The industry must decide what it wants before government can step in, says Andy Cook

Is the drive to fundamentally change the framework of liability insurance running into the buffers? Government was due to report back by the end of April on its investigation into the employers' liability (EL) market. It has failed to do so.

The government says that the research done so far has thrown up more questions that need looking at, before any indication of future direction can be given. Fair enough. But the problem is that the longer we wait, the less likely the government is to act radically, as it probably needs to. Whereas new professional indemnity (PI) carriers have been touted almost weekly, not many are coming forward to take on liability. Indeed one of Britain's major markets - The Underwriter - has lost its chief executive and is pruning its book.

Did we back the wrong horse? It seems that the broad "no-fault" system originally championed by the majority will be too costly (see Iron Trades' study on page 8).

Another widely-tipped alternative is EL with exclusions. The exclusions range from very specific disease exclusions, such as asbestos-related diseases, to broad brush exclusions kicking in across all industrial diseases after five years. However, there is conflict within the industry on this point, so no wonder the government won't back it.

As for the ABI, it is thinking hard about a scheme to link quantifiable health and safety performance to premium levels, and a system that is just coming into play in Ireland. There, the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) will assess levels of personal injury when liability is not an issue. This will take out some legal costs and provide a speedy conclusion for many.

Whatever the right solution may be, it is time for our industry to pick a winner and back it. Otherwise the government will have every excuse for prevaricating and that means continuing problems for commercial clients and their brokers.