Report No. 85
3.38. Lord Buckmaster's speech.-
Lord Buckmaster expressed himself thus in the Debatesl
"It seems to me that this Bill deals with a very real existing mischief. It happens that owing to action I took a short time ago in this House I have been the recipient of an enormous number of letters from those who have suffered accidents at the hands of motor cars. Some are terrible to relate, but the ones which moved me most have been tales of poor men who say they can get no remedy because they find themselves immediately up against a wealthy insurance company and they have no money to go to lawyers to fight them. Anyone who knows anything of the history or negligence actions in the Courts knows that is true and the man, unless he obtains leave to sue in forma pauperis, cannot get anybody except what are known as speculative lawyers, who are by no means the most desirable class in the community to encourage. Apart from that, this man has a formidable wealthy opponent and cannot get what a man who is in a position to fight can get. Even if he could he has, as has been said, to be put to great expense in getting witnesses.
Further, he may be in the most difficult position that, owing to the blow that may have nearly cost him his life, he is not able to give clear and definite evidence as to what has occurred. I heard the noble Earl, I have no doubt inadvertently, refer to the unfortunate motorist, but he surfers no such shock when he is running down a pedestrian. We are dealing with the case of a motor car running a man down. I say that in that case the man run down is practically incapacitated from giving a clear account and that the motorist is not.
If there is some rare occasion where that "is not so it is a matter too small for the law to consider. I believe the right course is to provide that there should be an insurance against every accident caused to a pedestrian by a person driving a motor vehicle and that insurance should cover everything. The present insurance seems to me to be the most mischievous you could create because it insures a man against the consequences of his wrong-doing. So far from discouraging him from doing wrong it encourages him. Why should these reckless people pause? If they injure anyone they do not suffer in person or in pocket and it is about time the law was changed. On a former occasion the noble Earl, Lord Howe, made some most valuable suggestions as to what might be done, but I do not think they are relevant on this Bill which merely affects the question of civil liability. Those who drive motor cars have received a very great concession at the hands of the public.
They have obtained dominion of the road, and foot passengers, who were formerly equally entitled to their use, are now nothing but people permitted to use the roads on tolerance, and they have positively been permitted by Statute to drive these cars at any place they please on the country roads subject to ineffectual restrictions about reckless and dangerous driving. When they have that right it is only fair that they should have some further obligation cast on them. Of what the result of the exercise of the right has been the figures are only too evident. It is no use saying those figures refer to sentiment. They refer to innocent people killed and wounded on the King's highway in numbers that stagger us to believe. I say the Bill ought to pass, and that steps ought to be taken swiftly and drastically to secure that once more there shall be security for the people to use the roads of this country which are their rightful heritage."