Covid19 inquiry – revised draft terms of reference

In mid-March we noted the publication, for consultation and comment, of the draft terms of reference (TOR) for the independent inquiry into the national impact of Covid-19. The inquiry was set up by the Prime Minister and will be chaired by Baroness Hallett, a retired Court of Appeal judge.

Baroness Hallett’s team have analysed responses on the TOR and made several important revisions to the inquiry’s brief. The revisions proposed sharpen the TOR by, for example

  • placing greater emphasis on studying the impact on mental health of the pandemic
  • specifically including impacts on health and care workers, and on children and young people
  • examining the effects on the safeguarding and support for victims of domestic abuse
  • adding the effects of the closures of the travel and tourism sector and of places of worship as matters for consideration
  • looking at initial contacts with health services, advice lines and primary care, and
  • considering the impact on ante- and post-natal care

Other revisions of a more functional nature touch on the collaboration between national, devolved, and local government and add the use of research and expert evidence to the need to consider how data was used and made available.

The inquiry team also recommends reviewing not only how decisions were made, communicated and implemented but also how they were recorded. This point speaks to a concern that private e-mail or WhatsApp accounts may have been used rather than official departmental channels.

I am grateful to my colleague Rachel Quinn for carefully examining the documents and preparing the attached note which highlights Baroness Hallett’s proposed revisions. New text is shown in yellow and the turquoise highlighting shows text which has been moved.

The revised terms of reference for the inquiry were sent to the Prime Minister in May. At the time of writing, there has so far been no formal response. The inquiry continues to make some progress, however, and today announced the appointment of 49 junior counsel to assist with investigations, in addition to 11 QCs who were appointed at the beginning of May.

For the changes to the Annex: Recommended Terms of Reference, please click here and see the highlighted sections.

Written by Alistair Kinley, Director of Policy & Government Affairs (Alistair.Kinley@blmlaw.com).

Transport innovation – today’s Queen’s Speech heralds the regulation of e-scooters and more activity on automated driving

The Prince of Wales delivered the Queen’s Speech this morning. The Speech itself sets out, fairly briefly, the main themes of the government’s legislative programme for the new parliamentary session (the government’s accompanying background material is more comprehensive and runs to 140 pages).

In relation to a new Transport Bill, he said that the government “will improve transport across the United Kingdom, delivering safer, cleaner services and enabling more innovations.” This high-level summary is sufficiently broad to encompass introducing new regulations for e-scooters and further refinements of the law governing automated driving.

On the former, the Sectary of State told parliament late last month that he would legislate for e-scooters, saying that “What I want to do, and will do, is crack down on all the e-scooters that are being sold privately that are substandard, that can be tampered with without necessarily breaking the law, that do not have the required lighting and that are sometimes built to the wrong power, wattage and the like. We will crack down on the private market and make it illegal to sell e-scooters that do not meet the regulatory standards we will bring in … I shall announce it on 10 May.”

Turning to automated driving, the prospect of further legislation is very clearly stated in the background material to the Transport Bill, which refers to “introducing new laws that safely enable self-driving and remotely operated vehicles”. Considering the extensive and important work carried out on the topic by the Law Commission over the last three years, it seems highly likely that a good deal of those “new laws” would draw heavily from the Commission’s detailed recommendations that were published back in January.

Given that the new Transport Bill will also establish a new rail body, Great British Railways, and set out its role, remit and functions, it is going to be an extensive Bill and as such may not be published in full for several months.

Back in October, the Prince told the BBC that his 1970 Aston Martin had been converted to run on bioethanol that was produced from “surplus English white wine, and whey from the cheese process.”  That is a rather different style of transport innovation to those he announced earlier today, and which should, over the next two years or so, culminate in comprehensive new legal codes governing e-scooter use and automated driving.

Written by Alistair Kinley, Director of Policy & Government Affairs at BLM

Latest data from Official Injury Claim – trends / headlines?

Claims data for the period December 2021 – March 2022 (inclusive) has been released by Official Injury Claim. This means there are now 10 months of experience of OIC’s operation given that it was introduced to facilitate the notification and processing of claims falling within the RTA Small Claims Protocol which was introduced from 31 May 2021. Fast track RTA claims continue to be processed via the Claims Portal Co (often referred to as the MoJ Portal).

The latest OIC data report runs to 15 pages and can be consulted here. Among the headlines are the following.

  • Claims notified via OIC now average around 25,000 per month.
  • The split between represented and unrepresented claimants remains around ten to one (91%:9%).
  • Around two thirds of cases (64%) include a statutory whiplash injury plus another injury and nearly a third (32%) include statutory whiplash injuries only.
  • Two in five (38%) unrepresented claimants claim exceptional injuries/circumstances whereas only one in four (23%) represented claimants does so.
  • Settlement data has been released for the first time, showing 17,607 claims being settled since introduction of the service and 93% of those settling in whiplash tariff bands of up to nine months’ duration of symptoms (which is unsurprising given that the service has been running for ten months).

Combining OIC data with that from Claims Portal Co indicates average monthly claims numbers of around 32,000 since OIC was introduced. Although this is notably lower than pre-reform, pre-Covid averages of more than 55,000 cases per month in the Claims Portal, the latest OIC data report notes that direct comparison is difficult, stating that “There are significant non-service factors influencing driver behaviour and accident rate. These include the impact of Covid-19 as well as the general economic factors of cost and inflation that will indirectly influence vehicle miles and vehicle parc and ultimately accident rate.”