Clause 10: Assumed rate of return on investment of damages
1: Clause 10, page 9, leave out lines 3 to 5
My Lords, my amendment relates to the personal injury discount rate, which is the subject of Part 2 of the Bill. Clause 10(1) provides for new Section A1 of the Damages Act 1996. Two of its provisions are important to what I am about to say. One directs the court to apply a rate of return, as may, from time to time, be prescribed by an order made by the Lord Chancellor. The other, which I am concerned about, is new Section A1(2), which states:
“Subsection (1) does not however prevent the court taking a different rate of return into account if any party to the proceedings shows that it is more appropriate in the case in question”.
The Minister will recall that I raised this issue on Report when I moved what was then Amendment 50 on the Marshalled List. That amendment sought to tailor the wording of subsection (2) to address a problem that had been the subject—the result, I should say—of decisions in the Court of Appeal in the cases Warriner v Warriner and Warren v Northern General Hospital Trust, following the House of Lords case in Wells v Wells in 1999.
The problem that has arisen as a result of those cases in the Court of Appeal, which was expounded with some care by Lord President Carloway in his judgment in Tortolano v Ogilvie Construction Ltd in 2013, is that there is a very tight straitjacket on any use of subsection (2) in the Damages Act 1996, which is the predecessor of the provision in this Bill in cases where people seek a different rate of return from that prescribed due to the circumstances of the particular case.
Each of these three cases, the two from the Court of Appeal and the one from the Court of Sessions in Scotland, involved injuries of maximum severity—perhaps a prime example of cases where litigants would wish to have a more generous rate of return. However, in each of these cases, it was said that that could not be done on the ground that there had to be an exceptional case-specific factor before this could be achieved.
I was concerned that the provision in the Bill simply reproduces the language of the 1996 Act without any attempt to suggest that the approach the courts have mandated should be any different in this case. I was seeking a relaxation to allow a case where, if the court felt that the award was less than adequate after applying the prescribed discount rate, it could be altered to allow a better rate of return in recognition of the compensation needed to meet the loss incurred or to be incurred during the rest of the claimant’s lifetime.
The noble and learned Lord may recall that in our discussion on Report, reported in Hansard on 12 June, he said that he wished to give further consideration to the matter I had raised so that he could come to a view on whether something might be done to tailor the wording of the provision to address what he described as “the almost complete guillotine” that is in place as a result of the two Court of Appeal decisions. As he put it, there was a balancing act to be achieved and he undertook to look at that.
It is fairly plain from the fact that there is no government amendment on this issue at Third Reading that he and his team have not been able to come up with a form of wording that would address my point without undermining the policy that underpins the scheme which this part of the Bill seeks to lay down. I am grateful to him and his team for meeting me to go over this point last week so that I could understand the position he has adopted, which I fully appreciate. It is a very difficult issue on which to find a form of words that would achieve what I sought to achieve. In the course of that meeting, I suggested that in view of that position it might be better to delete this subsection from the Bill altogether, which is what my amendment would do.
To elaborate a little more on the reasoning behind the amendment, the phrase which the noble and learned Lord used—“almost complete guillotine”—describes the situation very well, although in rather brutal language. I do not criticise that, because the Court of Appeal in its decision was building on what this House said in Wells v Wells in 1999. In that case, we said that the aim of the solution that we adopted in finding an appropriate discount rate was to create as much certainty as possible. Lord Steyn said that only in exceptional circumstances should a party be entitled to reopen the debate. The idea was to close down the expensive and time-consuming business of trying to present a different rate of return from that laid down by the court, the House or the Lord Chancellor.
The problem is that what such exceptional circumstances might be nobody has been able to discover in almost 20 years of the provision’s existence. Any idea that they could be founded on the nature or gravity of the injuries seems to have been completely cut off by the Court of Appeal. My point is that it is very difficult to see what value, if any, can be achieved by retaining this provision if there is to be no change to its wording. It has been a dead letter for some time and it seems rather a pity to reproduce a dead letter in fresh legislation. Indeed, retaining it risks raising false hopes of achieving something that it cannot achieve—indeed, according to the Government’s policy, something it ought not to be able to achieve—which is altering the discount rate in these cases. My suggestion, which I made at our meeting last week, was that it might be better to face the fact now and to delete the provision. Having made that suggestion, I thought it right to table the amendment for discussion so that the Minister could at least report to the House on the view he now takes, having had time to think about my suggestion.
