First Delegated Legislation Committee
Monday 10 September 2012
[Annette Brooke in the Chair]
Draft Victims of Overseas Terrorism Compensation Scheme 2012
I beg to move,
That the Committee has considered the draft Victims of Overseas Terrorism Compensation Scheme 2012.
With this it will be convenient to consider the draft Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme 2012.
It is a pleasure to serve under you, Mrs Brooke, in my first delegated legislation Committee as a Minister.
Both these schemes have already been approved in the other place. Support for victims and witnesses is a priority for this Government, and that is why, for example, we have provided Victim Support with £114 million in grant funding spread over three years, enabling it to invest in long-term service provision. It is also why we have put rape support centres on a secure financial footing, with 65 centres around the country receiving total grant funding of nearly £3 million a year. Over the past year, we have funded the establishment of four new centres, with a further five opening in March 2013.
We need to go much further, however, and that is why in January we launched our consultation, “Getting it right for victims and witnesses”. Part 1 of the consultation set out our proposals for ensuring that victims and witnesses get the support they need and part 2 focused on the reform of the criminal injuries compensation scheme. It also included our plans, which were not subject to consultation, on making payments to the victims of overseas terrorism. We published the Government response to the consultation in July.
The proper protection and support of those who have suffered at the hands of criminals is a fundamental part of a civilised justice system. We are determined to provide the best support for the most seriously affected, vulnerable and persistently targeted victims of crime, to help them cope with and recover from the effects of crime. We believe that victims should never feel like accessories to the system, be kept in the dark about their cases or expected to sit next to the families of perpetrators in court. Since it was set up in 1964 and then reformed in 1996 following primary legislation, the criminal injuries compensation scheme has offered support from taxpayers to victims of crime. No amount of money by way of compensation can make up for the injury or emotional trauma that often results from crimes of violence, but in some circumstances it is right to provide financial assistance.
Our consultation argued that the provision of support services for victims at the point of need is a better use of money than providing small amounts of compensation some time after the incident for relatively minor injuries, such as sprained ankles and broken fingers. Our reforms therefore remove payments for minor injuries and focus payments on seriously injured victims of serious crime.
The criminal injuries compensation scheme is demand-led. It costs the Government some £200 million a year. Historically it has been underfunded, with the funding allocated at the beginning of the year needing on occasion to be topped up at the end of the year to enable claims to be paid as and when they fall due. Minor changes to the scheme were made in 2008, but the scheme has not been substantially reformed since the introduction of the first tariff scheme in 1996.
I congratulate the Minister on her new role. What was the overhead cost of administering the scheme last year and how much extra cost, if any, will this new scheme add?
I would like to write to my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham on that point, although I may well be able to answer his question and give him some of those figures towards the end of my speech.
We are still resolving claims that were made under the pre-tariff system operating prior to 1996. Despite making additional funding available, total liabilities currently stand at some £532 million. That includes an estimate of cases that are likely to fall due in the future and the remaining rump of the pre-tariff cases. The scheme must be put on a more sustainable financial footing if it is to continue to offer timely compensation to victims in the long term. We envisage that the cumulative effect of our reforms to the scheme will deliver savings of some £50 million per annum to the taxpayer. However, we aim to maintain overall spend on victims at the same level by raising up to an additional £50 million from offenders to spend on support services, rather than on compensation.
We have defined eligibility more tightly so that only direct and blameless victims of crime who co-operate fully with the criminal justice process may obtain compensation under the scheme. We will continue to make awards to secondary victims in certain circumstances. Applicants will need to demonstrate a connection to the UK through residency or other connection. In the light of the consultation responses, however, we reconsidered the original proposal that an applicant should be resident in the UK for six months prior to the incident that led to the injury. The residence condition will now be satisfied if the person is ordinarily resident from the date of the incident.
I endorse the remarks of my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham on the Minister’s appointment.
The Minister may be aware that many members of the Committee have received communications from the Communication Workers Union expressing serious concern that many CWU members have been attacked by dogs that are not kept under proper control. Those members are currently eligible for compensation, but looking at annex B in one of the multitude of papers with which we have been provided it is clear that there is a proposal to change the operation of the scheme and remove such eligibility. Will she help us with the rationale behind that change?
I will say something specific about the removal of tariff bands 1 to 5 in the course of my speech, but, basically, the rationale behind the change is the fact that, currently, the scheme is unsustainable in this unfortunate economic climate. We want to continue making proper payments to people who have suffered serious and direct injuries as a result of a violent act, but we need to reform this complicated scheme. It cannot continue in its present form, and the reforms will allow us to make certain changes to make the scheme simpler for people to manage. In terms of the rationale, criminal injuries compensation is only one head or leg of compensation; many people injured by dog attacks, for example, may pursue a claim through the civil courts to obtain a compensation order or damages. So there are alternatives, and I will come back to that later.
I will address the intervention of my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham. The scheme’s administration cost £19.6 million in 2011-12, and there will be no increase in administrative costs as a result of the changes.
I also congratulate the Minister on her new post.
Following on from the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff North, rowing back on compensation for postal workers seems strange, particularly as the Government have just set out tougher guidelines to protect members of the public from dog attacks and extended the protection to private land, which specifically helps people such as postal workers. Withdrawing compensation for people who are carrying out such work flies in the face of much of the Government’s recent work to crack down on attacks by dangerous dogs.
My hon. Friend makes a good point, but, as I have previously stated, the scheme has to be focused on serious injuries sustained as a result of direct violent crime. Although dog attacks may be serious, they are often not a deliberate violent crime. Dog attacks are often the result of neglect or negligence. If the dog is commanded to attack a postal worker, of course, the postal worker, as a victim of a deliberate violent attack, would be able to make a legitimate claim for compensation.
I warmly welcome the hon. Lady to her post. I appreciate that she has been in office for only a short time and will not have had the opportunity to discuss the issue in any detail with other Departments, but when I met the Minister in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs who is responsible for dangerous dog legislation earlier this year, and raised with him the fact that the criminal injuries compensation scheme proposals would mean that postal workers would lose compensation, he said that he knew nothing about it. Can the Minister assure us that there is joined-up government, and that there have been discussions with the DEFRA Ministers who are dealing with the issue of dog attacks?
I can certainly give assurances that there is joined-up Government. I have been in the Government for only a few days, but in that time it has certainly seemed joined up. I cannot comment on what was said in conversations in the past, but I could perhaps write to the hon. Lady about the matters she has just raised.
I also congratulate the Minister on her new post and, as my hon. Friend has said, it is hard to hold her responsible for this secondary legislation.
