§ 2.46 p.m.
§ Order of the Day read for the House to be put into Committee on recommitment of the Bill.
§ Moved, That the House do resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Mills.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [The LORD MERTHYR in the Chair]
THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (LORD MERTHYR)
My Lords, it might be for the convenience of the Committee if I reminded your Lordships that this Bill has not be reprinted since the last time upon which it was in Committee.
§ Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
§ Clauses 3 and 4, as amended, agreed to.
§ THE MINISTER OF POWER (LORD MILLS) moved, after Clause 4 to insert the following new clause:
§ Dangerous occurrences in connection with licensed sites
§ ".—(1) The provisions of this section shall have effect on the happening on, or in connection with the use of, any licensed site 87 of an occurrence of any such class or description as may be prescribed.
§ (2) The licensee shall cause the occurrence to be reported forthwith in the prescribed manner to the Minister, and if the occurrence is not so reported the licensee shall be guilty of an offence and be liable on summary conviction—
- (a) in the case of a first offence under this subsection, to a fine not exceeding fifty pounds;
- (b) in the case of a second or subsequent offence under this subsection, to a fine not exceeding one hundred pounds, or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months, or to both.
§ (3) The Minister may at any time direct an inspector to make a special report with respect to the occurrence, and the Minister may cause any such report, or so much thereof as in his opinion it is consistent with the interests of national security to disclose, to be made public at such time and in such manner as he thinks fit.
§ (4) The Minister may, where he thinks it expedient so to do, direct an inquiry to be held in accordance with the provisions of the Schedule to this Act into the occurrence and its causes, circumstances and effects; and any such inquiry shall be held in public except where or to the extent that it appears to the Minister expedient in the interests of national security to direct otherwise.
§ (5) The Minister may by order make provision for enabling such particulars of any person shown to have been within such area during such period (being the period during which the occurrence took place) as may be specified in the order to be registered by or on behalf of that person in such manner as may be so specified, and any such registration in respect of any person shall be sufficient evidence of his presence within that area during that period unless the contrary is proved; and any such order shall be made by statutory instrument and be laid before Parliament after being made.
§ (6) Where, by reason of the gravity of the occurrence or having regard to any previous occurrences on, or in connection with the use of, the site which have resulted or may result in claims such as are mentioned in subsection (1) of section four of this Act, the Minister thinks it proper so to do, he shall by notice in writing to the licensee direct that a new cover period for the purposes of the said subsection (1) shall begin in respect of that site on such date not earlier than two months after the date of the service of the notice as may be specified therein.
§ (7) Where, in the case of an occurrence in Scotland which causes the death of any person, the Minister directs an inquiry to be held into the occurrence under subsection (4) of this section, no inquiry with regard to that death shall, unless the Lord Advocate otherwise directs, be held in pursuance of the Fatal Accidents Inquiry (Scotland) Act. 1895."
§ The noble Lord said: As your Lordships will remember, when we were 88 considering this Bill on the last occasion it was arranged that it should be committed to your Lordships' House in order that the Amendment which had been put down to Clause 5, at page 8, line 4, in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Silkin, Lord Granville-West and Lord Wilmot of Selmeston, might be debated separately. In accordance with this arrangement, I therefore beg to move the inclusion in the Bill of this clause, which is the same as Clause 5 in its original form, in order that noble Lords opposite may move their Amendment.
After Clause 4 insert the said new clause.—(Lord Mills.)
LORD SILKIN moved, as an Amendment to the Amendment, after subsection (5) to insert:
(6) Where a person has so registered as is provided in the preceding subsection or not having so registered establishes his presence within the area and during the period referred to in the preceding subsection and such person has suffered hurt or damage to property of such character as gives rise to the presumption that such hurt or damage is attributable to ionising radiations as are mentioned in subsection (1) of section three of this Act then such person shall be deemed to have suffered such hurt or damage in consequence of such ionising radiations aforesaid unless the contrary is proved.
§ The noble Lord said: In moving this Amendment to the Amendment I should like to reserve the position of my noble friends on the clauses which have just been passed. We have let them go to-day because we did not wish to debate them afresh; but in fact on quite a number of them we have expressed our dissatisfaction and the noble Lord, Lord Mills, has given undertakings that he will reconsider certain provisions of them. We are quite prepared to accept those undertakings, and we are to have the benefit of possible discussions off the record. It is subject to those undertakings—it must not be deemed otherwise—that we have allowed these clauses to go through without opposition. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Mills, is under no misapprehension and appreciates that we are not satisfied with these clauses as they stand.