It is right to draw attention to the fact that the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers has circulated a briefing among some of your Lordships in which it indicates that it opposes the amendment. As I understand its letter, that is for two reasons. One is that a court should retain the ability to apply a different discount rate, particularly in cases of injury of maximum severity. That is an example of wishful thinking in view of the decisions I referred to. It is clear that any attempt to do that in that kind of case will not succeed, which is why I am so concerned about the repetition of this amendment in the Bill.
The other reason is rather more fundamental. If I might read what the association says, it puts it this way:
“The ability for a judge to apply a different discount rate is an appropriate safeguard against any abrupt changes in the financial market. While the proposed legislation provides for regular reviews of the discount rate, a scheduled review could be too late if there is a sudden change in the market. The discount rate could be too high, and it could be years until the next review when the rate could be corrected. In the meantime, injured people will be undercompensated, and will be in fear of what happens when their money runs out”.
As I understand the system that Part 2 of the Bill seeks to lay down, it is intended to have the process reviews carried out at regular intervals, with a view to having certainty between each review that the courts would be obliged to apply, subject to the provision I am concerned about. With respect, the Government have to consider very carefully whether the point the association raises is one they would be willing to accept—in other words, that it should be open ground for parties to seek to attack the prescribed discount rate between reviews because of changes in the market. We would get back to the kind of uncertain situation that we were so concerned about in Wells; we did our best in the reasoning in that case to address our seeking certainty and to have the matter addressed in only exceptional circumstances.
For what it might be worth, the wording of subsection (2) does not permit an across-the-board change to the discount rate because it talks about a different rate being taken if a party can show that it is,
“appropriate in the case in question”,
which suggests that one is taking a particular case out of the generality that deserves special treatment, rather than something across the board, which is what I think the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers is addressing.
I have said enough to indicate that there are reasons for concern as to why this provision is still in the Bill, and to ask whether it should still be there and possibly whether, as the Bill proceeds through the other House, further thought might be given to its wording or its presence in the clause. I beg to move.
My Lords, it is fairly plain that this phrase was used by me more than once around this time. One area in which it was used was fixed sentences in criminal cases, because there was a feeling that laying a particular sentence or assigning a particular rate tended to deprive judges of their inherent discretion.
In the two judgments referred to, the Court of Appeal indicated that it felt it was given no discretion. It was enough to get me through the difficulties that I had at that time. Therefore, whether it should remain is a question I find rather difficult. I am not keen to remove anything that gives the presiding judge in a particular case some degree of discretion. If the courts have held that such sentences do not give that, it is rather difficult. I cannot think of a better phrase; needless to say, it occupied my attention quite a lot at the time and was hotly debated. Obviously, my noble and learned friend the Minister has given the phrase consideration and I would be interested to hear what he has to say.
My Lords, I invite the Minister to join me in wishing the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, a very happy birthday today. That pleasurable duty discharged, I have to say that I disagree with his amendment. I found very helpful his explanation of the constraints that surround it; none the less, the purpose of the clause, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, alluded to, is surely as a safety valve for unforeseen circumstances. I accept, and said in an earlier debate, that courts have seldom, if ever, been able to exercise such a power, but we would be well advised at least to keep that option available, should any court be brave enough to do so at some point. For that reason, I feel that we should not support this amendment.
My Lords, either there is a realistic power to vary the rate—I can see that there are some arguments in favour of that, which found favour with Mr Sumption, as he then was, when sitting in Guernsey—or it does not have any real meaning, as is the case following the decisions of the Court of Appeal. Although flexibility is desirable, if it is meaningless and if we as a legislative body decide that we are not going to overrule any decisions of the Court of Appeal, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, is absolutely right about being accurate in the way that we legislate.
My Lords, I hesitate to take either side of this argument, given the wisdom and experience of both noble and learned Lords, who have given conflicting views. I am therefore perfectly content, for once, to allow the Minister to indicate the Government’s attitude. After all, this Bill is not ending here; it is going to another place and there will be time for people with greater acumen than mine to look into the arguments advanced by the noble and learned Lord. It will be interesting to see what the Minister makes of them, but, of course, it is not the end of the day and perhaps this elevated discussion can take place with a more useful result than we are likely to see today.
My Lords, I am most obliged to the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, for his positive contribution to the debate, to all noble Lords and noble and learned Lords for their observations on this amendment, and to the noble and learned Lord for moving it.
