by Ministers in relation to private funds to also cover public payments, whether from local government or central Government. Having spoken to the right hon. Gentleman, I know that a particular concern is where funds, particularly business-led, have been set up in the private sector and initial funding has come from contributions by local authorities.

Mr David Lammy (Tottenham) (Lab): I am grateful for the manner with which the hon. Gentleman is putting his points. Central Government or local government will often put up the money to persuade big business to get engaged, because businesses want to see match funding. In those circumstances, I am concerned that that money will then be counted against those who go on to claim compensation.

Mike Wood: The right hon. Gentleman makes an extremely important point, one with which I think we would all agree. That is why, to make sure that in that kind of joint venture we do not preclude local authorities or central Government from contributing to what are essentially private, business-led appeals, I would not expect that kind of fund to be deducted from riot compensation payments. This is not a black and white issue, however, and to clarify the issue there are points in the spectrum where that kind of detail is far better placed within regulations rather than in a clause of this kind in the Bill. I therefore cannot support the amendment. It is sensible that payments from public funds should not be provided for the same purpose twice, because we have a duty to limit unnecessary burdens on the taxpayer. The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right in saying that there are occasions when public funds contribute to private appeals. I hope the regulations drawn up to implement the provisions in the clause will allow for such initiatives.

Mr Lammy: Having heard what the hon. Member for Dudley South has had to say this morning, I am satisfied that regulations are the right place for clarity on double funds. I will not press my amendment.

Anne Marie Morris (Newton Abbot) (Con): I rise to give my support to amendments 1, 2 and 3 in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley South (Mike Wood). I congratulate him on his hard work in getting the Bill to this stage. He deserves a great deal of credit.

Amendment 1 seeks to insert substantial time limits into the Bill and introduce a two-tier system for making a claim. That will allow those affected by the riots to register a claim within 42 days of the riots starting and then submit evidence within a further 90 days after that. As my hon. Friend says, that gives those affected 132 days from the start of the riots to make their claim and submit evidence. It is crucial that those affected have adequate time to make their claim, especially considering the likelihood that paperwork and/or laptops will have been destroyed in the riots.

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Riots are not only physically destructive but emotionally draining. With that in mind, it is important to consider the priorities of those forced from their homes and stripped of their possessions. The immediate reaction is probably not to call the insurance company but to be in deep consideration of where they and their families are going to sleep that night and to ensure that everyone in the family is safe and well. Time will also be needed to process what has happened. I have no doubt we have all been in a position where something so distressing has happened that we fail to take in all the details straightaway.

The days available to make a claim also give the police force in an area struck by riots the ability not only to get the community back into some sort of order but to get their own house in order. There may well be internal processes to decide the best way to proceed or establish the date the riot started. I am sure that many cities, since the 2011 riots, will have put in place better protocols. We hope they will not have to use them, but every police force would need time to get everything in order before considering compensation claims. It has taken us 130 years to modernise the law on riot damages and compensation. I am happy we are doing it and that it is being considered in a measured way on both sides of the House. I therefore support amendment 1.

Amendment 2 is another very good amendment. I am thankful that my constituency was fortunate enough not to experience the riots that gripped many areas of the country in 2011. Despite threats on social media of rioting in Exeter, Plymouth and Truro, Bristol was the only area in the south-west unfortunate enough to be confronted with violent disorder. During the riots in London, more than 100 people were forced from their homes, driven from their livelihoods and forced to make alternative arrangements while their homes were under repair. While unfamiliar with riots, the west country is sadly very familiar with flooding. Floods in my constituency in 2012 caused damage to more than 180 homes, with many forced to seek alternative arrangements, so I know how important the provision of alternative accommodation is when exceptional circumstances occur.

A person’s home is at the centre of their life. People’s day-to-day lives revolve around it. The home is a place of stability, and when that is taken away, it is the most traumatic experience, particularly given the circumstances of a riot. Many who were caught up in the riots across the country experienced activity totally unknown to them. Vandalism, arson, violence and theft are not day-to-day happenings, so we need to make the healing process as smooth as possible, which includes support with alternative accommodation, should we face a similar situation again.

Without the amendment, those put at the peril of riotous offenders would be left to pick up the bill for the alternative accommodation required through no fault of their own. I have no doubt that some people who took out insurance will have been told, after their home was destroyed and deemed uninhabitable, that the insurance would not cover the additional costs incurred while essential repairs were carried out on the home. The British Insurance Brokers Association said in 2011 in an article in the Financial Times that

“some insurance policies will also cover people for alternative accommodation costs if they cannot stay in their home”.

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I emphasise the word “some”. It means that some were not covered, and although I am not sure on which side the majority falls, if it affects anyone, it is too many.

The amendment is purely a reflection of the clauses normally included in commercial insurance policies that pay out compensation for financial loss incurred due to disruption. In the instance we refer to, we are compensating the loss of a home incurred due to disruption. Not having a home can inconvenience essential tasks, such as going to work to continue earning or taking children to school. Although neither the amendment nor the Bill replaces insurance, they do provide a safety net for the unexpected circumstances we are all exposed to at some point in life. In the instance of rioting, it is imperative we legislate to compensate people sufficiently, and that is why the amendment is particularly important.

Amendment 3 gives the Secretary of State the power to make regulations setting out the

“considerations that decision-makers must take into account in deciding the amount of compensation payable”.

It is right that she have the power to take these situations into account when making regulations regarding the amount payable to those who need it after riotous behaviour. The ability to curtail the amount one can claim is welcome. Although we must help those who genuinely need support to get back on their feet, we must not allow the taxpayer to pay for the support longer than is necessary.

The extra cost incurred from having to stay in hotels or other rented accommodation would put pressure on most people, but those who have also lost a business are in even greater need of support and assistance. Business owners are the backbone of the British economy, and it is only right that we support them, after they have contributed to our growing economy, by helping them back on their feet and back into their own homes. Of course, the Secretary of State does not have to use the powers—with any luck, she will not have to—but her having them at her disposal will I hope be a comfort to those affected previously by reassuring them that the House has heard their cries for help and support and is taking them seriously. On that note, I add my support to amendments 1, 2 and 3.

Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I tabled a named day written parliamentary question to the Prime Minister for answer today. That question was whether the Prime Minister himself had seen a copy of the draft childhood obesity strategy document, which we suspect the Government have long-grassed. I received a letter from No. 10 Downing Street today advising me that the Prime Minister had asked for the question to be transferred to the Secretary of State for Health for answer. Surely the Prime Minister knows whether the Prime Minister has seen said document. In my 10 years as a Member of the House, I have never been treated with such contempt. Can you advise me whether it is in order for the Prime Minister to refuse to answer a very simple question?

Mr Speaker: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order and his characteristic courtesy in giving me advance notice of his intention to raise it. My initial reaction, off the top of my head, is that it is not disorderly, though it might be considered unhelpful. In my experience, it constitutes a somewhat odd transfer.

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Transfers are commonplace, but where the question is as specific as his, it is an odd, perhaps unconventional transfer that might have been requested by people acting on behalf of the Prime Minister who are perhaps not as well versed in our procedures as the hon. Gentleman is or as the Chair likes to consider himself to be. I advise him to make the short journey from the Chamber to the Table Office to seek guidance on how he can take the matter forward. Knowing him as I do, I think it improbable in the extreme that he will allow the matter to rest there.

Mr Steve Reed (Croydon North) (Lab): Hon. Members will be aware that Croydon was hit very hard in the 2011 riots. Many members of the public, seeing the damage caused to local businesses, homes and property, wanted to help those seeking to recover and deal with the losses incurred, and they generously gave money to a fund set up by the mayor of Croydon for precisely that purpose.

I rise to speak in favour of amendment 8, which was tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy). I am sorry I missed the start of his contribution, but I heard the end, and it was typically magnificent. I would like those who give generously to help their neighbours who have suffered a loss to have the reassurance that the money they contribute will not subsequently be deducted from official compensation payments, but tragically that is exactly what happened in Croydon in 2011. Money was donated to the mayor’s fund and was then distributed to individuals and businesses that had suffered a loss, but those generous payments were then deducted from the official compensation payments that were made. That is clearly wrong and a disincentive to people to give generously, as they did in Croydon to help their friends and neighbours. It is entirely wrong that such generosity should be discouraged by the deduction of those contributions from official payments. I strongly support my right hon. Friend’s amendment, which I hope will have the support of the House.

10 am

Mr David Nuttall (Bury North) (Con): I rise to support amendments 1, 2 and 3, which my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley South (Mike Wood) has tabled. It is encouraging that he took the opportunity afforded to him in Committee to listen to the representations made to him by others and tabled these amendments for consideration this morning. They are relatively modest but important amendments. It is important that the Bill should set out clearly the time period within which claims should be made, as amendment 1 provides, so that there is no confusion and it is not left up to others to make such a determination by way of regulation. It is for the House to decide that claims must be brought within 42 days and further evidence provided within 90 days after that.

I particularly support the intention behind amendment 2. It seems perfectly reasonable that where someone’s home is rendered uninhabitable as a result of a riot, the costs of their moving into alternative accommodation should be taken into account. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for tabling amendment 2 and the consequential amendment, amendment 3.

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Lyn Brown (West Ham) (Lab): If it is okay with you, Mr Speaker, I would like to associate myself with your kind and apposite remarks about Harry. My sympathies go to his wife Gill and all those who mourn him. My friends on these Benches are in real shock and great sadness at his passing.

I rise to speak to amendments 1, 2 and 3, which have been tabled by the hon. Member for Dudley South (Mike Wood). I shall also speak to amendment 8, which has been tabled by my excellent right hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy).

Amendment 1 would ensure that victims of rioting had at least 42 days in which to make a claim for compensation and then a further 90 days in which to submit the necessary evidence. We support that amendment. The Bill is about supporting riot victims, and in order to do that we need to give them adequate time to complete claims for compensation. Can any of us imagine trying to rapidly process a legal claim when our papers have been destroyed, we have no access to our home or business, and our life has been completely and utterly turned upside down? That is exactly the situation in which many riot victims found themselves in 2011. That situation was made all the more difficult by the fact that so many of the victims were unaware that they were entitled to compensation. They needed the time to get their affairs in order.

In 2011, the Home Office appeared to recognise that a short time limit on claims was unfair, and extended the time limit from 14 to 42 days. Amendment 1 gives us certainty that any future victims will be guaranteed at least 42 days in future. That has to be right. The amendment also provides an additional 90 days for victims to gather the necessary evidence to complete their application for compensation. Three months’ breathing room seems entirely appropriate, given the total upheaval that can be wrought to businesses and individuals by the kind of rioting we saw.

My right hon. Friend—the magnificent Member for Tottenham—spoke movingly in Committee about some of the challenges faced by his constituents in 2011. Many had English as a second language, some had their health devastated by the riots, and all had their daily routines completely shattered. They desperately needed more time to put their lives back together before they could deal with compensation claims. I congratulate him on raising the issue of time limits in Committee. If the House accepts amendment 1 today, he will have played a vital role in ensuring that any future victims of rioting are not left in the lurch, as his constituents and those of my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon North (Mr Reed) were.

