HC Deb 30 April 1968 vol 763 cc1003-4

3.37 p.m.

Mr. Harold Gurden (Birmingham, Selly Oak)

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to extend the provisions of subsection (3) of section 203 of the Road Traffic Act 1960 to protect the property of any person arising out of the use of a vehicle on a road. As it now stands, the 1960 Act requires a motor vehicle to be insured against the liabilities of third parties who suffer death or bodily injury only. Also, the policy holder is bound to complete the policy conditions by submitting a claim form to the insurance company supplying the information of the accident. This works very well for death and bodily injury, even though it may only be a cut finger, but if the damage is to property, no matter how serious, the offender is not obliged to claim from his insurance company. If he wishes to run the risk of civil action, he may not come to any harm even through that.

The insurance companies say that, if an insured refuses to fill in a claim form for any purpose, they are not liable for the damages and will not pay. All that is left is resort to civil action for property damage, no matter how serious, and this could cause great hardship. In the days of wider car ownership, the people involved are not always well off, and cars and other property are severely damaged daily through no fault of the owner. One might be resting in the garden on a Sunday afternoon and suffer considerable damage even though one is not under-insured and has been guilty of no negligence. Delays, of course, are involved, as well as great hardship and loss of earnings.

This is very awkward for those in the working class community who are now car owners. This occurs daily and almost hourly. A Royal Commission, way back in 1929, rejected the proposal to cover property damage, and my inquiries of the Ministry suggest that there is little interest in Government circles in extending the 1960 Act.

It is often said that there is little evidence of widespread hardship because of the lack of this provision, but I suggest that the amount of hardship is increasing continually with the wider ownership of vehicles. Many car owners take the absolute minimum of insurance and are very loath to lose their no-claims bonus.

I have evidence from my constituents and others—and similar evidence has been published in many daily newspapers—that people do avoid their liabilities and responsibilities by refusing to claim on their insurance companies. One such case was highlighted in the newspapers. A very rich man, owning a Rolls-Royce, refused to fill in a claim form. I suppose that he would suffer the risk of the insurance company refusing to insure him at all if he made further claims, so he let the case go on until it reached the civil courts, with considerable trouble, loss and injury to the person whose car he damaged. It is very expensive and troublesome for people without considerable means to go through the courts in a civil action; and, of course, they are worried about finding the money to start such actions.

Mr. Speaker, my Bill seeks a simple amendment to Section 203(3,a) of the Road Traffic Act 1960. It would, I suggest, be quite fair and reasonable upon all motor vehicle owners, requiring that they should complete their responsibilities. I will not take up the time of the House by quoting the many instances that come to mind. We see them every day on the roads and often wonder whether or not the injured person will receive compensation, or whether the insured will fill in a claim form at all. The simple amendment is that after the words "bodily injury" there be added the words "or property of".

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Gurden, Mr. Speed and Mr. William Wilson.