From the very outset—I go back to the Law Commission’s 1994 report on structured settlements—it was intended that a provision of this kind to depart from a prescribed rate should be very much the exception rather than the rule. Clearly, it recognised that it would be both expensive and time-consuming if the prescribed discount rate could regularly be the subject of challenge on the basis that there might be another more appropriate rate for any number of reasons. That goes some considerable way to explaining the position of the Court of Appeal in the case of Warriner v Warriner.
As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, observed, I referred to a guillotine, but I qualified it with the words “almost complete”—this is a deficient guillotine; it is not a complete guillotine. I said that because, for example, the decision of the Inner House of the Court of Session, the appeal court in Scotland, in Tortolano v Ogilvie Construction, indicated that there may be cases in which the power to depart from the prescribed rate can be applied—but I accept that they will be wholly exceptional. In Tortolano, the court suggested that there might, for example, be a need to take account of a claimant who had to pay tax in a foreign jurisdiction, and that impacted upon the valuation of the award.
These are wholly exceptional circumstances, but the provision in Section 1(2) of the Damages Act 1996, which would be preserved by the words in subsection (2) of the proposed new Section A1, would allow for those wholly exceptional circumstances where the judiciary would be entitled to exercise an inherent discretion in order to achieve justice between the parties. It is in these circumstances that I would resist the amendment; I recognise that there may be room for taking this further, although I have been unable to identify it so far, to ensure that we can perhaps more clearly identify circumstances in which the exception would be applicable.
As the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, indicated, the Bill will be considered in the other place, and I and my officials would be content to explore further with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, if he wishes to do so, whether the provision might be improved in some way. However, I have difficulty with that because I am concerned that if we intrude too much into this quite exceptional discretion, there is a risk of encouraging unnecessary and expensive litigation over the appropriate rate in individual cases.
On that basis, and recognising the point that the noble and learned Lord makes, I invite him to withdraw the amendment.
My Lords, I am very grateful to all those who have taken part in this short debate. I am grateful in particular to the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, for his suggestion that this might be considered a little further when the Bill moves to the other place. It is a very difficult issue and, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, has indicated, it is very hard to find another form of words which can address it.
I am concerned about putting into the Bill something which raises false hopes. The circular from the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers indicates that it was trying to find something in the wording which is not really what the Minister was talking about. We are not dealing with cases of exceptional injury within the domestic system, which is what the association was talking about. I take it from the Minister’s reply that he would not encourage people to have a go at changing the discount rate between reviews, which would be contrary to the idea of laying down certain rules for application while the reviews subsist.
It is a very tight issue as to whether there is a point in this provision at all. But having heard what has been said, and with particular thanks to the Minister for his reply today and for the way in which he has listened to me on two occasions, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 1 withdrawn.
2: Clause 10, page 9, line 28, leave out “3” and insert “5”
My Lords, I return to a group of amendments concerned with the regularity of the review of the discount rate. I raised this matter at Second Reading, in Committee and on Report, so I will not weary the House by going over the arguments again. Suffice it to say that I entirely agree with what the Bill does in providing for the obligation to have regular reviews at a certain juncture, although the Lord Chancellor has the right to have an earlier review if necessary. My argument, which I am glad to say the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, supports, as I think others in the House do, is that it is important that the reviews be regular and there would be an obligation to hold them, but that they do not have to take place too frequently. Why is that? Because those involved in litigation, on both sides, will inevitably seek effectively to guess—however well informed that guess might be—what the discount rate will be after it has been determined.
If there is to be a change every three years, the period leading up to the moment of change is likely not to result in settlements or to result in adjournments—in other words, in perfectly legitimate gaming of the system. This will happen inevitably whenever a review is about to take place, but it will happen less often if it is five years than if it is three years. This will, I think, help to produce more settlements. There are always uncertainties in litigation, but this is a particular uncertainty in large cases, where the discount rate can have such an effect on the quantum of damages. My submission is that five years, for the reasons I have already advanced, remains a better provision than three years. I accept that any provision is arbitrary, but I hope that the Government will listen to me today, will take into account all the evidence they have obtained and decide that, after all, five years might be a better period than three years. I beg to move.
My Lords, I am slightly puzzled at the effect of amendment as moved by the noble Lord, because the Bill prescribes that the rate of return must be started within a period; not every three years, or every five years, but within that period. So potentially, it seems to me—perhaps the noble and learned Lord will either correct me or confirm that I am right—that you could have a review at less than five years, depending on the circumstances. If, for example, there were a crash, as in 2008, which affected rates of return and so on very significantly, you would not have to wait up to five years to deal with it; you could have that review within the period. In effect, any time within that five years could mean a three-year review, a shorter review or something with a maximum of five years. If that is the case, is that acceptable to the Government?
