HC Deb 04 April 1963 vol 675 cc602-3
1. Mr. Driberg

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will now make a statement on the introduction of legislation to provide for compensation, by the State and by those convicted of crimes of violence, to the victims of the crimes.

30. Mr. C. Johnson

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department when his Department first embarked upon the study of a possible scheme of compensation for the victims of crimes of violence; and when he will announce Her Majesty's Government's intention to introduce such a scheme.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Henry Brooke)

A Working Party of officials of the Departments concerned was appointed in Februrary, 1959, to examine the practical problems involved. Its report was published in June, 1961, with a view to eliciting further opinions. The Government are now studying this important question in the light, among other things, of the various reports by other bodies which have been considering the matter, the latest of which was published last November, and also in the light of further proposals made in the course of a recent debate in another place. I hope to be able to make a further statement before long.

Mr. Driberg

Is it not the case that most of the public opinion which has been elicited broadly supports this kind of proposal? Could the right hon. Gentleman say a word about the Private Member's Bill introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice)? Are the Government prepared to give some assistance to that Bill?

Mr. Brooke

I am aware of that Bill. The hon. Member who introduced it will no doubt wish to take into account the terms of any statement that I may be in a position to make later on behalf of the Government. I certainly am aware that, as the hon. Gentleman says, public opinion seems generally in favour of action on these lines. Nevertheless, it is rather embarrassing that the four authoritative bodies which presented reports on the subject all differed as to their recommendations. Therefore, it takes some time to work out a scheme which may be generally acceptable.

Mr. C. Johnson

Would the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to answer the first part of my Question? Is it not a fact that more than seven years ago his Department was seeking statistical evidence from chief constables on this very matter? The subject has therefore been under consideration for a very long time. Moreover, in support of what my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg) has said, is it not a very real indication of the widespread public concern about this matter that within the last few weeks the two leading evening newspapers in this country both carried leading articles protesting against the Government's procrastination and seeking immediate action in this matter?

Mr. Brooke

There is no question of procrastination. The Government have already made it clear that it would be impossible to legislate on this matter in this Session. The hon. Gentleman has referred to a period seven years ago. I was at that time Financal Secretary to the Treasury, so I could not say exactly what was happening then, but in my reply I sought to answer the first part of the hon. Gentleman's Question when I said that a working party was appointed in 1959.