HL Deb 11 May 1995 vol 564 cc14-5WA
Lord Brougham and Vaux

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What plans they have to introduce legislation dealing with criminal injuries compensation.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch)

We have today introduced the Criminal Injuries Compensation Bill.

The Bill provides a power to establish a new criminal injuries compensation scheme. It also repeals the provisions in the Criminal Justice Act 1988, which, if implemented, would have put the old, common law damages scheme on to a statutory footing.

Following the judgment of the Judicial Committee of the House of Lords, which was delivered on 5 April, we have been giving very careful thought to the arrangements which should be made for compensating those who have the misfortune to be injured as a result of a crime of violence.

The judgment related to the method of introduction of the tariff scheme, not its merits. The effect of the judgment was to require the 1990 common law damages scheme to be reinstated in place of the tariff-based approach which had been introduced on 1 April 1994. The costs of the common law damages scheme have risen very substantially since the scheme was first introduced in 1964 and more than doubled in real terms between 1987–88 and 1993–94. Although improvements have been made in administration of the scheme, we believe that a tariff-based approach offers greater scope for further improvement and the speedier settlement of cases. We remain of the view, therefore, that steps need to be taken to constrain future expenditure and to ensure that a quicker service is provided. This cannot be achieved within the framework of a system based entirely upon common law principles. We therefore remain of the view that the 1990 common law damages scheme should be replaced by a new tariff-based approach.

We have, however, considered very carefully the concerns which have been expressed about the effect which such an approach may have on those who are most seriously injured. We all have immense sympathy for such victims and the Government are anxious to do all that they can to safeguard their position. We have therefore come to the view that the tariff-based approach should be enhanced to provide payment for loss of earnings and special care for those who are incapacitated for more than 28 weeks (the period during which statutory sick pay is payable). We also propose that there should be provision for loss of dependency/support in fatal cases. In addition we propose that structured settlements should be available: these will greatly help those receiving the higher awards by providing a guaranteed, index linked, tax free income for life, thus considerably increasing the net benefit of the award for many victims.

We believe that a scheme of this sort will be fair while at the same time providing a mechanism for controlling future expenditure. Further details of the proposed scheme are set out in a paper entitled Criminal Injuries Compensation: proposals for a Tariff Based Scheme which has been placed in the Library.

Ours is the most generous compensation scheme in the world. We pay out more compensation than all other European countries added together. That will remain the case under our new proposals.