asked the Secretary of State for War whether he has received the claim of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Kay, of Laxfield, Suffolk, for compensation for the loss of their son Lance-Corporal Kay, of the Intelligence Corps, who was fatally shot whilst carrying out instructions in certain security exercises; whether he has now satisfied himself whether or no there was serious negligence on the part of certain officers responsible for planning this exercise; what action he proposes to take; and whether he intends to grant appropriate compensation to the parents?
Yes, Sir. I very sincerely deplore the untimely death of this young soldier, and I have the greatest sympathy with the parents in their grievous loss. On the other hand, I am satisfied that negligence cannot be imputed to any of the officers or others who were concerned in the accident. The risk to which this soldier was exposed was a risk of his service, and though the circumstances of the case are undoubtedly distressing, I could not distinguish it from those other cases in which soldiers lose their life not in the presence of the enemy. As regards the last part of the Question, the parents are in the same position as the parents of other soldiers whose death has been attributable to service. This means that an application may be made to the Ministry of Pensions if the parents are in pecuniary need arising from old age, infirmity, etc. I understand that a claim would not be successful at the present time, but it could be made in the event of the conditions being satisfied at some other time.
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether there has been a military inquiry with regard to the officers concerned and whether he has looked into this case personally; and will he reconsider the question whether the parents of this unfortunate soldier could be given compensation?
This accident happened very nearly 18 months ago. At the time there was a military court of inquiry, and I have considered the findings of the military court of inquiry and have also taken legal advice on the question. In view of the report of the court of inquiry and of the legal advice, I do not think it would be fair for me to hold out hope of a successful reconsideration of this case.
The circumstances which led to this accident are at present the subject of an investigation, and I will communicate with my hon. Friend as soon as it has been completed.
asked the Secretary of State for War whether, in view of the number of accidents occurring to children by live explosives which they have picked up, he will give an assurance that when negligence is shown by military personnel no attempt will be made by the War Department to escape liability on the alleged grounds of contributory negligence of children under 16 years of age?
Although a member of the public injured owing to the negligence of military personnel on duty has no right of action against the Crown, it has been for many years the invariable practice to make ex gratia awards of compensation. No such payment would be made where contributory negligence is established on the part of the injured person. The question of contributory negligence does not usually arise in the case of children of tender years who are not normally regarded as being capable of negligence. Children between the ages of 10 and 16 are normally regarded in law as capable of contributory negligence. While I cannot give the assurance my hon. Friend desires, if he knows of any case in which he thinks a claim has been unfairly rejected on that ground, perhaps he will let me have particulars.