HC Deb 11 March 1970 vol 797 cc1426-48

7.45 p.m.

Mr. Goronwy Roberts

I beg to move Amendment No. 6, in page 4, line 40, leave out from beginning to 'the' in line 41 and insert: Except as provided by or under this Act or any other enactment. It was decided to clarify the drafting of subsection (1) so that the stipulation that wages shall be paid in full is subject to anything provided for by or in the Bill or any other enactment. It will thus cover any regulations and not only those provided for in Clause 10.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

My only comment is that this is exactly the point we made. Again, we express our gratitude to the right hon. Gentleman.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Goronwy Roberts

I beg to move Amendment No. 7 in page 5, line 2, leave out from discharge ' to end of line 4.

(2) If the amount shown in the account delivered to a seaman under section 9(1) of this Act as being the amount payable to him under subsection (1) of this section is replaced by an increased amount shown in a further account delivered to him under section 9(3) of this Act, the balance shall be paid to him within seven days of the time of his discharge; and if the amount so shown in the account delivered to him under section 9(1) of this Act exceeds £50 and it is not practicable to pay the whole of it at the time of discharge, not less than £50 nor less than one-quarter of the amount so shown shall be paid to him at that time and the balance within seven days of that time.
Mr. Deputy Speaker

Mr. Speaker has selected sub-Amendment (a) for a Division if necessary; that is, in line 6, leave out '£50' and insert '£30'. The other three sub-Amendments may also be discussed with this Amendment. They are, (b), in line 7, leave out '£50' and insert '£30' (c), in line 7, leave out from '£50' to end; and (d), in line 8, at end insert: (3) The Board of Trade may by regulations increase the sum of £30 mentioned in the preceding subsection to such amount as shall from time to time appear to the Board to be appropriate in all the circumstances.

Mr. Roberts

We had considerable discussion of Clause 8 in Committee. I hope to keep my remarks tonight to the barest minimum, unless I am asked to explain certain matters. These Amendments bring together a number of issues affecting Clause 8 which were discussed in Committee and which I undertook to consider with a view to redrafting the Clause.

Amendment No. 6 dealt among other things with the minimum amount payable on discharge. The principle is that wages shall be paid in full on discharge and that that amount should be shown in the account of wages provided for in Clause 9. Clause 8(2) provides that if the amount exceeds £30—I am referring to the previous draft of the Bill—and it is not practicable to pay the whole of it at the time, not less than that amount shall be paid at that time and the remainder within seven days. The Amendment would increase the minimum amount from £30 to £50, or one quarter of the amount shown in the account, whichever is the greater.

Almost all wages are now paid in full and we would all expect this to continue, I can be equally brief with this Amendment. It is of a type similar to Amendment No. 6.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Goronwy Roberts

I beg to move Amendment No. 8, in page 5, line 5, leave out subsection (2) and insert:

but we must legislate for those rare occAs Ions when there may be practical difficulty about making arrangements for payment in full at the time. The Pearson Committee suggested a cash payment of £20, with the remainder by cheque within 48 hours. The Clause, however, is concerned with the minimum amount payable when it is not practicable to pay the full amount.

In the July Bill, we put this at £20. This was increased to £30 in the present Bill, but there were representations on Second Reading that this was too small. My hon. Friend the Member for Bootle (Mr. Simon Mahon), among others, spoke strongly on this issue. There were further representations in Committee. The hon. Member for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Patrick Jenkin) produced figures showing that on a sample 18½, per cent. of seamen had less than £30 on average due to them in discharge and 30 per cent. had less than £50. I hope that I have not misquoted the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

The figure I originally gave was 13 per cent. for the £30. I shall be referring to the figures later.

Mr. Roberts

I am obliged. We have taken some figures and I do not think they are much at variance with those of the hon. Gentleman. It does seem that about 70 per cent. would be entitled to more than £50 and in these circumstances it would be only fair to increase the minimum amount to £50. We also discussed the possibility of providing for at least one quarter of the wages to be paid, as in Section 134(a) of the 1894 Act. There has been some feeling that in coming away from that form of one quarter we have worsened the Bill in relation to that Act.

On reflection, I do not think that we should be seen to be providing less than is provided in the 1894 Act, particularly as the time for payment of the balance is now seven days. This will only be significant where the wages due exceed £200 and I include the proportion as well as the sum in this amendment of Clause 8(2).

The third Amendment provides that, if the account of wages is found to need adjustment and an increased amount is due to the seaman, the balance should be paid within seven days. This is only partly covered by the present draft. At present, it applies only when the amount payable exceeds £30. This was not intended and the Amendment will make it clear that the provision applies to all amounts due to be payable on adjustment, whether over or under the minimum amount. The amount is also related to the amount shown on the account so that the penalty of wages running on will not apply if the amount on adjustment is found to exceed £50 and the balance is paid within seven days.

