HC Deb 11 March 1970 vol 797 cc1453-61
Mr. Goronwy Roberts

I beg to move Amendment No. 18, in page 19, line 10, leave out from beginning to 'it' in line 11 and insert 'unless'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I suggest that it might be convenient to take, at the same time, Amendment No. 19, in page 9, line 15, after 'Kingdom', insert 'or ceases to be so registered'.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

That would be agreeable to this side, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Roberts

Clause 16(1)(b) at present says that, where a United Kingdom registered ship is wrecked or lost, a seaman employed in the ship shall not be entitled to his wages if it is proved that he did not make reasonable efforts to save the ship and persons and property carried in it. We do not think that this provision should apply to wages in general—that is all the wages which the seaman may have earned during the voyage. We consider that it should be limited to wages payable during unemployment under Clause 16(1)(a) and that the normal rules of contract should apply to wages earned prior to the shipwreck.

The point was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Oldbury and Halesowen (Mr. Horner) and my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Scotstoun (Mr. Small) and I undertook to look at it. I have now done so and I hope that my hon. Friends will agree that the purpose, as now expressed in Amendment No. 18, meets the point.

I turn now to Amendment No. 19. The hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Hay) moved a series of Amendments in Committee relating to a seaman's being entitled to wages under Clause 16 during his unemployment when he is discharged under Clause 6 as a consequence of his ship ceasing to be registered in the United Kingdom. My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Kirkdale (Mr. Dunn) and my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Booth) also expressed concern about this, as did the hon. Gentleman the Member for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Patrick Jenkin). At that time, I shared their concern and agreed in principle that Clause 16 must hinge on whether a seaman can reasonably be said to be out of a job.

I said in Committee: … whether a seaman finds himself caught by shipwreck, loss or sale,…"— that is, of his ship— or by transfer of registration, he should be eligible for comparable remedies, including the payment of up to eight weeks wages, because the conditions are broadly the same."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee A, 27th January, 1970; c. 214.] This was the general view of the Committee and it was on that understanding that I proceeded to reconsider the matter. I am pleased to say that I am able to propose, in this Amendment, of an amendment of Clause 16(2) so that it has the effect I have mentioned.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

Once again, we acknowledge with gratitude what the Government have done here and I am glad that the Minister has taken the opportunity, as it were, to correct the HANSARD report of what he said because in c. 214 it is reported in the original volume: including the payment of eight weeks wages,….—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee A, 27th January, 1970; c. 214.] That would not be right because it would be only up to a maximum of eight weeks and the Minister has made it clear that that is what he intended to say.

The right hon. Gentleman probably did say that, but it has not come out quite right in the OFFICIAL REPORT. This has given rise to a little concern and we are grateful to him for having corrected it.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: No. 19, in page 9, line 15, after 'Kingdom', insert: 'or ceases to be so registered '.—[Mr. Goronwy Roberts.]

Mr. Goronwy Roberts

I beg to move Amendment No. 20, in page 9, line 32, leave out subsection (4).

This arises from a matter raised in Committee by the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Hay). We all regret that the hon. Gentleman is not able to be with us. He had the courtesy to inform me yesterday that pressing engagements would keep him away from our debate today.

The hon. Gentleman pointed out that subsection (4) stood very much on its own. It deals with a seaman's not being entitled to his wages in certain circumstances. The hon. Gentleman pointed out that it really had little to do with the subject matter of the preceding subsection. His proposal then was that it should go in a separate Clause on its own. There was, however, some objection to the subsection as a whole: several of my hon. Friends expressed themselves on that point.

The hon. Member for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Patrick Jenkin), on the other hand, opposed the omission of the subsection whilst supporting its inclusion as a separate Clause. I recall his argument as being that the Bill as a whole represented a package deal and a compromise between what was desired and what was disliked on all sides of the industry. He urged me to bear this carefully in mind before modifying or omitting a provision such as this.

I assure the hon. Gentleman that I have given most careful thought to what has been said on this important matter. Upon detailed reflection, I have reached the view that the subsection is not necessary to the Bill. It is essentially a reenactment of the substance of Sections 159 and 160 of the 1894 Act, with the addition of the reference to absence without leave and injury. In the less paternalistic atmosphere of today, when we are getting rid of so much unnecessary detail, I feel, on reconsideration, that subsection (4) is not necessary. I hope that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Wanstead and Woodford will agree.

