Elliot Lane feels cheated by the flimsy content of the Compensation Bill which poses more questions than it answers
' Eleven pages. That's it, the sum amount of one year's hard graft from the country's finest legal, business and political brains. If the Compensation Bill was the grand opening of a West End play, it would probably close after the first night.
It was becoming obvious last week that the lack of information, or leaks, from the Lord Chancellor's office concerning the wording of the Bill could only mean it wasn't worth leaking. As Shadow Attorney-General Dominic Grieve said before the publication on Thursday, it should be called "the Claims Farmer Bill, not the Compensation Bill".
What is frustrating is that the so-called myth of the compensation culture does still affect the insurance industry. But this Bill does not offer any answers. In fact, it poses more questions and leaves huge gaps in the arguments of what happens next, as wide as the reserving estimates of The Accident Group.
It is commendable that at last claims management practices will be held to account. It looks like the Claims Standards Council could be the regulator though under the provisions of the Bill, the secretary of state, ie Lord Falconer, may dictate the terms and functions of the regulator. So statutory regulation is on the cards. This is a good thing as it brings claims farmers in line with the rest of the industry.
On negligence, the Bill is a little hazy and just reiterates what the courts and lawyers already know. In 1995, Lord Hoffmann said that too many rules might spoil "a desirable activity from taking place". In a case involving a swimmer who had injured himself when jumping into murky waters, ignoring a 'no swimming' sign, Hoffmann argued that a local authority had no obligation to take "extreme measures" to stop people making dangerous decisions of their own volition.
This week the respected legal commentator, Marcel Berlins, said in The Guardian that the decision to repeat what the courts already know means this was done "to make a political point, to emphasise the government's attitude to the issue".
Then let's hope that when it makes the final decision in October 2006 on which organisation will regulate, the politics don't fudge the principles.
So as I sit with my hard hat on, twiddling with my protective goggles while trying to turn the 11 pages of this flimsy Bill, I feel a little cheated. In fact, I have the sudden urge to seek compensation, but as yet I don't really know who to sue. IT