[That this House, in view of the increasing frequency of injuries inflicted by servants of the Crown upon its subjects, for which redress cannot be obtained, and in order that the Crown shall become liable to be sued in tort, urges the Government to introduce forthwith, as a Bill, Clause 11 of the draft Bill, prepared by the Crown Proceedings Committee at the request of Lord Chancellors Birkenhead and Haldane and presented in 1927.]
My right hon. Friend does not consider that it would serve any useful purpose to give time for the discussion of the hon. Member's Motion, since the Government do not propose to introduce legislation upon the lines of Clause 11 of the draft Crown Proceedings Bill. The belief in the need for such legislation to protect the subjects of the Crown is based upon a misunderstanding of the present position. It has for many years been, and is now, the invariable practice of the Crown to accept the same responsibility for the acts of its servants as falls upon a private individual, and as is covered by third-party insurance in such cases. That is to say, for any act done by a servant of the Crown in the execution of his duty. In all such cases the Crown provides the funds required to satisfy any judgment which may be obtained against its servants, who are liable to be sued in respect of the act committed. Fresh legislation would not materially alter the redress available to the subject, and might, in view of the safeguards that would have to be introduced to cover particular aspects of the question, diminish the security which the injured persons obtain by reason of the present practice.
Will my right hon. and learned Friend agree that at present it is the Crown, and not the court, which decides whether or not a servant of the Crown was on duty at the material time?
The question as to the occupation of the servant at the moment of the accident may be one for the determination of the court or not. It is difficult to say except in precise circumstances.
The issue is not a vital one as regards the responsibility of the person driving the vehicle in the case in question. The responsibility is not upon the vehicle, but upon the driver. It is for the court to decide the responsibility of the driver.
When a soldier is taken to court, and has no means to meet the liability which may have been incurred, is it not an injustice upon the victim of the accident that he should be unable to recover damages? Surely the Crown should consider the matter from that standpoint?
It may be left to the court to decide that question. It depends on the evidence that is given. As a rule, the Crown accepts the evidence that the soldier is acting within his duties if that is the state of affairs.