Personal injury reforms are put off again by government delay.
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has missed yet another deadline on personal injury reforms as it seeks to appease trade unions which want to maintain the status quo.
A senior Whitehall source said the government had struggled to change the model in the face of pressure from unions that, like insurers and brokers, are paid referral fees by solicitors for details of prospective personal injury clients. He added that the government had considered compromises such as exempting industrial claims from the reforms, which are expected to abolish referral fees.
A compromise or watering down of the initial proposals, outlined in the government’s consultation paper last year had been anticipated by insurers, which had been waiting more than two years for the reforms, said AXA claims director David Williams.
He said: “I think we may see something that just impacts motor in the first instance. It wouldn’t be far-fetched to see the government make some sort of compromise.”
“If we are to achieve confidence in the delivery of justice, for the individual and for society, we need real reform. Reform which initiates a culture change. We must change the way cases are handled to make it more efficient.
Lord Falconer, then Lord Chancellor (April 2007)
On Tuesday, ABI director general Stephen Haddrill met Justice Minister Bridget Prentice in the hopes of setting a precise timescale.
In January, Prentice told the House of Commons the government aimed to publish the reforms, expected to fast track the claims process, introduce fixed fees and extend the small claims limit, by the end of March, but the deadline has passed with no update.
An MoJ spokesman said: “It wasn’t a firm promise. We were aiming for March or shortly afterwards and we’re still aiming for as soon as possible.”
The Shadow Minister for Justice, Henry Bellingham, told Insurance Times he was baffled over the ongoing delay to reforms that would cut out excessive costs and timescales associated with personal injury cases.
“A summary of responses and the government's next steps will be set out in the Response to Consultation, which we aim to publish by the end of March.
Bridget Prentice, Minister for Justice (January 2007)
He said: “I would urge the minister to recognise she has the support of the principal opposition. I think people have been understanding of the minister’s position, but patience is starting to wear thin. I’m very disappointed.”
Bellingham said he planned to question Prentice further on the matter in the Commons.
The government was urged at a recent parliamentary reception in Westminster hosted by the ABI, CBI and Citizens Advice to speed up the implementation of the reforms. The minister attended the reception, but left before the floor was opened to questions, leaving the issue clouded with uncertainty.