I need take the argument no further. The Bill loses nothing by deletion of this subsection, and I hope that the House will accept my advice.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

I shall have to disappoint the right hon. Gentleman. When we saw this Amendment on the Paper, I was a bit shocked, in the light of what had been said in Committee. As the right hon. Gentleman said, he was pressed by one or two of his hon. Friends in Committee to delete the subsection. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) said: I regard this provision as absolutely monstrous "—[OFFICIAL REPORT. Standing Committee A, 27th January, 1970; c. 218.] Obviously, the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North carries great influence with the Government, for the next thing that happens is that the subsection disappears.

This represents—I am choosing my words carefully—something in the nature of a breach of faith with those who have been conducting negotiations with the Government and among themselves over the past few years. The Minister of State was kind enough to refer to my speech on the Clause in Committee. I recall that I stressed that the whole Bill represented a package deal. On Second Reading, the President of the Board of Trade himself said: … the legislative provisions which we are considering today are, broadly speaking, an acceptable package"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd December, 1969; Vol. 792, c. 1311.] That is the basis on which it has proceeded throughout.

Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham)


Mr. Jenkin

It is all very well for the hon. Gentleman to say "Oh"—

Mr. Lewis

Broadly speaking.

Mr. Jenkin

Broadly speaking—I gather that the hon. Gentleman does not disagree, so perhaps I read more into his interjection than he intended. No one has all that he wants, but who goes into any negotiation expecting to get everything? What one achieves is, broadly speaking, as the President of the Board of Trade said, an acceptable package. The Minister of State himself intervened during my speech on that earlier occasion to take up my point that part one of Pearson is as much part of the package as part two, and on another occasion he went so far as to say that it is, perhaps, even more important than part two of Pearson, which we are now embodying in legislation.

9.15 p.m.

There is no doubt that masters and officers, as well as their employers, regard the positions of Clause 16(4) as important. It is necessary that an officer or master in dealing with seamen, bearing in mind that they may be hundreds or thousands of miles away from the home port, shall have specific statutory provisions to point to so that he can say, "The Act says that you are not entitled to wages if you unlawfully refuse to work, go absent without leave, or are incapable of performing your duties by reason of illness or injury shown to have been caused by your own wilful act or default". In ordinary factory life at home such matters can be sorted out and dealt with through the normal machinery of collective bargaining but in a ship, perhaps thousands of miles from home, that becomes much more difficult.

Like a golden thread running through much of the Bill is the single fact that a ship is quite different from a factory. Therefore, we were very disturbed to find that the Minister had found it necessary to yield to his hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara), who regarded the provision as absolutely monstrous and to take the subsection out. He owes the House and the other parties to the package deal a fuller explanation of why he thinks it to be unnecessary. I am informed that masters have relied on its predecessor expressly when confronted with the sort of difficulties to which the subsection relates.

At no stage throughout the whole proceedings has the British Shipping Federation made to us any proposal which in one jot or tittle departs from Pearson. We have made a number of proposals from this Dispatch Box and in Committee for departures from Pearson. But the employers' side has never asked us to make amendments which depart from the report. I wish that the same could be said of some of the other parties to this acceptable package deal. That is why, not unnaturally, the officers of the Federation feel a bit sore when they find the package to which they have agreed, and at no stage sought to depart from, being whittled away because the Government yielded to pressure from one of the members of its Left wing. This is utterly unacceptable, and I shall ask my right hon. and hon. Friends to divide against the Amendment.

Mr. John Mendelson

To be fair to my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North, he must not be included in the Left wing without his permission being asked first.

Mr. Booth

I support the Amendment, and I am rather surprised at the words used by the hon. Member for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Patrick Jenkin). The sort of power that would have been accorded to a ship's officer had the subsection been left in the Bill would not have been one stick with which to beat a seaman but two for the same offence.

If he is absent without leave, which is the subject of subsection (4)(b), a seaman can also be clobbered under Clause 32, and if, as subsection (4)(a) puts it, he unlawfully refuses or neglects to work when required he can also be clobbered under Clause 30, and so on.

