HC Deb 30 January 1973 vol 849 cc1216-96

6.0 p.m.

Mr. John Prescott (Kingston upon Hull, East)

I beg to move, That the Merchant Shipping (Disciplinary Offences) Regulations 1972 (S.I., 1972, No. 1294), dated 17th August 1972, a copy of which was laid before this House on 25th August, in the last Session of Parliament, be withdrawn. It will be noticed that tonight we are to discuss a number of regulations under the Merchant Shipping Acts of which two particularly—one dealing with wages and accounts and one with disciplinary offences—we oppose.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Miss Harvie Anderson)

Order. I understand that it is the general wish of the House that this Motion and the following Motions should be all debated together: That the Merchant Shipping (Seamen's Wages and Accounts) Regulations 1972 (S.I., 1972, No. 1700), dated 9th November 1972, a copy of which was laid before this House on 17th November, be withdrawn. That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Merchant Shipping (Load Lines) (Particulars of Depth of Loading) Regulations 1972 (S.I., 1972, No. 1841), dated 29th November 1972, a copy of which was laid before this House on 8th December, be annulled. That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Merchant Shipping (Repatriation) Regulations 1972 (S.I., 1972, No. 1805), dated 27th November 1972, a copy of which was laid before this House on 4th December, be annulled. That this House takes note of the Oil in Navigable Waters (Convention Countries) (Libya and Senegal) Order 1972 (S.I., 1972, No. 1591), dated 23rd October 1972, a copy of which was laid before this House on 31st October. That this House takes note of the Oil in Navigable Waters (Prohibited Sea Areas) (Amendment) Order 1972 (S.I., 1972, No. 1592), dated 23rd October 1972, a copy of which was laid before this House on 31st October. That this House takes note of the Seamen's Savings Banks Regulations 1972 (S.I., 1972, No. 1304), dated 18th August 1972, a copy of which was laid before this House on 25th August, in the last Session of Parliament. That this House takes note of the Merchant Shipping (Seamen's Documents) Regulations 1972 (S.I., 1972, No. 1295), dated 17th August 1972, a copy of which was laid before this House on 25th August, in the last Session of Parliament. That this House takes note of the Merchant Shipping (Returns of Births and Deaths) Regulations 1972 (S.I., 1972, No. 1523), dated 9th October 1972, a copy of which was laid before this House on 18th October 1972, in the last Session of Parliament. That this House takes note of the Merchant Shipping (Maintenance of Seamen's Dependants) Regulations 1972 (S.I., 1972, No. 1635), dated 31st October 1972, a copy of which was laid before this House on 8th November. That this House takes note of the Merchant Shipping (Property of Deceased Seamen) Regulations 1972 (S.I., 1972, No. 1697), dated 9th November 1972, a copy of which was laid before this House on 17th November. That this House takes note of the Merchant Shipping (Seamen's Wages) (Contributions) Regulations 1972 (S.I., 1972, No. 1699), dated 9th November 1972, a copy of which was laid before this House on 17th November. That this House takes note of the Merchant Shipping (Seamen's Allotments) Regulations 1972 (S.I., 1972, No. 1698), dated 9th November 1972, a copy of which was laid before this House on 17th November. I am prepared to allow the hon. Member to move his first motion and for the other motions to be debated with it. I should, however, remind the House that the first two of the motions that I have listed in particular are not exempted business. If a vote is desired on either of them the necessary Questions must be put before 10 o'clock.

Mr. Prescott

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I have taken note of your remarks.

I had been concerned with this legislation for a considerable time before I became a Member of this House. It was one of the causes of my involvement in official and unofficial disputes concerning the shipping industry. It has also concerned general grievances and I am pleased to see that I have the support tonight of my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) who was a mediator in the 1960 official strike involving similar issues embodied in these regulations.

We observe in these regulations the coming together after discussion of compromises and agreements among various bodies in the industry on recommendations which were made by Lord Pearson and which arose directly out of the seaman's strike in 1966. This taught me a considerable amount about the democratic processes and the embodiment in the regulations of some fundamental principles which are objected to by the union side of the seafaring industry about wages and conditions. This led me to go with a union delegation to protest both to inner councils of the TUC and to the present Leader of the Opposition, when he was Prime Minister, at No. 10 Downing Street. So I have had a long involvement in the matters referred to by these regulations. If I tend to delve somewhat into what might be considered minor details it is because of what I learned in the efforts to get the original 1894 Merchant Shipping Act amended.

That Act was one of the largest pieces of legislation that have been before the House, containing 784 sections and a large number of schedules. We are now dealing with regulations arising out of the 1971 Act. That was an enabling Act, providing for 34 sets of regulations, 19 of which are now being considered. Most of them are largely acceptable, apart from the two I have mentioned dealing with deductions from wages and disciplinary procedures. They are also the result of consultations and no doubt later this evening, if my hon. Friends catch your eye, they will bring to the attention of the House the circumstances of workers affected under this legislation who have not been consulted. Therefore, the statutory requirement on the Government to consult has not been fully met. I refer particularly to men who work on the sludge boats, who have had these regulations forced on them from the beginning of this year and are at present in dispute about them.

The regulations also raise a very important parliamentary principle, concerning the time that Parliament has to give to regulations under the democratic process. Constant reference has been made by my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Booth) to this and the Statutory Instruments Committee, on which he is an acknowledged authority in this House. Normally regulations have to be laid for 40 parliamentary days to give an opportunity for anyone to protest, but one of these regulations was notified to Parliament on 18th December. In those circumstances we had only three days' notice before the regulation actually became law on 1st January. We are debating in these regulations laws and, however much we protest, they have been law since 1st January. Parliament has a serious problem here which is highlighted by the Merchant Shipping Acts in not providing sufficient time to debate delegated legislation.

I think it fair to point out that a number of the regulations embody some of the advantages brought about primarily by the courage and foresight of the Labour Government to recognise the justifiable demands for the repeal of the old legislation and the introduction of new laws. My right hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) was President of the Board of Trade when this legislation was introduced. It gave seamen many things which had been denied to them although those things were enjoyed by other industrial workers and I would wish to record appreciation on their behalf. To name a few, they are now guaranteed, in certain circumstances, the right to strike, recognising the unusual nature of their occupation, they are guaranteed wages with no delay in payment and, if delay occurs, penalties are provided. For such an advance seafarers have striven for many years.

The old running sore of character reference by captains who by their whim were able to say that a man's character was not good and thereby blight his chances of employment by other companies, has been eliminated. The worry about meeting medical expenses has been resolved. Now companies have to meet those expenses, and arrangements are made for them to obtain assistance in doing so. There is provision within the Act to enable the introduction of safety measures into the industry. These are a few of the many advantages of this legislation. It is to the credit of the Labour Government that they, and they alone, heeded the call for this legislation, which had been asked for from many previous Governments.

In my capacity as a trade union official before I became a Member of Parliament I strongly objected to many points which were put forward. Other unions joined us in our objections. Before it went out of office the last Labour Government promised to review the disciplinary provisions which are causing considerable concern in the industry and which we have opposed for many years. We have opposed the idea of going to the courts on matters which arose out of industrial disputes—for instance, the disobeying of an order which may not be of sufficient importance to go before a court.

I am able to say that my party, when it returns to office—as surely it will at the next election—will begin a review of those provisions of the Act. In fairness to the Government, I must point out that they have agreed to review the penal clauses and to take up the promise made by the Labour Government. It was said in 1970 that a three-year period would have to elapse. I hope that a start can be made this year.

Addressing myself to the regulations before us, I want first to deal with those concerning disciplinary offences. These regulations deal with discipline on board vessels, and determine the type of punishment and fine. They lay down an appeal procedure. It will be seen that the offences include the wilful striking of any person, the wilful disobeying of a lawful command without reasonable cause, failure to be available for duty, and sleeping while on duty. We accept that if a man fell asleep at the wheel there would be every reason to fear for the safety of the vessel. That would be a serious offence. No one could argue that it was the same offence if a night steward fell asleep while waiting for someone to press the bell to order a cup of coffee. Yet they would both be asleep on duty and would face fines of up to £5. We do not accept this. This kind of legislation introduces bitterness into the situation.

Mr. T. H. H. Skeet (Bedford)

It is a serious offence to fall asleep while at the wheel. If a steward falls asleep in a canteen he may simply be reprimanded.

Mr. Prescott

He may. I will explain what I mean by giving what may be thought to be preposterous examples. They are actual examples with which I have had to deal as a trade union official. When I have protested I have been told that it was the law of the land and that the master was entitled to do what he had done.

When the House is considering disciplinary measures it must bear in mind that these are only one part of a whole range of disciplinary charges which faces the seaman when he commits an offence. The Pearson Inquiry, upon which most of these Regulations are based, put forward a recommendation based on a stringent attitude towards discipline which is completely alien to twentieth-century thinking and which ought not to be followed. In essence, the recommendation said that "greater discipline meant greater safety". It was felt that a whole paraphernalia of disciplinary processes was needed to meet every conceivable situation. The recommendation was that for failing to carry out his duty or disobeying an order it should be possible to deduct £50 from a seaman's wages.

It is possible to fine a man up to £5 on board, but because it might be felt that a greater punishment was warranted the decision was made to include the statutory offences embodied in the Merchant Shipping Acts and to make them complementary to the regulations. This means that a seaman can face a criminal trial and a fine of £100 for a range of offences embodied in the regulations.

In addition, there are industrial committees which can expel men from the industry if it is considered that they are unfit to serve in it and constitute a danger to other seafarers. Alternatively, a man can be suspended. The House must consider these regulations against the whole range of disciplinary regulations available. The captain has the choice, and may decide to fine a man or take him before the courts or report to the industrial committee ashore.

The National Union of Seamen does not totally oppose the involvement of the criminal law or the statutory provisions of the Merchant Shipping Acts; it is prepared to accept that if the safety of the vessel or members of its crews is threatened by the action of one member it is a serious offence. It is prepared to accept that such a person should face imprisonment and heavy financial penalties. We recognise that in a seafaring community everyone depends upon everyone else. However, the union strongly disputes the concept of having a number of disciplinary measures overlapping one another and creating problems, injustices and tensions. Consider the offence of disobeying a lawful command. Pearson argued that not every command could be expected to be reasonable. If a man was ordered to jump over the side he should not obey that order, because it was not reasonable. That was good of Pearson. But he stopped short; he did not envisage any other sort of order being unreasonable.

There are examples of seamen and stewards being given such orders. This is a serious example, and I hope that it will not be thought that I am being flippant. There was a steward who ordered a steak for an officer who had asked that it be cooked rare. It was well done. That man was fined, and logged for disobeying an order. That punishment could not be overruled. The trade union could not do anything about it. Another seaman was given a mattress which was four inches wider than the bunk. The captain ordered that the bunk board must be used. That meant that the mattress had to be bent, and the man could not sleep at night. The master came down and found the bunk board out and fined that seaman for every time that he discovered this, because he was disobeying a lawful command. That man paid up to £8 in fines.

While the superintendent agreed that it was unreasonable of the master, he could not alter the situation. It was clear that the man had disobeyed a lawful command. I do not suggest that all masters are like that. They do not need to be. It needs only one such master. It needs only one James Goad to sour industrial relations. That is the problem which will arise in implementing these regulations. Furthermore, if a man should combine with another it would constitute another offence. We know a lot about conspiracy, following the "Angry Brigade" trial. It applies equally to the Merchant Shipping Acts. There is, it is said, a safeguard against double prosecution. It may appear to be true, but it is not necessarily so. If we give the power for damages to be claimed against a seaman's wages it does not matter to the man concerned whether the £50 so deducted is described as damages or a fine. The recent case of the "Ocean Monarch", when 200 men were flown home from Australia and £50 deducted from their wages, is an example. That means that the company has taken £10,000 from them.

Mr. Skeet

At a cost to the company of £100,000.

Mr. Prescott

It may well be at a cost of £100,000, but if the solving of an industrial relations problem means that the shipowners get £10,000 from the men and pay out £100,000, it is really a crazy world we are living in. They are not all Communists or militants who get flown home. There is some seriousness in this, and it should be dealt with as an industrial relations matter. It will not solve the problem to bash men over the head with the law. I would have thought that that lesson at least had been learned from the Industrial Relations Act.

What justification is given for these draconian laws in the twentieth century? The Pearson Report says first of all that they are less severe than the law of 1894; a man is not sent to prison now. But there is already a provision in the old law by which a man does not necessarily go to prison; even then it could be adjusted and changed to a fine.

