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Mr. David Amess (Southend, West) (Con): I wish to make several points about justice before the House adjourns for the Christmas recess. Justice is a concept with which I find it increasingly difficult to grapple. The Prime Minister must have found it difficult to choose whether to be in Iraq or this country on the day when a report was issued on the conduct of his colleague, the former Home Secretary. Much of today's talk of justice has much to do with the former Home Secretary. I am sure that hon. Members will note that there have been several ministerial resignations since 1997. When Ministers resign, they usually say that they have done nothing wrong, so Ministers who resign obviously experience a great sense of injusticeI feel for them.
When the war in Iraq was first mooted, the then leader of my party held meetings with the Prime Minister at which he was given access to intelligence. I have never pretended to be a defence expert, so when the then leader told us that we should vote for the war, I accepted completely what he said. Some of my colleagues might say that I was naive, but I accepted that the weapons of mass destruction were directed towards us and other countries, and the point about the 45 minutes in the dossier. What has happened since fills me with horror. We now know that what the Prime Minister told us simply was not the case. In the 20-odd years that I have been an MP, when a Ministernot least, the Prime Ministergives information to the House that is not accurate or as it should be, he or she resigns. That just has not happened, and the House and the country accept it. Absolutely extraordinary.
I therefore joined others on Tuesday 23 November in tabling a motion of impeachment against the Prime Ministerthe first impeachment since the battle of Trafalgar. The following day, we were joined by the novelist Frederick Forsyth, author Iain Banks and representatives from Military Families Against the War to promote the need for impeachment. I still firmly believe that there is no alternative. The Prime Minister has destroyed the fundamental principle of parliamentary democracy by not resigning. I and many other colleagues are determined to preserve constitutional government in the United Kingdom. We intend to stand firm, because the rules of constitutional conduct have been brushed aside. The Cabinet table has been replaced with the sofa, Cabinet minutes with e-mail, and the facts with belief. I will not be a party to what is happening now, whereby the general public feel, time after time, that Members of Parliament are letting them down.
I also seek justice for my constituent Maajid Nawaz. This time last year I visited Maajid in prison in Cairo. He has been sentenced to five years, accused of belonging to the Islamic Liberation movement, which is not a proscribed organisation. I recently spoke with his mother, Abi Nawaz, who is desperate to have Maajid, Ian Nisbet and Reza Pankhurst transferred from prison in Egypt to prison in the UK. I recently wrote to Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean, requesting her to
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raise the matter with the Egyptian authorities. I am delighted that she is doing so. I very much want the families of the three men to meet her. It would be an excellent opportunity for the Government to keep them up to date on what the authorities are doing on their behalf. I ask the Minister to thank the noble Baroness for what she is doing.
I ask for justice for the family of Jo Martinson, a 19-year-old woman killed in a car crash on 14 November 2001. The gentleman driving the car responsible for the accident had one eye, no licence, no MOT certificate, no insurance and defective brakes. After three years of campaigning, I still have not received justice for her family.
"There is no indication of a continued investigation into the status of the seized excise licence or any request for advice by the Crown Prosecution Service in respect of a charge of fraudulent use of an excise or indeed any associated offence. I understand that no specific advice was sought from the Crown Prosecution Service by Essex Police regarding this allegation. As you are aware, it is the responsibility of the police to investigate allegations of criminal offences. In the normal course of events, the police investigate such offences without reference to the Crown Prosecution Service."
"in the fatal road incident. The senior crown prosecutor who advised the police concentrated on those aspects of the case, but did indicate in his advice that other Road Traffic Act offences were made out."
"Unfortunately, I am not able to say why the police did not commence proceedings in respect of a possible fraudulent use of a vehicle excise licence. I can only speculate that it may have been overlooked as investigators and prosecutors concentrated on the more serious allegations."
I seek justice for pedestrians and people who ride on buses. Many of us have observed bendy buses in London. I tried to table a question about them, and I was told that the matter is the responsibility not of a Minister but of the Greater London authority. I have witnessed two bad accidents involving bendy buses. They are 18 m long and I cannot believe that anyone in their senses could authorise their use. Invariably there are very few people on them and they will have disastrous effects for pedestrians. Our roads simply are not made for these 18 m buses.
I seek justice for those people seeking money from the national lottery. Southend, West is in the bottom three of the 659 constituencies in benefiting from funding, but we are not the third wealthiest constituency in the country.
I seek justice, finally, for the unborn child. I feel increasingly that life is very cheap these days. I am pleased that the Government intend to make allowances for new clause 1, which has all-party support, to the Mental Capacity Bill. However, I could hardly believe
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Baroness Warnock's statements. She thinks that assisted suicide should be legal; that the very frail should, like elephants, slink away to die quietly; that doctors, when asked to assist in such cases, should refer to their conscience; and that parents who want to keep premature babies with unviable lives on life support machines should pay for that.