The fourth Amendment makes drafting alterations. I will leave things there at the moment because we may want to deal with Amendment No. 8 separately.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

May I express through you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, our gratitude to Mr. Speaker for agreeing to select sub-Amendment (a) for a separate Division if we decide that this is the right course after having held the debate. I take the Minister's point that we are discussing only Amendment No. 8 and the sub-amendments and we will come later to Amendment No. 9. A possible difficulty is that we are also dealing with Clause 8 and I will perforce have to make reference to Clause 9.

I will try to distinguish between the Clauses and the Amendments. The right hon. Gentleman's Amendment No. 8 fulfils the promise that he gave in Committee to those of his hon. Friends who had expressed dissatisfaction with the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman also recognised that the Bill even as it would be amended, and as he is now proposing to Amend it, did not altogether deal with some fundamental difficulties in this area such as the payment of wages and the making up of accounts, to which a good deal of attention was given during the debate.

The conflict of interest can be put shortly. The right hon. Gentleman adverted to what he called the basic principle that wages should whenever practicable be paid in full on discharge under a crew agreement. The Pearson Report sets it out very clearly in paragraph 364 when it says: Whenever it is practicable the full amount outstanding in respect of wages (the net amount after deducting allotments, advances, income tax, national insurance contributions and so on) should be paid at the time of signing-off. That we think is the proper general rule. This conflicts with the difficulty referred to and admitted, of the burden imposed upon masters, particularly of ships where they have to undertake detailed clerical tasks in the last day or so before reaching port and discharging the crew. The issue is one of safety. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Winchester (Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles) said that the captain must be on the bridge watching the radar as his ship is coming up the Thames to tie up at London Docks, not sitting down in his cabin struggling to make the figures balance, to complete his charges sheet. If we adhere to the first principle that the seaman is paid off in full at the time of discharge we are inevitably imposing on the master these substantial duties.

Another factor still relevant is that the more we tie the legislation to the payment of cash in full the more difficult we make it for shipping companies to modernise their wage-accounting systems and make maximum use of computers and so on. At one stage it was argued that we should dispense altogether with any idea of a written account at the time of paying-off and have written account seven days later. That is very difficult and the right hon. Gentleman will have noted that we have been unable to reach any conclusion on accounting which we feel we can put before the House at this time. It may be that in another place we will have solutions to deal with this. We are trying to see if there is some better way of reaching a compromise on the problem.

What is before us is what was recommended in Pearson, that there should be a payment on discharge whenever practicable with the provisional payment on account when it is not practicable to pay the full amount. The question with which our sub-Amendment is concerned is what should be the size of the payment on account. The Minister of State has said that in deference to representations made by his hon. Friends. with which I have some sympathy, the figure of £30 was felt to be inadequate and the figure of £50 was decided upon as being the sum a seaman ought to take ashore. It is more in accord with modern needs.

The right hon. Gentleman is now going back to the old alternative of a quarter of what is due, whichever is the greater. There are two specific points; what should be the specific sum and how we should introduce an element of flexibility? Simply to follow the pattern of the 1894 Act so that people do not feel that they are worse off does not strike me as a strong argument. We discussed in Committee the suggestion of flexibility based on the proposition that the figure of £50 now might be inadequate in a few years. It was, therefore, necessary to provide flexibility.

8.0 p.m.

The alternative of a quarter of the sum due is not the right way to do it. It inevitably prevents a diminution of the paper work imposed on the master. It conflicts with one of our main objectives, namely, to improve the safety of the navigation of the ship as it approaches port by cutting down the amount of paper work done by the master. Calculations will have to be done to arrive at a figure of a quarter of the balance due to the seamen.

We have suggested in Amendment (d) another way of dealing with the problem. We suggest that it should be dealt with by giving the Board of Trade power to make regulations to alter the sum in the Bill, whatever it is. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Winchester said in Committee: Perhaps we should leave the matter to be dealt with by regulations—which can be amended from time to time, as the cost of living and seamen's wages, and so on, change."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee A. 20th January, 1970; c. 119.] The Minister of State accepted this in principle when he said: £50 may prove to be unreal in a few years time. Therefore, the point made by the hon. and gallant Gentleman and others has, I think, merit."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee A, 20th January, 1970; c. 127.] I believe that it has merit, and that is why we have tabled Amendment (d). This is the right way to achieve flexibility. It obviates the obligation of working out the full amount to discover what a quarter of it amounts to.

However, our main point concerns the figure of £50. The Pearson Report said £20, the July Bill said £20, the November Bill said £20 and now the figure stands at £50. The choice for us is whether we stick by the November Bill or go to the figure of £50. There could have been a compromise of £40. Hon. Members will see from the argument that there is quite a strong case for £30.

As I say, I have sympathy with those who argued that £50 is not an unreasonable sum for a seaman to go ashore with, particularly after a long voyage. He may need to replenish his wardrobe, hire a car, or undertake a long train journey. There is the desirability of having an outing with his family on reunion. These are valid reasons. I hope that more and more seamen will adopt the excellent habit of having a bank account and so be able to draw cheques and have credit cards, which is the modern way of doing things. The figure of £50 conflicts greatly with our other objective, namely, to reduce the clerical work done by the master.

