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Samantha Ramen

Samantha Ramen

Director of Market & Public Affairs

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Civil Liability Bill Report Stage and Third Reading

Client Alerts24/10/2018

The Civil Liability Bill continued its journey through the Houses of Parliament yesterday (23 October), with the House of Commons meeting for the Report Stage.

Report Stage of a Bill gives MPs a further opportunity to raise potential amendments, and unlike Committee Stage, where only 17 MPs scrutinised the Civil Liability Bill, all from across the House of Commons were able to contribute to the debate.

It was a positive session from an insurer’s perspective. The Bill passed to the more ceremonial Third Reading without any difficulty and is virtually identical to the one which began the day, with only a minor Government wording change made.

Does the successful completion of this stage without (major) amendment pave the way for the Civil Liability Bill to become the Civil Liability Act in the near future?

The Keoghs Market Affairs team has set out the key points below:

What happened?

  • MPs debated significant amendments and proposed new clauses tabled by the Labour Party frontbench team, as well as a minor wording change from the Government on the number of whiplash injuries required to be eligible for the amount specified – now defined as one or more whiplash injuries.
  • The Government ensured strong turnout of voting on amendments in Parliament – this reflects their wider fear of suffering an embarrassing defeat. The Government amendment was accepted, and none of the Labour team’s amendments were accepted.
  • The House of Commons approved the Third Reading of the Bill by 294 to 238.
    What next?
  • The Bill will now undergo the process known as “ping pong”: moving between the House of Lords and the House of Commons for the consideration of amendments made in each house.
  • The Bill will go back and forth between each House until both Houses reach agreement. Considering that the Bill made it through yesterday’s crucial process with no major amendments, this is likely to be an expedient process.
  • After this the bill will be ready for Royal Assent, and, once received, will become an Act of Parliament. We now fully expect Royal Assent to take place shortly, there being no further barriers to impede the legislation. Parliamentary time is scarce due to Brexit but the Bill could become an Act as early as next month.

Keoghs Viewpoint

  • Much of the counter-argument to the Bill itself matched closely with personal injury solicitors and access to justice campaigners on social media during the course of the debate.
  • Despite the best efforts of the Labour frontbench team to make the case for their amendments, claims that whiplash was not prevalent in the UK and the provisions of the Bill would reduce access to justice seemed to be based more on ideology than demonstrable facts. This was probably because figures opposed to the Bill knew that amendments were unlikely at this point, and preferred to make general speeches about what they thought was wrong with the reforms and the Government’s intentions in bringing it forward.
  • Rory Stewart MP, the Justice Minister responding on behalf of the Government, was well armed with the facts, particularly surrounding the stringent procedure for calculating the discount rate and small claims tariffs and the reporting criteria for insurance companies.
  • Key figures in the scrutiny of the bill popped up for this final stage of proceedings to seemingly wave goodbye to the process:
    • Chair of the Justice Committee Robert Neill thanked the Government for its close working relationship with the Justice Committee throughout the process
    • Chair of the newly-refounded Insurance and Financial Services APPG (which had its AGM last week) Craig Tracey asked rhetorical questions about why personal injury claims have risen over the last decade despite cars becoming safer and accidents being reduced.

This makes sense as they will no doubt be aware that their involvement going forward will be minimal given that the legislation is nearing royal assent. The detail of the reforms will now be handled by civil servants and industry stakeholders through discussion and decisions made on implementing secondary provisions.

The Keoghs Market Affairs Team will follow this closely and will ensure that we keep close to both the process of the first review of the discount rate in 2019 and the work leading up to the implementation of the whiplash reforms in 2020.