§ Order of the Day for receiving the Report of the Amendments read.
§ LORD DANESFORT
My Lords, I beg to move that the Report of Amendments to the Road Traffic Bill be now received.
§ Moved, That the Report of Amendments be now received—(Lord Danes-fort.)
§ LORD HANWORTH
My Lords, before that Motion is accepted by your Lordships perhaps, by leave of the House and by the terms of the Orders, I might call attention to an important point on which I have not felt it necessary to put down an Amendment but which I am sure is one that your Lordships will appreciate is of such importance that it ought to be dealt with upon the Report stage, or perhaps upon the Third Reading stage. Your Lordships will find that by Clause 5 of this Bill certain provisions are introduced with regard to solicitors' remuneration—that is, the remuneration of solicitors who are engaged in endeavouring to procure for their clients satisfaction for the damages that they may have received owing to an accident on the roads. We are all aware that a number of what are known as speculative actions are brought, and the solicitor perhaps is the prime mover in some cases. On behalf of the client who has suffered, it may be only a small injury, he takes proceedings in the hope of getting some compensation and, still more, costs in relation to the proceedings that he takes on behalf of his willing or unwilling client.
140 This clause is conceived to do away with the impropriety of solicitors really acting in their own interests far more than in the interests of their clients, and it provides by subsection (4) thatThe costs of the solicitor shall in every case be taxed by the proper officer of the Court in which proceedings to enforce the claim were commenced, or, if no such proceedings were commenced, by the proper officer of a Court which would have had jurisdiction to entertain such proceedings if the amount agreed to be pa id in respect of damages had been the amount claimed.We must all respect the purposes for which that clause was introduced, but I am entitled to speak on behalf of the solicitors as a body, and I am authorised to speak on behalf of the Law Society in particular, and, while they thoroughly agree with the purpose for which that clause has been introduced, they desire to bring to the notice of your Lordships' House the fact that in that clause the zeal of the promoters of the Bill really outruns their discretion.
Let me take a concrete case. It is not every case in which a road accident is exploited for the advantage of a solicitor. There are many cases, entirely bona fide cases, in which damages are claimed, and rightly claimed, from a wrongdoer. In such cases the injured person employs his solicitor, and when he employs his solicitor it may be that through the good offices of that solicitor, a man of high standing, he may secure an agreement as to the amount of the damages which he is ready to accept. When that agreement has been reached the client may be very grateful to the solicitor, and may wish that the costs which have been incurred and the fees to which the solicitor is entitled should be dealt with, and perhaps dealt with on a generous scale, Yet by the terms of subsection (4) that cannot be done. The subsection says:The costs of the solicitor shall in every case he taxed by the proper officer of the Court in which proceedings to enforce the claim were commenced, or, if no such proceedings were commenced, by the proper officer of a Court which would have had jurisdiction to entertain such proceedings…That really goes too far. We must recognize, as I have been happy to tell your Lordships before and repeat now, that solicitors are a body of the highest possible standing. There are but few of them who would lend themselves to 141 speculative actions. There are hardly any of them who would lend themselves to the sort of thing against which this clause is intended to be directed. Yet on all sides we should wish to have a freedom to deal with that person who is not only the solicitor but often the friend of the family and the friend of his client and who has rendered signal offices to him in such a matter.
While the Law Society welcome the purpose of the clause, they desire that your Lordships' attention should be drawn to the matter and that the clause should be limited in some way which shall hit the right persons and not all and sundry. At the moment I have not found it possible to put my thoughts into words and to propose an Amendment, but I desire at the outset of the Report stage to call attention to the difficulty that is thus presented, and to ask the promoters of the Bill to recast the clause having in view the difficulty that I have suggested and the freedom which I feel sure all Lordships would desire.
§ LORD DANESFORT
My Lords, perhaps you will allow me to make a very short statement in reply to my noble and learned friend the Master of the Rolls. There are two points in his speech with which I entirely agree. One is that solicitors, generally speaking, are of the highest class of professional advisers in the community. The second point is that the Law Society, which represents the solicitors, should have a full opportunity of considering and moving Amendments if they so think fit to this clause. Having said that I desire to explain why such Amendments have not been put upon the Paper. I myself was in communication with the Law Society but, unfortunately, there was not time for them to submit Amendments before the Committee stage. Consequently, the clause passed through Committee without amendment. I then told the officers of the Law Society that if they would put down Amendments on the Report stage they would be most sympathetically considered. It appears, however, that they have not yet had opportunity, or perhaps sufficient time, to consider what Amendments they desire. Therefore no Amendments have been put down at the Report stage.
I am quite willing to give to my noble and learned friend and also to the Law Society an assurance that if this Bill 142 passes Third Reading, as I hope it will this Session, and is re-introduced, as I hope it will be, next Session, any Amendments which they put down then to Clause 5 will be most carefully and sympathetically considered by those who are in charge of the Bill, and also, I am sure, by your Lordships' House. With that assurance I have no doubt my noble and learned friend will be content. There is only one other thing I wish to say. I regret that my noble and learned friend suggested that the zeal of the promoters outran their discretion. It did not Their zeal and discretion were equal, It was an unfortunate result that the Law Society had not time to put down Amendments, but if they put down Amendments when the Bill is re-introduced I can give my personal assurance that those Amendments shall receive most careful consideration.