The dangerous dogs issue is, however, real. There is no doubt that a dog attack can lead to criminal sanctions against the owner and have a serious psychological and physical impact. It is in the nature of postal workers’ working role that they will encounter dogs, but people should not go to work expecting to be injured. Is the Minister able to reconsider that important issue? It is obvious that a number of her colleagues, and certainly Opposition Members, feel strongly that the draft scheme misses an important point for that occupational group.
I of course take on board what the hon. Gentleman has to say, but I cannot promise to reconsider the matter—there has been a lot of consideration of the reform proposals. If I can, however, make some headway, I will say a bit more about the matters that he has raised.
In her speech, will the hon. Lady also deal with the issue of children who are the subject of dog attacks? I am not sure whether she has seen the campaign on that. It uses some absolutely horrific photographs of children who have been seriously maimed as a result of dog attacks. Can she, therefore, ensure that she does not miss that issue in the course of the debate?
Hopefully the Lady’s suggestion can be covered as we proceed through the debate.
Applicants will need to be able to demonstrate a connection with the UK through residency or otherwise, however, in the light of consultation responses we have reconsidered our proposal that the applicant should be resident in the UK for six months before the incident that leads to the injury. The residency condition will now be satisfied if the person is ordinarily resident on the date of the incidence.
Bereaved relatives of victims who die as a result of their injuries will also continue to be able to apply, as long as they meet the revised eligibility criteria. Those with unspent convictions will not be able to claim if they have been sentenced to a community order or been imprisoned. Those with other unspent convictions will be able to receive an award only in exceptional circumstances. The changes to eligibility are consistent with the core purpose of the scheme, namely to compensate blameless victims of violent crime.
Turning to the tariff, we wanted to strike the right balance between protecting payments for the most seriously injured and reducing the overall cost of the scheme. Tariff payments will be available only to those most seriously affected by their injuries and those who have been the victims of the most serious and distressing crimes. In practice, that means that bands 1 to 5 of the current scheme, which contain more minor injuries such as sprains and minor fractures, have been removed. Bands 6 to 12 have been reduced by between 60% and 24%, but bands 13 to 25 remain in their entirety at the existing levels. Tariff awards for fatal cases, sexual offences, patterns of physical abuse and loss of a foetus are also to remain at their present level, no matter where they currently appear on the tariff.
Some Members will have seen one or more briefings on the changes, including papers on behalf of postal and shop workers. Such people do a valuable job, sometimes in challenging circumstances, but the Government do not believe that a compelling case has been made for maintaining payments for minor injuries.
I congratulate my hon. Friend on her appointment.
On the issue of shop workers, there is concern that the Government are sending a signal to say that some violence towards shop workers is acceptable. I invite the Minister to state what the position is so that shop workers can expect proper protection under the law. We need to know that the law will be rigorously enforced and that there will be a process for shop workers to be able to recover some compensation if they suffer criminal injuries.
My hon. Friend makes a very good point. Shop workers are certainly regarded as important and valuable people by the Government. However, the Government feel that making small payments to people for minor injuries is not the best way of helping them. Instead, we are minded to plough more money into victims services. The money will come from a victims tariff paid at the end of court hearings. That should lead to an additional sum going into victims services in the region of up to £50 million. For shop workers who have genuinely gone through difficult times and had minor injuries, we are investing in other places where they can receive the proper advice, help and support that they deserve.
I also congratulate the Minister on her new post. She talks about minor injuries, but we are talking about injuries in bands 1 to 5. They are not what I would class as minor. They are pretty significant: permanent speech impairment; partial deafness lasting more than 13 weeks; multiple broken ribs; post-traumatic epileptic fits; and burns and scarring causing minor facial disfigurement. That is only a snapshot of what shop workers encounter in day-to-day work if there is an attack on them. Does the Minister class such injuries as minor? I definitely do not, and I think my right hon. and hon. Friends and some of the Minister’s colleagues would agree.
Many of the injuries included in bands 1 to 5 are minor. If the injury is serious, the applicant—the victim—can make an application to the higher bands of 6 to 12. The important point is that, currently, the criminal injuries compensation scheme is not financially sustainable. Changes have to be made to continue to make long-term payments to those who most definitely need them. We are trying to be as careful and as compassionate as we can be in making the changes. Unfortunately, we have to respond to the difficult economic climate. As with any other applicant to the scheme, if someone’s injuries are sufficiently serious, they will still be eligible to make an application. They will also, like other victims, benefit from additional services funded by offenders.
The next element of the scheme is loss of earnings. Such payments do not currently reflect actual loss for all applicants as they are capped at a salary of 1.5 times the median gross weekly earnings, but they make up a significant proportion of the costs to the scheme. The new calculation for loss of earnings will be a flat rate based on statutory sick pay, which will be simpler to administer. Payments will no longer be subject to deductions to benefits. They will be available only to those who can no longer work or have very limited capacity to work. That is in line with our focus on those most seriously affected by their injuries.
On special expenses, we have retained the vast majority of such payments in their entirety. Special expenses payments continue to be made available for the same categories as under the current scheme, with the exception of private health care, which has been removed. We chose to retain the payments, because they are generally awarded to those who suffer the most serious injuries. We have, however, made it clear that the scheme should be one of last resort in relationship to expenses and that the payments will be made only if the claim is reasonable.
On payments in fatal cases, we are protecting the awards for bereavement and parental services payments.
In the interests of consistency and fairness, dependency payments in fatal cases will be made in line with the revised plans for loss of earnings. The scheme can never compensate fully for the death of a loved one, but we believe that some financial compensation is appropriate in such cases. Reasonable funeral payments will also be paid up to a maximum of £5,000.
I still find it rather difficult to understand the mathematics. We have learned that the administrative costs will remain the same at £19.6 million, whereas many of us would like a saving, if the system will be simpler and easier to administer. I think the Minister said there would be £50 million extra from offenders. If we can collect that from offenders, we would all welcome it, so why do we need cuts in benefits to beneficiaries? Will the Minister explain how much she is trying to get out by reducing benefits to people who are injured?
The system must remain sustainable going forward and, as I made clear, unfortunately the liabilities are very high, and that is not sustainable or sensible in the present economic climate. We genuinely want to ensure that we do not take away from victims, and that is why I have been clear in saying that the extra money that will come from offenders will compensate for the fact that some of the money for the CICS scheme will no longer come from taxpayers.
