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Samantha Ramen

Samantha Ramen

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Government answers questions on whiplash reform

Client Alerts06/11/2020

A Labour MP has received responses from Government to several Parliamentary Questions – what do the answers tell us about the Ministry of Justice and the whiplash reforms?

It’s been something close to radio silence from the MoJ on the whiplash reforms for several months. Once again we find ourselves approaching the Government self-imposed deadline for their implementation but with little information available on the roadmap for getting there.

MPs interested in the progress of the reforms have an advantage when it comes to discovering information - they can put questions directly to the minister of the relevant department. The Government is obliged to answer any such questions.

Andy Slaughter is a Labour MP who is a member of the Justice Committee and was previously a Shadow Minister for Justice. He has always taken a keen interest in civil justice issues – some readers may recall that he attended a Keoghs roundtable on the Jackson reforms/LASPO many moons ago.

Mr Slaughter’s interest in civil justice is still evident through his tabling of several such Parliamentary Questions (PQs) recently. Full questions and answers are set out in the table below.

Keoghs viewpoint

There are some interesting elements to unpack in the Government’s responses. The first being the claim that “We intend to engage with the public, third sector, representative organisations and professional users during the pre-launch, launch and post launch periods” of the small claims portal. Should the implementation be on track to be delivered on time, we would expect to see some progress on this shortly.

The second is the identity of the Minister who responded. When Andy Slaughter asked a related batch of PQs in June, these were answered by Alex Chalk, whereas the latest grouping was answered by Chris Philp. This could suggest that Chris Philp has taken on the civil justice portfolio and is now the minister with overall responsibility for whiplash reform, which was previously held by Lord Keen until his resignation. Notwithstanding his current role in Government, we know that Chris Philp is a huge supporter of these reforms from his previous comments and interventions as a backbench MP.

With only five months to go before the re-arranged deadline, whoever now holds ministerial responsibility for the reforms will be looking to move it up their priority list, to give the industry enough time to adapt to the changes before implementation.

PQs and Answers in full (tabled 20 October 2020; answered 28 October 2020)

Question

Answer

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, whether the small claims portal will be launched to the general public in 2021; what resources he has made available for communications to the public on how to make a minor injury claim under that new regime; and if he will he make a statement.

As confirmed in a Written Ministerial statement on 21 April 2020 the Government remains committed to implementing the Whiplash Reform Programme by April 2021.

The Portal will be accompanied by comprehensive and clear guidance for the public and if at any stage users need assistance, they can call a dedicated Portal Support Centre.

We intend to engage with the public, third sector, representative organisations and professional users during the pre-launch, launch and post launch periods to ensure that those who need to access the service know how to do so.

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, whether he is making an assessment of the potential effect on (a) the backlog of civil cases and (b) access to justice of a mechanism for the alternative dispute resolution of minor personal injury cases for the new small claims portal.

Civil claims backlog data is not held by the Department. However, a revised impact assessment in relation to the forthcoming Statutory Instruments will be published in due course.

The Official Injury Claims portal is designed to be simple and easy to use. However, there will be occasions where claimants will need to be able to resolve disputes with the at-fault compensator. Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) was initially proposed to resolve these, but as announced in a written Ministerial Statement published on 27 February 2020 no practicable solution for ADR could be found and it would not form part of the service. The full statement can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/implementation-of-the-whiplash-reform-programme 

The Government remains committed to ensuring access to justice, and unrepresented claimants will have access to a new accessible bespoke court process to enable any such disputes to be settled.

We are also working closely with Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service to understand the operational impacts of these new processes on the civil justice system and we will keep this matter under review, following implementation.

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what modelling he has undertaken on the potential effect of changes in trends in the number of low-value personal injury cases coming before HM Civil Courts in the event that an alternative dispute mechanism is not available through the small claims portal before April 2021.

(Answer identical to the question above)

Civil claims backlog data is not held by the Department. However, a revised impact assessment in relation to the forthcoming Statutory Instruments will be published in due course.

The Official Injury Claims portal is designed to be simple and easy to use. However, there will be occasions where claimants will need to be able to resolve disputes with the at-fault compensator. Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) was initially proposed to resolve these, but as announced in a written Ministerial Statement published on 27 February 2020 no practicable solution for ADR could be found and it would not form part of the service. The full statement can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/implementation-of-the-whiplash-reform-programme

The Government remains committed to ensuring access to justice, and unrepresented claimants will have access to a new accessible bespoke court process to enable any such disputes to be settled.

We are also working closely with Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service to understand the operational impacts of these new processes on the civil justice system and we will keep this matter under review, following implementation.

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, how many civil cases are awaiting a hearing in (a) each and (b) all civil courts in England and Wales; and what the quarterly increase was in cases awaiting a hearing between January and March, April and June and July and September 2020.

The information requested is not held.

We use a variety of management information to measure the work in the civil courts, including but not limited to, the volume of incoming receipts and defences along with timeliness of case progression. However, specific data relating to backlog is not held. Quarterly statistics are held at the following link: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/civil-justice-statistics-quarterly