Mr Lammy: My hon. Friend will know, perhaps more than anybody else in this House, the juxtaposition between shopping centres such as Westfield, where there is big business, and small businesses, which in a constituency such as hers are often run by people newly arrived in this country, making the very best of their lives. Her experience in this matter needs to be recorded.

Lyn Brown: My right hon. Friend is absolutely right—the businesses that were affected in my constituency were small businesses along the Barking Road in Canning Town and, indeed, some in Green Street. As he rightly says, they are not like the businesses in Westfield that

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have massive resources behind them to enable them to make the claims, clean up quickly and get on with their economic lives.

Amendments 2 and 3 would ensure that victims were entitled to compensation for costs incurred as a result of having to seek alternative accommodation. We support those amendments too. Families should not be pushed into severe financial difficulty because their homes have been rendered uninhabitable by circumstances way beyond their control. Some families affected by the 2011 riots were not able to live in their homes for months, and some for years afterwards, putting them into severe financial difficulty. That was particularly the case in the private rented sector, but it also applied to some homeowners. We all know how expensive short-term rented accommodation can be, particularly here in London. It is only right, therefore, that that should be accounted for in the compensation awarded. I therefore urge the House to accept amendments 2 and 3.

Finally, let me turn to amendment 8, which would ensure that any money claimed in compensation for emergency relief in the immediate aftermath of a riot did not lead to a reduction in the amount of compensation a claimant might receive. It is shameful that this sort of deduction was made in 2011. We support, the amendment, because people putting money into charity buckets to help their neighbours through the turmoil of rioting do not expect the compensation due to those victims to be reduced as a result of their kindness. I am not surprised that my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon North reports that his constituents were aghast that their donations led to a reduction in the compensation doled out.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham also argued in Committee, I thought convincingly, that we do not want to discourage big businesses from helping out small businesses with which they share a high street. Deducting payments as a result of charitable giving would have precisely that unwelcome and rather unpleasant effect. I urge the House to accept amendment 8 so that, in the unwelcome event of future riots, the police and charities can work together to help communities, rather than treating support as a zero-sum game.

I heard what the hon. Member for Dudley South had to say on that matter, but I now look forward to hearing from the Minister on these issues, because I am sure he is going to make us very happy today.

The Minister for Immigration (James Brokenshire): I, too, want to associate myself with your comments, Mr Speaker, following the sad loss of Harry Harpham. Members throughout the House can all say that Harry was a dedicated public servant. Although we had the privilege of having him in the House only for a short time, he clearly served with distinction in his community, having sat on Sheffield City Council, and he was dedicated to public service. The fact that as recently as 20 January, Harry was here at Prime Minister’s questions standing up for constituents on an issue he believed in, Sheffield Forgemasters, underlines the sort of person he was, the dedication he showed and the fact that he always wanted to stand up for his constituents. The whole House will wish to pass its condolences, thoughts and prayers to his wife, Gill, his children and his whole family, his friends, colleagues and everyone who knew him and who mourns his loss.

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I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley South (Mike Wood) on the manner in which he has sought to advance the Bill. He has clearly reflected on the helpful debates in Committee, to which the Minister for Policing, Crime and Criminal Justice responded. The Committee worked on themes that were started on Second Reading. I believe that my hon. Friend’s amendments are helpful additions and clarifications to the Bill.

Amendment 1 deals with the time limits, which are set at not less than 42 days and 90 days respectively for lodging claims and producing detailed evidence. That is the right approach to the lodging of an initial claim, and then it is right to allow more time for detailed information to be provided. We support placing those minimum requirements in the Bill.

For clarification and for the further assurance of right hon. and hon. Members, I underline that there might be some exceptional circumstances in which more time is required, perhaps when a claimant falls ill and cannot meet the deadlines, when evidence has been destroyed or cannot be accessed due to riot damage, or when final cost estimates are contingent on other processes such as planning permission or some other regulatory requirements. We expect the regulations sitting alongside the Bill to provide some flexibility in case of extenuating circumstances and to allow extensions of time, while recognising the framework and the statutory minimums set out in the Bill.

Amendments 2 and 3 deal with payments for alternative accommodation. They will allow compensation to be paid to uninsured individuals whose home has become uninhabitable as a result of a riot, to cover the cost of alternative accommodation. Amendment 3 makes it clear that regulations may provide for further details of considerations to be taken into account when such claims are made, as well as the length of time for which such costs may be covered.

During the passage of the Bill, Members have highlighted a number of cases in which their constituents had suffered significant hardship following the 2011 riots. We have certainly heard that from the right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) and the hon. Member for Croydon North (Mr Reed).

Mr Lammy: On the issue of constituents who live in private rented accommodation, I recognise that regulations might be the best place to indicate the length of time for which support will be given, but can the Minister provide us with any clarity about whether he considers that to be a matter of weeks or months? People can be living without virtually everything for a considerable length of time after a catastrophe of this sort.

James Brokenshire: At this stage, it is probably best for me to say that we will reflect further before we bring forward with the regulations. The right hon. Gentleman has made some important points on behalf of his constituents. I know from our discussions back in 2011 the direct impact of the issues that he rightly he took up on behalf of his constituents. Other Members also made direct challenges on behalf of their constituents. We will continue to reflect carefully on the issue as we move forward towards drawing up the regulations. That is

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the right approach and provides us with an opportunity to reflect further on the important and powerful points that have been made.

It is the Government’s position that consequential losses should not be covered by the Bill, particularly bearing in mind the impact on the public purse. We agree that it would be unfair for legislation intended to help those in the greatest need not to provide support to people who have lost their homes, so we support the proposed exception to the prohibition on compensation for consequential losses to permit individuals to recover the additional costs of alternative accommodation following a riot.

10.15 am

As I have said, the best place for dealing with that is in the regulations. I envisage a system that will allow households to claim for additional costs that exceed the amount they would normally pay for rent or mortgage payments. That will include the cost of fees levied by letting agents or landlords for those who need to rent a new home while repairs are carried out, or the cost of reasonable hotel accommodation for those who need only short-term arrangements. It is not intended to be extended out to cover other incidental costs that may be incurred, such as increased commuting expenses.

I hope I have given Members at least a sense of what we envisage the regulations appropriately providing. Any such compensation is obviously additional to any claims for direct loss in relation to the home itself—damage to windows and doors, and related items, for example. In common with provisions dealing with motor vehicles, we intend compensation to be limited to those whose insurance policies do not provide such cover; insurers will not be permitted to subrogate these payments. With the help of the Metropolitan Police Service and the Home Office, we have determined that the cost of such provision should be relatively low—perhaps below £10,000 per claim on average. We will obviously reflect further on that as we move forward with the regulations.

Let me respond to amendment 8. I note that the right hon. Member for Tottenham has indicated that he will not press the amendment on the basis that we agree that moneys received from public or private emergency recovery funds should not be deducted from the amount of right compensation paid out to a claimant. On the issue of charities, which the right hon. Gentleman raised on Second Reading, we remain of the view—the Policing Minister made this clear in the Committee and in a subsequent letter to its Chair—that it is not fair to reduce right compensation settlements to reflect any payment given by charity. I am happy to restate that position today.

As for the proposal to prohibit deductions from riot compensation payments for a claimant who has received money from a public fund for losses that are also covered in the Bill, we have to consider the need to protect the public purse and to protect the taxpayer from making double payments.

I have one further piece of clarification. If a payment from a public fund has been given for a purpose not covered by the Bill, a deduction will not be made. For example, if payments were made for personal injury or

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to cover a loss of income, which would take us into the sphere of consequential loss, a deduction would not happen. In other words, it will be fine if a payment has been made for a purpose for which the Bill provides through the compensation schemes covered in it, but if payments have been made through schemes designed for other purposes, it will clearly not be appropriate for a deduction to operate. I hope that that clarification is helpful in explaining how we envisage the inter-relationship between compensation schemes under the Bill and other schemes.

Mr Steve Reed: I take the right hon. Gentleman’s point about the public purse, but what reassurances can he give that charitable donations from members of a community that were given to help victims in the locality will not be—rather than should not be—deducted from official compensation payments?

James Brokenshire: Again, the best place to deal with that and give clarity about the operation of the Bill is in regulations. I hope that given what I have said today about the intention to introduce regulations to sit alongside the Bill, hon. Members will be reassured on this important point about charitable donations. The right hon. Member for Tottenham indicated that he thought the best place to deal with that would be in regulations. That is our judgment too, but I hope that what I have said to the House is helpful in providing clarification and setting out the how the Government will seek to operate the provisions in the Bill. Obviously, right hon. and hon. Members will be able to examine the regulations when they are published, following Royal Assent—we hope that will happen, but both Houses need to give the Bill their consideration.

Mr Nuttall: I appreciate the points the Minister has made. In the internet age, donations from the public often come through crowdfunding exercises. Will he confirm that the regulations will make it clear that funds raised in that way for the purposes he has just set out—I appreciate the distinction he made with respect to the purposes—will also be excluded?

James Brokenshire: The most important thing is that we define the charitable purpose for which contributions have been made, rather than reflecting on the manner in which those moneys have been given. It is about the fundamental purpose, although my hon. Friend makes an interesting point that people will want to examine as we introduce the regulations. I hope that my comments have helped in our consideration of the amendments.

Mr Speaker: Does the hon. Member for Dudley South (Mike Wood) wish to contribute further?

Mike Wood: No, Mr Speaker.

Amendment 1 agreed to.

Clause 8

Amount and payment of compensation

Mr Lammy: I beg to move amendment 4, page 5, line 19, leave out from “compensation” to “that”.

This amendment would remove the £1 million compensation cap.

Mr Speaker: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

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Amendment 6, page 5, line 19, leave out from “maximum” to “per”.

Amendments 6 and 7 together represent an alternative to amendment 4 and to amendment 5. They would make determining the compensation cap subject to parliamentary approval and also provide for its review and revision on the same basis without recourse to further primary legislation.

Amendment 5, page 5, line 19, leave out “1” and insert “10”.

This amendment is an alternative to amendment 4 and would increase the £1 million compensation cap to £10 million.

Amendment 7, page 5, line 20, at end insert—

‘(1A) The compensation cap (the “cap”) under subsection (1) must be determined, and revised every three years, by regulations made by the Secretary of State, with the following elements:

(a) the cap may apply differently, or be set at a different level, in different areas; and

(b) the Secretary of State must publish:

(i) the methodology used; and

(ii) the first draft determination of the cap for public consultation within a month of the day after the day on which this Act is passed.

(1B) The Secretary of State must lay before the House of Commons a draft of the regulations making the final determination or revision in a statutory instrument alongside a statement of whether and how the responses to the public consultation were taken into account.

(1C) A statutory instrument under subsection (1B) must be laid in draft before the House of Commons and may not be made until approved by resolution of that House.

(1D) Notwithstanding section 12, section 8 shall come into force on the day after the day on which this Act is passed for the purposes of subsection (1A).

(1E) Until a determination has been approved by the House of Commons, no cap shall apply.

Amendments 6 and 7 together represent an alternative to amendment 4 and to amendment 5. They would make determining the compensation cap subject to parliamentary approval and also provide for its review and revision on the same basis without recourse to further primary legislation.

Amendment 9, page 6, leave out lines 16 and 17.

This amendment is consequential on amendment 4 and on amendment 7.