I congratulate the Minister on her appointment, although perhaps I should commiserate with her, because she has inherited a nightmare; I know because I dealt with it for nearly four years. It is clear that although £50 million will be raised from offenders, it will not go into the scheme; it will go into Victim Support, which will be decimated when it is devolved to police and crime commissioners. We have two entirely different operations, and the statement that the Minister’s officials prepared for her confuses them.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his intervention. No confusion is intended. The payment that we will seek to obtain from offenders will go into a pot that will go to victims’ services. That is the mechanism of the operation. Payment will not go to the person who appears in court as a victim in a specific case, but victims generally will benefit. It is important to ensure that.
On the point about process, one aim of the reforms is to make the scheme easier for applicants to understand. For the first time, the evidence required to make a claim will be stated in the scheme. We are tightening the circumstances in which the authority will meet the costs of obtaining medical evidence, and reducing the time for submission of review applications to the authority.
This debate is also about the draft statutory scheme for compensating victims of overseas terrorism. The House will agree that terrorism is a political statement, and an attack on the state. Its ramifications go beyond those who are directly affected by it. It is not surprising that this policy has cross-party support, and it is surely right to show solidarity with victims.
Hon. Members may recall that we introduced an ex gratia payment scheme in April that makes payments to victims of overseas terrorist attacks going back to 2002. The statutory scheme will make payments to British and EU victims of overseas terrorism who are resident in the UK. It is based on the draft criminal injuries compensation scheme, which we are considering this evening. It will make payment for injuries, loss of earnings and special expenses on the same basis. However, eligibility conditions relating to nationality and residence will be different, reflecting the ex gratia scheme, and will require that injuries are attributable to a designated terrorist attack rather than to a crime of violence. As with the ex gratia scheme, the designation of a terrorist act for the purposes of the scheme will be a matter for my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary.
In conclusion, the Government believe that the draft criminal injuries compensation scheme provides—
The Minister is generous to give way again. May I ask a very technical question about the impact of the draft victims of overseas terrorism compensation scheme? She mentioned the reporting requirements for the domestic scheme. I put it to her that to a victim of terrorism overseas it is not obvious what the reporting requirements are. There must be some reporting requirements; I hope that they will be common sense, and not as narrowly drawn as the requirements for the domestic scheme, because people frankly would not necessarily realise that a victim of a bomb in Egypt would need to meet a certain type of reporting requirement back in the UK. Can she clarify that issue, either now or later?
I am sure that common sense will be applied; it has to be. However, I will be very happy to write to the hon. Member with details of the scheme in response to the points that he has made. I am sure that we can provide them fairly quickly.
The last Government introduced this scheme. We are carrying further. It is a good scheme, it has cross-party support, and I sincerely believe that it will provide some help, financial assistance and comfort to those who are unfortunately on the receiving end of overseas terrorism.
In conclusion, the Government believe that the draft criminal injuries compensation scheme is a coherent and fair way of focusing payments on those most seriously affected by their injuries within a sustainable budget. The draft victims of overseas terrorism compensation scheme gives expression to the desire to provide financial support for those who sustain injuries aboard during a terrorist attack, and for those who are bereaved by such an attack. I commend these schemes to the House.
May I say, Mrs Brooke, that it is a pleasure to serve on a Committee under your chairpersonship?
I welcome the Minister to her place and, as I have already done once this afternoon, pay tribute to her predecessors. I am not sure that I entirely join my right hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough in commiserating with the Minister on the nature of the delegated legislation that she is dealing with. However, what we are looking at this afternoon is incredibly important. We all have an incredible responsibility on us to get it right, and I hope to explain why it is so important that we do so. I will conclude by hoping that the Minister finds some way of going back with officials to look at this matter again; as we go on, I will elaborate on why that is.
A scheme to compensate injured victims of violent crime is important to any decent society; it is one of those fundamental things, really. A state that shows that innocent victims are cared about and cared for sends an important message to the whole of our society. The Government’s consultation response sets that out when it says:
“Compensation is given to victims of violent crime in recognition of a sense of public sympathy for the pain and suffering of the victim.”
Those reasons emanate from the origins of the scheme, which was, I think, set up 50 years ago this December. I have to say that a Conservative party committee at the time supported the proposals. It said:
“The public feel a special sense of responsibility for the victims of criminal violence”.
The then Lord Chancellor, Lord Dilhorne, elaborated on the need for financial compensation:
“For the innocent victims of such crimes we all feel sympathy, but we feel that sympathy alone is not enough.” —[Official Report, House of Lords, 5 December 1962; Vol. 245, c. 305.]
I hope that Government Members will honour the laudable sentiments of their predecessors. The title of the consultation launched earlier this year would lead us all to think so. That title, “Getting it right for victims and witnesses”, suggested that there would be positive proposals that victims themselves would support. Statements made by the new Secretary of State for Justice when he was shadow Home Secretary were certainly supportive of victims. An article that he wrote for The Daily Telegraph in December 2009 was headed “A Tory Government would seek to protect the rights of the victim.” In his speech to the Conservative party conference in 2009, he recounted the tale of a British soldier on leave from Afghanistan who was beaten up in his local town centre. He said:
“And law abiding, decent people are asking—who’s looking after me?”
His response was:
“Well, my message to them is that a Conservative Government will start looking after you.”
However, when I look at the proposed changes to the compensation scheme for injured, innocent victims of crime, I do not believe that they represent a Government who are starting to look after law-abiding, decent people, a scheme that is getting it right for victims, or a Government who are seeking to protect the rights of the victim. I therefore hope that the new Minister will look with fresh eyes at the proposals and realise that they are not compatible with her own, the Secretary of State’s and the Government’s desire to protect and look after the innocent victims of crime.
The changes will abolish all compensation for almost half the victims currently eligible. They will cut the payments for a further 35% of victims with severe injuries by up to 60%. They will prevent all the many victims of vicious dog attacks, including young children and postmen doing their job, from receiving public recompense. Only the tariffs for the most serious injuries, suffered by just 17% of victims, will be unchanged. Victims of dog attacks will cease to be eligible at all, reducing even further the number who will be compensated.
The new draft scheme will reduce the payments to the most seriously injured victims by reducing their compensation for loss of earnings from average earnings to less than £4,500 a year, and by including so many conditions that payments will be, in the words of one leading personal injury lawyer, “virtually unattainable”. As if that were not enough, those same reductions in, and conditions for, loss-of-earnings payments will be applied to the children of victims killed by a criminal.
I believe that these drastic cuts change the fundamental nature of the criminal injuries compensation scheme. They are at direct variance with the Government’s first stated aim of the review of the scheme—
“to protect payments to those most seriously affected by their injuries”—
and with the Government’s statement that in cutting the deficit, they would protect the most vulnerable, because if the innocent, severely injured victims of violent crime and the orphaned children of parents killed by criminals can be targeted for such drastic cuts, surely no one is immune. In short, the deficit, which is escalating as a result of current policies, is being used as an excuse to drive a coach and horses through the criminal injuries compensation scheme as we approach its 50th anniversary.
