Peers have launched an audacious attempt to kill off a key aspect of the government’s personal injury reforms.
Labour’s Lord Beecham and the former lord chief justice Lord Woolf, a cross-bencher, today tabled amendments to the Civil Liability Bill which would effectively scrap plans for a tariff system for RTA claims.
Their two amendments, simply asking parliament to leave out the relevant clauses, will be debated in the House of Lords on Tuesday. The Gazette understands Labour and Liberal Democrat peers intend to vote for the amendments, with several cross-benchers potentially swayed by the intervention of Lord Woolf.
There appears to be widespread discontent among legal experts in the Lords that the government intends to set the tariff itself, without consulting the judiciary and without laying out the figures on the face of the bill.
It is believed there is a growing groundswell of opposition to this particular section of the legislation. Without it, part one of the bill would amount to nothing more than a definition of whiplash and a ban on pre-medical offers.
The Motor Accident Solicitors Society said the Beecham and Woolf amendments were ‘potentially significant’ and have its full support.
Even if the government lost a vote on Tuesday, the amendments would probably be reversed in the Commons. But the government is unlikely to want a prolonged scrap over this legislation and campaigners will hope that pressure continues to be applied by the Lords.
The issue of tariffs is critical, because they are likely to result in compensation payments being dramatically reduced – probably to the extent that lawyers will no longer be involved in assisting claimants.
In a draft order of the bill laid before parliament last month, the total damages for pain, suffering and loss of amenity payable for injuries lasting less than three months is restricted to £225. That figure rises to £450 for injuries up to six months and to £765 where the injuries last nine months.
The maximum fixed tariff for a whiplash injury, applying where victims have suffered for up to 24 months, is £3,725.
Another amendment, tabled today by the Lib Dem peer Lord Sharkey, asks for damages to be limited to £1,800 for injuries lasting up to three months, rising incrementally to £4,750 for injuries lasting up to two years.
It may also be significant that Lord Hope of Craighead, the convener of some 200 cross-bench peers, has tabled his own amendment requiring the lord chancellor to consult the lord chief justice before setting any new regulations.