HC Deb 04 February 1970 vol 795 cc443-4

4.8 p.m.

Mr. David Waddington (Nelson and Colne)

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the Road Traffic Act 1960 so as to require, subject to certain exceptions, in the case of motor cyclists, users of motor vehicles to be insured in respect of liability for death or bodily injury to passengers; and for connected purposes. I think all hon. Members know the mischief at which this Measure is aimed. I venture to think that there must be almost unanimous support in this House for a change in the law.

Hon. Members will be aware that both the present Minister of Transport and his predecessor have expressed the wish that legislation should be introduced as soon as possible. However, although the Minister said, as recently as 11th November last year, that a Bill would be introduced as soon as there was a suitable opportunity, the indications obviously are that it is not intended that anything should be done during this Session. I hope that the Bill may galvanise the Government into activity, and I need hardly say that if the Government were to adopt this Measure nobody would be more delighted than myself.

The House will know that whereas for many years a driver has been compelled by law to insure against third party risks, passenger liability insurance has not been compulsory, except in the case of carriage for hire or reward. All too often one hears of a man or woman, boy or girl, being grievously injured while travelling as a passenger in a motor car or when riding on the pillion of a motor cycle, of being so injured owing to the negligence of the driver, and of then being unable to recover any compensation at all for the injuries suffered because the driver has no money, and a claim for damages in the courts would be a waste of time. A young man can cause his girl friend to be hideously disfigured and she has no redress. The breadwinner of the family may be permanently disabled when riding on the pillion of his friend's motor cycle, or when travelling in his friend's sports car, and he gets no compensation.

It really is not good enough to say that such a person has taken the risk on himself, or should have first inquired whether his driver was comprehensively insured. This is a real world in which we are living, and in the real world people simply do not ask questions like that, and young persons who do not know the niceties of motor vehicle insurance are entitled to some protection from the law.

I am not sure that it is really right to look only at the hardship caused to the victims of these motor accidents. I am inclined to think also of the burden of guilt which must rest on a young man who maims his best friend and can then do nothing at all to compensate him. One knows of all too many cases of that kind.

I know that the British Motor Cycle Federation is worried lest its members are to be charged excessive premiums, but at this stage I merely point out that the Kent Committee set up by the Government some years ago emphasised that there was competition in the insurance market and that premiums would find their proper levels reasonably quickly. As for motor cyclists who do not carry passengers and whose vehicles are not adapted for the carrying of passengers, I envisage the possibility of their being exempted from the obligation to insure.

I am sure that the vast majority of drivers and riders will see the good sense of these proposals, and of the advantages to themselves, and will willingly accept the extra financial burden.

I commend the Measure to the House and ask leave to bring in the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. David Waddington, Mr. Charles Pannell, Mr. John Hay, Dr. Winstanley, and Mr. Anthony Berry.