Lord Hunt says the long-awaited claims reforms will create opportunities and challenges.

Last week I was proud to chair a unique parliamentary event where the insurance industry, Citizens Advice, the CII, the CBI and the official Opposition all combined to praise the government’s commitment to reforming the claims process. .

At the time of writing, we are all still awaiting, with unconcealed and ever-so-slightly impatient anticipation, the government’s response to the consultation on claims process reform. If the Ministry of Justice has adhered to its most recent aspirational deadline, by the time you read this, we shall have had our answer.

The auguries have been mixed and, inevitably, a delay of this kind (the response should really have come by October last year) has been grist to the rumour mill. Around the turn of the year there was considerable speculation that reform had been halted in its tracks by opposition from the trade unions. This was followed by counter-rumours to the effect that the unions had been ‘squared’, but only after protracted negotiations.

I shall make a working assumption that the claims process reforms are indeed going to take place, on a reasonably rapid schedule. I do so not because I am privy to any privileged information, but in my unofficial capacity as one of life’s optimists.

As I observed here last month, it was ministers themselves who started this debate, proclaiming that the current system was not working and could not continue. They soon discovered that narrow, private interests were in direct conflict with the wider, public interest they had identified. Vested interests conspired to delay, water down and generally obstruct a critically important process. This has all been a considerable test of the patience, nerve and statesmanship of ministers.

When they do take place, these reforms will create not only opportunities, but also some serious challenges, and the CII is already leading the way in reassessing its entire strategy on qualifications and training. Not only will we have to prepare the next generation of financial services professionals for a radically different (and much improved) claims landscape, we shall also have to teach some very new tricks to some rather old dogs.

So we must continually seek out innovative solutions and it is both desirable and essential to do so in close co-operation with government. It was a fretful time for us all as we tarried in limbo, awaiting the outcome of these ministerial deliberations. For this reason, among others, the relationship between our industry and government is not at an all-time high. Where better to start rebuilding it than in the all-important field of skills development?

In the wake of the 2006 report by Lord Leitch, skills are at last receiving the kind of political priority they merit, so let us put the frustrations of recent months behind us and go forward together, in a positive spirit of partnership.