October 13, 2011

Why do people normally push doors? Presumably to open them, Bankstone News naively supposes. But when a delegation of “fat cat insurers” went to meet Jonathan Djanogly back in Djanuary to do a bit of door pushing over legal aid reforms that could save them hundreds of millions of pounds, civil servants reportedly warned them not to take too much of a run-up for their shoulder charge – because the door in question was already open.

It might not have looked open. Other interested parties may have felt they had some chance of keeping it closed. But, no, this particular door, in actual point of fact, required no further opening at all.

Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act appear to suggest that all Jonny Djanolgy really needed from insurers, was a bit of help framing the arguments needed to fob off opposition to the routing of a coach-and-horses superhighway laterally transecting the legal aid system. For example: what if people started saying it would add costs for the NHS and other public services? What if there was carping about people not being able to afford access to justice or whatever they are calling it?

“The government want this to happen,” insurers were apparently told, ”and intend to drive it through.”

Shadow justice minister Andy Slaughter, who passed the documents to leaky lefty rag the Guardian, claimed that people “will be concerned that the consultation process was skewed to the interests of the insurance lobby.”

“Campaigners,” he told the paper, “warned that the government’s policies would favour wrongdoers and their insurers, and punish victims, but their voices were ignored. This raises further questions about the conflicts of interest that seem to bedevil this minister.”

Recent public attention focused on his various connections with and interests in the insurance industry has been a bit of nuisance for JD, who has now placed his insurance holdings in a “blind trust”, after the Guardian revealed he could personally profit from his proposed changes to the legal aid system. He has also now sold his children’s stake in an accident compensation business run by his brother in law.

Unhappy at being associated with all this skullduggery, no doubt, an ABI spokesman claimed that “We have done nothing that has been secretive.” What, nothing?

Meanwhile arguments continue to rage as to what exactly a compensation culture is and whether we have got one in the UK.  The Law Society claimed this week that “no credible evidence” exists for the existence of any such thing in the UK, and that it is all just a smokescreen behind which the so-called fat cats intend to carry on making yet more money.

The Government, a Law Society spokesentity said, should give up its plans to do away with no-win no-fee arrangements as this would not bring down insurance premiums but would simply “further increase the profits of insurance companies to the detriment of consumers.”

Andrew Dismal’s increasingly militant “help the helpless help themselves” action group AJAG, meanwhile, has yet again dragged the debate into the gutter with a petulant and vindictive exposé of the allegedly hypocritically “extent to which the insurance industry inflates claims for the credit hire of replacement vehicles after road accidents.”

We would try your patience with further details of this unedifying muck-raking, but there’s a perfectly good article about it in Post Mag here and Bankstone News has a public house to get to. Can’t read it because you’re not a subscriber? Apply for a free trial, that’s what Bankstone News always does.



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