My wife and I thank constituents, friends and colleagues for their support at a difficult time for our family. I wish everyone a very happy Christmas, and good health, peace and prosperity in the new year.
Mr. Kevan Jones (North Durham) (Lab): I am pleased to have the opportunity to return to an issue that I raised in last year's Christmas Adjournment debatethe scandalous way in which certain solicitors and claim farmers are raiding miners' compensation in my constituency and other mining constituencies throughout the country.
In last year's debate I raised the case of Mark Gilbert Morse, a Newcastle-based law firm that was not only charging costs to clients but reclaiming the cost of cases from the Department of Trade and Industry. I am pleased to report that, since the intervention of the Law Society, that company has paid back to my constituents the money that it owes them. The Law Society continues to investigate the way in which the firm is operating. Since that debate, the issue has been raised by many right hon. and hon. Members who have coalfield or former coalfield constituencies and pressure is being brought to bear on lawyers to pay back the money that should not have been deducted.
Another element that has emerged is the activities of claim farmersmiddlemen who are not legally qualified and who have plundered huge amounts of compensation for, in many cases, doing nothing but registering a claim and passing it on to a firm of solicitors. In a Westminster Hall debate on 26 October this year, I raised the case of my constituent, Mr. Jobes, who signed an agreement with a company called Industrial Disease Compensation Ltd of Ashington, which, following a successful claim, deducted almost £3,000 from Mr. Jobes's compensation in return for simply passing the claim on to a Liverpool-based law firm, Silverbeck Rymer. During that debate, I challenged IDC to pay back the money, but to date the company has been silent. IDC cannot justify deducting the moneythere was no risk to the claim farmer or any reason to deduct £3,000 from Mr. Jobes's compensation. The Law Society is still investigating the caseit was the solicitors who actually deducted the moneybut, alas, IDC continues.
The company has moved on from the coalfields to other areas of industrial compensation in the north-east and elsewhere. It is now involved in pursuing asbestos compensation claims. It is difficult to find out what IDC does for the money apart from register people's claims, then pass them on to solicitors, but, with the permission of my hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Mr. Hepburn), who knows of my interest, I shall highlight the case of Mr. Vincent Mullen of Jarrow. He responded to an advertisement placed in a local newspaper by the companynow called FreeClaim IDCinviting people to attend a free screening session
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to see whether they were suffering from asbestos-related disease. On attending the session at the Quality hotel in Boldon in August, Mr. Mullen was asked to sign a document to progress the claim. No alternatives were put to himfor example, that he could approach his trade union, which would do it for nothingnor was it made clear to him what he would get in return for signing the agreement. On reading it more closely, Mr. Mullen discovered that if his case was successful, he would have to pay £399 to IDCagain, it was not clear for what the payment would be madeso he withdrew from the agreement and pursued his case through his union, Amicus, which dealt with the claim for nothing. Subsequently, however, Mr. Mullen was landed with a bill for £587.50 with a threat of court action by IDC to cover its costs.
Such cases are a scandal. It is about time that the Government legislated against or regulated claims handlers. Such companies are not covered by any legislation and they fall outside the Law Society's remit, although I accept that the Law Society has a role to play because, as the cases that I have detailed show, IDC is passing on cases to firms of solicitors, although whether IDC is charging or receiving a fee for doing so is unclear. At least one well-known Newcastle law firm, which I believe does work for the Transport and General Workers Union, is also doing work for IDC.
Many peopleI know this from experience of the cases that I have dealt with in my constituencygo along to such screening sessions. They think that the people offering advice are legally qualified or have some legal background. In fact, they have none. They are acting as middlemen to pass on claims.
"always advises anyone who believes they have a genuine claim to contact a solicitor. If solicitors step out of line they are answerable to the Law Society. Claims farmers are answerable to no one, and the public has no comeback against shoddy performance."
As I have said, I concur with that view. I would strongly suggest to anyone in the north-east who thinks that they have an industrial injury or an industrial disease that they should first go through their trade union, if they are a member of a trade union, or go to a reputable firm of solicitors, of which there are many in the north-east, and cut out the middlemen.
The Government need to legislate. I understand that they have given the "industry" a year to tidy up its act, but that is not good enough. People are being misled. They are being ripped off by characters who are doing nothing apart from registering a claim and passing it on to a firm of solicitors. I agree that there is an onus on the Law Society to start regulating its members. It needs to examine the relationship between its members and claim farmers.
Urgent action is needed if we are not to see more people being misled, certainly in former industrial areas such as the north-east and in former coalfields. Unless that action is taken, we shall see more and more people being ripped off and losing the compensation that they deserve because of the industrial injuries that they suffered through no fault of their own in their working lives.
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