Apparently, a few days ago, in the mythical land of Oz, the AXA man (distant relation to the Tin man) and the Straw man presented a wizard idea to an invited audience. ‘There is no such thing as whiplash’, they declared, ‘even if it existed, which it doesn’t, it doesn’t hurt. If you think something might be wrong and if you hurry, you can see one of our approved doctors over in Munchkin Land who will tell you how to get back to work asap. Naturally, the Wizard will not be paying compensation under any circumstances – premiums are high enough around here, what with accidents happening every day.’
Occult futurists’, Prime Minister David Cameron (Dave) and Business Secretary Vince Cable (Vince), have together developed a secret plan ‘The Dave-Vince Code’ which is designed to dismantle health and safety legislation in the UK on the spurious grounds that less regulation will free up business to create jobs and grow the economy.
We believe that this Code is an invidious and systematic assault on the right of workers and the general public to expect the highest possible standards of protection from hazards and threats to health and the right to fair compensation if accidents occur.
We shall lay bare some of the key tenets of the Code as illustrated by the pronoucements of Dave and Vince and demonstrate the flawed thinking and (sometimes) blatant subterfuge employed to bolster party political dogma and the vested interest of the insurance companies.
Dave – 1st Dec 2009, interview in The Telegraph:
“I want to exempt entire categories of workers and organisations from the fear of litigation or prosecution because of ‘over-the-top’ health and safety rules.” “A Conservative government would amend the Compensation Act to abolish negligence claims for activities where it should be obvious there is a risk-for example, sport and adventure training.”
It is only some organisation’s fear of litigation that keeps many workers safeand we know how often THAT works.
Thus the early clues to the Code were embedded back in 2009. What the then future PM was saying loud and clear was that he would abolish negligence claims for dangerous activities.So, the activities known to be dangerous will remain dangerous,and if you participate in any of them and get injured – tough luck. Tell that to Sarah (see video testimonial: http://www.bonnarandco.com )
Dave – 10th July 2010, commenting on Lord Young’s report, ‘Common Sense – Common Safety’:
“It is is clear from Lord Young’s work that there was ‘too much intrusion’ into everyday life from health and safety bureaucracy.” “He has done a brilliant job helped by members of the public who have been sending in examples, including a schoolteacher who sent in a ten-page form that has to be filled out when you do any sort of school trip.”
The only thing that is clear is that the PM has swallowed the potion concocted by the insurance industry and tabloid press that has made him immune to rational thinking on health and safety matters and oblivious to the concerns of the public.
Dave – 5th Jan 2012 in repsonse to the Lofstedt report, ‘Reclaiming Health & safety For All’:
“Health and safety can too often sound farcial or marginal..so there is something else we are doing: waging war against the excessive health and safety culture that has become an albatross around the neck of British businesses.”
“So one of the Coalition’s New Year resolutions is this: kill off the health and safety culture for good. I want 2012 to go down in history not just as Olympics year or Diamond Jubilee year, but the year we banished a lot of this pointless time-wasting from the economy and British life once and for all.”
‘Farcical and marginal’ – ironic or what? Now it’s all out war on the nation’s health and safety infrastructure. An invidious mantra indeed for a nation’s leader…made more invidious by his hi-jacking of Professor Lofstedt’s report and crass manipulation of it’s findings – see below.
Dave – 14th Feb 2012 insurance industry summit, 10 Downing Street:
“I am determined to tackle this damaging compensation culture which has been pushing up premiums. I want to stop trivial claims, free up businesses from the stranglehold of health and safety red tape and look at ways we can bring costs down.”
“The insurance industry plays such an important part in all our lives – it is there to help when we are at our most vulnerable and at greatest need. But I want to ensure that we all do what we can to help people through this difficult time.”
The PM’s psychophantic eulogising of the insurance industry illustrated his total conversion to the ‘dark side’ of the health and safety debate and his refusal to meet with the Unions or APIL, the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, confirmed his intention to ignore the legitimate concerns of millions of ordinary people.
Note to PM and ABI – injured people and their families are voters too and they pay insurance premiums.
Vince – Federation of Small Business Conference, 23 March 2012:
“…But there is another issue that blights your working lives and stands in your way as you strive to grow your business – and that’s the burden of red tape and regulation. So I would like to say a little about that before I close.”
The one true blight of working lives in this country right now is not the ‘red tape’ restricting growth but the coalition’s determination to roll back 175 years of progress and take working conditions back to Victorian Britain.
Even the entrepreneurial Americans don’t buy the argument that health and safety regulations damage jobs ( http://news.bonnarandco.com/us-health-and-safety-laws-are-good-for-busine). So just what book of alchemist spells are Dave and Vince reading?
Vince – 10th September 2012, announcing ‘bonfire’ of health & safety regulations in parliament:
“Businesses need to focus on creating jobs and growth rather than “being tied up in unnecessary red tape. I’ve listened to those concerns and we’re determined to put common sense back into areas like health and safety, which will reduce costs and fear of burdensome inspections.”
