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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, if I did say that in those terms I was wrong. I meant to refer to the fact that there was no provision for up-rating for inflation until 1999, which is a more limited point.

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Lord Colnbrook: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord. Perhaps my anxiety is not justified; but I shall await with interest what my noble friend the Minister says when she replies to the debate.

I should also like her to refer to the question of the speed with which awards can be made. I know from the experience of people I know well that in days gone by, long before my noble friend Lord Carlisle became chairman, payments sometimes took forever to be made. I know of one particular case involving a widow whose husband had been killed in which not one single penny was received for over three years. That is appalling. I know that my noble friend Lord Carlisle has done wonders in ensuring that payments are made much more quickly. However, even a moment ago I heard him say that a substantial percentage of claims were settled within 12 months. Ten years ago the Home Affairs Select Committee of another place, which had been examining these matters, mentioned the question of speed. It used a phrase which is familiar to us all:

    "He gives twice who gives quickly".

One can go on and say that he gives half as much who gives slowly.

I hope very much that under the new tariff scheme payments will be made immediately, or as early as possible. I should have thought that in some cases that does not present any great difficulty. I give the example of a man who is injured and loses a finger in trying to prevent a robbery. The finger is gone, and that can easily be seen. All that is needed is for the police to confirm that there was a crime. To my way of thinking, the appropriate figure—which I fancy may be of the order of £5,000—should be paid the next day, should it not? If not, why not?

I accept that sometimes cases will not be as easy as that. To take another example, under the proposed tariff—which we have been allowed to see—one can receive compensation for what is known as a whiplash injury to one's neck. There are four scales on the tariff for that injury. For a simple injury one receives £1,000; and the scale increases, depending on the severity of the injury and the length of time one suffers, up to £10,000. I accept that in such cases, and in others, it will not be possible immediately to say that a particular injury has caused permanent damage. It will be some time before one knows whether the damage is permanent. However, it again seems to me that for someone in that situation, once it is known that the injury has happened and it is shown by the police that a crime has been committed, one should at least give the man something—the smallest award which he would receive anyway.

There is no doubt that, particularly for dependants but also for the person who has been injured, if something is done to help straightaway it makes an enormous psychological difference as well as an enormous financial difference. I very much hope that it will be possible for awards which are laid down—not for the long-term injuries involving loss of earnings which will take some time to work out—to be paid as soon as humanly possible; within days if possible, but certainly within weeks.

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I find myself in disagreement with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, on the Bill. He believes that the scheme and the tariff should be set out in the Act. I do not, because if it is in the Act it is an awful business to change it: there has to be a new Act. We all know how long it takes to pass an Act of Parliament. Despite all the disadvantages of an Order in Council, which cannot be amended, it is a better way, because the legislation can be changed more quickly if circumstances show that it ought to be changed. After all, there is nothing to prevent either House of Parliament saying that they will not accept an order unless the Government change it. Happily, in my judgment, it is provided in the Bill that the scheme requires the assent of both Houses of Parliament before it comes into effect. That is the right way to proceed.

Finally, I come to the question of money. Let us face it, we all know that it is the question of money that has forced the Government to introduce the scheme. They are hoping to save money. I understand that. The Government have produced figures to show what the existing scheme is likely to cost in the year 2000. It would be very rude of me to say that I do not believe the figures, and I shall not. However, I shall take the figures with an enormous pinch of salt. What has been done is to extrapolate what has happened over the past 10 years. To be frank, it is a guess. It may be an intelligent guess or it may not. My noble friend Lord Carlisle does not think that it is an intelligent guess. Furthermore, he does not think that much money will be saved.

However, I accept that there must be some control over expenditure on the scheme and the possibility, from the point of view of the unfortunate taxpayer, of being able to say that we can afford so much for this purpose but that we cannot have an open-ended scheme. I do not know whether the figure of £260 million by the year 2000 given by my noble friend the Minister is right. She does not know, either. If it is about right I submit that that is probably about right for this country. That is why I am happy to support the Bill.

4.46 p.m.

Lord Ewing of Kirkford: My Lords, if the noble Lord, Lord Colnbrook, does not object, in my comments I should like to take up the point that the noble Lord made in response to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, about whether the scheme should be part of the Act. I regard that as an important element of our debate today on the Second Reading of the Bill.

