HL Deb 29 November 1983 vol 445 cc553-4
Lord Graham of Edmonton

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government when they intend to act on the main recommendations of the report of the Royal Commission on Civil Liability and Compensation for Personal Injury (the Pearson Commission).

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone)

My Lords, of the 188 recommendations of the commission, some have already been acted on including some of those on damages, work injuries, sea and inland waterways and occupiers' liability. The Government have not yet taken a final decision on the implementation of other recommendations including those on road injuries and product liability. For a wide variety of reasons the Government have decided not to implement certain other recommendations.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, will the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor confirm that Answers to previous parliamentary Questions relating to the state of the art defence are still Government policy? Will that topic still remain on the agenda of the Committee of Permanent Representatives? While the Government wait for harmonisation of the EEC directive, can the House be told what steps are being taken to discuss with commerce and industry the undoubtedly heavy costs which will eventually flow from strict liability?

The Lord Chancellor

My Lords, I think I can confirm that it is part of the Government's policy to maintain the state of the art defence. I do not think, without notice, that I can give a full account of the various consultations which have taken place with industry, but they have been pretty extensive. Of course at the moment the state of the art defence is one of the obstacles to the European Directive which is under consideration at Brussels. That is the best answer that I can give to the noble Lord's supplementary question.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, does the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor recall— undoubtedly he does—the debate that took place in this House on the Pearson Report when considerable attention was given to the "no fault road compensation scheme"? In view of the large number of persons who suffer injury, for which there is no compensation, arising from road accidents, will the Government move fairly quickly on that item?

The Lord Chancellor

My Lords, the road compensation scheme is probably one of the most controversial of all the Pearson recommendations. Simply in terms of manpower it would cost a thousand new jobs, 200 of which would be medical. I wonder whether that is the best way in which to use 200 doctors. At 1977 prices it would cost £64 million a year and I am wondering whether £64 million—if one is going to spend it on the disabled—is best spent in that particular way. There are two alternate views and doctrines about how we ought to deal with disablement. One such view was put very well by the noble Baroness. Lady Lane-Fox, when we had the vaccine damage debate. The view put forward then was that we ought to use our resources to help all disabled people depending upon the nature of their disablement and the extent of their disablement. The other view is that we should select particular groups of disabled people—for instance, people who are vaccine damaged or people injured on the roads, as the noble Lord's supplementary question implied—and concentrate on particular groups of the disabled not according to the nature or extent but according to the cause of their disablement. I belong to the "Lane-Fox school"; but the Government have not yet adopted quite the same view.

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