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Explosives (Accidents To Children)

Volume 389: debated on Tuesday 25 May 1943

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asked the Secretary of State for War whether he can now give consideration to the question of the defence of contributory negligence against infants under the age of 16 who are injured in connection with explosives left by military personnel; whether, in view of the new type of danger now brought to children in this connection and the increased use of these explosives through intensified training, he will waive this defence in all cases where permanent injury is caused, so that in such cases compensation can always be paid for the benefit of the maimed victim?

My hon. Friend's proposal has been carefully and sympathetically considered. In questions of this kind I feel, however, that I must be guided by the general attitude of courts of law in similar cases. Children over 10 are usually regarded as capable of contributory negligence and I regret therefore that I do not feel justified in issuing a general direction as suggested by my hon. Friend. Every case is considered separately on its own merits and ex-gratia payments are often made and other assistance given notwithstanding contributory negligence. In conjunction with my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Education steps are being taken to bring these dangers to the notice of all concerned by means of posters and warnings issued to schools and on the wireless.

While thanking my right hon. Friend for his sympathetic reply, may I ask him to impress on the authorities the great importance of not leaving about dangerous explosives which are the cause of these accidents?

I will certainly do my best to do that, but in the more realistic military training a certain amount of that becomes inevitable.