Mr Lammy: The amendments address the issue of the £1 million compensation cap. It is important for the House and for individuals beyond it who, unfortunately, may find themselves caught up in a riot that we interrogate how the Government reached that figure. In Committee, I raised the issue of the cost of running a business and the fact that it varies across the country. The price of running a newsagent, off-licence or small gift shop in Yeovil is different from the cost in Northumbria and different again from the cost in Tottenham, yet this £1 million figure exists for all those businesses.

I was grateful that the Minister for Policing, Crime and Criminal Justice, who led for the Government in Committee, wrote to my right hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley (Mr Howarth), who also served on the Committee, in response to some of the points I had made and that he shared that with members of the Committee. The letter stated:

“In finding a solution it was important for the Government to come up with a balanced approach that protected the public purse from unlimited liability whilst also ensuring that significant numbers of businesses would not be inhibited from making claims. A further key issue was to minimise the bureaucracy around the administration process.

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A number of respondents to the consultation suggested an alternative, and more simple administrative approach, of a cap on the amount of money…We examined data provided by forces and found that 99% of claims from businesses and insurance companies made after the 2011 riots were under £1m.”

It is important to stress that we do not know when there will be another riot. We hope there will not be one, but we are here this morning because we suspect there will be, given the history of our country and the fact that from time to time these things happen. It is important to emphasise that the fantastic nature of our policing model, with policing by consent and our police not routinely carrying guns, means that the public stand alongside them. When that consent is withdrawn and a riot happens, it is not the fault of the business or the homeowner, who have paid their taxes and expect to be protected. Therefore, setting a £1 million cap is an important moment, particularly given the nature of our economy at the moment and the cost of a property in a city such as London. The average price here is now running at half a million, so the average shop front on a high street in Tottenham is about the same and the £1 million cap is an important figure to understand fully.

Anne Marie Morris: Clearly the right hon. Gentleman makes an important point about ensuring that people are properly compensated, but does his amendment not give him a concern that it would provide people with a disincentive to be responsible and take out insurance? How does he suggest we get a better balance between the obligation of the taxpayer and that of the individual?

Mr Lammy: The hon. Lady makes an important point and there is a balance to be struck, but I hope she will understand that it is important to interrogate why we have arrived at the £1 million figure. It is also important that we recognise something about parts of the country that experience these upheavals from time to time; it remains the case in a constituency such as mine, which has had two riots in a generation, that when someone walks down Tottenham High Road they do not see the sort of scene they would see in Detroit, with boarded-up shops, houses in which people do not live and no-go areas—areas that have failed. Fortunately, in these fantastic islands of ours there are no communities that have failed—we do not allow them to fail. We do not want to see that kind of failure. We need to get the balance right between having people, rightly, insuring themselves, and recognising that in the poorest parts of our country people are often under-insured or not insured, so when there is a riot we must still try to put them back into a situation where they can get on with their lives and with their business, and get on with the economy.

The 2011 riots were unusual, in that, surprisingly, there were riots in Clapham Junction and in Ealing. There were riots in parts of the country where one might not have expected riots. However, riots occur most often in the most deprived communities and we do not want the economies of those communities to disappear completely. Insurance premiums can also be so high in communities such as the one I represent, and such as those represented by my hon. Friends the Members for Croydon North (Mr Reed) and for West Ham (Lyn Brown), that they are a disincentive to insuring or they encourage under-insuring in the first place.

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Amendment 4 seeks to get further explanation about the £1 million cap. Amendment 5 would take the figure up to £10 million, and it is a probing amendment to understand how the £1 million figure has been reached. Amendment 7 is the most important amendment I have tabled and it asks for greater transparency. I have asked for the methodology being used to be put before this House, for Parliament to be able to understand that methodology every three years or so and for this House to be a bigger determinant in reaching the figure for the compensation level.

10.30 am

I say that because there is some tension in the fact that it is the Home Office and the Met that pay out compensation, and it often arises at the point of declaration. On previous occasions there has certainly been controversy when the Home Office and the Met have not wanted to declare a riot. That tension comes up again in relation to how much compensation is paid. Of course they are reluctant to pay more than is necessary, and I understand that, because it comes out of the public purse. That is why amendment 7 would provide for greater scrutiny of the figure; how it is arrived at, what methodology and evidence are used, and whether it might not be more appropriate to lay the draft before this House so that scrutiny can take place here, as is appropriate from time to time.

Mr Nuttall: I am a bit confused—I am always confused, but I am particularly so this morning—by these amendments. Could the right hon. Gentleman briefly explain which of his three different proposals he would personally like to see enacted? It seems to me that he is proposing no cap, a cap of £10 million and a cap to be decided by a formula that is yet to be determined.

Mr Lammy: The hon. Gentleman will recall, because he was on the Public Bill Committee with me—

Mr Nuttall indicated dissent.

Mr Lammy: Forgive me. The hon. Gentleman was not on the Committee, but if he reads the Hansard report of its proceedings he will see that there was quite a lot of debate about this figure. The Government were unable to give much detail of how they arrived at the figure. The Minister has since written to my right hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley (Mr Howarth), who chaired the Committee—its members were copied in—and given greater clarity on what the Government were told by the insurance industry and on the amount of figures that came under £1 million. I received that letter after tabling these amendments. However, the amendments are probing, because it would be quite wrong for a Bill of this kind to pass quietly through the House without discussion and scrutiny. I see the hon. Member for Croydon Central (Gavin Barwell) nodding in agreement, because his constituency was caught up in the riots. My amendments have been tabled in that spirit.

The hon. Member for Bury North (Mr Nuttall) is right: there is of course a difference between removing the £1 million cap and raising it to £10 million. I suspect that not all of my amendments will be pressed to a vote. However, I emphasise amendment 7, in particular, because it facilitates scrutiny and the need to return to this

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figure in future, which must be right. I do not want the House to settle on £1 million and then find in 10 or 15 years that it would leave a lot of people, particularly in London and the south-east, really short if their property were damaged in a riot.

Anne Marie Morris: The right hon. Gentleman talks about the challenge of striking a balance between the Home Office and other potential sources for the unpaid sum, but I do not think he has offered sufficient clarity on the role of insurance. He has talked about the challenge of insurance being extraordinarily expensive. In my constituency we have a similar issue with flooding. Flood Re and the negotiations that the Government have had in that regard have clearly been very helpful. What conversations has he had with the insurance industry, and indeed with the Government, on what can done to make insurance more affordable?

Mr Lammy: There are parts of this country that routinely experience flooding, as I said in Committee, and there is considerable experience in the system in relation to how we deal with those communities and how the insurance industry reacts in those circumstances. Floods happen more frequently in our country than riots, but a similar catastrophe befalls those who find themselves caught up. I hope that the bureau that will be set up as a result of this Bill can draw on the experience in those areas.

I have heard hon. Members in those areas raise concerns about loss adjustors and the manner in which they treat our constituents. In circumstances in which everything has been lost in the flood or burnt to the ground in a fire, the individual concerned is expected to go and find a receipt for a stove or oven that they now have to claim for. How are they going to find that receipt? Where is it? It is a miserable situation, and I am afraid that during the riots we found the performance of loss adjustors very patchy, and some of them behaved quite inappropriately to my constituents.

However, as I have indicated before, we have a situation of insurance, underinsurance and no insurance at all. That is why we have the Riot (Damages) Act 1886 and why we should inquire as to what the appropriate levels of this newly introduced cap should be. For all those reason, this clutch of amendments address that point. As I have indicated, they are largely probing amendments. I look forward to hearing what the hon. Member for Dudley South (Mike Wood) has to say about both regulations and the need for greater clarity. Perhaps this House might have a greater role in determining that figure, scrutinising it and returning to it over time, because I fear that £1 million may well look very different to people in the wider country in 10 or 15 years’ time, long after the Bill has passed through both Houses.

Mike Wood: Let me start with amendments 5 and 6, tabled by the right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy), which would either remove or raise the compensation cap. Although I fully understand his reasons for asking that the level of the cap be considered, I am unable to support either amendment. As I have stated at earlier stages in the legislative process, we simply cannot continue to have a situation in which the public purse is subject to unlimited liability.

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Neil Kinghan’s excellent independent review into the reforms necessary after the 2011 riots set out convincingly and comprehensively the reasons for retaining the principle of strict liability for police forces when the basic contract to uphold law and order, to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred, breaks down, and that police should be liable for the costs of that. However, Neil Kinghan went on to say that it is not reasonable to expect those liabilities to be unlimited. That is why he put forward a number of alternative ways of controlling liabilities—capping them—in order to deliver a fairer deal for police forces and the taxpayer.

The effect of either amendment would be to impose a still higher liability on police forces and therefore on the taxpayer. The right hon. Gentleman asks how the £1 million figure was reached. The Home Office put the figure forward in response to an earlier consultation, and it received widespread support. At present, the cap is generous. It has been set to make sure that it would have protected as many of the claims made in 2011 as reasonably possible.

Analysis by the Home Office and Association of British Insurers estimates that, had a £1 million cap been in place in August 2011, 99% of claims paid then would still have been paid in full; that compares with about 33% had we continued with the alternative option of a cap on turnover of business, which Neil Kinghan ended up recommending. The £1 million cap is far more generous to the victims of riots and recognises exactly the points made by the right hon. Member for Tottenham: of course such victims are in no way to blame and could have done nothing to prevent their loss. We want to make sure that they continue to be compensated, within a reasonable limit.

I also take note of the right hon. Gentleman’s point about big businesses and the important role they play in our high streets. However, like most businesses, big or small, they have a responsibility to insure themselves adequately—not only against riots, but against a broad range of risks. The £1 million compensation cap applies directly to riots, as defined in the legislation. We would similarly expect such businesses to insure themselves against fire and looting caused by arsonists and against gangs of people rampaging riotously, although perhaps made up of fewer than 12 people and so falling outside the scope of normal riot legislation.

Damage caused by looters or gangs on the rampage is every bit as serious, but police forces would not have liability unless negligence could be demonstrated. There is a need for adequate levels of insurance and it is not unreasonable for businesses with assets running into millions to take out such insurance. Setting a cap at £10 million would largely benefit insurers far more than big or medium-sized businesses on the high street, as they could subrogate those claims under the Bill and the existing scheme. Furthermore, of course, they tend to provide the insurance for big business.

The most pertinent example from the 2011 riots was the claims, which have not yet been settled, arising from the destruction of the Sony warehouse in Enfield. Those run into tens of millions of pounds. That money would go entirely to insurers if the claims ended up being accepted. From the Home Office research, it seems that increasing the £1 million cap to £10 million would have affected six uninsured businesses in 2011—six businesses among all those affected, at a massive cost to the

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taxpayer without any real benefit to our communities. That is why the £1 million cap has been widely welcomed by Members as well as by the insurance industry. The Government have published their intentions in response to the consultations following the 2011 riots on reforming the compensation arrangements. The £1 million cap was very widely welcomed in that response by stakeholders who took part in the consultation.

