Ministry for Insurers? By Martin Coyne, A2J Director

April 27th 2016

Is Dominic Raab the minister for justice or the minister for the insurance industry? It’s a fair question, because yesterday during Justice Questions in the House of Commons, the MP for Esher and Walton, in the heart of the Surrey stockbroker belt, brushed off concerns raised by MPs about the damaging effect of the government’s personal injury reforms on access to justice for ordinary people.

For sure, nobody was expecting Mr Raab to deviate from his brief, but it was ironic that the junior justice minister was at the dispatch box defending plans to restrict and reduce access to justice, in favour of an insurance industry that is looking out for its shareholders and has yet to put forward any compelling evidence to support its contention that the country is in the grip of a fraud epidemic.

The latest statistics on whiplash, for example, actually show a fall of nearly 7.5% in the number of claims made during the last three years.

Moreover, the minister seems to have swallowed the industry’s line that it will hand back the proceeds from the reforms to customers. This is the same industry that made a similar empty promise after LASPO was enacted in 2012.

Backbench MPs sought to tease out some of the supporting evidence that the government has to hand to justify its plans, but enlightenment came there is none, the minister merely promising to provide information during the yet-to-be-announced consultation period.

Mr Raab dismissed the Law Society’s concerns about the reforms as special pleading by lawyers, yet what about the special pleading by insurers? Thousands of jobs in the legal services industry, both legal and none legal, are threatened by these plans, so it is perfectly legitimate for the Law Society, representing our profession, to take the stance it has. The impact of job losses will be solidly felt within the Chancellors Northern Powerhouse.

However, insurers who are hoping these reforms will shore up their profits and offset low investment returns, do not seem to be subject to the same scrutiny.

Yesterday we saw the successful conclusion to the 27-year campaign for justice by the families of the Liverpool 96. Prime Minister David Cameron rightly called it a “landmark day” and said the inquests “provide long overdue justice.”

Justice, and access to justice, are yardsticks by which we measure a civilised society, as Hillsborough has so forcefully demonstrated.

Mr Raab, you should be careful what you wish for.

–  Martin Coyne, Director of Access to Justice