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Damages for whiplash injuries

Part of Civil Liability Bill [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 3:45 pm on 23rd October 2018.

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Photo of Andrew Slaughter Andrew Slaughter Labour, Hammersmith 3:45 pm, 23rd October 2018

I congratulate the hon. Lady on getting a helter skelter of nonsense into one intervention, with every prejudice and false statement that has been made in the tabloid press about these matters for about the last 10 years—well done on that. I could make a long speech dealing with the specific issues of—[Hon. Members: “Go on!] We have got time, haven’t we? No, I will not. I could go into detail about some of the myths about whiplash and soft tissue injuries and what is actually happening in relation to accidents, the insurance industry and premiums, because I have been an observer of that for a long time. However, let me limit myself to a fairly narrow point.

I have listened to the arguments from Government Members, and they are just non-sequiturs, frankly. We have heard that insurance premiums are the issue. Let us imagine that we give the benefit of the doubt there, which I certainly do not, and say that premiums are likely to fall significantly and that that is a factor relating to claims rather than to insurance companies’ profits, the other activities that they indulge in and the way that their businesses are run. I do not accept that, but let us assume that we do for a moment.

Alex Chalk is no longer in his place, but he made a surprisingly illogical—for him—intervention. He said, “Look, people will still get special damages.” Of course they will get special damages, but special damages are what the name suggests—they are to compensate for specific items of loss. Why should the fact that someone still gets compensation for their loss of earnings or their medical bills, or something of that nature, mean that it is right to diminish their compensation for pain and suffering and loss of amenity? These are all non-sequiturs. The worst calumny of all is to say, “We are reducing the level of damages from slightly mean levels to absolutely parsimonious levels because of fraud”, which is exactly what we heard in relation to the small claims limit. So many members of the senior judiciary and indeed, of Select Committees, including not just the Justice Committee, but the Transport Committee, have said that it is plain wrong to say that because there may be instances of fraud, of which very few are identified, all litigants should suffer by having their damages reduced.