§ I now want to turn to the Amendment which I am moving. I think it is a simple one, and I have no doubt that the noble Lord will find himself, in principle, able to accept it. The point is just this: that where an incident has occurred and an individual can establish that he was 89 present at the time, and can also establish—and I want to use very broad language—that the injury from which he is suffering is due to the effects of that incident, then he should be entitled to be compensated without any further proof on his part, unless the licensee can controvert that evidence.
§ Even under the Bill as it stands, a person who has been injured will be in a position to make a claim within ten years from the date of the incident. We on this side very much hope that that period may be extended indefinitely and that there will be no limit to the time within which a person can make a claim. I believe that we had considerable support for that proposal from the Government side of the House, and I greatly hope that the noble Lord the Minister will see his way to meet us on this matter. But even accepting ten years as the period during which a claim must be made, an injured person will be put in a hopeless position in having to establish a claim if the injury manifests itself, say, at the end of eight or nine years after the occurrence, if he has to prove that his injury is, in fact, due to the particular occurrence. It is true that he may be able to establish that he was present, but he may find it impossible to overcome the difficulty of establishing cause and effect between his own injury and the occurrence.
I want to draw your Lordships attention to subsection (3) of the new clause under discussion. It says that, where an occurrence does take place:
The Minister may at any time direct an inspector to make a special report with respect to the occurrence, and the Minister may cause any such report, or so much thereof as in his opinion it is consistent with the interests of national security to disclose, to be made public at such time and in such manner as he thinks fit.
If such a report is made public it may go some way towards helping the injured individual to establish his claim. But what happens if that report is not made public? I imagine that there will be a number of cases where it may not be in the public interest to disclose that report, and the position will then be that the injured person will have no information and no evidence upon which he can establish his claim, while the licensee will have all the benefits of the result of that inquiry and will be able to controvert him.
Again, subsection (4) of the new clause deals with the same point. It says:
The Minister may, where he thinks it expedient so to do, direct an inquiry to be held in accordance with the provisions of the Schedule to this Act into the occurrence and its causes, circumstances and effects; and any such inquiry shall be held in public except where or to the extent that it appears to the Minister expedient in the interests of national security to direct otherwise.
So that we may get this state of affairs. An occurrence takes place and after, perhaps, eight, nine or conceivably many more years, if the period is extended, a man may find that he is suffering injuries which are consistent with the effects of an occurrence. He can establish that he was there but can prove nothing else, because, although there has been an inquiry into the incident, that inquiry has been held in private and in the interests of national security the report has not been published. The purpose of this Amendment, therefore, is to put the injured person in the position that once he proves that he was present and that he is suffering from injuries consistent with what would be the result of an occurrence—and I hope I shall not be pressed too hard upon those words because if the noble Lord the Minister agrees the principle he can no doubt clarify the point—it should be for the licensee to prove the contrary; and if the contrary is not proved then the injured person has made out his case.
§ I know that the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, who is listening carefully, as always, will follow the point I am trying to make. It is merely that we should shift the onus of proof from the injured person—who is going to find it exceedingly difficult to establish a case, especially in the circumstances I have mentioned, and if the injury takes place after many years—on to the licensee, who will have at his disposal all the evidence and will be in a much better position to discharge the onus. I beg to move.
§ Amendment to Amendment moved—
After subsection (5) insert—
("(6) Where a person has so registered as is provided in the preceding subsection or not having so registered establishes his presence within the area and during the period referred to in the preceding subsection and such person has suffered hurt or damage to property of such character as gives rise to the presumption that such hurt or damage is attributable to ionising radiations as are mentioned in subsection (1) of section three of this Act then such person shall be deemed to have suffered such hurt
or damage in consequence of such ionising radiations aforesaid unless the contrary is proved.")—(Lord Silkin.)
§ LORD MILLS
I understand the effect of this Amendment to the Amendment, which, as Lord Silkin says, is to shift the onus of proof, and I recognise that there are still uncertainties about the nature of nuclear risks. Considering the scale upon which radio-active materials will be handled by the nuclear power industry, the Bill already makes several concessions to those who may sustain radio-active injury or damage. They will not have to prove that a licensee has been negligent. If they register, then the burden of proving that they were not present in the area will fall upon the licensee; and they will no longer have to present their claims within three years, as is the case under existing law.
