The Commons Committee examining the Bill voted along party lines on the amendments, on 11 September. Opposition amendments, as set out in our earlier posts, were either voted down or withdrawn at this stage, although the issues look likely to be revisited by the whole House at a later date as the Bill progresses.
The Government did not give ground on any element of the Bill, although the Minister Rory Stewart MP indicated it may be prepared to consider further how to address whiplash injuries sustained by children, given the need for settlement approval hearings. He also gave notably direct explanations, below, of the Government’s rationale for reducing damages for whiplash injuries and for increasing the small claims limit.
“… what we believe we are dealing with – in relation to whiplash, with the peculiar anomalies since 2005 and the increase in whiplash claims, is not exclusively medical or legal, but has strong social and political dimensions in terms of insurance premiums and the cost to the public purse … The introduction of the tariffs is designed precisely to reduce the amount paid out in the specific case of general damages for minor whiplash injuries. Simply to stick with the Judicial College guidelines would obviate the entire purpose of the Bill and undermine the medical, legal, social and political arguments that underlie the legislation.”
“Our intention is to reduce the damages paid for minor whiplash injuries, which are defined in the Judicial College guidelines as those that last less than two years. That will result in general damage payments lower than those currently awarded by judges … The policy intention is to reduce the general damages paid, particularly for people at the three-to-six-month level. As we get closer to the two-year level, awards under the tariff come closer to the Judicial College guidelines.”
“The entire concept of the Bill is to try to effect a change in the current practice and process around whiplash claims by moving the claim limit to £5,000. That is part of the entire package – the tariffs and small claims limits are related to that.”
The Government secured the inclusion of its amendment designed to make sure that insurers report (via the FCA & Treasury) on savings realised by the legal changes in both parts of the Bill (with the detail is now to be found at its clause 11). The debate on this point was somewhat characterised by what the Minister called a “deep ideological division between our two parties” on the functioning and operation of competition in consumer markets.
We’ll post a further report on after the conclusion of today’s proceedings on the Bill.
Correction: Dates (13 September and 9 October) which had been available for further scrutiny of the Bill at Committee stage have been released as it was considered in full on Tuesday, so the Report and Third Reading debate are now being scheduled. These stages normally take place on the same day and will be after the party conference recess (which started last night (13 September), with Parliament returning on 9 October 2018).
Authored by Alistair Kinley, director of Policy & Regulatory affairs