I must refer to the figures which I quoted in Committee and which I am encouraged to find are substantially endorsed by the Minister's researches. This is the point on which I seek to place the greatest weight. If a minimum sum is to be paid, we must ensure that the seaman is entitled to at least that.

Mr. R. C. Mitchell (Southampton, Test)


Mr. Jenkin

The hon. Gentleman says, "No", but these are people on crew agreements. They may well not be seen on the ship again. It is utterly unrealistic to imagine that it will be feasible in a large number of cases to recover any excess which may have been paid. It goes further than that: the master is liable if he overpays a seaman. If the hon. Gentleman disputes that, I should be interested to hear his view. It is incumbent on a master, on discharging his crew and paying them off, to make sure that he does not pay more than the amount to which they are entitled. Therefore, the question is: what is the point of having a minimum payment which is so high that a substantial proportion, not necessarily a majority, of the crew will be entitled to less than that when they are paid off because they have made allotments and incurred other expenditure which are deductions allowed under the Bill?

The difference between a £30 minimum and a £50 minimum is striking. The figures which I have been able to get out show that out of a total of 2,125 seamen, 289, or 13.6 per cent., had less than £30 coming to them in the representative period, whereas if we go to £50, with the same number of seamen, 2,125, the number goes up to 639, or just over 30 per cent.—2–½ times as much.

It could be argued, and indeed the Minister of State did argue, that even if we went down to £20 there would still be some paper work, but it becomes a very minor clerical task. It becomes a question of degree. Where do we draw a line? When is it reasonable to impose a substantial additional volume of paper work on a master navigating his ship into his home port to make sure that he does not overpay seamen he is discharging in order to give an extra £10 or £20 to those whose balance of entitlement exceeds that?

I argue that 13 per cent. is tolerable and therefore the figure of £30 is adequate, although I recognise that it leaves just under one in six who will be paid less, but that 30 per cent. is intolerable and is too heavy a burden to impose. Therefore, to increase the figure to £50—and it may be desirable for the seamen, although they have it within their own hands to take steps to ensure that they are not short of cash by opening bank accounts—imposes too heavy a burden on the master.

We therefore propose by our Amendments to return to the figure which the Government thought right as recently as last November. I have sympathy with those who argue that £50 is not an unreasonable sum for a seaman to take ashore with him, but it creates undue difficulties for masters and employers which outweigh the advantages.

The Minister of State adverted somewhat briefly in Committee and this evening to the question of figures. He said: This is so even measured against the figures which hon. Gentlemen opposite have, quite rightly, given us: that as we increase the sum so the number of those entitled to less than the stipulated amount, if we stick to this formula, grows, too, and a certain difficulty sets in. This difficulty would remain even if we kept to the original £20. Fewer seamen would be involved, but I do not think that the difficulty in those ships where that happened would be the less because the sums stipulated were smaller. I may be wrong about this. I have not studied this point. It would be interesting to look into the incidence."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. Standing Committee A, 20th January, 1970; c. 126.] The Minister has looked into the incidence and confirmed my figures. He has therefore dismissed this very serious practical difficulty too lightly. It must be squarely faced.

We do not believe that even now Ministers have faced the problem of the additional burden which they are imposing on masters at a very critical point in the voyage. I remain convinced that £30 was the right figure and that the Government got it right when they first put it in the Bill. Though we appreciate with sympathy the arguments advanced by hon. Members opposite, we regret that the Government acceded to them.

I therefore beg to move the Amendment to the proposed, Amendment, in line 6, leave out "£50" and insert "£30".

Mr. R. C. Mitchell

The hon. Member for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Patrick Jenkin) has made a cogent and well-argued case for reducing the £50 to £30. This all depends upon what one regards as the balance of advantage. The hon. Member said that in his view £30 was tolerable for officers whereas £50 was intolerable. The obverse of the argument is that for seamen £50 is tolerable but £30 is intolerable, for the following reason.

It is obvious that, other things being equal, the man who is paid off with a large amount due to him is likely to have been away from home on a voyage of possibly nine months or so. When a seaman returns home after a long voyage, the first thing he wants to do—at least.

if he is married—is to take his wife a reasonable present. He wants, perhaps, to take her out to dinner. She may have deferred payment of the rent or other bills knowing that he was due home. He might want a night out with the boys to celebrate his home-coming. At present-day values of money, £50 is a much more reasonable figure than £30 or the £20 which originally appeared in the Bill.

I recognise what the hon. Member said in the first part of his argument about not less than £50 nor less than one-quarter of the amount", because this means that the whole thing has to be worked out on each occasion. I would prefer that provision not to be included, because it could well create unnecessary work for the captain.

