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Petitions

Volume 554: debated on Thursday 6 December 2012

Petitions

Thursday 6 December 2012

OBSERVATIONS

Justice

Changes to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme

The Petition of members of Usdaw,

Declares that innocent victims of violent crime should continue to be compensated through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme for all level of injuries and in accordance with the scheme currently in operation; further that the Petitioners believe proposed changes to the scheme will result in taking 30,000 innocent victims of criminal assault out of the scheme altogether, or significantly reduce their right to compensation; and that many Usdaw members have first-hand experience of what it is like to be a victim of violence and compensation which was awarded through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme which was a lifeline to them and their families after going through a very difficult period financially and emotionally.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urge the Government to ensure that proposed changes to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme are not proceeded with.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Cathy Jamieson, Official Report, 17 September 2012; Vol. 550, c. 752 .]

[P001117]

Observations from the Secretary of State for Justice:

We believe it is right to focus compensation on victims of more serious crime and that, for victims with less serious injuries, prompt practical and emotional support is a more suitable response than relatively small amounts of compensation.

The reforms to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme (“CICS”) which were set out in the Government’s consultation “Getting it right for victims and witnesses” focused on protecting awards for those who are most seriously injured while ensuring that the Scheme is made more sustainable, so that it continues to offer timely compensation to victims in the long term.

Following careful consideration of the responses received, including the one from USDAW, we published the Government response to the consultation on 2 July 2012 and laid a revised Scheme in Parliament the same day. The CICS 2012 came into force on 27 November 2012 following Parliamentary approval.

The CICS 2008 cost the Government £200 million a year. We aim to save around £50 million to the taxpayer through our reforms to the Scheme but we intend that money allocated to victim compensation and services combined will remain stable. We intend to raise up to an additional £50 million from offenders to pay for new services to help victims in the immediate aftermath of a crime. The aim is that overall spending for victims will remain at around the same level but the burden on the taxpayer will be reduced by around £50 million and offenders will pay more.

We have preserved compensation for the most seriously-injured victims of crime in the CICS 2012 by protecting compensation awards for the top 13 bands of the 2008 Scheme in their entirety. In addition we have also protected the previous level of tariff awards in cases of fatal injury, for sexual offences and patterns of physical abuse, and for loss of a foetus—no matter where these cases appeared in the 2008 Scheme’s tariff bands.

We have listened to concerns raised about the reforms and have established a Hardship Fund of £500,000 per year, which was also implemented on 27 November. The fund will provide relief from hardship for very low-paid workers in England and Wales who are temporarily unable to work as a result of being a victim of a crime of violence and whose injuries do not fall within the CICS 2012. These victims will be given some financial support, at the same rate as Statutory Sick Pay, over a short period to relieve them of the immediate hardship that arises from their being temporarily unable to work. We laid a policy paper on the Hardship Fund in the House Library on 27 November which provides more detail on the operation of the Fund and the eligibility criteria for potential applicants.

Treasury

Closure of HSBC in Shildon, County Durham

The Petition of residents of Shildon, County Durham,

Declares that the Petitioners support the proposal to keep the HSBC branch in Shildon open; that it is a vital service for local businesses, residents and visitors to this busy town; further that there are over 10,000 residents in Shildon, and if HSBC were to close, we would be left with no banking facilities, causing problems for local businesses and residents who are unable to make the 3 mile journey to the next nearest HSBC branch.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Treasury to encourage HSBC to keep their Shildon branch open.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Helen Goodman, Official Report, 17 October 2012; Vol. 551, c. 444 .]

[P001122]

Observations from the Secretary of State for the Treasury:

The Government thank the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Helen Goodman) for her petition on the closure of the HSBC bank branch in Shildon.

The Government are sorry to hear of the residents of Shildon’s disappointment at the closure of this HSBC branch. Although we can understand their concerns, decisions on opening and closing branches and agencies are taken by the management team of each bank on a commercial basis. As with other banking service providers, HSBC will need to balance customer interests, market competition, and other commercial factors when considering its strategy and the Government do not intervene in these decisions.

It may be useful to note that many bank account providers already have an arrangement with the Post Office to provide access to their bank accounts. HSBC recently announced that from spring 2013, 9 million HSBC and First Direct customers will be able to withdraw money, deposit cash and cheques and check balances at all 11,500 Post Office branches in the UK.