Claimants can allow themselves a small celebration today.
Who knew the Gazette wielded such influence? It was only last week we suggested rethinking whiplash reforms and looking elsewhere.
It took a week for it to emerge that this was exactly what was on the mind of justice secretary Liz Truss. Insurers were expecting to hear glad tidings from a justice minister at the ABI conference, but he’s now pulled out.
It’s important to stress (and the MoJ is especially keen to get this message across) that we are not talking about a permanent block on any reforms. I understand the department is hoping to unveil something before Christmas. What form it will take is still unsure.
Ultimately, this was all George Osborne’s fault. Or rather, the uncertainty can be blamed on his departure.
I understand even insurers couldn’t believe their luck when the then-chancellor offered whiplash reforms on a plate. The small claims limit was always a keen aspiration, but scrapping damages altogether was beyond their fondest imaginings.
The problem always was that this appeared to be drawn up on the back of the proverbial fag packet: the reforms (surely a ‘win’ with voters) were tucked away in Osborne’s autumn statement, and it doesn’t appear the Treasury even told the MoJ they were happening. No wonder, then, that when Brexit put paid to the chancellor, Liz Truss and her team were hardly keen to look after his baby.
I wouldn’t rejoice just yet if I were a claimant lawyer. The MoJ is still committing itself to driving down whiplash claims (though with the pet caveat of ‘in due course’) but even if it won’t push ahead, the ABI will simply change direction and lobby the Treasury direct. It’s sobering too to think how many people have lost their jobs in preparation for these reforms.
Insurers will lick their wounds and whinge. But their much-trumpeted £50 cut in motor premiums - swallowed whole by gulible media - was always empty spin. There was never going to be an audit mechanism to ensure they delivered. Any ‘savings’ would simply have been taken to the bottom line.
Quoted companies do not engage in expensive and carefully calibrated reform campaigns for reasons of what they consider to be altruism. The people that really matter are the shareholders.
Claimants might not be popping the champagne just yet, but they can allow themselves a small celebration today that the reforms are not quite as much of a foregone conclusion as we thought.