Yesterday the Government issued its latest consultation paper about the discount rate to be used for calculating future loss payments in personal injury cases. It has requested views by 11 May which can be fed in via the consultation home page.
The current law on the rate is that the Lord Chancellor sets it and has to follow the return on Index-linked Gilts (ILGS), which is presumed to indicate a risk-free approach to the investment of compensation. If this is going to change it will need legislation to change or repeal the Damages Act 1996 – a point which is confirmed in the Lord Chancellor’s written statement which accompanied the consultation.
A good deal of this recently-published Government Bill deals with prison reform and prisoner welfare and these issues took up much of the debate on Second Reading in the Commons yesterday, which ran from late afternoon until nearly 10pm. In addition, part 5 of the Bill seeks to implement the Government’s reforms to whiplash claims, which were also discussed at some length.
This short post covers none of those topics but instead suggests that perhaps the two most important interventions yesterday, in terms of financial impact on the claims sector, came relatively early in the debate and then right at its end. Both were quite brief and taken together they clearly signpost reform to the process by which the discount rate for future losses in personal injury claims is set.
Following the announcement by the current President of the Supreme Court, Lord Neuberger, of his retirement in the summer and the vacancies caused by the retirements of Lord Toulson (last September) and Lord Clarke (also this summer), applications are being sought for the appointment of a new President and two, possibly three, Justices. The process closed on 10 March and a short list of candidates is due in late April with interviews in early May. We expect that appointments will take effect on 2 October 2017.
The withdrawal of the UK from the EU makes this a particularly important time at which to lead the Court as President or to be appointed a Justice. Key attributes of those selected will include outstanding intellect, legal ability, social awareness, understanding the impact of law on society, together with an appreciation of the developing nature of the constitution and law in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Reference to flexible working arrangements has been included in the application information pack for the first time.