Clause 43. — (Goods insurable under the schemes.)

– in the House of Commons on 11th February 1941.

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Photo of Sir Joseph Lamb Sir Joseph Lamb , Stone

I beg to move, in page 33, line 7, after "business," to insert: Provided that any livestock being agisted by the owner thereof to another person shall be insured by the owner thereof and not by the person to whom it is agisted. The policy contained in this Amendment is also contained in certain other Amendments on the Paper, particularly one in the name of the hon. Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams). While supporting the principle contained in those other Amendments, I propose to confine my remarks to the effects which this proposal will have on agriculture and to leave other hon. Members to speak of it in relation to other matters. The object of my Amendment is to provide that a man shall not be expected to insure the same stock twice over. There is a system in agriculture known as "agistment," under which stock passes not from the ownership of one person to another, but from the custody of one person to another, for purposes of maintenance. As the word "agistment" is not commonly used throughout the country, I think it better to explain its meaning as used in connection with this Amendment. Animals belonging to the owner of one farm, may be transferred to another farm which is in different ownership. We do not wish that the man to whom the custody of the animals has been transferred, should be made responsible for the insurance or the payment of contributions in respect of that stock, or that he should be the person to whom compensation would be payable, in the event of damage. The owner of the stock should still be liable in those respects. If this Amendment is accepted, it will ensure that dual payments will not be made in respect of one lot of stock; it will be made clear that the owner of the stock is responsible for the payments and is also the person who should receive compensation.

Photo of Mr Herbert Williams Mr Herbert Williams , Croydon South

It might save time if this Amendment, and that which stands in my name —in page 33, line 11, at the end, to insert: Provided that any public service vehicle which is let on hire by the owner thereof to another person shall be insured by the owner thereof and not by the person to whom it has been let on hire, whether or not it is hell or used by that person were discussed together, as they raise the same issue, though it is true that one relates to a cow while the other relates to a bus. I have put down this Amendment, having had some association, however remote and indirect, with the omnibus industry. The omnibus people are anxious to make sure that while a bus is insured, it should not be insured twice over. As a result of putting down this Amendment I have had representations from other people concerned in hire-purchase and it might be convenient if certain other aspects of that matter were also considered in connection with these Amendments. The position with regard to hire-purchase goods is rather ambiguous. In the Memorandum to the Bill there is a reference to Clause 55 (2) and Clause 57. I have read those Clauses and, frankly, I do not understand their provisions in relation to this matter. Perhaps the President of the Board of Trade will help us later, in considering those points.

The Deputy-Chairman:

I do not chink it will be very convenient to discuss all those matters on an Amendment which deals only with livestock.

Photo of Mr Herbert Williams Mr Herbert Williams , Croydon South

I thought it might be convenient to raise the whole issue now and that my Amendment with regard to the bus might be treated at the same time as my hon. Friend's Amendment with regard to the cow.

Photo of Sir William Jowitt Sir William Jowitt , Ashton-under-Lyne

I think I can make a reply on this Amendment which, though confined to the actual consideration of the cow, will in fact be wide enough to cover the bus.

Photo of Sir Joseph Lamb Sir Joseph Lamb , Stone

May I point out that I did not use the expression about the cow and that my Amendment applies to stock generally?

Photo of Sir William Jowitt Sir William Jowitt , Ashton-under-Lyne

It applies to any case of agistment. The position under the Bill is this, that the person who ought to insure is the person who is at risk. Suppose that livestock, or a bus, or anything else you like, is destroyed by a direct hit and disappears, on whom does the loss fall? In every case of agistment which I have seen the loss would fall upon the owner of the cattle. The person who was agisting the cattle in his fields had done no wrong. He kept the cattle safe as far as he was concerned and was not responsible for the bombing attack. Therefore the loss of the cattle would fall upon the owner of the cattle and the owner is obviously the person who ought to insure. Of course, there might be some highly special contract between the parties—though I have never seen one—by which the person undertaking to agist the cattle placed himself under an obligation to return the cattle. He would then be at risk, and if he were at risk, it would be for him to insure against that risk. The Clause, as drawn, provides for not only the owner but also the possessor, insuring his interest in the goods. It is intended to be drawn comprehensively to meet the two cases which I have put, but it is contemplated that we shall clarify it, by subsequent orders setting out the various persons having an interest in the goods. The general principle, however, is that the person who ought to be responsible for the insurance is the person on whom the loss will fall, if, by enemy action, the subject-matter of the insurance is destroyed.

