HC Deb 05 February 1987 vol 109 cc1124-5
2. Mrs. Golding

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many police officers received compensation from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board in 1985 and 1986.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. David Mellor)

In the financial year 1985–86 the board resolved a total of 1,755 cases involving injuries to police officers on duty, including cases in which no award was made.

Mrs. Golding

I am sure that all hon. Members welcome the talks that the Minister has been having with the Police Federation to try to enable benefits to be continued. Will the Minister also have talks with the train drivers' union, as members of that union suffer nervous shock as a result of the increase in suicides on the railways these days? Will the Minister assure the House that he will have such talks soon, and, when he does, will he remember that but for the actions of two people closely related to him who were also railwaymen he would not grace the House with his presence today?

Mr. Mellor

The hon. Lady refers to my grandfathers. As she well knows, both were railway workers and obviously I am proud of that fact. I shall certainly be willing to see Mr. Buckton and his colleagues. My difficulty is that the criminal injuries compensation scheme is intended to deal with criminal injuries arising from crimes of violence. However tragic the consequences for a number of train drivers, it is difficult to see the nervous shock that they suffer as a result of the thoroughly unpleasant experience of hitting suicides as being quite in that context. That is why I do not want to hold out too many hopes, but if the unions wish to see me I shall, of course, see them.

Mr. John Mark Taylor

Does my hon. Friend agree that the risk of injury to policemen would be very much less if Opposition Members could restrain their warlike friends at Wapping?

Mr. Mellor

In the last incident at Wapping, 150 police officers were injured. I hope that anyone with any influence over those who do that sort of thing will call for restraint.

Mr. Dubs

Will the Minister confirm that the Criminal Justice Bill, as drafted, effectively excludes many police officers from making claims under the criminal injuries compensation scheme and that, furthermore, the recent lifting of the lower threshold for eligibility from £400 to £550 will debar some 28 per cent. of all claimants, including many police officers? Is not the truth that the Government care little about victims, whether they be ordinary citizens or policemen?

Mr. Mellor

I cannot agree with the hon. Gentleman, since in the next financial year we shall be spending, in real terms, three and a half times as much as the Labour Government did on the criminal injuries compensation scheme. On the hon. Gentleman's point about the police, in the Bill as drafted there is one marginal but significant difference concerning the rights of the police. We have agreed to correct it so that the Bill will reflect the present position regarding the police. On the question of the lower limit, everyone agrees that there should be a threshold. Around 20 per cent. of those who are eligible at present will not be eligible under the new threshold. The new threshold is equivalent to approximately three times the weekly national average wage. That was the basis upon which the scheme was first established in 1964.

Mr. Holt

Does my hon. Friend accept that, whatever the figure, it is insufficient to compensate the police of this country for their dedication when they stand up to gunmen, armed robbers and the people who man the picket lines at Wapping and elsewhere?

Mr. Mellor

I agree with my hon. Friend. It is one of the proudest claims of this Government that we have markedly improved the pay and conditions of the police to compensate them for the very real risks inherent in carrying out their vital task.