KEN LEE on the continuing questions over the conduct of one Croydon MP and whether he has any undeclared ‘interests’ over insurance claims
Chris Philp, the thrustingly ambitious MP for Croydon South, has admitted that he failed to declare any interest when he gave a speech to Parliament last year in a debate which led to the Government changing the rules in order to cap the amounts insurers pay to drivers who suffer minor whiplash injuries in car accidents.
Philp was recently appointed as a Conservative Party deputy chairman, and he continues in the role of Parliamentary Private Secretary to local government and housing minister James Brokenshire.
Philp, a self-made millionaire, has a brother, Clive, who between 2015 and 2016 worked in the company secretary’s department of Direct Line, the country’s leading car insurer.
Direct Line was only formed in 1985, at a call centre in Croydon, when it was set up as the country’s first telephone-only car insurer. Since then, Direct Line Group has grown massively. According to the company’s 2017 accounts (the most recent available), it collected £1.67billion gross in motor premiums in that year.
Before whiplash compensation was debated in the House of Commons last year, Philp had been prominent in lobbying for a change in the rules which would limit the amount insurers have to pay out in compensation for minor injuries suffered in road traffic accidents.
Once the Government stepped in, the industry claimed that car insurance premiums should fall by an average of £35 a year, thanks to the new curbs on whiplash claims.
By last year, road traffic accident-related injury claims were 50per cent higher than a decade ago, despite the fall in the number of reported accidents. Part of this rise has been fuelled by a “predatory” claims industry – often referred to as “ambulance chasers” – who encouraged exaggerated and sometimes fraudulent claims, driving up the costs of insurance premiums for ordinary motorists, the insurers claimed.
Insurers had been pushing for a crackdown on “cash for crash” scams, which they said was costing British motorists £1billion every year. Following the Commons debate, in which Philp played a significant part, the Ministry of Justice said it would change the way whiplash claims are handled by setting fixed compensation amounts for claims and banning the practice of settling cases without medical proof.
Philp’s role in this change in the rules, and his failure to declare that his brother works in the insurance industry, continues to be questioned, however.
Elsewhere in the Commons, other MPs have declared when family members work in sectors like insurance and pharmaceutical. But Philp insists that he was never required to declare his brother’s line of work.
“The fact my brother has had two temporary six-month contracts working in the company secretary’s department of an insurance firm is not declarable, and certainly should not have stopped me from speaking,” Philp said this week.
“I have also been totally transparent when asked questions about it.
“My brother has worked as an assistant company secretary at Chaucer in around 2008 to 2009. He has had no financial interest in them since 2009, six years before I entered Parliament and several years before I first raised this issue.
“My brother worked as a short-term contactor at Direct Line in Bromley in late 2015 to early 2016. He has never been their company secretary; he worked in their company secretary department as a contractor. My first mention of this issue was before this contract started. He has been engaged by Direct Line for a further six-month period subsequent to 2016, and has also worked for a magazine publisher on a similar basis (as a short-term contractor working in the company secretary department).”
Philp adds that his brother has never been given any share options or other benefits in connection with his employment for the major insurance firms.
Whether such an arrangement is declarable by the MP might be for the parliamentary standard officer to consider, since a complaint is understood to have been made to their office.
Philp believes that he, and the Government, has done the nation a great service by limiting the amounts insurers pay-out for whiplash injuries.
Even before last year’s change in whiplash compensation rules, Direct Line Group was reporting annual operating profits of £364.5million on its motor insurance business.
“I raised this issue in Parliament because a few years ago I was personally and repeatedly targeted by cold callers trying to persuade me to lie about an injury I did not have from a car accident,” Philp said.
“When I looked into it further, it became clear that this is a systematic issue that has arisen through a legal loophole that allow claims management firms to make money by encouraging the public to make false whiplash injury claims.”
Philp has never said why he did not seek legislation to act on the ambulance-chasing claims management firms. Nor why insurers like Direct Line don’t invest some of their vast profits on better investigation of claims suspected to be fraudulent.
And meanwhile, have you noticed whether your motor insurance premium reduced, as was promised?
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