Photo of Mr Herbert Williams Mr Herbert Williams , Croydon South

I was held up when I made a reference to hire purchase. I do not think that paragraph (b) of the Sub-section does cover goods on hire purchase, and that is why I sought to raise the issue.

Photo of Sir Richard Denman Sir Richard Denman , Leeds Central

I am sure the Committee agrees with the view expressed by the Solicitor-General, but is not the language of the Bill contradictory? The Bill says that the goods to be insured are those which are in the person's possession, whether he is the owner or not. Obviously, cattle which have been agisted are in the possession of the person with whom they are agisted, although he does not own them. Is he not, therefore, under the Bill obliged to insure them?

Photo of Mr Lewis Silkin Mr Lewis Silkin , Camberwell Peckham

I wish to know what the position is with regard to various other specific matters in this connection. For example, if goods sent to a laundry or a film of cleaners are destroyed by enemy action, is the launderer or the cleaner responsible for the insurance? I have read the Clause but I find it difficult to ascertain what is the liability of a launderer under it. Apparently the owner of clothing sent to a laundry is under no obligation to insure and I should have thought that, in such a case, the laundry company should be responsible. Then there is the case of a man who sends his watch to the jeweller for repairs. It does not seem that the jeweller would have to insure the watch under the commodity insurance scheme because it is not part of the stock and I am not certain whether the owner can insure such a thing as a watch, but that is a matter which ought to be covered somehow. There is also the case of bookbinders who bind material sent to them by printers and publishers. If this material is destroyed by enemy action, who is responsible for its insurance, the book-binder or the publisher? There are other points of the same kind which one could put to the Solicitor-General but all I want to say at the moment is that the Clause is not clear and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will look into it and remove any doubt as to those on whom the responsibility for insurance should fall.

Photo of Reverend George Woods Reverend George Woods , Finsbury

I do not know whether the point raised in an Amendment which stands in my name is covered by the question raised by the hon. Member who has just spoken. There is a whole range of goods which appear not to be covered. The point raised by the hon. Member for Stone (Sir J. Lamb) is the danger of goods being insured twice. It is evidently the intention of the present Amendment to prevent that, but the Amendment which follows is totally different and proposes to bring within insurance goods which are not covered but for which the person or persons who are holding them will be held responsible, and which may amount to thousands of pounds' worth in the case, for example, of a big laundry. The object of my Amendment is to see that these goods are covered, so I do not see how we can be discussing the two together under this Amendment unless there is some considerable misunderstanding.

Photo of Sir William Jowitt Sir William Jowitt , Ashton-under-Lyne

The object of Clause 43 is to deal, not with persons, but with goods. It sets out what goods are insurable, and I think the Committee will have the same wishes on this subject as we have ourselves, namely, that we must avoid double insurance. We must see that two people do not both have to pay premiums in respect of the same goods, and we must also see that the person who has to bear the premium is the one on whom the risk falls and who will have to bear the loss of the goods. So far, that is common ground. In considering bookbinders, laundrymen and the like, the War Liability (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, which was passed during the first few days of the war, does declare the law in ordinary cases, although, of course, it admits of special agreements for contracting out of liability. Broadly speaking, the liability is placed upon the man who is the owner, and not on the man who is bailee, whether for work or any other purpose. But all these matters will certainly be looked into. The Clause obviously contemplates, and it will be necessary to have, subsequent Orders to define the respective rights of various people in respect of insured goods. In drawing up those Orders, we will bear in mind what has been said and will certainly take care that goods are insured once and not twice, and that the person who pays the premium is the person on whom the risk falls.

