The Queen’s Speech today is the second is as many months. The intervening election last week makes it dramatically different from that in October in that it sets out a full legislative programme of a-now-majority Government. Brexit looms large, with the EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill arguably the flagship bill. Around forty other bills are mentioned in the official background papers which run to over 150 pages. Several of interest are highlighted in the body of this piece.
The decision to prorogue Parliament (Westminster) will lead to a ‘wash up’ of outstanding Bills, in which those which haven’t fully completed the legislative process are likely to be lost.
In reality, however, Parliamentary activity beyond Brexit has been pretty thin for the last few months, with very few unresolved Bills touching on civil litigation and insurance. One of passing interest is the Courts and Tribunals (Online Procedure) Bill which provides the necessary framework for moving some civil and family disputes to an online setting. Given that this important project has already had one legislative false start – via the Prison & Courts Bill which was ‘washed up’ before the 2017 general election – it is hoped that the current legislation can be fast tracked towards implementation in order to build on the extensive experience to date within the Online Civil Money Claims pilot scheme (at the end of May 2019 nearly 70,000 claims had been commenced via OCMC).
The Financial Guidance and Claims Bill is well-advanced in the Lords – it gets a third reading today – and is due to get to the Commons early next year. It will move the regulation of the claims management sector from the Ministry of Justice to the Financial Conduct Authority; a measure likely to take effect well into 2018 or perhaps even later. It is also worth noting that the Government has committed to amending the Bill – when it gets to the Commons – in order to ban cold-calling for claims leads. While the overall approach is both necessary and sensible, getting there has taken far too long given that this regulatory tightening was first suggested in the March 2016 review of the claims management sector but won’t bite until at least three years after that. [Contrast that with the far quicker approach to tackling abuses in holiday sickness cases, where we expect fixed costs controls to kick in from April 2018.]