November 1, 2011

So-called shadow justice spokesman (who does he think he is, Batman?) Andy “Random” Slaughter this week  described the Tory party as “nothing more than the parliamentary wing of the insurance lobby.” Any right-minded person, however, would be bound to admit that the Tory party is much much more than simply the parliamentary wing of the insurance lobby.

In a House of Commons speech lambasting the coalition government’s Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill (duly passed this week), Slaughter suggested improbably that: “There was a time when the Conservative party worried about access to justice,” but that now this formerly conscientious political party had become simply a wing. A wing inside a pocket, what’s more. Inside the pocket of the insurance industry, to be precise.

Reporting Slaughter’s unsavoury outburst, Insurance Times this week explained that what he was getting at was that following the government’s proposed changes “losing claimants would gain” at the expense of winning claimants who would lose. “Winning claimants would lose,” Slaughter is reported to have said, in case you didn’t catch that the first time.

He had also prepared some numerical calculations to prove his apparently paradoxical point. “Victims will have to pay the costs of their insurance and their lawyer’s success fees from their damages,” he claimed, with the latter potentially amounting to 25% of damages, “and the insurance premium will take up even more of those damages, perhaps wiping them out altogether. To make up for those losses, the Government plans a 10% increase in damages for pain, suffering and loss of amenity. Simple maths should be sufficient to show that that will not make up for all losses.”

But Justice Minister Jonny Djanogly was unmoved by this supposed mathematical proof, contemptuously accusing Mr Slaughter’s Labour party of having changed its mind about something. “The sands appear to have shifted,” he observed laconically to general hilarity on the government benches.

Meanwhile insurers’ body the ABI this week urged the Government to press on with implementing its “much needed reforms to our civil litigation system which must also include reducing excessive legal costs.”

Referral fees must also go the ABI spokesdude insisted. “Referral fees are a symptom of our dysfunctional compensation system costs where genuine claimants too often get the compensation they deserve despite the system,” he lamented, going on to suggest that to defend referral fees would be impossible because it would involve defending the indefensible.

The Claims Standards Council, however, would appear not to understand the meaning of the word impossible and has signaled its intention to commence judicial review proceedings if the proposed referral fees ban goes ahead.

Meanwhile it’s off to the so-called House of Lords next for the Legal Aid Silencing and Punishment of Ordinary People Bill.

This one will run and run.


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