Figures have been given of 13.6 per cent, with a £30 figure and 30 per cent. for £50, or a ratio of just over 2 to 1. I suggest that the difference between the two would not involve twice the total amount of work. In any event, if it has to be done for as many as 13 per cent., the 30 per cent. could equally be done without detracting from the efficiency of the ship or taking the master away from other duties. There are other people aboard ship apart from the master who could do the work, certainly on big liners, although not even on small liners does the master always have to do it. He has power to delegate other people to do this work for him.

I know that there would be a disadvantage to the master by raising the figure to £50, but that would be outweighed by the great advantage of fairness to the seaman who comes back after a long voyage and who wants to do the things I have mentioned.

8.15 p.m.

Mr. James A. Dunn (Liverpool, Kirkdale)

I should like to make two points following what my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. R. C. Mitchell) has said, and I will not repeat what I said in Standing Committee. I take the point made by the hon. Member for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Patrick Jenkin) concerning the percentages, but has the reverse process been followed to ascertain the percentage of masters who have the absolute responsibility of work- ing out the wages that are due? If that has been done, would not the hon. Gentleman agree that having verified that £30 or approximately that amount is due, is it not a great deal more difficult to verify that a sum in excess of £30 is due? In striking a balance, a figure has to be set. If the hon. Gentleman believes that sympathy should be shown to seamen in this situation, he is bound to come to the conclusion that £50 is a reasonable sum.

I hope that, in future, seamen will have the same creditworthiness as others for bank accounts, but I should like to recall to the hon. Gentleman our discussions in Committee and on Second Reading and the discussions prior to the introduction of the Bill. There is no doubt that special provision has to be made for demurrage of wages because of the situation in which a seaman can find himself without money. The reason for this demurrage is that banks can be closed and money is not available to the shipowner or the master. Equally, it will not be available to the seaman either. These things have to be taken into account.

Everyone would agree that with the present value of money, £50 is a reasonable sum. The Bill originally specified £20. The hon. Member for Wanstead and Woodford agreed that that figure should be adjusted. It is not much further for him to go to accept a figure of £50. The hon. Member's argument in support of £30 could, if critically analysed, be applied also to £50. I hope that he will not press his Amendment.

Mr. Goronwy Roberts

I have only two comments to make on what the hon. Member for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Patrick Jenkin) said about the difficulties caused by increasing the basic payment to £50. I agree that figures of £20, £30 and £50 would, in varying degree, create difficulty for masters who have to deal with accountancy as well as look after their ships, but my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Kirkdale (Mr. Dunn) has pointed out that not all masters are in that invidious position. One would expect the industry to take cognisance of circumstances which gave rise to the need for assistance for the master to be able to do what he regarded as being the highest priority among two occupations on the ship.

As I said in Committee, I feel that somehow it is always expected that the seaman should bear the burden of the inadequacy of provision to deal with accountancy. That is not the way that we should look at the position; it does not appeal to me. If for practical reasons the industry finds it impossible, in the small minority of cases where there is reason for this, to pay off a man in full, it should pay as much as possible. Fifty pounds commends itself to those who are mainly concerned—that is, the seamen—and we have accepted that. If there is a risk that a master might be diverted from safety work because he has to do sums, the remedy is obvious: the company must step in and provide assistance. That is the answer.

I should like to make another point concerning the mathematics. The hon. Member for Wanstead and Woodford has referred to 70 per cent. of the people and to 30 per cent. being involved when the figure goes up to £50. We should be careful to realise that we are dealing with a minority before we apply these percentages to them and we should not get the impression that 70 per cent. applies to the whole of the merchant fleet. The 100 per cent. are the small minority who are involved in this kind of delayed payment. It is within that small minority that the percentages, whatever they are

—and I accept the hon. Gentleman's figures—apply.

The problem is not a big one. I had hoped, after our exchanges in Committee, and the clearly expressed feelings of hon. Members then and on Second Reading, that the figure of £50 would be accepted, and that we would not need to differ between £30 and £50. I do not know what are the hon. Gentleman's intentions on Amendment (a). I have to move my Amendment—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harry Gourlay)

It has been moved.

Mr. Roberts

It has been moved, and it is for the hon. Gentleman, if he wishes, to move his Amendment.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The sub-Amendment has been moved.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

With the leave of the House, I do not think that further discussion will reconcile the difference between us. The issue is one of safety as well as of convenience, and I think it is right that we should press the Amendment to a Division.

Question put, That the Amendment to the proposed Amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 112, Noes 162.