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY
My Lords, with your leave I should like to say one thing. When this Bill was before your Lordships at an earlier stage I also called attention to Clause 5, subsection (4). When any Amendment is considered I think it ought to be remembered that as the clause is at present drawn there is nothing to say, in the event of the costs being taxed by the proper officer of the Court, who is to pay for the taxation. That is a, matter which roust be taken into consideration when this question is brought before your Lordships again.
§ LORD HANWORTH
My Lords, I should like to thank my noble friend Lord Danesfort for his assurance, which I accept. I accept also that in the future his zeal and discretion will run side by side.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and Amendments reported accordingly.
§ Clause 1:
§ Damages recoverable in case of bodily injury.
§ 1.—(1) Where bodily injury to a person is caused by or arises out of the use of a motor vehicle on a road or in a place to which the public have a right of access damages shall be recoverable from the owner of the motor vehicle in respect thereof without proof of negligence or intention or other cause of action as though the injury had been caused 143 by his wilful act, neglect or default, except where the injury was solely due to the negligence of the injured person:
§ Provided that—
- (a) where the injury was contributed to but not solely clue to the negligence of the injured person there shall be taken into account in computing the damages the degree in which the negligence of such person contributed to the accident; and
- (b) where bodily injury is caused or arises as aforesaid in circumstances in which—
- (i) damages are recoverable from the owner in respect of the said injury by virtue only of the foregoing provisions of this section; and
- (ii)a legal liability is created in some person other than the owner to pay damages in respect of the said injury; the owner shall be entitled to be indemnified by that other person against any claim in respect of the said injury; and
- (c) this subsection shall not apply to bodily injury suffered by a person who at the time of the occurrence of the accident was driving or being carried in or upon a motor vehicle.
§ (2) Where bodily injury is caused as aforesaid, the fact that any financial payment is made or offered or any other assistance given or offered to the person injured by the owner of the motor vehicle or any other person shall not of itself be regarded as implying any admission of negligence in the driving or management of the motor vehicle.
§ (3) This section shall not apply in the case of injury caused by a motor vehicle which is unlawfully in the possession of some person other than the owner.
My Lords, before my noble friend moves the Amendment standing in his name I should like to ask for the ruling of the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack on a point of order. This Amendment put down by the noble Lord, and certain other Amendments that stand in his name proposing to leave out the word "motor" from this and other clauses, will alter the character of the Bill and extend the scope of the Bill. When the Bill was originally before your Lordships it dealt only with accidents occurring to pedestrians through motor vehicles. There was no question of accidents due to horse-drawn vehicles or tram cars or other causes. The Bill was sent to a Select Committee of your Lordships' House for consideration.
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY
My Lords, I rise on a point of order to ask whether 144 this is a proper method of raising question. We are here to consider this Bill on the Report stage and the noble Lord, Lord Sandhurst, has put down an Amendment. Why should a question be asked, before he has had an opportunity of submitting his Amendment, as to whether or not that Amendment would be in order?
My Lords, I would ask your Lordships whether it is in order when I am speaking on a point of order for another noble Lord to rise and submit a point of order on the point of order which I am submitting?
If I may be allowed to proceed, I merely wish to state that this Amendment standing in the name of the noble Lord is entirely opposed to the whole principle of this Bill as it was submitted to the Select Committee which was set up by your Lordships' House. I venture to ask the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack whether he will give a ruling that, in view of the reasons I have stated, these Amendments are not in order.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (VISCOUNT HAILSHAM)
My Lords, before my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack replies it is important that I should say, as Leader of the House, what I am sure my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack will not misunderstand, and that is that there is no power in the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack to rule upon a point of order. The question is decided, if raised, by your Lordships' House and not by any other authority, however eminent and learned. In that way we differ from the proceedings in another place and, therefore, I do not think it is possible for my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack to answer the question addressed to him, because he could only say it is a matter for the House to decide if the point is raised. I would add that, although in another place there are very strict limitations placed on what Amendments are in order, by reason of the fact that they do or do not come within the scope of the title of the Bill, your Lord- 145 ships have always regarded yourselves as less tied and entitled to consider an Amendment and make an alteration, if necessary, in the title. In saying that I do not want to be understood as indicating any view in favour of a particular Amendment, but only as suggesting that it would be convenient first to discuss the Amendment and on that the point made by the noble Viscount, that it is widening the scope of the Bill, would be a proper argument. If your Lordships should regard it as a desirable Amendment I do not think you would feel bound to deny yourselves the privilege, on that hypothesis, of improving the Bill.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (VISCOUNT SANKEY)
My Lords, may I be permitted to say that I agree and have nothing to add?
I beg to move the Amendment standing in my name—to leave out the word "motor" in subsection (1). I fear I owe a certain apology that the first time I rise to address your Lordships I should do so with a feeling that I am possibly rendering you a great disservice. I have seen this Bill described as a wanton outrage on all the principles of justice. If that is an accurate description then to give it any countenance by moving Amendments is a very great slur on your Lordships' House. I am not quite, however, prepared to go to that length, but at the same time I must say that in my opinion this Bill does show a very grave lack of a sense of proportion and of justice. In fact, when I showed it to a friend, and he described it as the best argument he had ever read for the abolition of your Lordships' House, I had the greatest difficulty in arguing with him on the point. I admit that I dislike the Bill intensely. The idea of putting on the motorist the duty of proving a negative is contrary to all accepted principles of British justice.
