Periodical payment orders

Civil Liability Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:15 pm on 11 September 2018.

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‘(1) Within 18 months from the coming into force of this Act, the Civil Justice Council must undertake a review of the impact of Part 2 and the setting of a new rate of return on the extent to which periodical payment orders are made by the courts in personal injury actions.

(2) A report setting out the results of the review must be laid before each House of Parliament by the Civil Justice Council within two years of the coming into force of this Act.’—

This new clause would require the Civil Justice Council to undertake a review and report to Parliament on the impact that the changes this Bill makes to the Discount Rate assumptions and mechanism has on the use of periodic payment orders.

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Ellie Reeves Ellie Reeves Labour, Lewisham West and Penge

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

To understand the importance of new clause 4, we must understand the significance of the use of periodical payments to compensate those who have been injured through negligence, often catastrophically, with little or no capacity for work and with considerable care costs.

More often than not, successful claimants are paid a lump sum, which is intended to compensate them for the rest of their life. However, the benefits of periodical payments, rather than a lump sum, are threefold. First, periodical payments are index-linked so they go up in accordance with rising costs of living or care. Secondly, in such cases, there are often arguments about life expectancy. If the court accepts that a victim of a catastrophic injury is likely to live until 42 but medical advances mean that they actually live until 80, a lump sum will run out many years earlier. With periodical payments, the injured person is compensated every year for the rest of their life. Thirdly, receiving an annual periodical payment rather than a lump sum means that injured people do not have to make difficult investment decisions and, equally, it removes the risk that they will spend the money all at once.

The setting of the discount rate is highly relevant to periodical payments. When the rate stood at 2.5%, it was far more attractive for defendants to pay a lump sum that was discounted by 2.5% than to pay index-linked annual payments. That meant that in all but the most serious cases, periodical payments often met huge resistance from defendants. A rate that assumes a much lower level of investment risk by injured people may well result in an increase in the use of periodical payments, particularly in cases not at the most catastrophic level where resistance from defendants has been greatest. The benefits to the injured person are clear, and the benefits to the state of not having to pick up the bill for care or housing, if and when the money runs out, are obvious.

On Second Reading, the Minister said that he welcomed the use of periodical payments. Can he tell us the percentage of personal injury claims in which they are used? It is my understanding that the figures are astoundingly low, often due to resistance from defendant insurers. New clause 4 makes it incumbent on the Civil Justice Council, with its expert knowledge, to review the impact of part 2 and the discount rate on the prevalence of periodical payments being awarded. If we agree that periodical payments are a good thing, surely we can agree that their use must be monitored so that appropriate and evidence-based action can be taken where necessary. This would benefit injured people and the Treasury alike.

Photo of Rory Stewart Rory Stewart The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

Once again, I want to take this opportunity to praise the hon. Member for Lewisham West and Penge. The arguments for PPO are very strong. It is absolutely correct that the ideal thing is to give someone a PPO. The problem at the moment with receiving a large sum with a discount rate is that one could end up overcompensated or undercompensated. Overcompensation means a huge cost to the NHS and the taxpayer. Undercompensation can be catastrophic for one’s lifetime care costs. Rather than taking a lump sum, the PPO ensures that one gets the amount of money required to look after one’s costs. Therefore, we agree with the nature of this argument.

The disagreements with this amendment are technical. The 18-month period from Royal Assent is too short to take real effect. Regarding the basic question the hon. Lady has raised—whether the Civil Justice Council should look at the use of PPOs and the impact of discount rates on PPOs—we have written directly to the Master of the Rolls to request that the Civil Justice Council look at the use of PPOs. We remain open to doing that again, once the new review of discount rate is introduced.

It is absolutely right that we should encourage more uptake and challenge the insurance companies, which have said publicly that they want more use of PPOs, to ensure that more PPOs are given out. That is the best way to protect an injured person. There are some narrow cases where it is not appropriate—somebody may not have sufficient insurance or the financial weight to deliver a PPO—but when it is paid out, it ought to be paid and that is why we are grateful that, for example, the NHS continues to use the PPOs in the case of catastrophically injured children. I request that the hon. Lady withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Ellie Reeves Ellie Reeves Labour, Lewisham West and Penge

I thank the Minister for that response and, to some extent, his assurances. However, given that the Bill seeks to make big changes, if we are committed to periodical payments and their use, there should be a mechanism for review built into the legislation. I shall press the new clause to a Division.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time.

The Committee divided:

Ayes 8, Noes 9.

Division number 18 Caledonian Pinewood Forest — Periodical payment orders

Aye: 8 MPs

No: 9 MPs

Aye: A-Z by last name

No: A-Z by last name

Question accordingly negatived.

New Clause 5