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Uninsured Motorists (Accidents, Compensation)

Volume 415: debated on Monday 12 November 1945

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asked the Minister of War Transport whether he will make a statement as to what steps will now be taken to implement the recommendations of the Committee on Compulsory Insurance, presided over by Sir Felix Cassel, in 1937, with respect to securing compensation for the victims of uninsured motorists.

Yes, Sir. It will be recollected that the Committee recommended the establishment by insurers of a central fund from which to compensate third party victims of road accidents caused by motor vehicles, in cases where the motorist concerned has failed in his statutory obligation to insure, or where the policy is inoperative for some reason, such as breach of its conditions. These cases are comparatively rare, but they constitute a class of hardship for which. in accordance with the principle underlying compulsory insurance, a remedy should be found. Legislation to give effect to the scheme proposed by the Committee would be somewhat complicated, and I am glad to say that the insurers have made proposals for a voluntary scheme on similar lines which I am satisfied will achieve the same purpose. They are entering into agreement with me to set up an Insurers'Association as a corporate body, and to keep it supplied with funds, and this body will undertake to pay any amount awarded by the courts to a third party in respect of any liability required to be covered by the provisions of the Road Traffic Acts relating to compulsory insurance, where the judgment is not satisfied. This means in effect that where owing to absence of effective insurance the victim cannot get compensation from a negligent motorist, he will be able to get it from the Insurers'Association. The association is to be set up within six months, and details of the scheme will be published in due course. I am arranging to publish the text of the initial agreement.I should add that the Cassel Committee did not find it possible to deal with the case of a third party injured by a motorist who cannot be traced. In such a case no claim can be established against anyone, and the Committee considered that the grant of rights against the proposed fund would be calculated to lead to such abuses as to render such a course totally unsuitable. The Government cannot dissent from this view, and accordingly the agreement does not cover such cases, but I am glad to say that the insurers have informed me that they do not intend to exclude them entirely from their purview, and where there is reasonable certainty that a motor vehicle was involved and that but for its unidentifiability a claim might lie, they will give sympathetic consideration to the making of an ex gratia payment to the victim.Certain cases involving Crown vehicles are also excluded from the scope of the agreement, and I am authorised to say that, when the new arrangements with insurers come into operation, the same benefits in respect of compensation will be afforded by the Crown to the victims in such cases as they would receive were the accident caused by a private vehicle.