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The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch): My Lords, the overall purpose of the amendments is effectively to remove the possibility of the administration of the scheme being contracted out at some stage in the future. It is important at the outset of what I have to say in response to the amendments that we make the distinction between the administration of the scheme and the quasi-judicial work of the appellant body.
I recall that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, expressed some surprise in Committeein discussions on Amendment No. 31, I believethat the Government were even contemplating contracting out. Indeed, he inferred at that time that that was what lay behind the Government's thinking in the Bill. He made it clear that in his view it would be quite wrong for what he described as "an integral part of the criminal justice system" to be in private rather than in public hands.
We have made no secret at all of the fact that we considered that the administration of the tariff scheme might be a suitable candidate for market testing and, if then appropriate, contracting out at some future date. That view was first declared as long ago as 1993 in our White Paper Compensating victims of violent crime: changes to the criminal injuries compensation scheme (Cmnd. Paper 2434), with particular reference to paragraphs 30 and 31 of that paper. Although the first tariff scheme presaged in that White Paper had to be withdrawn, we have made it clear on many occasions when talking about the new tariff scheme that we considered it to be equally susceptible to market testing.
Perhaps I may correct one comment made by the noble Lord; namely, that the Government could decide. It will not be for the Government to decide; it will be for Parliament. Any result of market testing which led to contracting out would also result in a change to the scheme, which could only be approved by Parliament.
We have also made it clear on many occasions that we have no immediate plans for such market testing. After all the upheavals of the past couple of years, we need a period of stability and certainty during which the authority can get on with the business of running the new scheme and sorting out any teething troubles which there might be and the board can get on with the business of clearing the residual old scheme cases.
But, in principle, once that is done and the new authority has established proven regimes and working practices, I do not see any reason why the administrationI emphasise "administration"of the scheme should not be subjected to the disciplines of market testing. I should hope that by then the authority itself would be in a good position to show that it could run the scheme just as effectively, efficiently and economically as anyone else. Should that be the case, there would be no need to contract out. But if that were not the case, I fail to see why the administration should not be contracted out to someone who could do the job more efficiently and cost effectively. That could only be in the interests of those who must paythe taxpayers.
Before leaving the subject, perhaps I may say that there is no question at all of contracting out the appeals function. Unlike the administration of the scheme itself, that is a quasi-judicial function and, as such, unsuitable for contracting out to the private sector. That is why the Bill specifically precludes contracting out the appeals function (in Clause 5(2)).
Noble Lords will be well aware that it is our firm intention that the new scheme should be administered by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority. The draft scheme published at the end of August makes that very clear.
As to why the Bill itself makes no specific provision for the creation of a CICA, let me just say that it is not necessary for parliamentary, public accountability or other purposes for the Bill to create a statutory body through which the Secretary of State's arrangements can be carried out. In law, unless and until a scheme manager is appointed, claims officers will carry out the functions conferred on them by the Bill with respect to the determination of claims and the award of compensation. In practice, all claims officers will be part of the CICA, even though it has no distinct legal personality. The authority will be a recognisable entity to which the public can look in matters concerned with the day-to-day running of the scheme. It is for that reason that it is referred to in the draft scheme which will be laid before Parliament for approval.
As I said, the CICA is quite distinct from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, for which statutory provision was made in the Criminal Justice Act 1988. But things have moved on since then. The need to allow for future flexibility in the operation of the tariff schemein particular the need to cater for the possibility of market testing and contracting out the administration of the scheme at some future date, to which I have just referredmakes it inappropriate to replicate in the present Bill with regard to the CICA the provision made in the 1988 Act in respect of the board.
The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority will carry out an essentially administrative system for determining claims for compensation. It requires no special provision for that purpose other than those already provided in the Bill and the draft scheme.
I do not believe that there is more that I can usefully add on the subject. I hope that the noble Lord is satisfied with the explanation and indeed the full statement of the Government's position and intentions. I recognise that there are those who, as a matter of doctrine, oppose the whole notion of market testing and contracting out. But I am sure that the noble Lord's approach is not doctrinaire. That would not be characteristic of him. In the light of what I have said, I hope that he will not press the amendments.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the Minister chose to reply to a number of charges which I did not make. I did not say at any stage that the Government had the intention of contracting out the appeals procedure, although she appears to think so. The whole issue of the appeals procedure is the subject of the next group of amendments, which will be dealt with by my noble and learned friend Lord Archer.
Nor did I accuse the Government of bad faith in this matter, although I confess that, if one looks back at the history of criminal injuries compensation, many people might well accuse the Government at the very least of severe mismanagement of compensation schemes. After all, without going over ground that has been discussed in great detail before, 30 years ago we started with a non-statutory scheme which survived for 24 years without any attempt to put it on the statute book under governments of both parties. Indeed, it was an extraordinary enough use of the Royal Prerogative in itself, for which both the major parties must share responsibility, although the scheme worked and no one tried to privatise it.
Then there was the extraordinary situation of the Government promoting a Bill which made the scheme statutory and refusing to implement it. In the presence of noble Lords on the Government Benches I shall not go into the detail of the history of that matter. Then, when a new Royal Prerogative scheme was indeed implemented, it was so different from the original statutory scheme that it was struck down by the courts. If I were the Government, I should not be congratulating myself on the way in which this matter has been handled over recent years.
Without accusing anyone of bad faith, I return to what I did charge the Government with: namely, not telling the truth in this legislation about what they intend. I do not believe that they have positively concealed what they sought to do. I agree with the Minister that in the 1993 White Paper there was reference to the possibility subsequently of market testing and contracting out. But surely the Bill should positively state the Government's intention and require parliamentary approval other than in the form of a statutory instrument if this major step towards contracting out is indeed to be taken in the future.
On the basis that the Government argue the case now, virtually every piece of government machinery would be capable of being contracted out without Parliament having any particular say in the matter. That is a very unsatisfactory situation. The Bill does not say what it means, and what the Government mean, which is not in the Bill, is that an integral part of our criminal justice system may, without primary legislation, be taken out and sold off to the private sector. I cannot believe that that is what the majority of the Members of the Government's own party want, let alone what is wanted by the people of this country. They expect the criminal justice system to be a coherent whole; they expect it to be in the public sector and they think of criminal injuries compensation as being a part of that. In defence of that expectation and principle, I ask the House to take a view on this amendment.
Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.