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.
Parliament will sit again on 22 February 2016 after a short recess. It will then be exactly 90 days since the Autumn Statement of 25 November in which George Osborne announced reforms to restrict general damages in soft tissue injury claims and to increase the small track limit for injury claims to £5,000. In that period we have not seen the start of any formal consultation on either measure, although the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has conducted informal discussions with a range of stakeholders as it refines its thinking on the detail that will go to out to consultation.
The noise associated with the Government’s proposal to increase the small claims limit for injury cases to £5,000 may have drowned out another equally important announcement in the Autumn Statement: that some £700 million has been allocated to the MoJ to bring the court service up to date. A short summary was posted on The Policy Blog at the end of November.
This initiative is absolutely not about securing more IT spend so that courts can do more of the things they do now but more efficiently, nor is it just about arranging more video-conferences and attendances. It is a quite fundamental rethink of accessing the courts digitally, how they are structured and how cases and evidence are managed.