Secondly, Pearson recommended—no justification was given but the Government, backed up by the Civil Service, have adopted the recommendation—that special discipline is needed for seafaring men; a philosophy, embodied in these regulations, which we reject. Pearson says in his report that it is clear that special disciplinary provisions need to be embodied in the regulations. What evidence is provided for that? There is no evidence anywhere in the report to justify the statement that greater discipline means greater safety or that special discipline is required for the seafaring community.

The Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Mr. Cranley Onslow)

Since this is quite an important point, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will reply. Will he clarify one point? I am not sure whether what he has just said accords with what was said by his hon. Friend the Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Booth) in the Committee proceedings on the Bill. He said: We agree that special conditions apply to labour relations at sea and that special practices are required"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee A, 5th February, 1970; c. 375.] Am I to take it that he is now saying that that view is not his?

Mr. Prescott

What I am saying is that the views are compatible. I think I indicated that we had differences about this matter, that we discussed them, and that we ended by agreeing on some matters and disagreeing on others. I pointed out, on Section 27, that we were prepared to accept that a threat to the safety of a factory is not the same as a threat to the safety of a ship. What we are doing is to move the argument to the next stage and say that we do not think that it justifies the duplication of draconian disciplinary measures. That is an entirely different form of argument. I am sorry if I have not made myself clear. I am trying desperately to get the point over that it is not necessary to duplicate all these penalties. You do not need a steam hammer to break a walnut and the result of all this may only mean ruing the attempt to achieve a happy and harmonious relationship on the vessel itself.

Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles (Winchester)

This is a fairly fundamental point. Throughout the centuries it has been considered that discipline is necessary in ships. Is the hon. Gentleman supporting from the Dispatch Box what has just been said—that he rejects the philosophy that special discipline is required at sea? Is that, or is it not, the Front Bench opinion of his party?

Mr. Prescott

I am sorry I gave way to the hon. Gentleman, because if he had waited until I had finished what I have to say on this section he would have seen how I justify that statement and why I am challenging the tenet that you canot get people to do anything unless you smash them over the head or keep them drunk, as was done in the past.

Pearson says that it is clear beyond doubt that the special provisions are needed and states his opinions why, but what evidence is produced? There is none; there is no evidence at all on any page of the report to justify that statement. What criteria are used in reaching this decision? There are no criteria whatsoever; there is only the belief that these provisions should be available. It is like the belief that if one cuts off a man's hand he will not steal a loaf of bread. If we had not questioned that principle we should still apply it today, but we know it is not right because we have tried something different and it has worked. We must approach the problem much more rationally, and not just assume that this is right because everybody believes it is.

No information has been asked for. Nobody has asked how many seamen are logged every year, whether the number has increased this year as compared with last year, or how many people are missing ships. The information has not been collated in any way or presented to Pearson for him to make judgments as to whether the system is working. I hope that in the review period the information will be assessed more rationally, with less reliance on emotional responses.

I come now to a point raised earlier by the hon. Gentleman opposite. Many maritime countries have followed British legislation. We were ahead in merchant shipping Acts, which were followed by many countries. Today we find that Norway does not apply these disciplinary provisions in the home trade and is thinking of taking them out of foreign trade. Sweden, too, is taking that legislation out. The Government of New Zealand—a Labour Government—has just recommended that they be taken out of their maritime legislation. The International Labour Organisation in Geneva this year agreed on the reduction of disciplinary provisions in merchant shipping legislation, since they are believed to be un- necessary. So already we are lagging behind, and by implementing the present proposals we should be going back; the civilised maritime nations of the world are going forward, and we are going back to 1894.

If somebody says that this legislation is necessary, because it is safer, I must first ask: in what way? All the evidence we have at the moment, and which was put before the Board of Trade and the Pearson Inquiry on the safety of seamen, shows that, to take deaths—because accident figures are not kept for seamen as they are for other industrial workers—the figures are twice as high as for dockers and miners, three times as high as for construction workers, and 14 times as high as for manufacturing workers. The accident figures are similar. They are also higher than in other maritime countries. So, with the strongest disciplinary measures of any maritime country in the world, there is no doubt whether this means greatest safety. I put that forward as a rational argument.

I contest the view that in an emergency a man says, "I will save this man's life, because if I do not I will face a fine of £100". Does anyone believe that such a motive would apply in an emergency? I would be more convinced of the Government's view that it is safer to introduce these provisions if they were introducing regulations with this legislation to provide for the first time safe access for a seaman going on board ship.

There are regulations for the safety of dockers and pilots in going on board ship, yet there have never been regulations to provide safe access for seamen in going on board. The company need provide only a plank from shore to ship for the use of the seamen and will not be breaking the law thereby, but it has to provide a proper gangway for dockers and pilots.

The Pearson Report argued, as did the Rochdale Report, many years ago, for a statutory code for seafaring, but the Government have done nothing about it. The Board of Trade Committee on the Safety of Seamen, of which I was a member—it was appointed by the Labour Government—highlighted in its report in 1971 the fact that there was no regulation covering the safety of access by seamen aboard ship. The Government could take the power but they are not doing so. Do they lack the will? Is the influence of the shipowners far too great for them?

What about regulations concerning manning? The Rochdale Report recommended such regulations. Some companies are reducing to dangerous levels of manning. What are the Government doing about that? The Rochdale Report argued for more inspectors to find out what was going on, but the Government are reducing the number of inspectors. I have been pressing them for 18 months to prosecute a certain shipowner for sending a ship to sea with only three men. When the weather got too rough, they jumped off. Shipowners are sending their men to sea like that. Where is there a penalty for shipowners who send vessels to sea in dangerous conditions like that? There is nothing in these regulations.

We shall need considerably more justification than the mere phrase, "greater discipline means greater safety". It is said in justification that on passenger vessels in particular we are getting a lot of disciplinary problems—but it is also on those ships that we get greater class distinction between officers and crew than on ordinary ships. The agitation between groups is greater. These big shipping companies have taken to recruiting from the Midlands men who have never been to sea before, and are making the problems worse. Instead, they should be paying decent earnings and providing decent conditions for seamen. But even if one granted the case in regard to passenger vessels there is still an argument for exempting from such disciplinary regulations home waters ships.

When it comes to oil rigs in the North Sea the Civil Service points out to the Minister that safety regulations are needed. The rigs carry "captains" who have never been captains of ships, but they are covered by regulations with the disciplining provisions foreign to that industry.

The seamen will oppose these disciplinary measures in the regulations and there will be a crisis until we bring justice into the situation. We shall go on having blowups like that aboard the "Ocean Monarch", because the shipowners are allowed to use the law in defending dangerous situations.

I remind the House that a committee on board the "Empress of Canada" in 1971 negotiated an agreement with the captain, but he did not carry it out. He simply said, "I am the captain and you will do as you are told." In the end, of course, the crew walked ashore and the captain had to be replaced. Negotiation is the only true path to proper conditions, and I call upon the Government to take back these regulations and give serious thought to the whole process of penal legislation for seamen.

Regulation No. 1700, issued in 1972, again perpetrated grave injustice on the British seafarers. That regulation allows deductions from wages. Paragraph 6 causes most concern. In certain cases a deduction of up to £50 is allowed from a seaman's wages. He signs articles which are the same as a contract of employment. Most of the industrial agreements and the conditions of work which the seaman has are embodied in general industrial agreements. The National Maritime Board and Lord Pearson recommended standardisation of the articles, which was a good thing. but in standardising the articles the Government have retained the right of a captain to deduct up to £50 from a seaman's wages in a civil liability case. This is not a fine in itself; it is regarded as payment in damages. It is true that the Act specifies £100, and I think that the union will welcome the reduction to £50. But the same principle is involved—the right of a company to deduct from a man's wages.

It is still a criminal offence for a man to miss his vessel. If it is felt that the offence is not so serious, the company can say, "We will deduct damages from the man and just fine him". If a man returns certain personal property, like a jumper or a mattress, with what is regarded as more than fair wear and tear the company can assess damage and deduct accordingly from the man's wages. It also means that deductions can be made for damage to the property of the company involved in a man's work.

For absence without leave a seaman can face a fine of £100 under the Act, and, again, £50 in damages can be deducted from his wages with a further £50 if he is taken to court. In the "Ocean Monarch" case, the shipping company flew 200 crew members home, and a total of £10,000 was deducted from their wages. Yet we are told that the company altogether had to spend £100,000. It was a strange way to settle the disagreement. The company decided to do a Captain Bligh act. Indeed, in a sense it reversed the old situation. In the old days we used to deport people to Australia and not from it.

Many crew members arrived home destitute. There is an important point of principle here. On their arrival some of them were given a note saying that they owed the company £45. They only had £5 in their wages account, so they were given a deficit of £45. So they themselves ended up with a bill at the end of the day.

Thus, if seamen are absent without leave, or in other circumstances disobey the regulations, they can have £50 deducted from their wages, with a further £50 if the case is taken to court. They can he fined for disobeying a lawful command to return to the ship—which was the command given in the case of the "Ocean Monarch". They can be fined £50 in the courts, or have £50 deducted from their wages. Should a union convener and members of the crew get together, they are liable to a conspiracy charge. Under these regulations they will be combining to commit a criminal act—disobedience of a legal command. They can face an open-ended conspiracy, with severe penalties and damages and possible imprisonment.

Parliament has tried to deal with the problem of civil debt by passing legislation allowing attachment of earnings. If a man does not pay his civil debt, his earnings can be attached. But the legislation also guarantees to the man that a certain amount of money will be retained by him and that he will not be left entirely destitute. Seamen were exempted from that legislation. Why? Because the Board of Trade said that a seaman has an accumulation of wages over a long period and that it would be unfair to attach wages which accumulated by the nature of the job. For this and other reasons, the Board of Trade felt that seamen should be exempt from the attachment of earnings legislation. That view was accepted by Parliament. Under the Industrial Relations Act, fines could not be imposed on seamen by attachment of earnings; the seaman would simply go to gaol if he did not pay the fine. How- ever, we have seen with the dockers that that sort of position does not matter anyway.

In a case where a seaman is absent without leave and the company wants to assess damages from his wages, the captain can decide that the seaman has committed an offence under these regulations. The captain is the man who assesses the damages and then deducts the amount from the seaman's wages. Nowhere in British law, as I understand it—and there are others here who can perhaps better assess this—is such a privilege ever given to the plaintiff in a case to assess his own damages and deduct them from wages he controls. He is the judge, the jury and the assessor. Not only that, but because of the exemptions to this legislation, and due to these regulations, the captain does not even have to allow the man the means to get home. Therefore, without the protection under the attachment to earnings situation a man can be destitute, once the captain has assessed the situation and has made such deduction as he thinks fit on behalf of the owners.

I would point out here as a legal point on this, that no judge in this country can attach a seaman's wages. Parliament says: "You shall not do that". But apparently the captain of a British ship can do what a judge in this country cannot do. That captain is not even legally trained to make a proper assessment, yet he can do what Parliament says a judge cannot do in the case of a seaman—assess his own damages. If he wants to appeal in this situation the seaman can seek to take the matter to court, but he can appeal only to the superintendent, and if the superintendent rules against him, under the National Shipping Act he is denied the right to take the matter to court.

The justification for this situation, according to Pearson, was apparently that the shipowner must have this advantage, because otherwise it would mean that people would be held up if there was a court case, that witnesses would be required, that it would be expensive in time, and that owners might break contracts with cargo owners. These are problems in suing on contracts. But what happens to the seaman if he wants to take it to court? He has to call the same witnesses, he has the same problems in getting his case together, and he is the weaker party in the situation. In much other legislation, such as rent, leasehold reform and hire purchase, there is the precedent that in such legislation Parliament strengthens the weaker party in a contract relationship. But in this case Parliament is weakening the weaker party and strengthening the stronger party, making it extremely difficult for the seaman to get the wages to which he is entitled.

Even if the case is left over and he is not guilty, he still has to pursue it through the courts. Surely that cannot be right, by any kind of definition. To add insult to injury the shipowners have sent to this House a brief, which hon. Members will have received, saying, "The Pearson Committee gave us this privilege and gave special reasons why". The reasons why are said to be: because the seaman is guaranteed his wages—that is good of them—and wages must be paid at the specified time; that the shipowner may be liable for further wage payments if they are not so paid; that deductions from wages cannot be made unless they are authorised by regulation; that wages are protected from assignment, and—this is what really sticks in the craw—that the Attachment of Earnings Act does not apply to seamen. That privilege, as I have explained, can deny seamen their rights and return them destitute. In my definition of the word, that can no longer be a privilege, and only further burdens the injustice on seamen.