The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, has raised the question of the ten-year period and, as he says, I hope to have the opportunity of discussing that question unofficially before we come to the Report stage. But if this Amendment to the Amendment were accepted, the courts would be bound, as a matter of course, to award damages to any person who proved that he was persent in the area at the time of the occurrence and developed symptoms of radio-active injury—unless, of course, the licensee could show that the injury was due to something else. I believe that is what the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, wants to see established.
Such a position would surely constitute a serious encroachment upon the fundamental principle that, before damages can be awarded to one person against another, the claimant must satisfy the court of the validity of the claim; and I foresee that unless we reaffirm that common principle, the system laid down under this Bill could be abused and advantage could easily be taken of it. With every sympathy in this matter, I do not think it is possible for me to accept this reversal of the ordinary procedures of law. Therefore, I am sorry that I cannot accept the proposed Amendment to the Amendment.
§ 3.0 p.m.
§ LORD GRANVILLE-WEST
I am sure that the whole Committee will be very disappointed at the reply of the Minister to this Amendment. He has conceded at once that there are great dangers regarding nuclear risks. Even if 92 we are embarking upon acquiring a full knowledge of this subject, as yet there remain many elements unknown. The Government under this Bill are attempting to make provision to meet a possible contingency which might arise from the introduction into industry of nuclear energy. It is not a new principle. This is a case, in my respectful submission, where the Government should recognise that, with the uncertainties in this position, special provision should be made for those who might be injured by the ionising radiation. There was a position under the Pneumoconiosis Act and Regulations where there was a presumption that anyone who suffered pneumoconiosis was presumed to have obtained it in the course of his employment unless the contrary was proved by the employer. Therefore this is no new principle, and in this special circumstance it seems to me that this principle should be applied to this particular case.
When one considers Clause 5 as it stands one finds many uncertainties in it which give rise to considerable disquiet. In the first place, subsection (1) refers to:… any licensed site of an occurrence of any such class or description as may be prescribed"—that is, prescribed by regulation. Before we can thoroughly understand what the effect of the clause is going to be we surely should have some idea of what the Government have in mind when using the term "class or description", otherwise we are completely in the dark in understanding what the effect of the clause will be. It is true that Clause 5 refers only to dangerous occurrences. In the 1957 Report of the Factories Inspector it is stated there have been dangerous occurrences in other industries; I believe that something in the region of 1,200 dangerous occurrences occurred in private industry last year. Under this clause and under these provisions, we are dealing with a new industry where further dangerous occurrences will take place.
It is clear that the uncertainties of proof, particularly having regard to the statement which the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, made in his most eloquent appeal to the House, as a result of which the Minister is considering the period of time within which the claims should be made, cast upon the private citizen a great burden. Therefore it is, in my submission, 93 the responsibility of Parliament to ensure that the private citizen is protected against these risks which the Minister agrees are so uncertain at the present time.
Again, under subsection (5), where these dangerous occurrences happen, the Minister, at the time of the occurrence or shortly afterwards, I take it:may by order make provision for enabling such particulars of any person shown to have been within such area during such period (being the period during which the occurrence took place) as may be specified in the order to be registered by or on behalf of that person in such manner as may be so specified.…The difficulty about understanding this clause is that it is not quite clear whether, when the Minister makes his order, the particulars which have to be registered are to be of those persons who have already shown that they have been within the area. And then, of course, it is uncertain what "the area" means. Is it to be within the curtilage of the factory, the licensed premises, or what is "the area"? I think that the Committee should know something of what is in the Government's mind as regards this matter.
It seems that there are here many reasons why the principle which has been recognised in law on other occasions should be applied to this particular case. This Bill should be for the protection of the members of the public and not for the protection of the industrialist who undertakes nuclear development. The industrialist, of course, is entitled to all the help and assistance it is possible to give. He is having that from the Atomic Energy Authority; and I have taken the view (and I make no apology for repeating it), that in the circumstances it would be eminently desirable that the Atomic Energy Authority should be part of every consortium which is set up for the development of nuclear energy, so that whoever is injured by ionising radiation knows at once that he has one authority upon whom he can claim. Suppose there are several industries in close proximity where some ionising radiations have taken place: what is the area in which third parties are covered and against whom are they to bring their actions? How can they prove it was the radiation from one particular factory as against another? All sorts of difficulties arise here which, in my respectful view, should be provided for in the Bill; and I think that the only way in which they can be 94 so provided for is under the Amendment which my noble friend has moved.
