HC Deb 10 March 1955 vol 538 cc590-1
11. Mr. Peter Freeman

asked the Minister of Education whether his attention has been called to a recent case in which a boy lost an eye from an accident which occurred while at school at Ilford, and received no damages, compensation or costs, and a similar case at Tredegar, in which a boy was injured by a knife in his leg, which has since had to be amputated, and, although substantial damages were awarded, they were withdrawn on appeal, and he has had to find costs, amounting to about £300, to fight the case; and what action he proposes to take to secure that, while children are under the authority of an education committee, they are safeguarded against such contingencies by adequate State-aided insurance.

Sir D. Eccles

I know of the first case from the Press and of the second from the hon. Member and have great sympathy with the children and parents concerned. I am not aware that local education authorities could properly incur expenditure on the purchase of insurance cover in respect of accidents which give rise to no legal liability on their part. These incidents, though regrettable, are rare. Amending legislation could not be justified at the present time.

Mr. Freeman

In view of the fact that I have received information about quite a number of cases since I put down this Question—cases of similar accidents in which children have been seriously injured for the rest of their lives through no fault of their own, and not in all cases due to negligence on the part of the local authorities; and since the children lose from two to three years of their school life, have no means of recovering anything as compensation or making a claim of any description and are handicapped for the rest of their lives for something which happened under the jurisdiction and care of the local authorities, should not the local authorities take some responsibility for such accidents in the same way as an employer does in business or a motorist does when driving his car? Would the Minister look into this matter again to see whether something can be done along those lines?

Sir D. Eccles

I am sorry about these accidents but, as the law stands, I am advised the best that we can hope for is ex gratia payments from time to time. It would require new legislation to permit local authorities to take out insurance policies.

Mr. Edward Evans

Is the Minister aware that governors of private schools, which have the support of and draw grants from his Department, almost invariably take out a comprehensive insurance policy to cover nearly every liability which they might have? Surely this problem ought to be examined very much in the light of what my hon. Friend said.

Sir D. Eccles

I will undertake to examine it, but the question will turn on whether we can introduce legislation if the examination leads to the conclusion that such insurance ought to be taken out by local authorities.

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