HC Deb 07 November 1995 vol 265 cc739-41

Lords amendment: No. 6, in page 6, line 11, at end insert— ("(3) In this section "the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme" means—

  1. (a) the scheme established by arrangements made under the Criminal Injuries Compensation Act 1995; or
  2. (b) arrangements made by the Secretary of State for compensation for criminal injuries and in operation at any time before the commencement of that scheme.")

Mr. Maclean

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I must inform the House that this amendment involves privilege.

Mr. Maclean

The amendment fulfils a promise made in the Standing Committee to extend the benefits of structured settlements so that they are available under the new tariff scheme to applicants under the current common law damages scheme or any other previous version of it, whose claims have not yet been settled. The necessary complementary amendment to the 1990 scheme to permit payment of compensation by the purchase of annuities will, as we also promised, be made administratively as soon as the Bill receives Royal Assent. This is an excellent amendment, which I commend to the House.

Mr. Michael

We support the objective of the amendment. The Minister says that people whose claims have not been dealt with will have the opportunity of structured settlements and the tax arrangements that are allowed for under the Bill. What will the cut-off date be? Will the ability to deal with claims by structured settlement date from the time when the Bill began its passage through the House and the declaration of the Government's intentions, from the date on which Royal Assent is signified or from a future date when the Government or Home Secretary implement that aspect of the Bill? I am sure that the Minister will agree that it is important to be clear on those points. I hope that he will give the earliest possible date, so that the advantages of the new scheme will have the widest possible application.

On the Order Paper today there is a written question tabled by the hon. Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Mr. Evans), who sometimes asks questions that are regarded as convenient to Ministers. The hon. Gentleman asks whether structured settlements will be offered under the current criminal injuries compensation scheme. If any new information is to be provided to the hon. Gentleman, will the Minister share that information with us?

I ask that question because it is quite common for members of the press to have information about written parliamentary answers long before hon. Members. I am sure that the Minister will agree that it would be courteous to give the House as much information as possible in view of the fact that that question—coincidentally, I am sure—has been tabled on the day of this debate.

Mr. Maclean

I am not aware that I have any extra information to present to the House. I was not aware that my hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Mr. Evans) had coincidentally decided to ask a question, which might correspond with an urgent need that I had to present information. I shall be advised on it and I hope that I shall be able to confirm whether that is the case. We intend to have structured settlements. We think that they are a good idea. If any new information needs to be presented, I shall do so.

Mr. Michael

As I understand it, the Minister is answering that written question today, so if I speak slowly, any additional information might wend its way to him. If there is no additional information that is not already available to the House, I would be happy if, at this late stage in the Bill's proceedings, the Minister could confirm that.

Mr. Maclean

I have no extra information to provide, and nothing new to say on it. I can only conclude that my hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn Hatfield was not fully aware of all the information that we had issued previously when he decided to ask for an update. The update will provide the same information.

The earliest date of implementation will be Royal Assent. This part of the legislation cannot be retrospective because that would create tremendous anomalies. The question might arise whether, in some cases, the generous settlements that we are making under some aspects of the tariff award should not also be made retrospective. That would be very unfair. We expect the benefits of structured settlements to take effect when the Bill receives Royal Assent.

Lords amendment agreed to [Special Entry].

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