My Lords, I am obliged to my noble friend Lord Faulks and to other noble Lords who raised this matter in Committee and on Report. On the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, it is indeed the case that we are talking about a maximum period for review, and therefore it can be at any time within that period. What we are concerned to avoid is the situation that arose in the past where many years passed before a review was carried out.
The choice between the two periods, three years and five years, is essentially a pragmatic one, I suggest. The arguments for the two options appear to me to be quite evenly balanced. A number of noble Lords have made the point that there would be less likelihood of a gaming of the system if that period were extended to five years. It was a point made in particular by the noble Lord, Lord Marks, on Report, when he indicated that he would prefer a five-year period over a three-year period.
Following discussions with several of your Lordships after Report, we have given further consideration to the question of the length of the review cycle and we accept that a five-year maximum period could help to reduce the effect of the litigation practice of trying to game the system, as distinct from a three-year period. In light of the arguments that have been made, the Government propose to accept these amendments.
Amendment 2 agreed.
Amendments 3 to 5
3: Clause 10, page 9, line 32, leave out “3” and insert “5”
4: Clause 10, page 9, line 38, leave out “3” and insert “5”
5: Clause 10, page 9, line 39, leave out “three” and insert “five”
Amendments 3 to 5 agreed.
Clause 13: Commencement
6: Clause 13, page 15, line 39, leave out “This Part comes” and insert “Part 2 and this Part come”
My Lords, a key focus of our discussions of Part 2 has been to reduce the time taken to reach the conclusion of the first review of the PIDR. In Committee, the Minister encouraged more discussion about how to do that, and on Report the Government accepted amendments that brought forward very substantially the first determination. We were very grateful for that and for their very constructive involvement.
There were, however, two remaining issues to do with the timing of the first review. The first was on the 90-day period from commencement that the Bill gives the Lord Chancellor before he must trigger the first review. The second was on the absolute discretion given to the Lord Chancellor to decide when commencement should take place.
In her response to these points when they were raised on Report, the Minister said:
“The Government are … sympathetic to exploring ways to reduce the 90-day period within which the first review must begin, without making the period so short as to cause problems for the rest of the timetable”.
She went on to say that,
“we would be happy to discuss the detail of these amendments further … before Third Reading”.—[Official Report, 12/6/18; col. 1683.]
She also agreed to discuss the issue of commencement itself.
Amendment 6 is the result of those discussions. It would remove the Lord Chancellor’s absolute discretion over the date of commencement and substitutes that commencement of Part 2, the relevant part, will take place on the day on which the Act is passed. This means, as a consequence and in line with paragraph 1(2) of Schedule A1, that the first review must begin within 90 days of the Act being passed.
We understand the need to allow sufficient time for preparing the later stages of the first review but, ideally, we would have preferred a shorter period than 90 days. However, we noted the Minister’s commitment to start the review as soon as practical within this 90-day period, a commitment which I hope the noble and learned Lord, Lord Keen, will be able to repeat when he replies.
I should point out that Amendment 6 is identical to the Amendment 90 tabled on Report by the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull. It was he who spotted the commencement problem and first proposed the solution, so any credit really belongs to him. I am also deeply obliged to the Ministers and the Bill team for their thorough, extensive and always courteous engagement. I beg to move.
My Lords, perhaps I might mark this Third Reading by drawing attention to what I regard as the significance of the Bill. It is not just a technical Bill about the many legal procedures and complications which we have debated. It is a Bill which, particularly in its relationship to the small claims limit, will have a profound impact on around 350,000 people a year, who we estimate will be left without the free legal cover that they now experience. That is as a result of the rise in the small claims limit. The Minister is looking a bit askance at me as I speak on this amendment, but it seems to me important that we mark the fact that this is a Bill of real significance to a lot of vulnerable people in this country.
Those of us who have been concerned with this issue have been hamstrung by the fact that we have not managed to secure the small claims limit to be within scope of the Bill. We did, in the end, find a way to debate it on Report and there was a vote on it, which I accept that we lost, but we had little time to brief Members of this House or to campaign more widely. I give notice that we will return to the small claims limit issues in any way that we can. I draw the Government’s attention to the fact that one of their justifications for the rises has been to use RPI movements, but the national statistician is now on record as saying that the RPI is a very bad statistic. The CPI is certainly the way to go and it would produce a small claims limit, in the way that Lord Jackson recommended, of £1,500 rather than £2,000. That would make an appreciable difference.
