The government is asking the solicitors' regulator to accelerate its investigation into the collapsed firm SSB Law amid new concerns about how clients were chosen and dealt with.

MPs yesterday outlined the misery and anger of constituents who signed up for cavity wall claims with the Sheffield firm and now live with the threat of costs orders being enforced against them.

At least 1,400 people are thought to have signed up for no win no fee arrangements with SSB, which has subsequently gone into administration, and agreed to pursue claims over allegedly faulty insulation.

Introducing a debate in Westminster Hall, Halifax MP Holly Lynch said the matter was a ‘scandal upon a scandal’ and recounted several accounts of clients terrified of losing their home. Lynch welcomed the SRA’s pledge to investigate SSB but said the expected autumn timetable for publishing a report left a ‘sword of Damocles’ hanging over people with enforcement notices.

She said the review should include probes into how the law firm got its intelligence so it knew which homeowners to approach about a potential claim. Once these claims were farmed, she suggested, unqualified assessors were despatched to encourage people to pursue a claim, in most cases inflating any potential damage.

Lynch said clients were ‘preyed on by unscrupulous assessors and lawyers, falling through the cracks of regulation and mismanagement’.

Bradford East MP Imran Hussain reiterated his previous call for the government to intervene to cover clients’ losses and relieve the stress they are living under.

He said legal firms were going around door to door and promising no win, no fee, which was the only option for people who had very limited means but believed they needed to fix faulty insulation.

Dr Alan Whitehead, MP for Southampton Test, said it was a scandal that a ‘parasitic law firm decided to make a good living by zealously pursuing people it thought might conceivably have a claim for failed cavity wall insulation, and tried to push those people down a path to restitution in a wholly cynical and unacceptable manner’. 

Dr Alan Whitehead

Dr Alan Whitehead, MP for Southampton Test


He described the SSB model as being to tell installers’ insurers they were on notice for £60,000 in damages, then dropping the compensation claim to £10,000 just before the case went to court. They did this to encourage insurers to pay out and so they could still claim the £70,000 costs that had been incurred at this point. ‘No one should be allowed to operate that kind of arrangement in this country, in this age,’ added Whitehead. ‘Solicitors’ companies are supposed to be protecting the interests of their clients and not just trying to make a living parasiting on the distress of homeowners dealing with cavity wall insulation problems.

‘The Solicitors Regulation Authority has a substantial job to do in not just investigating this particular company, but hopefully broadening this out to investigate how solicitors are able to get away with this kind of arrangement.’

Responding to the debate, energy minister Amanda Solloway MP said the Ministry of Justice will continue to closely engage with the SRA and Legal Services Board to understand the action being taken and the timeframes for investigation. She said that the government will ask the SRA to include in its investigation how SSB was able to target potential clients.

Solloway also stated that the MoJ would be asked to encourage the SRA to accelerate the investigation to have these matters addressed swiftly.