I find it very hard to comprehend why such drastic changes to such an important scheme are being scrutinised by just 19 of us this afternoon. I receive considerable correspondence from victims of crime. I am sure that other hon. Members on both sides of the Committee do, too. As Members of Parliament, we get to understand only a little of the horror and trauma suffered by those who are assaulted. I am sure that many hon. Members would wish to express their views about the impact of the proposals. I am sure, too, that many victims of future violent crimes—crimes committed from next month onwards—will want to know that Parliament gave thorough consideration to a policy that will affect those victims so severely. I therefore feel the weight of responsibility on me today, and I am sure that other members of the Committee do, too.
According to the impact assessment on the changes, about 37,000 people each year receive compensation under the scheme. Of those innocent victims, more than 17,000 would see their compensation abolished under the proposals, and 14,000 of the most seriously injured would see it reduced. I feel the weight of responsibility for those 30,000 or more people injured and traumatised through no fault of their own—I hope we all do—because the compensation received by the injured victims of violent crime is incredibly important to them, financially and emotionally. As the scheme says, compensation gives recognition for the pain and suffering of the victim. That is very important to those who have suffered.
First, there is the physical pain. The current scheme does not compensate for minor injuries. Any impact must be verified as being debilitating for at least six weeks. However, for many victims, the emotional trauma lasts far longer; indeed, it is often permanent. To have someone, usually someone unknown to you, look you in the eye and seek to inflict injury on you, or threaten you with violence or even death, is not an experience that anyone could forget.
I was told of the case of Ashley, a young checkout assistant who had a gun held to her head by hooded attackers who raided her store. Many months afterwards, she said:
“The incident is still very fresh in my mind…at times I get very anxious and impatient. I have good and bad days. Loud noises make me jump and I’m very wary in public places, especially when I see someone wearing a hooded top.”
For people such as Ashley who are assaulted at their place of work, it requires enormous courage to go back to the same workplace. Shop workers and small business owners who have been violently attacked at work often say that they are never the same again—that in the future they will always feel vulnerable and worried about who may come through the door next. They live in fear of the same thing happening again, or something worse happening—and for many, sadly, it does. Some shops—often small businesses or convenience stores—are unfortunate enough to face armed robberies several times a year. I see that in my constituency, and I feel very humble when I meet people who continue to work in, and provide a service to, their community, despite their horrific experiences.
No amount of money can compensate for emotional trauma, but victims find that, as is intended, the recognition of their suffering is important to them. The receipt of compensation, even several weeks or indeed months after an attack, can give a sense of closure and help victims to recover from trauma and get on with their lives again. That is especially important in helping victims of workplace crime to go back to work, which I know that the Secretary of State, from his previous role, is very keen on—as am I and, I suspect, everyone in the room. That is not just because when sick or injured people go back to work they save the state money, but because those individuals suffer financially when they cannot work.
Most victims injured by criminals suffer financially. The injuries that are compensated by the current scheme are all severe enough that almost anyone so affected would be unable to work for a temporary period, especially those in one of the many occupations in which one needs to be fully fit to do one’s job. They are also likely to be the people on the lowest pay who can least afford unpaid time off work. Even if they qualify for statutory sick pay, that is often much less than their normal rate of pay, and even if employees earn only the minimum wage, a full-time worker will still be £139 a week—£600 a month—worse off on statutory sick pay. Millions of people, including 35% of front-line retail staff, do not qualify for SSP. It is no wonder that many victims of crime end up in debt when they have to take time off work; compensation is essential to pay off such debt.
To give the Minister another example, Frankie, a customer services adviser from Glasgow, was attacked on the way to work. He was held down by one assailant, while another stamped on and slashed him, before robbing him. He was off work for almost a year due to his injuries and the emotional trauma that he suffered. During that time, he struggled to pay the bills, as most of us would if we went with no wages for almost a year. He received tariff level 6—£2,500 in compensation from the scheme—which enabled him to pay off the debts that he had built up. However, he says that if he had received only £1,000, as he would under this scheme, he would have lost his home.
If the cuts are implemented, the victims of crime will suffer twice: first, from the pain and trauma of the attack and the injuries sustained and, secondly, from the financial hardship suffered as a result. Surely innocent victims of violent crime have suffered enough without being forced into a vicious spiral of debt through an attack that is no fault of their own. The Minister in the other place dismissed claims in tariffs 1 to 5 as “small penny-packet amounts”; 1,000 or £2,000 may be a trifling amount to a Minister, but to a waitress on the minimum wage who has to miss weeks of work due to a fractured hand, £2,000 of compensation is a very substantial amount. Such compensation means that people are able to cope, do not have to cross the line into a personal financial crisis, and can retain the dignity and self-esteem that enables them to continue to work or to seek work.
It is true that the criminal injuries compensation scheme is not generous. When they were introduced in ’96, tariffs were far below personal injury claims, and they have barely increased since. Insurance claims for similar injuries tend to be between two and a half and four times the tariff and, under these proposals, the amounts will be even lower. It is not surprising that the scheme is a last resort for those injured. Indeed, one criterion for a claim is that the victim has no other means of redress. Tariff bands 1 to 5, of between £1,000 and £2,000, represent the only means of compensation available to almost half the victims of crime. Ministers say that those amounts are small, but they may mean an enormous amount to injured victims of crime, giving recognition of their pain and suffering, assisting them to get over the attack and helping them to stay out of debt—that actually sounds like quite good value for money.
The other reason that Ministers have given for abolishing payments for tariffs 1 to 5 is that those payments are for minor injuries resulting from relatively minor incidents that are not life-changing. For a start, the claim that injuries are from a relatively minor incident is immaterial; the size or severity of an incident is not taken into account in calculating compensation—only the injury. Several hundred claims for injuries in bands 1 to 5 arose from the 7/7 bombings, and I am sure that no one would claim that that was a relatively minor incident.
Many victims would also dispute the claim that the attacks and injuries compensated through bands 1 to 5 are not life-changing. Ashley, whom I quoted earlier, received a payment in tariff 1 for the emotional trauma suffered, but she still found that the attack had changed her and her life. A victim of the 7/7 bombings might have suffered a less serious injury but, trapped for hours underground among the dead and dying, would dispute that the incident was not life-changing. It is wrong to say that compensation is being abolished for minor injuries alone, and I have already pointed out that only injuries lasting at least six weeks can be compensated.