Division No.79] AYES [8.23 p.m.
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Elliott, R.W.(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.) Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry
Baker, Kenneth (Acton) Farr, John Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)
Baker, W. H. K. (Banff) Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)
Beamish, Col. Sir Tutton Fortescue, Tim MacArthur, Ian
Biffen, John Fry, peter Maclean, Sir Fitzroy
Biggs-Davison, John Gibson-Watt, David McMaster, Stanley
Black, Sir Cyril Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.) McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)
Blaker, Peter Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B. Miscampbell, Norman
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.) Goodhew, Victor Montgomery, Fergus
Body, Richard Gower, Raymond More, Jasper
Brewis, John Grant, Anthony Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)
Brinton, Sir Tatton Gurden, Harold Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm.
Bruce-Gardyne, J. Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Nabarro, Sir Gerald
Buchanan-Smith, Alick(Angus, N&M) Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere Nort, John
Buck, Antony (Colchester) Harvie Anderson, Miss Osborn, John (Hallam)
Bullus, Sir Eric Hawkins, Paul Page, Graham (Crosby)
Campbell, B. (Oldham, W.) Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel Peel, John
Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn) Hiley, Joseph Percival, Ian
Chichester-Clark, R Hill, J. E. B. Pike, Miss Mervyn
Clegg, Walter Holland, Philip Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch
Crouch, David Hordern, Peter Price, David (Eastleigh)
Crowder, F. P. Hornby, Richard Prior, J. M. L.
Currie, G. B. H. Hunt, John Pym, Francis
Dalkeith, Earl of Hutchison, Michael Clark Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James
Dance, James Iremonger, T. L. Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David
Dean, Paul Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford) Rossl, Hugh (Hornsey)
Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford) Jopling, Michael Scott, Nicholas
Digby, Simon Wingfield Kaberry, Sir Donald Sharples, Richard
Dodds-Parker, Douglas Kimball, Marcus Smith, John (London & W'minster)
Drayson, G. B. Kirk, Peter Stodart, Anthony
Eden, Sir John Knight, Mrs. Jill Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Lane, David Taylor, Edward M.(G'gow, Cathcart)
Taylor, Frank (Moss Side) Ward, Christopher (Swindon) Wylie, N. R.
Temple, John M. Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William Younger, Hn. George
Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H. Wiggin, Jerry
Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John Williams, Donald (Dudley) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Waddington, David Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick Mr. Timothy Kitson and
Wall, Patrick Woodnutt, Mark Mr. Hector Monro.
Walters, Dennis Worsley, Marcus
Abse, Leo Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J. Ogden, Eric
Allen, Scholefield Hamilton, James (Bothwell) O'Malley, Brian
Anderson, Donald Hamilton, William (Fife, W.) Oswald, Thomas
Archer, Peter (R'wley Regis & Tipt'n) Harper, Joseph Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)
Armstrong, Ernest Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Page, Derek (King's Lynn)
Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.) Haseldine, Norman Paget, R. T.
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Hazell, Bert Palmer, Arthur
Bishop, E. S. Heffer, Eric S. Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles
Blackburn, F. Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret Parker, John (Dagenham)
Blenkinsop, Arthur Hooley, Frank Pavitt, Laurence
Boardman, H. (Leigh) Horner, John Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)
Booth, Albert Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.) Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred
Boston, Terence Howell, Denis (Small Heath) Pentland, Norman
Boyden, James Hunter, Adam Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)
Broughton, Sir Alfred Hynd, John Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Janner, Sir Barnett Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)
Brown, Bob(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.) Jeger, Mrs. Lena(H'b'n & St. P'cras, S.) Rankin, John
Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury) Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.) Rees, Merlyn
Buchan, Norman Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Rhodes, Geoffrey
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn) Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West) Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Judd, Frank Robertson, John (Paisley)
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Kerr, Russell (Feltham) Rose, Paul
Chapman, Donald Lawson, George Ross, Rt. Hn. William
Concannon, J. D. Leadbitter, Ted Rowlands, E.
Conlan, Bernard Lee Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton) shaw, Arnold (IIford, S.)
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.) Sheldon, Robert
Crawshaw, Richard Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)
Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony Loughlin, Charles Short, Mrs. Renée(W'hampton, N. E.)
Dalyell, Tam Luard, Evan Silkin, Rt. Hn John (Deptford)
Davidson, Arthur (Accrington) Lubbock Eric Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)
Davidson, James(Aberdeenshire, W.) Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.) Silverman, Julius
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) MoCann, John Slater, Joseph
Davies, Rt. Hn. Harold (Leek) Macdonald, A. H. Snow, Julian
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) McElhone, Frank steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)
Delargy, H. J. Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen) Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John
Dewar, Donald Mackie, John Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley
Dickens, James Maclennan, Robert Taverne Dick
Dobson, Ray McNamara, J. Kevin Tinn, James
Doig, Peter Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.) Urwin, T. W.
Dunn, James A. Mahon, Simon (Bootle) Varley, Eric G.
Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter) Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)
Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e) Marks, Kenneth Walker, Harold (Doncaster,)
Edwards Robert (Bilston) Marquand, David Wallace, George
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Marquand, David Watkins, David (consett)
Ellis, John Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)
Evans, Fred (Caerphilly) Mendelson, John Whitaker, Ben
Evans, Ioan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardiey) Millan, Bruce Whitlock, William
Fernyhough, E. Miller, D. M. s. Willey, R. Hn. Frederick
Finch, Harold Milne, Edward (Blyth) Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)
Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Mitchell, R. C. (s'th'pton, Test) Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Ford, Ben Molloy, William Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.
Fraser, John (Norwood) Murgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)
Galpern, sir Myer Morris, Alfred (wythenshawe)
Golding, John Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Grey, Charles (Durham) Moyle, Roland Mr. Neil McBride and
Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside) Norwood, Christopher Mr. Ernest G. Perry.

