Insurance Times pulled off another outrageous coup this week with an exclusive peak into the very soul of rabble-rousing man of the moment Jack Straw.

Why didn’t he do anything about referral fees when he was in government, IT enquired. I was aware of referral fees, Straw admits. Which is why he boldly endorsed the Jackson Review. But he hadn’t fully latched on to their “seamier side” as IT puts it, because “day-to-day responsibility for civil litigation issues were handled [sic] by ministerial underlings,” the paper says.

“I don’t remember any questions about it in parliament,” Straw said. “Had this been brought to my attention, I would have gripped it as a minister.” As anyone who has ever been gripped in a ministerial way will readily confirm, that would probably have sorted RFs out PDQ.

Responding to IT’s suggestion that new labour of old might have gone easy on RFs because they are a nice little earner for trade unions, Straw averred nonsensically that “Regardless of whether they are trade unions or claims management companies, they have the same responsibilities. I was absolutely clear about that.”

Straw goes on to slam the ABI for “not volunteering that their members were involved in the trading of people’s data” and sailing close to the wind. It is time for all insurers to just say no to referral fees, he claims. Any ‘backsliders’ (i.e. everyone other than AXA), he says should be “shamed into” turning down RFs. “They know the game has changed,” he slurs menacingly.

Insurers are decent and serious people, Straw says. That’s one way of putting it certainly. But he says they have been “sucked into a disreputable system and they need to get out quickly.”

Inaction is not an option the “puppyish” Straw told Times. “Every law-abiding person believes that the law needs to be changed,” he declared starkly. Presumably because they can’t abide it as it is.

Amazing to think that if it hadn’t been for all this News of the World business, people would still be talking about referral fees to this very day.


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