Civil Liability Bill (Small Claims Limit)

Thank you for contacting me about the proposed increase to the small claims limit. I have ensured that my colleagues in the Ministry of Justice are aware of concerns like yours.

I completely understand questions regarding plans to increase the small claims limit for employers and public liability personal injury claims, and I agree that it is important that the limit is not disproportionately increased. That said, I feel that the proposed increase to £2,000, in line with inflation since 1991 when the current limit of £1,000 was set, is appropriate and reasonable.

With the last increase to the small claims limit made in 1991, followed by a minor technical change to what should be included in the limit made in 1999, it has been decades since the limit was last amended. Reform of the limit is therefore long overdue, with the proposed increase scheduled to come into effect in April 2020. This is part of wider reforms to the small claims track limit for managing whiplash injuries and minor injuries in road traffic accidents.

Following a 2016 consultation on raising the small claims limit to £5,000, I am glad that the Government listened to concerns and instead limited the rise for claims relating to workplace injuries to £2,000, in line with inflation. The personal injury small claims track limit has been set at £1,000 since 1991, and the Government has used the Retail Price Index to calculate the increase to £2,000 to ensure consistency with the way such increases are dealt with by the Judicial College Guidelines.

I should also say that I agree that the small claims track is the right one for these relatively straightforward claims which do not routinely require help from a lawyer to settle. The vast majority of these claims are already settled without going to court, and I welcome the fact that the Government is developing a helpful new accessible IT portal to support claimants to bring forward claims quickly and efficiently, with or without a lawyer.

I fully understand why there are concerns in relation to claims by children or others who lack mental capacity. There is however, no fundamental reason why claims involving these groups should be treated differently from other claimants. There are rightly safeguards in Part 21 of the Civil Procedure Rules to look after their rights in the small claims court. Minors must have a litigation friend and this does not have to be a lawyer and is often their parent or guardian. Also, any settlement of a claim involving a minor or protected party must also be approved by the court and legal advice on the proposed settlement is required. These are robust safeguards and these reforms will not affect these long-standing protections.

I do not believe that these proposals will have a negative impact on health and safety in the workplace. All employers are required by law to report accidents and dangerous occurrences in the workplace to the Health and Safety Executive, which will continue to investigate and prosecute those at fault irrespective of whether a personal injury claim arises from an incident. It is welcome news that that between 2000/1 and 2016/17 the estimated rate of self-reported workplace non-fatal injury is down by around a half, according to the Health and Safety Executive.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.

Craig Whittaker MP

November 2018