Proposed Amendment agreed to.

8.30 p.m.

Mr. Goronwy Roberts

I beg to move leave out subsection (3) and insert:

(3) If any amount which, under the preceding provisions of this section is payable to a seaman is not paid at the time at which it is so payable, the seaman shall be entitled to wages at the rate last payable under the crew agreement for every day on which it remains unpaid during the period of fifty-six days following the time of discharge; and if any such amount or any amount payable by virtue of this subsection remains unpaid after the end of that period it shall carry interest at the rate of 20 per cent. per annum.

Amendment No. 9, in page 5, line 10,

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this Amendment I suggest we take sub-Amendment (e), in line 2, leave out from 'payable' to 'it' in line 6.

Sub-Amendment (f), in line 6, at end insert: Provided that the obligation under this subsection to pay wages for a period not exceeding fifty-six days shall not apply in respect of any period during which the seaman is again employed. and sub-Amendment (g), in line 6, at end insert: Provided that this subsection shall not apply to any sum retained by the persons employing the seaman in respect of which there is a bona fide dispute, or a mistake has been made, or such persons claim bona fide to be entitled to a set off or counterclaim against the seaman.

Mr. Roberts

This Amendment makes drafting alterations to Clause 8(3), which was amended in Committee. This provides that in the event of non-payment contrary to these provisions wages would run for 56 days and thereafter there would be interest of 20 per cent. on any amount unpaid. The Amendment is solely a drafting matter and makes no change of substance in the Amendment adopted by the Committee.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I would announce to the House that Mr. Speaker has selected sub-Amendment (e) to be moved for a Division if called.

Mr. Wingfield Digby

I beg to move, the Amendment to the proposed Amendment, in line 2, leave out from "payable' to 'it' in. line 6.

We have already had a considerable discussion of the main points involved. We are agreed that it is important that wages should be paid as accurately as possible to seamen after they have been discharged. It has been agreed that masters are under special difficulties because they have to prepare their accounts in some cases themselves or in other cases they have people to help them. This work usually takes place when they are approaching port when, of course, their responsibilities are at their greatest. We should like to move certain Amendments to this Amendment. The effect is to ensure that wages will not be payable for the first 56 days as well as involving the 20 per cent. interest.

Some comment was made on this matter by the Pearson Committee, which took the view that this was unduly severe.

There was discussion about this matter in Committee, but we did not go into very great detail. We believe that the Minister was under some misapprehension in Committee as to what, in fact, Pearson recommended. The relevant paragraph of Pearson is paragraph 373, which says that such an intention is sound but any provision would be too drastic as a deterrent. It is certainly desirable that owners should be deterred from being remiss and paying late, but Amendment No. 9 appears to be too hard.

The second Amendment which we have down on this matter deals with seamen who are already found other employment so that if the penal Clauses were retained they would be getting two different sorts of wages. Sub-Amendment (g) arises where there is a bona fide dispute or mistake. In this age of computers mistakes seem to happen frequently and it does not seem just that such large penalties should be imposed on the owner where a genuine mistake has been made.

I believe that the provisions in the Bill are unreasonable and we seek to leave out the provision about wages having to be paid for 56 days in the event of default.

Mr. Goronwy Roberts

This Amendment seeks to remove the provision in Amendment No. 9 that where amounts due to be paid are not so paid wages will run on for periods up to 56 days and substitute a simple provision for 20 per cent. interest. This matter was discussed at great length in Committee. I think that we are agreed that there should be a severe penalty if wages are not paid when due. The suggestion for 56 days is a compromise. At present, wages run on indefinitely.

It is true that Pearson preferred to provide for a high rate of interest instead of wages running on. We find this in paragraph 377. But in paragraph 376 the report suggests that if the principle of wages running on is retained there should be a maximum period of two months. A period of 56 days is in accordance with this. I do not think that a 20 per cent. rate of interest during this period would provide a sufficient deterrent against dilatory payment during which time the seaman's hardship would be severe.

For these reasons, I feel that a more severe penalty than that recommended by the Pearson Report is necessary and the Clause now follows the suggestion in the report of a limitation of two months on wages running on. I feel that this is the right course to follow and I would invite the House to reject the Amendment.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

Is the right hon. Gentleman to say anything about the other Amendments which are reflected in the recommendations of Pearson in relation to the 56-day period?

Mr. Roberts

That is in relation to Amendment (g). That is already covered by Clause 8 (4). In so far as it introduces new matter, I consider it to be undesirable.

Turning to the three cases dealt with in the Amendment, the first case concerns a bona fide dispute. This case is covered by the first two lines of subsection (4) which read: Subsection (3) of this section does not apply if the failure to pay was due to a reasonable dispute as to liability. The second case is when a mistake has been made. I think that we would all agree that this is a desirable provision and that wages should not run on if failure to pay has been due to a bona fide mistake.

