The ‘reveal’ yesterday of the website for the new whiplash claims service – with user registration opening at https://www.officialinjuryclaim.org.uk/ – marks the end of the near-total silence which fell over the reform programme before last month’s election and during the Christmas and New Year break. This doesn’t, of itself, mean that the proposed go-live date of 6 April 2020 is now beyond doubt, but I think it has become more likely as a consequence.
As has been noted before here, there is still extraordinarily little visibility of the rules and statutory instruments (SI) that are necessary to bring the whiplash and small claims scheme alive (other than perhaps across a quite narrow group of stakeholders working closely with MoJ policy officials). This being the case, I suspect that any public outputs from the Rule Committee’s meeting in a few weeks (on 7 February) would be carefully scrutinised by interested parties more widely.
Perhaps before then some form of announcement from MoJ Ministers might bring some welcome clarity around likely timing? Lord Keen led on this in the last Parliament – steering the-then Civil Liability Bill through the House of Lords – and was the main advocate for implementation this April. Relatively new Commons Minister Chris Philp’s views as a Minister are not yet known, although he was a vocal backbench supporter of the reforms during the Bill’s debates in the Commons. It would seem likely, therefore, that he remains an enthusiast.
It does look very much as if the policy debate about the merits – or flaws, depending on your perspective – of the reforms really has long since closed. The opening of user registration yesterday would seem to indicate that the focus has shifted to practical efficiency and smooth implementation. That said, surely the earliest possible release of the rules and SIs would go a very long way to helping achieve those goals?