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FOIL urges legal aid bill MPs not to waver on Jackson

31 August 2011

The Forum of Insurance Lawyers (FOIL) has urged MPs on the legal aid bill committee not to water down proposals which could dramatically curtail the use of conditional fees.

The bill as currently drafted would end the recoverability of CFA success fees. Insurance premiums would remain recoverable only in medical negligence cases.

Since the bill was published, justice secretary Ken Clarke announced that the government would also consider a ban on referral fees (see, 29 June 2011).

Tim Oliver, president of FOIL, said: “Lord Justice Jackson viewed his recommendations as an interlocking package of reforms. That’s a view we endorse.

“It is interesting to note that, in 1996, when Lord Woolf was gathering evidence for his reforms, claimant law firms asserted that CFAs with non-recoverable success fees and ATE premiums worked well, with absolutely no indication that the regime prevented them from taking on cases.

“FOIL believes the proposed changes will create a more balanced civil justice system in which individuals, companies and organisations will be able to enforce their rights and obtain full redress from the civil justice process but at significantly reduced cost, benefiting society in general and creating an environment in which access to justice is a reality for all parties involved in litigation.”

Oliver added that FOIL believed that referral fees should be banned.

Karl Tonks, vice president of APIL, said that even with the ten per cent increase in general damages recommended by Jackson LJ, the very seriously injured could lose a lot of money.

“We have pointed out the damaging effects of the proposals on the rights of injured people and hope that the government will take this on board,” he said.

“We have serious concerns about the impact on access to justice of abolishing legal aid and creating a new structure for conditional fees.”

Tonks said the issue of referral fees was complicated and APIL’s main concern was transparency.

He added that it was an “open question” how Jackson’s ten per cent rise in damages could be achieved, given that it was governed by case law.

APIL is represented on the Civil Justice Council’s Jackson committee, which will examine the issue of qualified one-way shifting.

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Legal Aid Costs The Bar