HC Deb 03 April 1946 vol 421 cc1227-8
14. Sir Robert Younģ

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty, seeing a final decision has now been given concerning responsibility for the loss of H.M.S. "Thetis," whether any financial contribution will be made towards the expenses incurred by those widows and other rela- tives who were parties to the test cases which culminated in the House of Lords.

Mr. Duģdale

No, Sir. It is not the policy of His Majesty's Government in actions against servants of the Crown to meet the costs or make a contribution towards the costs of unsuccessful litigants.

Sir R. Younģ

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that many of these poor people were encouraged to bring this test case at the beginning?

Mr. Duģdale

I think the hon. Gentleman will realise that it would be very difficult if we were to pay the costs of people who were sueing the Admiralty. There is a Thetis Disaster Relief Fund which, presumably, might be able to make any grants if it were asked.

Mr. Sydney Silverman

What else are these people to do except bring their case against the Admiralty? It was not their fault that there was a series of appeals, finishing in the House of Lords. If the Admiralty is spending public money in order to defend the Treasury's moneys in regard to these accidents, why should they not do something for the unfortunate victims of an accident like that?

Mr. Duģdale

I repeat that it is and would be a very unusual custom, to say the least of it, for the party that wins an action to pay the expenses of the party that loses it. Whether it could be done in individual cases is quite another matter, but it would have to be one primarily for the consideration of the Treasury. In any case, as I have said before, it is possible that the Thetis Disaster Relief Fund might be willing to help these people if they are in difficulty.

Mr. Medland

Does not the hon. Gentleman realise that this was a very special case, that the expenses were extraordinarily great, that it meant an appeal to the House of Lords, which was very long and complicated, that these people have been subjected to a great deal of worry on top of their financial embarrassment, that it was a test action and that they should receive some consideration?

Mr. Duģdale

Naturally I cannot commit the Government on a matter that may affect other Departments and other test cases, but in view of the questions that have been asked, I will certainly give the matter further consideration to see whether an exception can be made in this case.

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