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Lord Rodger of Earlsferry: I am sure that everyone will have found this debate useful. I stress that there is no spirit of meanness in the selection in the scheme of the period of two rather than three years. As the debate indicated, this is a practical matter.
The Committee will have benefited greatly from hearing my noble friend Lord Carlisle and the noble Lord, Lord Macaulay of Bragar, with their experience of how the scheme works in practice and how the delay in bringing claims affects the ability of the board to
This is not something that should be set in stone and we do not feel that it is right to put the matter on the face of the Bill. If a change were to occur in the practice of keeping police records, it may be that a change in the period would be appropriate. In other words, it is a practical matter. However, for the reasons indicated, we believe that it is a good idea for people to put in their claims as early as possible. In that way they are more likely to be satisfactorily investigated and to be determined quickly; and people will receive the compensation to which they are due more quickly.
For those reasons it is a good idea to have a time limit of two years, always subject to the provision for discretion. In that regard my understanding is that the words, "in exceptional cases", to which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, referred, are in the current 1990 scheme and are therefore the words exercised by my noble friend.
Lord Carlisle of Bucklow: Does my noble and learned friend agree that while it is true that they are the words that are in the existing scheme, one always feels that one is stretching them far beyond their exact meaning? I am bound to say that the words suggested by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, would fit more easily into the way in which the scheme is run in practice.
Lord Rodger of Earlsferry: I was simply about to observe that, nonetheless, I note what is said and understand the points made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner. We will be happy to look at the words and see whether they are the words which would be most apt to provide the kind of discretion which in practice is exercised by the board. We all agree that the board should exercise its discretion to deal with the circumstances indicated to the Committee by my noble friend Lord Carlisle. For those reasons, we believe that the matter is best dealt with in the manner indicated in the scheme, with perhaps some adjustment to the precise wording.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I am afraid that this is another example of the Government saying, "The scheme must be rigid, but we do not really mean it". That is what is implied by the discussion in relation to the phrase, "in exceptional cases".
The noble Lord, Lord Carlisle, whose experience and judgment we take extremely seriously, admitted almost in so many words that he did not care for the words, "in exceptional cases", which occur in the existing scheme,
I do not like starting a new scheme with what appears to be a rigid systema two-year time limitand then saying, "We do not mean it because, though the scheme says that late applications will be received in exceptional circumstances, we all know that they will be dealt with compassionately and leniently". That is not a very good way to start a scheme, whether or not it is a good way to write legislation, and this will be subordinate legislation.
I am almost persuadedbut not quitethat this is largely a practical issue. Of course it is a practical issue to the extent that there are always people who will butt up against the time limit. But they have no specified incentive to do that. If an injury has been sustained, the incentive will be for the claim to be put in as early as possible so that the money can be obtained as early as possible. It will only be in exceptional circumstances anyway that, knowing that there is a two or three-year limit, people will put in their claims at the end of one year and 11 months or two years and 11 months respectively.
The fact that even with a three-year limit a very large number of claims were made and nearly as large a number of claims were allowed would tend to indicate that the time limit itself is not a desirable thing. If there is to be a time limit, surely the argument must be in favour of it, where one is dealing with a subset of personal injury, being the same as for other personal injury claims. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, confirmed, and as I said originally, claims for compensation for road accidents, for medical negligence and for injuries at work are all still on the basis of a three-year time limit. No one has suggested either that they should be changed or that there is any particular difficultyfor example, in terms of police recordsin sticking to the existing rule. My noble friend Lord Macaulay had a valid point when he said that it would be worth suggesting to police forces that they should keep records for three years. I was disappointed that the noble and learned Lord did not take up that point in his reply. I gladly give way to him.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I am grateful. Of course it is to some extent an administrative matter. But anyone who has been concerned with claims of this kind and with Victim Support will agree that a substantial number of people take the rules literally as laid down and think that if they have missed the time limit there is no possibility of making a claim. If three years has worked successfully for a period of 30 years, if three years as a time limit is still applicable for the very much larger number of personal injury claims which are not criminal injury compensation claims, surely the balance of the argument must be in favour of there being a three-year period.
With deep respect to the noble Lord, Lord Carlisle, what I think he is making is administrative judgments rather than seeking to have a scheme which is as transparent and as apparently fair to as wide a number of people as possible. I am not convinced either by his arguments or by those of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate. I wish to seek the opinion of the Committee on Amendment No. 37.
Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.