HC Deb 08 January 1942 vol 377 cc48-50W
Mr. J. Henderson

asked the Secretary of State for Air (1) whether he is aware that a man employed as a motor-cycle despatch rider by his Department in the Carlisle area, suffered severe injuries whilst following his occupation on 21st October, and, owing to the immediate suspension of his wages, was compelled to obtain relief from the public assistance authorities; and, in view of the statements made in the police court proceedings that his employers were in a major degree responsible for the accident, will he see that this man is compensated, as he will be incapacitated for six months, having sustained a fractured skull, being blinded in one eye, and having other injuries which may permanently affect him;

(2) whether his attention has been called to the county police court proceedings at Carlisle, on 20th December, when a despatch rider, aged 33 years, employed by the Ministry, was prosecuted for driving a motor-cycle without due care and attention, it being sworn in evidence that he failed to pass the tests for a motor-driver, but was pushed through a motorcycle test although he had never ridden such machine before, and against his personal wish pressed to accept the position of motor-cycle despatch rider; will he therefore, in view of the gravity of this case, and in the interests of public safety on the roads, institute an immediate inquiry into the whole matter?

Sir A. Sinclair

The civilian employee referred to applied for a position as a driver of heavy motor vehicles or as a despatch rider. He failed to pass the test for a driver of a heavy vehicle and was then properly tested as a motor cyclist and passed the test. He stated prior to the test that he had ridden a motor-cycle of his own. I was informed by my Noble Friend the Minister of War Transport that the holding of a public inquiry by his Department would not be warranted and that he considered that the accident should be investigated by the Air Ministry. A Departmental court of inquiry has accordingly been held and has found that this despatch rider had been properly tested and engaged. No payment of compensation under the Workmen's Compensation Act can be made by the Air Ministry until the Department is informed by the man or his solicitors that action under common law for recovery of damages will not be pursued against a third party. If such payment were made it would debar the man from recovering damages from the third party. Sick pay is not issuable to industrial employees. It is not unusual in such cases for public assistance authorities to make advances pending settlement of the claims for compensation. Such advances can be made without prejudicing the claims to compensation.