All 1 Kemi Badenoch contributions to the Civil Liability Act 2018

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Tue 23rd Oct 2018
Civil Liability Bill [Lords]
Commons Chamber

3rd reading: House of Commons & Report stage: House of Commons

Civil Liability Bill [Lords] Debate

Full Debate: Read Full Debate
Department: Ministry of Justice

Civil Liability Bill [Lords]

Kemi Badenoch Excerpts
3rd reading: House of Commons & Report stage: House of Commons
Tuesday 23rd October 2018

(5 years, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Civil Liability Act 2018 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: Consideration of Bill Amendments as at 23 October 2018 - (23 Oct 2018)
Kwasi Kwarteng Portrait Kwasi Kwarteng
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I agree with my hon. Friend. He is right that the insurance companies have in the past—I stress in the past—had a questionable record on some of these issues, but I repeat what I said on Second Reading: it is entirely unhelpful to bash the insurance industry or denounce it as a bunch of shysters who are ripping the public off. As I said in that debate, the insurance industry is one of our world-leading industries. We should celebrate it and be grateful for it: our insurance industry is a world-beating industry. There are not that many industries left in Britain that we can call truly world class, but the insurance industry happens to be one that is. It was nauseating and disconcerting on Second Reading—it has not happened so much today—to hear speaker after speaker on the Opposition Benches denouncing the insurance industry. They were scandalised that, God forbid, the industry should make profits, as though making a profit were in itself a moral crime. We have to try to shift the nature of the debate. The insurance industry is a world-beating industry. As my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill) has suggested, we need to have some oversight to ensure that savings are passed through to the customers, our constituents.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Mrs Kemi Badenoch (Saffron Walden) (Con)
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Is my hon. Friend aware that, according to statistics from the ABI, the myth about profit-making by insurance companies is a little bit overstated, and that motor insurers are actually not making a profit? The figures are being conflated with those of other parts of the insurance industry.

Kwasi Kwarteng Portrait Kwasi Kwarteng
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My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. As any student of basic economics will know, in a highly competitive industry the ability to make extraordinary profits is severely reduced. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of insurers in our highly developed, highly sophisticated market. As I have said, we are a world beater in this area, and that means that we have lots of diversity in the insurance market. Lots of insurers are going bust, but many are making money because they are well managed. That is exactly what we would expect in a competitive industry that has reached a high degree of maturity, as the insurance industry has in this country.

Going back to the provisions in the Bill, I believe that the Government are trying to do a very measured and reasonable thing. We are trying to limit the fraud—or the escalation of whiplash claims to the point that they drive up pricing in insurance. We are also saying that we will engage with the courts, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst suggested. There is a role for the judiciary to play in this debate and in the management and setting of tariffs. Also, I would expect Opposition Members to be more enthusiastic about the fact that there is a role for the Government and the Lord Chancellor in ensuring that insurance premiums do not become excessive. There is absolutely a role for political engagement in the ability to cap a tariff, to ensure that premiums are low. This makes for a very reasonable and equitable set of demands, which is to be welcomed, and I hope that the Bill proceeds on its serene course through our Parliament.

--- Later in debate ---
In short, the Bill is about the system being fair and about public confidence in the system being fair—it is not currently obvious that the system is fair, I am afraid. The Bill will mean reduced costs for insurance customers, who currently pay the costs of unfounded claims, and rebalance the system for the emergent compensation culture that has seen unreasonable and exaggerated claims grow significantly in recent years. Most people want an insurance system that has a fair and just balance between claims and premiums. Hard-pressed motorists and taxpayers in my constituency will gain from the Bill, much more so than any insurance company, and I am happy to support it tonight.
Kemi Badenoch Portrait Mrs Badenoch
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I rise to speak in support of the Bill and to oppose amendment 2. First, however, I will remind the House why we need the Bill; we have heard it over and over again in the debate. I know that other Members have had similar experiences of nuisance calls from ambulance-chasing companies, and many of my constituents certainly have. As of this week, I am still receiving calls from companies telling me that they had heard I had been in a car accident that was not my fault—this must have been the 10th time that I received such a call this year. Needless to say, I have not been involved in any car accident then or since.

However, this debate is not about nuisance calls, but about the incentives behind them, which are to encourage unnecessary and, in many cases, fraudulent insurance claims that are difficult, if not impossible, to prove. If we remove the incentive for claims companies to act in this way, we will get rid of the ones encouraging fraud and probably the nuisance calls as well. So many would welcome this. Because of the actions of these companies, insurance premiums for honest, safe and sensible drivers reached a record high of £493 at the end of 2017. As other Members have mentioned, young drivers in particular already pay over double the average premium.

For so many of us, motor insurance premiums are one of the highest bills we pay. The Government have repeatedly expressed that their mission is to get a country that works for everyone, and reducing costs for the “just about managing” is one way to do that. It has also been said several times in the debate that these measures, alongside the secondary legislation, will reduce the cost of motor insurance premiums on average by around £35 a year. I know that many of my constituents would appreciate much lower motor insurance premiums.

