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Committee (7th Day)

Part of Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill – in the House of Lords at 5:30 pm on 1st February 2012.

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Photo of Lord Thomas of Gresford Lord Thomas of Gresford Liberal Democrat 5:30 pm, 1st February 2012

My Lords, I am most grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken. I accept that the opposing view, put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Davies, was certainly an arguable one. I have not suggested that third-party funding should be banned but that it should be subject to statutory regulation, as opposed to the voluntary code.

I could not help reflecting on my rugby days and the occasional game in which the leader of the forwards, an extremely formidable person, would observe the scrum-half dropping the ball and say to us in the pack, "Boys, they've had their chance. We're not going to give it to them again". Consequently, everything changed and we adopted a different tactic.

Here, a voluntary code has been brought in. They have had their chance. In formulating the voluntary code, they did not include what Lord Justice Jackson rightly set out as the essential needs of such a code. They decided not to do that. When approached by the industry to say that they should limit themselves to commercial litigation, they decided not to do that. A two-page code has been produced of nine clauses which gives the broadest possibilities to the funders for the way in which they operate. I am not satisfied with that. I am most grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord, Lord Mackay, and the noble Lord, Lord Boswell, for their support. There is a perception of a genuine problem arising.

I look forward to further discussion with my noble friend and, perhaps, the Lord Chancellor, and we will see whether we can take forward this matter for Report but, for the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 163 withdrawn.

Amendment 164

Moved by Lord Thomas of Gresford

164: After Clause 53, insert the following new Clause-

"Third party's insurance company

(1) A third party's insurance company may not solicit a claimant who has a cause of action for personal injuries against its policy holder, to settle that cause of action where to the knowledge of the insurance company, the claimant is legally represented either under legal aid or a conditional fee agreement.

(2) A third party's insurance company may not make an offer to settle in circumstances not prohibited by subsection (1), unless-

(a) it has obtained adequate medical evidence of the personal injury and has disclosed it to the claimant; and

(b) the claimant is advised when the offer is made of his right to obtain legal advice; and

(c) the offer is in full and final settlement of the cause of action.

(3) Any settlement made in breach of subsections (1) and (2) shall be void."