HC Deb 27 March 1928 vol 215 cc993-5

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to make it obligatory for owners of motor vehicles to be insured against third-party risks. I would like to assure the House that, in bringing this Bill forward, I have not done so without very careful thought, or without discussion, so far as discussion is possible, both with Members of the House itself and with those outside who are interested in this subject. As to the necessity for this Bill, I do not think there is really any difference of opinion. I think that Members in all parts of the House are well aware of the very large number of accidents that have occurred in which, unfortunately, persons who have sustained damage, and sometimes, in case of death, the relatives of the person fatally injured, have been unable to get any compensation at all. From inquiries that I have made, I find that there appears to be throughout the House a general knowledge of such conditions throughout the country, but perhaps I may be allowed to mention only two cases that have come very definitely to my notice, cases which I believe are typical of many others.

One is the case of a woman employed in a mill, who was knocked down, had her leg broken in three places, and was laid up for something like nine months, incurring, as a result, expenses amounting to something like £150, and she was unable to recover any compensation whatever. Another case was that of a young man, the sole support of his mother and sister, who was killed by a motor cyclist, and there, again, his relatives were unable to recover any compensation of any kind. I do not think it would be desirable to give in detail instances in which the Courts have referred to this matter; at any rate it is probably not desirable to give names; but perhaps the House will allow me to read an extract from one case. I will not, unless the House decides to the contrary, give the actual names. In this case the Judge said this was the second case he had had in that week: In both cases the man has not been insured, and therefore cannot pay the damage. I hope soon it will be compulsory for all motorists to be insured. In the short time at my disposal, I cannot deal further with the necessity for the Bill, but I do not think that there is any necessity to do so, because I have not heard in any quarter of the House any opposition to it. I want to deal with what the Bill will involve. It is to make it essential that any person who owns a motor vehicle shall be insured against the possibility of damage caused to the public. Damage to the owner's car is another matter altogether, but, so far as liability under the Common Law exists, I and those who support me desire that insurance shall be compulsory. The position as regards motor cars, so far as I can ascertain it, is that something like 85 per cent. of all the motor cars owners are already insured. That leaves only 15 per cent., but, in regard to motor cycles, there are only something like 33 per cent. insured. These are the figures I have been given. I believe there is hardly a single motor car or motor cycle owner who will not really be in his heart of hearts in favour of the Bill. He cannot but see the necessity, in these days of rapid transport, of insuring that if by any chance damage is caused to the public he should be in a position, if he is responsible for the accident, to pay for the damage. The position as regards compulsory insurance and its difficulties has often been exaggerated. Some 60 per cent. of all the motor cars in this country, I am told, are obtained on the hire-purchase system, and the owners are compulsorily insured, and we may assume that if the remaining 15 per cent. of uncovered cars are also insured, acute competition will produce reasonable rates. Not only will competition insure that the rates will remain reasonable, but the Minister of Transport, in the Bill he intends to bring forward at an early date, is proposing to make it compulsory for all public vehicles to be insured, and in fact in the case of chars-a-bancs compulsory insurance exists at present, because by means of arrangements with the local authorities it is impossible to get a licence unless third party risks are covered. I believe the Bill meets with general acceptance, and I hope the House will unanimously give it a First Reading.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Wardlaw-Milne, Major Braithwaite, Mr. Compton, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Allan Burgoyne, Mr. Tomlinson, Mr. Ernest Brown, Mr. Wells, and Mr. Snell.