§ LORD WILMOT OF SELMESTON
I am sorry indeed that the Minister has not seen fit to accept this Amendment to the Amendment, because I rather thought, from an attitude which I believed he was developing on the last occasion we had this Bill before us, that he had realised the grave implications of this Bill. I beg the Committee to realise that hidden in this Bill, which is highly technical and very legal in its form, there are wide dangers—I think we could say measureless dangers—at the present time to every citizen, which nobody can possibly know very much about in the present stage of our knowledge.
This Bill does a very serious thing. It removes the protection which the citizen now has under the law, the Atomic Energy Authority Act and other Acts associated with it; and it narrows down the rights of the citizen to redress against the licensee in such a mariner that, as my noble friend pointed out to me, all the risks of uncertainty are loaded upon the damaged citizen instead of upon the licensee, or upon the community as a whole, who are making these risks widespread. This is a very serious thing. I should be very interested to know whether I am right in believing that the Atomic Energy Authority Act does, in fact, protect the citizen to a much wider degree than he will be protected under this Bill. An answer on that point would be, I think, extremely illuminating and helpful to us all when we come to the next stage of the Bill.
In the somewhat confusing circumstances of the adjournment of the House in the Committee stage on the last occasion I was under the impression that we still had to consider Clause 4 afresh. Apparently I was wrong. Perhaps your Lordships will forgive me if I point out that under Clause 4, which apparently has been passed by the Committee, there still remains this most curious and, as I think, dangerous provision. It is briefly set out in the Explanatory Memorandum and I cannot improve on the words used there:If the Minister considers that the licensee's liability for hurt or damage by radiation from any occurrence is likely to exceed five million pounds, he is required to certify accordingly by statutory instrument; and thereafter no claims in respect of that occurrence are to be dealt with until Parliament so determines.95 A limit of £5 million is very small, in view of possible risks in a major disaster. Moreover, the time which can, and probably must, elapse before the total amount of liability is ascertainable may be very long.
Take the Windscale disaster, for instance. Have all the claims in respect of that been made? Who can answer that? I read in newspapers sent to me from Cumberland all kinds of suggestions that there are still developing among the livestock of certain farms alarming symptoms which may well give rise to substantial claims. There is evidence that there was pollution of the atmosphere by the Wind-scale disaster pretty well all over the country, and certainly detectable in the vicinity of London. How dangerous that is, nobody knows. At the time of an occurrence it is impossible to define the area within which damage might have occurred, so there is bound to be uncertainty for a long period of time about the amount of total claims. I think that the cost and risk of these vast uncertainties are to be put upon the damaged person and not upon the corporations who have caused the hurt. This seems to me a grave and major injustice, and I trust that your Lordships will resist this clause.
THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES
The noble Lord has referred to Clause 4, but I would point out that I did give the Committee an opportunity of considering Clause 4 this afternoon. I put the Question. That it stand part of the Bill. The noble Lord did not intervene.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The noble Lord's reference to paragraph 6 will be dealt with on Report stage of the Bill. I think it will be more convenient if we limit the debate for the moment to the issue before your Lordships, but I want to assure the noble Lord that his point is not forgotten.
§ LORD WILMOT OF SELMESTON
Does the noble and learned Viscount refer to Clause 6 of the Memorandum or to Clause 6 of the Bill?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I understand that the noble Lord was referring to paragraph 6 of the Memorandum, and that was the point I had in mind. On the general point before us, one has to remember, as my noble friend Lord Mills said, that here we have recognised that it is necessary to give greater rights to the individual. It is not a question of cutting down, as the noble Lord, Lord Wilmot of Selmeston, suggested. We have put the licensee of a reactor in the position of strict liability (if I may use a legal term); that is to say, a person who is making a claim against him need not prove negligence.
