There is a widely held view that bad things are maybe not quite so bad if someone on your side is doing them. It is this tacit assumption that underlies Jack Bauer’s unofficial but uncontroversial license to threaten and torture.

By the same token, certain parliamentarians had sought to persuade their colleagues that forthcoming legislation banning the payment and acceptance referral fees (which, as all parties now belatedly recognise, are of course utterly shameful and unacceptable) should exempt not-for-profit organisations.

MPs were quick to spot the amendment’s ulterior motive however – i.e. a shameless attempt by Labour to set up a nice little earner for their principal donors the unions – and the measure was rejected by a majority of 257 to 173.

Jack Straw’s confident expectations of making trafficking in referral fees a criminal offence also seem to be receding, however, with the opposition failing in its bid to include RF criminalisation in the Legal Aid, Sentencing & Punishment of Offenders Bill.

Prevailing consensus: referral fees naughty, but not criminal.

“I’ll ask you one last time: have you or someone you know recently been involved in an accident?”


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