First, I declare an interest in that for 35 years I have dealt with casework involving injuries to people in my former industry, the post and telecommunications industry. Even before I went to the other place, for 10 years I was involved in casework involving Post Office workers who had been criminally injured. They were the largest group of workers in this country who were at risk from criminal activities. I maintained that interest during my 22 years' membership of the other place and in the three years since I became a Member of this House. Therefore, I declare that interest in that I maintain my role in that work.

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We come to the debate today with one disadvantage and one major advantage. Here I come to the point made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, and the response of the noble Lord, Lord Colnbrook. The disadvantage is that we do not have the scheme in front of us. I take the same view as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, that the scheme should be part of the Act. The reason is simple. The problem with the affirmative procedure is that one cannot amend an order that is produced for debate. When that order is debated and voted upon one can only vote for it or vote against it. One cannot amend an order under the affirmative procedure. If the scheme were part of the Act, the issue would be open to debate. I accept the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Colnbrook, about the need for primary legislation when amending the scheme, and the problems that might create. On balance, it would be much better for the scheme to be part of the Act.

I turn to the advantage of debating the Second Reading today. We are only two days away from the long summer Recess. I hope that the Minister will take this point on board. During the Recess the Government will have an opportunity to discuss the scheme in detail and, if possible, to bring it to the House on the first Committee day. I understand that to be 17th October—almost three calendar months away. They have the opportunity to add that scheme to the Bill as an additional schedule. I believe that would be the tidiest way to deal with the point. It would also deal with the situation created by the acceptance of an amendment in another place which gives the Home Secretary almost carte blanche to amend the existing common law scheme, and, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, said, of undermining the decision of the judicial review.

The noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, my noble friend Lord McIntosh and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, expressed disappointment (I put it no higher) that the Home Secretary had not apologised for his folly in going ahead, thus facing consequent humiliation. I do not join with my three noble colleagues. I am a simple soul. I never expected an apology in the first place. Anyone who expected an apology from the present Home Secretary simply does not know him. Therefore I do not join in that complaint.

However, I wish to place on record my thanks—I am sure that I speak for Members in all parts of your Lordships' House—and the gratitude of a great many people that the Trades Union Congress and the 10 trade unions pursued the matter through the judicial procedure. Without that pursuance, we would not be debating the Second Reading of the Bill today. We should place on record our gratitude to the TUC and the 10 trade unions.

We shall reach Committee stage in October. Between now and Committee stage, I hope that the substantive point relating to the scheme being added to the Bill as a new schedule will be taken on board by the Government.

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I understood the Minister in her opening speech to say that the principle of the loss of earnings would apply to all claimants. However, I understood from the legislation—it may well be that I read it incorrectly—that the loss of earnings principle is based on the statutory sick pay scheme. As my noble friend Lord McIntosh of Haringey said, figures have been produced in the House of Commons Library demonstrating that 12 million people in this country do not qualify. They have no mandatory contractual sick pay scheme. They are low paid workers. They work so few hours that they are not entitled to cover under the statutory sick pay scheme. I refer to the self-employed—taxi drivers, sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses. But if sub-postmasters, sub-postmistresses and shopkeepers in general are injured in a criminal act, they have to appoint a locum manager to keep the business ticking over. They do not suffer simply a loss of earnings; they also incur expenditure on the appointment of a locum manager.

I should like to hear a more detailed explanation. The noble Baroness may not wish to give that today; I shall not complain. We shall deal with the matter in Committee. But further more detailed consideration has to be given to the issue. Does "loss of earnings" mean loss of full pay or part pay? What does "loss of earnings" mean? There is no definition in the Bill.

I turn to the question of exceptional risk. The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, referred to the position of fire fighters. It is important to point out that their position has been changed by the proposals contained in the legislation. Where a fire is started deliberately—we do not refer to house fires, but arson—that is a criminal act. In order for the fire fighter to qualify for compensation under the proposed tariff scheme, the fire fighter has to prove that he was taking an exceptional risk. For example, he has to prove that there may have been a body in the building and he was rushing into the building in order to attempt to rescue that person. Under the present common law scheme, the fire fighter does not have to prove that. That is another point that I hope the noble Baroness will consider.

