The Final Stage of the Damages Return on Investment Bill detained the NU Assembly yesterday for a little over 15 minutes. This step means that the Bill has completed all its Assembly Stages and should receive Royal Assent soon – perhaps before the Christmas recess – to be followed by a commencement order. The legislation then allows the Government Actuary up to 90 days to calculate the discount rate (applying the methodology in the Bill’s schedule), although indications from the Department of Justice are that the process could be completed sooner. If that were to happen, we could be operating under a new rate as early as some time in March 2022.
The expectation is that the new rate will be higher than the so-called ‘interim’ rate of -1.75% which was introduced in at the end of May. As the chair of the Committee noted yesterday, it had been advised that “the set rate of -1·75% … is the lowest in the world and has the potential to lead to overcompensation in a large number of cases.”
Alistair Kinley, Director of Policy & Government Affairs
Yesterday the Justice Committee of the Northern Ireland Assembly released its report following detailed scrutiny of the legislation designed to re-set the personal injury discount rate (PIDR). The 172 page report was signed off at the Committee’s meeting on 21 October. As would be expected given the length of the document, all of the issues and arguments are thoroughly examined, but in reality the key point to take away is that the Committee is content with the Bill as drafted and does not propose any changes to the text.
That will not, of itself, speed up the Bill’s passage through the Assembly. However the fact that the relevant scrutiny Committee has examined the topic and the text in close detail over the last seven months or so and is content with the provisions might reassure MLAs reviewing the Bill during Consideration Stage that it is fit for purpose.
This afternoon the Government Actuary’s Department released an amended version of the Ogden tables which now includes the new discount rate of -1.75 for Northern Ireland. The relevant webpage of the GAD’s site explains that “Under the Damages (Personal Injury) Order (Northern Ireland) 2021, made under section 1 of the Damages Act 1996, the prescribed discount rate to be taken into account by the courts in Northern Ireland when assessing lump sum damages awards for personal injury was lowered from 2.5% to -1.75% with effect from 31 May 2021. As the tables of multipliers in the original 8th edition of the Ogden Tables are not tabulated at a discount rate of -1.75% updated tables have been issued. The text of the Explanatory notes has been updated and a number of other minor typographical amendments have also been made.”
Alistair Kinley, Director of Policy & Government Affairs, BLM