Photo of Sir Joseph Lamb Sir Joseph Lamb , Stone

I do not think there is any difference between the object of the Committee and that of the Solicitor-General on this point, namely, that goods shall not be insured twice. My Amendment relates to a difficulty which arises in considering the agricultural industry on the same lines as general industry, because of the difference in procedure which exists. In this case cattle come under the heading of goods insurable by a person carrying on business "which are in his possession…", and, as I see it, it would still be possible under the Bill for them to be insured twice. I would draw attention to Sub-section (8), page 36, which says: the expression 'farming business' means a business carried on by any person wholly or mainly in connection with the occupation by him of agricultural land. I call attention to the word "occupation," which would seem to indicate that stock on the land occupied by him are included. However, having called attention to the words in the Bill and having heard the Solicitor-General's explanation, I would beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment, on the understanding that this matter shall receive full consideration later, in order to see that there shall be only one insurance of stock.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Mr Oliver Lyttelton Mr Oliver Lyttelton , Aldershot

I beg to move, in page 33, line 10, after "mortgage," to insert "or right in security."

Photo of Mr James Milner Mr James Milner , Leeds South East

This Amendment proposes to introduce words which I have not come across in any other connection. I am not altogether sure they are suitable to the purpose. "Right by way of security" I could understand; I can understand a mortgage or some other form of security in the nature of a mortgage, but perhaps we might have an explanation as to why it is necessary to introduce the words "or right in security." They introduce something new into the definition of a mortgage, or, alternatively, they constitute something in the nature of a duplication. I should also like to ask what is the position in the case of a bill of sale. Does that come under this provision? For example, I might have in my office goods which are the subject of a bill of sale to someone else. These goods are my property. Is it the duty under this Bill of the owner of the bill of sale, or mortgagee, to insure these goods? On this Clause it rather appears as though it was his duty and not the duty of the owner of the goods. It would appear to throw the duty on the mortgagee, as the goods would be the subject of a mortgage in his favour. I do not desire to press the matter but perhaps the Solicitor-General could give some explanation. If so, I should be grateful.

Photo of Sir William Jowitt Sir William Jowitt , Ashton-under-Lyne

I sympathise with my hon. and gallant Friend's difficulty; he and I were both brought up in the English law. But Scots law differs, and in order to make the necessary application to Scotland we have to use a phrase which is dear to the hearts of the Scots lawyers, namely, "rights in security," which is a Scottish phrase. I do not think it will have any effect on the English law at all. On the other point raised by my hon. and gallant Friend, the expression "subject of a mortgage" includes any charge or lien on any property for securing money or goods.

Amendment agreed to.

Photo of Colonel Sir Henry Evans Colonel Sir Henry Evans , Cardiff South

In the unavoidable absence of my hon. Friend the Member for Dulwich (Mr. Bracewell Smith), I beg to move, in page 33, line 11, at the end, to insert: Provided that if the Board of Trade are satisfied that goods held by any person for the purpose of any business are not owing to special circumstances being used beneficially by him in the course of that business they may if so requested exempt such goods from the provisions of this subsection subject to such conditions as may by order be laid down. I think the Amendment is clear in its meaning without any explanation, but as far as the hotel and restaurant industry is concerned, which I think my hon. Friend the Member for Dulwich has in mind, I think it is agreed that the majority of the people chiefly concerned are prepared and indeed anxious to play their part in any scheme of compulsory insurance. But I think it is recognised that there is a minority who, owing to special circumstances outside their control, are unable to afford to make a contribution of this kind. A number of hotels in many parts of the country have been closed, for reasons beyond the control of the proprietors. Districts have been virtually evacuated, and the general public are prohibited by regulations from entering those areas, with the result that hotels have been closed down entirely. Furniture has been removed and stored in places of safety, yet, under this Clause, such furniture is held to be a perquisite of the business, and, if worth over £1,000, it must be insured by the proprietor of the hotel. In some cases a great deal of money would be involved, and, as the hotel proprietors are unable to earn any revenue, they cannot possibly take the steps required by the Clause. There is another case, somewhat rare, of hotels, of a small artistic character, being decorated with works of art, in order to make them more agreeable. These works of art have been stored for the duration of the war, either in the same vicinity or elsewhere. It does not seem right that the proprietor should be compelled to insure those works of art. I hope that my right hon. Friend will either accept the Amendment, or, at a later stage, suggest another Amendment, so worded as to meet the case.