“From April 2013, only companies operating in high risk areas such as construction or with a track record of poor performance will face regular visits from safety inspectors.
By ensuring regulation becomes a last resort, we will create an environment that frees business from the burden of red tape,helping to create the right conditions for recovery and growth in the UK economy
Despite the evidence of decades and a litany of public and private tragedies – Aberfan, Flixborough, Piper Alpha – plus countless unpublicised avoidable accidents, are we to simply believe that cutting back on health and safety regulation will make our economy stronger and our living and working environments safer?
We’d sooner believe that Dave and Vince can create gold from base metal.
FOOTNOTE TO THE SNEAKY AND THE SCURRILOUS:
How this government is blatantly ignoring its own commissioned research and is actively engaged on a process of regulatory vandalism which WILL result in loss of life, serious injury and long-term health problems for this nation’s workforce.
If anyone is unfortunate enough to get injured at work or to contract an occupational illness they can look forward to a very difficult AND GROSSLY ONE-SIDED fight for justice and fair compensation.
THIS IS AN OUTRAGE AND A SCANDAL, PERPRETATED BY A GOVERNMENT THAT HAS TOTALLY BOUGHT INTO THE DECEITFUL AND VINDICTIVE APPROACH OF THE INSURANCE INDUSTRY IN ITS EFFORTS TO CUT ITS COSTS AND BOOST ITS PROFITS.
IS IT REALLY TOO MUCH TO EXPECT BETTER FROM A GOVERNMENT?
HERE’S THE TRUTH …
In October 2012 the government announced an amendment to the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill. The new Business minister, Matthew Hancock, told MPs this was based on Professor Löfstedt’s recommendations and would remove the concept of “strict liability” – whereby companies are liable for injuries regardless of negligence if certain health and safety rules are breached.
“The fear of being sued drives businesses to exceed what is required by the criminal law, diverting them from focusing on sensible preventive health and safety management and resulting in unnecessary costs and burdens,” he said.
However, the Löfstedt review did not call for the blanket removal of strict liability. Instead it called for a review of where strict liability was necessary. “These proposals were sneaked into the Bill at the last possible moment after the legislation had been through committee.”
What Professor Ragnar Lofstedt really thinks about the removal of strict liability.
‘Reclaiming health & safety for all: a review of progress one year on.’ January 2013
Page 11, paragraph 30:
An amendment to the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill 2012-13 is being used by the Government to deliver the recommendation on strict liability. The amendment has proved to be highly controversial and has provoked much debate, including amongst the members of my Advisory Panel.
I have also been lobbied by many interested stakeholders including personal injury law firms and trades unions. My understanding is that the proposed amendment to the Health and Safety at Work Act reverses the current position on civil liability. This means that, unless exceptions apply, claims for compensation in relation to breaches of health and safety legislation will need to prove that the employer has been negligent.
The approach being taken is more far-reaching than I anticipated in my recommendation and, if this amendment becomes law I hope that the Government will carefully monitor the impact to ensure that there are no unforeseen consequences.
What Professor Lofstedt really said about the EU and health & safety legislation in his original report.
Page 4, paragraph 9
Many of the requirements that originate from the EU would probably exist anyway, and many are contributing to improved health and safety outcomes. There is evidence, however, that a minority impose unnecessary costs on business without obvious benefits.
What Professor Lofstedt really said about health and safety regulations in his original report:
Page 7, para graph 2:
The general sweep of requirements set out in health and safety regulation are broadly fit for purpose.
..and in repsonse to government spin:
“I have neither seen nor heard any evidence to suggest that there is a case for radically altering or stripping back current health and safety regulation.” In general the regulations are “fit for purpose.”
What Professor Lofstedt really said about Health & Safety Executive inspections in his original report:
Page 79, paragraph 2.
The evidence suggests that businesses can benefit from and value inspections, with SMEs welcoming the constructive, reasonable advice and guidance that it can provide to help them improve health and safety in the workplace 200. Nearly nine out of ten employers who have had contact with HSE see it as a ‘helpful’ organisation.
What Lord Young really said about the ‘compensation culture in ‘Common Sense – Common Safety.’
Britain’s ‘compensation culture’ is fuelled by media stories about individuals receiving large compensation payouts for personal injury claims and by constant adverts in the media offering people non-refundable inducements and the promise of a handsome settlement if they claim.
It places an unnecessary strain on businesses of all sizes, who fear litigation and are subjected to increasingly expensive insurance premiums.
The problem of the compensation culture prevalent in society today is, however, one of perception rather than reality.
Written by Andy Thorogood, Business Development Manager, Bonnar Accident Law.
Photo: The Telegraph
Is it now any port in a storm for under-pressure insurer Admiral?
Saturday’s Telegraph reported that Admiral, the FTSE 100 motor insurer, is considering branching into the legal sector as it “faces up to the loss of the lucrative referral fees that generate millions of pounds in profits each year.”
