Government tables second attempt to slash compensation for injured victims of crime

Date: 28 September 2012 The Tory-led Coalition is to make a second attempt to force through cuts to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme and will do so by 22 October.

The Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme awards compensation to over 30,000 people each year who are seriously injured following a crime of violence. The cuts proposed by the Government in a revised scheme would mean almost 90% of the victims currently helped would see their compensation slashed or axed completely.

The revised scheme was due to come into force on 1 October, but new Justice Minister Helen Grant was forced to withdraw it on 10 September when it was savaged in committee by both Tory and Labour MPs.

However, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has now re-listed the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme as legislation to be taken before 22 October. This means the scheme and any revisions that ministers choose to make, could only be reconsidered in the week commencing 15 October, when Parliament returns after the conference season.

The MoJ has also confirmed that, if the original proposals are adjusted, a further revised scheme could be rushed through both the House of Lords and a House of Commons Delegated Legislation Committee in just one day, allowing little if any opportunity for changes to be scrutinised. The new compensation scheme would take effect just two weeks after legislation was passed - by 5 November at the latest.

Speaking just before a vote was due to be taken on 10 September, Helen Grant said she was withdrawing the scheme from consideration having "listened very carefully to what Hon. Members on both sides of the Committee have said" and because of "the importance of the scheme to people whom we all care about."

In committee, Rob Flello, Labour Shadow Justice Minister, demolished the Government's case for the proposed cuts and a number of Conservative MPs also spoke against them. Most notably, John Redwood MP urged the Government to "think again" and said "I did not come into Parliament to see these things cut."

An MoJ spokesperson subsequently confirmed the Government was "re-thinking the changes in light of the comments by MPs", but set alarm bells ringing among campaigners against the cuts by adding that the Government was still committed to "reforming the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme to put it on a sustainable financial footing."

The shopworkers' Union Usdaw has been campaigning hard against the cuts on behalf of the many retail staff injured every year in robberies and assaults at work. Commenting on this latest development, John Hannett, Usdaw's General Secretary said:

"We were very encouraged when the Government withdrew the revised scheme, particularly in light of the comments made by Conservative backbenchers, but unfortunately this now looks less like a rethink and more like a tactical retreat to avoid losing the vote at committee."

"Despite the Government continuing to suggest otherwise, the current scheme is already on a sustainable financial footing and not even the most seriously affected victims would receive a penny more from the revised scheme. On the contrary, half of victims would receive nothing in future and almost 90% will lose out, including those most seriously injured and the children of murder victims."

"We now fear any amendments to the revised scheme will be purely cosmetic changes designed to help Ministers avoid future political embarrassment, rather than assist the thousands of innocent victims of violent crime who rely on it as a last resort for financial recompense."

Notes for Editors:

  1. Future business to be put before the House of Commons by 22 October can be seen at: www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm/cmfbusi/c01.htm
  2. The proceedings of the Delegated Legislation Committee on Monday 10 September can be heard at: www.parliamentlive.tv/Main/Player.aspx?meetingId=11385 and read at: www.parliament.uk/business/publications/hansard/commons/this-weeks-public-bill-general-committee-debates/read/?date=2012-09-10&itemId=126
  3. In response to a Parliamentary Question from Labour MP Cathy Jamieson on 18 September, Secretary of State for Justice Chris Grayling said: "The key issue related to last week's criminal injuries debate is that I want to ensure that we prepare for the unexpected. I do not see that there is a case for targeting resources at minor injuries that do not have a significant effect on the lives of those affected. I want to concentrate resources on people who suffer life-changing circumstances as a result of crime. However, I want to ensure that we have enough flexibility to deal with unexpected lower-level cases that do not conform with the overall norms of the scheme." Hansard 18 September: Col. 782
  4. For further information on the cuts to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme and Usdaw's campaign against them please visit www.usdaw.org.uk/compensation
  5. Usdaw (the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is the UK's fourth biggest and fastest growing trade union with over 420,000 members. Membership has increased by more than 17% in the last five years and by nearly a third in the last decade. Most Usdaw members work in the retail sector, but the union also has many members in transport, distribution, food manufacturing, chemicals and other trades.

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