I am advised, however, that the provisions in subsection (4) that subsection

(3) shall not apply if failure to pay was due … to any cause not being the wrongful act or default of the persons paying the wages are apt to cover this case. These words follow those in Section 134(c) of the 1894 Act, and so far as I know it has never been suggested that wages run on under this section if non-payment was due to a bona fide mistake.

The last case is when there is a bona fide claim by way of set-off or counterclaim on the part of the employer. Here, I cannot agree with the hon. Gentleman's proposals. It is a fundamental concept behind subsection (1) that wages should be paid in full at the time of discharge, subject only to authorised deductions. In such circumstances, claims by way of set-off or counterclaim might be authorised as deductions, but only after the necessary consultations had been gone through and regulations made under Clause 10. I cannot accept that we should allow all claims by way of set-off or counter claim to be deducted.

Question put, That the Amendment to the proposed Amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 112, Noes 167.

Division No. 80.] AYES [8.40 p.m.
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Kirk, Peter
Baker, Kenneth (Acton) Elliott, R.W.(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.) Knight, Mrs. Jill
Baker, W. H. K. (Banff) Farr, John Lane, David
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry
Biffen, John Fortescue, Tim Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)
Biggs-Davison, John Fry, Peter Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)
Black, Sir Cyril Gibson-Watt, David MacArthur, Ian
Blaker, Peter Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.) Maclean, Sir Fitzroy
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.) Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B. McMaster, Stanley
Body, Richard Goodhew, Victor McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)
Brewis, John Gower, Raymond Miscampbell, Norman
Brinton, Sir Tatton Grant, Anthony Monro, Hector
Bruce-Gardyne, J. Gurden, Harold Montgomery, Fergus
Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N & M) Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) More, Jasper
Buck, Antony (Colchester) Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)
Bullus, Sir Eric Harvie Anderson, Miss Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm.
Campbell, B. (Oldham, W.) Hawkins, Paul Nabarro, Sir Gerald
Campbell, Cordon (Moray & Nairn) Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel Nott, John
Chichester-Clark, R. Hiley, Joseph Osborn, John (Hallam)
Crouch, David Hill, J. E. B. Page, Graham (Crosby)
Crowder, F. P. Holland, Philip Peel, John
Currie, G. B. H. Hordern, Peter Percival, Ian
Dalkeith, Earl of Hornby, Richard Pike, Miss Mervyn
Dance, James Hunt, John Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch
Dean, Paul Hutchison, Michael Clark Prior, J. M. L.
Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford) Iremonger, T. L. Pym, Francis
Digby, Simon Wingfield Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford) Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James
Dodds-Parker, Douglas Jopling, Michael Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David
Drayson, G. B. Kaberry, Sir Donald Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Eden, Sir John Kimball, Marcus Scott, Nicholas
sharples, Richard Waddington, David Woodnutt, Mark
Smith, John (London & W'minster) Wall, Patrick Worsley, Marcus
Stodart, Anthony Walters, Dennis Wylle, N. R.
Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M. Ward, Christopher (Swindon) Younger, Hn. George
Taylor, Edward M.(G'gow, Carthcart) Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Taylor, Frank (Moss Side) Wiggin, Jerry TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Temple, John M. Williams, Donald (Dudley) Mr. Walter Clegg and
Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H. Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick Mr. Timothy Kitson.
Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John
Abse, Leo Hamilton, William (Fife, W.) Norwood, Christopher
Allen, Scholefield Harper, Joseph Ogden, Eric
Anderson, Donald Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) O'Halloran, Michael
Archer, Peter (R'wley Regis & Tipt'n) Haseldine, Norman O'Malley, Brian
Armstrong, Ernest Hazell, Bert Oswald, Thomas
Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.) Heffer, Eric S. Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)
Bagier, Gordon A, T. Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret Page, Derek (King's Lynn)
Beaney, Alan Hooley, Frank Paget, R. T.
Bishop, E. S. Horner, John Palmer, Arthur
Blackburn, F. Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles
Blenkinsop, Arthur Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.) Parker, John (Dagenham)
Boardman, H. (Leigh) Howell, Denis (Small Heath) Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)
Booth, Albert Hughes, Roy (Newport) Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred
Boyden, James Hunter, Adam Pentland, Norman
Broughton, Sir Alfred Hynd, John Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)
Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper) Janner, Sir Barnett Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Jeger, Mrs. Lena(H'b"n & St. P'cras, S.) Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg
Brown, Bob(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.) Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.) price, Thomas (Westhoughton)
Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury) Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Rankin, John
Buchan, Norman Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West) Rees, Merlyn
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn) Judd, Frank Rhodes Geoffrey
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Kerr, Russell (Feltham) Roberts, Rt Hn. Goronwy
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Lawson, George Robertson, John (Paisley)
Chapman, Donald Leadbitter, Ted Rose Paul
Concannon, J. D. Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton) Ross, Rt. Hn. William
Conlan, Bernard Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.) Rowlands, E.
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Shaw Arnold (IIford, S.)
Crawshaw, Richard Loughtin, Charles Sheldon, Robert
Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony Luard, Evan shore Rt Hn Peter (Stepney)
Dalyell, Tam Lubbock, Eric Short, Mrs. Renée(W'hampton,N.E.)
Davidson, Arthur (Accrington) Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.) Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
Davidson, James(Aberdeenshire, W.) Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) McBride, Neil Silverman Julius
Davies, Rt. Hn. Harold (Leek) McCann, John Stater, Joseph
Davies, S. o. (Merthyr) Macdonald, A. H. Snow, Julian
Delargy, H. J. McElhone, Frank stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John
Dewar, Donald McGuire, Michael Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley
Dickens, James Mackenzie, Gregor (Ruthergien)
Dobson, Ray Mackie, John Taverne, Dick
Doig, Peter Maclennan, Robert Tinn, James
Dunn, James A. McNamara, J. Kevin Urwin, T.W.
Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter) Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.) Wainwright, Richard (Coine Valley)
Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C' b'e) Mahon, Simon (Bootle) Wainwright, Richard (Coine Valley)
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Ellis, John Marks, Kenneth Wallace, George
Evans, Fred (Caerphilly) Marquand, David Watkins, David (Consett)
Fernynough, E. Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)
Finch, Harold Mendelson, John whitlock, William
Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Millan, Bruce Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Ford, Ben Miller, Dr. M. S. Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)
Fraser, John (Norwood) Milne, Edward (Blyth) Wilson, william (Coventry) s.,
Galpem, Sir Myer Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test) Woodburn Rt. Hn. A
Golding, John Molloy, William Woof, Robert
Grey, Charles (Durham) Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)
Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside) Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J. Morrison, Charles (Devizes) Mr. Terence Boston and
Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Moyle, Roland Mr. Ioan L. Evans.

