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Viscount Astor: My Lords, I have a number of brief questions for the noble and learned Lord. Can he tell the House how many awards have been made under this scheme in the past financial year and how many people have applied in the current year and are waiting for adjudication? I understand that in the past there has been delay between applying and being granted an award. Does the Minister believe that in the future the number of applications will increase or decrease?
It is surprising to see that the maximum payment to a disabled person, who is 37 years or under, is £58,000, and the maximum payment to his or her dependant, who is 37 years or under, is £26,000. Those are incredibly small sums compared with the sums that are awarded in the courts under various compensation schemes. As the Minister is a lawyer perhaps he would care to comment on that. In relation to awards made to
The Minister has said that the Government will review the awards regularly and retain their value. I note that they were last reviewed in 1988, some 12 years ago, and we now see an increase of 3.8 per cent. That is substantially below the rate of inflation through those years. I realise that for some of those 12 years we were in power, and we did not increase them, but that does not explain why the present Government, having won two general elections, have not done something about this. If this matter is to be reviewed regularly in the future, can the Minister say whether we shall have to wait another 12 years before the next review?
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Viscount for those questions. Since the scheme was introduced--from 1980 to 31st March 2001--there have been 13,599 claims; the number of payments made to date is 9,396; the claims received in the last complete year numbered 1,352; and in the current year--1st April till 28th September--the claims received so far number 942. On whether the numbers are going up or down, they appear to remain pretty steady.
The noble Viscount also said that the payments are much lower than would be awarded under a full liability basis if a personal injury claim had been brought. That is broadly correct. However, one must remember that the 1979 Act provides for lump sum payments when there is no realistic prospect of success in the courts. This is not a scheme that is intended to ape the way that the courts would act; this is a scheme that is intended to provide additional funds for people suffering from these terrible diseases. I believe that the approach is correct.
Finally, the noble Viscount, having closely perused the two paragraphs of the Explanatory Notes at the back of the document, referred to the fact that the last time the amount was increased was in 1988. That is wrong. Practically every year, since 1985, there has been an increase. The last increase was in June 2000. It was decided that another increase would take place in June 2001, but unfortunately a Recess intervened and that is why we have not brought the increase before the House before now. The principle is that we have increased it regularly and, as a result, the level of compensation has risen with the RPI since 1980 when the scheme was introduced.
Lord Walker of Doncaster: My Lords, I am not sure that my noble and learned friend is right in referring to the purposes for which the scheme was introduced. The purpose was to give the opportunity to workmen and others who may not have had the chance to pursue a civil case in the courts because of the insidious nature of the disease and the fact that their employer had gone out of business or had ceased to exist in the mean time.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I do not dispute that account, but the point is that the courts would not provide a remedy. As the employer had gone bust, or could not provide insurance, or there was no money or no time, there was no realistic prospect of success for an employee in the courts and so the scheme was introduced. I hope that I did not suggest otherwise.
This is a technical adjustment to the law. The law was passed in error, using the negative resolution procedure, in May of this year, whereas this order requires the affirmative procedure. In all my years in the other place I have never come across this error, though I suspect this is not the first occasion on which it has happened. It is a minor but very important amendment to ensure that we get the affirmative procedure absolutely right.
The person responsible for the supervision of an offender subject to an order would normally be a probation officer; the more modern terminology is "responsible officer". A responsible officer can order an offender subject to an order to provide necessary samples. The new community order, which is to be piloted initially in Nottingham, Staffordshire and Hackney, is intended to apply to offenders thought to be unsuitable for other types of community order, with a view to getting them off drugs.
We know from a previous debate in July, when we passed a similar order, that there is a requirement for a trigger crime, usually connected with the acquisition of class A drugs. We need to have in place measures requiring young persons subject to orders to give samples on a regular basis to ensure that they are not taking class A drugs. It is therefore necessary under the relevant powers to define correctly the responsible officer. The prescribed responsible officers will be the officers of local probation boards, within the meaning of Section 4(4) of the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000.
Lord Roper: My Lords, we are very grateful to the Minister for explaining in such a frank way to the House the previous technical errors that we made. The pilot project to be facilitated by this order will be of considerable value. We are very glad that we shall now be able to do it in the proper way.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 19th July be approved [5th Report from the Joint Committee].
Noble Lords will recall that the principal order specifies the way to determine turnover for the purposes of calculating the maximum penalty that the regulator--the Postal Services Commission, or PostComm as it is now generally known--can impose in the event of a licensee breaching his licence conditions. The general principle of setting a limit on the maximum penalty has been widely accepted by your Lordships' House, and indeed the provisions were introduced following representations made during the debates on what is now the Postal Services Act.
Unfortunately, as I acknowledged when we debated the principal order on 21st March, there was a small glitch in the order. Generally, the turnover by reference to which the maximum penalty is calculated is based on a licensee's annual turnover in the licensed area. However, for breaches lasting more than 12 months we had provided for the turnover in question to be based on twice that annual turnover where the breach continues for a period of more than one year but fewer than two years. In a case where the breach continues for a period of more than two years, we had provided for the turnover in question to be based on three times the annual turnover. But we made no special provision for a breach of exactly two years, so the maximum penalty would be based on only the annual turnover. I admitted that that was not intended.
The amendment order removes the anomaly, by including, in circumstances where turnover is based on twice the annual turnover, cases where breaches last exactly two years, as well as the period of more than
Lord Rotherwick: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister. The Minister said that the Government would correct this error as soon as was convenient. My only comment is that this is yet another instance of the Government legislating in haste and having to amend at leisure. It has taken seven months. We do not oppose the making of this amendment order.
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