Union fights latest government attempt to make cuts in Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme
The union has been campaigning hard against the cuts on behalf of the many retail staff injured every year in robberies and assaults at work.
The 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 September 30th, but new Justice Minister Helen Grant was forced to withdraw it on September 10th 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 October 22nd. This means the scheme and any revisions that ministers choose to make, could only be reconsidered in the week commencing October 15th, 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 November 5th at the latest.
Speaking just before a vote was due to be taken on September 10th, 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.”
Usdaw general secretary John Hannett 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.”
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