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Samantha Ramen

Samantha Ramen

Director of Market & Public Affairs

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The Civil Liability Bill – House of Commons Committee Stage

Client Alerts12/09/2018

You may be aware that the Civil Liability Bill’s Public Bill Committee met yesterday (11 September) to discuss the Bill amendments tabled by both sides of the House. Committee Stage is where detailed examination of the Bill takes place by a relatively small selection of MPs (in this case, 17 MPs – nine Conservative and eight Labour).

What happened? What can we expect from this point forward? And are there any particular observations that can be made at this stage for how this Bill might fare in the future?

The Keoghs Market Affairs Team have set out the key points below:

What happened?

  • As the numbers for each party in the Bill Committee reflect the numbers for each party in the House of Commons, voting numbers fell in the Government’s favour at 9 to 8 as mentioned above.
  • Unsurprisingly, this meant that:
    • All of the Government’s amendments were accepted.
    • None of Labour’s amendments were accepted.
  • The Bill Committee sped through the tabled amendments and the debate concluded in less than four hours. As a result, the session scheduled for tomorrow (13 September) will now no longer be needed.

What next?

  • The Bill, as amended, will go to the next parliamentary stage: Report Stage. At Report Stage, MPs - on the floor of the House of Commons - are provided with another opportunity to table and consider further amendments.
  • The date for Report Stage may be announced tomorrow (13th September).
  • There is no set time between Committee Stage and Report Stage. However, given that the Government seem keen to drive this forward to Royal Assent as soon as possible, we expect this to take place in mid to late October as soon as Parliament is back from conference recess (9 October).
  • Third Reading will take place immediately after Report Stage as the next business item on that day. This is the final chance for the Commons to debate the content of the Bill.

Keoghs viewpoint

  • In our view, Labour’s performance was poor – there seemed to be a lack of proper understanding of the most important issues at play, for example, that the tariff was only relevant to general damages not special damages.
  • There was some talk about fraud – as has happened in the past, this debate seemed unnecessary and unconstructive, with Labour insisting on quoting official fraud figures as proof that endemic fraud is non-existent. These figures, for reasons which will be known to many of us, are misleadingly low, and as a result, there was a refusal to accept that unproven fraud is widespread. Unsurprisingly, this did not gain any traction with the Committee.
  • Labour’s focus on employers’ liability muddied the issues; Rory Stewart, for the Government, pushed back very strongly on the suggestion that a whiplash suffered in a car driven for employment reasons should be treated differently from a whiplash suffered by claimants occupying a car for any other reason.
  • The subject of PPOs cropped up yet again – there is clearly a lot of support generally on the use of PPOs as being the ultimate “no risk” option for claimants.
  • Rory Stewart was clearly well briefed and demonstrated impressive capability in rebutting the arguments put forward by the Opposition.
  • The overall impression was that Labour’s arguments were rather too simplistic. Their approach was simply to push back on everything; they may have made more progress were they to nuance their arguments by focusing on watering down the provisions.

Something to watch out for at Report Stage…