Justice Questions

14th June 2016
Shailesh Vara answers MPs’ questions to the Ministry of Justice.

Personal Injury Law

16. What assessment he has made of the potential effect of planned changes to personal injury law and whiplash claims on access to justice. [905400]

The Government remain concerned about the number and cost of whiplash claims, particularly the impact on insurance premiums, and have announced robust new measures to tackle the problem. We will consult on the detail in due course, and the consultation will be accompanied by a thorough impact assessment.

 

How does the Minister respond to my constituents who have genuine concerns about the evidence base for the proposed reforms, and believe that they are unjust and will not deliver the right and proper compensation for people who were injured through negligence?

The Government’s proposed reforms will ensure that the current cost of £2 billion annually for whiplash claims should be reduced to £1 billion for the insurance industry. They will also ensure that the average person’s insurance premium should go down by up to £50.

 

In the UK, 80% of road traffic accidents generate a whiplash claim; in France, 3% of road traffic accidents generate a whiplash claim. In the UK, whiplash claims are increasing as accidents decrease; in France, it is the other way round. Insurance premiums in the UK are 50% higher, meaning that many young people cannot afford insurance. Will the Government act to get this sorted out?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making that point. He is absolutely right to say that it is important, to benefit all our constituents, that we deal with this. The way to do so is through our proposed reforms, on which there will be a consultation in the not too distant future. That will ensure that premiums go down.

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Topical Questions

 

T4. With regard to employment tribunals, does the Minister have any plans to include personal independence payments in the calculations for assessing eligibility? [905377]

As far as employment tribunals are concerned—as the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, my hon. Friend the Member for Esher and Walton (Mr Raab), said earlier—the review will be published shortly. It is a fact that a lot of people who would previously have gone to employment tribunals are now going to the ACAS conciliatory procedure. We will certainly make sure that all the issues referred to are covered in the review.

T8. At Justice Questions in March, I raised serious concerns about the systematic failure of the Solicitors Regulation Authority in relation to a case in my constituency. From my experience of dealing with this case, it has become clear that the self-governing SRA needs reform both to improve accountability and to restore public confidence. Will the Minister meet me to discuss this issue so that, together, we can bring forward proposals to ensure solicitors are regulated properly and independently? [905381]

My hon. Friend will appreciate that the Solicitors Regulation Authority is an independent body. If she wishes to have a meeting, I am certainly happy to do so.

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The former Justice Secretary was warned that cuts in legal aid to domestic violence victims were “grossly unfair” and “harsh”. That is why the Court of Appeal shot them down. In response, the Government decided to do a survey, which had a very limited timeframe for being filled in. Do the Government think that that was a reasonable way to show that they take the situation seriously? Would it not be better to have a full, open, public and transparent consultation?

I say very gently to the hon. Lady that she is completely misinformed and wrong. Following that court judgment, the Government increased the time period for the production of evidence from two years to five years, and have allowed financial abuse to be taken into account. What is more, having made those immediate changes to the system, we are now engaging with the relevant stakeholders to bring in a better system that will be satisfactory to all concerned.