I also echo the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman) about the strain on public services. At present, with a discount rate of minus 0.75%, the NHS is overpaying on claims for clinical negligence, which is adding to pressure on the public purse. In 2017-18, around £400 million in additional funds had to be provided to the NHS as a consequence of the change in the discount rate. In 2016-17, the NHS spent £1.7 billion on clinical negligence cases. The annual cost has almost doubled since 2010, with an average 13.5% increase every year. Like everyone in this House, I am looking forward to the end of austerity, and perhaps this Bill can help us to get there.

Huw Merriman Portrait Huw Merriman
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My hon. Friend is making an excellent speech. She brought up the discount rate and I could not resist the temptation to intervene. I absolutely welcome changes to the discount rate, but would she like to see a future in which, rather than one lump sum being paid out for compensation for the rest of someone’s life, we look more at doing this on an annual basis? That may make the overall costs more reasonable and make it less likely that investments will go wrong.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Mrs Badenoch
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I thank my hon. Friend for making that very good point. This argument was made during the Justice Committee’s evidence sessions, and I am in two minds about it. There are good reasons to have both. An annual payment can help to reduce strain in the long term, but for some people, the constant payments would be a reminder of a particularly traumatic accident. Perhaps we need a flexible system that can accommodate both, depending on a claimant’s particular circumstances, but I thank him for raising that point.

I do not believe we need amendment 2. The purpose of the tariff as set out in clause 3 is to simplify the process for those who have been injured while ensuring they receive compensation that is proportionate. Not only that, but claimants will continue to receive special damages for any financial losses they suffer as a result. Similar systems are in use in countries such as Italy and Spain, which have already seen positive impacts on both the number of claims and the cost of premiums.

The Opposition are concerned that the tariff cannot be varied according to individual circumstances, but this is not the case. As my hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland (Mr Clarke) has already noted, the tariff is staggered to account for the duration of the injury, whether that be between four and six months or, at the highest end of the spectrum, 19 and 24 months. Furthermore, clause 5 allows judges the discretion to make awards above the tariff level when the individual circumstances merit it. Amendment 2 seeks to remove this clause, as well as clause 4, under which the Lord Chancellor can regularly review the tariff. That would not be right.

The Government have noted that about 650,000 road traffic accident personal injury claims were made in 2017-18. An estimated 85% of those claims were for whiplash-related injuries. That is over 550,000 whiplash claims. As many Members have said, however, there has simultaneously been a reduction in the number of road traffic accidents reported to the police, while improvements continue to be made in vehicle safety. This is leading to increasing premiums for my constituents, and that cannot be right.

It seems to me, from listening to this debate, that Parliament is caught in a technical argument between the insurance lobbyists and the legal services lobbyists. I speak here on behalf on my constituents. I am keen to hear from the Minister how the Government can ensure that cost savings reach the consumer and are not negated by future policy proposals. Having said that, the Bill is an opportunity for the Government to bring down premiums and let people keep more of their own money in their pockets. That is a principled and Conservative ideal. Removing clauses 3, 4 and 5 would go against all efforts to help them and the taxpayer.

Huw Merriman Portrait Huw Merriman
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Would my hon. Friend also recognise that we have a good track record on this? A few years ago, when the Government made changes to the civil litigation procedure, an average of £50 was knocked off insurance premiums as a result.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Mrs Badenoch
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I thank my hon. Friend for making that point. It is something I would have liked to say earlier, and I am glad he was able to make it for me.

In conclusion, the Bill fulfils a manifesto commitment by my party and should make it easier for genuine whiplash claimants. I will be supporting it tonight, but not, I am afraid, Opposition amendment 2.

Mary Robinson Portrait Mary Robinson (Cheadle) (Con)
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It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mrs Badenoch). As we have heard, the Bill makes important changes to our personal injury compensation system, and although I broadly support its aims and measures, I would like to put on the record a few of my concerns and those raised with me by lawyers and constituents.

The Bill is long overdue. The last increase to the small claims limit was made in 1991. As we have heard, data from the Department for Work and Pensions reveal that about 650,000 road traffic accident-related personal injury claims were made in 2017-18 and that about 85% of these were for whiplash-related injuries—a higher rate than in any other European country. Department for Transport figures, however, show that from 2007 to 2017 reported RTAs fell by 30%.

Clause 3 introduces a tariff for compensation in whiplash claims. Lawyers who have contacted me and met to discuss this have supported the arguments made by the Access to Justice Foundation, which has estimated that the proposed new tariff would deny 600,000 people injured on our roads each year the right to legal advice when seeking compensation.

The question I have asked is: how does this value equality and fairness in comparing types of injury under the compensation regime? For instance, under the proposed tariff, if I experienced an injury in a road traffic accident that lasted up to three months—as I have in the past—I would receive £235 in compensation. Compensation varies across many sectors. If my train journey from London to Stockport, a route on which I travel every week, were delayed by two hours, I could receive up to £338. Under these proposals, the same injury would attract less compensation simply because it was sustained in a road traffic accident rather than in another way.