HC Deb 29 July 1952 vol 504 cc1425-8
Mr. Braithwaite

I beg to move, in page 9, line 5, to leave out from "hostilities," to "rebellion," in line 6.

Might I suggest that for the convenience of the Committee we should consider this and the two subsequent Amendments to this Clause? They hang together, and will result in a definition of "war risks" which will read as follows: war risks' means risks arising from any of the following events, that is to say, hostilities, rebellion, revolution, and civil war, from civil strife consequent on the hapenning of any of those events, or from action taken (whether before or after the outbreak of any hostilities, rebellion, revolution, or civil war) for repelling an imagined attack or preventing or hindering the carrying out of any attack, and includes piracy". This group of Amendments springs from a review of this Clause following the discussions we had in Standing Committee and, as a result of that review, it has been concluded that certain risks which it might be desired to cover as war risks—in that they would be excluded from normal marine policies—might not have been covered by the original definition in the Bill. This Amendment is designed to remove any doubt. At the same time, opportunity has been taken to improve the wording of the Clause.

If I may give an example of the risks referred to, one which might arise is that, say, of mines laid by a neutral country as a protection against future attack. There may be no hostilities and it might have been difficult, if not impossible, to argue, that any loss or damage from such mines to the ship fell within the original definition of "war risks" as set out in this Clause. These Amendments seek to cover this situation by referring to action taken for preventing or hindering the carrying out of any attack, whether such action is before or after the actual outbreak of any hostilities, rebellion, and so on.

Action taken for repelling an imagined attack is now linked similarly with the other events referred to in the Clause. These Amendments will enable the Government to insure war risks in terms which will fit into the usual distribution of risks between war and ordinary marine risks in the world insurance markets. We feel that this covers arrangements which should be made, and I commend the Amendments for the approval of the Committee.

Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)

I must confess that I am not altogether happy about this Clause, even as it will be if amended. Repeated suggestions were made in the Committee stage upstairs that much the simplest way of dealing with this matter would have been to put in the well-known words "warlike operations," even as an addition to "hostilities" or in place of that.

What I would call the "Express" Clause has been put in. There was once a small ship called the "Express" sailing down the Channel on a very dark and stormy night and the captain, in good faith, rammed what he took to be a German submarine. Nobody knows to this day whether the object in question was a German submarine or a bit of wreckage. The net result of that difficulty and the litigation that ensued is that there is no need whatever to put in some of the words which are proposed to be inserted by this Amendment.

I imagine that this addition is now being made because someone in the Ministry, with a logical mind, could not decide whether the action of the captain of the "Express" was …repelling an imagined attack or preventing or hindering the carrying out of any attack. It is a very nice metaphysical point, but I am not sure that even yet the drafting has covered all possibilities. I say once more in all seriousness to the Parliamentary Secretary that I hope he will think again about "warlike operations." He talks about what are called war risks in the market and he will find that "the consequences of hostilities or warlike operations" is a very well-known phrase indeed. It appeared in the 1899 Charter and I think it occurred in the 1914–18 war and in the last war.

11.0 p.m.

The difficulty about this Clause, as it stands, is that it is full of characteristic British smugness. It provides for a case where somebody is attacking us, but makes no provision whatever for the case where we may be attacking somebody else. I do not want to go into the merits of the matter, especially at this hour of the night. It would take too long to discuss all the possibilities. But I suggest once more that, though I imagine no one will object to these Amendments, they still hardly go far enough and that it would be wise again to follow the usual wording of the Clause and to consider "warlike operations" as an alternative.

I ask the Parliamentary Secretary this very serious question. Has he consulted such experts as the hon. Member for Orpington (Sir W. Smithers), who I am sorry not to see in his place, and is he quite sure whether he knows the moment of the …outbreak of any hostilities, rebellion, revolution or civil war…"? There is very often discussion as to exactly when the trouble began.

Mr. Braithwaite

Let me confess to the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) and to the Committee that there have been no consultations with my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Sir W. Smithers), but we have followed up the representations made by the hon. and learned Member in the Committee upstairs when he gave us his views on this matter and was extremely helpful in the discussions as a whole. He was unhappy then and it is a matter of regret to me that he is unhappy now. Following upon his speech and those of other hon. Members we sought the assistance, which was readily forthcoming, of the skilled and learned Law Officers who are at our disposal in these matters. They felt that this form of words was the most suitable, and far be it from me to depart from that excellent advice.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made: In page 9, line 7, leave out "or."

In page 9, line 8, after "events." insert:

"or from action taken (whether before or after the outbreak of any hostilities, rebellion, revolution or civil war) for repelling an imagined attack or preventing or hindering the carrying out of any attack."—[Mr. Braithwaite.]

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Bill reported, with Amendments; as amended (in the Standing Committee and on re-committal), considered.