Rules against settlement before medical report

Part of Civil Liability Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee am 11:15 am ar 11 Medi 2018.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Rory Stewart Rory Stewart The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice 11:15, 11 Medi 2018

I very strongly support the basic principles and philosophy of amendments 19 to 21. I have huge respect for MedCo—right hon. and hon. Members will be aware that it is a non-profit portal designed to select at random an expert witness in order to testify in whiplash injury claims. I can reassure them that the intention is for MedCo to be the appropriate channel through which advice is sought.

The only reason we have not put MedCo on the face of the Bill is to provide for the eventuality that, in 20 or 30 years’ time, an entity other than Medico might exist— as hon. Members will see in clause 6(4), we are specifying the form of evidence, the person, the accreditation and the regulations. That was on the advice of counsel, which has had strong experience over the last century, that defining a non-profit on the face of the Bill could cause massive challenges if something unforeseen happens to it. We absolutely agree that MedCo is the appropriate body to use at the moment. All the arguments made by the Opposition are accepted, but on counsel advice, we respectfully advise that it would be better to allow flexibility rather than defining MedCo on the face of the Bill, and therefore ask them to withdraw those amendments.

New clause 3 argues for an individual to be able to reclaim their legal costs while pursuing their whiplash claim. This is a fundamental point of debate and disagreement, and goes against the fundamental principle of the small claims court, the idea of which is that an individual should be a litigant in person and not in a position to recover their legal costs. The argument made is that, under the level proposed—which in the case of certain kinds of damages is £10,000, in relation to whiplash would be £5,000 and in relation to personal injury could be as much as £2,000—we believe that the nature of the claims, particularly with a medical report in place, should be relatively straightforward. We have made some concessions about the online portal and the roll-out, all of which, we think, makes it inappropriate to ask for the reclaim of legal costs.