Photo of Sir Percy Harris Sir Percy Harris , Bethnal Green South West

This is a very difficult and serious problem, which particularly affects a number of small hotel and lodging-house keepers in London. In areas like Bloomsbury there are hundreds of small hotel keepers who are almost reduced to bankruptcy. They assure me that they are not in a position to meet this obligation, and if some concession can be made to meet their position, it will be a real benefit.

Photo of Mr Robert Tasker Mr Robert Tasker , Holborn

I should like to supplement what my hon. Friend the Member for South West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) has said. In Holborn and in other areas in London, there are hundreds of hotel and boarding-house keepers who are in peril of insolvency if the present state of affairs continues indefinitely. I have furnished certified records to the Ministry, setting out the names and addresses of hotels and boarding-houses, giving particulars of the average number of rooms in each occupied before the war and the actual number occupied on the date when I handed in the particulars. These show that where before the war the average number of rooms occupied had been, say, 20, there were on the date when statistics were compiled perhaps three, two, or no rooms at all occupied. With regard to lodging houses, there is often a very large sum of money owing for goodwill and improvements and upon the furniture. I urge that between now and the Report stage the Minister should examine the difficulties and endeavour to meet the wishes of the supporters of the Amendment.

Photo of Mr Oliver Lyttelton Mr Oliver Lyttelton , Aldershot

Paragraph (c) of Subsection (1) of Clause 45 provides that the Board of Trade shall have power to make insurance under the business scheme voluntary in respect of goods of such descriptions as may be prescribed. I can assure my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South Cardiff (Colonel A. Evans) that the Board of Trade will give every consideration to those who find themselves in the unfortunate position to which he has referred. The Amendment is drawn a little too widely, and would place the Board of Trade in a difficulty in regard to certain other cases; but we shall, as far as possible, meet the wishes of the supporters of this Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Reverend George Woods Reverend George Woods , Finsbury

I beg to move, in page 33, line 11, at the end, to insert: or (d) which are held by him in the course of his business as baillie. I appreciate what the Solicitor-General has said with regard to the extension of this Measure, but we should like some definite assurance that the problem with which this Amendment is concerned will be met. The Solicitor-General's statement that this matter is covered by legislation needs some examination There are, for example, the cases of laundry, boot repairs, and various other things, which individually may be small, but when held in bulk represent very considerable sums of money and very considerable liabilities. These goods are not covered by the War Risk Insurance Act, 1939, for several reasons. They are not held as goods for sale, they are not the property of the businesses where they have been deposited, nor are they materials from which goods for sale are being produced. The goods held by a laundry are the soap and starch and so forth, so that a laundry of fairly considerable size might not itself come under the legislation, owing to the small volume of goods which it holds. As a matter of fact, the only thing which the laundry proprietor puts into the goods that he deals with is starch, and that is compensated for by what he takes out in the shape of dirt.

Photo of Mr Robert Tasker Mr Robert Tasker , Holborn

Is my hon. Friend prepared to include dyers and cleaners?

Photo of Reverend George Woods Reverend George Woods , Finsbury

Certainly. This is a general Amendment. So long as we can get an assurance on the principle of the Amendment, we shall be satisfied. It may be that the wording of this Amendment would not be satisfactory. In the case of a laundry, responsibility is taken by the proprietor for the safe custody and return of the customer's goods. If an item is lost cash payment is made by way of compensation, and if goods are damaged and the laundry is responsible compensation is paid. Some laundries have accepted responsibility for losses due to enemy action, and have paid compensation to their customers for such loss. If the position can be met by including within the scope of the Bill goods held as bailee, we shall be satisfied, and I hope that the Amendment will be accepted or modified to achieve what is intended.

