Director of Market & Public Affairs
Will 2018 be a vintage year for personal injury reform as we prepare to “uncork the Gauke”?
It won’t have escaped your attention that Theresa May has been busy this week hiring and firing. The so-called “Big Four” (Hammond, Johnson, Rudd, and Davis) remain in situ, but what about everyone else?
Well, despite the shakeup elsewhere in Theresa May’s ministerial team, this week’s reshuffle left some continuity at the Ministry of Justice insofar as the insurance industry is concerned. Lord Keen remains as MoJ Spokesperson for the Lords, and although we have a new Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary in David Gauke, he is familiar with the big issue that all compensators want to see resolved sooner rather than later – the discount rate.
The decision making hierarchy at the MoJ now looks like this:
So, what does this mean for us?
Let’s start with David Gauke. An MP since 2005, Mr Gauke is an Oxford law graduate and a qualified financial services regulation solicitor. He steps in as a Lord Chancellor already familiar with the discount rate issue; when Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Mr Gauke was quizzed on the discount rate’s impact on the NHS. His answer (in March 2017), when asked about how the NHS would handle a higher spend on clinical negligence claims, was that there would be “significant implications across the public and private sector following the change in the personal injury discount rate”. Now this may seem obvious to us, but it’s reassuring that this issue has at least fleetingly crossed Mr Gauke’s desk.
Of course, this is no guarantee on a quick decision, but it’s worth noting that Gauke is generally known as reliable and highly competent. Indeed, his reputation as a trusted and capable performer at the Treasury was such that George Osborne coined the phrase “uncork the Gauke” when he needed someone to stand in for him to defend unpopular decisions.
It’s also important to remember where our previous Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary sits. David Lidington is now a key figure within Government and is clearly trusted by No 10, having been promoted to Minister for the Cabinet Office. This should provide a degree of reassurance to the industry – that Theresa May’s right hand man understands the urgency of the issue and its impact.
The retention of Lord Keen can also be seen as wholly positive; he retains the whiplash and discount rate brief, and is a minister who has been at the MoJ for over eighteen months (since July 2016). This continuity is very much needed given the current intransigence of these two issues.
So, whilst nothing is ever certain in politics, all indications from the reshuffle point towards at least some progress at the MoJ this year. 2017 proved to be a year of distraction after distraction – a year which saw a snap general election and the consequent dissolution of Parliament; a year where the Tories lost their (already narrow) majority; a year with a Government in a constant state of Brexit paralysis. Now that the EU (Withdrawal) Bill is almost finished in the Commons and with a fresh set of ministers across the Board ready to demonstrate some commitment to domestic policy issues, let’s hope that the Government is more successful in completing some much needed civil justice reform in 2018.