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Baroness Elles: My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord will allow me to interrupt. My point related to those who have been injured and are in receipt of benefits from the DSS. They will not receive the total benefit of the criminal compensation paid as it will be deducted from their DSS benefit. The point did not relate to taxpayers.
In the courts we have compensation orders but as I understand it the reason for the existence of the criminal injuries compensation scheme is that in 95 per cent. of cases the people who assault other people are not worth pursuing. That is why the scheme is ex gratia; it is a recognition by the Government that a wrong has been done which should not have been done within the context of society. That is what it is all about and we must sort it out within that context.
Lord Macaulay of Bragar: My Lords, the difference is that a speech has some continuity in it. I do not intend to have any continuity in my remarks. Since the time when the Home Secretary acted illegallylet us not beat about the bush; he was deemed to have acted illegallywhat consultation has taken place with any one involved in the area of criminal injuries compensation? What consultation has there been since that decision and the production of this piece of paper we are now considering? I hope the Minister will be able to say who was consulted. Of course, the Home Secretary's domain does not include Scotland but we can look at this on a UK basis. Who was consulted before this Bill was produced? I should say that it is a fairly useless piece of paper at the end of the day, and observations have been made by various Members of your Lordships' House in regard to its contents.
I said that I did not intend to make a speech, but I should perhaps declare an interest as a member of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board. I shall not say a great deal about the Bill. But just looking at page 1 we find that there is somebody called a "scheme manager"that is a lovely expression. Then I find the qualifying words,
When we go into the detail of the Bill, we do not know whether or not we are going to have a scheme manager. The scheme manager seems to be an alternative to the Secretary of State. Quite frankly, as a lawyer I cannot understand what the Bill is about or how it will be implemented. One either appoints a scheme manager or one does not. The word "if" is a small but important word. When we look into the context of the Bill it becomes even more important.
Then we read about "claims officers". Who will they be? There is no definition at all in that regard. Then we have magic people called "adjudicators". I may have misheard the noble Baroness when she was presenting the Government's position, but I believe she said that existing members of the board may be adjudicators. I should say that I am not remotely interested in that position because I am on the way out, so it does not matter. I am getting on a bit so I do not have an interest in who is going to be an adjudicator. However, did I understand the noble Baroness to say that existing members of the board would be appointed as adjudicators?
I am only dealing with the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum; we have not really started yet. Coming to the bottom of the page we find the heading, Effects of the Bill on public sector manpower. As I understand itI will be corrected by the Minister if I am wrongthe criminal injuries scheme as it stands at the moment, even with all the difficulties caused by the illegal act of the Home Secretary, is still running at a commercial rate administratively of between 11 and 13 per cent., which is within the acceptable range.
Including myself, there are 44 members of the board. According to the financial memorandum, the 44 membersif I understand it: perhaps I do not understand itwill disappear and 50 civil servants will be appointed; at what grade we do not know. Perhaps I may saythis is not self-pleadingthat the Government and the country get the services of the members of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board at a fairly cheap rate. The noble Baroness the Minister smiles. But there are no pension implications. We get the daily deputy recorders' rate in England. In Scotland we do not have deputy recorders, so I do not know whether I should be paid at all. The 44 members who are doing the job without a pension and without any other rights will be replaced by 50 civil servants who will carry with them all the implications of Civil Service terms of contract.
I have studied what is said under Effects of the Bill on public sector manpower. What is the output per member of the board at the moment? I read that the staff will each settle 180 cases a year. That is a ludicrous figure. I am fairly certain that if the noble Baroness asks her advisers she will find that 180 cases a year is minimal. What is happening here is that to get the settlement of 90,000 cases the staff has to be increased by 50. I do not know anything about economics but that seems a perverted form of economics. Perhaps the Minister will let us know what that is all about.