Will the Government think a little further about this issue? Will they reflect on it again, even at this late stage as the Bill goes to the other place? I know that appeals to a Government’s better nature do not usually get very far, but I hope that an exception will be made in this case, and that the right thing will be done after all the debates we have had. The Bill would be improved if the associated measure on the small claims limit was adopted in the way that we have been proposing.
My Lords, I begin by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, not only for his contribution to this part of the Bill but for his engagement since Report in addressing these matters. I extend those thanks to other noble Lords, including the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, who has also engaged extensively on these matters.
Just to be clear, the Government are fully committed to beginning the first review as soon as possible after Royal Assent and to completing it as soon as is practicable. I hope that I can extend that comfort to the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey. That is why we have no objection in principle to the amendment. The only remaining question for the Government was the practical one of whether the 90-day period will be sufficient to ensure that all necessary preparatory work can be finished before the 140-day period for the completion of the first review. The Government have begun this work and are making good progress and, although there are public expenditure rules that may affect the timing of its completion, the Government now consider that the 90-day period is sufficient.
In view of this and having regard to the strength of opinion expressed across the House that the first review should proceed quickly, I am pleased to indicate that the Government intend to accept this amendment as well. Perhaps I can refer back to the observations of the noble Lord, Lord Monks, when I move that the Bill do now pass. For the present purposes, we accept the amendment.
Amendment 6 agreed.
A privilege amendment was made.
My Lords, in moving this Motion I thank noble Lords across the House for their careful scrutiny of the Bill throughout its passage. Noble Lords have made not only detailed but informed contributions to the debate, and that has resulted in improvements to the Bill before it passes to the other place tomorrow for further consideration.
There have been extensive amendments to the whiplash provisions and appropriate amendments to Part 2 with regard to the discount rate. We consider that the Bill is in a better place as a consequence of your Lordships’ contributions.
I have been asked by my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Clashfern to put on record a clarification that I provided in my letter to Peers following Report. This relates to a request by the noble Baroness, Lady Bowles, for confirmation that the words “different financial aims” in what was then paragraph 3(3) of the new Schedule A1 to the Damages Act 1996,
“do not provide an override of the conditions laid down in the earlier new paragraph 3(2)”.—[Official Report, 12/6/18; col. 1649.]
As I indicated in my letter, I can confirm that the words in question form part of the definition of the approach to investment that the recipient of relevant damages is to be assumed to take for the purpose of securing the objectives set out in paragraph 3(2) and that the words “different financial aims” cannot therefore override those objectives. It is perhaps appropriate that I put that on record.
Finally, the Government share with the House the view that insurers should be accountable for meeting their commitments to pass on savings from the reforms. Therefore, we have also committed to developing an effective means for reporting on the savings made by the insurance sector being passed on to consumers, making sure that insurers are held to account. We will bring forward an amendment to this effect as soon as possible in the House of Commons. It is quite a complex issue, having regard to, among other things, commercial sensitivity and competition issues.
The noble Lord, Lord Monks, referred to the proposed changes to the small claims limits. We consider that these are appropriate in the circumstances. Of course we are open to debate on these matters, and if the noble Lord wishes to engage with me further on them, I am content to meet with him for that purpose. He is fully aware of the Government’s position on these issues. They form part and parcel of the overall package that we consider has to be delivered to address the issues referred to in the Bill.
Again, I thank all noble Lords for their contributions to the Bill.
Before my noble and learned friend sits down, could he possibly say a word about periodical payment orders, an issue which has occupied a number of us quite a lot? He said at the previous stage that he would confirm that the Government placed emphasis on the importance of PPOs as part of the array that is available to the courts when damages are decided.
My Lords, I am obliged to my noble friend for that reminder. Clearly, it is our intention that this matter should be taken forward. As I indicated before, we are engaging with the judiciary on this matter, and we have engaged already with the Master of the Rolls to see what further developments can be put in place on the provision of PPOs. We share the view that the noble Lord has expressed that the appropriate use of PPOs should be encouraged, and we are grateful to the Master of the Rolls for his agreement in principle to the Civil Justice Council reviewing the law and practice regarding PPOs to see whether they can be improved. The timetable for that has not yet been agreed, but we hope it can begin towards the end of this year or early next year, with a view to completion in the summer of 2019. I hope that that reassures my noble friend.
