Lord Young says he is 'ashamed' of some solicitors' practices

Ministers may legislate to crack down on advertising by ‘no win no fee’ lawyers and claims management companies unless they clean up their act, the government’s health and safety tsar has warned.

Lord Young of Graffham’s newly published report, Common Sense, Common Safety, commissioned by prime minister David Cameron, looks into curbing the so-called compensation culture. Among a wide-ranging set of recommendations, the former secretary of state for trade and industry said the government should restrict the activities of claims referral agencies and personal injury lawyers and control the volume and type of advertising by such companies.

Speaking at the report’s launch at 10 Downing Street, Lord Young said that as a former lawyer he was “ashamed” of some solicitors’ practices, such as advertising offers of cash payments to people if they make claims.

He said he had written to the Advertising Standards Authority and the Solicitors Regulation Authority to seek a review on whether all advertising by claims management companies and personal injury lawyers complied with the advertising standards code.

But he told the briefing that ministers were prepared to go further and legislate if the two authorities did not tackle the issue. “If we can’t get it done this way then we will have to contemplate legislation,” he said.

He added, however, that he was unwilling to see a total ban on such advertising. “If you don’t advertise, some genuine claimants won’t know where to go,” he said.

Lord Young’s report also recommends a number of other changes:

• rolling out the Ministry of Justice’s simplified and fixed cost scheme for road traffic claims below £10,000 to all personal injury claims;

• exploring an increase in the MoJ scheme’s upper limit for road traffic accident victims to £25,000; and

• implementing the Jackson Review of civil litigation costs.

Responding to Lord Young’s report, head of large and complex loss at Groupama Insurances, Karl Parr, welcomed the report’s recommendations on extending the MoJ personal injury scheme. But he expressed concern at the peer’s decision to stop short of an outright ban on referral agencies.

He said: “While outlining the worrying culture established by referral fees and supporting Jackson’s proposals, Lord Young has not specifically pushed for their abolition but has focused on restricting the operations of referral agencies.”