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Northern Ireland (Fatal Accidents)

Volume 934: debated on Thursday 30 June 1977

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12.41 a.m.

I beg to move,

That the Fatal Accidents (Northern Ireland) Order 1977, a draft of which was laid before this House on 24th May, be approved.
This order makes one amendment of substance, otherwise it is a straightforward measure of consolidation. The earliest of the enactments to be repealed and consolidated by the order is the Fatal Accidents Act 1846, commonly known as Lord Campbell's Act. The most recent enactment to be amended is the Limitation (Northern Ireland) Order 1976. The legislation affected covers a period of 100 years-plus.

The Act of 1846 first introduced the principle that the dependants of a deceased person could bring an action for damages for the loss of dependancy if the death were caused by the negligence of another. While this branch of the Law in Northern Ireland and in England is essentially the same, it now differs in one important aspect because a change made in England in 1971 relating to the assessment of the compensation for widows was not followed in the Province. By Article 5 (3), however, which corresponds to section 3 (2) of the Fatal Accidents Act 1976—originally section 4 of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1971—it is provided that, in assessing damages payable to a widow in respect of her husband's death, her remarriage or her prospects of remarriage are not to be taken into account.

Apart from this one amendment, which brings the law in Northern Ireland into line with that in England and Wales, no change is made in the law.

I commend the draft order to the House.

12.43 a.m.

In one sentence, the Opposition welcome this order. We are particularly glad that what might be called the stigma of the slave market is to be removed from the law of Northern Ireland.

12.44 a.m.

I have one brief question that arises out of the comparison between this order and the draft Criminal Injuries (Compensation) (Northern Ireland) Order 1977.

In Article 6(1), the order that we are discussing says:
"In assessing damages in respect of a person's death in an action under this Order there shall not be taken into account any insurance money, benefit, pension or gratuity which has been or may be paid as a result of the death."
However, such gratuities are taken into account in the Criminal Injuries (Compensation) Order. Can the Minister give us an explanation?

That order will be dealt with tomorrow. I do not wish to preempt what will be said tomorrow. This order is quite clear.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That the Fatal Accidents (Northern Ireland) Order 1977, a draft of which was laid before this House on 24th May, be approved.