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Insurance Premiums

Volume 622: debated on Tuesday 7 March 2017

3. What assessment the Government have made of the effect of recent changes in the discount rate for compensation for accident victims on the level of insurance premiums. (909088)

As Lord Chancellor, I made a decision to lower the discount rate. Not to have done so would have been unlawful. Under the law, I may only consider the impact on victims, not defendants. As I have said, the system needs to be reformed, because I do not think it is right that a discount rate is set on an ad hoc basis by the Lord Chancellor.

Another organisation affected, to the tune of £1 billion, is the NHS. What discussions has the Lord Chancellor had with the NHS Litigation Authority on this topic?

I have spoken to my right hon. Friend the Health Secretary to discuss the implications for the NHS. As I said, under legislation the Lord Chancellor must only consider the impact on the victim. I do not think the procedure works in the right way, which is why I will shortly bring forward a consultation on a better way to set the discount rate.

There seems to be some element of confusion in the minds of the public. The insurance industry says that car insurance premiums will go up because of the fall in the discount rate, while the Government, quite rightly, say that insurance premiums should come down because of the proposed changes in the Prisons and Courts Bill. Is this a question of netting off, with no change to premiums at all, or can the Lord Chancellor be slightly more scientific?

My hon. Friend makes the point that there are different issues around the discount rate and whiplash. The measures on whiplash in the Prisons and Courts Bill should reduce insurance premiums by, on average, £40. The issue about the discount rate is very different: it is an independent decision that the Lord Chancellor has to make. I am saying that we need to review the way that decision is made, and I will be bringing forward a consultation on that very shortly.