I cannot see that Rylands versusFletcher bears any connection. What analogy is there between a man who keeps a reservoir on private land, an unusual thing to do and one putting noonusupon anyone to take precautions against the effects of its bursting, and a man who takes a motor car on the highway where everyone is under a Common Law obligation to take reason- 146 able precautions to avoid being run over and is in company with millions of others doing the same thing? Nor can I see that the Air Navigation Act has any bearing as the airman is already committing a tort by trespassing. As far as the law of the sea is concerned, I should welcome its adoption if it was accepted totally and pedestrian as well as motorist bore his share of the aggregated damages, but this is not so. I am, however, prepared to pass over all these objections provided every vehicle owner is placed in the same position. I realise that after accidents the pure and simple pedestrian, not the horse-driven one, who has suffered injury, is likely to be unable to collect the necessary evidence to prove the negligence or fault of the driver and for that reason I agree with the sponsors of the Bill that it is right that the pedestrian should be placed in a very favoured position; but that favoured position should be in regard to all traffic. That is what my Amendment is designed to effect.
The Amendment will make the Bill a complete measure instead of a three-quarter measure. As it stands the Bill is illogical as well as unjust. May I give one example of the strange sort of result that might arise? Is it logical or just that a person knocked down by a bolting horse frightened by a tram should have less rights than one knocked down by a horse frightened by a motor car? The accident in the one case has arisen out of the use of a tram and in the other out of the use of a motor vehicle, and under this Bill the motorist is automatically liable. This may seem farfetched, but I see no escape for the motorist as he certainly cannot prove that the accident was due to the negligence of the pedestrian and the driver of the horse will be able to prove that his horse took fright at the motor. It is true that if the owner of the motor vehicle can prove that the accident was due to the sole negligence of the driver of the horse vehicle, he will be entitled to get an indemnity from him as a third party, but why riot put the other vehicle in the same position as the motor vehicle right away?
On reading the Bill one might assume there was only one dangerous vehicle on the road. In fact this Bill appears to be 147 based on the common fallacy that all accidents are due to the motorist. This fallacy can easily be disproved. Your Lordships may not realise that of those killed in 1932 who were not actually riding in motor vehicles over 25 per cent. were killed by vehicles that were not motor vehicles—that in fact horse vehicles, which the last road census taken at over 100 points throughout the country showed to be less than I per cent. of all the traffic, were actually responsible for nearly 3½ per cent. of the deaths. Is it realised that of 206,500 people injured by vehicles of all kinds in 1932, 43,500, approximately between 20 per cent. and 21 per cent. were injured by vehicles other than motors? Is there any logical reason why those 43,500 should be placed in a more unfortunate position than the 162,900 who are able to place some portion of the blame, however small, upon a motor vehicle?
One of the objects of this Bill is, I take it, to try to check the appalling casualty list of the roads by fear of the heavy financial results of an accident. That it will have the desired effect I very much doubt; that it is the wrong way to do it I am convinced; but in any case why make it apply only to motor owners and not to all vehicle owners? The motor driver, it should be realised, is at least licensed and should be highly skilled, and I was glad to hear the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, only the other day, expressing tile view that tests for commercial vehicle drivers were necessary. I hope the time is not far distant when he will agree with me that proven skill is just as necessary in the case of a man who drives a car for pleasure, as it is in the case of a man who drives a lorry for a living. When that time comes we shall be able to say that we are on the way to safer roads. Until then, why should the licensed driver, who can be deprived of his licence, not only be assumed to be wrong but be penalised, right or wrong, whereas the unlicensed driver, who has no licence to lose and little to fear as a result of bad or careless driving, is allowed to remain under the existing law, which compels the plaintiff or sufferer to prove not only that the driver was at fault but was practically entirely to blame for an accident.
As it stands this Bill gives me the impression of panic legislation, based on 148 assumptions not only unproven but in fact unfounded. The increasing accident roll may in part be put down to increased traffic, but it must not be thought that that increase is purely motor traffic. The last Home Counties census shows that whereas motor traffic has increased by 22 per cent. in the last twelve months, non-motor traffic has increased by 20 per cent. If that increase is to be maintained, and if the Road and Rail Traffic Bill, which is now before your Lordships' House, is passed in its present form, I foresee a considerable return to horse-drawn vehicles, to avoid difficulties of licences and records. Then it is very obvious that in justice to the pedestrians there must be one law for all vehicles.
In conclusion, may I give a few examples, from accidents that I have actually witnessed, of the absurdities that might arise under this Bill as it stands? In one case a motor lorry was standing being loaded by the roadside. A horse-drawn van was coming along the road behind it, and the horse bolted. The hub of the van hit the lorry, causing the van to overturn. In overturning the van struck a pedestrian on the shoulder and damaged him somewhat severely. Under this Bill the pedestrian could recover from the lorry owner, who would have no redress, as he could not prove negligence, or certainly not the whole negligence, on the part of the van driver, nor any negligence on the part of the pedestrian. At the same time had not the lorry been in use, and at the side of the road, the accident would not have happened. In another case a car was proceeding with all care and caution down a road in front of my car; indeed it was going rather slower than I wanted to travel myself. A boy on a tricycle box delivery van came shooting out of a gate, over a very narrow pavement, and in trying to turn to avoid the car he nearly upset, and would completely have done so had not the wing of the car caught his box. The result was that he was shot back on to the pavement, and he struck an old lady, breaking her leg. Under this Bill the motorist, who was absolutely innocent of blame, has automatically to pay for the damage done to the old lady, with the possible hope that at some future date he may be able to recover from the employer of the errand boy.
