Labour should rise to the challenge, says Andy Cook

The Labour Party conference in Brighton this week is a fascinating one for the insurance industry.

For many years, the links between our industry and government have seemed transient. For instance, there is the annual worry that the Treasury will want more insurance premium tax and that increasing regulation will further burden the small businesses at the beating heart of UK insurance. Only in the past couple of years have issues like employers' liability warranted government consideration.

But this year is different. Compensation culture is seen as a vote winner. OK, there is an argument that it doesn't exist because injury claims are falling.

However, the perception - as anyone watching Grumpy Old Men on TV last Friday evening would understand - is that there is a compensation culture and it needs to be tackled. It could be a populist vote winner.

The groundwork was laid earlier this year by Stephen Byers - reputed to be working on the Labour Party's next manifesto - who laid into compensation culture.

He was joined just a few weeks ago by Tory frontbencher David Davies.

The mechanisms for Labour to attack this issue are there. The Better Regulation Task Force earlier this year challenged the government to reform conditional fee arrangements, improve rehabilitation and speed up small claims. The government promised a reply in 60 days. So far there has been no reply.

It would be easy to criticise a missed deadline, but it is probably better that government takes some time to understand this very complex issue.

We are at a crucial point in the future of how personal injury claims are dealt with. A lot of hard work has been done trying to make conditional fee arrangements work for traffic accidents and crucial work on making the system work better in work-related injuries is set to launch soon.

Also, for the first time, the Department of Health and the Department for Work and Pensions are working on improving rehabilitation. Not together, which would be ideal, but at least they are working on it.

With all of this activity, Insurance Times has launched a personal injury conference featuring some of the biggest names in the industry and from the political arena to
discuss the opportunities and threats to our industry.

The conference takes place on 10 November in central London, contact Claire McShane on 0207 618 3456 (or email:
claire.mcshane@newsquestfinancialmedia.com
) for details.