PIDR in NI: Committee for Justice opts for 28 October backstop for new Bill

Yesterday afternoon the Committee resolved to table a motion in the Assembly seeking to extend its scrutiny of the new personal injury discount rate (PIDR) legislation to Thursday 28 October. Assuming that is passed (which seems likely) then the passage of the Damages (Return on Investment) Bill looks unlikely to be concluded much, if at all, before the end of 2021. Add in after that up to 90 days for setting a rate under its provisions and it seems we are set for a second year of uncertainty on this important topic and ongoing difficulty in resolving those cases materially affected by the level of the PIDR.

Next week the Committee will formally call for written submissions on the Bill to be made before 30 April and will signpost the points on which it is seeking views. Following that, there might be an outside prospect of oral evidence sessions before the Assembly’s summer recess on 2 July but it might more realistic to work on the basis that those would be scheduled after the summer.

The Department of Justice had hoped to move very quickly with this Bill but it now seems all but certain that will not happen. As we reported here last week, it means that the next key development will therefore be the decision in the recently-heard judicial review proceedings which are challenging the Department’s approach of not setting an ‘interim’ PIDR while this Bill progresses.

Alistair Kinley, Director of Policy & Government Affairs

NI discount rate legislation published this week – Assembly debates to follow

The Bill to reset the legal basis of the personal injury discount rate (PIDR) in Northern Ireland was published this week following its introduction to the Assembly. As was expected, and as we tweeted yesterday, it’s a lift and shift from the approach in Scotland with one main change: a longer assumed investment period of 43 years rather than 30. The investment portfolio, however, is identical. We have said previously that all that can be taken from this, for the time being, is that had the NI PIDR been set using this approach at the same time as the Scottish rate was set at -0.75% – ie back in Q3 2019 – it might have been a little higher than that. How quickly the Bill (its home page is here) might proceed is both politically contentious (as set out in my last blog about it) and unclear. We may get a better idea of timescales from the second stage debate which is likely to take place next week and may at times be ‘robust’.

Alistair Kinley, Director of Policy & Government Affairs

New consultation(s) on statutory discount rate in Ireland

We are nearing the first anniversary of the personal injury discount rate (PIDR) being set in England & Wales last July using a new legal framework which broke the link that lasted more than two decades between the PIDR and the investment returns on Index Linked Government Stock (ILGS). That notional link remains valid as regards the current PIDRs in Ireland and Northern Ireland. However, on 10 June the Irish government launched a consultation on a possible new legal approach to rate-setting and is seeking views by 5 August. In Northern Ireland it appears likely that a similar consultation could begin in the next few weeks.

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