Again, a car was just moving off very slowly over a cross-road. A cyclist sud- 149 denly shot across his bows and the driver of the eat stopped abruptly. A pedestrian running across the road ran into the rear of the car, tearing his clothes, cutting his shin on the luggage grid, and, falling on the road cutting his hands somewhat severely. As a result the pedestrian had to be removed, as it happened in my car, to a chemist's for his injuries to be dressed. His trousers were torn and he was probably laid up for some time, and I have no doubt he would very much like to recover the costs of his accident from somebody. Under this Bill he could get them from the owner of the car, mid the owner of the car would have no redress at all. On the other hand, if the pedestrian had damaged the car the owner would not have been able to recover. If the pedestrian had riot foolishly tried to run across the road he would have sustained no damage, but on the other hand he could not be accused of negligence because he had no reason to expect the car to stop. I think I have said enough to show that there is only one possible way of making this Bill a just and logical measure, and that is by including all vehicles, and I beg to move.
Page 1, line 7, leave out("motor")—(Lord Sandhurst.)
§ THE EARL OF IVEAGH
My Lords, as Chairman of the Committee which considered the Bill, I think I ought to remind your Lordships of what you probably know—namely, that this House gave this Bill, or a Bill like it, a Second Reading some nine months ago and that in your wisdom you sent it to a Select Committee. Unfortunately for myself I was made the Chairman of that Select Committee and the work that we have done for what has been described as "panic legislation" is in the form of this Bill. If your Lordships will read it through you will see that it is not an easy matter to devise an equitable arrangement, but we have done our best, and I submit to you that this particular Amendment goes contrary to the whole principle that we have been discussing. The principle that your Lordships adopted nine months ago was that the motor vehicle should be made responsible. We had to modify or do our best with it, and if you are going to make other people, who are not, by 150 the way, insured, compulsorily responsible, our work would have to be scrapped. No doubt, logically, anybody going outside his house ought to be insured against third-party risks, but that is unthinkable.
I would submit that this Amendment would so extend the scope of the Bill that it would be a different proposition. It may be unsatisfactory as it is, but I think it is workable, and, though I had great misgivings to start with, I can assure the noble Lord who has just sat down that it is the best you can do. This proposal, I am sure, would not work, but we never considered it because by the Rules of Order and Procedure we were obliged to confine our attention to motor vehicles and the compensation to be given to certain persons.
THE EARL OF HALSBUBY
My Lords, I naturally respect very much what has been said by the Chairman of the Select Committee, but, if I may say so, it would not make me completely unhappy if all the work that has been done were scrapped and we got down to what we want to do. It is quite clear that this is a perfectly logical Amendment, and if it is not accepted by the noble Lord, Lord Danesfort, it might give an idea that this Bill was introduced not so much for the purpose of protecting pedestrians but as an act of vindictive spite against motorists.
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY
Well, I should like other people to judge of that, and I should like to know what the answer is going to be. Having heard the figure of the number of pedestrians who have been injured by vehicles other than motor vehicles, is the noble Lord going to protect himself under that well-known maxim of the law de minimis non carat lex, and therefore one or two extra deaths or accidents—we have heard that there are 43,000 of them—do not matter. If he is going to deal with this question at all I trust that he will deal with it frankly from the point of view of every vehicle on the road. There was one matter that was suggested by the noble Earl who presided over the Select Committee. I am not quite certain whether he was correct in what he said. My impression is that there is an Amend- 151 ment by the noble Lord, Lord Danesfort, to Clause 10, and if that Amendment is carried it will mean that this Act will be construed as one with the Road Traffic Act of 1930. If that is so then every vehicle under this Act would have to take out third-party insurance under the Act of 1930. I think that would follow.
§ THE EARL OF IVEAGH
What I said was that we had confined ourselves to the people who are insured now.
§ THE EARL OF IVEAGH
But you would alter the general law as we know it by this Amendment plus the other Amendment.
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY
I quite agree with the noble Earl. This Bill, if it is passed at all, will alter the whole of the law of this country. It will alter it fundamentally. A person is going to be made to pay, whether he has been guilty of an offence or not. We know that. I was only pointing out on this question of third-party insurance that I think that if Lord Sandhurst's Amendment is carried and Lord Danesfort's Amendment to Clause 10 is carried, the result would be to bring in every vehicle on the road, which would have to take out third-party insurance. I am not at all certain that that would not be a good thing, but at the present moment we are only on this Amendment, and I hope that the noble Lord who introduced the Bill will logically, in the interest of pedestrians, bring in the other vehicles who are responsible for 43,000 accidents.
§ LORD DANESFORT
My Lords, may I first express my congratulations to the noble Lord who moved this Amendment? As I understand, it is the first time that he has addressed your Lordships, and I would express the hope that your Lordships' House may have many other opportunities of hearing him. I am afraid, however, that I cannot agree with what he has said, because it appears exceedingly strange that if this Bill is, in his opinion, contrary to elementary justice and if, as he told us, he dislikes it extremely, he should desire to extend its scope very largely, as it would undoubtedly be extended by this Amendment. Because the effect of the Amendment would be to throw a liability upon 152 every horse-drawn vehicle, every horse-drawn cart in an agricultural district, every farmer's gig, and every bicycle, All those people would have to be compulsorily insured. I recommend the noble Lord to go down some time to an agricultural community and ask them how they would like their agricultural carts and gigs to be insured and to have to pay some £5 or £10 for that insurance. It is perfectly true, as the noble Viscount, Lord Elibank, says, that this Amendment is entirely outside the scope and purpose of the Bill, but that is not necessarily an argument for rejecting it summarily. It is outside the title, but, as your Lordships know, if you think it desirable you can amend the title.