I regard the issue of time limits as very important indeed. I appreciate that the Minister has moved position considerably since last year. In the original tariff scheme, the time limit was one year. That has now been doubled to two years. But the present criminal injuries compensation scheme has a three year time limit with provision for applications to be considered out of time. As my noble friend Lord McIntosh said, out of 4,000 applications made out of time last year, 3,000 were granted. Without my telling her, the Minister knows that most cases which have to be considered out of time relate to sexual offences. It takes a very long time indeed for the victim of such crimes to come to terms with what has happened. I honestly and sincerely do not believe that the Government will lose anything by going back to the current common law scheme, making the time limit three years rather than two, because of those exceptional cases.

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I accept that we are about to have a tariff scheme. In contributing to the debate I seek to improve the proposals before your Lordships' House. I hope to contribute at Committee stage in an effort to improve the proposals rather than to frustrate them.

Finally, we ought not to build up false hopes in the minds of claimants. The noble Lord, Lord Colnbrook, mentioned the time that it takes to pay out criminal injuries damages. Of the applicants under the suspended tariff scheme, only 17 per cent. reached a settlement. Under the present common law scheme over 80 per cent. were settled within 12 months. As legislators, we have to be careful that we do not build up false hopes in the minds of those who will make applications under the new tariff scheme. The evidence that we have, limited though it may be, indicates that only 17 per cent. of the cases were settled. At present, the position is that all those cases which were settled under the tariff scheme which had to be suspended now have to be reviewed by the board of the noble Lord, Lord Carlisle. They are subject to review now.

There are a number of problems. I finish almost where I began by saying that my purpose in this debate, in Committee, on Report and at Third Reading will be to seek to improve the Bill and make it as workable as we possibly can.

5 p.m.

Lord Windlesham: My Lords, I must begin by apologising to the House for not being here at the start of the debate and for not hearing what the Minister said. I was delayed by an unavoidable public engagement, but I can assure the Minister that I have read the Home Secretary's speeches on Second Reading and Report in another place. So I am familiar with the Government's explanation.

The Bill is an important one and, unusually, on two distinct grounds. It raises in a vivid way the accountability of Ministers to Parliament and the law as found by the courts of justice and the appellate courts. It also deals with the means by which the state should substitute financial compensation for injuries suffered as a result of violent crime where—as is only too often the case—the offenders are not detected or do not themselves have the resources to pay compensation. As we heard earlier in the debate, the policy of compensating victims has been accepted by all parties since 1964. The first point—the accountability of Ministers—is one of the cardinal principles of our unwritten constitution.

The House is familiar with the chequered legislative history of criminal injuries compensation over the past 30 years, and in particular over the past seven years since the Criminal Justice Act 1988. The 1988 Act arguably conferred a statutory right to compensation, and it certainly provided proper legislative authority for expenditure of public funds on a substantial scale. That point was made by the noble Lord, Lord Colnbrook. But, as we know, the commencement order bringing the sections into effect was never implemented. It is not unprecedented for legislation to be on the statute book and not brought into effect for practical reasons, but it is highly undesirable, to put it mildly. There are arguments

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which perhaps should not be developed now, but which might be followed up in a separate debate, on the whole question of non-implementation. There are a good number of former Ministers of differing parties in the Chamber this afternoon. For example, in Australia if Ministers have practical reasons for not implementing what has been enacted by Parliament, they must report annually to Parliament what those reasons are. That is not to say there may not be good reasons, but at least they have to be put on public record, whereas here they can easily be overlooked.

In this House, those of us who are concerned with criminal justice policy generally are aware of a great debt to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, for the way in which he raised the issue in your Lordships' House. It was later taken up by Victim Support, by the representatives of the TUC and the 10 trade unions mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Ewing, and it then proceeded through the courts.

I join my colleagues on these Benches in paying credit to the Home Secretary for the prompt and uncomplaining way in which he immediately accepted the decision of the House of Lords, acting in its judicial capacity. It found that his action in introducing a tariff scheme, while the original scheme based on common law damages still lay unimplemented and unrepealed on the statute book, was an abuse of his discretionary powers, and hence was unlawful.

What we are considering today, therefore, is a Bill presented to Parliament to rectify an error of judgment and to make lawful an administrative action which the highest courts have found to be unlawful. As such, the legislation is to be welcomed.

The challenge in the courts has also provided an opportunity for a breathing space and for second thoughts. No one knows better than my noble friend Lord Carlisle that it is common ground that the original tariff scheme was introduced far too cursorily and with inadequate consultation with the interested parties. More and earlier consultation with the main user organisations as well as the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board itself—paradoxically, I may remark in passing, a theme of the Citizen's Charter—might have avoided some of the practical difficulties which have arisen since then.

