HL Deb 25 June 1959 vol 217 cc304-7

6.23 p.m.

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Birkett.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The LORD MERTHYR in the Chair.]

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 [Exclusion of certain benefits in assessment of damages]:

LORD BIRKETT moved to add to subsection (2): insurance money' includes a return of premiums; and 'pension' includes a return of contributions and any payment of a lump-sum in respect of a person's employment". The noble and learned Lord said: I do not propose to detain your Lordships for more than a few moments. The Amendment on the Marshalled List is an Amendment to Clause 2 of the Bill, but perhaps I may in a sentence or two refer to two or three matters which arose on Second Reading. My noble friend Lord Silkin raised a point about adoption, and suggested that we might consider what one could term an official adoption. I have considered that, and I have already acquainted the noble Lord with the fact that it is really impossible to do anything in this Bill. What would result if that view were accepted would be that the only test would be a dependent relative, and in those circumstances, of course, the whole Bill itself would be destroyed. Therefore, I say with regret that nothing can be done on the matter of adoption other than to follow the precise form, and that the adoption must be in legal form.

The second matter is a point raised by my noble friend Lord Boothby, who asked me about the position in Scotland. I said that I could not answer him, because the English lawyer has little to do with Scottish law. However, I have made full inquiries and I have acquainted the noble Lord with my findings. It appears that before the year 1846, when the Fatal Accidents Act was passed for England, by the law of Scotland any person who suffered a loss of support by the death of a relative owing to the tortious act of another person could always sue for damages. Perhaps I might add this, as a matter of great interest. I said on the Second Reading that one of the defects of the Fatal Accidents Act was that the poor widow who had suffered the break-up of her life, and intense grief, could not get a penny by way of solatium for that, but in Scotland, before 1846 and down to the present day she could obtain damages for grief and for the break-up of the home.

The third matter is the particular Amendment on the Marshalled List which I desire to move. This Amendment is really to try to meet the view of my noble friend Lord McCorquodale of Newton, who has made some very valuable suggestions. It is clear that a lump sum ought to be included in the monies to be excluded from calcula- tion when assessing the damages under the Act; and it is also clear that there should be provision made for the return of premiums. Both of those things are made clear by the Amendment. Further, in the superannuation schemes under the National Health Service Regulations it frequently happens that before the first payment can be made the death has already occurred of the person concerned, and this Amendment makes provision for the return of premiums in that case.

The only other observation I would make is this. My noble friend Lord McCorquodale of Newton drew attention to a case in the Court of Appeal dealing with the question of monies which were taken into account where employers had voluntarily granted a pension to a widow in particularly sad circumstances. All I would say is that under this Bill that decision becomes obsolete, because the provision in this Bill is that a pension, if it arises, shall not be taken into account. I am obliged to my noble friends who have interested themselves in this matter, and to them I tender my thanks, as I do to the Members in another place, and particularly the legal Members, who made this little Bill the effective thing that I hope it will be. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 23, at end insert the said words.—(Lord Birkett.)


I rise only to say that I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Birkett, for putting forward this Amendment, which certainly meets the point I had in mind.


The noble and learned Lord, Lord Birkett, in moving this Amendment, took a rather wide view of what the Amendment comprises, and I hope that I shall be forgiven if in a sentence or two I take the same course. The noble and learned Lord dealt with the question of adoption. I am grateful to him for the trouble he has taken in going into the matter, and I do not think I can carry it any further to-day. The fact will remain that a large number of dependants by adoption will find that they will have no claim under this Bill when it becomes law. It is a common thing among the poorer sections of the community to take on a child, to look after it and to treat it as an adopted child, without going through the formality of legal adoption. In those cases, if the breadwinner loses his life through an accident, this child will have no remedy at all. I see the difficulty, although I should have thought myself that the Bill could have been widened to cover anyone who was dependent. But that possibly might involve a much wider scope than was intended by the Bill. Therefore I content myself with registering the point that there is this gap, and that some day, sometime, some noble Lord will bring in a measure to deal with it.


I want only to say, for the reasons so clearly stated by my noble and learned friend Lord Birkett, that Her Majesty's Government agree as to the desirability of the Amendment. To the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, I would say that I note his point and will bear it in mind.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 2, as amended, agreed to.

Remaining clause and Schedule, agreed to.

House resumed.