Significant progress has been made towards the government’s goal of opening the RTA Portal from next spring.
The Gazette understands the Civil Procedure Rule Committee met earlier this month for the first time since June and discussed the potential regulations surrounding the scheme. The Ministry of Justice has since confirmed that the plan remains for the portal to go live next April. The detail of what the CPRC discussed will be published next month when October minutes are approved.
The agreement of a pre-action protocol by the rule committee was a major stumbling block causing the portal to be delayed earlier this year. It had been due to start on 6 April but was deferred by justice secretary Robert Buckland QC, who said more time was needed.
But there have been fresh doubts over the summer about whether the government could deliver. Civil servants in the department have largely been assigned to dealing with the fallout from the coronavirus lockdown and the UK’s exit from the European Union, with nothing mentioned about personal injury reforms in the meantime. Even after the delay was announced, the issue of a pre-action protocol was not even brought up as an item at the CPRC meeting in June.
PI firms continue to plan for April and to change their business model accordingly. The portal is designed to handle litigants in person making RTA claims under £5,000, for which legal costs will no longer be recoverable.
David Whitmore, chief executive of Slater and Gordon, one of the biggest PI firms, told the Gazette earlier this month the business was gearing up for April 2021.
'There is still some doubt about when it's going to come but our position has always been that if it's going to happen then let's get on with it. You have to [prepare]. But we also have alternative plans if there is a delay.'