HL Deb 27 November 1946 vol 144 cc451-4

5 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to ask the question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

[The question was as follows:

To ask His Majesty's Government whether their attention has been called to the recent statement made by Lord Justice Scott in the Court of Appeal, when the Court were obliged to dismiss a claim for compensation for injury to a workman by reason of the fact that he was in Government employ, and consequently precluded, under the existing workers outside. I have not asked to-day that the House should pledge itself to every provision in the 1938 Bill, and if noble Lords will read my Resolution they will see that I say nothing about the 1938 Bill. What I do ask is that the House should register their opinion that a comprehensive measure of penal reform is urgently necessary, and I hope very much that my noble friends and other noble Lords in the House will go into the Division Lobby to show the deep feeling that they hold upon this subject.

On Question, Whether the said Resolution shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 45; Not-Contents, 13.

Norfolk, D. (E. Marshal.) Radnor, E. Carrington, L.
Rothes, E. Cecil, L. (V. Cranborne.)
Cholmondeley, M. Selborne, E. Courthope, L.
Linlithgow, M. Denham, L.
Reading, M. FitzAlan of Derwent, V. Fairfax of Cameron, L.
Salisbury, M. Maugham, V. Hatherton, L. [Teller.]
Willingdon, M. Mersey, V. Merthyr, L.
Samuel, V. O'Hagan, L.
Beauchamp, E. Simon, V. Polwarth, L.
Brooke and Warwick, E. Swinton, V. Rochdale, L.
Cathcart, E. Templewood, V. Saltoun, L.
De La Warr, E. Sandhurst, L.
Dundonald, E. Addington, L. Somers, L.
Fortescue, E. [Teller.] Blackford, L. Soulbury, L.
Iddesleigh, E. Borwick, L. Templemore, L.
Midlothian, E. (E. Rosebery.) Broughshane, L. Wardington, L.
Wolverton, L.
Jowitt, L. (L. Chancellor.) Ammon, L. Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Darwen, L. Pakenham, L.
Addison, V. Hare, L. (E. Listowel.) Pethick-Lawrence, L.
St. Davids, V. Henderson, L. [Teller.] Quibell, L.
Holden, L. Walkden, L. [Teller.]

law prohibiting Ministers of the Crown from being sued in tort, from bringing an action to enforce his claim, a state of affairs which the Lord Justice described as "a crying wrong" requiring the immediate attention of Parliament; and seeing that the matter is quite uncontentious and generally desired, will the Government give facilities for a short Bill rectifying this anomaly as soon as possible.]


My Lords, I can assure your Lordships' House that His Majesty's Government are fully aware of the recent case in the Court of Appeal, and of the statement referred to by the noble Lord. They are also alive to the necessity of introducing legislation to deal with this matter as soon as Parliamentary time is available. Indeed, a draft of the necessary Bill is in preparation so that it can be ready to be introduced when such time allows. In this connexion, I would like the noble Lord to know that the Bill prepared by the Crown Proceedings Committee and included in their report published in April, 1927, has been found not entirely satisfactory. Indeed, may I say that in the particular case in which the remarks were made I regard it as very doubtful whether that draft would have given any relief at all. The necessary alterations are being made in the new draft.

While I am in complete accord with the noble Lord's view that the difficulties of the present situation are real, I would like to take this opportunity of uttering a warning against the possibility of their exaggeration. The Crown and its advisers will do everything that they can to help claimants in getting their claims adjudicated, and the Treasury Solicitor is, I know, prepared to help to obviate any of the difficulties which may arise in the meantime.


My Lords, arising out of that answer, may I ask the Lord Chancellor if he does not agree that when the highest court in the land, other than your Lordships' House, draws attention to "a crying wrong" which, they are of opinion, requires the immediate attention of Parliament, it is beholden on the Government of the day to deal with the matter at once, and certainly before making any ideological experiments which may or may not turn out to be for the benefit of the community?


At present, there is no question of ideological experiments. I cannot introduce a Bill before I have the draft of it. The noble Lord heard my answer, and he will understand that I am taking the most proper steps I can to get a draft.


Arising out of the original answer may I ask my noble and learned friend—I hope that it is convenient for him to indicate his view now—does he share the view that in cases where the Crown is the occupier of premises, and the person injured is injured in circumstances where he would have to sue the occupier, at present such a person has no remedy at all?


My Lords, that of course is the difficulty. It is the difficulty that arises out of the occupation of land. If necessary, in these cases, in order to see that justice is done, I am quite prepared to consider devising some form of arbitration. I will adopt any device I can, so long as it is quite proper, to see that no one is kept from his rights. But I hope that I shall be able to obtain my draft of the Bill and get the Bill introduced.