Report (5th Day)

Part of Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill – in the House of Lords at 4:18 pm on 20th March 2012.

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Photo of Lord McNally Lord McNally Deputy Leader of the House of Lords, The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, Liberal Democrat Leader in the House of Lords 4:18 pm, 20th March 2012

My Lords, this amendment looks to deal with the serious problem of unsolicited marketing, including text messages or telephone calls about personal injury claims. I congratulate my noble friend on raising an issue which, as the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, indicated, annoys and irritates millions of our fellow citizens. I assure the House that the Government have given careful consideration to this issue since my noble friend raised it in Committee. Legislation, which is primarily enforced by the Information Commissioner's Office, already exists to protect individuals in this area. Recent action by that office has resulted in the confiscation of more than 20,000 mobile phone SIM cards that were being used to send unsolicited text messages.

Following this issue being raised in Committee, my honourable friend Jonathan Djanogly, the Justice Minister, will meet the Information Commissioner to discuss further how the problem can be addressed. Additionally, the ICO, the Ministry of Justice Claims Management Regulation Unit and other regulators continue to work closely with the telecommunications industry on this problem. Across government, an industry working group has been set up and is due to publish a joint guidance note for consumers explaining the functions of the relevant regulators along with advice on how to make a complaint.

On the particular point about advertising in hospitals, the Government do not support the marketing of such services on NHS premises. There is already an absolute ban on unauthorised marketing by claims management companies. We believe that it is more appropriate that authorised marketing should be dealt with through guidance rather than through regulation. In support of this approach, the National Health Service chief executive has recently written to NHS managers to make clear the position on marketing in hospitals and primary health centres.

I am grateful to my noble friend for raising this issue. The Government take it very seriously and are taking positive action. We believe that the answer lies in greater enforcement and robust action, along the lines of regulations and guidance that already exist. We will continue to monitor the situation and take it seriously, and I hope that in the light of that response my noble friend will agree to withdraw this amendment.