Whiplash was referred to as a “racket” by several Peers in recent weeks. It can now properly be said to be EVEL.
Part 1 of the Civil Liability Bill will bring in reforms to whiplash claims (well-documented here and elsewhere) in England & Wales and part 2 makes changes to the legal basis for setting the discount rate in this jurisdiction. The Bill was sent to the Commons last week immediately after completing its stages in the Lords. It was here – in the Commons – that we expected a steer as to whether the legislation would be taken under the ‘English Votes for English Laws’ (EVEL) procedure. We now have that.
Earlier today, the Commons Speaker released this certificate confirming that the Bill will proceed in this way. This was always the most likely outcome given that the Bill’s territorial extent has, from the outset, been very clearly restricted to England & Wales only (as was relevant part of its predecessor, the now-lapsed Prison & Courts Bill). But why is what looks like a procedural detail going to be important?
The answer to that lies in what one Minister almost exactly a year ago referred to as “the parliamentary arithmetic”, i.e how the numbers stack up for the Government. As we noted in a blog at that time, while the EVEL procedures themselves may be a little arcane, the EVEL certification means that voting numbers of MPs change. Under EVEL, the Conservatives’ English & Welsh total of 305 MPs represents a working majority of the 573 English & Welsh MPs who may vote on these measures. That puts what is a minority national Government in a rather stronger position to push EVEL-certified legislation through the Commons. And it is likely to face significant challenges from the opposition on some of the key issues it managed to resist in the Lords, notably with regard to the damages tariff for whiplash.
It is not yet clear if the Bill will secure a Commons debate before the summer. If it does not, the next development in this area is very likely to be the Government’s formal response to the strong criticisms of its small claims reforms levelled by the Justice Select Committee in its report published in mid-May.
Blog author: Alistair Kinley, Director of Policy & Regulatory Affairs