I desire to oppose the Amendment, not on any technical grounds but on grounds of substance. And when I remind the noble Lord of what happened to this Bill on the previous stages I am sure he will see that it will be very difficult to accept his Amendment to-day. Last year a Bill was brought up on somewhat the same lines as the present Bill, confining the liability to motor vehicles alone, leaving out horse-drawn vehicles. Your Lordships gave it a Second Reading by a con siderable majority but, unfortunately, there was no time to go further that year. The present Bill was brought in, again confining the liability for compensating pedestrians and non-motor users to accidents caused by motorists. That Bill received a Second Reading in your Lordships' House and was sent to a Select Committee. The Select Committee considered it very carefully, but throughout all the proceedings on this Bill down to to-clay, no one had, shall I call it the courage to make the alteration which the noble Lord suggests to-day. Your Lordships have heard from Lord Iveagh how carefully the Select Committee went into all the evidence on the subject of the Bill—namely, compensation by users of motors to pedestrians. Not one word was said in that evidence, or by any of the witnesses who were called, upon the question of extending the liability for compensation to horse-drawn vehicles—not a syllable. Therefore the Select Committee never considered this question.
But that' is not all. The Bill came back from the Select Committee to your Lordships' House. It was most carefully considered by your Lordships in Com- 153 mittee of the whole House, and again not one word was said about extending the liability to the owners of horse-drawn vehicles. Now at this stage the noble Lord, although he considers it such an infamous Bill and contrary to all justice, wants to extend its provisions to the owners of horse-drawn vehicles. I hope your Lordships will not listen to that kind of argument. Supposing this Amendment were carried, what would happen? Every owner of an agricultural carrier, every owner of a gig, every pedal cyclist would have to be compulsorily insured under the Road Traffic Act of 1930. The noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, appears to view that without any apprehension or dislike whatever. May I tell the noble Earl that that result of making these people compulsorily insured would be the result, not of the Amendment to Clause 10, but of Clause 6 of the Bill, which says that the liabilities imposed by this Act shall be third-party risks to which Part 11 of the Road Traffic Act, 1930, applies.
§ LORD DANESFORT
At any rate, my noble friend and others are quite satisfied that the effect of the Amendment would be to place this compulsory insurance throughout on these agricultural people. I do not wish to use strong language—we have had some already but I think the thing is impossible, it is not arguable. The only other word I wish to add is this. The noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, somewhat to my surprise, and I will add somewhat to my indignation, suggested that this Bill was the product of a vindictive feeling against motorists. I am astonished that the noble Earl should have such little intelligence or sense of decency as to make such a suggestion. Is he going to suggest that your Lordships' House, when you read a Bill of this sort twice, was also animated by nothing but vindictiveness towards motorists? Does he suggest that the noble Earl, Lord Iveagh, and the other members of the Select Committee who passed this Bill were also animated by nothing but vindictiveness? I may assure the noble Earl, and I trust he will receive the assurance, that all those who support this Bill do so out of a sense of public duty, having regard to 154 the enormous toll of the road which is taken of these unfortunate pedestrians and other non-motorists. Thousands killed every year, tens of thousands injured every year!—and the evidence that was given before the Select Committee and otherwise was that these people so injured and killed up to now had got no adequate compensation. That is the reason, and the sole reason, why this Bill was brought in, and I trust the noble Earl will alter that somewhat offensive opinion which he expressed just now.
§ VISCOUNT BERTIE OF THAME
My Lords, I wish to utter a few words of protest against something the noble Lord, Lord Danesfort, said. He gave your Lordships to understand that so sacrosanct is a Select Committee that after a Bill has come from a Select Committee your Lordships should riot put in some provision to cover a fresh point. I think my noble friend Lord Hailsham told us when the India Bill was referred to a Select Committee that our own judgment was to be unfettered by any of their findings.
§ EARL HOWE
My Lords, the noble Lord who is responsible for the Bill said he did not like to use strong language with regard to the remarks made by the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury. Your Lordships will perhaps appreciate that I, like him, do not like to use strong language about a Bill which seeks, so far as I can see, to reverse all the principles of English justice and which intends to put the sole responsibility for an accident upon one class of road user to the exclusion of all others. I think I can claim perhaps to have had as much experience as a road user as any other member of your Lordships' House, not only in this country but in every other country, and I think that the experience of one like myself may be a help. I am perfectly certain that the one thing we all want to do is to save life on the road. I am perfectly certain that you are doing the gravest possible disservice to the cause of saving life if you pass this Bill in its present form. Everybody knows who uses the road—and I appeal to those of your Lordships who know the conditions on the road as well as I do—that the only way in which you will secure a better degree of safety and do something really effective to reduce 155 the casualty roll on the roads of the country is to bring home a sense of real responsibility to every class of road user.