I say to this House tonight that we on this side will oppose these regulations, and with justification. We would ask hon. Members opposite in considering their vote on these regulations, are they happy that they are carrying out their obligations as Members of Parliament in making a seaman in this contractual relationship the weaker party and strengthening the stronger party in this situation, in making the seaman guilty until he proves his innocence? It is an important legal proviso in this country that a man is innocent until he is proved guilty. Here we are to say to the seaman, "You are guilty until you prove your innocence". We would ask hon. Gentlemen opposite: are you happy that we shall be reversing what is considered to be a fundamental part of our legislation? I know that this is a period of time when we are reversing just about everything but I would have thought that this is an important point. Are Members happy to impose such disciplinary measures, and are they sure they are necessary?

I have spent a long time on these regulations but I want the House to realise that though on the surface they may not seem to be important they raise very important fundamental issues, which this House must be concerned to protect, because these seamen are constituents of hon. Members opposite equally as they are mine. Clearly, therefore, we have a duty to oppose these regulations.

In answering I hope the Minister can give us an answer on one point. Under the old Act a seaman's wages could be kept by the Board of Trade if he missed his ship and the owner objected to payment, although the owner could still get money for his expenses. Under this new Act the seaman will be entitled, after deduction, to this money. But the Department must have in hand a lot of money. I do not know how much it has, and I do not expect the Minister to be able to answer this tonight, but he may be able to note it. I would like to know how much money is held and for how many seamen, and whether he will now be prepared to disburse this money back to the seamen even though in some cases shipowners are objecting, and even if—as in one case on which I have written to the Minister, on which he could do nothing—a shipowner has gone bankrupt. There the firm had gone out of business and there was nobody whose permission could be asked, so we could not get an amount of £200 for the seaman. We would ask the Minister to look into this and tell us how much money is involved, and to disburse it.

I have taken a long time, and I apologise to the House, but this is complicated legislation. I hope that the House will have learned tonight that seamen are having to deal with complicated legislation and that we are going to make those grievances worse by passing these regulations.

6.45 p.m.

Mr. Charles Fletcher-Cooke (Darwen)

I am not sure whether this is the first time the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) has spoken from the Dispatch Box. If this is so, I congratulate him. It was as a very refreshing voice. It as a different voice from that of the right hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Goronwy Roberts) who led from the Government side when we last discussed this topic. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman would for a jingle moment have said the words that the hon. Member has said—"We reject the view that a special discipline is required at sea". Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman who moved the Bill—and I see him in his place—accepted the position that a special discipline is required. He accepted it for the reasons given in the Pearson Committee Report.

It is not true to suggest, as the hon. Gentleman did, that the Pearson Committee gave no reasons. It gave many reasons. Those reasons may not appeal to the hon. Gentleman but I will read them out: In our opinion it is clear beyond doubt that a special disciplinary regime of some kind is required by the special conditions of seafaring life. Discipline is necessary in the interests of safety, in order to secure prompt and co-ordinated action by the crew on any occasion of emergency for saving the ship, the crew, the passengers and the cargo from the perils of the sea. Discipline is necessary in the interests of efficiency in order to secure the proper operation and handling of the ship and its equipment at all times. Also, discipline is necessary for preserving law and order in the confined and inescapable conditions, because the ship is a 'total' institution in which the seamen works, eats, sleeps and spends his leisure time in the same limited area"— something which does not, of course, apply to 99 per cent., of the installations on shore.

Mr. Prescott

I know the reasons that were given but the Pearson Committee did not justify them. My argument was whether the Committee justified those opinions.

Mr. Fletcher-Cooke

The justification appears in the words. What the Committee says is true. Here is a remarkable and unique organisation in which men are confined together day and night, sometimes for weeks or months on end—something that does not happen on shore. It is for that reason that, down the ages, it has always been thought essential that there should be special provision for seamen—rather as in a prisoner-of-war camp, if one likes to put it that way. They are confined together for days or months, and they must have special conditions. This is not an insult to seamen. It is to their glory that they are able to cope with these special circumstances in peace and that they have the ability to get on with one another—something which some of us in this House, judging from the noise that we sometimes make, would find much more difficult.

Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, North)

I am sure that in future times the hon. and learned Gentleman will regret the parallel that he has just drawn. Would he not agree, first, that there were members on the Committee—and from these benches my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer), myself and many others—who did not accept the argument that was put forward by our Front Bench?

Secondly, there would be some substance in the hon. and learned Gentleman's argument if the Labour Government, and the Tory Party when in opposition, did not say that all these disciplinary procedures should not apply to fishermen in very much the same circumstances of undertaking voyages for very much the same length of time and for far longer than, for example, the ferry boat journey between Dover and Calais?

Mr. Fletcher-Cooke

There are three points there. On the first one, there is nothing shameful in being a prisoner of war. It is an honourable status, and I have no feeling that in the future I shall be ashamed of having said so. Secondly, the hon. Gentleman is right when he says that during the debate upstairs he and one or two of his hon. Friends objected to what his Front Bench was doing. All I was pointing out was that this was the first time that we had had it from the Front Bench and not from the back benches opposite, which is a very different kettle of fish. It shows what a change is coming over the leadership of the Labour Party, and tonight is an example and a forecast of things to come.

Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles

Would not my hon. and learned Friend agree that it is an insult to seamen of the present day and to all seamen of past generations, who have put up with this necessary discipline in ships, to pretend that they were wrong, and that their bravery and patience through the years have been to no purpose?

Mr. Fletcher-Cooke

Those are strong words, but I agree with my hon. and gallant Friend that the history of the sea has shown that it is essential to have special conditions in order to allow our Merchant Navy, which is the glory of our life, to sail the oceans of the world in conditions, during 99 per cent. of the time, of peace, good order and discipline.

Another exceptional thing about the sea as opposed to the shore is that the master has no police force and no fire brigade at his disposal. On shore, if there is danger from criminal elements or from fire or other dangerous agencies of that sort the head of the installation, or the head of the home, or whatever it is, can summon up additional forces. The master has no such ability and has to act quickly, and everybody in their heart of hearts realises that.

I gather that the hon. Gentleman objects to the very much reduced powers—reduced from the past—of the master on the question of fines. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman's argument about conspiracy is well founded. If there is a charge of conspiracy, I do not think the master has power to deal with it. I hope that my hon. Friend will confirm that a conspiracy charge would have to be brought on shore because it is not a matter that is listed among those matters which the master can try, and rightly so. Conspiracy is obviously far too serious for the master to try. Indeed, I should have thought that, by and large, the master's powers would be of advantage to the crew, in that there would be no publicity, or very little. Far be it from me to decry the panoply of the law, but one or two ill-advised and ill-disposed people sometimes do so. In these relatively small matters I should have thought that it would be very much to the advantage of the men not to be subject to the panoply of the law in the way that the poor landlubber is inevitably obliged to be, even in small cases.

There is no question—and I think that the hon. Gentleman will agree if lie considers this—of any double peril. This matter was debated in Committee in 1970, and I think that that bogy has finally been laid. There is no reversal of the burden of proof. There is nothing in these regulations or in the Act to say that the man is guilty until proved innocent. There is the normal burden of proof upon those who prosecute and object.

It might be said that the tribunal itself will be prejudiced—I follow the point there—but it is true to say that there is a right of appeal. It is also true to say that in order to avoid the taint of the master having the double rôle of prosecutor and judge at the same time, which the hon. Member mentioned, provisions were introduced—very much at the instance of the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Hull, North (Mr. McNamara)—for various experimental committees of members of the crew to take the place of the master. I think I am right in saying that these committees have never been used. Not once has any seaman offered to appear before a committee of his fellows rather than before the master. I agree that it is a very small experiment so far, but that has been the experience. Therefore, fear of the master and the fear that the seaman does not trust the master, seem from experience—small experience, but some experience—to be not right. My view is that most seamen prefer the present system to either that of being tried by a committee of his fellows aboard or that of waiting ashore for trial by the ordinary courts. One reason for that is that the master has the power to remit the fine, whereas courts of law do not, or not so readily. The hon. Member knows more about this than I do, but I believe that the master frequently remits the fine. If the seaman subsequently commits no further offence and does his duty, the fine is remitted by the end of the voyage. That strikes me as being a very good and flexible procedure, but one which would be completely wiped out if he had to wait until he came ashore.

I think that, on the grounds of discipline, the case against some discipline being in the hands of the master has not been made out.

Then we come to the question of fines and of the deduction of pay to a limit of £50. The right hon. Member for Caernarvon, whom I am glad to see returning to the Chamber, was quite explicit in Committee upstairs in 1970 about the deduction of this relatively small amount. He said that he thought that there was no serious disability on the seamen involved. That is a balanced and reasonable view. I cannot understand why the Labour Party is throwing over the right hon. Member for Caernarvon who is such an ornament to our debates and, I hope, will continue to be so for long years to come.

Mr. Goronwy Roberts (Caernarvon)

I think that the hon. and learned Gentleman will agree that we said at the time that we would review these clauses. We reduced substantially the impact of disciplinary provision on the workers in this industry in that Act. We did not do all that I personally or the then Government wanted to do, so we repeated both upstairs and here our intention of watching the operation of the Act for two years, when we could, by regulation, further mitigate and possibly annul the disciplinary provisions. The hon. and learned Gentleman should remember that, and give me the credit for having stood on that ground both upstairs and in the discussions on the Floor of the House.

Mr. Fletcher-Cooke

I give the right hon. Gentleman every credit. We have done the same. We have reviewed and reduced this power. The maximum deduction recommended by Pearson and tolerable and possible under the Act was £100. In agreement with the National Union of Seamen we have reduced it to £50, and there have been other modifications in favour of reduction. That shows that this is a developing process and that no one party has the monopoly of a desire to see that this imposition is reasonable. As the right hon. Gentleman said, there is no serious disability on the seamen involved, and the imposition need be kept only where necessary. If it is found that the deduction of £100 is effective only to the same extent as a deduction of £50, of course £50 shall be substituted, and in fact has been. To work up a great rage and a great class war in this matter within an interval of two years since the Act was passed seems to be breaking a butterfly on a wheel. I hope, for those and many other reasons, that the motion to annul will be rejected.

7.3 p.m.

Mr. James Wellbeloved (Erith and Crayford)

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) on his appearance for the first time on the Opposition Front Bench. I say with humility that I found his speech weighty, eloquent and concise. If I may express that in nautical terms by referring to the Douglas Scale 7 of the state of the sea, it was a heavy swell of average length. Above all, I found it refreshing to have booming out from the Front Bench the authentic voice of the British seamen. Long may that voice be heard in this Chamber. It is a change to hear the voice of the British seamen rather than the academic voice of a landlubber or owner, or the voice of that minority of Merchant Navy or Royal Naval officers who believe that the only way in which merchant seamen or Royal Naval seamen can be persuaded to perform their duty in all circumstances is by the imposition of draconian disciplinary measures. British seamen in the Royal Navy and the Merchant Navy perform their duties not in fear of disciplinary measures but because they have joined the merchant fleet or the Royal Navy to take part in the adventure of being on the high seas, and heavy disciplinary codes are not needed to induce them to perform their duty.

As I develop my speech the House will appreciate that I do not follow all the arguments of my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East or the hon. and learned Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke) on the disciplinary regulations. In the short time available to me I want to concentrate on the impact of these disciplinary regulations upon vessels and seamen operating from Erith, in my constituency.

A grave situation has developed in my constituency as a result of an attempt to apply the disciplinary regulations on the Greater London Council's sludge disposal ships operating from Beckton sewerage works and Crossness sewerage works in my constituency. The GLC owns five ships which operate from these two sewerage works and approximately 80 seamen are employed in two shifts—40 per shift—working week and week about in the operation of those five sludge vessels.

These seamen have been working happily and enthusiastically—apart from minor difficulties which arise from time to time in any situation—for the GLC under a staff agreement freely negotiated by the GLC and the men and their representatives. The reason why the men have been locked out from their employment is that it was thought that the staff agreement and the GLC's staff code were adequate for all disciplinary matters relating to the operation of the ships. The paragraphs which relate to discipline on those five vessels is contained on page 15 of the staff agreement, headed "Discipline". They read: 15. All staff employed under this agreement will be subject to the Council's disciplinary procedures as set out in the staff code. 16. A master may, in the event of serious indiscipline or misconduct, recommend to the superintendent that the member or members of the crew concerned should, in the interest of the efficient running of the vessel, be suspended from duty while the disciplinary procedures are taking place. The men on those five ships operating from my constituency have been happily working under an agreement containing a code of conduct with a specific reference to disciplinary measures. Then along come these regulations and the GLC determines, for reasons unknown to myself or the men, to try to apply the disciplinary regulations to these ships and their operators.

