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Whiplash - gone for good?
As Mark Twain once famously said “the reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated”. Some observers in the media have been quick to report the sudden demise of the Prison and Courts Bill but that does not necessarily mean that it is the end of the road for long overdue whiplash compensation reform.
In a question and answer session yesterday, the Leader of the House of Commons David Lidington confirmed that the Prisons and Courts Bill has been dropped in answer to a question from Tory MP Philip Davies:
- Davies asked: “Will the Leader of the House confirm that the Prisons and Courts Bill has been abandoned for this Parliament and will have to start its passage through the House again in the next Parliament?”
- In response David Lidington said: “The Bills that were introduced to this House quite late in the current parliamentary Session and which received carry-over motions so that they could be debated in what would have been the third Session of this Parliament, including the Prisons and Courts Bill, will fall.”
So what does this mean for the whiplash reforms? In this day and age, nothing is certain. However, we can make some tentative predictions:
- It is more likely than not, given the content and nature of the Bill, that it will be reintroduced in the next Parliament. Whiplash forms only part of the legislation; the Bill also dealt with much needed reforms to the criminal justice system (particularly prison reform), as well as the civil family and tribunals jurisdictions. There is, of course, no guarantee that this will happen. However, given that it is widely expected that we will continue to be governed by the Conservatives, we believe that much of the legislation that was recently taken forward will be reinstated.
- The Prisons and Courts Bill, if reintroduced, is likely to take its current form. Indeed, because the process restarts, there may be opportunities here for the Ministry of Justice to improve upon the definition of whiplash in clause 61 before it is laid before Parliament in the first instance. In addition, depending upon the eventual timing of the Bill, there may also be scope to introduce provisions in relation to the discount rate.
- As was always going to be the case, the Great Repeal Bill will take up a lot of parliamentary time. There may, therefore, be some delays to other pieces of legislation. However, it’s important to remember that the Government will want to be seen to be progressing with non-Brexit policies too, and continuing with business as usual to an extent.
- It will be interesting to keep an eye out for the Conservative party manifesto, expected in early May. We may see a reference to whiplash under the general heading of improving the cost of living for hard working families or the “Just About Managing” (so-called JAMs).
- If we do see the Prisons & Courts Bill again, it might well be in July after the new Government has been formed and once Parliament is back in session and has had a few weeks to settle in. We now expect the Queen’s Speech, setting out the new Government’s legislative programme, to be announced in the last week of June. That could well herald the resurrection of reform.
- Delays are likely but the whiplash reforms could still technically be introduced by October 2018; primary legislation can easily be passed within the time period as set out above. However, where this leaves timescales for the work on the secondary legislation, much of which necessarily needs to follow the Prisons & Courts Bill (or however it may be then named), is uncertain. The new Government may want to push back on the original time estimate to ease the time burden on an already understaffed MoJ.
As ever, the Market Affairs team at Keoghs will be keeping close to this issue as it develops in our ever changing political climate. We will ensure that clients are kept informed as material developments come to light.
For more information please contact:
Director of Market & Public Affairs
T: 07713 393534
Consultant, Market & Public Affairs
T: 07702 373647
T: 024 7665 8136
T: 01204 677216