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Lord Glenarthur: I very much share my noble friend's concern, particularly as regards the first part of his remarks. Can the noble Lord explain the relationship between paragraph (c) and paragraph (e)? It seems that there is in paragraph (e) an alternative course of action; that is to say,

I am bound to say I am not clear whether that lets the traffic casualty off, so to speak, in any demand upon him to give the information which is demanded in Clause 11(2).

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5.45 p.m.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Under the terms of the new scheme the primary source of information for the central recovery body will be the compensator. The new administrative system places a requirement on the compensator to supply to the central recovery body sufficient information for the claim to be verified with the relevant hospital. This basic information will be the name and address of the accident victim, the date of the accident--both of which are already collected by the CRU--and the name and address of the hospital providing treatment. In the vast majority of cases this will be all the information which is necessary to process an individual case.

We envisage that the additional powers to collect information from the accident victim or his representative will be necessary only where the compensator is unable to provide sufficient information. Although we do not think that the situation will arise often, it may be that there are cases where the compensator is unable to provide sufficient information to verify the hospital, for example. In this case the victim would need to say in which hospital he had been treated, but would not be asked for any details of his treatment.

I take the point made by the noble Earl which is particularly apposite given the experience we have had with the existing scheme. One of the problems with the existing scheme has been the difficulty of staff having to ask patients who are in distressing circumstances for details such as the ones we are discussing.

I want to stress that we anticipate needing to use the powers to approach an accident victim's personal representative only in exceptionally rare circumstances. Approaches directly to the victim will be even more rare. Where such an approach does prove necessary it will of course be handled as sympathetically as possible. We have no wish whatsoever to cause distress or concern where it is not necessary. However, to exclude the victim from the list of people required to provide information might mean that in an exceptional case there would be no way to verify the claim. This would remove an important check in the system, and I think it is probably not sensible to set up a system without such a check. We have a great deal of faith in the insurance industry but I think in this respect it is sensible to have that check in place in the Bill. On that basis I ask the noble Earl to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Glenarthur: I hear what the noble Lord says, but the Bill states that certain persons must give the Secretary of State information. The noble Lord said that the information which may be required of a traffic casualty would be straightforward. I think I understood him to say that it may consist of asking which hospital the victim had been treated in. It seems to me rather bizarre to have one paragraph in the Bill which allows anyone acting on behalf of that person to give that information and one paragraph which makes it

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necessary effectively to demand of the traffic casualty that he should give that information. Surely those two provisions are not compatible.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: A case may arise where there is no one acting on behalf of the person concerned. In that case one would have to go direct to that person for the information.

Earl Howe: I am grateful to the Minister for his remarks. It is not wholly clear to me that the point made by my noble friend Lord Glenarthur has been addressed, nor is it clear that the Minister answered the second point that I raised about the possibility of an accident victim refusing to supply the necessary information, thereby leaving the insurer out on a limb, with a legal obligation to pass information to the CRU that he does not have. I do not know whether the Minister can enlighten me further on that or whether he would care to write to me on the point.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: NHS charges become liable when compensation is paid. It will be up to the insurer to decide whether he pays compensation. If an insurer pays without knowing whether hospital treatment has been received, the CRU would need to ask the victim about that. As regards liability, I shall write to the noble Earl on that matter.

Earl Howe: I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Earl Howe moved Amendment No. 35:

Page 7, line 37, leave out subsection (3).

The noble Earl said: This is a straightforward probing amendment. I would like to know why the definitions of "claim" and,

    "person against whom the claim is made",
have been relegated to secondary legislation. Presumably the regulations are ready for laying immediately after Royal Assent. If so, there are only two possible explanations for not including these definitions on the face of the Bill, where I think they really ought to be: one is that the definitions are complex; the other is that they are definitions which may change over the years. I really cannot imagine either reason is the case. Can the Minister enlighten me? I beg to move.

Lord Skelmersdale: I, too, find this a most extraordinary subsection. In his previous answer the Minister used the words "the claim" several times. If the Minister does not know what the words "the claim" mean, was his last answer absolutely meaningless? The Minister cannot know what the words "the claim" mean, because they have not yet been prescribed. Nobody knows what the words "the claim" mean, unless they have their normal English meaning. In which case, why bother to prescribe them?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The success of the new scheme for the collection of NHS charges will depend,

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to a large extent, on the co-operation of insurers. As I have already said, we are happy to acknowledge that we expect that the co-operation will be forthcoming. For that reason, we have purposely not provided any penalties for non-compliance in the Bill.

However, as we are asking insurers to come forward and to inform us of claims for compensation--without either the insurer being prompted to do so or the financial carrot which exists for them in the benefit recovery scheme--we certainly need to make sure that, if necessary, we can specify exactly who has the obligation to inform the compensation recovery unit that a claim has been made, and when that obligation arises.

I accept that this information could be specified on the face of the Bill but, as the insurance handling business is an evolving and constantly changing one, we have placed the definitions in the regulations so that changes can be made to them as and when they become necessary. The amendment would remove these definitions from the regulations, not only losing the flexibility to amend them but, as they are not replaced on the face of the Bill, they would also be lost altogether. On that basis I would ask the noble Earl to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Skelmersdale: I can readily understand from the Minister's answer why he needs to put the expression,

    "person against whom the claim is made",
in the regulations. As he has said, the insurance business is an evolving thing and there might be a new set of firms carrying out some sort of insurance business, perhaps specialised firms in this particular area, which would not be covered by an expression defined on the face of the Bill. I readily accept that, but it still does not answer the question as to why the word "claim" has to be prescribed.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: As I have said, it reflects the changing circumstances of the insurance handling business. It seems more appropriate that we should have the ability to make any changes to the definition of "claim" and to the definition of,

    "person against whom the claim is made",
in the regulations rather than on the face of the Bill. Such flexibility would be a considerable advantage in this case.

Lord Skelmersdale: But why do you need flexibility? Surely a claim, is a claim, is a claim.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: I do not think that I can help the Committee further on this point. As I have said, we think that it is important in both terms of "claim" and,

    "person against whom the claim is made",
that we have the flexibility to prescribe that in regulations, which will of course come before your Lordships' House.

Earl Howe: My noble friend Lord Skelmersdale has said it all. I find it baffling why the word "claim" should

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be a sort of mutable term that will require re-casting from time to time in regulations. It seems extraordinary. I take on board that the Minister's department has thought very carefully about these matters. I suppose I have to accept what he says. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 11 agreed to.

Clauses 12 and 13 agreed to.

Clause 14 [Regulations governing payments into court, etc.]:

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