HC Deb 03 March 1983 vol 38 cc359-60
7. Mr. Kilroy-Silk

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many victims of crime he estimates will be excluded from compensation in the next year as a result of his change in the rules of eligibility; and what are the reasons for the change.

Mr. Mayhew

We are providing some £29 million this year for compensation awards to the victims of violent crime. The increase in the lower limit to £400 is intended to keep the cost of compensation in future years within the provision made in the Government's expenditure plans. It is uncertain how many applicants who would have been eligible for small awards will be excluded in the next year, but the number may be between 3,000 and 4,000.

Mr. Kilroy-Silk

How does the Minister reconcile that mean and niggardly act with the Home Secretary's statement on 23 March last year to the annual general meeting of the National Association of Victim Support Schemes that the Government want to do everything possible to support the victims of crime? Is it not blatant hypocrisy for the Government to pretend to want to help victims of crime while reducing the number who will be eligible for financial compensation?

Mr. Mayhew

I reject that entirely. Since the Labour Government were removed we have extended the scheme to the victims of violence within the family, enabled the board to reopen cases where there has been a serious change in medical condition, provided a higher limit than previously on the rate of lost earnings and allowed funeral expenses to be taken into account. My right hon. Friend recently announced that a new bereavement award of a fixed sum of £3,500 would be introduced. That is what the Government have done in practice.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that at the moment the courts seem to be more interested in those who have committed offences than in those who have had offences committed against them? Is not the level of compensation totally inadequate—here I support uniquely the hon. Member for Ormskirk (Mr. Kilroy-Silk)—particularly in respect of those who have crimes of violence committed against them? Will my hon. and learned Friend consider this matter again and uprate the amount of compensation available to those who have had crimes of violence committed against them?

Mr. Mayhew

A question about the amount of compensation is slightly different from the one that I was asked. My hon. Friend will recall that in the Criminal Justice Act 1982 much greater power is given to the courts to make the offender pay compensation to the victim in respect of the harm that has been done to him. It is important that that should be emphasised.

Mr. Alton

Does the Minister agree that there is a gross imbalance when for every £1 that is spent on offenders only 1p is spent on victims? Is there not a need to develop more victim support schemes to complement those already in existence?

Mr. Mayhew

I think that it is very much better to take practical measures, such as those in the Criminal Justice Act, than to enter into calculations of the kind that the hon. Gentleman has mentioned in his question.