I thank noble Lords again for their contributions to the Bill. I am content to carry on further discussions relating to the Bill during its time in the House of Commons if noble Lords so wish. Thank you.
My Lords, I congratulate my noble and learned friend on his expert handling of this Bill, together with his ministerial team, my noble friend Lady Vere, and their officials.
Part 1 has indeed proved to be more contentious than many of us expected, but I hope that all noble Lords have now recognised the true and serious nature of the problem that the Government need to tackle and also accept that the radical solution of a tariff is thoroughly justified. The social evil that we have discussed on many occasions, which this part is intended to address, will not completely evaporate as a result of these measures. There are too many vested interests at work for the compensation culture to vanish overnight. No doubt they will continue to set citizen against citizen and are already crafting new ways around any controls that we seek to impose. None the less, I feel that this Bill will certainly slow down the process and, I hope, end this great country being known as the whiplash capital of the world.
On Part 2, I am delighted at the consensus across the House that time is very much of the essence, as we lawyers would say. The overwhelming view of this House has been that change to the discount rate cannot come soon enough. I congratulate my noble and learned friend the Minister and noble Lords on all sides of this House who have all worked so hard to eliminate the scope for delays in reaching a first review.
My Lords, on behalf of these Benches, I add my thanks to the noble and learned Lord the Minister and to the noble Baroness, Lady Vere, for their help, courtesy and consideration throughout the passage of this Bill. We have all approached the Bill with common purposes; on some of the issues, we have suggested different ways of achieving those purposes. With co-operation from Members across the House, in the Conservative Party and on the Labour and Cross Benches, we have produced a set of amendments that have now improved the Bill significantly as it goes to the Commons. If I may say so, it has been a model of co-operation. We are very grateful to the noble and learned Lord for the many meetings that he has held at which he has explained the Government’s thinking and listened to us, and for the letters that he sent us explaining their thinking and, sometimes, changes in thinking. Thank you.
I was not intending to speak, but I associate myself entirely with the remarks and thanks made and given by the noble Lord, Lord Marks. I was going to add only what fun it has been working with the Bill team, who have worked immensely hard. They have done a particularly good job on this Bill, which should be recorded.
My Lords, I am not sure I have enjoyed much fun as we have gone through this Bill but, as it leaves the House, I thank the Minister and his colleague on the Front Bench, and the Bill team for their readiness to discuss its provisions and respond to some, at least, of the concerns and suggestions that have been made from all sides of the Chamber. I also express my admiration for those who have brought their professional expertise and knowledge to our debates and discussions. It has been quite an awesome experience to listen to some of those who have spent a lifetime dealing with these matters.
Nevertheless, from these packed Benches, we believe that the Bill is fundamentally flawed and hope that, when it returns to us, it will have been improved. In particular, we would like to see the definition of “whiplash” made by medical experts and the damages determined by the judiciary based on Judicial College guidelines, rather than by a tariff specified for whiplash injuries. If there is to be a tariff, the college should be involved in determining the levels.
The Law Society suggests that the Government should clarify what would constitute a failure to take reasonable steps to mitigate the effect of an injury, which is part of the Bill’s proposition. It is also concerned about the provision in Clause 3 that means the capacity of the Lord Chancellor to allow discretion to increase the award in exceptional circumstances is by way of regulation, again, rather than being left to the judiciary to determine what constitute such circumstances.
Underlying the Bill and the proposals to raise the small claims limit for whiplash injuries to £5,000, and for other personal injuries to £2,000, is the effect of creating obstacles to justice likely to deter legitimate claimants from pursuing and receiving compensation. Where they do, they are likely to add to the growing difficulties experienced by the courts in dealing with unrepresented litigants. To most Members of this House, the sums involved are very modest; to many potential claimants, they are not. For our part, we will in future seek to oppose the intended increase of the small claims limit to all RTA cases to under £5,000 and for all other personal injury claims to £2,000, when the relevant regulations are laid.
We look forward to a review of the impact of this legislation on the much-vaunted claims of the insurance industry significantly to reduce insurance premiums—the noble and learned Lord has referred to that aspiration, as I would describe it—and, more positively, to a significant growth in the number of periodical payments orders in the most serious cases of injury, which are the subject of Part 2 of the Bill, which deals with the discount rate. That is the most positive part of the Bill, and it certainly has our support.
It has been an interesting experience to participate in these debates, and I hope that the Bill will return to us in due course, in an improved form. I await that moment with barely contained impatience.
Bill passed and sent to the Commons.