My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East referred to Section 99 of the Merchant Shipping Act, which requires consultation between the Department of Trade and Industry and other interested representatives of masters and seamen affected by the regulations. I am informed that no such consultation took place with the men concerned or with their trade unions—the Transport and General Workers' Union and the National Union of Public Employees. It seems to me that the absence of proper consultation is a breach of the law that should weigh heavily with the Government in trying to find a way of exempting from the disciplinary regulations the ships which operate from Erith.

I wish to put to the Government several submissions on this serious issue. As a result of this lockout there is now being deposited into the River Thames thousands of tons of sewage sludge, which is polluting once again this great river that runs through the heart of London, after the British taxpayers and London ratepayers have spent millions in trying to clean it up. Even more serious, in my constituency within a short distance of homes occupied by ordinary men and women and their children, there is being deposited on the land, in so-called lagoons, sewage sludge which cannot be taken to the sea and dumped. I have the gravest apprehensions about the effect of dumping sewage on land adjacent to populated areas. It is a serious situation which demands immediate action and we expect a response from the Government tonight.

I submit that under Section 96(1) of the Merchant Shipping Act 1970 there is provision for non-seagoing ships to fall outside the disciplinary regulations. I believe that these ships operating from Erith fall in the category of non-seagoing ships and ought to be exempt. The soil dumping ground in Barrow Deep, in the mouth of the Thames, lies within the boundary of the Port of London Authority area. This is shown clearly on the current Admiralty chart which I now have before me. I assume that the PLA vessels operating in the area beyond the dumping ground do not come within the Merchant Shipping Act and the disciplinary code. If I am wrong, I am sure that the Minister will correct me.

There is a schedule in the Port of London Authority Act 1968 which slightly qualifies the limits shown on the Admiralty chart to be in the PLA area. That limit comes about because of paragraph (f) of Schedule 1 to the Port of London Authority Act 1968 which refers to: … any waters which are not for the time being within the territorial waters of Her Majesty's domains… I am advised that the territorial limits lie further towards the land from the line of the Admiralty chart that is claimed to be part of the PLA's jurisdiction.

I have taken careful steps to have that line charted, and I have discovered that the territorial line runs slap bang through the middle of the soil dumping ground. Therefore, I submit that the dumping ground is within the PLA limits; secondly, that it is on the boundary, lying half in and half out of the territorial limit; and thirdly, I submit that this area is comprised of what is known as smooth or partially smooth waters. The former Minister of State at the Board of Trade, who was responsible for the Committee stage of the Merchant Shipping Bill, said that vessels operating in smooth or partially smooth waters should be exempt from the provisions of the Merchant Shipping Act. I confess that I have had some difficulty in obtaining a precise definition of the line showing the summer and winter smooth and partially smooth line.

Mr. Onslow

Has the hon. Gentleman been out to the Barrow Deep and, if so, did he think that he was at sea?

Mr. Wellbeloved

It is some time since I was in the waters of the Barrow Deep. In fact, the last time I was there was when I was in the Royal Navy. I have not been there in recent years, but I have no doubt that the Greater London Council will make facilities available to me to do so.

I have spoken to the fine men who man these ships, and they do not share the view that the waters are so rough that they should come within the Merchant Shipping Act provisions and under the disciplinary code to enable them to face the perils of the Thames estuarial waters. They feel that they can cope with the navigational hazards without the hazards which the Minister is now to put in their way.

I find difficulty in identifying on the chart the precise line of the smooth and partially smooth waters. I am advised that they run close to the soil dumping area. I am also advised that if one puts an arbitrary line on an Admiralty chart, it can be seen that the water half a mile on one side of it or half mile the other side is not likely to be very different. Therefore, whether the line is marginally inland of the soil dumping area or further out towards the PLA limit it is a marginal matter which should not prejudice the GLC sludge vessels being given exemption.

There are two other reasons why I submit that these vessels should be exempt. I am advised that these sludge vessels are not registered to go to sea. I hope the Minister can reply on that point. Furthermore, the men who man these ships, or some of them, are not registered merchant seamen. They are recruited by the GLC, not as merchant seamen to go out on the high seas but as GLC staff employees to operate in the River Thames in the disposal service into the dumping grounds within the smooth or partially smooth waters.

If the Minister says that for technical reasons these vessels cannot be exempt under Section 96, then I shall put to him a second point. The Secretary of State has power under Section 1(5) of the Merchant Shipping Act 1970 to exempt certain types of operation. I believe that he should exercise that exemption in respect of these five sludge vessels. The average time taken by vessels from Erith Crossness sewerage works out to the Barrow Deep for the discharge of sewage sludge and back to the pier is 10 hours. So twice every 24 hours these men are back, tied up in my constituency. Why should they be under a disciplinary code which is designed to deal with men on the high seas who are away for weeks and perhaps months? If a man tells a captain to "get stuffed" while on the vessel, the captain knows that a few hours later that man will be back on shore and that he does not need the Draconian disciplinary powers contained in the Act.

All the powers required are already available to the GLC and to the masters of these vessels in the freely negotiated agreement and staff code that is already in operation. The Minister should examine them. He should examine them also because by custom and practice these five sludge vessels are not vessels upon the high seas. They are not regarded as such by the Greater London Council or by the men working on them. They do not see their job as being a sea-going one. What is more, because of the staff code, any disciplinary powers which would be required by any reasonable master or officer are already in existence—

Mr. A. W. Stallard (St. Pancras, North)

Although I have no seamen in St. Pancras, North, there are canals. I hope, therefore, that these disciplines do not apply to the "Jenny Wren" on the Regent's Park Canal. But in common with all the residents of inner London, I have some interest in this problem of sludge carrying. Has my hon. Friend taken into account the rumour that there is a sand and gravel company which is interested in a contract to carry out sludge and to bring back sand and gravel at no cost to itself?

Mr. Wellbeloved

I have heard this suggestion, and I have no doubt that there is some foundation for it. I can only say at this stage that I have not discovered any foundation upon which I could stand to make that claim. But I have every intention of pursuing the matter, and if the facts suggested by my hon. Friend emerge I shall return to it in this House on another occasion.

I have put to the Minister two reasons why these sludge vessels should not be covered by the regulations. The third submission that I make is that the Greater London Council is the owner of the vessels and the employer of all those who pass down the Thames on them. The council has the right not to operate these disciplinary regulations because they are not mandatory upon the owners or upon the employers, if I understand the position, though I look with some anxiety at my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East when I say that.

I am told that masters have the legal right to operate the regulations if they so choose. However if the Greater London Council said that it was content to rely upon its negotiated staff agreement and upon its own disciplinary procedures, I cannot conceive of a situation where any reasonable master would not say that this was a sensible view to take and would not forgo the exercise of his undoubted legal right to operate the regulations. If the Greater London Council found it within its capacity to put that to the masters of the vessels and to the men, there could be a return tomorrow morning to the moving of that sludge and the dumping of it in the Thames estuary. That movement could take place on the basis of the existing staff agreement and disciplinary code.

Erith faces a situation of the utmost gravity because of the dumping of sludge upon land close to inhabited homes for which I am responsible in this House as a Member of Parliament. I live in dread that a child of one of my constituents will wander on to this virtually unfenced land and fall into the foul sludge which has been deposited there by the Greater London Council. All hell would be raised not only in Erith but in the country at large if a child were killed in sewage filth dumped on open ground. This is the reality of the situation. It is the reality that my constituents have to face, and it is a reality that those in power in the GLC must know could happen at any moment while the sludge remains on virtually unfenced land.

In my constituency at the moment we are sitting upon an unexploded stink bomb—[Interruption.] That may be a matter for laughter here, 15 miles from the scene. But I happen to live 1¾ miles from this sewage sludge, and many people whom I represent live within a few hundred yards of it. We are fortunate that this lockout has occurred in very cold weather. If it had occurred in the height of summer the stink bomb would have exploded.

The Greater London Council and the Government have a responsibility to remove that filthy stink bomb from ground which is close to decent human beings who are trying to live in comfort and dignity a few hundred yards away from it. The GLC says that it is half a mile or even a mile away. In reality the distance is a few hundred yards. There are those who say that there is no problem since it is a long way from the nearest homes. Let anyone who says that come and live there. Let him say to my constituents, "You come and live miles away in Westminster and let me, the bold councillor, come and live in your council flat until this bomb has gone". Let no one tell me that it is too far away to be any danger or inconvenience to my constituents unless he is prepared to live with the people whom I represent.

It is unacceptable in 1973 that this situation should be thrust upon the decent ordinary people of Erith and Crayford and upon the decent ordinary men who man these five sludge vessels. They should not be put in this difficult position.

Each year the Greater London Council seeks to pass through this House its General Powers Bill and its Money Bill. Those Bills will not pass until the dispute is settled, these vessels are back in operation and my constituents are freed from the desperate situation that they face at Thamesmead.

7.29 p.m.

Mr. T. H. H. Skeet (Bedford)

I do not propose to take up any of the constituency matters raised by the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Well-beloved). Suffice it to say that when he is taking a walk on a Sunday afternoon over some unfenced area in his constituency, I hope on behalf of his constituents that he does not fall into the sludge. I am sure that everyone would be mortified at the result if he did.

I prefer to bring discussion on these regulations back to a little reality. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] In Statutory Instrument Number 1294, which has been referred to as "Draconian measures", one reads references to the disciplinary offences for a seaman to whom the regulations apply. They are wilfully to strike any person, wilfully to disobey a lawful command, failure to be available for duty, failure to report, being asleep on duty, being under the influence of drink or drugs, bringing on board any offensive weapons, and wilfully damaging the ship or throwing any property overboard.

If those are Draconian measures, one would think that the penalties should be exceedingly severe. However, Regulation No. 8 refers to the fine that may be imposed on a seaman for a disciplinary offence under Regulation No. 3 to which I have just referred. It says that it …shall be an amount not exceeding £2 or, in the case of a second or subsequent commission of that offence … an amount not exceeding £5. This is what they term "Draconian" offences. Where there happens to be a naked light which could blow up a vessel carrying inflammable liquids, where common sense would naturally dictate the utmost caution, the offence is punishable by a fine not exceeding £10. I think that every seaman is reasonable. I have been to sea. Most of us went to sea during the war. The way to avoid fines is to act responsibly. [Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh, but by being wise, prudent, co-operative and responsible fines can be completely averted and no proceedings are required. Of course, one has to lay down regulations for situations where people through negligence or wilfulness do certain acts which create dangers.

These "Draconian" measures also provide that the master on the spot can remit them for good conduct or reopen the case if further evidence is provided. The person who has been fined is also entitled to be represented at the hearing by a friend and he can take the case to appeal.

Anybody reading the earlier stage in HANSARD would possibly come to the conclusion that the Government—the Socialist Government—were wicked to pass the 1970 Act and that it was bad for the two parties to have got together and agreed. However, when they look at the regulations which I have carefully explained—No. 1294—they will recognise that the term is mischievous when it is described as "Draconian".

I listened very carefully to the speech by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) and I congratulate him on his first occasion at the Dispatch Box.

Mr. Prescott


Mr. Skeet

Then I shall be watching for the third occasion when we may hear more convincing arguments why the regulations should not stand. I find it difficult to follow what he envisages. First if we are to have disciplinary measures how are they to be tested? If he does not like courts, if he does not like the master, if he does not like committees on board, what will be the test? Or is he going to say as was said under the Industrial Relations Act, "We do not like courts at all and therefore we will not use them"? The hon. Gentleman used the phrase, "To be settled in an industrial relations manner". I wonder whether I am reading too much into his words by saying that he means that we have no courts, no committees, nothing—we just have a long discussion of the issues involved. Perhaps I have the answer. In reality it must be a court or the master.

Mr. Prescott

I am reluctant to intervene, because I took a long time in opening the debate. I pointed out that we agreed to have it decided by negotiation—representatives of the men negotiating with representatives of the management. That is not so radical. It has been with us for many years.

Secondly, we have industrial committees ashore manned by both sides of industry dealing with disciplinary matters—for example, where a man goes missing at sea or in another country and comes back or has been involved in a fight on board the vessel. Greater penalties are involved there because the man can face suspension or expulsion from the industry. However, under these measures he will be fined.

Mr. Skeet

I understand the hon. Gentleman's point.

Let us consider the "Ocean Monarch" to which he referred. The seamen wanted a bonus because the Australian Government revalued their currency and that reduced seaman's earnings. They wanted £17.50 per man per month. An offer was made that they should have one extra day's leave per man per month if under 900 passengers were carried and two days extra if over 900 passengers were carried. It went to a ballot. The ballot was interesting. I understand that 130 voted in favour of industrial action, that 70 voted against, and that 80 members did not vote or attend the meeting. If we add the last two together the vote would have been against industrial action. The men were finally charged or logged for being absent from their place of duty and further logged for not being on board at the appointed time of sailing and a number of men were discharged.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

There are a few missing here.