Let us look at some other examples. When the Secretary of State was shadow Home Secretary, in his conference speech he mentioned an attack by drunken thugs on a soldier, which I have recounted. We do not know the details of that case, but unfortunately several cases of servicemen being beaten up by gangs of thugs have been reported recently. Ordinary soldiers are not that well paid, and we could miss valuable service to the country if they are injured; hon. Members would want them to receive compensation for injuries received from a vicious and unprovoked attack.
From reports of recent assaults, a serviceman attacked by a gang might suffer the following injuries: a fractured cheekbone; facial scaring; abrasions to the cornea from a bottle smashed in his face; a dislocated jaw and a tooth knocked out by a blow with a brick to his mouth; a fractured hand broken trying to push his attackers away; a dislocated knee from being knocked sideways to the ground; several broken ribs from being kicked while he was lying on the ground; a perforated eardrum and partial deafness lasting for more than 13 weeks because of a kick to the side of his head; and concussion, with impairment of balance and headaches lasting between six and 28 weeks, from his head being stamped on. I would not dare to claim that any of those injuries was minor, and yet if the proposals are implemented, the amount of criminal injuries compensation that a serviceman or any other victim who suffered all those injuries in an attack would qualify for would be nothing. Surely no one believes that that is right.
Under the current scheme, even if the victims of such a horrendous crime suffered all of the above injuries, they would only qualify for £2,900 in compensation. Yes, that is a relatively small amount for such extensive injuries, but it would mean an enormous amount to an injured serviceman and his family. I find it hard to believe that anyone present would advocate denying that compensation to such a victim in only a few weeks’ time, if the proposals are implemented. Please do not believe that the payments being abolished are for minor injuries or that the victims do not need both recognition and financial compensation.
The injuries in tariff bands 6 to 12 are even more serious, yet the scheme before us would cut the awards from any of those severe injuries down to sums described as “small, penny-packet amounts” by a noble Lord. Such serious, often permanently disabling, injuries include: significant facial scarring; a permanent brain injury resulting in impaired balance and headaches; a penetrating injury to both eyes; a punctured or collapsed lung; and fractured joints including both knees and vertebrae resulting in continuing significant disability. For such injuries the scheme proposes cutting the level of compensation by up to 60%.
I have referred already to a couple of examples—Ashley and Frankie—and to service people who are injured. I hope that the Committee will forgive me for using some even more horrific, but relevant, examples. The first is the tragic case of Mr al-Hilli and his family. If that attack had occurred in the UK, the proposed cuts would have affected his injured daughter. Seven-year-old Zainab was shot in the shoulder and beaten on the head, fracturing her skull; if she recovers in her shoulder and does not require an operation on her head, her compensation under the new scheme would be cut from the £3,100 it would have been to only £1,000. I do not like using horrific and current examples, but we have to get the message across. The scheme will penalise victims in horrific situations, with horrendous injuries—real people to whom we will be responsible for the decisions taken here today. It is important that we look at the effect on actual victims and consider what the changes to the scheme would mean to them.
Furthermore, those who are most seriously injured will be hit by the biggest cuts, which are to compensation for loss of earnings. Currently, compensation for loss of earnings is awarded to those victims who are seriously injured, requiring more than 28 weeks off work as a direct result of their injuries. They receive an amount based on their average earnings over the preceding period. The scheme before us proposes to limit compensation for loss of earnings to the level of statutory sick pay—less than £4,500 a year—which is not nearly enough for anyone to live on. The impact assessment claims that this measure will reduce the average claim by £10,000, but many victims with the most serious injuries will be far harder hit.
The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers has sent me the example of Mark Miller, a mature student. Mark, who was in hospital for two and a half months after being repeatedly punched, kicked and stamped on by three youths in an alleyway in Swansea in April 2008, now suffers short-term memory loss and has difficulties with his balance. Earlier this month, he was awarded £246,000 by the criminal injuries compensation scheme. Of that sum, £190,000 was for loss of potential earnings, as he was unable to complete his degree in management science and now has a limited capacity to work. If Mark were to bring his claim following the implementation of the proposals, his solicitor says he would have been awarded around £80,000 for loss of earnings, which is a cut of £110,000 or nearly 60%. Mark has bravely agreed to allow his claim to be made public to demonstrate the impact that the changes would have on victims who have suffered so much already. Even if the Minister takes no notice of what I say, I hope that Mark’s words will resonate with her. Of the proposals, Mark says:
“I cannot express enough how much of a bad idea this is. Statutory sick pay cannot cover a person’s basic living expenses. People need to be compensated properly.”
As if it was not enough to cut the loss of earnings compensation so drastically, the conditions that have been imposed have led to a personal injury lawyer saying that the loss of earnings compensation will be “virtually unattainable”. Under the revised scheme, only those applicants who have no or very little earnings capacity will be compensated for loss of earnings. That will penalise those who are striving to return to work following a serious injury. They may have made the effort to return on reduced hours, or in a different capacity, and so will suffer a personal loss of earning. The scheme is also incompatible with the aims of rehabilitation and of employers making reasonable adjustments for those with a disability to enable them to return to work.
Finally, victims will need to demonstrate that they have been in regular paid work for a period of at least three years immediately before the date of the incident, but that does not take account of the realities of the current labour market. It is quite normal for someone to have had a period of unemployment in the previous three years, or indeed for them to have moved between temporary jobs. Such conditions will affect some of the most seriously injured victims. Denying them any compensation for loss of earnings will massively reduce their awards by an average of £40,000. That is not compatible with the Government’s stated aim of protecting payments for the most seriously injured.
A victim who has a permanently and seriously impaired grip in both hands, who is unable to work again, but who had a short period of unemployment two years ago following redundancy, would be devastated to find that their claim has been reduced from £56,500 to £16,500. They would not be impressed with the news that their tariff payment had been maintained. What would affect them is the fact that their compensation for loss of earnings had been refused.
To make matters worse, the new scheme proposes that payments to dependents of fatally injured victims should be in line with the rules for loss of earnings. In other words, compensation to the children of parents who are murdered by criminals will be drastically cut and restricted. How can that be commensurate with the review’s aim of giving priority to the most vulnerable? I really do not like to give horrific real examples, but if this scheme goes ahead, someone will need to tell the 13-year-old daughter of Annette Creeghan, who was murdered on the Norfolk broads recently, that she has to put in her claim in the next three weeks, or her dependency payment—the compensation, if that is possible, for the tragic loss of her mother—will not be nearly enough for her to live on. How many more cases will it take to prove that, far from protecting the most vulnerable, this scheme attacks them disproportionately and will make their lives, already irreparably blighted, so much harder?