I think that my noble friend Lord Silkin knows me well enough to agree that I never have consciously at this Box taken a debating or drafting point on his Amendments. I have always tried to face the reality of the difference between us. And I should like to spend a moment on the Amendment, not in any pettifogging spirit but to see whether there really is the difference between us which noble Lords opposite fear. The Amendment to the Amendment says:Where a person has so registered as is provided in the preceding subsection or not having so registered establishes his presence within the area …I pause there to say that I take this as a point of substance, and I assume we are agreed that the person should have the onus on him of establishing his presence, either by the convenient method of registration or, if he has failed to register, by establishing his presence by ordinary evidence. We are agreed on that condition. Then the subsection goes on:and during the period referred to in the preceding subsection"—that is the period which at present is ten years and which is going to be a matter of discussion—and again we are agreed so far—and such person has suffered hurt or damage to property of such character as gives rise to the presumption that such hurt or damage is attributable to ionising radiations …Again I take it that the noble Lord is not putting too much on the word "presumption". What he really has in mind is, for example, if the person affected has leukæmia, that is likely to have been the result of ionising radiations. I think that the usual word would be "inference", rather than "presumption", but it would be a clear process of thought 97 to proceed from ionising radiations to some condition of the body (I am leaving out damage to property for the moment) likely to have been caused by it.
If the position were established that the plaintiff in such a case established evidence of registration, or of his presence, and also established that he was suffering from a disease likely to have been caused by radio-active exposure, he would be fulfilling the two conditions of the Amendment to the Amendment. At that point, the noble Lord says the onus should pass to the licensee. The point I want to make is this. I should have thought it was reasonable that the person should also have to establish that before the occurrence he was not suffering, as in my example, from leukæmia. That seems to me an entirely necessary part of the logical proof. If the facts were as the noble Lord put them, that the claim arose eight years afterwards, I should have thought that a reasonable point that would have to be discovered was whether, in the intervening period, the person claiming had been in more or less direct contact with other ionising radiations.
In other words, I should envisage in such a case the plaintiff going into the box and saying: "Before this occurrence I was a fit man or at any rate, I did not suffer from leukæmia"—if I may continue with my example. "I was here at the time of this occurrence. After that I suffered from leukæmia". And, if necessary, he would call medical evidence to show that leukæmia was a disease that was likely to result from ionising radiation. As the result of that, it would be perfectly proper and reasonable to ask him: "In the meantime, have you been, for example, in any other country where they have had an occurrence of this kind?"—and that might well happen to-day. That might introduce, perfectly properly (I am not trying to look at it legalistically, but from the common sense point of view), a new factor which had to be considered. On that, with the addition that I have made—if he can say that he has never suffered from this disease before; that he was there at the time of the occurrence, and that he suffered from it subsequently—and I really do not mind about the period of time—then, in my view, if the case were left there, he would win.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The noble Lord says "not necessarily". But I am trying to test it in the way that one does, and I think it is right that I should. At that point, supposing these were the facts proved and that nothing was done to contradict those facts, then I should have said that the inference would be obvious. The point I am making is that I do not think there is a vast difference of approach; there is only a difference as to what is necesary to prove that the injury is a result of the occurrence.
The noble Lord, Lord Granville-West, called attention to the workmen's compensation provisions and pneumoconiosis, with which I used to be very familiar at an earlier stage of my life. The noble Lord will remember that that depends on proof, if proof be necessary, that the person had worked in contact with silica dust, or whatever it was—I do not pretend to carry all the details in my head. If I may drop into legal parlance, as both noble Lords are of my own profession, what we are really doing here is to apply by Statute the rule of Rylands v. Fletcher, which is a well-known Common Law rule, that when you bring a dangerous substance on to land you are liable, if that substance escapes, irrespective of negligent conduct. However careful you have been in trying to prevent it from escaping, you brought the dangerous substance on, and you are liable. Ever since that rule was formulated, it has been part of the rule that the liability is for the direct consequences: that is, you had to prove that the injury was the consequence of the escape of the dangerous substance. That seems to me the short point between us here.
I do not think it is unreasonable, if someone comes eight years afterwards, that he should have to prove that he was a healthy man before the accident; that his injury arose after the occurrence, and that it was the result of ionising radiations. That is all we are asking him to prove. As I say, I want to put the point perfectly fairly. He would, I am sure, be asked—noble Lords have acted for defendants as well as plaintiffs: "Have you been in contact with something else?" And I do not think that that is unreasonable. But here, in addition to removing the need to prove negligence, we have already extended the period to ten years, which is four years beyond the limitation period. I cannot see why 99 noble Lords think it unreasonable that there should still remain, in the form that I have said, the necessity of saying that the injury is the result of the occurrence. That is all that we are standing for and, after a careful consideration of the Amendment, I believe that that is the only difference between us.