At this stage I should declare an interest as the national president of Victim Support, the full name of which is the National Association of Victim Support Schemes. Victim Support has a direct and extensive interest in the subject of the legislation. It is the main user organisation involved with compensation for victims of crime. I thought it would be of interest to your Lordships if I obtained some statistics. I understand that although all of the current returns are not yet in, in the year April 1994 to March 1995, Victim Support assisted with 11,235 new applications for criminal injuries compensation. That is a large part of the work of Victim Support. The noble Baroness will be aware that Victim Support has been in close contact with the Home Office. A meeting took place recently with her colleague in another place, the Minister of State, David Maclean. Victim support acknowledges, as I acknowledge personally, that significant concessions have been made compared with the original tariff scheme.

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The concessions now include provision for loss of earnings after 28 weeks; dependency in fatal cases; care costs; and provisions for structured settlements. All of those are improvements. Yet those in the field who see the victims, often immediately after the criminal act to which they have been subjected, and when they are in no state to pursue applications themselves, remain concerned about some aspects of the enhanced scheme.

I make the point that the criticisms are not ideological. They are not derived from root and branch opposition to the switch from the common law damages approach to the tariff-based scheme. That stance is taken by some critics, but it is not the position taken by Victim Support. Its reservations are based on sheer pragmatic experience of handling the many thousands of claims every year.

I might remind noble Lords that the independent committee on compensation established by Victim Support and which reported in 1993, came down in favour of a tariff based approach. When I referred to this in an earlier debate it was not music to the ears of my noble friend Lord Carlisle and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, but that was the conclusion reached by the independent committee. The reasons for proposing a shift were: speed of payment, and certainty in what the applicant could expect. As the number of claims rose steadily upwards in the 25 years following the introduction of the common law scheme in 1968, with QCs assessing the amount of compensation to be paid in individual cases, the process simply became too cumbersome and too slow. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Carlisle, the chairman, and his predecessor, Sir Michael Ogden, made strenuous efforts to obtain the additional resources to reduce the backlog. But the fact is—I looked it up only this morning and have the figures with me lest I should be challenged from the Benches behind—that in 1992-93, when the decision was taken to change the policy, 53 per cent. of cases took over 12 months to resolve. It is true that in the following year the total came down to 39 per cent., but in 1992-93 over half of the cases took more than 12 months. (I hear a grumbling noise from behind me). That struck me as a highly relevant statistic and I place it before your Lordships.

A change in policy to a tariff scheme was accepted in principle by large numbers of people working in the field with the victims of crime. It held out the prospect of a new approach based on published and clearly stated criteria, and with the potential to achieve the objectives of openness, certainty and consistency more effectively than had been possible before. As regards the basis of assessment and, equally important, the scope of criminal injury, there was a broad measure of agreement on a change of direction. But as so often happens, it has been in the detail and the execution that the differences have emerged.

The priorities now include some relaxation of the lower limit of £1,000. This remains a matter of real concern to Victim Support workers. Secondly, there is the question of loss of earnings. We welcome the fact that that is now to be subject to compensation, which it was not in the earlier version. But the likely impact of the 28-week restriction, and the effect it will have in

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excluding several categories of claimant is, I think, a criticism familiar to the noble Baroness. She may be aware that this is an aspect on which Victim Support wishes to hold further consultation. Thirdly, there is the all-important matter of setting the levels of award and the mechanism for uprating. As they stand both are open to criticism and further improvement. I shall not pursue these arguments now. They are for the Committee stage. I join the noble Lord, Lord Ewing of Kirkford, in urging the Minister and her colleagues at the Home Office to use the long Recess constructively. It happens that there is now a period of several weeks available to try to reconcile these differences, and to hold further consultations with the main user organisations.

5.15 p.m.

Lord Broadbridge: My Lords, the Bill before us should be measured against two overriding principles. First, is the compensation proposed at a fair and reasonable level in absolute terms? Secondly, does it bring fairness of treatment to different claimants suffering the same criminal injury? The Bill as presently constructed falls flat on its face on both measures. Being thus critical, I must try to justify my condemnation and possibly, though not with too much hope, influence the Minister who is to reply.

