HC Deb 24 January 1945 vol 407 cc830-1W
Mr. Butcher

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport if he is aware that, in cases of collision between a vessel owned or requisitioned by the Government and another vessel, the Ministry forbids persons in the service of the Government, even when on duties unconnected with the first-named vessel, to give statements to the legal representatives of the other vessel; and whether, as this gives the Crown an unnecessary advantage over private litigants, he will give instructions that witnesses in the service of the Crown will give statements, provided that a representative of the Department is present if desired when the statement is taken.

Mr. Noel-Baker

The Crown's practice is similar to that usually adopted by other litigants in like circumstances, namely, that it does not afford facilities to solicitors who are engaged in the preparation of adverse claims to take statements from their servants for the purpose of establishing a claim against their employers. The hon. Member will appreciate that there is no right to take, or obligation on any one to give, a statement before trial, and a distinction must be drawn between affording a claimant facility to take statements before trial and the production of evidence at the trial upon subpoena. Subject to the exigencies of wartime service the Crown gives assistance to private litigants for the service upon Crown servants of a subpoena by means of which the presence of the Crown servant at the trial is assured, so that his evidence may be available.