Mr. Skeet

I should think it was reasonable for the master to decide that issue.

The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East, indicated that we should have a shore court to decide this matter. This is not practical. The master was there on the spot. He has to follow the procedure laid down in the Act and in the regulations. This matter must be carefully logged. Deductions were made from the men's pay. After all, they had acted in this manner. Is that matched by the enormous loss that the company sustained? As I mentioned earlier the £100,000——

Mr. Skinner

Not enough.

Mr. Skeet

Of course, the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) may say that it is not enough. He is used to industrial strife. It does not matter to him that the innocent public have to pay. His attitude seems to be to hell with the public, which is quite an unreasonable approach to take.

Mr. Skinner

The hon. Gentleman said it.

Mr. Skeet

I am always keen to see that justice is done for the trade unionist, and in this case for the seamen. The employers in this instance are entitled to justice and the third party the passengers, should be considered. Unfortunately, hon. Gentlemen opposite do not seem to see them, but they are the innocent ones.

Mr. Wellbeloved

With those sentiments I am sure the hon. Gentleman will agree that the innocent parties to whom I referred are the citizens of Erith and Crayford and the seamen on those five sludge vessels and that the guilty party is the GLC and that we must protect the innocent from the intransigence of the Greater London Council.

Mr. Skeet

I will not pursue the hon. Gentleman on his parochial dispute. I have not referred to it. There may be considerable substance in what he says, but I prefer to keep to the generality of the issue.

I want to compliment the hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Harold Walker) who took part in the proceedings on the 1970 Act—prior to that it was the 1894 Act—in which there were nine offences for which there could have been imprisonment. This has been whittled down over the years. There is only one offence now punishable with imprisonment, Section 27, causing death or serious injury. I agree that the other sections, 28 to 31, covering drunkenness and drugs, wilful disobedience, concerted disobedience and absence at the time of sailing are governed in part by regulations but have in common that they are all subject to fines. I should think that this is evolution in the right direction. Is it sensible. We have heard about the promise of a review. The hon. Gentleman suggests a review in three years from the date of the Act.

Mr. Harold Walker (Doncaster)

Two years.

Mr. Skeet

This would seem a sensible way of looking at the matter. If these regulations are now lodged it should be three years from date of operation. I hope that further modifications will be made in due course.

Mr. Walker

We must have the record right. I was involved on the Government side in proceedings on what was then the Bill. The pledge to review was given by the then Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, and it was a pledge to review in the light of experience at the end of two years after enactment.

Mr. Skeet

I will not dispute what the hon. Gentleman said. He was there at the time and I was not. However, I suggest that now that the regulations have been brought in we should see how they operate and after a period they could be reviewed. If further evolutions are necessary, they could be inducted.

Mr. Simon Wingfield Digby (Dorset, West)

It will be within the recollection of those who served on that Committee that those on this side of the House were pressing right hon. Members of the Opposition the whole time to provide the regulations just so that we could get experience at an early date. In point of fact, it has taken a long time to get them finalised.

Mr. Onslow

Before my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford (Mr. Skeet) moves on from that point, perhaps I may be able to help the House. After the change of Government in 1970, the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) asked a Question on this very matter—perhaps I might remind him of the exact terms of the exchange—of my right hon. Friend the Member for Argyll (Mr. Noble) who was then President of the Board of Trade. The hon. Member asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will review within a three-year period the penal clauses contained in the Shipping Act, 1970". The reply was: Yes. We shall review the position. Should we then feel that these provisions remain necessary to preserve safety at sea we should not propose any change in them."—[OFFICIAL REPORT 24th July, 1970; Vol. 804, c. 298.]

Mr. Goronwy Roberts

I am grateful to the Minister for making that interjection, which is helpful. But he will mention, I hope, for the information of the House, that that statement referred to penal clauses, the clauses of the Bill as it was then being operated as an Act. That is extremely important.

Mr. Skeet

Right hon. and hon. Members will be able to make their own speeches in due course. But there will be opportunity of making a fuller statement later, so perhaps I could move on.

I am firmly of the view that it is necessary to maintain reasonable discipline at sea. The whole cast of modern society is towards the acceptance of maximum discussions practicable on outstanding issues. No one will suggest that being on a ship is the same as being in a factory. I should have thought that people would be willing to accept the verdict put forward by a master when there is a minor difficulty, for example, with members of the crew, as opposed to a shore tribunal. if it is a case where a ship is, for instance, on the Australia run, is anyone going to suggest that it will be necessary to wait until the seaman comes right back to the United Kingdom before he is tried by a land tribunal or court?

I should have thought that it was the most sensible course to maintain the present system, where a master can give his judgment immediately and, on further good conduct during the return journey, the master could have the fine remitted. That seems to make sense. Obviously if there is to be a court or some tribunal or body which has been elected by the representatives of the seamen aboard, this will not be satisfactory. Therefore, I suggest that it is the right course to maintain the verdict of the master.

I have emphasised that under the present disposition the seaman has the right of representation and of appeal. It is incumbent on the master to record the offence in the log. If he does not do so under the right procedure, he is liable himself to be fined £20. Therefore there is adequate protection. It may be said. "Why not treat them all like fishermen, who generally return to port. I could understand local tribunals or local committees operating on that basis, but when people are on the ocean runs between the United Kingdom and America or Australia, these conditions do not apply. [Interruption.] Hon. Members may say that it still happens. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East has to face the logic of events. He quoted countries in Scandinavia which are tiny compared with the United Kingdom and whose navies and mercantile marine are minute by comparison. Are we to suggest that we should follow their regulations? The hon. Member mentioned Norway, Sweden and Denmark. I could mention the Netherlands, Belgium and France, which continue to respect the verdict of the master. The hon. Member mentioned countries and I have mentioned others in return. These countries have not found the verdict of the master unsatisfactory, particularly when society has evolved to the point when special protection is given to the seamen in order that they may receive a fair trial.

I emphasise that one can avoid penalties at all times by being responsible and, that, further, as there are remissions, it may be that the fine is completely avoided. Also, in many cases—such is the nature of good masters on ships—admonishment will be sufficient and nothing else will follow.

Mr. Frank Marsden (Liverpool. Scotland)

I have been following the hon. Gentleman's speech closely. On more than one occasion he has mentioned a fine. He quoted a fine of £2 and then £5. He said that they were hardly a deterrent. They are not likely to be a deterrent to someone earning £100 a week, but surely they are a deterrent to someone who is earning as little as £17.50 a week.

Mr. Skeet

If they are not a deterrent, it is extraordinary why hon. Members of the Opposition are suggesting that this procedure should be abolished. I should have thought that most people want to be responsible and conform to the law. I know that present practices are a survival from many years past, but there is a great dissimilarity between a shore base and a ship, which my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Darwen has described as an institution in itself. Therefore, one has to have a peculiar type of discipline, which must nevertheless be fair.

I do not want to weary the House but I wish to mention one other matter. We have learned much about sludge around Erith, but it seems important that we should get the regulations in the right perspective. I suppose that most hon. Members of the Opposition present for the debate have been at sea possibly in the Royal Navy. Therefore, we are used to the conditions.

Mr. Skinner

Some have yachts.

Mr. Skeet

I dare say the hon. Member has a jolly good yacht at Bolsover.

Mr. Skinner

It is on the canal.

Mr. Skeet

It may be argued that we could share the conception of shore tribunals enjoyed by the fishing fleet. That may be possible if they are only going for a short run, but there could be practical difficulties because those vessels on the international runs would have to cross into the home zone and that would mean there being a double jurisdiction. We could have a double procedure unless that were specially provided for.

Mr. Harold Walker

Will the hon. Member give way?

Mr. Skeet

No. I shall conclude my speech and give the hon. Member an opportunity of making his.

There is the other case, of a vessel on the home run which may extend far abroad and touch foreign ports. There would there be that difficulty of double jurisdiction. These are the practical difficulties which have to be considered. I can see the prospects of a general evolution of policy, but I cannot see that verdicts will be given by committees of the men, as they seem to have rejected these experiments. It is either the courts of the land or a tribunal set up by statute, or the master of the ship. The National Union of Seamen would say that it had found evidence of abuse by the master. It has not advanced it. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that while this method has the confidence of the people on our ships, it is reasonable that the system be maintained and continued.

7.48 p.m.

Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, North)

Before turning to what in many ways is regarded as a duty but what to me will be a considerable pleasure, I want to deal with a point made by the hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Skeet) just before he concluded his speech. I thought that he portrayed a terrible lack of knowledge, particularly in his last few remarks about the nature of the articles which seamen sign. Seamen sign articles. It is not a question of zones, in that way. People sign home trade articles, foreign articles or articles going down to the Antipodes. That is the way it works. It is not on the nature of passing the machinery of international zones and lines and going from one jurisdiction to another.

What to me is a pleasure is congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) on his speech. I had the good fortune to work very closely with him during the Labour Government's great reform, the Merchant Shipping Act 1970. We came together while I was dealing with the trawlermen's interests, and while he was dealing with the interests of the seamen. Because we had know each other before, it was a happy combination. It is even happier for me now to know that in the great wilderness and morass of the regulations dealing with seamen the voice of the seamen will be left in the hands of a man who, in the best traditions, is a sea lawyer. He will keep the House alive and awake to the problems facing British seamen.

I heard the hon. and learned Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke) speaking and I wondered what rôle the Opposition played when the Merchant Shipping Act was passing through the House. There were two great reforms connected with the sea during the period of the last Labour Government. The first was the Merchant Shipping Act, with its effect on seamen, and the second was the Fishing Vessels (Safety Regulations) Act, affecting members of my union. The Pearson Committee met following the seamen's strike of 1966, reported in 1967 and dealt with one of the largest and most complicated Acts on the statute book—the bible of people in the merchant navy. It had been in existence since 1894. Following the tragic loss of our trawlers the Labour Government set up the Holland-Martin Committee. The Committee reported. Within three years these two tremendous reforms were carried out.

When I hear the hon. and learned Member for Darwen calling in aid my right hon. Friend the Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Goronwy Roberts) I am appalled at his audacity. The 1970 Act was not perfect, but it represented a march forward to progress that any person would have been proud to have been associated with, and it was a reform carried through by the Labour Government. Although the then Opposition did not particularly hinder it, in all the years that they were in office they did damn all to see that we got the reform and that task was left for a Labour Government to carry out.

Therefore, although some of us, including my hon. Friends the Members for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson) and Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) and my right hon. and noble Friend Lord Shin-well, did not like some parts of the Bill, not one of us suggested that it was not a tremendous stride forward for seamen and trawlermen. I pay now the same high tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster (Mr. Harold Walker) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Caernarvon, who were responsible for piloting the Bill through that I paid them when I was a virulent critic when we were in Government.

Mr. Wingfield Digby

Will not the hon. Member be a little more generous to Lord Pearson, on whose report the Bill was based and who was attacked from the Opposition Front Bench?

Mr. McNamara

I am grateful to Lord Pearson for what he did. He headed a committee which was appointed by the Labour Government. The Holland-Martin Report was a tremendous report for trawlermen, but its recommendations were implemented by the Labour Government. The people who sat on these committees were by no means infallible. We accepted many of their conclusions but we rejected many others. It is no criticism of their work to say that they, as honourable men, came to one conclusion and that we, as equally honourable men, I hope, found that conclusion unacceptable. It is important for us to realise, therefore, just what the Labour Government did.

One of the recommendations of Holland-Martin was in connection with hours worked by trawlermen. The report said the Government should seek powers to lay down statutory requirements and minimum rest periods on deep-sea trawlers. The crews of distant water trawlers must receive minimum continuous rest periods on the fishing grounds of at least six hours, followed by periods of duty of not more than twice the rest period, and except in emergency of not more than 16 hours. Crews of most near and middle-water trawlers should receive at least six hours continuous rest after 24 hours. As my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East said, we should be having that type of regulation before the House rather than the regulation we have before us now. These are important matters because although in Hull we have an industrial agreement which more or less covers the distant water fleet, such regulations do not exist for the near water and the middle water fleets and the owners have shown a marked reluctance to come to any such agreement.

These recommendations of the Holland-Martin Committee are of particular importance because they bear directly upon the research carried out by Professor Schilling, who was a member of the committee on the near and middle water fleets. In its report the committee envisaged that there should be industrial negotiations followed by statutory regulations. We have had the industrial negotiations for the deep water fleet but we have not yet had the statutory regulations. But if there is a reluctance on the part of the owners of fishing vessels in middle and near waters to meet reasonable requests about fixed hours of work for the men on these vessels, it is the Government's duty, if they cannot get agreement on both sides, to introduce statutory regulations for safety reasons. That should he the extent of the Government's interference, imposing safe working conditions and not fines.

