HC Deb 12 January 1995 vol 252 cc273-4
11. Mr. Khabra

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on compensation to victims of violent crimes.

Mr. Howard

The Government are committed to providing generous compensation to the innocent victims of violent crime as a mark of society's sympathy for such victims. It is a measure of this country's generosity that we pay out more in compensation than the United States and far more than all other European countries put together.

Mr. Khabra

Will the Home Secretary admit that police officers, firefighters and ordinary people who are victims of the most horrendous injuries will lose out if his changes go ahead? Does he realise that some of them will have their level of compensation cut from £250,000 to a few thousand pounds, proving that the Home Secretary is not interested in the victims of crime?

Mr. Howard

I cannot accept the hon. Gentleman's strictures since, under the tariff scheme that we propose, 60 per cent. of victims will receive at least as much or more money than under the old scheme.

Mr. Bill Walker

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the generous package provided in the United Kingdom is only one aspect of dealing with violent crime? When one is addressing the problems of violent crime, it is important that the forces of law see that their actions are being upheld in this place and elsewhere and that the perpetrators of violent crime are dealt with in a determined fashion.

Mr. Howard

I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. The best thing that we can do is to give the police the effective help that they need to bring to justice those who perpetrate violent crimes. I am determined to do all I can to achieve that end. The police take their duties in these matters extremely seriously and it is up to the House and the nation to give them their support in the sort of partnership for which I have called.

Mr. Straw

Since it is now crystal clear that Ministers were planning these wholly unjustified cuts in compensation for victims of crimes of violence well before the last election and that Ministers agreed the cuts within weeks after the 1992 election, why did the Secretary of State's party not mention a word about the cuts in its 1992 manifesto, but instead, in its 1992 campaign guide, congratulated the Government on the continuance of the old and much more generous scheme? Is not this yet another example of the way in which the British people were grievously misled by the right hon. and learned Gentleman and his colleagues at the last election?

Mr. Howard

As I have made clear, our record in these matters is absolutely outstanding. The hon. Gentleman conceded in his question that no decisions had been taken at the time of the last general election, so he destroyed by his question the very premise on which it was based.

Mr. Clifton-Brown

Will my right hon. and learned Friend accept that it has always been a fundamental principle of the benefit system in this country that only the poorest should be recompensed? Therefore, would not it seem sensible to recognise that the criminal injuries compensation scheme is wrong to compensate those on substantially higher than average earnings?

Mr. Howard

It was necessary to reform the scheme for reasons which have been explained comprehensively to the House and to do so in ways which have been approved by the House on more than one occasion.