Dog attacks have already been mentioned this afternoon. Those who suffer such attacks, no matter how serious their injury, are also victims. Right hon. and hon. Members have had briefings from members of the Communication Workers Union, which I commend for its work both on this and on the Bite Back campaign. As the CWU points out, as well as trauma, postal workers can suffer terrible injuries that make it impossible for them to continue in their job, yet they will be unable to claim any compensation. In the past five years, 23,000 postal workers have been attacked by dogs: every year, 5,000 postmen and women are attacked, and every single day, on average, 12 are attacked. In 2007 and 2008, postal workers were nearly killed. One of those cases resulted in a criminal injuries compensation scheme claim, as the owner was a criminal with no insurance or money with which to pay compensation. The victim received a fairly nominal amount compared with what he would have got had there been a way of getting money from the perpetrator.
Of the postal workers injured every year in dog attacks, many are never able to return to their jobs due to the physical and psychological effects. Many are scarred and have lifelong facial disfigurement; many lose fingers through dog bite amputation; and many others have sustained dog bite injuries, painful lacerations and puncture wounds, leading to nerve, ligament and tendon damage, fractures, serious infections, and disability and disablement—plus the mental trauma. Postal workers suffer a disproportionate majority of violent dog attacks in the UK, and a fund of last resort is absolutely needed.
An even higher number of young children are seriously injured in dog attacks and require hospital treatment and operations. Many parents have to take substantial time off work, or even give up their job, to support their child, and the family suffers financially as well as emotionally. The Government claim that the victims of dog attacks will be able to claim redress through an insurance claim, a compensation order as a result of criminal proceedings, or a civil claim, but those avenues are hardly ever viable now. As I have said, most dog owners do not have third-party insurance, and criminal proceedings are not possible if the attack took place on private property. Even if there is a criminal case and a compensation order is made, many owners of dangerous dogs do not have the ability to pay, and the same goes for civil cases. This large group of victims, however severe their injury, are thereby left with no means of redress in the vast majority of cases, even those involving death of young children, as has happened in several times recent years.
Victims are supposed to be heartened by the news that even though their own compensation is to be abolished or cut, the amount being spent on victims overall is to be kept the same, but I do not think that that argument cuts much ice. The changes are all about taking money that is badly needed by the victims of crime. In spite of the claim that the scheme will focus resources on the most seriously injured, no victim of crime, however serious their injury, will ever qualify for higher compensation as a result of the changes. The claims of a small minority will remain the same, but the vast majority will see their compensation cut or, more likely, abolished.
Order. May I draw it to the hon. Gentleman’s attention that several other hon. Members want to speak? I am also sure that everyone wants adequate time to be allocated to the Minister’s response. I do not question the relevance of what the hon. Gentleman is saying, but I appeal to him on behalf of other hon. Members.
I am grateful, Mrs Brooke. I am drawing my comments to a conclusion, although I make no apology for detaining the Committee, because the issue is so important that it must be properly aired and the Minister needs to understand all the issues.
The current scheme is supposedly not sustainable. The explanatory memorandum states that it is allocated a budget of £200 million a year, but that that does not meet demand as there are outstanding applications with a total value of £260 million. However, the memorandum does not make it clear that ongoing liabilities are always expected to be higher than the annual value of claims, as the more serious, and therefore more complicated and costly, cases take longer to settle and therefore remain for longer within the accounts as a liability. The figure for the predicted cost of existing applications has remained stable for the past three years at £255 million in 2010, £260 million in 2011 and £262 million in 2012. That does not alter the ongoing cost of claims arising each year, which has varied between £171 million and £214 million over the past four years when claims relating to Scotland are deducted. The average annual cost to the MOJ of existing tariffs is £192 million, with a standard variation of 9%. The estimate of tariff liabilities arising in the current year is £181 million, which seems to be well within the £200 million budget.
The remaining liabilities outside of ongoing cases are a small number of pre-tariff scheme cases, now totalling 73. Those cases date from before 1996, when payments to victims were based on an assessment of their actual needs and costs. The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority says that the majority of outstanding cases involve children, where a final assessment of their ongoing needs could not be concluded until they reached adulthood. I congratulate the Government on funding the settlement of 78 of these difficult and tragic cases in the past year, but a mere 73 remaining pre-tariff cases must not be used as an excuse to cut drastically or abolish the compensation for over 85% of future victims, including some of the most vulnerable and seriously injured. To do so would be a mistake that would affect not just future generations, but all of us. If implemented in just a few weeks’ time, the scheme would take from almost every victim of violent crime, including those most seriously injured, who will lose by far the most from the changes proposed.
We are not talking just about figures and statistics; we are talking about people, as I tried to point out. They are people who are seriously injured, who live perhaps in our constituencies and look to us to defend this scheme. In the words of Lord Dilhorne, “Sympathy is not enough.” I urge the Minister to look again at the scheme, to see whether anything can be done to change it or improve it. I am sorry if the Committee feels I have talked for a very long time, but it was important to get those facts on the record and to ensure that we all understand just what it is that we will vote on this evening. I urge the Minster: please go away and have another look at it.
I intend to call the Minister at 20 minutes past 7, at the latest. I call Jonathan Evans.
I had not intended to speak but I am stimulated to make one or two remarks. I will endeavour to be brief, in view of your earlier comments, Mrs Brooke.
More than 30 years ago, the right hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Alun Michael) and I set up the first victim support scheme ever established in Wales. I do not think that either of us at that time—I as a lawyer in the courts and he as a youth worker on a council estate—believed that we would between us represent half of the capital city, as we do today. That is an illustration of the fact that there is no party advantage in the issue of victims. The interest in victims is shared across the House. Just as the Government’s mantra is that we do not want to address the issue of the Budget on the backs of the poor in terms of international development, similarly I do not want to see the Budget balanced on the back of victims in this country.
I am prepared to accept the Minister’s arguments regarding the need for a more efficient scheme. The point she made about a budget that bears no relation to the annual sum of money made available for payments to victims has real force. At the same time, if we are to see a reduction in the sums of money paid out, I must say that the response given to my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham, about the same sum of money being spent administratively, does not seem to make sense. My office was attacked last year and a compensation order in the sum of £2,000 was made. One of the perpetrators has paid nothing; the other, so far £300. If the money for the scheme is supposed to come from those who are convicted in court and money is to be allocated in this way, it is important that civil servants understand that, in practical terms, criminals do not pay at the rates we would like them to.
