If the six-point plan designed to to tackle rising motor insurance premiums outlined by Prime Minister David Cameron yesterday proves anything, it’s that lobbying this coalition just got tougher.
Before the meeting Downing Street had already made its intentions abundantly clear, by cold shouldering any representatives of the claimant personal injury market and briefing the national, trade and broadcast media that it would be the insurance industry itself who would be trusted to decide what changes are necessary in order to pass on savings to consumers.
Lawyers of course reacted angrily, with the Law Society Gazette reporting how the PM’s ‘Summit’ on whiplash – the injury most commonly associated with ever-inflating claims costs – had ‘excluded the legal profession’.
Justifiable complaints indeed, but these were juxtaposed alongside a resigned sense of impotence against the strength of the insurance industry’s influence on Whitehall. Anonymous commentators to the Gazette’s story repeated their complaints that the Law Society itself had failed and that not receiving an invitation to Number 10 on Valentines Day was a vindication of their no confidence vote.
But as a lobbying force, the legal sector’s lack of cohesion on the matter cannot have helped its cause. It’s stance has been set in the form of intellectual posturing about access to justice which had no chance of successfully beating back public opinion. First it was blind sided by Jack Straw MP with his Motor Insurance Regulation Bill in September 2011 and then a campaign by the Mail on Sunday and its Daily sister title finished them off. Even when the insurers themselves were subject to criticism for being the profiteers of personal injury referral fees the legal sector argued amongst itself about whether a ban was right or wrong, instead of using the issue to its advantage in some way.
When times are tough, it’s cold hard cash that does the talking but lawyers have allowed their adversaries to commandeer this issue. Not once has the legal profession put its case to the Treasury about the reduction in tax take it could endure as a result of a slashing of costs for small personal injury claims. Nor has it detailed the industry’s contribution to the economy as a whole. Did they think no one would be interested or were they too ashamed?
The Prime Minister’s Six Point Plan to reduce legal costs, cut red tape and tackle the compensation culture is as follows.
- Industry commitment to pass savings onto customers resulting from a Government commitment to reduce the current £1200 fee that lawyers can earn from small value personal injury claims.
- Industry commitment to adjust premiums to reflect any reductions in legal costs created through the Jackson reforms that will reform ‘no win, no fee’ and ban referral fees; and extending the road traffic accident claims process to cover employers liability and public liability.
- The Government and insurance industry committed to work together to identify effective ways to reduce the number and cost of whiplash claims. Options include improved medical evidence, technological breakthroughs, the threshold for claims or the speed of accidents. Progress on this will be made in the coming months.
- To tackle the issue identified by the Red Tape Challenge of health and safety ‘myths’, insurers will provide short guidance to all clients at the point of purchasing insurance setting out clearly what SMEs need to do, and critically what they don’t need to do, to comply with health and safety law and get insurance cover, to ensure that businesses are not asked to go beyond what is actually required by law.
- Insurers committed to challenge more vexatious health and safety civil claims in order to tackle the compensation culture.
- The Government and insurance industry agreed to work together to look at what more can be done on young drivers’ risk and safety. This includes the wider use of telematics or ‘smartbox’ technology. This monitors driving behaviour, giving young drivers the chance of affordable car insurance by adopting safer driving.
The Rt Hon David Cameron MP, Prime Minister
The Rt Hon Oliver Letwin, Minister of State, Cabinet office
The Rt Hon Justine Greening, Secretary of State for Transport
Nick Herbert, Minister of State for Justice
Otto Thoresen, Director General, ABI
David Stevens, COO, Admiral
Trevor Matthews, chief executive, Aviva UK
Paul Evans, group CEO, Axa UK and Ireland,
David Riches, director of ops, British Chamber of Commerce
John Cridland, director general, CBI
David Neave, director of general insurance, Co-operative Insurance
Mary Boughton, chair of H&S committee, Federation of Small Business
Judith Hackitt, chair, Health and Safety Executive
Paul Geddes, chief executive, RBS Insurance
Ann Robinson, Uswitch
Stephen Lewis, CEO, Zurich UK