HC Deb 26 October 1960 vol 627 cc2340-1
17. Mr. Awbery

asked the Minister of Transport if he is aware of the necessity for bringing the Merchant Shipping Acts up to modern standards; and if he will introduce legislation to repeal or revise the old Acts dealing with merchant shipping and seamen to take account of present-day requirements.

Mr. Marples

The Merchant Shipping Acts regulate all aspects of merchant shipping and, since the principal Act of 1894, some 40 Acts have been passed changing requirements. As regards the disciplinary provisions of these Acts which have been the subject of recent comment, I am awaiting the recommendations of the National Maritime Board on which both sides of the industry are represented.

Mr. Awbery

Is the Minister aware of the trouble that arose among our seafaring fraternity recently over the operation of the 1896 Act? That Act is 64 years old. Will he take steps to revise that Act and to bring it up to date?

Mr. Marples

I should prefer to wait for the views of the industry before undertaking to do anything.

Mr. Prentice

Will the Minister be a little more positive about this? Rather than simply waiting for the agreed views of the industry, will he give some positive indication that he wants to amend this Act, which is now nearly 70 years old, which affects the lives of seamen in many ways and is out of date in other respects, quite apart from the penal provisions?

Mr. Marples

In a country such as ours it is necessary to take both sides of industry with one if one wants to modify an Act of Parliament. I want to hear what the employers and employees have to say before I give an undertaking to the House. Although the Act is old, it is not necessarily a bad one because of its age. Merchant seamen who enter into engagements to serve on ships can withdraw their labour at the end of their engagement or by giving notice where the articles provide for that. In the recent strike a large number of seamen did that. The only difficulty which arose was where people broke their agreement without giving prior notice.