10.45 am

Raising or removing the compensation cap would essentially represent a large-scale transfer of resources from the public purse—our police authorities or the Home Office, funded by taxpayers—to insurers. That enormous cost would threaten the affordability of the other parts of the proposed scheme, such as switching from replacement value to new-for-old—that is common practice among almost all insurers now—and the extension of the riot compensation scheme to cover motor cars with third-party insurance. Those other parts of the scheme have a cost, and if we do not limit the expense of claims while making sure that we cover 99% of the 2011 claims, I do not believe that we could afford those other parts. I urge the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider this, as his amendment would put the substance of the Bill at risk.

The right hon. Gentleman’s amendment 7 has a number of provisions that would have the effect of abolishing the current provision but introducing it later after public consultation. I certainly recognise the need to consult widely as regulations are drawn up, but I would not support the amendment. I do not believe that the proposal is necessary as the public consultation has essentially already taken place. There was a White Paper and the Home Office did consult. It has responded to the consultation. As I said, the principle of the £1 million cap was strongly endorsed.

I agree, however, that it is sensible to review the cap every so often. The £1 million figure is extremely generous, but, as the right hon. Gentleman said, in 10 or 20 years’ time, inflation would make it rather less so. However, it is unlikely from an economic perspective that there would be significant financial changes within the three years from Royal Assent, after which the Government are committed to reviewing new regulation anyway. For those three years, we should support the £1 million cap, making sure that we can put it into effect as quickly as possible in case the very worst should happen. We want to be in a position to support victims. There is, of course, already a power in the Bill to amend the cap through regulations.

On the proposal to introduce regional variations, I can see the initial attraction, but the reality is that the £1 million cap is primarily determined at the London level. Regional variations would not mean that the cap was higher than the £1 million in London, but that there was a lower cap elsewhere in the country. The proposal is not necessary, and it would add additional complexity to the scheme, so I would want to avoid it.

Having read Neil Kinghan’s independent review, I think that, even for London, the £1 million cap is appropriate. Obviously, the report is from 2013, but Neil Kinghan found that the average claim for uninsured losses in London—where we would expect claims to be highest—was running at about £10,000, while it was about £35,000 for uninsured losses. The average is therefore many, many times lower than the proposed cap.

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I hope my colleague the Minister will agree that we cannot support a proposal that would mean the Bill was introduced without a cap, given the potential burden that that could place on police and crime commissioners and the public purse. Without having the certainty provided by the cap on liabilities, I certainly would not want to move on with legislation that put additional responsibilities and burdens on the police through new-for-old provisions or the addition of some motor vehicles.

The £1 million cap is set at the right level. As I said, it has been broadly welcomed by stakeholders, including the Association of British Insurers, which I have met. It also addresses the concerns of other respondees to the earlier Home Office consultation, such as the British Retail Consortium and the Association of Convenience Stores, which had expressed concerns at the business turnover cap that the Kinghan review had originally proposed.

The Bill strikes a sensible balance between ensuring that the vast majority of individuals and businesses are fully compensated and that the public purse does not have to pay out on high-value claims exceeding £1 million.

Lyn Brown: Amendments 4, 5 and 7, and their consequential amendments, have been tabled by my magnificent and right hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy). All the amendments pertain to the compensation cap. As has been said, the Bill caps the total amount that can be paid out in a single compensation claim to £1 million. Amendment 4 would remove the compensation cap, amendment 5 would increase it and amendment 7 would ensure that it is assessed every three years by Parliament.

The Opposition Front-Bench team have a number of concerns about amendments 4 and 5. We therefore suggested in Committee that, if the cap is raised, the Home Office should be liable for costs greater than £1 million. That would spread risk and ensure that police forces are not made financially vulnerable by circumstances that, by definition, are beyond their immediate control. If the House accepts amendments 4, 5 and 7, the Government might wish seriously to consider that proposal.

Amendment 7 would require Parliament to set the compensation cap, and to assess the level of the cap, every three years. We support the amendment because too low a cap—especially in London—may lead to increased insurance premiums in areas afflicted by rioting. We would not want communities and high streets to be damaged by this legislation, and a regular review would allow us to act on the basis of evidence.

It is important to continue to assess the compensation cap. The Bill needs to balance the interests of the community, the police, the insurance industry and the taxpayer. We must ensure that communities are protected and victims are compensated, while not asking the police to write a blank cheque. The compensation cap goes right to the heart of that task. It is right that the cap is continually assessed and that the House plays a central part in that.

I therefore urge the Minister, who has already done remarkably well this morning, to give us some assurances and some comfort, particularly on amendment 7. You know, Mr Deputy Speaker, he is fast becoming a favourite.

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Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): That’s killed his career.

James Brokenshire: I do not know whether I am going to blot my copybook now or not, but I thank the hon. Lady for approaching this group of amendments in a constructive way, as she and the right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) did in Committee. That is the approach we have taken across the House, recognising that there is an issue in the Bill, and seeking to sensibly examine what is appropriate in terms of the manner in which it has been framed.

In introducing the amendments, the right hon. Gentleman highlighted his desire to probe these provisions and to ensure that the House has the opportunity to scrutinise them properly so that right hon. and hon. Members have the chance to underline important issues. He mentioned my hon. Friend the Comptroller of Her Majesty’s Household, who has also fought tirelessly on behalf of his constituents. Obviously, his role on the Front Bench means that he is not able to take part in these debates in the same manner that we are. However, it is for him, the public and all of us to consider what the right mechanism is and to ensure that the Bill is appropriately examined so that we get it right. That is the overarching theme reflected in our debates on Second Reading, in Committee and on Report this morning.

I want to draw attention to the operation of clause 8(8), which gives the Secretary of State the ability, through regulation, to make changes to the overall cap of £1 million set out in clause 8(1). It is important to look at the Bill’s subsequent provisions, which, again, underline the protections that are there. If regulations come forward to increase the level of the cap, that would be by the negative procedure. To have an additional safeguard if, say, the level was to be reduced—that would certainly not be our intention—that would be by the more positive affirmative regulation mechanism. That, again, reflects the spirit in which the Bill has been approached and the manner in which it has been examined.

The right hon. Gentleman highlighted a number of measures in the letter my right hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mike Penning), the Minister responsible for policing, fire, criminal justice and victims, wrote to the Chair of the Public Bill Committee. Obviously, in previous consultations, we examined different ways in which compensation should be capped. My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley South (Mike Wood), in what was a very clear contribution to the debate, set out why that is needed and some of the thought processes involved. On further analysis, it was felt that the £2 million turnover cap initially suggested by Neil Kinghan would have meant more claimants not being able to get through the mechanism, with additional bureaucracy attached to the process. It was felt that that was not the appropriate way forward.

Through the different amendments, the right hon. Gentleman has made a number of different suggestions. I know he was not seeking to favour one over the other, but rather to ask, “Have we properly examined this? Have we properly thought this through?” In terms of replacing the £1 million compensation cap by a £10 million cap, the experience of the riots of August 2011 demonstrates that it is not right for the taxpayer to shoulder the burden of unlimited liability. As my hon. Friend highlighted, liability for the Sony claim alone has already run into

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tens of millions of pounds, so it is clear that a cap is needed. As a point of principle, it is not unreasonable to expect a business with more than £1 million in assets to take out insurance to protect itself from a wide range of risks. The £1 million compensation cap was generally welcomed by stakeholders. It will provide full protection to the vast majority of individuals and businesses, while ensuring that liability to the public purse is not unlimited.

11 am

Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con): On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I am very surprised that there is not a statement in the House today. You may have seen the reports in yesterday’s newspapers that European judges have ruled that a foreign—Moroccan—criminal cannot be deported from the country despite the Home Office saying that she committed serious offences which threatened “the values of society”. My understanding is that the person concerned is the daughter of Abu Hamza, so this is a very serious matter for the security of this country. Surely it should be raised in this House and a Home Office Minister should be making a statement today. Have you had any indication that the Home Office intends to make any kind of statement about this issue?

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): I do not think I am going to shock you by saying that I have had absolutely no indication of anybody coming forward with a statement. However, the hon. Gentleman has quite rightly, as ever, raised the matter, it is on the record, and I am sure that people in different Departments will be listening as we continue this debate.

James Brokenshire: A £1 million cap strikes the appropriate balance between protecting the public purse and helping those who need it most. Increasing it to £10 million would increase police and public purse liability tenfold, which is neither necessary nor appropriate. If the cap were raised to £10 million, the most likely beneficiaries would be insurance companies seeking to reclaim the costs of any very large claim from the relevant police and crime commissioner. I do not think that that was the intent behind the right hon. Gentleman’s approach in his amendment, but I respect the manner in which he has sought to draw the House’s attention to how we have reached this point and why we judge that £1 million is the appropriate level.

The right hon. Gentleman has proposed, as an alternative, that there should be regulations following a public consultation, with reviews taking place every three years. As I said, we believe that there is a compelling reason for having a cap in place. There are benefits that attach to having certainty on the level of the cap, with it being clearly defined, rather than perhaps having further uncertainty in the future as to what it might be. Leaving it to be set by regulations after a public consultation would serve only to remove certainty and increase bureaucratic burdens. A public consultation would achieve very little given that 99% of claimants would have been paid in full from August 2011.

Mr Lammy: As this Bill and its consequences are a matter of public record, will the Minister undertake to write to hon. Members who have one of the six businesses beyond the Sony claim in their constituencies? I would

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certainly like to know whether there were any businesses in Tottenham that experienced a claim of more than £1 million, and the nature of those businesses. That would be helpful for the record as we move forward.

James Brokenshire: I do not know whether I am able to give the right hon. Gentleman the assurance he seeks, on the basis of legal constraints or data protection issues, but I note his point. I will reflect on it, and if there is anything more that I may be able to add, then I will obviously be happy to write to him. However, I draw the House’s attention to the fact that this might not be quite as straightforward as he suggests and there may be inhibitions that would prevent that sort of broader disclosure.

The Bill already provides for the power to amend the compensation cap through regulation should it be necessary to adjust it to reflect inflation. It would be a relatively simple task to examine cost of living and property price changes in the period since the cap was last set and apply any change to its level before making compensation payments.

In Committee and again today, the right hon. Gentleman raised the issue of regional variations that might affect the cap. The £1 million cap was determined using claims information from the London riots in 2011. One could say, therefore, that the analysis was conducted on claims from one of the most destructive riots in a generation in one of the most costly regions in which to live. It was a very serious example and the right benchmark. On that basis, the cap would not only adequately cover Londoners in the event of a future riot, but more than adequately cover those in other regions. That is the approach we have taken. I reiterate that according to our analysis and that of the Association of British Insurers, had the £1 million cap been in place for the August 2011 riots, then 99% of claims would still have been paid in full.

I hope that in the light of those comments the right hon. Gentleman will be minded to withdraw his amendment.

Mr Lammy: As I indicated, these are probing amendments. The whole House has heard what the Minister and the hon. Member for Dudley South (Mike Wood) said, and I understand that the Bill will now go to the other place and receive further scrutiny. On that basis, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 8

Reviews and appeals

Amendments made: 2, page 5, line 23, at end insert

“, except in the circumstances described in subsection (2A).

‘(2A) Where a claimant’s home is rendered uninhabitable, the amount of compensation may reflect costs that the claimant incurs as a result of needing alternative accommodation.”

