October 8, 2010

Lord Young is ashamed. The former Conservative Secretary of State for Unemployment admits he’s been troubled by the temptations of daytime TV. But now he’s got something constructive to focus on in the shape of the brief handed him by the Con-Dems to come up with a cunning plan to clean this country’s crazy compensation culture up.

Cracking down is what the Young Lord of Graffham* has in mind, if we’re to believe his rousing speech at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham this week. Cracking down, to be precise, on those wretched claims farmers and their naughty no-win no-fee advertising.

The former David Ivor Young (his parents had a sense of humour choosing those initials) claimed the compensation culture was creating a parallel “culture of fear” in which ordinary decent right-thinking people (as his old mucker Mrs T used to call them) are afraid to go about their daily business lest some random chancer sue them.

Confessing to having once been a lawyer, Young went on to make the diurnally specific claim that: “I am today ashamed of the depths some in the law have stooped to, with their aggressive no-win, no-fee advertising. We have all seen the adverts saying if you think you have a claim, come to us and, if our solicitor agrees, you will walk away with a cheque of £500 just for putting in your claim.”

Bankstone News did see the Adverts at the Roxy back 1977, and jolly good they were too; but we can’t remember them saying anything about giving us a cheque of £500. Should pay more attention really.

It’s like the lottery, Lord Young reckons – only this is a lottery you just can’t lose. “What a temptation this provides to someone who is watching afternoon television. This is not Access to Justice,” Young declares as the conference sound techs add a touch of echo, “This is incitement to litigate!”

But it’s all got to stop, apparently. Cue polite applause from all present with no direct financial interest in the farming of claims.

In their coverage of this story, Insurance Times went to the not inconsiderable trouble of eliciting a memorable quote from Ageaeas chief executive Barry Smith (formerly Barry Fortis). He “agreed that the advertising was a problem” before going on to evince a worryingly shaky grasp of the distinction between aims and questions with the frank admission that: “The overall aim, from my perspective, is how we provide the claims solutions for individual customers.”

Maybe he should ask someone, before it’s too late.

*Charming West Sussex village, popn. 500, home of the popular Two Lords Tavern with its famous old bell.


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