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STRAW BILL HITS FINAL HURDLE

Despite an agenda as quotable as an Oscar Wilde play, Jack Straw's attempt to turn his ten minute rule motion on motor insurance into cast iron legislation proved too big an ask, even for this political giant. We review the story as it unfolded.

Premextra has followed the Motor Insurance Regulation Bill 2010-11 closely since it was first mooted on the floor of the House of Commons in September 2011. In a typically forthright speech, Jack Straw MP proposed the bill as a means of helping insurers reduce premiums by putting the brakes on referral fees and claims for whiplash injuries. However, the former Justice Minister also took a misguided swipe at the independent medical profession, against which he had no evidence of any influence toward the outcome of personal injury claims.

The proposals were then effectively taken 'on the road' throughout autumn 2011; first at the 'I Love Claims' event followed by Post Magazine's Motor Claims conference where his view was expressed that referral fees should in fact become a criminal offence and that he was "extremely confident" that his bill would be carried.

After Christmas, the Transport Select Committee's publication of the 'Cost of Motor Insurance fourth report of Session 2010-11' was timed perfectly to offer support for elements of the MIR Bill with the committee's chair Louise Ellman MP speaking at the All Party Parliamentary Group on Insurance and Financial Services on 17th January alongside Mr Straw. There she added that given his call for some sort of statutory change in the evidential burden for whiplash claims, that this "could be" on the Transport Committees agenda. "From the work that we did we could see the extent of the problem, but I don't think we had enough information as a committee and we didn't go very deeply into the medical issue, but that would not rule out looking at this in a broader way," she added.

Nigel Muers-Raby, Chairman of the Consumer Justice Alliance offered a dissenting opinion of Straw's ideas: "Raising the threshold at which whiplash claims can be brought is not the answer as it will affect innocent victims who have genuine claims for which they need and deserve proper compensation."

Time finally ran out on the MIR Bill on 20th January, when Mr Straw conceded defeat but he appeared satisfied nevertheless in an interview with Insurance Age whom he told: "Of the four substantive clauses in my bill I have achieved agreement, to varying extents, on three of the four areas. The government is currently putting a ban on referral fees through Parliament, the Justice Minister Mr Djanogly told the Commons that the government intended to reduce the legal fees arising from use of the RTA portal; and the government has expressed serious concerns about the rising whiplash epidemic that I have helped highlight."

Premex will be presenting to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Insurance and Financial Services on 21st February 2012.