“There is a tension, apparent throughout this enquiry, between the certainty among campaigners and the press that sport has a problem and the uncertainty in the science of what is causing that problem“
So opens the report published this week by the House of Commons Select Committee for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport following its extensive investigation into concussion in sport. The tension set out above is hardly eased by the immediate observation that “current scientific knowledge does not demonstrate a causal link between particular sporting activities and later development of dementia.”
Despite the amount of evidence the Committee considered, both from oral hearings and written submissions (all of which are linked in the report) it is a relatively brief output. Although there are several recommendations, some with a specified time frame, there is no clarity as to the extent of the “problem” and, for me at least, a sense of this phase coming to its close rather than moving issues significantly forward.
The Bill passed its second reading last week after a three hour debate and days before the new Health Secretary went into self-isolation after testing positive for COVID-19. Interventions by MPs ran broadly along party lines, with Conservatives generally supportive of the aims of the Bill and Opposition Members (such as the SNP member quoted above) fundamentally questioning the need for and the timing of the significant reorganisation to NHS England that the Bill seeks to bring about.
In a blog post back in April, I highlighted what, at the time, was APIL’s latest research and publication in its campaign to broaden the scope of certain aspects of the Fatal Accidents Act 1976.
Although APIL’s report claimed around 70% public support for change, it now looks very much like that campaign has reached the end of the road and that reform is very unlikely in the medium term (at least). This is fairly clear from the brief but very direct reply issued yesterday by MoJ Minister Chis Philp. The question put to him and his response (with emphasis added in italics) are set out below.
Anna McMorrin: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what assessment he has made of the potential merits of bringing forward proposals to broaden the scope of claimants entitled to a bereavement award under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976.
Chris Philp: The Government considered the case for reform when responding to a report by the Joint Committee on Human Rights in February 2020. The Government believes that the existing system involving a fixed level of award and clear eligibility criteria represents a reasonable, proportionate and practical approach, and the Government does not currently have any plans for wider consultation on the bereavement damages regime or the Fatal Accidents Act more generally.
Written by Alistair Kinley, Director of Policy and Government Affairs at BLM