HC Deb 06 May 2004 vol 420 cc1691-2W
John Barrett

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what assessment he has made of(a) the impact of changes in the cost of public liability insurance on community events and (b) the ability of community organisations to pay for public liability insurance; [169898]

(2) what representations his Department has received from community organisations about changes in the cost of public liability insurance. [169900]

Fiona Mactaggart

I am aware of the problems being experienced by those in the voluntary and community sector, as a result of the volatility in the insurance market since 11 September 2001. It is deeply worrying that small groups of volunteers who are making a real contribution to their communities are being faced with such difficulty.

The Active Community Unit in my Department set up the "Insurance Cover Working Group (ICWG)" to look into the situation and advise on practical solutions. A study was undertaken into the current position regarding the provision of insurance for the voluntary and community sector, including public indemnity liability, which made suggestions as to possible solutions.

A response to these possible solutions will be made in May following close working with other Government Departments, as a number of initiatives are already being taken forward by the Government to understand better and tackle the difficulties being experienced. In that context, the Government welcomes the current study being undertaken by the Better Regulation Task Force on litigation and compensation. This work will contribute to the analysis of pressures in this area, as other studies have already, for example; The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) undertook a review of the operation of Employers' Liability Compulsory Insurance (ELCI), and published a first stage report on 3 June 2003, and the second stage and final report on 4 December 2003. Following that initiative the DWP is at present holding a review of the requirement for Employers' Liability Compulsory Insurance for Limited Companies that employ only their owner. Also, the Office of Fair Trading conducted a fact-finding study into the UK Liability Insurance reporting in June 2003, and the Department for Constitutional Affairs (DCA), is working to ensure that legal costs are proportionate and that meritorious claims are resolved quickly and at minimum cost.

I am very much aware that the increasing costs for the provision of liability insurance have impacted on the ability of voluntary and community groups to deliver services and community events. Therefore the outcomes of the work across Government will have important implications for the Voluntary and Community Section (VCS) as practical solutions are being sought in partnership with the voluntary and community sector, the insurance industry, local authorities and government departments.