First, is the compensation proposed at a fair and reasonable level in absolute terms? Benchmarks that can be helpful here are, I suggest, a measure of the situation of the claimant before and after the injury; and secondly, how the proposed compensation compares with that for comparable civil injuries and the present scheme for criminal injuries under the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board.

The situation of the claimant before and after injury should take into account a multiplicity of factors that make up what we call "quality of life". The most obvious of these are the actual and potential earnings; ability to lead a normal, undisabled life; and psychological factors such as shock, stress, depression and appearance—the latter being particularly the case with young women and girls. All this the present common law based claims procedure does. It assesses the person as a whole individual and makes a settlement as analytically and scientifically as possible, bearing in mind the possible slight subjective variations between one adjudicator and another.

A major difficulty in analysing the Bill's proposals is caused, as we heard from a number of noble Lords this afternoon, by the Government's failure to publish the scheme itself. The intentions of the Home Office have been difficult to establish. We in this House have to rely heavily on statements made by the Home Office Minister in Committee and other government statements and speeches in another place.

While the Bill makes provision in Clause 10 for the tariff itself to be laid before Parliament, it does not appear that much of the administrative or qualification arrangements are to be the subject of parliamentary approval; and attempts to throw greater light here were rejected in another place. However, it can be factually stated that the illegal tariff scheme, while it lasted,

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resulted in significantly lower awards for victims of crime than similar injuries dealt with both by the common law scheme it temporarily replaced and awards in civil cases.

That raises the whole case of the Government's humanity. The Home Secretary's arguments in favour of a tariff are that it is quicker and simpler, which it was not in its year of illegal operation, and most importantly that it is less expensive. It has been my impression that the intention of the present Prime Minister, when he took up office, was to introduce the Age of the Common Man, the dismantling of the "automatic" honours system and the cherishing of all our people as somewhat more equal than they had been. And now, with this pernicious little Bill, it is sought to save money on payments to, of all people, victims of criminal injury, people who have suffered injuries ranging from the grossly inconvenient to the outright horrific. Why should a person who is pushed down a staircase by a criminal be significantly less compensated than an employee who falls down one because a negligent employer has failed to light it properly and who brings a civil claim to court? This is presumably why the present Criminal Injuries Compensation Board awards are roughly in line with civil cases involving similar disablement.

Britain is no longer the hub of an empire on which the sun never sets, but we are still a considerable world economy. Any responsible government must indulge in good economic housekeeping and not spend more than it can afford. But to make savings at the expense of those injured by crime is the budgeting of an uncivilised and uncaring government, whose Members in another place were elected to look after their electors' interests. As we heard earlier, we shall be spending one-tenth on criminal injuries compared to what is spent on keeping those who caused them in prison. Quite a lot of people are affected, too. There were 66,387 adjudications in 1994-95. On the subject of the absolute levels of compensation proposed in the new tariff, we do not, I believe, know them yet. But the illegal one was low. The Home Office wants to save money, and doctors widely believe that past performance is a good guide to future behaviour.

Finally on this subject, will the Minister explain to me why the Law Commission has for the past two or three years been engaged on a review of civil damages—that is, broadly, accidents and negligence—and expects to continue for the next couple of years before reporting, so important is the subject; yet the Government can introduce a Bill such as this with a speed similar to making instant coffee?

My other principle for measurement of the stature of this Bill, as I mentioned in my opening remarks, is to ask whether it brings fairness of treatment to different claimants suffering the same criminal injury. Surely it cannot do so, by virtue of its very nature—its present tariff-based nature. The airline pilot who loses his sight and cannot fly, losing at 25 years of age maybe an average prospect of £40,000 per annum for 20 years or £800,000 and most of his future, if any, non-flying earnings, is treated broadly in the same way as an 80 year-old who is living with his family, subject to some ameliorating concessions wrung out of the Government

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during passage of the measure in another place and relating to loss of earnings subject to an overall cap—why is there an overall cap?—and subject to no payment for the first 28 weeks, which is often the period of greatest need. That is a subject which has been raised by other noble Lords.

It is not entirely clear whether loss of earnings for such victims will be compensated on the basis of full loss of earnings and with a cap that must disadvantageously affect some claimants, and be subject to the same maximum of one-and-a-half times average earnings as before. But even with that concession, I ask myself in this context how students who have never earned will be treated. My main problem, which is that of many noble Lords who have spoken, is the inflexibility of the tariff as presently proposed. Injuries are listed against specific and inflexible figures. The same basic criticism therefore applies to the new tariff as applied to the old. No distinction is made between individuals, each victim of crime with the same injury being treated in the same way as another.