Amendment 3, page 5, line 26, at end insert—

‘( ) considerations that decision-makers must take into account in deciding the amount of compensation payable as a result of a claimant needing alternative accommodation (and the regulations may include provision limiting the amount of time for which the costs of alternative accommodation may be claimed),”—(Mike Wood.)

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Mr Lammy: I beg to move amendment 10, page 6, line 17, at end insert—

(a) after any riot in relation to which compensation was paid under this Act; and

(b) after each period of five years beginning on the date that section 8 came into force.”

This amendment would require the Government to undertake post-legislative scrutiny.

Amendment 10 is about making and returning to the House with a proper assessment after there has been a riot and after the Bill has taken effect. With all that has been written by Mr Kinghan, all the work that has gone into the production of this Bill—I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Dudley South (Mike Wood) for everything he has done—and all that I, and shadow Ministers, have sought to do through it, we have learned a lot from the 2011 riots. Much of what we have learned finds effect in this Bill.

All riots are different. The hon. Gentleman said earlier that the 2011 riots were a particular case in that they were in London, and that he therefore believes that, in terms of regional impact, the £1 million cap is set about right. He will understand, though, that in the past few years we have seen anarchist groups marching in our country and things sometimes getting out of hand. They have marched in parts of the capital that have very expensive retail areas. We do not know where a riot could take place; they are all a bit different.

Given the impact of those riots and our understanding of them, and in terms of how this Bill works and its effectiveness, the issue of what compensation was paid out is hugely important. That is what amendment 10 speaks to. I sincerely hope that Conservative Members understand that and might be able to indicate that they do see the need for a mechanism, given that we are now updating the legislation. We are putting in place new mechanisms such as the bureau, which has not been discussed this morning but was discussed in Committee and on a previous occasion. It would therefore be very beneficial to provide for some assessment after a riot takes place; we do not know when. I hope that I might get some comfort from the hon. Member for Dudley South or the Minister following my decision to table this amendment.

Mike Wood: Although I absolutely agree with the right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) that the effectiveness of legislation needs periodically to be reviewed, I am less convinced of the need to set that out in the Bill. Of course, we all hope and pray that there will be no repeat any time soon of the kinds of riots we witnessed in August 2011, but should such riots occur in future it would be absolutely appropriate to consider how well the legislation is working and whether any changes are required, which is what happened following the 2011 riots.

The amendment proposes that the legislation should be reviewed after any riot, but that means that that provision would be triggered by any relatively small disturbance that leads to a claim being made under the riot compensation scheme. That would be unnecessarily bureaucratic and it is certainly not needed, because, as I have said, there is a Government commitment in place to review all new legislation within three to five years of the date it receives Royal Assent. That timeframe provides an opportunity for post-legislative scrutiny in the early

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years and consideration of non-legislative processes and support systems. I would like us to go further after that three to five-year period.

Mr Lammy: Does the hon. Gentleman agree that, if there had been an assessment mechanism in the ineffective Riot (Damages) Act 1886, it might have been better legislation in the first place? There might be a riot—we hope not—during the period of three to five years. I understand that he may not accept the amendment as drafted, but surely the Government should be prepared to consider some sort of assessment mechanism after a riot, which, thank God, happen so infrequently in our country. Perhaps that could happen in the other place when the Bill receives further scrutiny.

Mike Wood: The right hon. Gentleman makes the point that I was about to move on to. Although the initial three to five-year period provides an important chance to reflect on the early years and to consider whether all the commas are in the right place and all the details are right, it is important that regular reviews take place after that period. I hope the regulations will allow for such reviews. If there is a repeat of anything like what happened in August 2011, it is inconceivable that there would not be a review. That should be a given. Outside of the times of serious riots—which, of course, we hope will last many years or even decades—it is important to have some sort of periodical review, but I do not believe that there is a particular case for this Bill to carry a specific provision for post-legislative scrutiny. As I have said, such a provision could be triggered by a fairly small and limited disturbance, but we must make sure that it does not take another 130 years before we next review whether the legislation is working.

Lyn Brown: I completely get where the hon. Member for Dudley South (Mike Wood) is coming from—frankly, if I were the Minister in charge of his Bill, I would encourage him to say exactly what he has just said—but I am worried about where we are going with this. It has taken us 150 years to revisit the issue and there have been a number of disturbances—nay, riots—in this country during that time, and even when there have been really big riots, the system of dealing with victims has been wholly inadequate. I am concerned that we will find ourselves in 150 years’ time—well, we won’t, because we’ll be dead by then—saying, “Oh, yeah, we didn’t have very effective legislation. We had things for those old-fashioned things called cars, but the hover vehicles we’re driving around in now aren’t covered by this Riot Act.”

I say gently to the hon. Gentleman that even minor disturbances can wreck lives. We must make sure that any future Government have not only warm words to say to victims of riots, but effective legislation on the books so that they can help those victims effectively. I gently say to the Minister, who I have got a lot of time for—he has done an excellent job so far this morning—that we need to be more warm in our consideration of this Bill, so that we can ensure that the people who come after us in 150 years do not say the same kinds of things that we have been saying, with a little frustration, over the past few weeks.

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Minister, follow that!

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11.15 am

James Brokenshire: We are verging into the language used on Second Reading when we discussed how the terms of the existing Riots (Damages) Act 1886 are not fit for the purpose of providing compensation in the event of a riot. The Bill provides good flexibility. It is important to recognise that it enables matters to be dealt with by way of secondary regulation. If certain changes are required, we would not necessarily have to address them through primary legislation, with all that that entails. Indeed, as has been discussed, the Bill enables us to increase the overall cap by negative procedure.

In essence, our debate about amendment 10 is about whether primary legislation should include a mandatory requirement to review. In our judgment, that is not necessary, because of the flexibility given by the Bill, which has been well debated. The scrutiny the House has given it means that it is now fit for purpose for the years ahead, because of the latitude it contains. It enables changes to be made in a relatively straightforward way through the processes and procedures of this House and the other place.

The amendment addresses the question of the regularity of scrutiny and whether a review should be undertaken every time some form of riot takes place. In our judgment, that is bureaucratic and we question whether it would achieve the desired result. It is always open to Government to review legislation, and it is absolutely right and proper that they keep it under close review. That may not necessarily happen on a timed basis, but an event may occur whereby the Government will respond—indeed, the House may prevail on the Minister in question to do this—by conducting a review of the legislation, to judge whether it is still appropriate. The Bill does not prevent that flexibility—far from it. It can still happen.

My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley South (Mike Wood) has spoken of the general approach to reviewing all legislation within three to five years of the date of Royal Assent. Therefore, in any event, come what may, there will be an assessment of the Bill. Rather than having fixed points, the Bill provides flexibility to make changes. The regulatory framework enables the issue to be contemplated in that way—it provides latitude—and that is the appropriate way to deal with it. Indeed, it is right and proper that, if such events were to happen, the House could say to the Government, “Look at the Bill now. This is the right time to do it,” without that being reflected formally in the Bill. For those reasons, we judge that the amendment is not needed.

Lyn Brown rose

James Brokenshire: I will, in due deference, give way to the shadow Minister.

Lyn Brown: Very brave. I say gently to the Minister that I was a bit flabbergasted by the length of time that passed before the introduction of such a Bill. There was a period of unrest in the 1980s, during my early childhood, and I can recall being in a restaurant in Leicester Square on my way to a concert during the poll tax riots. I am surprised, therefore, to be debating a Bill on a matter that has not been revisited during that time. Given that these things happen, given that there can be long periods of time between such occurrences and given that our predecessors did not see fit to revisit the legislation despite some fairly appalling riots in our

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capital city and elsewhere, why does the Minister genuinely believe and take comfort from the fact that the Bill is somehow different, and that 150 years will not pass before it is revisited?

James Brokenshire: The hon. Lady makes a fair point. I am sure that anyone who has been caught up in a riot, and who has suffered loss or damage as a consequence, feels that hugely keenly. We are talking not just about the immediacy of the situation and the fear that it creates, but about what that means in restoring a life, putting property back into place and dealing with adverse effects on a business. That has been at the heart of our debates on the Bill, and that is why I welcome and strongly endorse the approach of my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley South in bringing forward the Bill and seeking to address the problem.

There are a couple of points that I would make. First, the Bill has been drafted in a manner that allows greater latitude than the Victorian legislation. I return to the point about not requiring primary legislation. Dealing with things in secondary legislation gives greater latitude and flexibility to make changes to the regulatory framework more swiftly. That reflects the fact that other items may need to be covered, or the cap may no longer be appropriate. The Bill provides a real benefit in offering that level of flexibility.

Secondly, the hon. Lady made a point about individual occurrences and events, and she pointed to some serious incidents that might have made a review appropriate. The latitude provided by the Bill lends itself well to that, because it will not be necessary completely to recast primary legislation. Some riotous disturbances may not lead to a significant number of claims, so it might not be appropriate to trigger a formal procedure such as that proposed in the amendment. The student riots in 2010, for example, involved significant policing challenges but attracted fewer than five compensation claims. We have the ability to carry out such a review, but we do not need anything with quite such a rigid structure. I suggest to the House that the Bill gives the Government the flexibility and the latitude that they need. In that context, I hope that the right hon. Member for Tottenham will be minded to withdraw his amendment.

Mr Lammy: The shadow Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, has expressed my views strongly from the Dispatch Box, and I hope that the matter will receive greater scrutiny in another place. Self-evidently, issues arise in the peculiar event of riots, and the Government ought to think seriously about producing some sort of impact assessment, which need not be onerous. I undertake to write to colleagues in the other place to ensure that that receives further examination.

As I have listened, not to myself but to my hon. Friend, I have been convinced of my own argument. Nevertheless, I will not press the amendment to a Division. This is an important Bill, and it must find its way to the other place. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Third Reading

11.25 am

Mike Wood: I thank right hon. and hon. Members from all parts of the House who have participated in debates on Second Reading, in Committee and here

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today. In particular, I thank Ministers and shadow Ministers for their supportive and constructive approach. I thank the right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy), who has spoken persuasively and passionately on behalf of his constituents, and my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon Central (Gavin Barwell), who has done a lot of work in support of the Bill but cannot speak in the Chamber today because of his other responsibilities.

On Second Reading, I stressed our responsibility as Members of Parliament to bring forward legislation that protects the most vulnerable from harm. That is why I am proud to promote this Bill, which proposes to help individuals and businesses recover from the devastating impact of widespread public disorder in communities. I spoke on Second Reading about my family connection, growing up as the son of a west midlands police officer during the football riots and other disturbances of the 1980s. I told the story of my father being bitten in the stables, and I said that I thought it was safe for me to do so, because my father rarely watches BBC Parliament. Sadly, he listens to BBC WM, so I was not able to keep that as secret as I had hoped.

Like all right hon. and hon. Members, I hope that the Bill will never be used. However, following Neil Kinghan’s review, it is abundantly clear that we need modern legislation that gives us clear guidelines and provisions in the event of any future riots. After the 2011 riots, many vulnerable communities were left counting the cost. The coalition Government responded by pledging to cover the costs incurred by the police to compensate homeowners and businesses under the measures set out in the Riot (Damages) Act 1886. Then, as today, it was clear that the “current”—130-year-old—legislation is outdated and inadequate in providing compensation in the modern world. The language is archaic, and it is unclear in what circumstances claims can be made. That means that decision making after a riot is difficult and time-consuming. There are too many inconsistencies, and it is not fair to those who need support or to those who pay the bill. That is what we need to change with this Bill.

