§ 2.49 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.
§ Moved, That the House do resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Greenhill.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [The LORD MERTHYR in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1—[Power of courts to grant interest on damages]:
LORD SALTOUN moved, in Subsection (2), after paragraph (a) to insert:
(b) authorise the granting of interest on sums paid into court, or".
The noble Lord said: The Bill now before your Lordships empowers the courts to grant interest on any damages which have been allotted by the court, not from the moment they were allotted, but going back into the past. It empowers the court to fix a date from which such interest on the damages so awarded shall run. For that reason I have put down this Amendment, which, if agreed, would make the Bill read that:
Nothing in this section shall … authorise the granting of interest on sums paid into court …".
My Amendment really affects a somewhat larger field than merely sums paid into court, because I am thinking also of sums that have been offered.
§ There may be an action for damages, and the party against whom that action is raised may be willing to make, and may make, an offer in damages; or he may pay a sum into court. If that offer is accepted, or if the sum paid into court is accepted, there is an end of the matter, and the party who is to answer the case is not subjected to the costs of an action—the whole matter is terminated. If the damages finally awarded are in excess of such offer or sum paid into court, or even if they are equal to the sum paid into court. I do not think that interest should be allowed on such sums, whether they have actually been paid or whether they have merely been offered. We have to remember that a man may make such an offer in complete good faith and he may not know, before he comes into court and hears the whole case, of any circumstances which would lead him to increase that offer; it is only when he comes into court that that may become clear to him. For 76 that reason I thought that it was proper to make the suggestion that this Bill should be strengthened by the inclusion of some such Amendment as I am at present moving. I beg to move.
§ Amendment moved—
§ Page 1, line 15, at end insert the said paragraph.—(Lord Saltoun.)
§ LORD GREENHILL
My difficulty is to know what circumstances would give rise to the kind of situation that the noble Lord has tried to describe. If my information is correct, it is thought that that particular position could not possibly arise. As the noble Lord is well aware, what happens in practice is that a defender, after unsuccessfully offering the pursuer the stated sum in settlement of an action, renews his offer in the form of a minute of tender, as it is called—that is, a formal document lodged in court and notified to the pursuer. This may be what the noble Lord has in mind. But even if the wording of the Amendment were altered so as to relate to tenders it would still be unnecessary, because in Clause 1 there is a qualification in the words… if the circumstances warrant such a course.There you have the protection. It must be borne in mind, too, that the awarding of interest pre-dated is, as I said on Second Reading, a matter in the discretion of the judges of the court; and one's experience persuades one that discretion would not be exercised where there was any doubt as to the reasonableness of granting an award of interest backdated. For those reasons, I hope that the noble Lord will be good enough not to persist in his Amendment.
The noble Lord appeals to the high opinion that he and I both have of the sheriffs and the judges of our courts in Scotland. He does not appeal in vain. However, this is a point which seemed to me material; I thought that I ought to bring it before the notice of the Committee and also to make quite sure that it has been fully considered. In the circumstances, with the permission of the Committee, I will withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause I agreed to.
§ Remaining clauses agreed to.
§ House resumed.
§ Bill reported, without amendment.