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Clinical Negligence specialist James Bell discusses Government links with the insurance industry

By Principal Lawyer, Clinical Negligence

The news recently has been dominated by the stories of Jeremy Hunt's close links with News International and allegations that the Government were smoothing the way for the BSKYB takeover deal. A junior minister was forced to resign recently.
Likewise, in the case of legal reforms being driven through by the Coalition Government,  it has emerged that Insurance Lobby were given extensive access to civil servants drafting the flagship legal aid bill that would benefit private industry to the tune of hundreds of millions of pounds.
Robert Wright, the head of civil litigation funding and costs at the Ministry of Justice and the official in charge of the controversial reforms, and his team gave the Association of British Insurers, the industry lobbying body, regular information on their plans. Documents, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, reveal:
• Policy officials were pressing Kenneth Clarke, the justice secretary, to attend insurance industry events with emails telling the ABI that they were "working on" getting ministers to attend events before the Tory party conference last year.

• On 8 September 2011, Wright sent the ABI a press release outlining the proposed ban on referral fees – payments for finding victims of road accidents who could sue for compensation, which the industry had long advocated – the day before it became public.
• Twenty minutes later, the ABI returned the favour, sending the MoJ its press release, adding it had briefed the BBC's Today programme and they would use the information "as a basis" for interviewing the minister.
Financial firms with insurance interests have given the Conservative Party £5.4m in the last decade, £4.9m of that since David Cameron became leader in December 2005.
Desmond Hudson, the Law Society's chief executive, said: "This looks like being legislation for the insurance industry, by the insurance industry."


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