It is particularly important that the Holland-Martin recommendations should not be ignored at a time when there is pressure throughout the industry—both the fishing industry and the merchant marine—for reducing the size of crews. If anything, extra men may be needed on the ships in order to meet these requirements. All this comes at a time when settlings are high and the price of fish is extremely high, so there is no excuse on the grounds of economy for failing to reach agreement.

The hon. Member for Bedford referred to these only being "small fines" and also to the fact that one of the fines was reduced by 50 per cent. compared to the maximum laid down in the statute. It does not matter whether the fines are only 1¼4d. It is the principle of the matter which is at issue. It is wrong to behave in this way in industrial relations. The hon. and learned Member for Darvven, whom I regret is not in the Chamber, said that the status of a prisoner of war was an honourable one. Of course it is, and no one denies it but there are other aspects of the matter. First, it is not a very desirable state to be a prisoner of war. Secondly, the implication was that a ship had become a prisoner-of-war camp. Is that what we want for the British Merchant marine? The hon. and gallant Member for Winchester (Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles) said that it was an insult to past generations to suggest that some of the conditions in which the men worked were wrong. Would he like a recruiting poster which said "Join the great traditions of the Royal Navy: keelhauling, hanging at the yard-arm and flogging". That is the logic of the hon. and gallant Gentleman's argument. I am sure that was not what he wanted.

Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles

I am sure the hon. Gentleman does not wish to misquote me. This is a serious subject, which he and I have very much at heart. What I said was not in any way what he represented. I said that it was an insult to past generations and to present-day seamen to say that the discipline and violence that they subjected themselves to, and the bravery they have shown, was not necessary. In fact, it was.

Mr. McNamara

The way that discipline was maintained in the past, as I understand it, was by the cat-of-nine-tails. I believe that earlier than that it was a question of throwing a man overboard. Be that as it may, it is not insulting them to say that at present we are trying to run our country in a more civilised manner.

The hon. Member for Bedford said that Norway had a piffling little fleet. In fact, it is one of the largest fleets in the world.

Mr. Skeet

It is a flag of convenience. I was talking about trade. Owners can register under the Norwegian flag as they can with Liberia and elsewhere.

Mr. McNamara

Whether it is a flag of convenience or not—and the hon. Gentleman's Government at the moment should not be talking about flags of convenience, having chartered a Liberian tug to patrol the Icelandic coast—the Norwegian legislation applies to the conditions of the men on the ships. It is Norwegian legislation, which is going away from the whole point of having a severe disciplinary system based upon sanctions of a monetary nature.

The hon. and learned Member for Darwen raised the point about disciplinary committees and the failure that they represent. Let us make it quite clear that there were 12 disciplinary committees—[Interruption.] The hon. and learned Member for Darwen has just reentered the Chamber. I remind him that he said the committees were a failure. The hon. and learned Gentleman will recall that they were introduced as a sort of compromise to see if while working the Act and the penal clauses it might be possible to build up a system whereby it would he possible to move away from them.

There were 12 disciplinary committees set up on the different types of vessels—for example, tankers, liners and other vessels. They did not succeed. In some places the men did not want them. Hon. Members will recall some of the arguments put forward at the time. While a disciplinary committee existed on a ship, at the same time, and running parallel to it, another type of legislation existed. A difficulty was bound to arise because in other industries that system did not exist.

The hon. Member for Bedford said. "The captains can remit the fine." I object to the idea of seamen being treated like schoolboys. They get three good conduct marks and three black marks so their account is all right. However, if they have a few more black marks than good marks, they have to go round lickspittling to try to ingratiate themselves with officers in order to get their money back. That is denying a man his dignity. It is also an insult to the rest of the crew who, by the nature of their conduct, have not incurred the loss. Therefore, if the man gets his money back, they should be paid a bonus. That is the logic of the argument.

The important point is that it is not accurate to say that a man gets his money back and that is an end of the matter. If he is logged it will be reported when he gets ashore and he may be dealt with by the federation committees. Therefore, if he is logged, he can lose money, and can be dealt with when he gets ashore for the same offence, if it is a federation matter, and, if it is a serious matter, he can be dealt with before the criminal courts. There are three systems of courts. I know that that may be the situation in Northern Ireland, and I do not approve of it there. We should not have three systems of law applying to the British merchant marine. However, that is what is happening and that is what this type of legislation means.

It was suggested that somehow or other my hon. Friends and I are in favour of indiscipline on ships—that we are in favour of reckless, careless and foolish behaviour. However, seamen are very aware of the dangers that exist in their lives. If a person commits a criminal offence he should be charged and, if necessary, flown home. If a person is being a bit awkward, why cannot he be flown home and put before a committee? Of course, that can be done. In fact, in the fishing industry that is what happens. If a man offends against the code he goes before the disciplinary committee.

In some ways I think that the men would like the old system back again when they were fined by the skipper, particularly if the skipper was fair. If they go before a tribunal they know that they run the risk of being kept ashore for a time. They run the risk of losing their union card or their ticket. That is a far more powerful sanction than a person being able to say, "Oh, well, it will only cost two quid"—to use the words of the hon. Gentleman. If they appear before a tribunal it is their livelihood that is at stake. That is why it is better to be judged by one's peers.

Mr. David James (Dorset, North)

The hon. Gentleman is talking about conditions in the fishing industry, where everyone goes back to the same home port. However, in some fleets the crews live hundreds of miles away from each other and they return to different places.

Mr. McNamara

Perhaps I am being over-generous to the merchant marine, because conditions in the fishing industry are a damn sight harder. Fishing vessels going out of Hull put in at Canada, Norway, the Faroes and other places. These are touching on foreign ports. Flying crews out is an increasing practice. Is the hon. Gentleman aware that because of the difficulties of recruiting, not only key men, like radar officers or certificated officers, but also members of the crew are flown to vessels, if this is part and parcel of the crew agreements in the merchant navy?

I get the feeling after listening to some of the arguments put forward by the Government that they still think we are going round Cape Horn in clippers. We have tried on this side of the House to show how illogical and irrational it is to try to put up a case in defence of the regulations. We know that the Government are fair because they introduced the Industrial Relations Act. They told us that it was being done to help the unions. They could be a very fair Government. Of course, people cannot go on strike for an increase in wages, but it is a fair Government. However, the Government should take these regulations back and ask themselves if there is not a better way of regulating our lives and the lives of our seamen than imposing these silly conditions, which produce the stupid anomaly which has now resulted in the men of my union and the National Union of Public Employees being locked out on the River Thames on the question of emptying the sludge boats.

I am particularly concerned about that because my right hon. Friend the Member for Caernarvon and my hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster were at great pains throughout the passage of the Act to say that the regulations would not be introduced without consultations with representatives of the men. They leant over backwards to say that everyone concerned would be consulted. That is how it should be. That is what open government is about. The Prime Minister talks about it, but he does not understand it.

The most important part of the Act containing that provision is Section 99(2), which says: Before making regulations under any provision of this Act other than sections 84 and 90 the Board of Trade shall consult with organisations in the United Kingdom appearing to them representative of masters and seamen who will be affected by the regulations and of persons employing such masters and seamen. But my union—the Transport and General Workers Union—which organises the sludgeboat men, was never consulted about the contents of the regulations applying to them. No doubt the Department thought, "The T & G covers fishermen. We shall consult it about them. We shall not consult it where the regulations affect the owners about questions of hours."

Mr. Onslow

I am sure the hon. Gentleman does not wish to be unfair. But could he remind the House whether at any time during the passage of the Act it was suggested that it would be appropriate to consult the Transport and General Workers Union in this case, or whether there was mention of the vessels in Committee?

Mr. McNamara

As far as I recall, the case was not mentioned in Committee, but I should have thought that the Department in its wisdom would have some knowledge of the organisations representing seamen. The National Union of Railwaymen represents seamen, as do the General and Municipal Workers Union and the National Union of Public Employees. The Post Office employs seamen. It was important that the Department should follow the procedures laid down and look most carefully at what was happening.

I do not want to go into all the details of the dispute and the serious effect it has had on the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Cray-ford (Mr. Wellbeloved). My hon. Friend made legitimate points on behalf of his constituents, perhaps not forcefully enough.

Mr. Goronwy Roberts

I am listening to everything my hon. Friend says with great interest. Perhaps I may refer to his previous point about consultation and incidentally enlighten the Minister on what we intended in the Act. I believe that the phrase I used more than once in Committee was that consultation should he extensive and exhaustive. That was intended to convey, in response to the various debates on the point, that not just a single union that might be deemed to be representative of an industry was to be consulted, but rather that every aspect of representation should be brought into the consultation, which, I repeat, would need to be extensive and exhaustive.

Mr. McNamara

I am most grateful to my right hon. Friend. I was trying to make the point that he leant over backwards to ensure that everyone in-solved was consulted.

The sludgeboat dispute need never have happened. I understand that in September and October of 1970 there were difficulties relating to a certificated officer, and a formal inquiry into his conduct was held. It went on for 10 days. As a result of the inquiry he was posted to another vessel.

Following that, a general discussion took place between the GLC and the unions about what procedure should govern staff relations. The GLC suggested that the best system to adopt would be its staff code. That having been agreed, the matter was more or less left there. The crew signed what they termed barge articles, but knew that their conduct would be governed by the staff regulations of the GLC.

Out of the blue the GLC presented the members of the unions on the vessels with completely new agreements, but the articles it originally set the crews to sign were the articles which went out of date on 1st January this year. It suddenly realised its mistake and produced a second set of articles containing all the provisions of which my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East has spoken, and which my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford has set out. That was done without discussion with the Department, without any consultation by the GLC, which one would expect the GLC to have initiated in its rôle as a good employer.

The men refused to sign, whereupon the GLC locked them out, again without any discussions. The GLC went one step further. When there had been disputes in the past the men had put skeleton crews on the ships to look after the moorings, with the rise and fall of the tide. This time, even those crews were locked out and were not allowed to do that necessary safety work. Other people were brought in.

My hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford has argued powerfully why the vessels should not be regarded as seagoing. I believe that regarding them as other than seagoing could be done under the terms of the Act, but if that is not possible the problem must be examined more carefully. It would be far easier if the GLC created a climate in which the men went back to work while the point was being decided. It could do that by making the gesture of saying, "The men will return to attend to the moorings, and then talks can start. If the argument about seagoing vessels falls and the ships are deemed to be sea-goings vessels, we shall say that, even if the articles apply in the strict legal interpretation, as a matter of policy and good industrial relations we shall use our staff code in our relations with members of the crews of these vessels. On top of that, we shall instruct the certificated officers of the vessels that it is our policy to use the code, and that therefore in their treatment of the men they will use that code of staff relationships."

There is nothing to prevent any employer saying, "We do not seek the protection of the Act to maintain good industrial relations." It is not mandatory upon them to use all the provisions of the Act. There would be no dispute if the GLC said that the problem was becoming serious, that it would let the men go back to the moorings and then see whether it could work out a solution as outlined by my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford, and that if it could achieve that it would nevertheless give an undertaking that its relationship with the crews of its sludge vessels would be based on the staff code, and that instructions to that effect would be given to its captains and certificated officers.

The whole dispute has arisen purely and simply because someone got a set of regulations, said, "My God! They apply to us", and never thought what a small group of men in a vital part of the workings of the GLC might think about the matter.

I know that my union members and the members of NUPE would like the issue to be resolved, if for no other reason than that they do not like losing money. But they want it to be resolved properly and with dignity to all concerned. A statement by the GLC that it would return to working under the staff code would solve the problem. The whole issue could be resolved, and there would be no danger to my hon. Friend's constituency.

8.20 p.m.

Mr. David James (Dorset, North)

Having spent a few years in my youth as a deckhand on a trawler I agree with the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) that of all forms of seafaring in which I have engaged trawling has the longest hours of service. I should like them to be substantially ameliorated hut, unlike men engaged in deep water trading—which is the primary discussion in this debate—those on trawlers come back to the same base and their crews are members of the same community. Therefore there are not the same sort of considerations as those which arise as to whether or not one has ad hoc justice when in Sydney or Valparaiso, when one can deal with the entire matter on returning home.

I am sorry that he is not present now in the Chamber, but I wish to apologise to the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott), because I was not present to hear his maiden speech from the Dispatch Box. I thought that this debate would begin at seven o'clock, and when I came into the House he had already finished what I understand was a very thoughtful speech. I am sorry that I missed it. I did, however, come in in time to hear the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved) who was rather running down others who might have contributed to this debate—an admiral silting behind me and some trawler owners round the corner, and a naval officer. Then, one would have thought, one would have listened to the authentic voice of the seadog. I wish to state my claim to knowledge of this subject. I did not spend a year as a steward on a merchant liner but I was for nearly a year a deckie on a four-masted barque, and although sail is now outdated I think it is the best way of keeping in touch with life at sea.