Photo of Sir William Jowitt Sir William Jowitt , Ashton-under-Lyne

This Amendment, as drawn, has an unintended Scottish flavour about it. A "bailie," I understand, is a magistrate, and what the Amendment is intended to do is not to deal with a "bailie" but with the position of a "bailee" in English law. But this really deals with the point which we discussed before. We heard about the laundry being nominally responsible for returning goods, but I can express the very confident opinion that, if I had my goods at a laundry, and a bomb came down and blew up the laundry, and, incidentally, also my goods, the unfortunate laundryman would not be responsible to me. The loss of my goods would fall upon me, and consequently I am the person who would take the risk in respect of these goods, and obviously I am the person who ought to insure. In so far as the bailee has any risk by reason of contract, if he is primarily responsible, he is the person who has the risk and ought to insure. The subsequent Order that we contemplate making will make it plain, and we shall try to define the goods to be insured—to be insured once and not twice—and to define the persons who are to insure, who are the persons responsible in respect of these particular goods. I assure the hon. Member that the observations which he has made will be carefully considered, and we will look into the matter and see whether there is anything further required to be done between now and the Report stage. We all have the same object in mind and agree that anybody who has a risk ought to be able to insure that risk, and should, in that event, pay the premium.

Photo of Reverend George Woods Reverend George Woods , Finsbury

While appreciating the point that the Solicitor-General has put forward, I submit that it would not involve double insurance, because the bulk of the items of clothing at many laundries come, in some cases, exclusively from that section of the population whose goods are not covered by insurance. On the question of special contract, it is the fact that in many laundries there is no responsible contract between the client and the laundry. It would be absurd to imagine that a contract could be entered into and signed by anybody and that the laundry should meet it. All that there is to work upon is the common custom, which is, that most reputable laundries have accepted the risk while goods are in their possession.

Photo of Sir William Jowitt Sir William Jowitt , Ashton-under-Lyne

The risk of what? Ordinary risk is one thing, and war risk is quite a different thing. There is no common custom with regard to laundries in respect of war risk—none whatever.

Photo of Reverend George Woods Reverend George Woods , Finsbury

I have already stated that in some cases laundries have already paid compensation, as they assumed that it was part of the usual process. However, it makes no difference to the position either of the person who sends the laundry or of the laundry itself—if goods are lost, then, the question of compensation arises. They are not covered at either end under this Bill, and in the case of large boot-repairing concerns, it may be a very considerable matter. While there is no contract, there is good will, and if it is left entirely on the assumption that that sort of thing does not come within the scope of the Bill, we may have a position in which some people will be covered because of double insurance, and others not covered at all. A laundry placed in that position would probably come to the end of its resources. I hope that the matter will he looked into in that light.

Photo of Sir William Davison Sir William Davison , Kensington South

I am not very clear in my mind with regard to the explanation which the learned Solicitor-General has just given to the Committee. What is the position of the ordinary citizen if he insures under the War Damage Bill? Will it cover his goods whether they are at the laundry, or at the cleaners or wherever they are? The Solicitor-General, I gather, has just said that they will be covered wherever they are, and, if so, that meets the point. But I do not think that it was made very clear whether, if you insure your goods, and if you send them out to be cleaned at a laundry, say, at Harlesden, or somewhere else, and they are destroyed by an enemy bomb, they will be covered by the insurance under this Bill. If the Solicitor-General really says that they will he covered wherever they are, then, I think, it is quite satisfactory.

The Deputy-Chairman:

Does the hon. Member wish to withdraw the Amendment?

Photo of Reverend George Woods Reverend George Woods , Finsbury

The last contribution still leaves us where we were. It is assumed that all goods are covered, but a very considerable volume would not be covered because the individuals concerned would have no insurance such as was suggested. Even if they are covered, the practical question arises whether the Department wants to deal with thousands of individual claims, spread all over, or whether it would be more advantageous to include the whole in the scheme and deal with the laundry, which, for the time being, is the responsible custodian of the goods. If the position is as suggested by the last speaker, and we can have an assurance that it is to be met by the Government, I am prepared to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment, but I do not gather that we have had such an assurance yet.