According to industry insiders, Admiral must move quickly to replace the loss of income from the fees paid to insurers for information of potential personal injury claimants.
The Cardiff-based group is exploring plans either to set up its own personal injury law firm where it could potentially direct customers with claims or become a majority backer in one, following the implementation of the Legal Services Act in October this year., when the implementation of “Tesco law” widened the provision of legal services to new investors including retailers, banks, insurers and outsourcing companies – The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse as far as independent legal advice in the UK is concerned.
However, as the story of Britain’s over-hyped, and mythical so-called compensation culture rumbles on, insurance companies are becoming increasingly uncomfortable when quizzed about their involvement in various referral fee schemes…and Admiral seems to be no different. We wonder why.
Despite periodic denials that it sells client information, according to official Admiral sources, about 5.6% of its overall profits come from these fees. So who are we to believe when Admiral contradicts its own statements?
Speaking after the referral fee ban was announced in September, the company said: “Admiral does not sell customer data; if one of our policyholders has a non-fault accident, suffers a bodily injury and they require assistance, we will put them in touch with a personal injury lawyer.” So what about the income from referral fees then?
Admiral would not be the first insurer to push into the legal industry. Axa owns Knight Legal Services, a defendant law firm. It has always denied it refers its customers to Knight Legal Services and says it has no plans to start doing so…but what will happen if insuers own law firms?
How can injured people be confident that their accident compensation claims will be handled fairly and with their best interests at heart? It might be tricky to find independent legal advice when the representatives of those causing injury are also investors in law firms that pursue claimants’ rights, or even worse perhaps, set up theit own personal injury law firms…
It would appear that Admiral’s plans are at an early stage and are one of several being considered. However, the news is likely to raise eyebrows across the City with Admiral’s shares having fallen heavily in recent months. A case of who’s next?
So me hearties, let’s observe this “rum do” as they set sail on a steady course for berating personal injury lawyers, stigmatising their clients, perpetuating the myth of a compensation culture and,
oh yes, …becoming personal injury lawyers themselves??
Can all this be about profit and an attempt to make a flawed business model work? Well, it’s not quite “Neverland”, but you can see it on the horizon, allegedly…
At a time when many lawyers don’t even want to be lawyers, we ask the question “what is driving the demand for Alternative Business Structures?”
Today, legal expenses insurer DAS has taken the next step in its preparations to become an alternative business structure (ABS) by acquiring online legal services company Everything Legal.
Do they really want to be lawyers or do they want to target the soft underbelly of the legal services market – ‘the low-hanging fruit’ as they see it – and leave the tricky, problematic and challenging lawyering stuff to local firms who employ qualified solicitors?
We have seen Amanda Holden wax lyrical on Good Morning recently as she ‘helpfully’ and uninvitedly highlighted the evils of High Street law firms whilst extolling the as yet unproven virtues of her new employers.
These would be the very same employers who are relying on said High Street firms signing up for their new franchise in order to deliver legal services in towns and cities the length and breadth of the UK.
Will the public get a better service because law firms have a shiny new sign above the door?
Are the public THAT gullible?
There are quite a few legal brands jostling for position in a market they claim is ripe for re-structuring. They claim that the public have been ripped-off for years by unscrupulous, money-grabbing shysters who fleece their clients and pocket fat fees for old rope.
However, the truly ‘ironical bit’ is that they actually think that their brand new brand will instantly engender client loyalty and referrals as they seek to deal the ‘coup de grace’ to local solicitors…by positioning themselves as trusted legal advisors.
The mixed message that these brands must sell is this:
“Existing lawyers bad – new lawyers good.”
As for the big beasts in the jungle, aka the ‘supermarket sweepers’, whose legal services business model is predicated on hoovering up everything that they think they can plaster their brand across – AND DELIVER AS CHEAPLY AS POSSIBLE…
Sorry, we know that this might sound a bit petty and small-minded and self-serving or even insular and parochial, but actually we don’t wish any of them well in their endeavours.
Easy one this…
It’s because we and firms like us the length and breadth of Britain are the best legal services option for the British public.
Experience, expertise and empathy with a client’s case go a long way to reassuring people that solicitors have their best interests at heart.
When all is said and done, in the brave new world of ABS, is the public going to be any the wiser about how to choose a lawyer?
On 24th November, the legal sector’s consumer watchdog warned that voluntary quality
marks should not be made mandatory to access part of the market as this could ‘usurp’ the role of regulators.
Elisabeth Davies, chair of the Legal Services Consumer Panel, said:
‘Consumers tell us that specialist expertise is important to them when choosing lawyers.However, in their current form, some voluntary membership scheme claims that their members are better than the market average just can’t be relied upon by consumers.’
The watchword for the public here is ask for a personal referral from family and friends and / or trust the tried and tested specialist legal regulators.
Despite the blurb, do not rely on a ‘flag of convenience.’