The aim behind the Bill is to protect communities from the devastating losses to which I have referred. It makes much-needed changes to address the concerns that have been raised, while still providing support to households and businesses affected by riots. It proposes to end the unlimited compensation afforded through the 1886 Act, while making sure that victims of riots receive the support that they need. The new compensation cap has been discussed at some length, so I will not add anything further. Suffice it to say that the new provisions will not just save money but improve and modernise the claims process to bring it up to date and make it fit for the 21st century.

The old Act’s short timescales for submitting and evidencing a claim are simply not feasible for many potential claimants. As the House will remember, temporary changes were made to the timescales at the time of the 2011 riots in order to provide a more realistic timeframe. The Bill is intended to put that change into legislation.

The time period set out in the original legislation is clearly not long enough. Many homes and places of business are inaccessible for a considerable period after disturbances of the kind we saw in 2011. Allowing a

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period of 42 days after a riot to submit a claim and a further 90 days to evidence the claim and provide the details to support it will provide people with a fairer deal at a time when they need the extra breathing space and time to think about and prepare such a claim. As has been said, in many cases they will have to work out whether they ever had a receipt, let alone whether they know where the receipt is after a fire or a riot.

The minimum time allowed is now stated in the Bill. I emphasise that it is the minimum time: it remains entirely within the Government’s competence to decide to have a longer period if and when they think that that would be appropriate. As the Minister said earlier, we must ensure that there is flexibility so that people are not unfairly disadvantaged in extraordinary circumstances —for example, when, whether through illness or another reason, it is not reasonable for them to submit paperwork within the timeframe set out in the Bill.

The reason for switching away from replacement value—old-for-old, as it were—to new-for-old is one of basic fairness for the victims of riots. It is not reasonable to expect people whose homes or businesses have just been devastated by riots, first, to find out what loss adjusters think is the current value of machinery, equipment or property however many years after their purchase, and then to try to source a replacement product of equal value. On Second Reading, I gave the example of a four-year-old dry cleaning machine. It would be difficult to source it, because such machines do not show up every day on eBay. Switching to new-for-old, as most of the insurance industry has done, is sensible, more efficient and, above all, fairer.

Many Members have welcomed the riot claims bureau, which will have responsibility for managing riot compensation claims. The Bill is intended to ensure that there is greater consistency, particularly, as we saw in the 2011 riots, when riots spill over into more than one police force area. In such a case, it may be appropriate for the Secretary of State to assume such powers to ensure that someone can expect the same kind of service, timescales and treatment wherever they make a claim. Again, that is an issue of basic fairness for people affected by riots. The provision will be used if the rioting breaks out in or spreads across more than one area, and for that matter, if the local police decide that they do not have the capacity or expertise to consider such claims—why should they do so? That will particularly affect smaller police forces.

The Bill will allow local policing bodies and the riot claims bureau to place the day-to-day management of claims in the hands of experts. That is significant because although we expect our police forces to do an extremely important job—they do their job extremely well and we can be proud of the role they play—it is not reasonable to expect them to carry out claims handling or loss adjusting. Allowing police and crime commissioners to utilise people trained to play such a role makes sense and enables commissioners to retain full control over financial decisions.

As I have said, the Bill provides for the first time for motor vehicles covered by third-party insurance. It was pointed out on Second Reading that 1886, the date of the current legislation, was coincidentally the same year that the diesel engine was first demonstrated. Unsurprisingly, therefore, the legislation on which we currently rely was

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not designed around the world of the motor car. We do not know what the nature of riots will be in the future, but there may be widespread damage to motor vehicles. It does not seem fair, and it would not be equitable, for people’s motor cars—if they do not own their own home, their car is probably the most expensive thing they own—to be outside the scope of a compensation claim if they are not covered by their own insurance.

The purpose of the compensation scheme is not to pick up bottomless bills for criminal activity, but to provide a safety net for those in greatest need, while recognising the police’s responsibility to maintain order. That is why we must absolutely recognise the serious implications for communities recovering from major public disorder. Since the 2011 riots, my right hon. Friends in government have worked tirelessly, first by commissioning the Kinghan review and then by holding the Home Office consultation that followed it.

It would be wrong for millions of pounds of public money to be handed over—in essence, to insurance companies—for people who are in a position to insure themselves. That was the thinking behind the cap, and it is also why I limited the extension for motor vehicles to people who would not be covered by their motor insurance.

The provisions in the Bill provide a balance between the responsibility of the police to maintain order and the Government to protect the vulnerable, and the interests of the taxpayer. It retains the principle that the police are responsible for maintaining order, ensures that local accountability remains in the right place and provides local communities with the mechanisms they need to recover quickly from serious disorder.

We all hope and pray that riots of the kind, and certainly of the scale, that we saw in August 2011 will not happen in the future, but hoping for the best can never be an alternative to preparing for the worst. The Bill is about preparing for the worst. I hope it will proceed through the other place as swiftly as reasonably possible so that we can put in place the system we will need should riots take place. The Bill provides a fair deal for the victims of riots and for those who will have to pick up the bill for serious damage caused by them in our communities. I commend the Bill to the House.

11.39 am

Lyn Brown: The Opposition will support the Bill this morning, as we have throughout the legislative process.

The 2011 riots were a traumatic event for London and for other cities and towns up and down the country. More than 5,000 crimes were committed in a few short days, five people lost their lives, and it is estimated that the material cost of the London riots alone was over half a billion pounds. They were truly devastating. The unfortunate truth is that when those wounded communities needed help to get back on their feet, the help that was available proved utterly inadequate.

My magnificent right hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham has demonstrated to the House yet again this morning his true understanding of and commitment to his constituents. His passionate and well-spoken words showed that he understands the devastating impact the riots have had on the wider community. Frankly, it was not possible for the Government to respond as quickly as was needed to that impact.

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I also pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon North (Mr Reed) for his work on this issue. His constituency was hit hard by the 2011 riots and he has worked tirelessly to highlight the difficulty that his constituents have had in receiving the compensation to which they should have been entitled. He used the Freedom of Information Act to show that three years after the riots, 133 victims in London were yet to receive a penny in compensation. Just 16% of the requested compensation had been paid out at that point.

Those victims of rioting must have felt really let down, especially considering the Prime Minister’s promise that they would not be left out of pocket by those unprecedented actions. Without the tireless work of my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon North and others, including my right hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham and my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing Central and Acton (Dr Huq), I doubt that the Bill would be before the House today, but it is and that is to be celebrated.

To be fair to the Government, they recognised the problems that people had had in receiving compensation and commissioned an independent review. The Kinghan review was published in 2013 and, as we have heard, the Bill before us has the support of the Government and takes up many of the review’s recommendations.

I warmly congratulate the hon. Member for Dudley South (Mike Wood) on making such an important contribution so early in his parliamentary career. I hope his father forgives him for the horse story, which I remember well. How amazing it is that an Act will be published in his name. I hope that he celebrates this momentous event suitably over the weekend. I know that he has had a lot of support from the Government, which makes these things a lot easier and gives a Bill a fair passage. None the less, it takes a lot of work and commitment to get a Bill through, and I congratulate him on being equal to that task—congratulations!

I have to thank the Minister for being so accommodating, unlike some other Ministers. I look forward to seeing him opposite me when we consider further Bills, because he has been really quite good.

I thank my Labour colleagues who have worked on the Bill—my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Jack Dromey), who led scrutiny of the Bill in Committee, and my hon. Friends the Members for Ealing Central and Acton, for Birmingham, Ladywood (Shabana Mahmood) and for Croydon North, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham, who also sat on the Committee. They have all helped to improve the Bill.

The amendment that the House accepted today to give riot victims a guaranteed time in which to claim compensation was the result of probing by the Opposition in Committee, so we are grateful to the hon. Member for Dudley South and the Government for accepting it. The Bill is better for it.

We are happy to support this legislation. Like the hon. Member for Dudley South, I hope and pray that it is rarely, if ever, used because even the most effective legislation for riot compensation can but lessen the terrible pain that is inflicted on communities by looting, violence and wanton damage.

11.44 am

James Brokenshire: I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley South (Mike Wood) for his excellent stewardship of the Bill. It takes enormous

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focus, dedication and drive to take a private Member’s Bill through this House. It is not straightforward. I commend him for identifying this important issue, which has affected so many of our communities, and for having the ability, early in his parliamentary career, not only to bring the Bill forward, but to chart its passage through this House. It will now go on to the other place and, I hope, become law so that he achieves what he wants, which is to provide the protection and benefit of a safety net for those who are drawn into something that we hope will never happen, but which experience tells us might happen. We need those protections to be properly in place so that we no longer need to fit into the Victorian legislative framework, with concepts such as “riotous or tumultuous assembly”, but have legislation that reflects the needs of our modern society.

As we prepare to send the Bill to the other place, I want to express my gratitude to Members on both sides of the House who have engaged in a constructive and thoughtful debate on these measures. They have added to our scrutiny and consideration, and have added benefit to the Bill. We have reflected on how best to support communities, families and people in recovering from the often devastating impacts of riots.

Some of the contributions with the greatest impact have been made by Members who represent riot-affected constituencies. They have spoken movingly and with passion about the difficulty and distress that is caused to individuals, families and business owners by riots, particularly those of 2011. Five people—Trevor Ellis, Haroon Jahan, Shahzad Ali, Abdul Musavir and Richard Mannington Bowes—lost their lives in those riots. It is right that we remember them at this time. Our sympathies remain with their families, friends and all who loved them. Their memory reminds us of the impact that these appalling events can have. Although our debate has rightly and inevitably been about issues of compensation, it is people’s lives that we are talking about. The contributions of many right hon. and hon. Members have underlined that point. This Bill is important because it will help people build their lives back up after such appalling events.

The Bill will not prevent riots, nor will it tackle the base criminality that often surrounds them, but it will provide the legislative platform for a modern, well thought-out package of compensation for people who, through no fault of their own, find themselves facing damage and loss to their homes and businesses. It will also help

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those caught in the wake of a riot to recover from the violence and criminality more easily.

The amendment that my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley South proposed to cover the cost of alternative accommodation for those who are left homeless in a riot is important. When these measures become law, the Government will work to ensure that the compensation can be accessed quickly by individuals in the aftermath of a riot, recognising that rapid support and reassurance are of the utmost importance. The further amendment to set out the time limits on the face of the Bill demonstrates our commitment to provide a more generous approach to the submission of claims and evidence. As I have indicated, further flexibility on deadlines to cover extenuating circumstances will be provided for in regulations.

The Bill provides an important legislative platform for outlining what individuals and businesses affected by riots will be entitled to. It will be supplemented by regulations that will cover a number of important aspects, such as underlining our commitment to afford new-for-old replacements in most circumstances, providing more detail on the riot claims bureau, and confirming that charity payments will not be deducted from riot compensation payments. In addition to the regulations, as stated in previous stages of the Bill, we will also publish guidance for the public and decision makers, to provide further awareness and understanding of the legislation. As has been said, this is not simply about the law; it is about how the schemes are applied so that people know how they can claim, what they need to provide, and when they need to do that. We must respond to those practical realities, and consider how we can learn from the experience of the 2011 riots, incidents of flooding and other events where support needs to be provided.