That leads to anomalies and unfairness. It cannot be right, for example, that a young child who loses an eye should receive the same compensation as an elderly person. The disability suffered by the child will last for much longer; in fact for decades. The effect of a facial scar on a young woman is likely to be far greater than on an elderly man. No distinction is made between injuries to the dominant or non-dominant hand or arm. It is self-evident that an injury to the right hand for a right-handed person is more disabling than an injury to the left hand. That is a point which has already been made. Anyone who has seen the tortured writing of the one-armed Admiral Nelson in letters and despatches in the Nelson Room at Lloyd's must realise that.

The courts assess injuries by reference to the victim rather than by reference to a fixed scale. But the Judicial Studies Board has recently published the second edition of its guidelines for the assessment of general damages in personal injury cases. Those guidelines are more flexible than the fixed tariff proposed by the Home Secretary, in that they provide bands for the assessment of particular injuries which enable an assessment to be made within parameters but reflecting the circumstances of the victim.

A flexible tariff or banding system would be far fairer than the fixed tariff proposed. I feel that that is the general mood of the House. Victims deserve to be treated on an individual basis as is done, for example, by the Industrial Benefit Disablement Scheme which provides for the assessment of disability by reference to the extent of continuing disability suffered by an individual, comparing "before" and "after" the accident. Why should there not be such a scheme for criminal injuries? Or why not allow the tariff to be seen as a starting point with discretion for the assessor to vary by plus or minus a percentage figure to reflect the victim's circumstances? So far the Government have resisted all attempts to introduce any degree of flexibility into the tariff.

The 1994 tariff scheme made provision for additional and multiple injuries by very low percentage uplifts. The Home Office has indicated that multiple injuries will be

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assessed under the new tariff scheme in a similar way to that of 1994. But surely improvements are necessary to avoid the problems identified then. For example, the victim with two serious but independent injuries to different parts of the body from the same incident obtained an uplift of only 10 per cent. to the second tariff, 5 per cent. for the third injury and nothing for any additional injuries beyond that. That rough and ready approach is a disaster. As there were only 641 applications in respect of multiple injuries in the year of operation of the 1994 tariff, it seems reasonable that that small number should be separately assessed outside the tariff. After all, 641 was 1 per cent. of total applicants.

That leads me to my final point; namely, that the relativity between people and the feeling that one has been fairly dealt with are quite as important as the fact that there is some compensation at all. While grief from the loss of a parent, relative or loved one mercifully usually passes away after a period, a sense of unjust treatment has quite the opposite profile. It festers and grows with time. We should think of Carruthers, the brilliant chemist who invented nylon in the 1930s. He was so cast down by a feeling of unjust reward from Du Pont, his employers, that he committed suicide. There was also Beck, an underground engineer, who, in his own time devised what we call the tube map. It revolutionised all previous maps which looked like unsuccessful arguments with a plateful of spaghetti. His scheme is used internationally by virtually every city which has an underground railway. At first submission, he was scoffed at, and, in the end, grudgingly paid £50 for his scheme and forbidden to submit developments and improvements. His map is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. But to the nub of my point, the treatment that he received remained with him and ruined the rest of his life.

I fear that it will be thus for many of the claimants under the Bill which is now before your Lordships if it is not significantly amended toward much greater flexibility of treatment of the actual circumstances of the victim, as opposed to the operation of a menu of inflexible payments. With the Government dedicated to saving money, I fear that the answer may well be a lemon, leaving the same bitter taste. I could never support this Bill in its present, inflexible form. Let us try to improve it.

5.26 p.m.

Baroness Elles: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Broadbridge, has certainly given a formidable list of criticisms of this Bill. Most of those matters will no doubt be raised at Committee stage.

I was somewhat surprised by his comments on the meanness of the Government. After all, the Government have a duty to look after taxpayers' money. It is not the Government's money and they have to guard it carefully. Considering that the United Kingdom has the most generous system of criminal injuries compensation in the whole world—as my noble friend the Minister said in her opening speech—more generous than all the member states of the European Union put together and, I understand, the whole of the United States, I do not believe that one can call the Government relatively

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mean in that regard. I am sure that everybody would like to give as much as possible. But money has to be allocated to a great many other very needful purposes. I consider that the Bill has been extremely generous and we shall look forward to seeing the tariffs when they are finally discussed.

