HC Deb 22 June 1995 vol 262 cc465-7
7. Ms Estelle Morris

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement regarding the current situation in respect of compensation for victims of violent crime. [28403]

10. Mr. Winnick

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement regarding reductions in compensation to victims of the most violent crimes. [28406]

Mr. Maclean

We are currently putting through Parliament a Bill that proposes an enhanced tariff scheme. It envisages compensation payable to victims rising from £175 million to £260 million over the next five years. The scheme will continue to be the most generous in the world.

Ms Morris

The Minister's answer bears no relation to reality. The truth is that the Government are cutting compensation to the victims of crime. Does he not understand that he is sending a message to victims of crime that they have a Government who do not care about them, when he should be sending the message that they have a Government who are intent on cracking down on crime and protecting them from violent crime?

Mr. Maclean

The reality is that, once again, a member of the Labour party is saying that she wants to spend more money, whereas the shadow Chancellor is saying that Labour will not do so. Labour has not spelt out clearly how much it will spend on the victims of crime whereas we have spelt out in the Bill how much we shall spend.

In 1978, the cost of compensation was £10 million; in 1987, it was £52 million; and last year we spent £165 million on the victims of crime. Over the next few years, we shall increase the amount given to victims of crime to £175 million. We estimate that, in future years, we shall spend £190 million, £205 million, £240 million and £260 million. We have spelt out the increases; why will not the Opposition spell out clearly what they intend to do? It is just another uncosted manifesto pledge.

Mr. Winnick

Was not the Leader of the House right when he wrote to warn the Prime Minister in March that the Government's intention to reduce compensation to the victims of serious crime would put the Government on the wrong side of the argument? Is not it typical of the Government that, although crime has risen substantially in the past 16 years—many parts of the country are crime ridden—they are punishing financially the victims of serious crime? It is no wonder that they are held in such contempt across the country.

Mr. Maclean

Once again, the hon. Gentleman had written his little supplementary question before he heard the figures, but we have come to expect that from him. I read out how much we project will be spent on the victims of crime over the next few years, and it is an unprecedented amount. The Labour party is keen to quote everything European, so why does it not mention the fact that what we alone will spend on the victims of crime will be more than every other country in Europe put together—and more even than the mighty United States of America?

Mrs. Gorman

Does not Britain have a support system for victims of violent crime—with whom, of course, we all have the greatest sympathy—which includes social services, counselling and medical services to ensure that a victim of crime, even without any form of compensation, has the best care under the welfare state? Is not it important that we avoid the route taken in the United States where the victim of almost anything—from an exploding Coca-Cola can to a real crime—expects to be rewarded financially for the awful things that he has been through?

Mr. Maclean

My hon. Friend is right to mention the United States. The amount of compensation paid to victims of crime in this country is higher than the total paid in the United States, which has a much higher population and a much worse violent crime rate. We have a proud story of success in looking after victims of crime.

My hon. Friend is also right to draw attention to the fact that all the other branches and organs of the state provide support. She might have mentioned Victim Support, which has received unprecedented support from the Government as a voluntary organisation, with huge percentage increases each year since it was set up.

Mr. Fabricant

Does my right hon. Friend agree that another aspect of compensation to victims of crime is the punishment that is given to those who have committed the crime? Has not the Labour party consistently opposed the Government's legislation to increase punishment? Is not the Labour party soft on crime and even softer on punishment?

Mr. Maclean

I know that the Labour party wants to pretend that it is tough on crime, but we know its track record. We know that it voted against the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, the Public Order Act 1986, the Criminal Justice Act 1988, giving the Attorney-General a power to appeal against over-lenient sentences, and the Criminal Justice Act 1991. In the light of that record of voting against every single measure that makes a difference in bearing down on crime, new Labour, during the passage of the most recent Criminal Justice Act, was able to abstain on Second Reading and Third Reading.

Mr. Michael

The public know full well that it is the Conservative Government who have presided over the doubling of crime, and it is the Conservative Government who have voted down every constructive approach by the Opposition to tackle guns, to tackle crime and to nip things in the bud with young offenders. The public know that it is the Government who want to cut the cash for victims, whereas the Opposition have told Ministers, "If you do not cut the cash available for the victims of crime, we will not cut the cash available for the victims of crime." Will the Minister confess that, over the next five years, he will cut the cash for victims of crime by £700 million?

Mr. Maclean

The whole House enjoyed the hon. Gentleman's outburst—not even his hon. Friends could keep a straight face as he was speaking. The Labour party has voted against every criminal justice measure that we have taken, which has increased the penalties for crime. That is the measure of the hon. Gentleman, who now protests that he cares about crime. We do not need any form of weasel words—"If you don't cut the cash, neither will we". We have put in the Criminal Injuries Compensation Bill the extra money that we are giving victims. Why will not the Labour party spell out its bottom line? It is because its shadow Chancellor has said, "No costed promises in the manifesto; do not tell the public what it will cost."