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Committee (7th Day)

Part of Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill – in the House of Lords at 6:00 pm on 1st February 2012.

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Photo of Lord Thomas of Gresford Lord Thomas of Gresford Liberal Democrat 6:00 pm, 1st February 2012

I am disappointed with that response. I do think it adequately addresses reality as it exists today in the approaches by insurers to accident victims.

In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Neill of Bladen, subsection (1) of my amendment prohibits the third party's insurance company soliciting a claimant,

"where to the knowledge of the insurance company, the claimant is legally represented".

Subsection (2) refers to a situation where that is not the case: the claimant is not legally represented or the insurance company does not know that he is legally represented. It sets out three terms: that the offer to settle can be made only when the insurance company,

"has obtained adequate medical evidence ... and has disclosed it to the claimant; and ... the claimant is advised when the offer is made of his right to obtain legal advice; and ... the offer is in full and final settlement of the cause of action".

The sanction that I have quite deliberately put into this amendment is not that it is an offence or anything of that sort but that a settlement made in breach of those subsections shall be void, which means, in effect, that if a person has been bought off for a small sum, he can reopen the matter without any problems. He can go to a solicitor, get proper advice, get a proper medical report and come back. To my mind, that appears to be the right way forward.