§ Mr. Barnes
I beg to move, in page 7, line 45, after "satisfied," to insert:after consultation with the owner of the fishing boat or an organisation or organisations 884 appearing to the Minister to be representative of owners of British fishing boats, and with an organisation or organisations appearing to the Minister to be representative of seamen employed in British fishing boats.During the Second Reading Debate fears were expressed that an owner might be unwilling to accept the provisions of the Bill where a ship is liable for considerable reconstruction or repairs to which the provisions of the Bill would apply. In my desire to meet that situation, this Amendment has been designed. It provides particularly that not only shall there be consultation with the organisations, which is an undertaking which runs right through the Bill, but also for consultation with the owner of the vessel as well. The Amendment will, I think, meet the view expressed when the Bill was read a Second time.
§ Amendment agreed to.
I beg to move, in page 8, line 28, at the end, to insert:being a complaint which in the opinion of the surveyor is reasonable.I suggest this may be considered with the Amendment in page 9, line 12, at end, insert:Provided that where an inspection is carried out as a result of a complaint made in accordance with paragraph 5 of this Schedule, no owner of a fishing boat shall be liable for any sum of money as contribution to such fees if in the opinion of the surveyor the complaint is frivolous or otherwise unjustifiable.We are dealing with the inspection of crew accommodation made under certain circumstances. To the words:whenever a complaint in respect of crew accommodation in any such fishing vessel is duly made in accordance with the regulations"—we wish to add the words:being a complaint which in the opinion of the surveyor is reasonablethe surveyor shall inspect the crew accommodation. We have put that in because we consider it necessary, in regard to the First Schedule, page 9, at line 12, to insert the second Amendment. These Amendments provide that where a demand is made for inspection, the inspection shall be made only where the surveyor considers it is reasonable to make it, but that if the complaint in the opinion of the surveyor is frivolous or otherwise unjustified, the fee shall not be payable.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Mr. G. Williams
I should like to add a few words in support of these Amendments, it is very easy for someone who has a grumble or "grouse" to demand that an inspection shall be made. It is laid down that if an inspecton is made, a fee is payable, but it does not say who shall pay the fee, although I presume it is to be the owner. It seems very unfair that the owner shall have to pay simply because some frivolous request has been made for an inspection. It will give some protection if the Minister will accept these Amendments.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes
I hope that my right hon. Friend will resist both of these Amendments. I submit that the provision is quite sufficient as it stands, and that the first Amendment is unnecessary. In my submission, the surveyor should inspect accommodation whenever a complaint is made in accordance with the regulations. The words proposed would involve something that would be very inconvenient and unnecessary. They would involve a preliminary inquiry as to whether the complaint was reasonable. How is that to be determined? Obviously, it can only be determined by inspecting the accommodation. If the accommodation is to be inspected so as to determine whether the complaint is reasonable, the accommodation might just as well be inspected for the purposes of the complaint. These Amendments would cause additional expense, trouble and delay, and would go a long way towards stultifying the very reasonable procedure adumbrated by the Clause as it stands.
§ Mr. Nield
The hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes) seems to be contending that note should be taken of complaints of a frivolous or unjustifiable character. I should have thought the Committee would take the opposite view. If the inspector is to make up his mind, he must be in a position to turn down frivolous complaints. As my hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge (Mr. G. Williams) has pointed out, we all know that from time to time grumbles are made which have no real substance in them. The inspector should have the right to say whether a complaint is frivolous or not, and to disallow it if it is not a reasonable complaint.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes
How can that be determined without first inspecting the subject matter of the complaint?
§ Mr. Keenan
It appears to me that these Amendments will prevent reasonable inspection and attention to complaints. What redress have the crew if they cannot make complaints when their accommodation is not being kept up to standard? The Schedule appears to me to provide satisfactorily for such complaints to be made. By adding these words the additional cost will presumably fall on the individual who makes the complaint. I suggest that crews in these vessels in many cases have complaints to make which are more than justifiable. Until we have arrived at a time when the standard of accommodation is such that no grumbles or complaints need be made, it is deplorable to alter the Bill in such a way that it goes against the interests of the crews.
§ Mr. Barnes
I do not think that there is any need for disputation on this matter, because I hope to be able to meet the views of both sides of the Committee. I am unable to accept this Amendment, because it is most essential there should be complete confidence in the Ministry of Transport Surveyors. If we begin to allow them to pick and chose complaints, we may undermine their position. It is desirable that whenever a complaint is made, it should be examined impartially by the surveyors.
The case put forward is a perfectly fair one, and I do not think any of my hon. Friends will disagree with it, namely, the position in regard to malicious or frivolous complains. We all know that sometimes we get these complaints put forward for a variety of motives. No one would wish to impose on the owner if, in the opinion of the surveyor, a frivolous, unreasonable or malicious complaint has been made. Obviously, the owner should not be asked to pay the cost of the fees in these circumstances. I propose to meet this situation in the regulations rather than to provide for it in the Bill. I think this is the more practical way of doing it. In these circumstances, I hope that both sides of the Committee will be in agreement and we can proceed with the Bill.
I think the right hon. Gentleman is quite right in 887 saying that the surveyors must be above any criticism. I should not like them to be put in a position where they can be criticised for having taken one side or the other. I agree that they should be protected from that, and from that point of view the right hon. Gentleman's reluctance to accept the first Amendment may have considerable weight behind it. I understand from his further observations that he is going to put something in the regulations to meet the second Amendment.