Photo of Sir William Jowitt Sir William Jowitt , Ashton-under-Lyne

As I understood the hon. Member for South Kensington (Sir W. Davison), he wanted the matter cleared up, and wished to know whether any difference was made by reason of the fact that you sent goods away from home The answer is obviously "No." If a man insures specific goods, and sends them to Harlesden to the wash, they are insured all the time under the normal insurance of to-day, and they will be under war insurance in future. Should they be lost, whether by a bomb on the home or a bomb on the laundry to which they have been sent, the owner will be at risk and he will get the compensation.

Photo of Mr Robert Taylor Mr Robert Taylor , Morpeth

With regard to the question of compensation for people who are at present entitled to free insurance on account of their income, do I understand that that position still stands in respect of this class of goods? Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman make it clear that their goods, when at the laundry, will still be covered although they do not come within the War Damage Bill?

Photo of Sir William Jowitt Sir William Jowitt , Ashton-under-Lyne

Certainly, these people will get compensation. They get compensation in respect of the loss of their goods. The goods are theirs whether they are lost in their homes or in the laundry.

Photo of Mr Francis Douglas Mr Francis Douglas , Battersea North

The Solicitor-General is very confident about the position in these matters, but as I read this part of the Bill, a great deal will depend upon the regulations which will determine the extent and nature of the indemnity which is to be provided by the Board of Trade. If we have an assurance that the policies will be drawn with a wide definition and that, in effect, there will be indemnity for everybody who insures voluntarily, no matter where his goods may be transported, it will certainly meet to a considerable extent the point which is raised in this Amendment. It does not, however, meet it quite fully because there is still the question of public policy as to whether it is expedient to impose upon people carrying on businesses in which they receive goods as bailees the express liability of insuring them and relieving from that liability the persons to whom they belong.

It is purely a question of what is expedient and nothing more. It may well be argued that in imposing a liability upon those who conduct businesses of this nature, you are imposing a liability upon people who conduct other businesses in which the goods they hold are their absolute property. If you make a distinction between the two cases you are, in effect, giving preference to those businesses which happen to carry on their trade by means of goods which are in their possession, but are not their property. I hope, therefore, that the Solicitor-General and the President of the Board of Trade will consider this point more fully.

Photo of Sir William Jowitt Sir William Jowitt , Ashton-under-Lyne

We will certainly consider everything every hon. Member has said, but speaking with considerable confidence I will say this: If you are to make it compulsory for bailees to insure you will do the very thing we want to avoid—that is, cause things to be insured twice over.

Photo of Reverend George Woods Reverend George Woods , Finsbury

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments made:

In page 33, line 28, leave out "which, in relation to that person, are goods insurable," and insert "as respects which that person is, or could be, insured."

In line 31, at the end, insert, "estuaries."—[Mr. Lyttelton.]

Photo of Mr Irving Albery Mr Irving Albery , Gravesend

I beg to move, in page 33, line 32, at the end, to insert: or a vessel laid up in inland waters.

The Deputy-Chairman:

I think it might be for the convenience of the Committee if this Amendment and the next were discussed together.

Photo of Mr Irving Albery Mr Irving Albery , Gravesend

My Amendment really raises the question of the extent to which certain small vessels are included. The preceding Amendment seems to have been confined to small vessels which never go out to sea, but are limited to estuaries or rivers. But a very large number of small vessels which are in much the same category, are not strictly confined to inland waters or estuaries. For example, small yachts may go a long way out to sea, yet many of them are used as houseboats. I put down my Amendment to raise this point.

Photo of Mr John Wardlaw-Milne Mr John Wardlaw-Milne , Kidderminster

I understand, Colonel Clifton Brown, that your Ruling was that this Amendment and the following one which stands in my name should be considered together. My Amendment is in page 33, line 32, at the end, to insert: or an unrequisitioned vessel which has been employed in the coasting trade of the United Kingdom or Eire when undergoing or awaiting repairs, or a day passenger boat. Of course I entirely agree with your decision, although the point of my Amendment is really rather different. My hon. Friend's Amendment refers to vessels laid up in inland waters and this would really add, I submit, a further prescrip- tion to the words already in the Clause to which the Amendment of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor has already added the word "estuaries." My Amendment is put down with the object of endeavouring to get the Government, in some way or other, to give a fairer deal to certain vessels in the coasting trade, and if possible enable them to obtain insurance on reasonable terms in respect of the risk against which they have no means of covering themselves at present.

