State Opening of Parliament this Wednesday

The Queen’s Speech takes place on 18 May 2016. A number of recent Parliamentary briefing papers have covered topics likely to be the subject of Bills that might be announced by Her Majesty. Debate on the Speech will take precedence in both Houses for several days after 18 May. A key point of interest for general insurers will be whether the Speech refers to legislation to implement reforms to injury claims announced in the 2015 Autumn Statement.

The Government’s aim of ending the right to claim general damages for soft tissue injuries, which the Chancellor announced last November, looks almost certain to require primary legislation. Equally, Ministers’ stated plans to address so-called  “opportunist litigation” brought against the UK’s armed forces may also require legislation as part of a package of measures which has been heavily hinted at by both Defence and Justice Minsters – as well as by the Prime Minister – over the last month or two.

The Chancellor stated in his most recent Budget in March that he intends to transfer the regulatory oversight of the claims management sector from the Ministry of Justice to the Financial Conduct Authority. It is possible that that could be done under existing powers in the Compensation Act 2006 (at its part 2) and by amendments to regulations made under the Financial Services & Markets Act 2000. However, we cannot entirely discount the prospect of stand-alone legislative proposals to deal with this transfer and to bring about reforms to how that sector operates and trades with consumers and compensators (whether in financial claims or in injury cases).

The Road Traffic Act 1998 is going to need amending in the medium term (a) to facilitate the operation of motor vehicles on the roads in approved modes of autonomy and (b) to deal with the consequences of the European Court’s decision in the well-known Vnuk case. As these are matters on which the Department for Transport has already been working for some time (rather than entirely new policy initiatives), it is thought unlikely that they would be referred to in the Queens’ Speech.

The question of setting out a British Bill of Rights in a statute was a commitment in the Conservatives’ 2015 Manifesto and it was mentioned unequivocally in last year’s Queen’s Speech: “My government will bring forward proposals for a British Bill of Rights”. What the Manifesto referred to as “Labour’s Human Rights Act” would have to be repealed by both Houses of Parliament. That said, since last May no formal consultative material, let alone proposals for draft legislation, have emerged. This may not be surprising given the imminent referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union. But it is nevertheless worth remembering that the issue of human rights under the European Convention and the 1998 Act are separate from – but easily, and perhaps sometime deliberately, conflated with – this country’s relationship with the EU.

 


About the Author

akAlistair Kinley is BLM’s Director of Policy & Government Affairs.

Alistair is responsible for BLM’s engagement with government departments and regulators on policy and public affairs issues and consultations affecting the firm and its customers. He coordinated BLM’s market-facing activities in connection with the Insurance Act 2015 and the consultations which preceded its publication and introduction in Parliament.

He is a member of the Civil Justice Council (CJC), a regular speaker and experienced commentator on legal and procedural reforms and was a contributing editor to the Law Society’s Litigation Funding Handbook (September 2014).

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