HC Deb 07 February 1973 vol 850 cc457-8

3.38 p.m.

Mr. Charles Simeons (Luton)

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the law in regard to compensation payments in relation to actions for damages. The House will be aware of the difficulties in these matters. There are restrictive clauses in insurance policies and also there is a great time lag before legal cases reach the courts. Considerable hardship exists because the insured is prevented from offering limited help to the injured person. There is growing evidence of exasperation. We regularly see people pleading not guilty in magistrates' courts because they are worried about their insurance cover. I appreciate the position of insurance companies and their responsibility to the other policy holders and to pension funds.

This matter arose because one of my constituents, Mrs. Edith Chamberlain, was riding in a bus when it braked heavily. As a result she had 30 stitches in her head. Her husband contacted the United Counties Omnibus Company who passed him on to the Norwich Union. The Norwich Union stated that It was necessary for the driver to brake suddenly in order to avoid colliding with a vehicle which had stopped dead. We regret we are unable to accept liability on behalf of our insured. The general manager of the United Counties Omnibus Company wrote, Whatever view may be taken of the hardship involved in individual cases it cannot be suggested that a bus company has a special responsibility so long as the law remains as it is. I took that as an invitation to try to get the law altered. The Chairman of the National Bus Company wrote to me saying that he had nothing to add.

I believe that most companies are sympathetic to those who are injured but they are fettered if they wish to help. I have had large numbers of letters from people who have been injured in buses and who have been off work for long periods. My constituent's daughter was off work for a period which cost her £150 in lost wages and she has no chance of getting anything back unless she wins the case.

My Bill seeks to permit payments to injured parties without prejudice to subsequent proceedings. Such payments as might be made would be deducted from any subsequent damages claimed. Any such action would not be regarded as being in breach of an insurance contract.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr Charles Simeons, Mr. Jack Ashley, Mr. Ellis, Mr. Peter Fry, Mr. David Madel, Mr. Alfred Morris, Mr. Cyril Smith, and Mr. Nicholas Winterton.