The pedestrian is just as much a form of traffic as is a vehicle or anything else that moves upon the road. Already he is in a privileged position. The pedestrian is the only class of traffic who is allowed to defy traffic lights and traffic regulations absolutely ad lib and this is almost the only country where such a state of affairs exists. You are not allowed to do it abroad; you get had up and fined. In the Dominions it is the same thing. For that reason I fully intend to support the Amendment so ably moved by the noble Lord, Lord Sandhurst. The noble Lord in charge of the Bill has asked your Lordships to turn this Amendment down because of the natural sympathy your Lordships all have with the agricultural community. I wonder if he has thought what is going to happen to the lorry driver, driving a load of sugar beet to market, if he is unfortunate enough to have an accident which, perhaps, is not solely due to the pedestrian? Then again, supposing one of his agricultural friends is driving an agricultural tractor, and happens to be involved in an accident such as Lord Sandhurst described. If Lord Danesfort has such great pity for the agricultural community, he will have a certain amount of sympathy with the driver of the tractor or the lorry. I think everybody must realise who has considered this Bill that there is a growing impression in many people's minds that this Bill is not really conceived in the interests of saving life and introducing a greater safety factor on to the highways, but is much more concerned with placing yet one more difficulty in the way of the motor driver. For that reason, if for no other, I want particularly to emphasise the point that you must bring home responsibility to every road user, and I feel it necessary to support this Amendment which, if not a complete step, is at any rate the first step that we are able to take at this stage under the Bill to try to bring that state of things about.
My Lords, I should like to say that when this Bill was originally before the House I was very much opposed to it. However, as a member of the Select Committee, I should 156 like to substantiate what has been said with regard to the care and trouble we took to investigate this Bill from every side. I am sure your Lordships, like myself, will defer to anything said by my noble friend Lord Howe on any-matter which concerns motors or the driving of motors, but I do not think he is taking a right view of this particular Bill. A large part of his speech was taken up with the point that nothing in this Bill would help to save life. This Bill was not originally drafted nor is it in its present stage intended in any form whatsoever to help to save the lives of pedestrians. What it is intended to do is to help to give compensation to pedestrians who have been injured as a result of motor accidents. I think your Lordships will agree that that is a totally different matter from the saving of life. Therefore the argument of my noble friend from that point of view does not hold water so far as this Bill is concerned.
Then he emphasised that the responsibilities of the pedestrian as opposed to the motor driver should be impressed upon the pedestrian. I think we all agree. with that. I may say that the Select Committee had that point before them. It was suggested by many witnesses who came before them, and although there is nothing in their Report to say that they considered that all steps should be taken to carry out what the noble Lord has suggested—that is, to bring home to pedestrians in this country the responsibilities which they have in using the roads as well as the motor users—that is an omission which was due not to neglect but to mischance. He went on to say that he had driven, as we know he has at the risk of his life very often, across the roads of Europe, and that these responsibilites are the concern of pedestrians in those countries. But he did not tell your Lordships that in the very countries of which he speaks—France and Italy and several other countries—the responsibility in the first instance for an accident is placed upon the shoulders of the motor owner and not upon the pedestrian. That is the principle which has been embodied in this Bill. But it has not been embodied in this Bill to the same extent that it is to be found in the law of those other countries I have mentioned. There is still retained in this 157 Bill a plea of contributory negligence, which has been abolished absolutely in certain foreign countries. It does not apply only to foreign countries, for the principle which is now embodied in this Bill is also now applied in certain of our Overseas Dominions—in Canada and in Australia, I think, and even in certain States in America.
Therefore, while I agree with my noble friend Lord Halsbury that it does alter the law of this country in this respect—not the whole law, as he says, but the law as far as motor drivers are concerned—it is not taking a step which is entirely new. It is a step which has already been taken in certain other countries with, understand, considerable success. I hope your Lordships will not be led astray by certain of the arguments which have been used by my noble friend and that you will not support this Amendment but will leave the Bill in the form in which came from the Select Committee.
My Lords, may I take the liberty of replying to one or two remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Danesfort? He stated, quite rightly, that I have said I dislike the idea of
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY moved, in subsection (1), after "owner of", to insert "or person using or driving". The noble Earl said: My Lords, this Amendment is one which I think the noble Lord who introduced the Bill will158
§ making the motorist prove a negative. He then went on to ask why did I want to make not only the motorist but everybody responsible? He did not give you the reason why I suggested I was prepared to lay aside my dislike. It is because I appreciate that the injured pedestrian would usually find it impossible to make the necessary effort to prove that the fault was that of the driver of the vehicle. The noble Lord made an appeal to your Lordships which I must say filled me with surprise. He appealed, if I may say so, to your Lordships' pockets. Think, he said, of the insurance policies you will have to pay on your farm cart! If your farm cart going to do damage to human beings surely it is just that your Lordships' pockets shall bear the insurance premium so that a person may recover for the damage suffered. Again the fact that the Committee did not have the suggestion made to them that all traffic should be included is surely no reason why that suggestion should be abandoned.
§ On Question, Whether the word "motor" shall stand part of the clause?