There is also the question of inspecting the victims of violence. That is a central and crucial part of settling the level of awards and a public relations exercise is also carried out in that context. As I see itI may be quite wrong about thisthe whole objective behind this exercise is to exclude lawyers from participation in the criminal injuries compensation scheme. If that is the objective, let the Government be honest about it and say that this will be Civil Service orientated and that lawyers will have nothing to do with it. The end result of that will be that the judicial review procedure, which has become an industry certainly within the English Barnot so much within the Scottish Barwill increase tenfold. People will be seeking a review by the courts of decisions taken by civil servants. What will be the extra cost of that?
Perhaps I may make one final point. Many of your Lordships have already spoken on this matter and therefore I shall not expand too much on it. What has been the cost to date of the illegal actions of the Secretary of State? I can tell the House as a member of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board that many of us will be sitting in August submerged under bags of review cases from the tariff system. The Secretary of State was put on his guard very early on that he might be wrong. From the very outset of this exercise he paid no attention to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board. I say that with the greatest of respect for the noble Lord, Lord Carlisle, who had meetings with the Financial Secretary, Mr. Jack, and with the Minister of State, Mr. Maclean. The theme throughout the proceedings was that the tariff scheme was not negotiable. It is still not negotiable because it is in this Bill. In the interim, instead of sitting back to see what the courts were going to do, the Secretary of State in his wisdomor lack of itcontinued this scheme with letters to people saying, "Here is an award of £1,500 for a broken nose and a couple of black eyes. By the way, it might be reviewed. If that is so, you may have to pay back the money".
The Government took a deliberate decision. Some of your Lordships may be aware that there was a leaked letter of advice to the then Secretary of State to say that it was politically incorrect to try to claw back money from victims of violence. Therefore, when I am sitting going through these bags of cases and I see that an award of £1,500 has been made and I think that it should not have been £1,500 but £1,000, it will not matter a damnif your Lordships will excuse mebecause the Government will not claw it back. That is in contrast with what they do in civil litigation with the recovery unit in respect of social benefits. People are penalised beyond bounds. The whole thing is quite ridiculous.
What is the figure to datenot only the balance between what would have been awarded under the old common law system but what the cost of administration has been since the Home Secretary stuck his head in the sand and ignored what is going on around about him and ignored the courts? I cannot remember which noble Lord said that he had a 50:50 chance of success. Would it not have been a more prudent course for the Home Secretary at the time to have suspended the system until the Appellate Committee of your Lordships' House had made its decision?
The administrative costs will be horrendous by the time the review of all the cases done under the tariff scheme has been conducted. In the cases where the award is lower, there will be no claw back and the country will have lost. By the time we discuss the Bill
Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, having had the privilege of listening to the observations of the noble Lord, Lord Macaulay of Bragar, I wish to congratulate him on a most enlightening speech which has no doubt enriched the order of our debate while, along with the noble Earl, Lord Longford, and the noble Lord, Lord Broadbridge, challenging the essence of the principle of the Bill. The noble Lord asked some most interesting questions which are not really for me to answer but are answerable and are a matter for my noble friend the Minister, if she cares to deal with the matter today.
At the outset, from these Benches I want to acknowledge the action taken by the TUC as a result of which your Lordships' Appellate Committee aborted the previous Bill on judicial review on the ground of ministerial misconduct. As has been said, the merits and principles of the Bill were wholly irrelevant. At all events, this Bill, which in a sense has arisen like a phoenix from the ashes of your Lordships' sustained objections to the previous one, serves as a tribute not only to your Lordships' House in the exercise of its revisory role, but also to the Government, something which seems to have been forgotten by certain noble Lords. In this Bill they were able to reflect, to a certain measure, such objections.
Why it should be suggested, as it has been, that my right honourable friend the Home Secretary should don the mantle of sackcloth and ashes and grovel around the place, is simply not understood, for he has responded in full measure to your Lordships' reservations. Of course, it is a fair political point because, I suppose, all political points are fair. I do not object to it being made, but it is a pure political point. At this stage all your Lordships accept the principle of the Bill, as indeed do I. It is that we have to replace the common law system of compensation with an enhanced tariff scheme; what is called a "tariff-plus" or "hybrid" scheme.
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