HC Deb 21 July 1965 vol 716 cc1586-8

4.1 p.m.

Commander Anthony Courtney (Harrow, East)

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the law relating to the testing and supply of anchors and chain cables and to bring it up to date in substitution for the Anchors and Chain Cables Act, 1899. The House is indebted to the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Blenkinsop) who, on 31st March last, introduced a bill on this broad topic. The hon. Gentleman has been courteous enough to give me notice of his enforced absence from the Chamber this afternoon.

In the opinion of many of us, not only of hon. Members on this side of the House but also of those technically qualified on the benches opposite, that a Bill of this kind, on an important technical matter, might properly have been introduced by the Government. The more we examined the question, the more it appeared to us to be purely one which had had no very strict and deep technical examination outside the Department. Furthermore, on examination, and despite certain assurances from the Minister of State, Board of Trade, we felt that there had been no proper reference to many of the bodies intimately concerned with the provisions of the Bill of the hon. Members for South Shields.

In addition, we felt that without proper warning an undue measure of responsibility had been laid, by virtue of orders to be put before the House under the negative Resolution procedure, on the masters of ships in the taking on board of untested anchors and chain cables. The more we sat—and we sat for five long weary sittings upstairs in Committee on the hon. Gentleman's Bill—the more technical considerations were produced by my hon. Friends with a certain amount of experience, gallantly aided by the hon. and gallant Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Commander Pursey)—

Dr. Reginald Bennett (Gosport and Fareham)

Where is he?

Commander Courtney

—who, unfortunately, is also unable to be in his place today.

We decided that we would introduce a fresh Bill, taking into consideration many of the technical points which had arisen in discussion of the Bill of the hon. Member for South Shields.

I shall take only a few moments of the House's time to describe the nature of my proposed Bill, which, I must repeat, would be a new Bill on the subject of anchors and chain cables. It is a short, quite modest Bill of two Clauses empowering the Board of Trade to make certain orders relative to the methods of testing anchors and chain cables taken on board ships registered in this country.

First, it would made the same provision for mooring anchors and mooring cables used in moorings by harbour authorities in the United Kingdom. It would transfer the responsibility in the 1899 Act from the suppliers to the owners of ships, not to the masters, and to the harbour authorities under whose jurisdiction the moorings, anchors and cables are laid respectively.

Secondly, the Bill would bring more into line with modern needs the provisions of the 1899 Act by making allowance for registered yachts, the larger ones of which frequently use chain cables, and hover vehicles. Unlike the "progressive and dynamic" hon. Members opposite, we are looking to the future by making allowance in the Bill for hover vehicles.

Thirdly, the Bill would raise the penalties for the misuse and improper supply and taking on board, or use in the case of harbour authorities, of anchor and chain cables to a level which we believe is more consistent with modern levels of finance.

Fourthly, there is a saving Clause on the lines of the 1899 Act to deal with anchors and chain cables for all purposes tested in establishments under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Defence. We believe that this is an important consideration.

Fifthly, as I have mentioned, the provisions of the Bill extend to mooring anchors and mooring cables. It is anomalous that responsibility for the provision on board of a faulty chain cable rests on the owner in so far as the chain cable—the bridle—links the ship with the ring of the mooring buoy. Frequently, in our crowded harbours, ships cannot go alongside, but must go to mooring buoys. It is anomalous that nobody has been given responsibility for that part of the mooring cable which extends from the lower ring of that buoy to the mooring anchor, and nobody appears liable to suffer statutory penalties for the provision of faulty mooring anchors or mooring chains.

Finally, my hon. Friends and I and the hon. and gallant Member for Kingston upon Hull, East, do not believe that the safety of shipping and of life should depend on rules made in accordance with the negative Resolution procedure of the House of Commons. Further, we believe that Schedules should be applied to the proposed Bill, as they were applied to the 1899 Act, to make provision for the specific tensile and breaking strains of all types of modern cables.

This proposed Bill, which is short, modest and constructive, has received close technical examination from a number of people fairly well qualified to speak on these matters and has been referred to many interested parties outside the House and has gained general approval.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Commander Courtney, Dr. Bennett, Mr. Webster, Mr. Ian Lloyd, and Commander Pursey.