HC Deb 23 February 2004 vol 418 cc1-3
1. Sue Doughty (Guildford) (LD)

What plans he has to widen access to compensation for victims of crime. [155743]

The Minister for Crime Reduction, Policing and Community Safety(Ms Hazel Blears)

On 12 January we issued a consultation paper, "Compensation and Support for Victims of Crime", which invites views on proposals for amending the criminal injuries compensation scheme and for encouraging the wider and more effective use of compensation orders made by the criminal courts in the victims' favour. We will consider how best to proceed when all the responses to the public consultation have been carefully analysed.

Sue Doughty

I thank the Minister for her response. Does she agree, however, that proposals to link punishment and compensation with driving offences are particularly unfair on drivers who may not commit other crimes, and that it would be better to link punishment and compensation with the crimes that take place? It is unfair to fine motorists for the purposes of compensation in respect of other kinds of criminal activity.

Ms Blears

The hon. Lady raises an issue that has been the subject of much speculation. I can reassure her that motorists are not singled out in our proposals. In setting up a victims' fund, we have to ensure that we strike the right balance between the taxpayer and the offender. Speeding is connected to some 1,100 deaths a year in this country, so it is a significant problem. It may well be appropriate to ask motorists, together with other people who commit criminal offences, to make a small payment towards the establishment of a victims' fund that can provide much better services for victims.

Mr. Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley) (Lab)

Will my hon. Friend consider ensuring that people who are guilty of committing crimes contribute more, instead of relying on the state to fund those poor victims who have suffered? That would be one way to ensure that we get fairness and justice for the victims of crime.

Ms Blears

My hon. Friend makes an important point. As he will know, restorative justice is an important thrust of Government policy: we want to ensure that those who commit offences have to make reparation to their victims and thereby have a stake in the system. Our criminal injuries compensation scheme is the most generous in the whole of Europe. We pay out more compensation than all the other EU member states added together—last year, we paid out £232 million. As my hon. Friend suggests, we must try to strike the right balance between funding by the taxpayer and what is contributed by offenders.

Mr. Mark Oaten (Winchester) (LD)

Can the Minister confirm that under the Government's new arrangements for compensating victims, police and other public sector workers will still be able to make claims in respect of injury at work? Last year, more than 3,000 such claims were made, many as a result of very grave actions. What would happen to those individuals under the Government's new scheme?

Ms Blears

As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, this is a consultation document and we are consulting employers, the insurance industry and a whole range of people with an interest in the matter. People in employment can obtain compensation in three ways: they can get a compensation order from the court; they can, and always have been able to, sue for civil damages for personal injuries caused as a result of such incidents; or they can get an award through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority. Through the consultation process, we are exploring the right balance between contributions from employers and from offenders, as well as the right to pursue civil damages through the court system. It is a complex area. Of course we want to ensure that people who are injured in the course of their duties have the maximum amount of protection, but it may well be appropriate for employers to play a bigger role in future.