It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Surely words that rang true for the insurance industry this week, when the government announced that it would not perform a U-turn on pleural plaques just hours before the devastating effect claims farmers have had on the industry became apparent

The good news first. It is with pleasure and some surprise that we report how ministers have seen sense and made it clear they have no plans to make pleural plaques compensatable. In the face of intense pressure from claims farmers – of which more later – and certain left-wing lobbyists, ministers have held firm and made the only sensible decision. Now we must just hope that this decision registers in Scotland.

Which leaves us with the bad news. RBSI saw its profits plummet by 90% in 2009, thanks to the staggering increase in bodily injury claims. Now the conspiracy theorists may argue that the business is just cleaning up its books in advance of a potential flotation, but its experience is reflected across the board. Admiral, for example, chalked up a £300m loss to bodily injury, and even RSA, which has been acting on this for some time, dropped £30m.

The apparently never-ending increase in these claims is a direct result of claims farmers encouraging people to claim and inflating their claims when they do. For too long, the industry has been handing cash over to these highway robbers with one hand while taking it with the other, in the form of referral fees. Well, enough is enough. If this vicious circle is ever going to stop, insurers must make a stand: stop taking referral fees, stop working with claims farmers and start cleaning up the industry once and for all.

Question time

With a general election just weeks away and the country ready to go to the polls, this week we launch the Insurance Times Hustings event. To be held at Church House in the heart of Westminster on 29 March, we have lined up the government’s chief secretary to the Treasury Liam Byrne, Conservative MP Mark Hoban and Lib Dem MP Jeremy Browne to enter into a live debate as we ask: which political party is best for the UK general insurance industry? Places at the event are strictly limited but we are keen that all your voices are heard, so to submit a question for the event or to express a view, please email: And to register for an opportunity to attend, please contact Katherine Ball on 020 7618 3492 or email IT