HC Deb 08 March 1945 vol 408 cc2203-4
14. Sir Percy Harris

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is now in a position to make a statement on the Bethnal Green shelter case; and particularly as to the position of Servicemen whose claims are Statute barred.

18. Mr. Chater

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he has now made any offer of assistance to the Bethnal Green local authority to enable them to settle outstanding claims arising out of the shelter accident.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Herbert Morrison)

After careful consideration of the whole of the circumstances surrounding this unfortunate accident, I have come to the conclusion that it would be right that the Bethnal Green Borough Council should receive exceptional financial assistance from the Exchequer in meeting the liability which attaches to the council as a result of the decision by the Court of Appeal in the proceedings, brought by Mrs. Baker. The council have agreed to deal with outstanding claims in the following manner, and the whole of the expenditure thus entailed, and that already incurred in defending and settling Mrs. Baker's claim, will be reimbursed by the Exchequer, less the sum received by the council under an insurance policy. Persons now receiving pensions from the Ministry of Pensions will be free to elect whether they will maintain their pension position or pursue their rights at law. Those who choose the latter alternative will continue to receive their pensions for a reasonable period while negotiations are proceeding. Payment of the pensions will cease on payment of damages. Damages assessed in the light of the judgment delivered in Mrs. Baker's case will be paid to claimants on whose behalf writs were o issued within 12 months of the accident. As regards Statute barred claims, a category in which I believe my hon. Friends are particularly interested, the Statute will not be relied upon in the case of claims lodged on or before 31st December, 1944, provided that good and substantial cause is shown to the satisfaction of the Treasury Solicitor for failure to put the claim forward at an earlier date. In the case of claims lodged after 31st December, 1944, the decision not to rely upon the Statute will be confined to those where the delay in submission is due to absence of the claimant outside the jurisdiction.

Sir P. Harris

While thanking my right hon. Friend, may I ask him whether he can give any estimate of the probable cost?

Mr. Morrison

I am afraid I cannot, because all the claims are not in and negotiations have not yet taken place.