Did Jack Straw’s late intervention spell the end for personal injury referral fees?
That the government changed its view last week is a good thing. Even many lawyers who gained instructions via such arrangements remained deeply discomfited by their existence.
So why was the abolition of referral fees omitted from previous government plans?
It would not be overly cynical to suggest that, at one level, the government needed this visible impression of the ‘compensation culture’ being ‘out of control’ to continue, precisely because other evidence pointing to its existence was, and is, thin.
With referral fees extant, people continued to receive unsolicited calls and text messages about compensation they were ‘owed’, and advertising ran, creating the impression that modern Britain is a society on the take.
The intervention of the former justice secretary may have called time on this piece of government doublethink. For most it was a noisy surprise, well-timed and effective, and may have been an agent of this policy change.
But why was Straw unable to move against referral fees when in office?
For those concerned about safeguarding access to justice, this failure must detract from anything Straw has achieved here. Earlier action in this area would have deprived the current government of the ammunition it has used against the interests of genuine claimants.