§ Their Lordships divided:—Contents, 34; Not-Contents, 8.157
|Sankey, V. (L. Chancellor.)||Winchester, L. Bp.||Howard of Penrith, L.|
|Reading, M.||Armstrong, L.||Lamington, L.|
|Arnold, L.||Monteagle of Brandon, L.|
|Buxton, E.||Clwyd, L.||Mottistone, L.|
|Iveagh, E.||Conway of Allington, L.||Moynihan, L.|
|Lucan, E.||Danesfort, L. [Teller.]||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.|
|Munster, E.||Daryngton, L.||Rankeillour, L.|
|Plymouth, E.||Ellenborough, L.||Rathcreedan, L.|
|Fairfax of Cameron, L.||Snell, L.|
|Cecil of Chelwood, V.||Gainford, L.||Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.|
|Elibank, V. [Teller.]||Gladstone of Hawardon, L.|
|Mersey, V.||Hanworth, L.||Wharton, L.|
|Amherst, E.||Macclesfield, E.||de Clifford, L. [Teller.]|
|Halsbury, E.||Harris, L.|
|Howe, E.||Bertie of Thame, V.||Sandhurst, L. [Teller]|
§ probably accept. Reading through his Bill carefully it occurred to me that possibly there was an omission in the drafting of the Bill and that the insertion of the words I propose might help to make the Bill somewhat better. The Bill says that "damages shall be recoverable from the owner of the motor159
§ vehicle." It may very well be, however, that the person who was driving is the person against whom you would desire to bring an action rather than against the owner. Therefore, following the wording of other Acts, I suggest inserting the words "or person using or driving." I suggest to the noble Lord that it would help his Bill, but if he does not think so I will not press the Amendment. I beg to move.
Page 1, line 10, after ("of") insert ("or person using or driving")—(The Earl of Hulsbury).
§ LORD DANESFORT
My Lords, this question was carefully considered by the Select Committee and we came to the unanimous conclusion that the best word was "owner" The reason for coming to that conclusion was that the object of the Bill was to throw liability on the person compulsorily insured. In almost every case the person compulsorily insured is the owner. The driver probably would not be insured at all. He might be a chauffeur or someone to whom the car had been lent. But the owner must be insured. Therefore, as we desire to thrown the liability on the person insured, we consider the best word is "owner." I am obliged to the noble Earl for suggesting the Amendment, but I think it should not be accepted.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY moved, in subsection (1), to leave out the words "without proof of negligence or intention or other cause of action as though the injury had been caused by his willful act, neglect or default, except where the injury was solely due to the negligence of the injured person." The noble Earl said: My Lords, this is a vital Amendment. When this Bill was discussed by your Lordships some time ago there was a point that I raised and pressed very strongly. I pointed out that if this Bill passed it must have an enormous effect on the premiums which would be charged by the insurance companies for third-party risks. Insurance against third-party risk is compulsory. I was told at that time that the promoters of the Bill 160 had not been able to get any information. If you look at the Report of the Select Committee you will see that they were not able to obtain any information from the insurance companies as to how much this would cost. They have not got it yet. I have spoken to a great number of my friends in the insurance world and all I can tell your Lordships is that unofficially—they will not give any official figure at all—they think the premiums would be something in the nature of double. They refuse to give any official information whatever because they say they do not know what this means. They have no figures on which to estimate the extra risk that they are going to underwrite.
§ When the Bill of 1930 was first introduced by the late Earl, Lord Russell, this question of compulsory insurance against third-party risks was first suggested. It was obvious to most of us interested in the matter that the first thing one had to deal with was what the cost was going to be. The late Lord Russell and myself, and one or two others, had meeting after meeting with the insurance people, and we got from them a very frank undertaking as to what they were prepared to do, and when that Bill was put before this House your Lordships were told what it would mean, and your Lordships voted on it knowing what it would mean. Now you are asked to vote on a. Bill where you do not- know what it means, from beginning to end. You do not know whether or not this is going to cost double the premiums or not. There has been no official statement. There has been a refusal by the big insurance people to give any statement, because they do not know, and that is so reported in the Report of the Select Committee. Is it wise in those circumstances, without having gone into it any further, to pass a Bill of this kind, putting a burden upon the motor trade, and upon the motorists of this country, which they will find hard to bear?
§ Do not forget that it is the poor motorist whom you are going to hit and not the rich one, who can afford any premiums. It is the small motorist who has got a small car which he uses for taking out his family every week-end. He may be just able to keep it up, but if you double his compulsory insurance he would have to give the car up. Is that a thing for your Lordships to do without further 161 consideration and without waiting to see whether or not some sort of arrangement can be come to with the insurance companies? You can put it in any way you like, but in fact what this Bill comes to is this: The motorist has got to pay. That is really what it comes to. There is to be no "proof of negligence or intention, or other cause of action as though the injury had been caused by his wilful act, neglect or default." All you have to grove is the accident. And what is the only so-called safeguard? It is that the injury to the person injured "was solely due to the negligence of the injured person." You are cutting out a good many things these. You are cutting out anything due to the act of a third party. Even an act of God will not help you. Furthermore, contributory negligence is cut out. Lord Elibank says that contributory negligence is there. It is not. The only defence left is the sole negligence of the injured person. That is not contributory negligence, and never has been.
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY
I will certainly read on:Provided that—(a) where the injury was contributed to but not solely due to the negligence of the injured person there shall be taken into account in computing the damages the degree in which the negligence of such person contributed to the accident.That is a slight amendment of the International Convention with regard to Collisions at Sea, and what on earth it has got to do with contributory negligence I do not know. It deals with the question of damages. The law of contributory negligence is perfectly simple. If a person is guilty of contributory negligence he gets nothing. It is no question of dividing the damage.
