Restriction on increase in small claims limit for relevant personal injuries

Part of Civil Liability Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee am 3:00 pm ar 11 Medi 2018.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

The White Book that I showed the Minister shows that there was a 20% increase in the small claims limit in 1999 when special damages were removed from the calculation of the limit. Lord Justice Jackson, in his “Review of Civil Litigation Costs: Final Report” said that the only reason to increase the personal injury small claims limit would be to

“reflect inflation since 1999. As series of small rises in the limit would be confusing for practitioners and judges alike.”

He made it crystal clear that the limit should remain at £1,000 until inflation warrants an increase to £1,500.

The Government admitted to me this morning that there is a difference of opinion in their own ranks about which of these years should be the benchmark. We say again that they must listen to the Lord Justice Jackson and the Justice Committee chaired by one of their own, the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill), who agrees with him. We should state on the face of the Bill that 1999 must be the start date for any recalculation of the small claims limit, not 1991. The Government accepted all the key recommendations in the Jackson report save the recommendation that there should be an increase in the small claims limit to £1,500 only when inflation justifies it.

To turn to another aspect—the Government have admitted that it has caused a dispute among Ministers—I want to make the case, as I have done before, that CPI and not the RPI is the correct measure to apply for inflation. It seems that the Government use RPI when it suits and use CPI when it suits. CPI is what we use for the pensions and benefits paid to injured workers while they are pursuing justice for that injury through the claim. Even the Chief Secretary to the Treasury agrees with me. When asked at the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee whether she agreed that RPI was an inadequate measure, she said:

“We certainly agree that it is not the preferred measure of inflation. CPI is a much better measure of inflation… we agree that it is not the preferred method, and we are seeking to move away from RPI”.

Why are we moving towards it here? The Government say they wish to apply RPI to the small claims limit because RPI is applied to updating damages—the same damages that they are taking an axe to with the new tariff.

Perhaps some in the Conservative party are persuaded, like me, that CPI is the best option, because of yet another expert who has lined up to say so. On 30 January 2018, the Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, said:

“At the moment, we have RPI, which most would acknowledge has known errors. We have CPI, which is what virtually everyone recognises and is in our remit.”

It is perfectly clear that we need to enshrine CPI as the key measure on the face of the Bill. The amount of £1,000 from 1999 would now be worth either £1,440 if CPI is applied, or £1,620 if RPI is applied. Lord Jackson said that it should not go up to £2,000, as the Government suggests, until inflation warrants it.

I trust the Minister will not be as dismissive as Lord Keen was when he said in his evidence to the Justice Committee:

“We do not feel that there is a material difference between setting it at £1,700 today and seeing it drop behind inflation next year, and setting it at £2,000 without the need to review it again for a number of years.”

Try telling the nurse, the caretaker or the bus driver that there is no material difference between £1,700 and £2,000. For those on real wages, that has a real impact.