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Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank: My Lords, I am very happy to associate these Benches with the sentiments expressed by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh. Perhaps I may also say how much I appreciated the very constructive and reasonable way in which the Minister approached the Bill. She was sympathetic at all times to the views expressed from all sides of the House. If the face of the Bill has not been much amended, nevertheless commitments have been given which on the whole are very satisfactory. Like the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, I welcome the fact that a revised draft of the scheme has been available and, as I understand it, will now be available in the Library.
I have also respected the assiduous way in which the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, since the Bill was given a Second Reading on 19th July, has pursued the details of the Bill. The House owes much to him for the extent to which the Bill has been improved during its progress through the House.
On Second Reading I mentioned five points which I felt were important. First, I said that, if one had to choose, I reluctantly accepted the idea of a tariff system. Secondly, I declared that I was unhappy about some of the reasons given for restraining costs. Thirdly, I believed that more of the contents of the scheme should be on the face of the Bill. Fourthly, I was concerned, as other noble Lords have been, with parliamentary control in these matters. Fifthly, I referred to the speed in compensating victims. Clearly, it would be inappropriate to cover all that ground now and I shall confine myself to one or two remarks.
The Minister said again today that this is the most generous scheme in the world. Not for a moment do I doubt that. But I still take the view that the proper basis for comparison must be within our own priorities. Although I understand the reasons why both the Government and Her Majesty's Opposition are anxious to restrain costs, we must keep an open mind and be prepared to pay whatever is necessary to compensate the victims of crime in an appropriate way.
With regard to wanting more on the face of the Bill and parliamentary control, as I said, some progress has been made. Even if the outcome is not entirely satisfactory, we are now better placed than we were three months ago.
I return very briefly to the question of the tariff system. On Second Reading I said that in my view there was much virtue in having a tariff system with banding. I have not changed my mind about that. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Carlisle, suggested what I considered to be a very interesting thought; namely, that it would have been possible to have a hybrid scheme in whichI believe that these are his figures85 per cent. was fixed tariff and 15 per cent. allowed for discretion, I assume within limits. My own view is still that, given that every victim is different and every injury distinctive, it would have been a much better scheme if there were banding as a simple way of administering the
That having been said, inevitably this is rough justice. But it is justice of a kind. Time alone will show how watertight our scheme is. I join with those who welcome the Bill and hope very much that it will meet the needs of those whom it is designed to help.
Lord Colnbrook: My Lords, I shall not detain your Lordships for more than two minutes. Before we finally finish with the Bill, I want briefly to commend the Government on two fronts. The first is for producing the Bill at all. We all remember, do we not, the scheme which the Home Secretary sought to introduce without parliamentary approvaland he was not allowed to do that. It was the wrong scheme and everybody said so. He was not allowed to implement it because the courts said that he exceeded his powers. The Government could have sought to introduce that scheme in Parliament in a Bill. I believe that they are to be commended because they listened to what was being said both in this Chamber and in another place about the original scheme. The Bill was very different and very much better. The Government are to be commended for listening.
The second reason why I feel that the Government ought to be commended has already been mentioned; namely, the way in which the Bill has been handled by my noble friend the Minister in this House. As always, she takes infinite pains. She listens most carefully and is most willing and helpful, wishing to co-operate and meet points when she can do so. I dare say that she has battles with the Secretary of State about what she is and is not allowed to give. She seems to win quite a lot of those battles. We are very fortunate to have her.
I still believe that the original scheme which has been in operation for many years is absolutely first class. I accept the reasons why we have to have this one and I am glad that it is a great deal better than was originally conceived. I wish it well.
Lord Simon of Glaisdale: My Lords, I have taken a very small part in the Bill but I should like to make shortly four points at this stage. I am afraid that only the first two will be generally acceptable.
The first one is to thank the noble Lords on whom has fallen the main burden of discussion of the Bill. They are inevitably the Front Benchers. If a debate goes on after the dinner adjournment, it is almost exclusively the Front Benchers on whom the burden rests. We are greatly in their debt. There has been remarkably rapid progress on the Bill, partly because of the precision of mind of those on the Front Benches who have been principally concerned and partly because of the good humour that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, if I may say so, brings to the Dispatch Box. All that makes the proceedings so much quicker and more pleasant.
