Unresolved issues of 2003 are the new challenges, says LordHunt

As WH Auden put it: "Man is a history-making creature who can neither repeat his past nor leave it behind." As we find ourselves at the end of another year we should take this advice to heart and learn from what we have discovered.

With new regulation and legislation coming into force we will all need to be aware of the implications. The Queen's Speech didn't mention the Corporate Manslau-ghter Bill, but it is now promised, as are the next steps in the DWP's employers' liability review announced last week.

As with the first review, the government was never going to solve the problems overnight, but we still have a road map leading to a series of solutions. Some of the answers must be provided by the insurance industry and that will require strong leadership. We also face significant changes in the payment of damages with the move under clauses 100 and 101 of the Courts Act [2003] from lump sums to periodical payments. At last there are moves to control legal costs, and there are several other areas which require much closer consideration, such as health and safety and risk management. There is scope for innovative joint ventures and we still have a lot to learn from the approach of other countries.

We had a good game of ping-pong in the House of Lords with what is now the Criminal Justice Act. Or was it just 'ping'? We insisted on retaining an important part of history with the maintenance of jury trial.

Rehabilitation is at last claiming its rightful place high on the list of priorities. For too long industry and commerce have had to bear a massive burden caused by the lack of prompt and realistic treatment for those injured at work or off sick. Getting people back to work used to be one of the main objectives of the NHS. The TUC estimates the cost to the nation is rising towards £20bn. Here the leaders of the insurance industry are coming forward with some imaginative ideas. We do, however, urgently need some joined-up government thinking with all the key departments working together.

The relentless advance of statutory regulation is inevitable. Insurers must be properly prepared for the changes that will affect both them and the brokers with whom they deal. There is a lot to be done to prepare fully and too much is being left, by too many, until too late. The changes will affect not just companies, but individuals too.

There is no longer any excuse for delay; the 'near final' rules published by the FSA will not now change in any material way. 2003 has been a fascinating year and 2004 should be welcomed with the challenges it brings.

  • Lord Hunt is senior partner with national law firm Beachcroft Wansbroughs
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