The aspect of the greatest concern to me is dog attacks, certainly upon postal workers but particularly upon children. I will mention just one case, which relates to a Labour councillor in my constituency, Councillor Dilwar Ali—the hon. Member for Llanelli probably knows him, as he is very active in Welsh political circles. His young son was the victim of an horrific dog attack that has been the subject of widespread press and television attention. Reconstructive surgery was needed on this poor young child’s face. The person in charge of the dog did not set the dog on the child but failed to exercise any sort of control over it, and he was subsequently sent to prison. He will therefore not be in a position to be sued in the civil courts. Criminal injuries compensation is the only resource available to that child. I say to my hon. Friend the Minister that I do not want to be asked to vote today in favour of a change that says to that child, “From now on, because of the difficulties of the deficit, you’re not going to get any compensation.”
I have the greatest respect for my hon. Friend, and I congratulate her on her appointment, but she has just assumed the post and this is an inheritance—some would say a hospital pass—from her predecessors in the Department. I ask her and the Secretary of State to reconsider the proposal and examine the points made in this debate. We are not saying that the system does not need revision, but we are uncomfortable in so many instances that that would be an appropriate gesture.
My hon. Friend is being very persuasive. I have never been shy about saying that I would like us as a Government to spend less overall, but I have never once thought that it had to be done by cutting something so sensitive or giving a worse deal to the disabled, the poor or the most vulnerable. I hope that the Government will think again.
My right hon. Friend and I have some history together, as the term goes, in both Welsh and national politics. I am pleased that this is an issue on which he sees matters as I do. That is another factor that my hon. Friend the Minister might like to take on board. If we both have the same concern, which I think is shared by others on the Government Benches, it might be a reason for a new ministerial team to take a fresh look not at changing the scheme but at addressing some of the concerns raised in this debate.
It is a great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Cardiff North. Sometimes he does do his long-term career in this place any good, but he is absolutely right to make the point that there should be no party politics in support to victims. That is the mood across the Committee. Although it might be easier for Opposition Members to be more critical of the Government, the Minister should understand the strength of feeling that lies on both sides of the Committee. I hope that she will reflect on that, because she is new in post and the provisions are not her responsibility, except in the sense that she has inherited them. Even at this late hour, I hope that she can have a quiet word with the Whip and ask whether a quick phone call to the Secretary of State, also newly in post, might enable reconsideration. Paradoxically, under the rules of the House, even if the Committee votes against the provisions, it will make no difference to their translation into law, but it would be symbolic. Any Government ought to reflect when its own Members speak strongly against the letter and the spirit of regulations.
I have some technical questions to ask the Minister. My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent South made a point about loss of earnings. The rules on loss of earnings in particular will be triggered only where somebody has been in work regularly for the previous three years. The Minister might not necessarily give me an answer tonight, but will she put on record for Committee members what “regularly” means in that context? Does a brief period of unemployment invalidate it? Does any break at all in regular employment prevent people from claiming? Most people would feel that to be ridiculous.
Given that the present Government have committed to liberalise the labour market, as they describe it, people will increasingly be not out of work for long periods, but in and out of different forms of work.
That is absolutely correct and it is the point that I am getting at. Most people would think it perverse if somebody who had been out of work for a week while moving from one job to another were to be debarred from compensation. It would not be consistent with the spirit of what anybody wants to achieve.
May I also ask about the reporting requirements? Occupation makes a difference: for example, a postal worker who has been bitten may not report that bite immediately to the police. Under the regulations as I understand them, that would mean that that worker had not shown proper co-operation with the scheme and would therefore be debarred from compensation. Similarly, nurses in mental health units would often not think an attack by an aggressive patient something that they ought to report to the police, but under the regulations as I understand them, not doing so would put them outside any possibility of compensation. I cannot believe that that is what is intended.
There is widespread concern that the regulations will penalise genuine victims of criminal acts. We have already heard that, for example, people with permanent speech impediments would lose any ability to make a claim under the scheme. A former police officer who had served in the House for many years was attacked, one of the consequences of which was that his speech was badly impaired. He served as a police officer in this House for many years after that quite competently, although it is true that the Metropolitan police tried to get rid of him. It would be ridiculous if someone in his position, having suffered real and material loss, were not able to claim compensation. Even injuries in bands 1 to 5 are serious injuries. That ought to be registered. We are not talking trivial effects, but injuries that change people’s lives, either temporarily or, in the case of permanent speech impediment, for the rest of their lives.
It would be unfortunate, whether we are talking about shop workers, workers in mental health units or postal workers, if people in the course of their occupation, going about their proper lawful business, were attacked, whether by a dog or by an irate customer, and found themselves unable to claim compensation for a serious criminal act. The whole purpose of compensation is not meant simply to recompense for loss of earnings, but to recognise the injury, suffering and trauma.
On that basis, I hope that the Minister is at least tempted to take the regulations back to the Ministry and to say that now is the time to think again, lest the victims become double victims of the crimes that affect them.
I rise with regret to talk about the measures. I wish the Minister well, but I find it difficult to express any warmth towards the proposals. I know that they were not of her creation, and I repeat the urgings of others that she take them back and think again.
The purpose of my questions on how much money we are trying to save and how we are saving it was to ensure that we do not have to cut payments to vulnerable people and to people who have suffered bad injury through no fault of their own. I would be happy to see the Minister’s proposals for simplifying the administration. I think £20 million of administrative costs for a fund of such a size—10%—is rather high. I would warmly support simplifications and reductions in the cost of the scheme.
I warmly support the idea that offenders should pay more. I hear the warning about that, but it would be good to try to get more financial penalty out of offenders, because they are the people who caused the problem. Why should the general taxpayer be burdened if we can get it out of the people who are primarily responsible? That money should go to the victims of the crimes.
I am reluctant to approve a scheme that apparently would cut back on payments to people who are vulnerable and who have just been through a bad time in their lives for no good reason. Of course I wish the growth rate in public spending to be brought down, even within the Ministry of Justice itself, but I could think of many ways I would rather do it than the proposals today.
I, and many of my constituents, think that we keep too many foreign prisoners in our prisons. We would quite like them to be sent back home to serve their sentences. We think we do not deport enough criminals after their sentence, as part of their punishment, and we do not see why the British taxpayer should have to pay to keep them in Britain on benefits after they come out of prison. We think it would be good if they returned home. If the Minister had come forward with proposals on those lines, people would be cheering in the streets in Wokingham and many other parts of the country. Those would be extremely good budget cuts, which perhaps the Opposition would agree had some merit. However, the proposals before the Committee are rather more difficult.
I know, Mrs Brooke, that it would be out of order to give examples from other Departments of even bigger areas for possible saving, but I do not want the Committee to believe I am going weak on public spending. I want Members to understand that the last place I would look for savings would be benefits and payments to the vulnerable, injured and incapacitated—indeed, I would not look there at all. If anything, we should be more generous. I did not come into Parliament to see those things cut.