In conclusion, the Bill sets out the framework for a modern, fair and affordable compensation scheme that supports communities that are recovering from riots, without placing unreasonable burdens on the taxpayer. The amendments and improvements that have been made are in keeping with that principle, and the Government support them. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley South for using the time afforded to him to promote a private Member’s Bill to deal with an important issue that has affected so many lives. As the Bill proceeds to the other place, I believe that it will provide assurance and protection into the future, and the framework that it provides means that it will remain as relevant as it is now for decades to come.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.

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Criminal Cases Review Commission (Information) Bill

Bill, not amended in the Public Bill Committee, considered.

Third Reading

11.52 am

William Wragg (Hazel Grove) (Con): I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

I thank colleagues from across the House who have joined me to support my Bill before it goes to the other place, where it will hopefully complete all necessary stages before we reach the guillotine of running out of parliamentary time. It has been an honour and a privilege to embark on the process of piloting a private Member’s Bill through our legislative process. I was fortunate to be drawn in the ballot in my first year as a Member of Parliament, and when I was elected just nine months ago this Sunday, I never imagined that I would be standing here and leading a debate on a new Bill. At the time I had no idea where the Public Bill Office was, let alone how it performed such a vital role in our legislative process. Neither did I know how skilled, kind and helpful its Clerks and staff would be to me, and I put on record my thanks to the Clerks of that office in particular, because without them this Bill would surely have fallen by the wayside long before now.

The process has proved to be a steep yet valuable learning curve. Before coming here I watched several Bill progress through Parliament and be debated and voted on in the Chamber, and I understandably believed that that was where legislation got made. Only once I went through the process myself did I understand how much work goes on away from the Chamber. Speaking here is the easy part. I know how much of our legislative process relies on negotiating and navigating timetables and calendars, or on running down corridors with five minutes’ notice to get the co-signature of one last Member before the deadline.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley South (Mike Wood) on his Bill passing its Third Reading some moments ago. It is an important piece of legislation, and I am pleased that we have been able to mutually support each other as we muddle through this strange but enlightening process. However, we have made it, and I am delighted and honoured to promote the Third Reading of my Bill today. I do so not only because at several points over the past nine months I feared that it may not come to pass, but because of the Bill’s importance as a valuable piece of legislation.

Following my selection in the ballot, I discussed with colleagues potential topics for my Bill. I wanted to be involved in something that would do good and make a real difference to people’s lives, and improve the justice system in an important way. The Bill seeks to make a small but significant improvement to our criminal justice system, and specifically to the appeals process surrounding miscarriages of justice and the gathering of available evidence and information for such cases to be investigated.

If enacted, the Bill would allow the extension of powers for the Criminal Cases Review Commission to obtain information of evidence, testimony, documents and other material that would assist in the processing of appeals and review cases where a miscarriage of justice is believed to have taken place. In essence, it would

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allow the CCRC to obtain such information from a person other than one serving in a public body, to which it is currently restricted. That new measure would apply to private sector organisations, persons employed by or serving in private companies, and private individuals. If passed it will strengthen the CCRC’s ability to overturn wrongful convictions and miscarriages of justice, and improve further our system of law and order, which is rightly the envy of the world.

To set the Bill in context, I intend to set out the working of the CCRC and the problem that my Bill seeks to resolve. I will then go on to detail what the Bill does and say how the amended law would work in practice. Lastly, I will explain why I believe that the Bill is necessary, how it would improve justice in our country, and—critically—why I believe that it deserves the support of the House today. I shall also attempt to provide some answers to the points raised in Committee. I hope to allow time for other Members who may wish to speak, and I am very open to interventions. The Bill has already demonstrated its cross-party support by its broad range of co-signatories, and it is important that the House now shows its full support for these new measures.

The CCRC was set up as an independent public body in 1997 by the Criminal Appeal Act 1995 to investigate possible miscarriages of justice, and it was the world’s first publicly funded body to review such cases.

Mr David Nuttall (Bury North) (Con): It might not be known outside the House that my hon. Friend had the foresight to secure for his Bill the signature of the right hon. Member for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn), who is now the Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition. That will no doubt aid the Bill’s passage through the House.

William Wragg: I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention, and as he will see by the vast numbers of Labour Members here today, the influence of that signature has been a fantastic achievement.

The CCRC was set up in the wake of notoriously mishandled cases such as those of the Guildford Four and the Birmingham Six—two high-profile cases where two groups of men were convicted and imprisoned for connections to bombings carried out by the IRA in the 1970s. On a serious note, it was because of those particular cases that the Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition was so keen to lend his signature to the Bill.

However, some 10 or 20 years ago these convictions and a review of evidence and police conduct during the investigation revealed serious breaches of due process, and, in the case of the Birmingham Six, serious accusations of police brutality. Therefore, the convictions were eventually quashed and ruled as unsafe. Moreover, senior police officers in both cases were later charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and the Birmingham Six were eventually each awarded compensation ranging from £800,000 to £1.2 million for their wrongful conviction.

The consequences of these cases led, in 1991, to the Government setting up a royal commission on criminal justice. The royal commission reported in 1993 and led to the Criminal Appeal Act 1995, which established the CCRC in 1997. Parliament established the CCRC specifically for the body to be independent of Government and, although sponsored and funded by the Ministry of

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Justice, to operate its statutory functions independently. However, a drafting anomaly in the 1995 Act meant that a key power was omitted from the CCRC, meaning that it could not require evidence to be provided from privately held sources, whether individuals, corporations or other bodies. It is that need to address the anomaly that brings us here today.

In preparing to present the Bill to Parliament, I visited the Birmingham headquarters of the commission to meet its chairman, chief executive, head of casework, some of its case handlers and investigators, and other staff to see its facilities and operation at first hand. I am delighted to say that some staff have been able either to attend the House today or to watch the proceedings from Birmingham. The House should be clear that the commission is very keen for the Bill to pass and to have these powers, for which it has been calling for some years. I want to take this opportunity publicly to thank the staff of the CCRC for hosting me on my visit, and for all the information, support and advice it has provided to me over the past few months. In particular, I would like to thank long-serving staff member and senior case handler, Mr Miles Trent, who has been a very valuable help.

I shall go on in a moment to explain precisely how the Bill will address the original anomaly in the law, which has prevailed for almost 20 years. Before doing so, however, I think it is important that the House bears in mind why the Bill is important. I wish to remind Members of the real human stories behind what can seem the rather dry business of legislation and regulation. Anyone who has ever been subject to a miscarriage of justice will attest that it is a deeply traumatic and damaging experiencing, often taking years away from somebody’s life while they work through the appeals process, trials and retrials, often from the confines of a prison cell. While not an easy or pleasant experience for anyone at any time, the heartache and anguish will be more acute for those who know, in the back of their mind, that they are innocent and that the British justice system has failed them. In such cases, the CCRC is often a victim’s only opportunity of salvation.

Although the number of cases the CCRC takes on is small compared with the overall number of criminal prosecutions each year, and the number of cases referred and quashed is even smaller, for those few victims of a miscarriage of justice in prison for crimes they have never committed, and subject to the abuses of process and powers of the system, it must be a truly harrowing existence for both them and their families. If I may, I would like to illustrate this point with one particular case which, although upsetting, contextualises the importance and seriousness of the commission’s work. I should say before continuing that this case has already been on the public record.

Sally Clark, a solicitor aged 42, was jailed in 1999 for allegedly killing her 11-year-old son Christopher in December 1996 and her eight-week-old son Harry in January 1998. An appeal in 2000 failed, but she was freed in 2003 after a fresh appeal, following a referral from the CCRC. The jury at the trial was told by an expert witness, Professor Sir Roy Meadow, that the probability of two natural unexplained cot deaths in the family was 73 million to one, a figure for which the

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Royal Statistical Society later said there was no statistical basis. However, despite her eventual release from prison after four years, Sally Clark died at her home in March 2007 from alcohol poisoning. At the time, the chair of the CCRC, Professor Graham Zellick, said:

“Sally Clark should never have been convicted. She should have succeeded at her first appeal. It should never have taken two years’ work by us and a referral before she was released, by which time she was broken in mind and body.”

Our justice system is one of the most respected in the world, but mistakes can and do happen occasionally. When this is the case, the system to right the wrong and to protect innocent people should be strong so that we avert cases such as Mrs Clark’s. My Bill seeks to strengthen that system. I referred to the legislative anomaly in the original 1995 Act, which gave rise to the need for the Bill. Let me explain how the CCRC currently operates.

The CCRC currently has the power to investigate alleged miscarriages of justice in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and to refer convictions and sentences to the relevant courts for appeal. The commission investigates convictions and applications by the offender, or, in the case where the offender has died, by the request of relatives. It has special powers to investigate cases and to obtain information it believes is necessary to review a case. If the CCRC concludes there is a realistic prospect that the Court of Appeal will overturn the conviction, it can make what is termed a referral and send cases back to court so that an appeal can be heard. Applications are free to make to the CCRC and defendants cannot have their sentences increased on account of having made an application for review. However, as the commission usually deals with cases already appealed once, if the commissioners can send cases for a review, it is usually on account of new evidence or a new legal argument that has come to light. This being so, their ability to gather information is critical to a successful operation.

The subject of the Bill hinges on what are commonly referred to as section 17 powers. Section 17 of the Criminal Appeal Act 1995 gives the CCRC the power to require public bodies and those serving on them to give it documents or other material that might assist it in discharging its functions. This includes the police, local councils, the NHS, the Prison Service and so on. It should be clear how all such bodies could and do serve as vital sources of information in appeal cases: the police provide criminal evidence and interviews; councils often provide CCTV footage; the NHS can supply details of injuries, in the case of violent crime; and the Prison Service can provide vital information about the behaviour or statements of prisoners seeking an appeal.

Those are just the most common examples of public sector sources of evidence on which the CCRC relies to do its work. There are, of course, dozens of others. However, it currently has no equivalent powers to compel private organisations and individuals to provide similar information, and has long found this to be a problem. Incidentally, this is in contrast to its counterpart in Scotland, the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission, which has held these powers since its inception. The Bill would allow the CCRC to make an application to the courts to require the disclosure of new evidence held by private bodies and individuals. As I mentioned, it already has those powers for public bodies. The inability to obtain information from private organisations and

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individuals has limited the CCRC’s actions and can cause unnecessary delay in the review of cases it undertakes and waste its limited resources.

During my visit there, I learned that the CCRC operates with an annual budget of about £5.5 million and employs just under 90 staff, including 12 highly experienced commissioners, among whom were senior lawyers, civil servants, investigative journalists and scientific experts. Each year, it receives between 1,000 and 1,500 appeal applications, and last year, 39 of them were referred back to the Court for review.

Mr Nuttall: Does my hon. Friend expect an increase in the number of applications as a result of the power in the Bill to apply for documents from private sources?

William Wragg: I will come to that in detail later, but the CCRC is a reactive body—it does not proactively seek cases to review—so I suggest that what my hon. Friend alludes to would not take place. However, I will cover that in more detail in a moment, if he will bear with me.

