Proposed NI discount rate legislation set to meet resistance in Assembly?

Last week, the Justice Committee of the Assembly held a further hearing with officials from the NI Department of Justice (DoJ). The debates and questioning moved forward from the indications given at the previous hearing on 22 October (i) that the Department proposed to accelerate the passage of legislation to set a new legal framework for the discount rate and consequently did not intend to set an ‘interim’ rate using the 1996 Act and (ii) that Members’ (MLAs) initial view was to resist accelerated passage. The view among MLAs looks now to have hardened against accelerated passage for the new Bill, which could be a real problem for the DoJ in delivering a rate based on a new framework in the second half of next year.

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Significant news on the discount rate in Northern Ireland

Officials from the NI Department of Justice gave evidence this afternoon on the way forward following consultation over the summer on the mechanism for setting the personal injury discount rate. There are two significant developments:

  • First that the officials indicated that on balance the Department had concluded it would not proceed to reset the existing rate based on the 1996 Act, ILGS yields and Wells v Wells.
  • Second is that the Department will seek to introduce legislation quickly to deliver a new legal framework for setting the discount rate.
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FAA remedial order nears commencement

In 2017 in Smith v Lancashire the Court of Appeal held that exclusion of a deceased’s co-habiting partner from entitlement to bereavement damages under s1A of the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 breached European Convention rights. That outcome placed the government under an obligation to amend the Act (detailed in this post back in February). This specific and limited change has just moved closer, with the necessary draft order being approved in the House of Lords last week and expected to take effect soon.

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