NI discount rate changes to minus 1.5% as of today, 22 March 2022

The Government Actuary (GA) has now carried out the rate-setting calculation detailed in the Damages (Return on Investment) Act 2022 to set a new discount rate for personal injury claims in Northern Ireland involved damages for future losses. The new rate, which applies from today, is -1.5%. At this level, the new rate in NI:

  • is probably somewhat lower than would have been widely expected
  • remains the lowest in any jurisdiction in the UK and Ireland, leading to the highest awards and claims cost, and
  • will be subject to further review and re-calculation in July 2024

The newly effective rate is a modest change to the rate under the previous legislation, i.e. -1.75%, which had been introduced on 31 May 2021. That said, it is worth noting that the GA explains in the report setting out his latest calculations that a rate assessed today, under the previous approach, would have been “in the region of -2.25%.”

It is probably fair to say that the new rate being as low as -1.5% is unlikely to have been anticipated generally. Although some negative movement from the Scottish rate of -0.75% produced in September 2019 under all-but identical legislation was regarded as likely, the deterioration in economic conditions in the last 30 months has led to the outcome of -1.5%. As the GA observes: “over the last few years, expectations of future inflation have increased whilst expectations of future returns on most asset classes have fallen. This results in a lower PI discount rate than would have been the case if it had been set a number of years ago.”

It is important to note that this new rate will itself be reviewed again in summer 2024 so that the rate-setting cycles in NI and in Scotland will coincide.

The Statutory Instrument setting the -1.5% rate and the GA’s report can be accessed via links at the ‘Notes’ section of the press release issued yesterday by the NI Justice Department.


Written by Alistair Kinley at BLM (alistair.kinley@blmlaw.com)

Government publishes draft terms of reference for UK COVID-19 inquiry

In December, the government announced that the UK-wide COVID-19 inquiry would be chaired by Baroness Heather Hallett, a former Lady Justice of the Court of Appeal. Last week, on 10 March, the Prime Minister made a short written statement in which he announced the draft terms of reference for the inquiry, having undertaken initial consultation with Baroness Hallett and ministers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. This inquiry will run alongside any investigations established by the devolved administrations.

The draft terms of reference run to just two pages and should be studied carefully by anyone involved in, or connected to, the health and care sectors in particular. There are two headline aims, which are to:

  1. Examine the COVID-19 response and the impact of the pandemic in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and produce a factual narrative account.
  2. Identify the lessons to be learned from the above, thereby to inform the UK’s preparations for future pandemics.

There is a limited period, until 7 April, to submit comments on the draft terms and the inquiry will not formally start working towards delivering its “factual narrative” until some time after that. One of the sub-headings under aim 2 would require the inquiry to “produce its reports (including interim reports) and any recommendations in a timely manner.” Other than that, there is no indication of how long the process might take (and indeed whether it might be concluded before the next general election).

The draft terms of reference and a link for submitting views are available here.


Written by Alistair Kinley at BLM

alistair.kinley@blmlaw.com

Automated Vehicles: Law Commission proposes ‘wrap up’ event on AVs in mid-March 2022

On 1 February we posted our short summary of the latest recommendations on automated driving via a link at the end of this update. We’re now working on releasing a series of short vlogs covering particular aspects of the new legal regime set out by the Law Commission (including: pre-market regulation, type approval, access to vehicle data and both civil liability and criminal offences).

The Commission itself has just issued an email to stakeholders asking for views on holding “a more general gathering in mid-March (virtual and/or in-person) to mark the end of the project … in conjunction with colleagues at the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) and broader DfT teams working in automated vehicle policy.”

Given that it has been nearly a year since the Commission’s final consultation on automated vehicles closed, it seems to us that such an event – to be held during the week of 14 March and likely to be in hybrid format – is both timely and worthwhile. We have already responded to that effect and should you be interested in doing the same by Thursday 17 February please click through to the Law Commission’s online survey here.


Written by Alistair Kinley, Director of Policy and Government Affairs

alistair.kinley@blmlaw.com