A certain proportion of our coastal tramp shipping is, from time to time, requisitioned by the Ministry of Shipping but the Ministry as a rule prefers that the bulk of the coasting trade vessels which they require should remain in the hands of the owners and be operated by them at strictly controlled rates. The rates fixed under that control, which the Government pay, are calculated to provide for the operating expenses and give only a reasonable return on capital. If a requisitioned vessel is laid up—and this is where the difficulty arises—for repairs due to war risks, hire money continues to he paid to the owner but if it is laid up for repairs due to marine risks no hire money is paid but the Ministry bears the cost of the war risks insurance until it is hack in service, so that the ship is at least insured in the latter case, although the owner gets nothing for interest and depreciation. In the other case, however, that of a non-requisitioned vessel, the owner is at a very considerable disadvantage. The controlled rates which are fixed for his vessel do make allowance for a normal period occupied in repairs but it is not possible in these rates to provide for the exceptional period required for serious repairs. Under the ship insurance scheme the owner of a non-requisitioned ship in the coasting trade is at a disadvantage and under the present arrangement has no means at all of covering this risk out of his earnings.

Under that scheme the cost of war risk insurance is £7 per cent. per quarter or 28 per cent per annum. When a ship is earning nothing it is impossible for the owner to pay a premium of this kind. It is a premium fixed in relation to risks incurred by an ocean-going vessel on the high seas and bears no relation to the risks of a vessel awaiting or undergoing long repairs. In these circumstances the risk is really comparable to that of a vessel in course of construction, which is insured under the commodity scheme at the rate of 7s. 6d. per cent. per month or £6 per cent. per annum which is quite a different thing. The owner does not have that risk covered by the Government and having no earnings is clearly not in a position to pay the rate which works out, as I say, at 28 per cent. per annum. In another case, namely, vessels operating in harbour, they are insured at 30s. per cent. for the whole period from September, 1939, to September, 1941. To a large number of owners of coasting tramp ships, owners who have one, two, or three ships, the loss of uninsured vessels would be serious, and in some cases disastrous. There is one other class of vessels to which I want to refer, namely, pleasure steamers of the Thames Estuary, the Mersey, or the Isle of Wight type. In war time these vessels have a very special national value, as undoubtedly they proved at Dunkirk. The normal services are now suspended, and the owners of the vessels have no revenue out of which to provide insurance. Yet the vessels ought to be insured, and if insurance were available at a reasonable figure, no doubt the owners would wish so to insure, even if doing so involved a debt against the day when earnings are again possible.

There has never been a time when the country was more conscious of the value of its shipping than it is to-day. It is a pity that we were not more conscious of its value in the years gone by. In those days, some of us were indeed voices crying in the wilderness. However, the past is past. The Government have now covered the whole range of war risk insurance, and I think that if my right hon. Friend will look into this matter, he will see that there is a gap in the case of the owners of coasting vessels whose vessels are not requisitioned but are controlled only, and who, because they are in that position, are not able to cover their war insurance. I hope that if my right hon. Friend finds that the facts I have put before him constitute a case worth looking into, he will be able to meet it by accepting my Amendment.

Photo of Mr Oliver Lyttelton Mr Oliver Lyttelton , Aldershot

The purpose of the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend (Sir I. Albery) is to include sea-going vessels laid up in inland waters for repairs. In those circumstances, the owner would be able to insure his vessel at 30s. per cent. instead of incurring the high rate of war risk insurance which he has to do at present. However, it would be very undesirable for the conservation of our shipping resources to hold out inducements to remain repairing in inland waters at a lower rate of premium and not to push on with the repairs. It is proposed to meet this point by continuing to insure vessels under the Marine War Risks Insurance Scheme when they are not in use at a lower premium than that which is applicable when they are in use. I am not quite seized of the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Sir j. Wardlaw-Milne), but I will examine it.

