Covid-19: Biba defends hiring Boris Johnson as speaker

Boris Johnson

The body paid him £25,000 but the entire industry is now under fire over government decision to not enforce business closures in a move which some claim will affect BI cover.

The British Insurance Brokers Association (Biba) has responded following criticism from the public and in national newspapers regarding its relationship with PM Boris Johnson and his and the insurance industry response to the coronavirus crisis.

Last year the body paid him £25,000 to speak at its May conference in Manchester.

Yesterday (16 March), the government advised the population not to visit bars, pubs and restaurants but did not force them to close. The argument some commentators have posed is that because this hasn’t been ordered it means insurers won’t have to pay out for business interruption hinting at a cosy relationship between the insurance sector and UK leadership.

Biba defended its decision to hire Johnson as a speaker last year and committed to helping its brokers navigate this period of uncertainty.

A spokesperson commented: “Our decision to have Boris Johnson speak at our 2019 conference was taken to provide an interesting and relevant perspective from a then backbench politician who was highly influential in the UK’s decision to leave the EU.  What we are facing now as a sector is unprecedented.

Coronavirus press conference Jay Rayner Biba tweetq

“The issues that the businesses of the UK are facing are real and very concerning. Our team is currently talking with other bodies and Treasury about the response of the industry and the advice we can give to brokers and their customers.”

“We will do what we can”
The spokesperson referred brokers to the guidance the body had already produced: “We have already published advice to members to help them manage customer queries but every policy wording is different and the extensions to cover that may include pandemic situations are optional covers and also vary in their application. We will do what we can to add clarity.”

The Association of British Insurers clarified this morning (17 March) that very few businesses will be covered for business interruption arising from Covid-19 under current wordings anyway. But this has not stopped public outcry.

Some insurers also clarified their position at an earlier stage in the crisis.

However, in a public blog published yesterday (15 March), Tom Peck, political sketch writer at The Independent, pointed out: “£25,540 was what the British Insurance Brokers’ Association paid him to dance for coins at their conference last summer, and now he’s done his bit to make sure their hands will be staying very firmly in their pin-striped pockets while the hospitality sector and its minimum-wage footsoldiers go to the wall at lightning speed.”

Other tweets also highlight examples of the public view (see pictures).

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