January 2, 2013

Apparently when Lord Chancellor Chris Grayling announced last year that the RTA Porthole would be extended to encompass higher-value motor and employer’s and public liabilty claims as of April Fool’s Day this year, he climbed up on something to do so. It may have been a pedestal, a high horse, or even a mountain for all Bankstone News knows. But wherever he climbed, he has now been obliged to climb back down to make the not-altogether-unexpected announcement that the RTA Porthole will not be extended to encompass higher-value motor and employer’s and public liability claims as of April Fool’s Day this year.

In the wake of the aforementioned climb-down, various persons have piled in to applaud the good sense of Graything’s timely concession to the dictates of reality and legality. Bud Craigsworth of MASS applauded Grayling’s enlightened decision to eschew a “headlong rush” to “radical changes to the landscape” adding that the decision had left MASS “pleased”. Meanwhile, Karl “Honky” Tonks of APIL also applauded the move, pointing out that his organisation had said all along that “proper consideration of key issues was being sacrificed in favour of an impractical ambition to introduce extensions to the RTA portal by April” 2013.

Many argue, however, that Grayling would do well to apply his new-found skills in the art of descent to the issue of the proposed reduction of Porthole fees by 60%. That, indeed, is precisely what Litigation Futures editor Neil Rose argues in an article published earlier today. In particular Mr Rose takes cogent issue with the MoJ’s refusal to reveal the basis of its financial calculations. This, he describes as “so patently outrageous that surely Mr Grayling would have to abolish judicial review altogether to save it from another challenge” along similar lines to that mounted by APIL and MASS over his failure to consult on the Porthole extension.

Silence on this issue invites the inevitable suspicion that the proposed 60% chop might simply have been slipped to Grayling on the back of an envelope or something by some optimistic representative of a major insurers’ representative body. A marginally less sinister interpretation hypothesised by Mr Rose is that “an official at the MoJ simply subtracted what they reckoned is an average referral payment of £700 from the current £1,200, and hey presto you have a new portal fee. One hopes it was more sophisticated than this – referral fees weren’t built into the original calculation, while some allowance should be made for marketing costs – but absent any explanation from the MoJ, one cannot help but suspect it wasn’t.”

So coy is the Government on the issue of where it got its figures, that it is resisting a freedom of information request on the grounds that the requested info relates to the formation of Government policy and is therefore not something mere mortals need be aprised of. “If it is to retain any credibility,” Rose concludes, the MoJ “must publish now, and give time for stakeholders to examine and comment on its methods, before announcing its final decision.”

If you have concerns about the proposed changes, you might want to consider signing this: e-petition on the Government’s Proposal on Fixed Recoverable Costs in Personal-Injury Matters

 


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