My second point has been referred to already; namely, the improvement in parliamentary control. My demur is apprehension lest a government department tries to get away with the least parliamentary control that is possible. There again, we have been greatly indebted, as so often, to the Scrutiny Committee. I agree that in this Bill the parliamentary control, even if not wholly satisfactory in the way that has been described, has been enormously strengthened.
The thirdI am conscious of being on my ownis a point to which I referred at an earlier stage; namely, whether we are justified at all in having a scheme of compensation for victims of violence. The noble Baroness said that it is the most generous scheme in the world. That means that the taxpayers are being asked to make an exceptional contribution.
A whole number of anomalies exist, both external and internal. One internal anomaly referred to frequently during the course of the debates was the omission of certain types of injury. Perhaps the most striking omission, if I read the scheme rightly, is the omission of injuries caused by crimes committed with a motor vehicle, except in very limited circumstances. There have been other matters, some of which were referred to this evening.
There is the anomalous fact that we are compensating victims of violence, not victims of crime generally. Crimes against property are not within the scheme any more than they were within the common law scheme or the original tariff scheme. The only justification that I can see for compensating victims of violence is that society owes a duty to protect its citizens from criminal activity. But if that is so, then crimes against property should equally be the subject of compensation. That would make it even more expensive than the original scheme. That was quite exorbitant (far more than we could possibly afford) and was rightly withdrawn.
My last point concerns the conduct of the Secretary of State. I referred to it briefly in an intervention at Second Reading. After the noble Baroness had made her clear introduction of the Bill, I asked humbly whether there was to be any question of contrition on behalf of the Secretary of State; after all, he had acted illegally. Worse still, he had acted illegally in the knowledge that there was a 50 per cent. chance that his actions were illegal. But worst of all, illegal or not, he acted unconstitutionally in thumbing his nose at Parliament by failing to bring into action the scheme which Parliament set out at length in a schedule to the statute, and instead brought in an extrastatutory scheme of his own devising. The noble Baroness merely dealt with that point by saying that the Secretary of State acted throughout in good faith. What does that meanillegal action, in the knowledge that it is unlawful or may be, in good faith?
Your Lordships may remember Hamlet's "poison in jest". Is that not what the noble Baroness was saying? Or perhaps even closer, the final verdict of the tribunal in the Dreyfus case. In order to spare the reputation of the Army the verdict brought in was treason, but with mitigating circumstances and the whole affair then dissolved in derision. The fact is that your Lordships will not be seeking the humiliation of the Secretary of
The Secretary of State refused the Carr amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill, so taking the discretion away from the justices. One is bound to say that that must also be viewed with the wholesale ouster of the justices' discretion in the Child Support Act and its various measures. More recently, the Secretary of State was implicated in the way the Ackner amendment was treated on the Criminal Appeal Bill. I do not believe the Secretary of State can be regarded as being primarily responsible; the responsibility must lie in this House. But what was done was that an amendment of great importance, supported by the Lord Chief Justice, by his predecessor, Lord Lane, by a former Chief Justice of Northern Ireland and, we were told, by a practically unanimous view of the judiciary, was passed in this House by a large majorityan astonishing majority considering that government supporters were whipped. That decision was reversed on a Monday in the other place by the use of the Government Whip, and the Commons disagreement was brought before your Lordships in the dinner adjournment the following day on the shortest notice.
As I said, I cannot regard the Secretary of State as being primarily responsible for that; but undoubtedly he was implicated and therefore we ought not to depart from this Bill without considering his unconstitutional actions, his illegal actions, under the Bill and its predecessor. We say that in the hope that the Secretary of State will have closer regard in the future to his constitutional duties and in particular be much more cautious in setting himself up against the unanimous views of the judiciary, as my noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham warned when that matter fell for decision.
Lord Ackner: My Lords, as the number one troublemaker in this particular field perhaps I may add one or two brief comments. The tariff scheme started life in an unhappy way, well described in general terms by my noble and learned friend Lord Simon. It was significantly altered, and for that the Government must take some credit, and the Minister considerable credit.
The tariff scheme has the inevitable disadvantage of inflexibility. That was conceded by the noble Baroness who spoke of the rough justice product which will occur. That feature is said to be balanced by the speed with which the new scheme will operate and by the saving of money which will occur as a result of applying the tariff rather than the more difficult concept of common law damages. Whether the one compensates for the other we have yet to see, but I, too, would like to associate myself with those who have spoken of the great abilities with which the Minister has presented the Bill. An enormous amount of preparation must have gone into it. As one who has listened over many years