Justice minister Lord Keen makes the first concession on Civil Liability Bill ahead of it entering the committee stage in the House of Lords
Lord Keen sent a letter to peers this morning, and in it, he made his first real concession regarding the Bill.
Lord Keen said in his letter that the government has listened to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Cycling and other stakeholdings, and decided cyclists, motorcyclists and other road users would be exempt from the whiplash measures.
However, the small claims limit increase, from £1000 to £5000 would still apply to all road users.
The Bill has had its second reading in the House of Lords and is now due to go through the committee stage on 10 May.
Lord Keen also stressed that he expects lawyers to adapt to the reforms by offering cost-effective services.
“We expect lawyers to continue to adapt and be fully capable of providing cost-effective services to genuinely injured claimants following the implementation of these reforms.
“For example, the president of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) recently confirmed that a number of firms are already developing a new market on unbundled legal advice which will see lawyers provide low-cost advice on specific parts of the claims process.”
Qamar Anwar, managing director, First4Lawyers, who opposes the Bill, has welcomed the announcement, but has said that the concession is “very small” and only given to “look good”.
He said: “The concession made by the House of Lords to exempt cyclists, motorcyclists and other road users from the Bill is welcome news, but is, in reality, a very small concession, and a fairly predictable one. It’s an easy concession to give to look good but doesn’t do anything to fundamentally tackle the unjust nature of these reforms.
“Innocent motor accident victims will still remain penalised and ostracised by the justice system under the proposed terms of the Bill. We simply cannot stand by and quietly let this pass.”
He continued: “The letter also included a bold demand stating an expectation that ‘lawyers will continue to adapt and be fully capable of providing cost-effective services to genuinely injured claimants following the implementation of these reforms’.
“This is an area of the legal system that has constantly adapted to reform and cuts to legal funding. This statement highlighted how truly wide the gap is between those who spend their days fighting for justice for people who need it the most and those who spend their days discussing it.”
Lord Keen did specify that, while he doesn’t expect people with a small claim would need legal representation and can go through the fast-track if their claim was complicated, they could still seek advice or representation if they wished.
He said: “We believe that claimants bringing a claim in the small claims court should not usually require legal representation but are not precluded from doing so if they wish, and many will have such advice provided through legal expenses insurance which forms part of many motor insurance policies.”