§ Mr. Barnes
When the regulations are being framed a full discussion will take place between the representatives of the industry, and this problem will be met in a practical way.
The right hon. Gentleman has told us that he appreciates the point and does not wish the owners to be unjustly treated. He has, therefore, met our point by saying that he will deal with the problem when the regulations are made. In view of that, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. Nield
I beg to move, in page 9, line 3, at the end, to insert:8. Where the owner of any fishing boat in respect of which a certificate has been given to the registrar under the preceding paragraph contends that that fishing boat complies with the regulations an appeal shall lie to a Court of Survey under section four hundred and eighty-seven of the principal Act.The purpose of this Amendment is to seek the views of the Committee as to the propriety of making the surveyor's decision on the state of accommodation subject to appeal to a tribunal. The Committee will appreciate that the preceding paragraphs of this Schedule provide, where a complaint in respect of accommodation is made, the surveyor of ships will inspect that accommodation, and if he finds that it does not conform to the regulations and is not up to certificate standard, the certificate shall be so worded as to deal with that failure to come up to the regulations.
The effects of an adverse report may be extremely serious if the vessel is to be out of commission. Those wholly employed in her will be out of work, and the business of the ship will be brought to a standstill. So serious may be the results of that surveyor's decision that the matter 888 should be made subject to an appeal, in order that another tribunal might consider the matter afresh and decide upon it. In this respect what we have in mind is that the existing machinery provided under Section 487 of the principal Act should be adopted to cover the situation.
As the Committee may recall, that Section states that a court of survey should consist of a judge and two assessors, the judge to be drawn from a list prescribed by the Secretary of State, including stipendiary magistrates, county court judges and other persons specially fitted for the task, and two technical advisers. In those circumstances I ask the Committee to consider, having regard to the very serious result of an adverse finding, whether it would not be proper that the decision of the surveyor should be subject to appeal.
§ Mr. Barnes
I am afraid this Amendment exaggerates the matters with which we are dealing in this part of the Schedule. As the hon. and learned Member said, the court of survey consists of a judge and two assessors, and it would exaggerate the procedure to apply matters of this character to it, because we are dealing here with crew accommodation on fishing vessels, and any alteration that may be required when the ship is undergoing substantial repair. Furthermore, that can only apply to existing ships when they come in for substantial alterations and repairs.
As I have already indicated, consultations will take place with the owners on matters of that kind. I am informed that the general round of matters to be dealt with are quite outside the kind of problem that was envisaged when the court of survey was established. It is many years, probably some 20 or 30, since the procedure of the court of survey has been invoked, generally because of the good understanding and the practical arrangement between the industry and the Ministry of Transport Surveyors.
If I give one or two instances of the type of problem which is involved here, the hon. and learned Gentleman will see that it is undesirable in this case to resurrect the court of survey, because that is what it would come to. The question in dispute may be a matter of additional natural lighting, ventilation, better sanitary provisions, better floor covering or improved sleeping accommodation. The 889 experience of the Ministry is that the court of survey is not invoked today and has almost fallen into disuse. It appears to me quite out of proportion to bring in a matter of this kind, and I regret that I am unable to accept this Amendment. I hope it will not be pressed.
§ 4.45 p.m.
In putting forward this Amendment my hon. and learned Friend had in mind the possibility of a ship being out of commission for a considerable period. But the right hon. Gentleman tells us that these alterations will only take place when a ship is under repair and, therefore, the apprehensions and anxieties which my hon. and learned Friend have were not really justified. In view of these circumstances, and of the statement of the Minister it would seem that the Amendment was not really necessary, and I have no doubt my hon. and learned Friend will not press it.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes
I hope the Minister will continue to resist this attempt to have this appeal. The matters to be decided by the surveyor are obviously matters of fact, which can be decided in the main by ocular demonstration of an exhibition on a particular ship about which there has been a complaint. It would be very unsuitable to have an appeal from the surveyor to determine facts of that kind, and it would be equally unsuitable to have an appeal to a tribunal of an entirely different kind. High Court judges who never saw the actual locus in quo and never visited the ship, would not be in as good a position to determine a question of fact as the surveyor who sees the place and knows the special matter of the complaint. I hope the Minister will take those aspects of the matter into account and will resist the attempt to set up a court of appeal on the lines suggested here. We must add too, the fact, that the appeal would increase the expense, the trouble and the delay in the use of the particular ship.
§ Mr. Nield
As I said in moving my Amendment, I desired the views of the Committee on the subject, and having heard them and particularly the views expressed by the right hon. Gentleman, I do not think I ought to proceed with it. I am quite satisfied with the reasons he has advanced. Nevertheless I trust 890 it was worth while canvassing the matter. Because of the Minister's assurance I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Schedule, as amended, agreed to.
§ Bill reported, with an Amendment; as amended, considered.
§ Mr. Barnes
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."
I should like to express my satisfaction that this Measure has received support from all quarters of the House. This is the third Merchant Shipping Bill that has had that very happy fate. It demonstrates very clearly to all the people in the Merchant Service that we are trying to discharge our obligations to them in view of their conduct both in war and in peace.
On the Second Reading we gave a general welcome to the Bill. We now send it on its way with our very best wishes for a speedy passage to the Statute Book.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill, accordingly read the Third time, and passed.