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Macgregor V Lord Advocate

Volume 148: debated on Tuesday 8 November 1921

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asked the Secretary of State for War whether his attention has been called to the case of Duncan Gregor Macgregor V. the Lord Advocate and another in which Macgregor sued for damages sustained by being run down by a motor car belonging to the War Department; whether he is aware that this action failed solely because of the theory that the Crown can do no wrong; whether his attention has been directed to the observations of the judges in the Second Division; whether he is aware that Macgregor is one of a family of nine brothers, all of whom served in the War; that he is very severely and permanently injured; that he has been so far put to very heavy charges for medicine and surgical treatment, and that his medical career has been seriously interrupted: and whether, in all the circumstances, as no action can lie in Law, he is prepared to consider an ex gratia allowance to Macgregor?

The opinions of the judges in this case were directed solely to the question whether an action for compensation for injury can lie against the Crown. It is not the practice of the Department to rely on its legal immunity and to refuse to pay compensation for injuries which have been caused by the wrongful acts of its servants. But in the present case, which has been carefully investigated by the Department, I am advised that the driver of the motor car was in no way to blame for the accident, and I am not prepared to make an ex gratia allowance to Mr. Macgregor.

Is it actually the case that the same practice obtains in Scotland as in the rest of the country, and is it not rather the fact that in Scotland there can lie no action against the Crown, whereas in England the Treasury defends these cases on behalf of the service, and a case is actionable?

I am afraid that is a legal question which I am not competent to answer.

Could my hon. and gallant Friend tell us how, without trial, he can state definitely to the House that the driver of the vehicle was not to blame?

Because the whole of the circumstances of the case were inquired into.

Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that this case has been not only before the ordinary Courts in Scotland, but before the Appeal Court, and that the decision of the judges was solely as to the question that the Crown could do no wrong, and that they, in giving their decision, remarked on the hardship to this man, who fought right through the War, who was one of nine brothers who fought, and that the judges regretted that he had not the access to the law that the ordinary citizen had?

Is not the question of the responsibility of the driver a matter for the Courts, and not for the War Office, and will the hon. and gallant Gentleman not see that the matter is brought before the Courts, so that the Courts will have an opportunity of giving a decision on the legal question?

My information is that the whole question was inquired into carefully. The driver was held not to have been responsible.