No-pro-ro-gation: More time for the day-to-day?
Parliament is back. More specifically, to paraphrase the Supreme Court’s ruling last week, it never went away. Since the Prime Minister’s ill-fated attempt to prorogue Parliament was ruled unlawful by the Supreme Court, it has been decided that Parliament was never prorogued in the first place.
So, MPs are back from their forced holiday nearly three weeks earlier than the previous return date of 14 October. The Conservative Party conference is being held as planned but whilst Parliament is sitting. The Queen’s Speech is no more (since Parliament was never officially closed it can’t be officially opened again) and it is clear for the nation to see through the widely broadcasted parliamentary debates that the mood in Westminster has never been worse.
The question for the insurance industry is whether this additional three weeks (in addition to no longer having to spend five days debating the Queen’s Speech), means that the legislation everyone has been waiting for is more likely now.
We have said throughout that the insurance industry needs good time to prepare for any changes to the small claims track and the introduction of the ‘Litigant in Person’ portal, and although the Government remains committed to their implementation in April 2020, we’re still awaiting the secondary legislation that is needed to make that happen.
So when can we expect to see this secondary legislation?
Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) are updated via statutory instrument (SI); or, put another way, an SI is the parliamentary method of updating the CPR. Interestingly, the Ministry of Justice just last week said that the new rules and pre-action protocol would likely be published in January.
The timings of Brexit continue to play an enormous part in the implementation of the whiplash reforms. However, it’s worth remembering that the Prime Minister has repeatedly said that he wanted a Queen’s speech to put forward a “dynamic” domestic agenda (and presumably win votes with it), and the Government now has a lot more Parliamentary time to play with than they thought they did this time last week. So can we surmise that secondary legislation may be brought forward earlier than the January indication?
Whiplash reform is a popular policy, bringing with it the promise of nuisance calls coming to an end and downward pressure on insurance premiums, so it really makes sense for the Government to put a bit of effort into getting the reforms over the line, and sitting back and basking in some (rare) positive headlines.
The problem for the insurance industry is that, as it has been for weeks, months and years, all focus is on Britain’s exit from the European Union rather than the domestic agenda. Priority is always going to be given to any Parliamentary moment which might help this Government stay on its feet or move towards its sole policy focus. As much as we wait in hope for these reforms to be finalised, for this Prime Minister, it really is Brexit or bust.