The CCRC’s long-term referral rate—the cases that, following investigation, it believes should be reheard in the Court of Appeal—is just over 3%. However, about half the applications it receives are not taken to the investigation stage, as they must first go through the regular criminal appeals process. For the cases the CCRC goes on to investigate, therefore, a referral rate of about 7% is more representative. Nevertheless, this indicates how uncommon it is to find a sufficient weight of new evidence to overturn previous convictions. That evidence must be relevant, accurate and compelling.

The House will be aware that the current working arrangements and effectiveness of the CCRC were the subject of a dedicated inquiry by the Justice Select Committee in the last Session. The impetus behind the Bill comes directly from some of its recommendations last March. I am grateful to have had the support of Members of both the previous and the current Committee in getting the Bill to this stage.

In its report, the Committee said:

“The extension of the CCRC’s section 17 powers to cover private bodies is urgently necessary and commands universal support. Successive Governments have no excuse for failing to do this and any further continuing failure is not acceptable.”

The report went on:

“It should be a matter of great urgency and priority for the next Government to bring forward legislation to implement the extension of the CCRC’s powers so that it can compel material necessary for it to carry out investigations from private bodies through an application to the courts. No new Criminal Justice Bill should be introduced without the inclusion of such a clause.”

I stand here today with just such a new criminal justice Bill and hope to put right the failure by successive Governments to which the Committee referred.

Let me turn to the new powers in the Bill and how their implementation would work in practice. The Bill would insert a new section 18A in the Criminal Appeal Act 1995, which would enable the CCRC to obtain a court order requiring a private organisation or individual to disclose a document or other material in their possession. As with the current power to require material held by public bodies, the new disclosure requirements will apply notwithstanding any obligations of secrecy or other

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limitations on disclosure, including statutory obligations or limitations. This will mean that companies will not be able to use excuses such as the Data Protection Act to deny the CCRC information, nor will it be possible to cite information that carries a security classification, including restricted and secret information, as a reason for non-disclosure. This could be particularly important in cases of courts martial, which the CCRC has been involved in investigating since the Armed Forces Act 2006.

Even after the enactment of the Bill, the CCRC should always attempt at first to obtain any information voluntarily before reverting to a court order. Not only would that build a better accord with the private individual or organisation concerned, it is also likely to be more expedient than an application to the court.

I should state for clarity that the provisions would extend to England, Wales and Northern Ireland, in relation to which the Northern Ireland Assembly will be invited to pass a legislative consent motion. Scotland will be unaffected because, as I said, it has its own powers.

I mentioned how low, at 7%, the referral rate was for cases that the CCRC investigates and sends back to the Court of Appeal. The shadow Cabinet Office Minister, the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Wayne David), asked in Committee—I am grateful for the opportunity to answer some of these points on Third Reading—whether this Bill, by virtue of increasing the CCRC’s powers and therefore its scope for conducting investigations, would increase the rate of referral and therefore the workload, which neatly taps into the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Bury North (Mr Nuttall). I must stress that it is not our job, nor is it the purpose of this Bill, to increase the referral rate per se. Far from it; indeed, the low rate is testament to how robust and rigorous our criminal justice system is, indicating that no evidence of a miscarriage of justice was to be found in the original case.

We must remember that not all information supplied to the CCRC will necessarily lead to an appeal. The commission’s mandate is not to secure as many referrals and overturn as many convictions as possible; it is to thoroughly investigate alleged miscarriages of justice. In some cases, privately held material might help to identify these miscarriages, and that material may lead to some convictions being referred to the Court of Appeal and subsequently quashed, in circumstances where those cases would otherwise have been turned down. In other cases, privately held material might persuade the CCRC not to refer a case for appeal where it was otherwise minded to refer.

It would be natural to anticipate that the receipt of the proposed powers should lead to an increase in referrals to the Court of Appeal, as the CCRC believes it is sure that there are miscarriages of justice that have gone unremedied because of the lack of power. However, I want Members to be clear that the referral rate is not a direct proxy for the effectiveness of the commission’s work. Increasing referrals is not to be confused with being the objective. Our job as parliamentarians is to ensure that the CCRC—and, more widely, the justice system as a whole—has all the powers and processes it needs to operate in the best way possible.

I want now to elaborate on why this change in the law is necessary, and I thank the House for its forbearance.

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During my term in Birmingham, those at the commission explained that, in the 18 years of its existence, the powers under section 17 have been an essential tool of that body. The power extends to the information from public sector bodies, as I explained earlier, but it should also extend to public bodies held at arm’s length. The commissioners also explained that the absence of power to obtain material in the private sector has often operated to the disadvantage of applicants to the commission.

Currently, where material relevant to the CCRC’s work is held outside the public sector, the commissioners are reliant on requesting voluntary disclosure by the relevant individuals or organisations. Although voluntary disclosure is not uncommon, organisations increasingly regard themselves as being unable to assist the CCRC as a result of statutory restrictions on the disclosure of information. Even where voluntary disclosure is made, it will often be after protracted negotiations, causing lengthy—and, indeed, expensive—delays in the case review process.

Solicitors’ firms provide one such example. One would have thought that solicitors would be among the most co-operative of sources, but that is not always so. In the past, the commission has seen a good level of co-operation in respect of its requests for case files from solicitors who represented applicants at trial and/or on appeal. In part, that level of co-operation has been thanks to relevant professional codes of conduct that apply to solicitors. In more recent times, however, and perhaps as a result of increasing pressures on legally-aided defence firms, the commission has faced greater difficulties. It is often readily apparent that requests from the commission are placed at the bottom of solicitors’ lists of priorities. On occasion, the commission has been faced with protracted negotiations over who bears the cost of transferring the materials in question.

The commission tends to encounter four typical situations that, as a result of its lack of powers in relation to the private sector, operate to the applicant’s disadvantage. These are, first, the inability to obtain information from a private individual; secondly, the inability to obtain information from private sector organisations; thirdly, partial information or only a summary of information is provided, which the commission is not in a position to scrutinise or verify; and fourthly, information sources are obtained, but protracted negotiations with the private sector create lengthy delays.

Alarmingly, members of the commission told me that, in several instances, with respect to the information it seeks from an organisation, it has experienced significant and repeated difficulties. Against that background, the commission has decided that it would be fruitless to pursue the information in question and therefore does not do so. The current lack of power does not affect isolated cases alone, but can cause a systemic problem relating to a source and a repeated basis, leading to not one but potentially many miscarriages of justice incapable of being remedied.

I know that the commissioners share the view that it is highly regrettable that their inquiries into miscarriages of justice should be impeded by the refusal of a private organisation or witness to provide material. The absence of any compulsion exercised at the insistence of the CCRC may result in the victim of a miscarriage of

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justice suffering continuing imprisonment, with all the continuing social consequences of having a criminal conviction. That cannot be right.

Moreover, the problem has become more acute in recent years, because much of the responsibility for the material held by public bodies when the 1995 Act was envisaged has since been entrusted to private sector bodies. The number of private organisations holding relevant information has increased dramatically, with the contracting out of public services to the private sector becoming more commonplace. Additionally, recent statutory data protection trends have reinforced the issue of confidentiality and have affected the voluntary co-operation of private bodies. There is a real risk that applicants to the CCRC will be at a significant disadvantage unless the CCRC is afforded the facility to obtain material held in the private sector.

Examples of private bodies that may now hold vital information relevant to the review of a case that may once have been in the public sector and within the CCRC’s scope but is now outside it include private health clinics, forensic experts, charities, campaigning groups, law firms, news agencies, probation services—now largely contracted out—banks, private schools, shops, department stores and public transport companies.

Let me illustrate this by using a few examples that the caseworkers from the commission shared with me where they believe the current lack of powers has led to long delays in a case review or even directly to its failure. Private companies can be a vital source of information, as we see in a case I was told about during my visit to Birmingham. The commission was looking into the case of an HGV driver who had been convicted in 2013 of serious sexual offences and sentenced to 15 years in prison. The commission wanted access to some of the data held by an employer which might have supported an alibi. Those inquiries evolved into a search for timesheets within the private company, but the company would not co-operate. It is not really clear whether it even checked its records. The commission was not able to obtain the information and proceeded without it, and the case was not referred.

I mentioned earlier the importance of the Forensic Science Service. A key aspect of the commission’s work is re-examining and re-testing material from crime scenes that was submitted as evidence in the original or earlier appeal trials. The recent closure of the nationalised FSS and its replacement with a contracted-out service has also highlighted this gap in the current law, the result of which is that the CCRC no longer has the power to compel the production of forensic material it had when the FSS was a public body. This type of material will be held by private companies and may not be available to the commission in future.

Another common source of evidence is CCTV. I learned of another example where an applicant, convicted and jailed for a serious armed robbery in a shop, alleged that the expert facial mapping evidence presented at the trial was flawed. The commission wished to instruct an expert to conduct further tests, but the owner of the shop in question refused to provide information about the make and specifications of the CCTV equipment. Without those details, the commission’s new expert could not consider the issues. The irony is that, had a similar incident taken place on the street in sight of a council-owned CCTV camera, the equivalent information

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could have been requested under section 17 of the 1995 Act, by virtue of the fact the footage from a council-owned camera is deemed “publicly held”. Therefore, the information required to properly evaluate the appeal investigation would have been available.

Lawyers here will know that witness credibility often proves to be a vital crux of criminal prosecution or defence cases. To that end, we should consider the case where an applicant was convicted of indecently assaulting three former pupils during his employment as a housemaster at a private residential school. He was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment. For the jury at the trial, the consideration hinged on the credibility of the complainants. The commission requested the files on each of the three complainants in order to address issues raised about their credibility. The private school declined the request and the point remains unresolved, yet a state-maintained school would have been compelled to honour the request for information and the outcome of the review investigation may have been different.

Social work or counselling records are another source of vital information to the commission. Charitable bodies such as ChildLine and the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, and private counsellors or doctors, often hold vital information relevant to commission reviews, particularly in cases of intra-family abuse. Such organisations may agree to assist when the consent of the individual concerned is obtained. If consent is not forthcoming, such organisations will generally decline to provide the commission with information, on the basis of confidentiality. However, the discrepancy arises in that local authority social workers’ or NHS records are deemed to be admissible by the commission when it considers a review.

I hope the House can see that the distinction between private and public organisations in cases such as these is artificial. Why should the outcome of justice depend on whether key witnesses went to a public or private school, or whether an alleged crime happened in front of a council-owned or privately-owned CCTV camera? This false divide owes itself partly to a drafting anomaly in the original legislation and partly to unforeseen rises in the amount of important evidence generated and held by private sources.

Members should bear it in mind that examples of situations where the commission has been unable to obtain potentially significant information illustrate only a part of the wider issue. At least as important is the extent to which being granted the power to obtain material from private sector sources would allow it to consider new avenues of inquiry that we currently rarely consider because our powers do not allow us to pursue them.

We are unlikely ever to be sure whether the applicants in the cases to which I have referred were truly guilty or innocent, or whether their appeals would have succeeded had the information been provided—truth is likely to be mixed across the cases. But we can be sure that the current law gives rise to question marks over this point, and that is something it is right to change.