Moves in the House of Lords to amend the health and welfare bills have been getting the lion’s share of recent coverage, but this week sees a quartet of Liberal Democrat peers leading the charge on a different topic – the Legal Aid Bill.
Lib Dem Lords Thomas, Carlile, Clement Jones and Phillips have a set of amendments down for debate tomorrow to put right what Ken Clarke hasn’t got right in his zeal to end the so-called ‘compensation culture’. The amendments look to tighten up and improve the plans to ban so-called ‘referral fees’ in personal injury cases. It’s these fees which are behind ambulance-chasing lawyers encouraging people to put in spurious claims.
As picked up by Kiran Stacey in the Financial Times, the Liberal Democrat peers have tabled amendments to ban law firms from (among other things) sending those annoying unsolicited spam texts and from advertising in hospitals. They also seek to end the reprehensible practice of insurers forcing accident victims to settle for low-level damages without letting them speak to a lawyer, and to protect legitimate routes to justice for genuine accident victims.
There’s a risk the amendments will get squeezed out due to lack of time unless the Lib Dem peers insist on pushing the issue. They should do. It’s an important issue in its own right, the changes will help ensure the legal system is there to help those in need rather than clogged up by profiteers pursuing dodgy claims – and it’s a popular cause with the public to boot.
Here’s hoping tomorrow brings goods news from the Liberal Democrat team in the Lords…
Full disclosure: One of the clients of the company that I work for in my day job, National Accident Helpline, has an interest in these issues.