It would be monstrous if, when there are specific penalties in other parts of the Bill for such offences, and therefore there is a code of discipline in respect of such actions, there should also be the possibility of a man being denied pay under the subsection.

Mr. Jenkin

The hon. Gentleman is taking a different view from what I suspect to be that of his right hon. Friend, who said in Committee that this matter would rest on contract, under the crew agreement. Is the hon. Gentleman now saying that a seaman would be entitled to wages and that there would be no entitlement to make a deduction, if he went absent without leave? Is that really what he is arguing?

Mr. Booth

What I am arguing is that if the subsection had stood the right of the officer to say, "You will have your wages stopped", would have been in no way dependent on the crew agreement. Therefore, it would have been offensive to the concept of discipline and officer power envisaged in the Bill to have the subsection in addition to the other Clauses which lay down a code which has been hammered out within the package.

Mr. Goronwy Roberts

I, too, am surprised by the vehemence of the hon. Member for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Patrick Jenkin). If Clause 16(4) is omitted, wages can still be withheld for the reasons given in that subsection. If necessary, deductions in this respect could be authorised by reference to Clause 10. If a seaman unlawfully refuses or neglects to work or is absent without leave or wilfully renders himself incapable of performing his duties, he will usually be in breach of his contract of employment and the employer will have his normal remedies in contract. If the employers do not consider that these remedies are adequate, the terms of relevant contracts might well include provisions along the lines of subsection (4).

In my view, these are contractual matters which should be left to industrial negotiation. I understood hon. Members opposite to emphasise that they rest on civil law in these matters. We certainly believe that, wherever possible, we should make the effort to take these issues out of statute and put them into contract. We have just had a lengthy debate, which I know the hon. Member for Wanstead and Woodford, his hon. Friends and I hope will not affect the acceptability of the Bill. Indeed, we hope that it will make it more acceptable and more workable. The whole tone of that debate was directed against the presence in a statute of certain provisions. I understand the hon. Gentleman to argue, however, that there should be in statute some kind of reminder or warning. There

is something to be said for that. But, on balance, it will help the Bill and its acceptability, and certainly does not detract from its value, to delete this subsection.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

If I may speak again by leave of the House—

Mr. Speaker

Order. It is not usual on Report stage for a second speech to be made, even by leave of the House. However, the hon. Gentleman may speak again on this occasion if he has the leave of the House.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

I shall be exceedingly brief, Mr. Speaker. I do not accept the Minister of State's argument, and to the extent to which he has referred to Clause 10 he is deluding his hon. Friend. I feel justified in asking my right hon. and hon. Friends to vote against the new Amendment.

Question putt, That the Amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 167, Noes 111.

