HC Deb 26 November 1947 vol 444 cc1998-2000

3.40 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. James Callaghan)

I beg to move, in page 2, line 25, at the end, to insert: (2) Section two hundred and fifty-one of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894 (which provides for the maintenance in London of the General Register and Record Office of Seamen, and was modified by an order made under Regulation eighty-six of the Defence (General) Regulations, 1939, so as to enable the said Office to be removed to Cardiff) shall have effect as if the words' in the port of London' were omitted and for the words' any of the outports' there were substituted the words any port'. This is a slightly complicated matter which was brought to our notice during the Committee stage, and perhaps I ought to explain what it is all about. When our forebears passed the Merchant Shipping Act of 1894, they did not have the same regard to the mutability of human affairs that we have today, and they prescribed, in Section 251 of that Act, that the General Register and Record Office of Seamen should be maintained in the Port of London, and wrote into the Act the words "in the Port of London." They had not heard of evacuation in those days. At the beginning of the 1939 war a Defence Regulation was made under which an Order was made giving authority to move this office to Cardiff. Of course, it had to be done by way of Defence Regulation in order to overcome the provisions in the original Act which said that it must be kept in London.

As I explained in Committee, Defence Regulation 86 was revoked in May, 1945, but the revoking order contained a saving for those orders which had already been made under it, so that we might continue to have the General Register at Cardiff. The hon. and learned Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller) pointed out that Defence Regulation 86 had, in fact, disappeared, and it was, of course left in a rather obscure state. The hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) was quick to seize on that in the comments that he made. We have now tried permanently to amend the wording of the original Act, which said that this office must be maintained in the Port of London, by putting down this Amendment to Clause 2 which has the effect of amending Section 251 of the original Act. The amended Clause 251 of the Merchant Shipping Act will now read: There shall be maintained under the control of the Board of Trade, an office, called the General Register and Record Office of Seamen. It leaves out the words, "in the port of London." There may well be objections to putting this Amendment into Clause 2; there would be equal, and, perhaps, graver objections to putting it into the Second Schedule. Whatever we do, someone could probably say that we should have done something else. I am much obliged to the hon. and learned Member for Daventry and to the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames who brought this to our notice. I hope the House will agree that we have done the best thing we can to keep the record straight.

Mr. Manningham-Buller (Daventry)

In moving this Amendment, the hon. Gentleman has made it abundantly clear that we on this side of the House were quite right in the Committee stage in saying that this Bill, as originally entitled, was wrongly named, because this Amendment makes it quite clear that this is really a Miscellaneous Provisions Bill. As to the merits of the Amendment, we on this side of the House welcome it for a number of reasons. The first is that, as I understand it, this Amendment will enable us to dispense with another of the Defence Regulations, one which, in fact, it was extremely difficult to find anywhere at all, but which was, for some purposes, in existence. I do not think it is necessary to take up any more time in discussing this Amendment except to say that much time might have been saved in Committee if consideration had been given to the point then, and our suggestion with regard to it adopted at that time.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

On a point of Order. With the greatest respect, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, you moved very quickly in calling the Amendment just disposed of. On the Committee stage there was an Amendment to Clause 1, page 2, to leave out lines 10 to 16. When that was being debated, the Home Secretary said he would consider the points raised. We debated the inclusion of those lines in connection with a particular regulation contained in the Schedule. I merely raise this point of Order in the hope that the fact that you have not selected that Amendment will not prevent us from hearing what the right hon. Gentleman has to say at a later stage.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Milner)

The hon. and learned Gentleman will have his opportunity on Third Reading.