Oral Answers to Questions — Public Authorities Protection Act

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 24th March 1952.

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Photo of Mr Thomas Price Mr Thomas Price , Westhoughton 12:00 am, 24th March 1952

asked the Attorney-General if he is aware that the special privileges conferred on public authorities by the Public Authorities Protection Act cannot be justified in present-day circumstances, particularly where claims for damages arise from running down accidents covered by policies of insurance; and if he will introduce amending legislation to remedy this.

Photo of Sir Lionel Heald Sir Lionel Heald , Chertsey

I cannot hold out any hope of early legislation on this subject, which is by no means free from difficulty.

Photo of Mr Thomas Price Mr Thomas Price , Westhoughton

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this legislation has not been amended, except in one very small particular, since it was enacted in the year 1893? Is he further aware that it is at present inflicting hardship and inconvenience on many litigants who are prejudiced in pursuing actions that would normally be open to them against any other private individual subject to the Limitation Act, 1939? Does he not agree that this legislation is utterly out of keeping with present needs, since there is now—

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

Order. The hon. Member is carrying on too long.

Photo of Sir Lionel Heald Sir Lionel Heald , Chertsey

While fully sympathising with the point of view of the hon. Gentleman and his interest in the matter, I can only say that it was considered by the previous Government, which apparently gave full consideration to the Tucker Committee's Report, and decided that no legislation should be introduced. However, we have an open mind on the matter.

Photo of Mr John Wheatley Mr John Wheatley , Edinburgh East

May I ask the hon. and learned Gentleman three questions arising out of his answer? Does he realise that we are concerned in this connection with the atttitude of the present Government towards this legislation in view of the Report of the Tucker Committee? Secondly, does he not realise that some reform of the law in this direction is now necessary? Thirdly, if there is to be no immediate amendment of the law in relation to this Act, will he persuade his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland to introduce interim legislation to extend the period of limitation to 12 months in Scotland as in England, as against six months which presently applies?

Photo of Sir Lionel Heald Sir Lionel Heald , Chertsey

I shall be glad to consider those complicated questions in due course.