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Damages for whiplash injuries

Part of Civil Liability Bill [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 5:00 pm on 23rd October 2018.

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Photo of Kemi Badenoch Kemi Badenoch Vice-Chair, Conservative Party 5:00 pm, 23rd October 2018

I thank my hon. Friend for making that very good point. This argument was made during the Justice Committee’s evidence sessions, and I am in two minds about it. There are good reasons to have both. An annual payment can help to reduce strain in the long term, but for some people, the constant payments would be a reminder of a particularly traumatic accident. Perhaps we need a flexible system that can accommodate both, depending on a claimant’s particular circumstances, but I thank him for raising that point.

I do not believe we need amendment 2. The purpose of the tariff as set out in clause 3 is to simplify the process for those who have been injured while ensuring they receive compensation that is proportionate. Not only that, but claimants will continue to receive special damages for any financial losses they suffer as a result. Similar systems are in use in countries such as Italy and Spain, which have already seen positive impacts on both the number of claims and the cost of premiums.

The Opposition are concerned that the tariff cannot be varied according to individual circumstances, but this is not the case. As my hon. Friend Mr Clarke has already noted, the tariff is staggered to account for the duration of the injury, whether that be between four and six months or, at the highest end of the spectrum, 19 and 24 months. Furthermore, clause 5 allows judges the discretion to make awards above the tariff level when the individual circumstances merit it. Amendment 2 seeks to remove this clause, as well as clause 4, under which the Lord Chancellor can regularly review the tariff. That would not be right.

The Government have noted that about 650,000 road traffic accident personal injury claims were made in 2017-18. An estimated 85% of those claims were for whiplash-related injuries. That is over 550,000 whiplash claims. As many Members have said, however, there has simultaneously been a reduction in the number of road traffic accidents reported to the police, while improvements continue to be made in vehicle safety. This is leading to increasing premiums for my constituents, and that cannot be right.

It seems to me, from listening to this debate, that Parliament is caught in a technical argument between the insurance lobbyists and the legal services lobbyists. I speak here on behalf on my constituents. I am keen to hear from the Minister how the Government can ensure that cost savings reach the consumer and are not negated by future policy proposals. Having said that, the Bill is an opportunity for the Government to bring down premiums and let people keep more of their own money in their pockets. That is a principled and Conservative ideal. Removing clauses 3, 4 and 5 would go against all efforts to help them and the taxpayer.