Clause 5 — (Consequential extension of s. 3 of 2 & 3 Geo. 6. c. 82.)

Orders of the Day — Pensions (Mercantile Marine) Bill. – in the House of Commons on 2nd June 1942.

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Petty Officer Herbert:

I beg to move, in page 5, line 38, to leave out "could be," and to insert "has been."

It may be only my suspicious mind, but the picture here is that the man has surrendered his rights and the shipowners are released from their liabilities under the Workmen's Compensation Act, and it is understood that the man will get a war pension under this Bill. That is to say, he may get a pension. It may be only my suspiciousness, but I should like to know why the words "has been" should not be substituted, so as to provide that a man shall not surrender his rights until he has actually been awarded a pension under the Bill.

Photo of Mr David Maxwell Fyfe Mr David Maxwell Fyfe , Liverpool, West Derby

My hon. and gallant Friend will appreciate that we have to try to base this Bill on the principle which is contained in Clause 3 of the original Personal Injuries Act, which gives relief if the injury has been caused by war matters. Therefore, in this case we have to bear in mind that there is a limit to the class of persons—that is, it includes only mariners who are employed—and a limit, under one of the Sub-sections we have just passed, to the circumstances. As to whether the claimant is within the class of persons, and whether the circumstances come under the appropriate Sub-section, that is a matter which in all cases the Minister decides. Even if a claim for compensation comes before the court, and the matters are raised by the defence, these two matters are still matters for the certificate of the Minister. We had to decide whether the proper test was whether they had been given compensation or they could be given compensation. It seemed to us that the proper test was whether they could be given compensation. I do not think it was suggested on the Second Reading by anyone that a person should be given the option of saying, "I do not want any payment under the Bill; I wish to refuse that and take my common law rights." Let me give an example that often occurs. Take the case of a woman who has been left a widow at an early age. In the ordinary circumstances, she contemplates that she may at some time marry again. It would be much more convenient to her to have a lump sum which she would receive at common law than to have a succession of payments according to the passage of time and to her needs. My hon. and gallant Friend knows that we have to consider the totality of cases as nearly as we can in order to reach a decision. It seemed to us that the proper test was not actual receipt of the money, but whether the claimant was in a position to have received it. I hope that my hon. and gallant Friend will appreciate that the position has been considered very fully.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 6 and 7 ordered to stand part of the Bill.