Tough on the victims of crime the Coalition way

Portcullis House
The Ministry of Justice conducted a cynical exercise in Parliamentary manipulation by reintroducing a draft order to alter the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme virtually unchanged today (Thursday). It was narrowly voted through by nine to seven following a complete overhaul of the committee membership to suit government.

The draft order seeks to take away the right to compensation from those suffering minor injuries, presently awarded between £1,000 and £2,000, and reduce other categories.

The changes are believed likely to hit many postal workers who sustain serious injuries each day due to dog attacks as well as thousands of others attacked both in and out of work.

CWU general secretary Billy Hayes said of the decision: "The Conservatives say they are tough on crime. Today they have shown they are tough on the victims of crime."

The first draft order was introduced in September to the Delegated Legislation Committee but was attacked from all sides, including Conservative John Redwood who expressed his reluctance to approve a scheme that "would cut back on payments to people who are vulnerable and have just been through a bad time in their lives for no good reason." Justice minister Helen Grant then withdrew the draft, pending further consultation.

Members were expecting substantial changes in the reintroduced draft but in the event the main change was the introduction of a hardship fund which will have £500,000 annual fund to cater for some victims if referred by organisations like Victim Support.

As Labour MP for Stoke on Trent South, Robert Flello pointed out, the document remained virtually unchanged whilst the membership of the committee had been altered. There were four Parliamentary Private Secretaries (PPS) on the government benches, whose careers tend to depend on supporting government.

So the likes of John Redwood, Angie Bray and Jonathan Evans - all Conservatives on the original committee - had been replaced by John Howell (PPS to Andrew Llansley), Jessica Lee, (PPS to Dominic Grieve) and Lee Scott, (PPS to Chris Grayling). For the Liberal Democrats, Tessa Munt, (PPS to Vince Cable) sat with the government.

Robert Flello accused the minister of "bringing back the scheme unchanged with a few warm words."

Labour MP For Oxford East Andrew Smith described the measure as "the most miserable, mean and ill judged measure I have seen in 25 years."

"The government has not changed the measure but the membership of the committee," said Andrew.

On the question of injuries sustained due to dog attacks, Labour MP for Wolverhampton South East Pat McFadden questioned how many dog owners have insurance covering for injuries caused by their dog.

He claimed the changes to the CICS "leave people bitten by dogs while in work with nowhere to go."

Pat claimed the measures took away the means for redress from workers leaving them" high and dry."

Labour MP for North Ayrshire and Arran Katy Clark pointed out that 48 per cent of those presently qualifying for compensation would no longer get it under the new scheme, whilst 40% would get less. "As more and more people become aware of the effects this will be seen as unacceptable," said Katy.

The draft passed through by nine to seven with one of the two Liberal Democrats on the committee voting with the government while the other abstained.

The proposal will go before the full House of Commons in the next week but and there may be a division but no debate will be allowed.

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