Proposed Amendment agreed to.

8.45 p.m.

Mr. McMaster

I beg to move Amendment No.10, in line 21, after 'or', insert 'wilful'.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I suggest that it would be convenient for the House to discuss at the same time Amendment No.

13 in Clause 13, page 7, line 42, after 'or' insert 'wilful'.

Mr. McMaster

Clause 8 is concerned with the payment of seamen's wages. Subsection (3) provides that a penalty shall be paid by employers if, in certain circumstances, wages are not paid on the date of discharge to seamen. Subsection (4) provides for employers to be relieved of that penalty in certain circumstances. However, that relief shall apply only if there has not been a wrongful act or default.

As drafted, it appears that a genuine mistake—in these days of computerisation it is possible that a computer error will occur—it may not result in an employed gaining exemption, with the result that he may be liable to the penalty provided under subsection (3). This seems to be harsh, particularly when such errors may not be discovered for some time. We should bear in mind that a penalty of full wages for 56 days, as mentioned in subsection (3), would be a considerable sum.

The Amendment therefore seeks to insert the word "wilful" before the word "default" so as to exempt the employer from liability in cases where there has been no negligence, but only a genuine mistake, or, perhaps, a computer error.

Mr. Goronwy Roberts

I am not prepared to recommend the House to accept this Amendment. I think that we would all agree that the employer should not be liable for the severe penalties specified in subsection (3) if his failure to pay wages is due to an accidental miscalculation or some other completely innocent cause, and I suggest that the phrase

… not being the wrongful act or default … is apt to achieve this purpose. It is a phrase which is found in the similar provisions of Section 134(c) of the 1894 Act, and, as far as I am aware, it has not been claimed that an accidental error in calculations or similar cause comes within it, or that under that Section wages would run on in those circumstances.

The hon. Member is, perhaps, placing too much emphasis on the word "default"—which can in certain circumstances, I admit, mean any failure to pay—and too little on the whole phrase "wrongful act or default". This is a phrase on which, taken as a whole, there is, I am advised, a certain amount of legal authority, and by virtue of which, so it appears to me, at least an element of negligence would have to be imported before a default came within it.

A final criticism of the Amendment is that if the failure to pay were due to an employer's act, one epithet would be applicable—"wrongful"—but if it were due to a default a different epithet would be applicable—"wilful"; that is to say, deliberate. No longer would the epithet "wrongful" apply to both the act and the default. This could give rise to considerable further argument as to whether the employer's act or omission was a wrongful act or a deliberate default and what, if anything, was the distinction between the two. Similar considerations apply to the parallel Amendment, No. 13, to Clause 13, and I advise the House to reject both.

As I say, the phrase in question should be taken as a whole. I am not claiming conclusive legal authority for it, but it is fairly generally accepted as a phrase which, taken as a whole, brings within it the hon. Gentleman's intention.

Mr. McMaster

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his explanation. It all turns on the construction of the words "wrongful act". I am no expert in these matters and, as the Minister knows, the courts have rules for construing such words. It was the phrasing which caused some apprehension to the shipowners I know. However, on the Minister's assurance that the word "wrongful" applies to both "act" and "default," I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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