Vagaries are undermining the Bill's authority, says Elliot Lane
' Baroness Ashton, the compensation minister, took the easy option recently over the wording of clause one of the Compensation Bill. She neatly side-stepped the issue surrounding the wording of "desirable activities" by laying the responsibility back with, guess who, the lawyers.
To quote her actual words to MPs on the Constitutional Affairs Committee, she said: "We chose the words carefully because we wanted to use an expression that's got a lot of meaning but not seek to define it, because the courts should define it.
"But I'm not particularly wedded to that form of words if someone else can come along with a better one."
Ever the politician. So has anyone out there got a better suggestion? The problem with these parliamentary vagaries is that it undermines the authority of this Bill yet again. As I have said before it is flimsy legislation and no-one seems to want to put their name against a decision. Inertia leaves a vacuum and the Lord Chancellor, who has put his name to this Bill, will want a quick conclusion to the debate. Inevitably this will lead to the Lord Chancellor's office becoming the regulator.
Why? Because the FSA doesn't want to know, the Law Society can't be trusted to action it and, sadly, the Claims Standard Council (CSC) will be left in the cold.
Though the CSC does good work, the spectre of GISC will ever haunt the self-regulation debate. Can such disparate groups really be trusted to find a consensus?
The answer is no, and the likelihood that one group will whinge to the Office of Fair Trading about anti-competitive practices is on the cards. The ABI's proposals, if adopted, could alleviate the burden on insurers' costs but strict regulation on claimant solicitors will bring hidden costs in the long-term. IT