Photo of Mr Irving Albery Mr Irving Albery , Gravesend

Surely, my right hon. Friend has missed the point which I made. What is the difference between ex-chiding this small type of vessel used solely in rivers and estuaries and a similar cass of vessel which happens for the time being to be laid up? I cannot see why they should not be insurable on the same terms.

Photo of Mr Lewis Silkin Mr Lewis Silkin , Camberwell Peckham

A very formidable case has been put up for these Amendments, and I am sure the Committee will not be satisfied with the right hon. Gentleman's brief dismissal of the arguments that have been made. The right hon. Gentleman said in one breath that we do not want to give an inducement to ship-owners to keep their ships under repair any longer than is necessary, but in the next breath he said he intends to look into the matter of providing a reduced premium, which seems to me to amount to the same thing. If there is a reduced premium while a ship is under repair, it will give the same inducement as would the benefits of this Bill. I hope that the powerful case that has been made will receive a more complete reply than the brief one which the right hon. Gentleman has given.

Photo of Mr John Wardlaw-Milne Mr John Wardlaw-Milne , Kidderminster

I do not wish to press the matter too far to-day and I am prepared to accept the assurance that my right hon. Friend will look into it. I am not certain that he has fully seized the point I made, and if so it is my fault no doubt. But, in a sentence, it is the difference between the position of a coasting owner with a requisitioned shin and an owner with an unrequisitioned ship when the vessel is undergoing long repairs. It is an important point, and I am glad to have an assurance that it will be looked into carefully.

Photo of Mr Irving Albery Mr Irving Albery , Gravesend

From the Debate it has turned out that the points raised in these two Amendments are dissimilar, and the fact that they have been taken together has made discussion of them a little difficult. I should like to have the following point elucidated. Under the Bill as it now is, a certain class of vessel, if it is operated in inland waters or estuaries, is covered by insurance; a similar class of vessel, if it is not operated but is laid up, is not covered.

Photo of Mr Oliver Lyttelton Mr Oliver Lyttelton , Aldershot

The point is whether the vessel is a sea-going vessel or not. If it is a sea-going vessel and is laid up for repairs, it is insured under the Marine War Risks Insurance Scheme. What my hon. Friend says is correct—there is an anomaly owing to the rates of premium. There is no anomaly in principle, because it is natural that vessels at work in inland waters should be insured under one scheme and sea-going vessels under another. There is an anomaly if the rates of premium for sea-going vessels undergoing repairs are altogether out of line with the corresponding risk. That is what we propose to put right, and the Ministry of Shipping are now discussing the matter with the interests involved.

Photo of Mr Irving Albery Mr Irving Albery , Gravesend

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the differentiation is not one of insurance, but rather one of tonnage? Boats of 20 tons may be seagoing vessels and boats of 30 tons inland water vessels.

Photo of Mr Oliver Lyttelton Mr Oliver Lyttelton , Aldershot

I do not think it is a question of tonnage, but one of risk. Vessels at sea incur different risks from vessels in the Thames.

Amendment negatived.

Amendments made:

In page 33, leave out lines 36 and 37.

In line 38, after "insured," insert "or re-insured."

In line 39, at the end, add: or (e) any goods in the possession of, or held at the disposal of, a Government Department or any other person on behalf of His Majesty, so long as the owner of the goods is entitled, and, in the case of goods being a vehicle or aircraft, is entitled otherwise than by virtue of the Compensation (Defence) Act, 1939, to be indemnified by the Crown against war damage to the goods.For the purposes of this Sub-section a vessel shall be deemed to be used solely in the manner specified in paragraph (b) thereof notwithstanding that it may be used otherwise on any special occasion, or so long as any use to which it is put otherwise than in the manner specified in the said paragraph (b) is incidental only to its being used in the said manner.() For the purpose of this Section, where any goods are consigned from a port in the United Kingdom to any other such port in a vessel which in its transit between those ports is not due to call at any port outside the United Kingdom, the goods shall at all times during the transit be deemed to be situated in the United Kingdom."—[Mr. Lyttelton.]

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.