If the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, will look at his Amendment to the Amendment, he will see that it goes on to say:… of such character as gives rise to the presumption that such hurt or damage is attributable to ionising radiations …The only point that he does not put in—and I was not sure whether this was deliberately left out or not—is that it was due to the ionising radiations arising from this occurrence. That is the only difference between us, and that is the difference which I ask noble Lords to consider is not an unreasonable or inhumane difference to make. That is the way we put it, and I hope noble Lords will at any rate give us the credit for having considered this matter and considered it from a reasonable and not inhumane standpoint.
§ LORD SILKIN
I have listened carefully to the explanation of the noble and learned Viscount. I would ask him, first, if there is so little between us, why the Government find it so difficult to accept the Amendment to the Amendment, or the principle of it.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
If it is a difference in principle, then it is something about which we should divide. I say that it is fair and reasonable to ask the plaintiff to prove that his injury was the result of these radiations.
§ LORD SILKIN
The difficulty that we find ourselves in is that you are putting a person to a burden of proof which in many cases he is going to find it impossible to discharge. He has to satisfy a court beyond reasonable doubt.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
No, in this case he has not to satisfy a court beyond reasonable doubt; he has to satisfy the court that that is the reasonable inference from the facts proved. This is a civil and not a criminal standard of proof.
§ LORD SILKIN
I do not think there is really anything in that; he must prove 100 to the satisfaction of the court, and if the court has any reasonable doubt, they will give him the benefit of it. In my view, it is putting upon him an impossible burden if, after a lapse of many years—it may be eight, nine or ten years, or if the Bill is amended a claim may possibly be made after that; and we hope the Bill will be so amended, because the effect of an occurrence may arise many years after the occurrence—he has to prove to the satisfaction of the court that his injury is the direct result of this occurrence, then he may be in extreme difficulty. As I have said, he may not even have available the evidence of the inquiry. Once he establishes that he was there, and that he is suffering from one of the injuries which are understood to be the result of radiation, what more can he prove? He says, "I was healthy before."
If that is all that is between us, I make the noble and learned Viscount a present of it, but I am sure he is not standing on that point. I say that at that point, with all the evidence in the possession of the licensee, it should be for the licensee to show that the injury was not caused by the occurrence. After all, if one has to hold a balance between the two, on whom is the greater hardship? Is it on the injured person, or is it on the licensee? I would say quite obviously—and I am sure the noble and learned Viscount would agree with me—that the greater hardship in establishing or rebutting the claim would be on the injured person. We want to make quite certain that, if a person is injured in these uncertain conditions, even if it is many years after, he should not be prevented from getting his compensation by the technical difficulty of establishing that this was the direct result. If there is little between us, why not get together and talk it over and see whether we cannot do something about it? Failing that, I am afraid we must ask the House to divide.
§ LORD WILMOT OF SELMESTON
I wonder whether the noble and learned Viscount would answer a question which still worries me. Is not the position of the prospective claimant worsened by the Bill as against the position as it now is? Take the Windscale accident. That occurred before this Bill was introduced. As I understand it—I may be wrong—the position of claimants against whoever is responsible in law for the Windscale damage is much stronger now than it 101 would have been had this Bill been passed and the Windscale plant operated by a licensee. I should like an answer on that point.
§ LORD MILLS
The noble Lord, Lord Wilmot of Selmeston, has touched upon the very purpose of the Bill. As it is, the Atomic Energy Authority is responsible for its own acts under the Atomic Energy Authority Act. But there is no provision for the operation of a reactor by the Generating Board or by a private firm. This Bill is to lay down the conditions under which a reactor can be operated and under which material can be conveyed, and the compensation which anyone suffering injury will receive.
§ LORD WILMOT OF SELMESTON
The noble Lord has not answered my question. I wish he would. Is the position of a claimant against the Windscale authority different from the position of a claimant against a licensee were this Bill passed? If it is different, how does it differ?
§ LORD MILLS
I thought I had made it clear that in respect of Windscale a claim would come under the Atomic Energy Authority Act which does not apply to the operation of a reactor by a private person. I understand exactly what the noble Lord means; but we are laying clown rules which are applicable to the operation, not by the Government but by nationalised bodies and private undertakings, and the limits which are set down in this Bill are considered to be fair and practicable as between the licensee and the public.
