HC Deb 30 March 1960 vol 620 cc1314-5
13. Dr. A. Thompson

asked the Minister of Transport if he is aware that, whereas normally a workman can recover damages from his employer in respect of personal injury caused, to any extent, by the fault of the employer, which includes the fault of a fellow servant, this vicarious liability is limited in the case of an employer who is a shipowner, and that damages are here limited to an aggregate amount not exceeding £15 for each ton of the ship's tonnage; and if he will introduce legislation to amend the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894, in order to give seamen on small vessels the same right to recover damages as other employees.

Mr. Hay

By the Merchant Shipping (Liability of Shipowners and Others) Act, 1958, which came into force on 1st August of that year, the limit on a shipowner's liability has been raised to some £74 per ton. There is also a provision whereby small ships are to be regarded for this purpose as though they were of 300 tons. The Act gave effect to an International Convention on the subject drawn up in 1957.

Dr. Thompson

While I thank the Minister for that reply, may I ask whether he does not agree that it is still unfair to discriminate against one class of workers in regard to the amount of damages payable—that is to say, to link the amount of damages payable to the nature of their work? Will he consult the Secretary of State for Scotland to ensure that the new provisions can be applied to Scotland, because a case which recently went before the Scottish courts, since the date mentioned by the Minister, indicated that the provisions do not apply to Scotland?

Mr. Hay

I am not sure about the latter part of the supplementary question, but at the moment we certainly have no evidence that any great injustice is being caused by this much higher limit than formerly prevailed. I will certainly look into the matter, but I would remind the hon. Gentleman that it would be worth his while to look in HANSARD at the debates which took place when the Private Member's Bill was passing through the House.

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