Division No. 81.] AYES [9.23 p.m.
Abse, Leo Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Luard, Evan
Allen, Scholefieid Ellis, John Lubbock, Eric
Anderson, Donald Evans, Fred (Caerphilly) Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)
Archer, Peter (R'wley Regis & Tipt'n) Fernyhough, E. Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson
Armstrong, Ernest Finch, Harold McBride, Neil
Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.) Fitch, Alan (Wigan) McCann, John
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Ford, Ben Macdonald, A. H.
Beaney, Alan Fraser, John (Norwood) McElhone, Frank
Bishop, E. S. Galpern, Sir Myer McGuire, Michael
Blackburn, F. Golding, John Mackenzie, Alasdair(Ross & Crom'ty)
Blenkinsop, Arthur Grey, Charles (Durham) Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)
Boardman, H. (Leigh) Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J. Mackie, John
Booth, Albert Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Maclennan, Robert
Boston, Terence Hamilton, William (Fife, W.) McNamara, J. Kevin
Boyden, James Harper, Joseph Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)
Broughton, Sir Alfred Haseldine, Norman Mahon, Simon (Bootle)
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Hazell, Bert Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)
Brown,Bob(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,W.) Heffer, Eric s. Marks, Kenneth
Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury) Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret Marquand, David
Buchan, Norman Hooley, Frank Mendelson, John
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn) Hooson, Emiyn Millan, Bruce
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Horner, John Miller, Dr. M. S.
Chapman, Donald Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Milne, Edward (Blyth)
Concannon, J.D. Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.) Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Howell, Denis (Small Heath) Molloy, William
Crawshaw, Richard Hughes, Roy (Newport) Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire
Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony Hunter, Adam Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)
Dalyell, Tam Hynd, John Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)
Davidson, Arthur (Accrington) Janner, Sir Barnett Moyle, Roland
Davidson, James(Aberdeenshire, W.) Jeger, Mrs. Lena(H'b'n & St. P'cras, S.) Norwood, Christopher
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.) O'Halloran, Michael
Davies, Rt. Hn. Harold (Leek) Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) O'Malley, Brian
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West) Oswald, Thomas
Delargy, H. J. Judd, Frank Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)
Dewar, Donald Kerr, Russell (Feltham) Page, Derek (King's Lynn)
Dickens, James Lawson, George Paget, R. T.
Dobson, Ray Leadbitter, Ted Palmer, Arthur
Doig, Peter Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton) Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles
Dunn, James A. Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.) Parker, John (Dagenham)
Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter) Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Pavitt, Laurence
Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e) Loughlin, Charles Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)
Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney) Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Pentland, Norman Short, Mrs. Renée(W'hampton, N.E.) Wallace, George
Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.) Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford) Watkins, David (Consett)
Perry, George H. (Nottingham, 8.) Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich) Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)
Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg. Silverman, Julius Whitaker, Ben
Price, Thomas (Westhoughton) Stater, Joseph Whitlock, william
Rankin, John Snow, Julian Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Rees, Merlyn Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.) Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)
Rhodes, Geoffrey Stonehouse, Rt. Hn, John Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A
Robertson, John (Paisley) Taverne, Dick Woof, Robert
Pose, Paul Tinn, James
Ross, Rt. Hn. William Urwin, T. W. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Rowlands, E. Varley, Eric G. Mr. Walter Harrison and
Shaw, Arnold (IIford, S.) Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley) Mr. Ioan L. Evans.
Sheldon, Robert
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B. Osborn, John (Hallam)
Baker, Kenneth (Acton) Goodhew, Victor Page, Graham (Crosby)
Baker, W. H. K. (Banff) Cower, Raymond Peel, John
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Grant, Anthony Percival, Ian
Biffen, John Gurden, Harold Pike, Miss Mervyn
Biggs-Davison, John Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch
Black, Sir Cyril Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere Price, David (Eastleigh)
Blaker, Peter Harvle Anderson, Miss Prior, J. M. L.
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.) Hawkins, Paul Pym, Francis
Body, Richard Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James
Brewis, John Hiley, Joseph Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David
Brinton, Sir Tatton Hill, J. E. B. Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Bruce-Gardyne, J. Holland, Philip Scott, Nicholas
Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N & M) Hordern Peter Sharples, Richard
Buck, Antony (Colchester) Hornby, Richard Smith, John (London & W'minster)
Bullus, Sir Eric Hunt John Stodart, Anthony
Campbell, B. (Oldham, W.) Hutchison, Michael Clark Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.
Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn) Iremonger, T. L. Taylor, Edward M.(G'gow, Cathcart)
Clegg, Walter Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford) Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)
Crouch, David Jopling, Michael Temple, John M.
Crowder, F. P. Kimball, Marcus Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.
Currie, G. B. H. Kirk, Peter Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John
Dalkeith, Earl of Kitson, Timothy Waddington, David
Dance, James Lane, David Wall, Patrick
Dean, Paul Legge-Bourke, sir Harry Walters, Dennis
Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford) Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Digby, Simon Wingfield Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone) Wiggin, Jerry
Drayson, G. B. Mactean, Sir Fitzroy Williams, Donald (Dudley)
Eden, Sir John McMaster, Stanley Woodnutt, Mark
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest) Worsley, Marcus
Elliott, R. W. (N'o'tle-upon-Tyne,N.) Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C. Wylie, N. R.
Farr, John Miscampbell, Norman Younger, Hn. George
Fletcher-Cooke, Chartes Montgomery, Fergus
Fortescue, Tim Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Fry, Peter Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm. Mr. Jasper More and
Gibson-Watt, David Nabarro, Sir Gerald Mr. Hector Monro.
Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.) Nott, John
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