I hope that the Minister will reflect again on the matter and understand that this is the last place where we should be looking for reductions, and that perhaps the judgment was a little too severe. It would do her and the Government a lot of good to show a little flexibility, take the proposals away, and come up with bigger and better savings somewhere else, which we would welcome with open arms.
I welcome the Minister to her post. It is a shame that the first issue that she must deal with is the one before the Committee. I hope that she is listening carefully to what we are saying.
It is a shame that the Government yet again are leaving ordinary people with no redress. What is proposed seems to be a step further than what has been done with legal aid, attacks on employment rights, and cuts in funding to advice services. It will leave people who have suffered the trauma and horror of a criminal attack with no recourse to criminal injuries compensation.
We are not talking about huge sums—indeed, perhaps that is the problem. Some people think £1,000 or £2,000 does not matter, but it matters considerably if someone is on a low wage, perhaps working part-time. A person on very modest wages has no opportunity to put money by for a rainy day, so such payments can be vital. That is particularly true for the third of front-line retail staff who earn too little to be entitled to statutory sick pay. Many victims of crime end up in debt because they have nothing to fall back on. The compensation can be useful in helping to pay off that debt.
It should be remembered that the scheme is a last resort. Where support can come from other means, such as insurance, that is what happens; but the criminal injuries compensation scheme is a safety net.
Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.
As I was saying, the criminal injuries compensation scheme is there as a safety net—as a last resort. We have heard many examples from members of the Committee about how it is sometimes absolutely impossible to find a way to get any payment back from anyone and to get compensation. Even if it is a work-related issue and the employer has employers’ liability insurance, the Court of Appeal has said that no employer could be expected to go so far as to prevent any robbery taking place at all, and therefore employers did not breach their duty of care by not preventing robberies. Clearly, there is a need for a safety net and for the criminal injuries compensation scheme.
Many people have made reference to the cost. It is not an extravagant or a generous scheme. The tariffs have scarcely been raised since 1996, and the admin costs have recently been reduced by more than 10%. As my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent South has pointed out, the costs have been relatively stable year on year, and stringent conditions are applied to people before they can benefit from the scheme.
By scrapping all the compensation for injuries in bands 1 to 5, many people who have had traumatic and dreadful incidents will receive nothing at all, and by reducing all the awards in bands 6 to 12, many people will be receiving far less than they would now. The sums are not enormous; even in band 12 now, we are talking about £8,000. For 48% of the current beneficiaries in bands 1 to 5—nearly half of them—to get absolutely nothing at all is a mammoth cut. It is very worrying indeed.
We need to remember that many people—for example, those working in retail—are in jobs that put them at risk. If someone is in close proximity to large amounts of cash, they are a temptation to those wishing to get their hands on that cash. With stores struggling to compete, we often see perhaps only two junior members of staff left to lock up late at night in a lonely place with little protection. The Minister needs to think carefully about that; we are talking about people who are at risk, who have no other form of compensation and who need support. That worries me considerably.
We have had a number of graphic examples, and I will resist the temptation to add to that list. People must have the opportunity to be properly compensated for the terrible trauma that they can suffer as a result of being victims of criminal injury.
Order. I should like to remind Members about the new timing. I believe that the Minister should be called at 7.35 pm at the very latest.
I will try to be brief, as I appreciate that other Members want to contribute to the debate. I am grateful to be called in this debate; I am not a member of the Committee but I came along because I have been concerned about the lack of public attention on this matter.
If the regulations go through, there will, over time, be outrage from many in the community who are simply not aware of the existence of such proposals. As my hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli has mentioned, 48% of those who receive compensation will no longer receive it if the proposals go ahead, more than 40% will see their compensation severely reduced and only 9% of victims will receive the same amount of compensation. It is unacceptable to make such cuts to some of the most vulnerable people at one of the most vulnerable points of their lives.
I am interested in the matter because before I came to the House I did a lot of work with people in the public sector who were claiming compensation through the criminal injury compensation scheme. I do not think it is necessarily appropriate for the CICA to pay compensation when people are injured in a criminal attack in the workplace, but that is currently their only source of compensation because the criminal injury compensation scheme makes payments only where victims of violent crime have no recourse to other sources of compensation.
If the proposals are adopted, many of the lowest paid in the public sector—cleaners, porters, grade A nurses and auxiliary nurses—will lose significant amounts of money and be significantly out of pocket as a result of injuries that they sustained only because of what they do for a living. Often those people work in the caring professions and are assaulted in a hostel, a children’s home, a hospital emergency department or a psychiatric ward. In most cases, needle-stick injuries, where people are attacked with syringes in their workplace, will no longer receive any sort of compensation. Such injuries involve a huge amount of not only physical injury but psychological trauma as a result of the worry of having to go for tests for conditions such as HIV. Over time, if the proposals are adopted they will cause a great deal of concern.
A number of Members have made powerful submissions on behalf of those who are attacked by dogs, and if the proposals go ahead the Government will be sending completely the wrong message by making it impossible for those who are injured by dogs to receive compensation.
Another exemption is made in the regulations for those who suffer injury as a result of witnessing suicides or attempted suicides. That is a big issue, particularly for those who work on the railways, where individuals can be highly traumatised by such experiences. An example has been brought to my attention of a woman who received compensation as a result of a fatality on the track. She was off work for 11 weeks, had a phased return to work and had eight sessions of counselling and eight sessions of therapy, but she had ongoing stress and associated medical conditions for a far longer period. Such people will be significantly worse off.
As a matter of public policy, it cannot be acceptable that those who work in the public sector do not get compensation or are worse off as a result of injuries in the workplace. Indeed, those in the private sector should not be worse off as a result of being assaulted in the workplace, but the Government have more of a responsibility for those whom they employ directly.
I hope that the regulations will not go through today. There will be outrage when people know in detail how the regulations will affect real people whom they know. I fully appreciate that the Minister is in a difficult position—a position in which I would not, in any way, want to be—but I hope that she feels able to take a courageous step in her first few days as a Minister and look again at the matter.
I am grateful to hon. Members. I have listened very carefully to everything that has been said, and I want to make some important points.
Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.
To continue, I have listened very carefully to what hon. Members on both sides of the Committee have said today about the scheme. I am a new Minister and, having taking some advice and thought very carefully about everything that has been said and the importance of the scheme to people whom we all care about, I have decided not to move the motion on the criminal injuries compensation scheme, and I will not proceed with the motion on the victims of overseas terrorism scheme. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
To clarify, the motion on the draft Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme 2012 will not be moved.