Mr. Marsden

I am not a seaman but I am always conscious that when seamen talk to me they appear to think that discipline on sea vessels is unique, and that therefore they must have unique rules and regulations. Allow me to tell the hon. Member for Dorset, North (Mr. David James) that discipline in a coalmine is unique, and we do not need all these regulations to which seamen are subject.

Mr. James

I am most grateful to the hon. Member. Next time there is a debate on mining I shall be grateful if he will give me a brief. Then I shall be able to follow him. Discipline on board ship is substantially self imposed by a small community, and if there is need for internal sanctions as there is in coal mining it is because they are essential to the safety of the ship, the success of the voyage and, if they are carried, to the wellbeing of the passengers. I consider that my year of sail gives me as much right to take part in this debate as the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North. On the basis of that experience I consider that the regulations before the House are the minimum necessary for a ship's master to have as his reserve power. The master must have a reserve power because in the last resort everything depends on him.

There was another, a penultimate stage, to my nautical career, which was very different. That was when I was a prisoner of war in Germany in 1943 and 1944. There were two compounds the Naval and the Merchant Service. In Marlag there was never any serious disciplinary problems, because even though we were prisoners of war we were subject to the Naval Discipline Act, and KR and AIs still ran, even though we were in the middle of Germany. In the last resort the senior British officer could make life unpleasant.

It was different in the other camp, where there was a vast aglomeration, including Chinese stewards, and so on. They had great difficulty, simply because the senior officer in that camp did not, in the last resort—we are talking about weapons of last resort—have any force on which he could rely. In the event that camp worked superbly well. That was probably because the man in charge—a Captain Nottman—was with that community of 5,000 people throughout the war and he controlled it through force of personality. He had no power at his elbow.

I do not think that when looking to the future of the Merchant Service we are entitled to assume that every merchant ship at sea can produce a charismatic character of that kind without some reserve power. The hon. Member for Erith and Crayford, whom I must admit I admire enormously, was too scathing about lawyers and others. I am sorry that he is not present now. I thought he was the most effective fo'c'sle lawyer, but the way he managed to make a debate on deep water seamanship hang on a constituency point about disposal of sludge was amazing.

Mr. McNamara

Does not the hon. Member realise that the content of these regulations forms the cause of the strike and the point we are trying to make is that men will not accept this sort of treatment?

Mr. James

Of course I am perfectly prepared to accept that the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford was making a very legitimate constituency point, but that is not the kernel of this debate which is dealing with deep water ships which get into trouble overseas as happened to the "Ocean Monarch" in Sydney a few days ago owing to lack of discipline which is prevalent in the merchant service. These regulations strike me as being the irreducable minimum which anyone in command of a merchant ship is entitled to expect if he is to do his job properly. I go further, and contend that this is entirely in line with the Pearson Report, although the Pearson Report recommendations have been watered down a good deal in the interests of reaching agreement. It is also entirely in line with the 1970 Act, which was enacted by the Government of hon. Members opposite. I am particularly aware of the fact that the right hon. Member for Caernarvon, in summing up this Act and dealing with this very point said that he thought there was no serious disability on the seamen involved". I will not become involved in specific points as to what Pearson said in which paragraph because I was not in the House then. I will not recap all the debates on the 1970 Act, for the same reason. I rest my case on the broad proposition that as someone who was 10 years at sea and who has served in almost every type of craft from a four-masted barque to an Antarctic icebreaker I say that what is proposed here is the minimum reasonable standard necessary to maintain discipline at sea.

8.30 p.m.

Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)

In a sense I feel somewhat out of this debate because so many hon. Members have declared that they were seamen. I cannot claim ever to have been away at sea. My closest connection with shipping is that for many years I worked in shipyards and helped to make ships. My constituency probably has as many seamen in it as any other in the country. As a result my connection with seamen has been very close. In addition, on two occasions I was President of the Liverpool Trades Council to which the National Union of Seamen is affiliated—or was before the Industrial Relations Act. I am not certain what has happened since that unfortunate event.

I took part in the proceedings on the 1970 Act, during Second Reading, in Committee and on Report. I remember that during Second Reading a powerful and passionate speech was made by the right hon. Mr. Emmanuel Shinwell, as he was then. He had always had the closest connection with the sea. He once organised the seamen's union. He pointed out that the power of the master to discipline or supposedly discipline seamen for matters in no way connected with the safety of a ship was one of the greatest problems for the seafaring community. He said it caused more problems and resentment than anything else. The greatest cause of industrial travail was the power of the master given through the 1894 Act.

I remember his speech well. I sat about two places from him. It was a magnificent speech. He was appealing to our Government, because although he and I and other of my hon. Friends were delighted with the 1970 Act there were nevertheless parts of it which, although modified, continued the provisions of the 1894 Act. He said that these ought to be eliminated. I agreed.

I remember that during the course of my speech I quoted what Bill Hogarth, the General Secretary of the National Union of Seamen, had written at the time. For the benefit of those hon. Members who were not in the House then and who may not have refreshed their memories I will quote what Bill Hogarth said. He said: Unfortunately, the Bill reflects the belief that fines are still a necessary deterrent to indiscipline. Therefore, it proposes that the authority of the master to impose them shall be retained. This is enough to cause dismay. … There is no evidence that monetary punishment prevents indiscipline, neither is there any evidence that good order on board ship would collapse in its absence. We have always felt that the facility with which fining may be carried out offers a convenient shield behind which inept shipboard supervision may safely shelter. In our view there is adequate machinery at the disposal of all interested parties with which to deal with industrial indiscipline. Consequently, the authority to fine is both unnecessary and redundant."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd December 1969; Vol. 792, c. 1399–400.] That was the view of the General Secretary of the National Union of Seamen at that time. It is the view of the National Union of Seamen today. They take precisely the same point of view after the Act has been in operation for a period of two years.

Mr. David James

It seemed to me that a bit earlier the hon. Gentleman was developing the argument that there were some people aboard ship upon whom the safety of the vessel depended and other people of whom this was not true. I wonder whether he can justify that distinction. Surely, if the butcher's boy gets drunk and goes after the watch with a knife, that imperils the ship; and if a stewardess makes eyes at the wireless operator the same applies. I do not see how we can have two standards of behaviour on a ship.

Mr. Heffer

There are two standards only in the hon. Gentleman's mind. I never suggested anything of the sort. I never said there was a question of one sort of discipline in the interest of safety at sea and another for something else. I was pointing out that, as regards the provisions on safety, during the course of the Bill there were feelings that the penalties were extremely high and that we ought to have another look at them. In fact, this was the whole point. We were given assurances by the Government, by my hon. Friend, that after two years, I think it was, these penal clauses would be reviewed, and it was not those we were arguing about too much at that time.

I shall be slightly facetious, perhaps, because I want to have a look at the actual disciplinary offences. We are not talking about each individual ship. We are, apparently, the ship of State, the Parliament. We are guiding the British people as the ship of State. Let us look at us as representing the ship of State and then have a look at the disciplinary offences as they might apply to us.

It is a punishable offence "wilfully to strike any person". Quite right, but Lord Shinwell once stepped across this Floor and belted an hon. Gentleman on that side of the House. Recently there was an occasion on which a young lady sitting in our midst, an hon. Member of this House, jumped up and, without doing very much harm, made some sort of a striking movement in relation to the then Home Secretary. She did not go to the Tower. Nobody fined her. Perhaps we all deplored the offence but we showed a bit of common sense.

It is a disciplinary offence wilfully to disobey a lawful command". Members of the House disobey so-called lawful commands every day, or try to, then make a brief apology and we all forget about it.

Next there is, without reasonable cause to fail to be available for duty … Where are hon. Members? They get paid more than any seaman. That is the duty of hon. Members of this House to be here.

Next we read, while on duty, to be asleep at his place of duty". With all due respect, I have seen certain hon. Members having a good snore in this House. One usually wakes them up and says, "They are all looking at you". My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. John Prescott) was not being silly about this when he pointed out that, if people with certain duties on a ship were asleep, of course it would be very dangerous, but a steward who is supposed to make a cup of tea or coffee is not committing a terribly serious offence if he is asleep when a bell is rung. But he can still be fined. He can still be severely disciplined as a result.

Then it is an offence to be under the influence of drink … But perhaps I had better not say any more than that. Let us look at these things realistically. If it applied to this House, hon. Members would be fined every other day—every day perhaps. I said that I was being facetious but if we applied these disciplinary offences to the ship of State, the discipline which goes on here would be scandalous. We have to be realistic.

During the passage of the Merchant Shipping Act, we recognised, of course, that the safety of the ship was all-important. Who recognises that more than the seamen? It is his safety which is involved. He knows that very well and understands it. He does not need someone in this House to tell him. That is why it is about time that these disciplinary offences and fines by a master were thrown out.

The hon. Member for Dorset, North (Mr. David James) used the simile of the prisoner-of-war camp. Is that the way hon. Members opposite regard a ship's crew—as prisoners of war? The seamen are not prisoners of war. I have never been a prisoner but I can well imagine that discipline in a prisoner-of-war camp is terribly important. But these seamen are our constituents, who come home to their wives and families. They are civilians—ordinary, decent people doing a job on behalf of the British people. It is terrible that one should even think of them in such terms.

Mr. David James

The analogy lay in the fact that here we have an isolated community thrown back on its own resources, possibly for a very long time.

Mr. Heffer

I still do not think that one can compare the case of prisoners of war with a ship's crew. The hon. Gentleman may have been an officer in the Royal Navy. He may well have been a deck hand for a time. But I have had experience of the shipping industry for many years and I recall the various disputes. In the 1947 dispute one or two friends of mine were put in prison in Liverpool because they were leading the unofficial action. In the 1960 dispute, I was, believe it or not, a mediator and helped bring it to an end. Then came the 1966 dispute.

Whatever dispute the seamen have had, whatever the arguments they have put, whether on wages or conditions, always one of their demands has been the ending of the penal clauses and particularly of the disciplinary powers of the master. That will continue to be the demand whatever disputes the seamen may have in future as long as these powers exist. They are unnecessary, they cause difficulties and they do not help to achieve genuine discipline at sea.

I am not saying anything now different from what I told the Labour Government. But at least the Labour Government were prepared to take a look at the situation and they went a long way towards meeting the points we raised. Now I am asking the present Government to look at the situation, to follow our advice and to withdraw these regulations.

8.45 p.m.

Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles (Winchester)

I am glad that the House is debating the Merchant Navy tonight because it is vital to our national life. That goes without saying and I feel that not enough heed is paid to it in our transactions in this House. I must say the Minister has my sympathy to a certain extent tonight since he is under considerable fire from the benches opposite. I shall also object to these regulations and shall give them a whiff of grapeshot from here but for reasons very different from those which have been deployed from the benches opposite.

In short, I believe that these regulations diminish the disciplinary code in Merchant Navy ships to an extent which will be to the detriment of the Merchant Navy as a whole and in particular to seamen themselves. Before detailing my objections to these regulations, let me scotch the idea, which I can almost see as a gleam in the eye of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) and others, that, having served in the Royal Navy, one has not had an opportunity to gain detailed knowledge of the life of a merchant seaman. The prime task of the Royal Navy through the ages has always been to protect our overseas trade, and any right-minded merchant seamen who has served at sea in war time will recognise and admit to an understanding of this. So will hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite except when they are having a party political field day as they are tonight. We quite understand that. We all have these little scampers from time to time.

With regard to Regulation 1294, the fines suggested are, in my submission, ludicrously small. I say that because these days, thank heavens, seamen are on very good wages. I believe that it diminishes the authority of the master if he has such absolutely minimal powers to inflict any kind of meaningful fine on anybody who has transgressed.

Incidentally, on quite an important point and one on which I may have some agreement from hon. Members opposite, I believe that it is storing up trouble for the future to put just a monetary sum like £2 or £5. I believe the amount should be in multiples of a day's pay. Then the regulations would not become increasingly out of date as inflation, which apparently is inevitable, goes ahead so that what may be a touch on the pocket now may in years ahead become increasingly trivial and small. I should like to see the regulations, and indeed all legislation—for this is a wide point—provide and regulate fines in multiples of a day's pay.