§ LORD WILMOT OF SELMESTON
I am obliged to the noble Lord. We can only go to the Division Lobby. It is perfectly clear from his answers that this Bill worsens the position of the claimant as against the position as it now stands.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Why does the noble Lord say that? What is he relying upon in the Act which makes him say that? I have not the Act before me, but if he would tell me what he relies upon—
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Speaking from memory—because I had not noticed this point, and I have not looked at the Act—I thought everyone was required to prove damage. In that case there is no narrowing of the position. If the noble Lord has any specific provision in mind, I will willingly look at it. Has he?
§ LORD WILMOT OF SELMESTON
I shall have to communicate with the noble and learned Viscount. I have not got the points here.
§ LORD GRANVILLE-WEST
May I put a short point to the noble and learned Viscount? A person who has been within the area of the Windscale disaster removes into an area where the industry has been set up, and a dangerous occurrence occurs in the new industry. Where does the responsibility lie, and from whom does he get compensation?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
That emphasises the point that I ventured to make; it is the only point between our conflicting views. The claimant could say, "Before such and such a day I was a sound and healthy man"—and his medical evidence will bear that out—"and the onset came after that time." Surely, it is reasonable to know that there was no possible trace of the disease of which he complains before that time. After all, the noble Lord knows that that is a matter which has been discussed over and over again in the field of workmen's compensation.
§ LORD GRANVILLE-WEST
But is it not equally reasonable to say that as Parliament is authorising nuclear reactors to be set up by private industry the citizens should be protected against these consequences? That is precisely what we are trying to do.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment to the Amendment shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 30; Not-Contents, 66.103
|Attlee, E.||Amwell, L.||Rea, L.|
|Lucan, E. [Teller.]||Burden, L. [Teller.]||Shepherd, L.|
|Darwen, L.||Silkin, L.|
|Addison, V.||Granville-West, L.||Stonham, L.|
|Alexander of Hillsborough, V.||Haden-Guest, L.||Taylor, L.|
|Hall, V.||Latham, L.||Uvedale of North End, L.|
|Stansgate, V.||Lawson, L.||Williams, L.|
|Milner of Leeds, L.||Wilmot of Selmeston, L.|
|Airedale, L.||Mottistone, L.||Wise, L.|
|Ammon, L.||Ogmore, L.||Wootton of Abinger, Baroness.|
|Amulree, L.||Pethick-Lawrence, L.|
|Kilmuir, V. (L. Chancellor.)||Devonport, V.||Fraser of Lonsdale, L.|
|Gage, V.||Glendyne, L.|
|Atholl, D.||Goschen, V.||Glyn, L.|
|Monsell, V.||Grenfell, L.|
|Cholmondeley, M.||Stonehaven, V.||Hampton, L.|
|Lansdowne, M.||Templewood, V.||Hawke, L.|
|Reading, M.||Jeffreys, L.|
|Salisbury, M.||Ailwyn, L.||Jessel, L.|
|Allerton, L.||Leconfield, L.|
|Albemarle, E.||Amherst of Hackney, L.||Merrivale, L.|
|Bathurst, E.||Baden-Powell, L.||Merthyr, L.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Balfour of Inchrye, L.||Mills, L.|
|Buckinghamshire, E.||Blackford, L.||Newall, L.|
|Dundee, E.||Brocket, L.||Rank, L.|
|Home, E.||Chesham, L.||Ravensdale of Kedleston, Baroness.|
|Lonsdale, E.||Conesford, L.|
|Onslow, E. [Teller.]||Cornwallis, L.||St. Oswald, L.|
|Powis, E.||Cottesloe, L.||Saltoun, L.|
|St. Aldwyn, E. [Teller.]||Croft, L.||Sandys, L.|
|Selkirk, E.||Derwent, L.||Strathcarron, L.|
|Swinton, E.||Digby, L.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Ebury, L.||Stratheden and Campbell, L.|
|Astor, V.||Elliot of Harwood, Baroness.||Teviot, L.|
|Davidson, V.||Erskine, L.||Westwood, L.|
§ Resolved in the negative, and Amendment to the Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clauses 6 and 7 agreed to.
§ Clause 8, as amended, agreed to.
§ Remaining clauses and Schedule agreed to.
§ House resumed.