I should also like to say, from what I have heard from previous speakers, how much this House has benefited from the debate initiated by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, on 2nd March last year. Quite clearly, to many of the matters on which concern was expressed during that debate and later the Government have, indeed, as my noble friend Lord Colnbrook said, both listened and responded. Of course some issues will be debated during Committee stage but, broadly speaking, I have the feeling that the whole House warmly welcomes the Bill, as indeed I do.

Whatever the past circumstances leading to the introduction of the Bill, it must be said that it remedies a legal defect quickly and without delay, as stated by the Judicial Committee of your Lordships' House. Also, it seeks to set out a balanced and fair system of compensation to the victims of crime. Noble Lords will recognise that that is indeed no easy matter. It is certainly not an easy task for my noble friend the Minister.

Looking at the statistics which relate to crimes of violence, it is depressing to consider estimates showing a continuing increase by the end of the century, contrary to the advice so often given to investors that figures can also fall as well as rise. It is a pity that that particular saying does not apply to statistics on crime. The consequent increase understandably reflects on the number of victims as well as incurring further and enlarged organisation and administrative resources. Already it appears that victims have to wait up to nine months to receive payments which, because of the circumstances, are usually needed as soon as possible after the criminal injury has been incurred. Many noble Lords also made that point.

It is to be welcomed that the Bill now contains provision for loss of earnings and special expenses. Again, the Government are to be commended for that. Great credit is due to the president of Victim Support—my noble friend Lord Windlesham—and the Police Federation, which also welcomed many of the provisions.

I should also like to touch on three issues which may be raised during the Committee stage. The first is the question of the diversity of age, occupation and other relevant features which may be considered over and above the appropriate tariff. I wonder whether the appeals committee, which is to be set up under the Bill, will be enabled to give guidance on individual cases as well as giving general advice on policy for the future.

My second concern is that the police, who deserve our constant admiration and of whom it is estimated around 18,000 will be injured during 1995, may lose some of their legitimate entitlement to benefit and special pensions if they receive compensation under the Bill. I do not know whether I understood that point correctly, but I should like clarification either when my noble friend replies or during Committee stage.

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The third point relates to the situation where victims are in receipt of benefit from the DSS and receive compensation of over £3,000. It is understood that benefits would decrease and disappear altogether when the amount reaches £8,000. Surely that is not equitable or fair. Anyone not in receipt of benefit would be a net beneficiary under the Act and the person who does not receive benefit is presumably better off than the person who does. That does not strike me as being either fair, in the case of the beneficiary under the DSS scheme, or equitable in general terms. I hope that the Government will be able to look at that point when we come to discuss these issues later on.

I should like to refer to two further points which have not been raised by other noble Lords. The first is that contribution to the cost of paying out and maintaining a generous compensatory scheme should surely be bolstered by every effort being made to encourage the criminal to contribute to the compensatory amounts. I understand that in 1993-94 compensation orders were made in over 2,000 cases as a result of victims' claims and amounted to over £600,000 being paid out. But that is very little either in terms of the numbers of crimes being committed or in the amount of money paid out. I am not aware of any system to encourage victims to make a claim automatically when criminals are convicted. It would certainly be welcome if the issue could be considered. If criminals knew that they had to pay their victims, it may make them slightly more cautious.

In conclusion, I suggest that—recognising that this is not strictly part of the provisions of this Bill—the weekly prizes from the National Lottery should be restricted to a maximum of a fixed sum—say, £5 million or £6 million. That is surely an adequate win for any person who buys a ticket for £1. The balance could be allocated to improving the situation of victims. If compensatory payments are based on the public's desire to be generous to those who have suffered as a result of crime, for the cost of a £1 lottery ticket the public may be willing to see some of the massive winnings go to the victims of crime.

5.34 p.m.

Lord Macaulay of Bragar: My Lords, I was interested to hear what the noble Baroness, Lady Elles, had to say in relation to people who are injured as a result of a criminal act. Many of those injured pay tax. The impression may have been given by the noble Baroness's remarks—I am sure inadvertently—that it is only people who do not pay tax who suffer injury and claim upon the board.

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