HC Deb 14 July 2003 vol 409 c4WS
The Minister for Crime Reduction, Policing, and Community Safety (Ms Hazel Blears)

We have today published a consultation paper that looks at the origin and past operation of the Riot (Damages) Act 1886 (RDA) and seeks the views of stakeholders on the future of the RDA.

The RDA is more than 100 years old. Both society and the nature of policing have changed dramatically in that time. In particular, in the light of the Government's radical police reform programme, we need to look at whether the Act is still appropriate in the 21st century.

Currently the RDA makes a police authority in England and Wales liable to pay for damages to buildings and their contents when a riot has taken place. Police authorities, the police service and others have argued for some time that the principle underpinning the RDA—that a riot presents a culpable failure to provide adequate policing—is no longer appropriate to modern conditions. There is also concern that police authorities are subject to unlimited liability for riot damage under the RDA.

It is also argued that the RDA provides a safety net for businesses and households—particularly in inner city areas, which have traditionally been more at risk of civil disturbances—and where property owners may have difficulties obtaining insurance, at least at affordable rates. Without the protection provided by the RDA, vulnerable communities could be at risk of further economic decline.

At a time when the police service is engaged in a programme of major reform it seems appropriate to consider whether the RDA remains appropriate to 21st century needs. We are therefore inviting views on the future of the RDA and, specifically, whether the RDA should be

  • Retained as it stands;
  • Repealed entirely; or
  • Reformed to limit liability for claims

Comments and suggestions are requested on these specific issues but any alternative approaches or views to those outlined would be welcome.

The Government haVE an open mind on the options and look forward to hearing the views of interested parties.

We hope that the consultation will improve the evidence base to help develop a more detailed impact assessment.

Options 2 and 3 would require primary legislation.

Responses to the consultation paper are requested by 9 October 2003.

A copy of the document has been placed in the Library and is available at http:// www.homeoffice.gov.uk/inside/consults/current/index html.