HC Deb 04 June 1964 vol 695 cc1228-30
9 and 10. Mr. Prentice

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what modifications he proposes to make to the scheme for compensating the victims of crimes of violence; and if he will make a statement;

(2) if he will give the starting date for the scheme for compensating the victims of crimes of violence.

12. Mr. C. Johnson

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is now in a position to announce the names of the chairman and other members of the Victims of Crimes of Violence Compensation Board; what are the terms and conditions of their appointments; and whether they are to be on a full-time or part-time basis.

17. Mr. Fletcher

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, in view of the criticisms made of the White Paper on Compensation for Victims of Crimes of Violence, when he proposes to issue a further White Paper outlining the scheme he now recommends.

Mr. Brooke

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and I have considered all the points made in the debates in this House and in another place on the White Paper on Compensation for Victims of Crimes of Violence. We intend to make a number of modifications to the scheme outlined in the White Paper, and I shall be making a further statement to Parliament about this very soon, and announcing at the same time the name of the chairman of the compensation board and the date on which the scheme will come into operation.

Mr. Prentice

Can the Home Secretary tell the House how soon "very soon" is, and when he expects to make his statement? Will he be issuing another White Paper, or some other details in writing of the scheme as modified? Is it not a fact that many aspects of the scheme were criticised very strongly on both sides of the House in the debate on 5th May? If I am right in thinking that there are to be modifications, ought not the House—and, indeed, people outside the House—to have the revised scheme in writing so that they can see what it involves?

Mr. Brooke

It was not so much a question of the scheme being criticised as of the Government inviting suggestions from both sides of the House on a draft scheme, and welcoming them. I certainly think that in the light of those debates the scheme can he improved. I do not think that it will be necessary to issue another White Paper, but I am anxious to give to the House the proposed modifications in the scheme so that they will be on record in HANSARD. I shall certainly endeavour to make a further statement within the next two or three weeks.

Mr. Johnson

In view of the Home Secretary's assurance that no scheme would be introduced except with the express approval of Parliament, does the right hon. Gentleman really think that a simple statement to the House—with, perhaps, a few supplementary questions—is sufficient? Ought he not to submit a White Paper showing clearly what is involved? On a minor point, in regard to the composition of the Board, has the right hon. Gentleman given any consideration to the criticism made that all the members should necessarily be lawyers?

Mr. Brooke

No, Sir. I never made a statement that the scheme would not come into force until express approval had been given to it in all its details by Parliament. Indeed, I think that it is the wish of both sides of the House that the scheme should be brought into force as soon as possible. In the light of the valuable debates that have taken place, I would ask the hon. Member to await my further statement with regard to any detailed modifications.

Mr. Fletcher

The Home Secretary will surely realise that in our debate it became apparent that the White Paper is riddled with ambiguities. He himself was unable to explain, for example, the meaning of the basis, in paragraph 22 of the White Paper, on which compensation would be awarded. He had no clear idea what would be meant by the exclusion of any award for loss of expectation of happiness. Is he not aware that while we all share his anxiety that this scheme should be brought into operation as soon as possible, it is desirable that the ambiguities, and some inconsistencies, in the White Paper should be remedied by a new White Paper setting out precisely the basis on which Parliament has authorised the scheme?

Mr. Brooke

I must rebut the hon. Gentleman's charges. It is perfectly true that we could have presented a White Paper not capable of amendment by Parliament, and asked Parliament to approve it or reject it. I should have thought that the whole House believed that we had done more sensibly and reasonably in presenting the White Paper and asking Parliament to debate thereupon. That debate brought to light some ambiguities and some possible improvements, and I am proposing to make a further statement to Parliament to indicate how far the Government feel able to go, and in a number of directions it will be found that we have met the points that have been raised in order to improve the scheme. Having said that, I do hope that I shall have the support of the whole House in getting this scheme in operation as soon as possible.