HC Deb 06 April 1943 vol 388 cc541-3

(1) This Act shall not apply in relation to workers employed in any ship.

(2) In this section the expression "ship" includes every description of vessel used in navigation.—[Mr. Bevin.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Bevin

I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

This new Clause is designed to exclude workers employed in ships from this Bill.

Mr. Colegate

I suppose the Minister and the Solicitor-General have reassured themselves that there is no loophole here? We remember that during the time of prohibition in America there was a great loophole, and while I do not wish to include genuine ships, I do not want ships moored off the banks of the Thames to be excluded from the principle of this Bill. We want it to be properly enforced, and I would ask the Minister to make certain that there is no loophole.

Mr. Mathers

I, too, am rather concerned about this new Clause, because it appears to me to shut out from the Bill, for example, staffs of railway steamers. I am thinking, particularly, of the railway steamers that ply in the Firth of Clyde and which have a catering staff on board who belong to the hotel staffs of the railway companies. They should not be shut out from the benefits of this Bill, and I would like to be reassured on that point. I have not fully studied this new Clause, but on reading it simply now it appears that the staffs of steamers plying in the Clyde catering for passengers would not benefit, and they should be entitled to benefit.

Mr. Bevin

I went into this matter very carefully, We decided first of all to exclude overseas ships and ships going outside the three-mile limit. We were left with only some half-dozen ships on the Clyde——

Mr. Mathers

No. Far more!

Mr. Bevin

I am talking about those not outside the three-mile limit. When you get outside the three-mile limit you become involved with the Merchant Shipping Act, and I did not want a conflict between this Bill and that Act. The number of other ships involved was so small, and as regards ships that were running—except, probably, steamers running from Hampton Court to Oxford—it is doubtful whether they would be wholly or mainly engaged in catering. I preferred to exclude them rather than involve them in procedure under that head. In any case, most of the catering staff on steamers on the Clyde are, to our knowledge covered by collective agreements in the Railway Service. I thought it better to exclude vessels, because once you start on the definition of a ship outside the three-mile limit you become involved in all kinds of complications with foreign and British ships. I think it is better, for the purpose of working this Measure, not to burden it with such a narrow thing. I cannot believe that anybody would buy a ship and anchor it on the Thames for the purpose of saving a few coppers in wages. Somebody might buy a ship and anchor it on the Thames, but the type of people who would go on it to enjoy themselves would, I imagine, have to pay for their enjoyment. I think my right hon. and learned Friend will agree that there is possibly a loophole in regard to somebody anchoring a ship on the Thames, but those who did it before lost so much money on the venture that I would prefer to take the risk.

Mr. Kirkwood (Dumbarton Burghs)

Will this provision cut out ships that sail on the Clyde?

Mr. Bevin

Yes. I happen to know they are all covered by collective agreements either through the Seamen's Union or the Railwaymen's Union. There was such a small portion that kept exclusively within the three-mile limit that I felt it was not wise to burden the Bill by having them in. I am satisfied that at the present moment the people concerned are really covered.

Mr. Mathers

The Minister's answer is a very powerful one in that respect. The only point that arises is whether the Bill takes away from the possibility of those agreements continuing and gives an opportunity to the railway people to say, "We need not make collective agreements in view of the fact that you are not covered by the Bill." I raised this matter far too suddenly to be insistent about it, but before the Bill reaches another stage I will make certain that the position of the workers is thoroughly considered in the light of the new Clause.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.