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Aircraft Accidents (Third Party Insurance)

Volume 654: debated on Monday 19 February 1962

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asked the Minister of Aviation whether he will take steps to require all airline operators flying aircraft over the United Kingdom to provide third-party insurance cover similar to that required by motor car owners for the financial protection of those who may suffer loss or damage arising from aircraft accidents.

Under the Civil Aviation Act, 1949, all aircraft owners are legally liable to pay compensation for material loss or damage caused by aircraft to persons and property on the surface, and I know of no evidence to suggest that they do not invariably insure against this liability. Compulsory insurance would involve further complex legislation and I am not at present satisfied that it is necessary.

Is the Minister aware that in a particular case, and I think generally, this type of insurance cover is subject to the observance in full of all the statutory regulations? If they are broken in any way, the insurance is invalidated. What action does the right hon. Gentleman propose to take to cover that sort of thing?

There is no evidence that anyone has suffered through the absence of legislation in aviation comparable to that which covers motor car third party insurance. There is quite a case for saying that it ought to be compulsory, but it would necessitate a fairly complex Bill of about 20 Clauses and many Schedules, and I do not see much prospect of its Introduction at the moment.

It is not the fault of the passenger if there has been some minor slip-up by the company with which he is travelling. If a passenger is under the impression that he is covered for third party risks when in fact he is not, is it not the Minister's duty to put the matter right by legislation?

There is a lot of legislation which might be introduced, but, if I had to choose from all the possible legislation on my front, I would not put this matter very high on the list.

Is the Minister aware that, in the case of the Southall air crash, the insurance company repudiated liability but made ex gratia payments, although they were not nearly as large as they might have been if it had had full liability.

In the case of the Southall air crash, no one suffered because of this.

Would not the Minister agree that the case for compulsory insurance in respect of aircraft is at least as strong as it is in respect of motor cars? Will not he consider introducing legislation to deal with this matter as soon as an opportunity presents itself?

The words "as soon as an opportunity presents itself" are fairly wide. There is this added safeguard. The Air Transport Licensing Board has to consider, and is empowered to consider, the provision made for third party insurance before it issues a licence.