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY
Nothing of the sort. If a plaintiff is guilty of contributory negligence then it is a verdict for the defendant. Under this Bill contributory negligence has gone. What are your Lordships going to do about this? Are you going to pass the Bill with an unknown liability to be fixed on the unfortunate people who drive motor cars, 162 without the slightest idea of what I should have thought was the first thing in legislation—to minimise the number of accidents and deaths? Instead of that, we are told that this is going to ensure that people who are injured shall be able to get compensation from people who may have had nothing to do with the injury. This is a fundamental alteration in our law, and for that reason I ask you to say that these words shall be omitted, and that we shall come back to sane sense—that the person who has been proved guilty of negligence in the accident, and he only, shall have to pay for the damage which he has caused, and not that a person shall have to pay for damage which he has not caused.
Page 1, line 10, leave out from (" thereof ") to the end of line 14.—(The Earl of Halsbury.)
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, in order to save the next Amendment, standing in the name of Earl Howe, I propose to put the Question to your Lordships thus: "That the words from 'thereof' to the word 'solely' shall stand part."
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
My Lords, I desire to intervene only for one moment. I trust your Lordships will not accept this Amendment. It in fact is equivalent to the rejection of the Bill. That is the purpose of the Amendment, as the noble Lord has said. The noble Earl, in taking this action, both in his last Amendment and in this, is doing so clearly with the object of destroying the Bill. In doing so he is acting within his rights in this House, but I venture to submit to him whether it is a desirable course at this stage of the Bill. The Bill has been carefully considered, indeed I doubt whether any Bill has been more carefully considered. It was twice debated in this House in successive Sessions, and it has been considered by a Select Committee. Now your Lordships are asked on the Report stage, in the guise of an Amendment, to destroy the Bill. It does seem to me, with the greatest respect for my noble friend, that it is rather an abuse of the forms of this House. I hope that this House will not give any countenance to this proposal, which is reducing our proceedings to something like a farce.
§ LORD DANESFORT
I need hardly say that we who are interested in the Bill cannot possibly accept this Amendment. For my part I find considerable difficulty in reconciling the speech of the noble Earl with the Amendment itself. The speech of the noble Earl went chiefly on this ground, that inasmuch as it is impossible to estimate accurately what the increased premium caused by the Bill would be, therefore the Bill should not pass. But what does he do? He puts down an Amendment which will enormously increase the liability under the Bill, because he cuts out some of the defences—the main defences—for the motorist, which are provided for in the Bill. He cuts out this defence—namely, that where the accident is solely caused by the default of the injured person, the latter gets no compensation at all.
§ LORD DANESFORT
No, I am talking about the noble Earl's next Amendment. By the Bill it is provided that where the accident is solely caused by the negligence of the injured person there is to be no compensation. By the next Amendment of the noble Earl there is to be compensation, whether it is caused by his negligence or not. The clause would then read:Where bodily injury to a person is caused…damages shall be recoverable from the owner of the motor vehicle in respect thereof whether or not the injury was due to his default or negligence or the default or negligence of any other person.…
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY
That is not the Amendment I am moving. I am moving to leave out from "thereof" to the end of line 14.
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY
I have not moved that. Until I have got my first Amendment moved the second one could not come in. If I lose my first Amendment then I shall have a chance of moving the second.
§ LORD DANESFORT
I thought the noble Earl was going to stick to his guns. Then, as the noble Earl proposes to leave it, he does not desire to allow the defence which the Bill provides—namely, that the accident was due solely to the negligence of the injured persona The truth is that this is a wrecking Amendment. It violates all the considered Amendments of the Select Committee. I hope your Lordships will not accept it.
§ LORD LAMINGTON
My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, laid great stress on the fact that the insurance companies could not estimate what the premiums would he, but he wants more and more people killed year by year, and more and more actions until they have found out by experience.
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY
No, I am told that this Bill has nothing to do with the question of preserving human life.
§ LORD LAMINGTON
It has to do with the question of giving compensation. If this Bill had been passed some years ago there would have been some relief given to the unfortunate victims of motor accidents. As it is, the noble Earl proposes simply to delay the time before people are given compensation for what they have suffered.
§ On Question, Whether the words proposed to be left out shall stand part of the Bill?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 25; Not-Contents, 2.163
|Sankey, V. (L. Chancellor.)||Armstrong, L.||Gladstone of Hawarden, L.|
|Brougham and Vaux, L.||Howard of Penrith, L.|
|Reading, M.||Butler of Mount Juliet, L. (E. Carrick.)||Kilmaine, L.|
|Iveagh, E.||Clwyd, L.||Monteagle of Brandon, L.|
|Munster, E.||Danesfort, L. [Teller.]||Rankeillour, L.|
|Plymouth, E.||Daryngton, L.||Somerleyton, L.|
|Ellenborough, L.[Teller.]||Somerleyton, L.|
|Cecil of Chelwood, V.||Fairfax of Cameron, L.||Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.|
|Elibank, V.||Gainford, L.|
|Halsbury, E. [Teller.]||Sandhurst, L. [Teller.]|
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I have received the figures of the Division. It appears that there are fewer than 30 Peers present. It is provided by Standing Order No. XXXIII thatIf on a Division upon any stage of a Bill, it shall appear that thirty Lords are not present in the House, the Lord Speaker shall declare the question not decided, but the debate thereon adjourned to the next sitting of the House.…Therefore, under that provision I declare the question not decided, and the debate thereon adjourned to the next sitting of the House.
§ Debate adjourned accordingly