Sweeping reforms of the personal injury sector have emerged unscathed from their first major examination despite a clutch of complaints from peers. 

A who’s who of former justice ministers and leading judicial figures lined up to debate the Civil Liability Bill for almost four hours on second reading in the House of Lords yesterday. 

The legislation faced criticism for a lack of detail, potential creation of more litigants in person and failure to force insurers to pass on savings to consumers – although it should be noted just as many peers spoke for the bill as spoke against. 

The legislation, which has started in the Lords, is divided into two parts: the first imposes a tariff on RTA damages and bans pre-medical offers, while the second part brings in a new method of calculating the discount rate and initiates regular reviews of the deductions from compensation by the lord chancellor. 

Lord Keen of Elie (Richard Keen QC) largely dealt comfortably with questions from speakers and was able to commend the bill for its committee stage starting next month. On both aspects of the bill, Keen said he was willing to hear suggestions for improving the reforms, but he gave few indications the government’s approach is softening, despite figures this week showing that the number of claims fell in 2017/18. 

‘That the number [of whiplash claims] is so high is indicative of an ever-pervading compensation culture in this country,’ said Keen. ’What we have is a very obvious and clear trend in the development of claims for road-traffic-based whiplash injury. It has been going on for more than 10 years. The consequences are very clear and obvious; it may well be that we should have considered acting sooner to address this issue, but act we must and that is what we intend to do.’ 

Labour’s shadow attorney general Lady Chakrabarti (Shami Chakrabarti) said the bill did nothing to address fraud, claims management companies and the influence of Mckenzie friends. Neither, she pointed, was there anything to ‘give teeth’ to insurers’ promises of passing on savings. 

Former lord chief justice Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd raised several problems that need to be addressed, not least the issue of litigants in person being able to access the IT system set up to handle claims.  He said it was ‘wholly wrong’ in principle that tariffs would be set by a government minister without proper legal and medical advice, and while he supported the principles behind the bill he said a great of work was needed to improve it.