The Government is facing growing pressure to license insurance investigators following concerns over the actions of a minority of cowboy operators.

The UK's 10,000 investigators, including insurance specialists, operate freely without the need for police checks or safeguards.

This week, Andy Duffin, operations manager at Property & Casualty Services Investigations branch, said the lack of regulation over who can practise as an investigator, and the dirty tricks of a few cowboy operators, had dented the industry's reputation.

Mark Peachman of Sapphire Investigators agreed plans to regulate the industry are long overdue. He said: “At present any Tom, Dick or Harry released from prison can set himself up as an investigator since there are no police checks.”

He said rogue investigators could get away with acting in unethical ways as agent provocateurs, since 90% of cases are settled before they go to court.

Peachman deals with between 20 and 25 breaches of the Association of British Investigators' code of practice as disciplinary secretary for its members.

But he said only two or three cases resulted in a disciplinary hearing and last year it ordered just one expulsion.

Despite these concerns the ABI said it has no plans to step in to regulate insurance investigators.

The Government has failed to bring in licensing of investigators despite making a pledge to do so in a White Paper published in 1999.

Home Office minister Charles Clarke recently told a meeting of the British Security Industry Association that the government hopes to introduce a bill to license investigators in the Queen's Speech in the autumn.

However, a spokeswoman at the BSIA said Clarke declined to offer a firm commitment on government action.