HC Deb 09 July 1981 vol 8 cc562-3
2. Mr. Alton

Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will take steps to provide additional means of compensation for victims of violent crime.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Patrick Mayhew)

The criminal injuries compensation scheme, which was revised and extended in 1979, provides compensation for personal injury directly attributable to violent crime. We have no plans for a further extension.

Mr. Alton

I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. However, in the light of events that have taken place in many of our cities in the last couple of weeks. will he extend the nature of the scheme to cover the violence that has occurred in which many small business men have lost their livelihoods? As the Riot (Damages) Act 1886 will not meet the full cost of replacing those businesses, the cost will have to be borne by the ratepayers. Does he agree that the Exchequer should go some way to meeting some of the costs involved?

Mr. Mayhew

The Riot (Damages) Act provides for compensation, subject to certain conditions, to be paid by the police authority out of the police fund to any person whose house, shop or building has been injured or destroyed or the contents of which have been injured, stolen or destroyed by people in the course of a riot.

That Act has remained in force for nearly 100 years. We are looking urgently to see whether payment under it can be speeded up, perhaps by means of interim payments. I shall consider what the hon. Gentleman said, but I cannot offer any commitment.

Miss Fookes

Will my hon. and learned Friend consider giving further aid to the National Association for Victim Support Schemes—an organisation founded, incidentally, by my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Irving)—which uses volunteers to offer immediate assistance to victims?

Mr. Mayhew

As my hon. Friend knows, a great deal of very good work is done by the victim support schemes. We think it right to give some, albeit modest, support at the moment to the national association to which some 70 of these voluntary schemes are affiliated. I shall consider what my hon. Friend said. There is no proposal to withdraw the support that we are giving. I hope that we shall in time be able to give more, but I cannot make such a commitment.

Mr. James A. Dunn

Will the Minister reconsider the application and implementation of compensation under the law from the police fund, as it is under financial constraint at the moment? What proposals has the Minister to offset the compensation that would be paid to legitimate claimants from that fund?

Mr. Mayhew

The principle always has been that compensation for damage caused through riot has been found from local resources. There has always been a fair amount to be said for that. As I said in answer to the hon. Member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. Alton), we shall consider what has been said, but at the moment I cannot offer any commitment to extend the basis upon which compensation is paid.

Mr. Heddle

Will my hon. and learned Friend confirm that claims under the Riot (Damages) Act 1886 have to be made within 14 days of the event? In view of the magnitude of the events of the last few days, will he consider extending that period?

Mr. Mayhew

The deadlines are always interpreted in a sensible way. I should be surprised if any claim had ever been turned down because it was made within a reasonable period beyond the deadline. I note what my hon. Friend has said. I very much doubt whether in practice it proves to be a problem.

Mr. George Cunningham

Does the Minister accept that several points raised in the exchanges have shown that many features of the Riot (Damages) Act need to be looked at? Will he give an assurance that all these points will be looked at? In particular, will the Government review the kind of damage in respect of which a claim may be made under the Act, not only the speed with which the claim might be met?

Mr. Mayhew

This gives rise not only to an important but to a tragically typical issue. I give the assurance that the matters that the hon. Gentleman has asked us to look at and consider will be considered.