I’m now into my second month as APIL’s chief executive and what a start to the role it has been!
Long before I arrived, APIL set about bringing down the discount rate from 2.5 per cent. Then just two weeks into my role, news broke that the new rate is to be set at -0.25 per cent. It is a better than hoped-for result for APIL and others who have lobbied hard on this, but it still isn’t correct. This rate still assumes injured people should make low-risk investments, instead of very low risk investments.
Ill-considered statements from the insurance industry bemoaning the decision and threatening to increase premiums for car drivers, couldn’t gloss over the irresponsible gamble they had taken in setting their expectations on the rate being increased to at least 0 per cent.
The truth is that when the new rate is applied next week they will be as much as £300m better off. But let’s not forget that while the change to the discount rate is better than expected, it is still a backward step and vigilance is required to ensure it is fair for catastrophically injured people. We will never rest on our laurels as the guardian of the rights of those people.
Just as things were settling down from the media fallout of the Lord Chancellor’s news, the Joint Committee on Human Rights announced that they were calling on the Government to consult on the law of bereavement damages, with a view to reform. APIL’s submissions were clearly influential in this development and it provides a real opportunity for us to secure reform which will match the needs of modern families.
In my early days in post, observing these positive steps forward served to reinforce my view that APIL’s role in ensuring fairness for injured people is firstly unique and secondly an essential requirement in an environment of Government intervention which is too often heavily influenced by slick big business lobbying. This can lead to misguided reforms, for example those which are focussed too much on stamping out the fraudulent activity of the very few to the detriment of the honest and genuine needs of the vast majority of people. APIL plays the long game with campaigns based on evidence, consistent policy and well-considered arguments where the needs of injured people are the only thing that matters.
As APIL approaches its 30th anniversary I am proud to be at the helm of such a dedicated and capable team of people. As we work towards setting out our future strategy, I am confident that the essential foundations of success are already in place. I am inspired by the passion and sense of pride of the personal injury lawyers I have met so far who love their jobs. They love their jobs because they are helping people in need. They feel cheated when intervention tips the balance unfairly towards defendants, leading to injustice for people injured due to the negligence of others and to no fault of their own.
Passionate people, preservation of the basic principles of access to justice, and the need for an effective champion for injured people, make APIL unique. Working together towards delivering an impact-led vision for the future of the sector will drive our ambition to succeed in representing injured people while advocating excellence and forcing out poor standards in our sector. I look forward to working with APIL’s members towards turning these words into action and genuine impact, to build on our achievements.