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Following comments by shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna made under parliamentary privilege in the House of Commons last week, the financial planning and wealth management company, Gee 7 issued the following statement:
“Gee 7 Benefits do not and have never provided – nor offered to do so – temporary personal accident insurance that is limited to accidents occurring in the workplace or the commute to and from work. Our stance has always been that such insurance provides limited cover and is, in most instances, unnecessary.”
“We offer a platform for employee benefits and staff perks to a range of companies. This consists of shopping discounts and offers, travel offers and an employee assistance programme including access to stress and debt counselling, and a legal helpline.”
“In one instance, we have included as part of that package, access to a hospital cash plan paying cash benefits for in-patient and out-patient visits to hospital as a result of sickness and accidents, as well as a cash payment for accidental death occurring at any time and place. This is a product for which there is a genuine need.”
Gee 7 did acknowledge that the issue raised by Mr Umunna that staffing companies had been mis-selling sickness and accident insurance may be a real one. They stated that, “We were told of one recruitment company selling temporary accident insurance to temporary workers rumoured to be earning in excess of £1m per annum. We had no details of the product or the way it was sold.”
Yesterday the House of Commons witnessed the following exchange reported in Hansard:
Daniel Kawczynski (Shrewsbury and Atcham) (Conservative): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. On Thursday, the shadow Business Secretary spoke of his concern about the mis-selling of personal accident insurance, and particularly named a company in my constituency, Gee 7 Group, which, he stated, “specialises in putting together these dubious arrangements for agencies.”—[Official Report, 23 January 2014; Vol. 574, c. 434.]
My constituent Mr Jon Pardoe, from the company, has strenuously denied the allegations, in writing and on the telephone, and believes that they have harmed his business and credibility. I very much hope, for the sake of my constituent, that the record can be set straight.
Mr Speaker: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. There was nothing in it on which the Chair can rule, but I see that the shadow Business Secretary is present, and he did indicate to me a desire to respond to it. He now has the opportunity to do so.
Mr Chuka Umunna (Streatham) (Labour): Thank you very much, Mr Speaker, for allowing me to respond to this point of order. I am also grateful to the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Daniel Kawczynski) for notifying me in advance that he wished to raise this matter. As the Secretary of State said, he believed that the broader issues I raised in relation to employment agencies were legitimate; he had also been notified of them. In regard to the company in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency, I am happy to concede, with hindsight, that it was not fair of me to raise its part in this matter without giving it the opportunity to reply. I regret that, and I apologise to the company for doing it. I am also happy to acknowledge—it is only fair to do so—that it has denied this. I am also pleased that Mr Pardoe has said that, in principle, he disagrees with such arrangements. Beyond that, it would not be proper for me to say anything further, given that the Secretary of State is looking into the broader issue of employment agencies.
In a separate response to Mr Umunna’s earlier statement Samantha Hurley, Head of External Relations at APSCo, says: “APSCo is absolutely against any mis-selling of insurance products by professional recruitment agencies. While we are aware that Shadow Business Secretary – Chuka Umunna – claims to have evidence that six staffing companies have in fact been involved in this practice, there has been no communication with APSCo about complaints involving any of our members. We are, however, in dialogue with our membership in order to ascertain whether any such activities have taken place and if so, in what context. We welcome Vince Cable’s announcement that his department will investigate these allegations, which may involve an inquiry.”