Let us move to the offences to which these fines, which in my submission are too small, are applicable. Anybody with knowledge of sea-going life knows that the offences in paragraph 3 of this order can be very serious in conditions at sea. If offences of this kind go unchecked they make for an unhappy ship, very much to the detriment of the seamen we want to benefit under these regulations. Experienced seamen understand this and understand how important it is for the master to have reasonable disciplinary powers, for example, to deal with the "stroppy" young man on his first voyage who kicks over the traces, making life difficult on board for everybody, which makes for a bad atmosphere in the ship.

I am bound to recall also that the right hon Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Goronwy Roberts) said in the transactions of Standing Committee A, on which we both sat, I think that there is no serious disability on the seamen involved."—(OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee A, 22nd January 1970; c. 187.] To sum up, I believe that anything which diminishes the status of the master is bad for all who live and work in ships. I hope the House will bear with me for a moment if I speak with some emotion in recalling some masters of merchant ships I have known. The shortest way is to quote from a speech that I made in Standing Committee A recalling an incident when, during the war, I was on a merchant ship in a convoy under fire. I said, Then we heard gunfire, and we knew that the 'Hipper' was among the convoy. I was on the bridge, keeping watch with the Merchant Service officer of the watch. When we realised the threat to the convoy all eyes turned—to whom? To the master a large, bulky, comfortable, confident oil-skinned figure peering over the bridge rail, huddled in the lee of the wheelhouse. He quietly extricated the ship from the convoy. He determined the short-term course to steer. He subsequently worked out the route to Gibraltar, and he got us there safely. That, shortly, is the sort of men the masters of the Merchant Navy are, and it is wrong in any way to diminish their authority. I do not think that any experienced seaman will wish to see the master's authority diminished."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee A, 10th February 1970; c. 410.]

Mr. Wellbeloved

Does not the hon. and gallant Gentleman agree that when the master gave his orders not one man hesitated, but immediately carried out those orders, without the need for recourse to regulations? Does not he agree that that happened on that occasion and on many others, and that the history of the Navy shows that both merchant and naval seamen carry out their duties with speed and efficiency in the face of the enemy and despite the hazards of war?

Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles

I agree with every word uttered by the hon. Gentleman. He knows as well as I do that that is so.

I turn to Statutory Instrument No. 1700. The restriction of £50 in Regulation 6 is absurdly weighted against the owners. It would permit any young man to sign on in a cruise ship for a voyage to Australia, have a nice cruise there, then cut up rough, scull around for two or three weeks, and for the price of a couple of weeks' wages have a free ride home by air.

Hon. Gentlemen opposite know that the Pearson Report said in paragraph 302 that there ought to be a statutory provision allowing damages for any breach by the seaman of his contractual obligations under the articles of agreement to be set off against wages due to him. The Pearson Committee recommended a £100 limit so that there would not be an open-ended commitment for the seaman, but in the negotiations the NUS opposed that and suggested £50. The regulation says £50, which in my submission is too small, and now, if I understand hon. Gentlemen opposite aright, they object even to the principle of any amount.

We are speaking about detailed regulations, but let us remember—and this was the point made by the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved)—that discipline in ships depends on the personality and character of the master. In practice, regulations are rarely used—that was the point made by the hon. Gentleman—and it is wrong for hon. Gentlemen opposite to suggest—as, I am sorry to say, some have—even by implication that the average master is a kind of Captain Bligh.

I have paid tribute to masters. I pay tribute also to the skill and wisdom of the officers on merchant ships and to the seamen of all branches. The vast majority of seamen are patient, responsible and good-hearted men. They give good service for, nowadays—and thank goodness for this—very good wages. Their conditions are vastly improved from what they were years ago. About 99 per cent. of seamen serve day and night in all parts of the world and in all weathers, with quiet and disciplined efficiency. The highest praise I can give to them is that they do so despite such flagrant militancy as was contained in the speech of the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott). I am sorry that he is not in the Chamber to hear me say that. I shall write and tell him that I have made that remark. If the hon. Gentleman had at heart the good of seamen, I am sure he would on reflection drastically alter the tone and content of what he said. Sensible seamen—that is to say, 99 per cent. of them—will not agree with him.

The welfare of the British Merchant Navy on which our survival as a country depends must surely be discussed in an objective and reasonable way, and I beg hon. Gentlemen opposite to remember that.

8.55 p.m.

Mr. Albert Booth (Barrow-in-Furness)

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) on the speech with which he opened the debate. He did the House a signal service in disabusing anyone who had the notion that the Merchant Shipping Regulations were uncontroversial of that false idea. I hope the Government will take note of this, because they have seen fit to delay the debate on these regulations until well after they came into force and have deprived the House of the opportunity of debating them at a time when hon. Members could have influenced their form.

Understandably, considerable attention has been paid to Statutory Instrument No. 1294 which deals with discipline. The main justification for the Instrument put forward by those who support it is that the ship is a unique workplace and must, therefore, continue to have a unique disciplinary system. I do not dispute the contention that the ship is a unique workplace any more than I would dispute the contention, if it were made, that a nuclear power station is a unique workplace. That is not the argument. The argument is whether the unique form of workplace that is a ship justifies someone in administration within it having a power to judge whether an offence has been committed and to exact a fine which he can deduct from a man's pay. A comparable argument would be whether a foreman of a nuclear power station should have a right to deduct a fine from a man's wages because he had infringed the safety regulations.

The hon. and learned Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke) said that it has always been so, that there has always been this unique system of discipline at sea. Bearing that in mind, we can usefully remember that there was a time when in civil shore employment it was possible for employers to fine their employees and make all sorts of deductions from their pay. That is no longer so. With the technological, social and political developments that occur within a modern society there must come a time when we challenge ideas that have always been so. If we had not done that, we should not be building the sort of ships on which men are sailing today. We should be building Noah's Arks or Cutty Sarks. In all other areas we have accepted to need to change.

If we are to be objective in examining the question whether the unique form of workshop that is a ship should have a unique system of discipline, we have to consider how far the things that affect this system have changed. Several things have changed.

Mr. Fletcher-Cooke

The uniqueness has not changed. A ship, unlike a nuclear power station, is outside the jurisdiction of the ordinary courts. Nothing has changed to bring a ship within that jurisdiction.

Mr. Booth

I was about to deal with that point. The fact that it is outside the jurisdiction of the courts does not make it unique. An aircraft flying over the Atlantic is to the same extent outside the jurisdiction of the courts, but the captain of an aircraft does not have power to fine a stewardess.

Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles

Is not the difference that an aircraft will be back at base within a few hours, whereas a ship may be away for weeks? If an alteration takes place on board a ship, the seamen will want the matter to be cleared up quickly rather than that it should be left as a festering sore.

Mr. Booth

Seamen are often away for a long time, but in the case mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved) those vessels were not away from their base for as long as are the crews of some aircraft. Therefore, we must be prepared to look at this matter again.

One of the arguments advanced when the Merchant Shipping Bill was in Committee was that an enabling Act would allow regulations to be more flexible to take account of changes, such as shorter voyages, specialised ships, improved communications and so on. But this is the very point of which the Minister has so lamentably failed to take account. Had he taken advantage of the flexibility provided in the Act, he could have avoided the whole problem raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Cray-ford. We see in Regulation 2 of Statutory Instrument No. 1294, on the subject of disciplinary offences the areas in which the regulations shall apply. They will not apply to a pleasure yacht, a ship belonging to a general lighthouse authority, a ship of less than 200 tons engaged solely on coastal voyages, or men on ship solely in connection with the construction, alteration, repair or testing of a ship, and so on. Nothing in the Act stops the Minister from including in that list a sludge vessel owned by the GLC. It was right for my hon. Friend to raise this matter because it shows the advantage of these provisions being used in a flexible manner and in such a way as to take proper account of the views of seamen and the nature of the vessels involved.

Mr. Wellbeloved

Is not the situation even more serious because of the fact that the Secretary of State violated the law in not carrying out the requirements of Section 99? That section concerns consultation and if there had been consultation the right hon. Gentleman would have known all about the problems of these vessels and would have appreciated the force of what my hon. Friend suggested. By ignoring the law he has lost the opportunity of doing what the Act provides.

Mr. Booth

I fully accept my hon. Friend's point and I shall develop it a little later. The simple position is that the Government have no monopoly of concern for the safety of ships. On the question of safety of vessels, the members and officers of the National Union of Seamen are very conscious of the importance of the way in which seamen behave. If a seaman is judged by his fellow seamen on a charge of jeopardising the safety of the vessel, he will be tried most rigorously. All the conditions existed for an industrial agreement to be reached between the federation and the NUS which could have been reflected in these regulations.

I turn now to the regulations affecting crew agreements. As I read the Act and the regulations, crew agreements which have been made and which apply as from 1st January 1973 require the approval of the Department of Trade and Industry. But how has the Minister gone about examining these crew agreements which require his approval? What criteria has he used to determine which agreements are acceptable and which are not? Presumably he has had to delegate authority to his officials to do this. What guidance has he given those officials? Has he for example given them any guidance about whether [hey should permit to be included in crew agreements matters which are covered by the disciplinary regulations?

If he has allowed such matters to be included in crew agreements, has he allowed them to be included in a form permitting the master to choose whether to apply the provisions relating to crew agreements or the disciplinary regulations—or has he suggested another way in which this should be done? If there is a choice to be made about whether a breach of the disciplinary regulations should be the charge or whether it should be a breach of the crew agreement, there should be clear guide lines as to how the choice should be made and in what circumstances the respective charges should be invoked.

I deal now with seamen who are left behind abroad. This again is a matter covered by regulations. However, they fail to distinguish between the various reasons why men are left behind abroad from merchant ships. The regulations make no distinction between the man who falls sick in a foreign port while away from his ship, the man who has an accident or the man who deliberately jumps ship. They only make a distinction in respect of a man who is shipwrecked. Such a case is covered by Statutory Instrument No. 1805.

Subject to the man who has deliberately jumped ship reporting to an agent of his company within a three month limit—presumably back in the port—under these regulations the company has the same liability to him as it has to the man who falls sick or the man who has an accident when in port. This is a somewhat surprising situation. Clearly the intention of the Act is that the general liability for returning a man home should lie with the shipping company employing him, unlike the old Board of Trade responsibilities, although it continues to make provision for conveyance orders to be obtained from consuls and for other ships to carry the man home at limited charges. However it creates a situation in which for the first time the owner of the vessel can deduct £50 from the man's wages. He does not have to apply to the Board of Trade for any authority as to the way in which he carries the man home such as that which existed under the law prior to 1st January of this year.

Is it the Minister's interpretation of the Act that an owner who brings a man home in circumstances in which the owner considers it was the man's fault that he was left behind can, after deducting £50 from the man's outstanding wages, then go to the courts for another £50? The sum laid down in the Act for the maximum which can be covered by regulations is £100. The amount prescribed in these regulations is £50. It is the understanding of the Merchant Shipping Federation that an owner can take a seaman to court claiming up to another £50 if £100 or more has been spent on bringing the man home.

This is highly unsatisfactory, particularly as it fails to draw any distinction between the reasons for a man being left behind in a foreign port. If we accept the general proposition of the Act, which we must because we are not debating the original Act, that it is the responsibility of the industry to get a man home, we should not allow any punishment other than that which is clearly laid down within the regulations and the Act.

In this connection, I should like to know why the regulations do not require a man to be returned to his home. I believe the ship owner is given the option to return a man to his home or to the merchant navy establishment office at which he registered. We should bear in mind the conditions in which some of these men might return. They might arrive in this country with very little money in their pockets, be delivered to the merchant navy establishment office at which they registered, and then have to find their own way home. The merchant navy establishment office might be in London, but their homes might be in Aberdeen, Edinburgh or John o'Groats. The regulations fail to meet this situation. I hope that the Minister will give us some advice on this matter.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford pointed out in his intervention, the Minister is required by the Act to consult certain bodies before making regulations. Section 99(2) provides: Before making regulations under any provision of this Act other than sections 84 and 90 the Board of Trade shall consult with organisations in the United Kingdom appearing to them representative of masters and seamen who will be affected by the regulations and of persons employing such masters and seamen. Why was not the Transport and General Workers' Union consulted when its members were clearly being brought within the scope of these regulations?

Finally, I protest most strongly at the circumstances in which we are having to conduct this debate. Hon. Members who have sought to scrutinise these regulations, which came into effect on 1st January 1973, and properly wish them to be subject to parliamentary control, have been thwarted by the Government. The procedure being used is novel in that we have regulations supplanting what were detailed provisions of primary legislation. It has therefore been necessary for the Government to introduce a commencement order which has certain repeal provisions. The result is that if we carry any of our Prayers tonight there could be a serious vacuum in the law. We cannot revoke the commencement order with its repeal provisions. Therefore, the previous merchant shipping legislation on these matters will be taken off the Statute Book, but there will be no regulation and no delegated legislation to take its place.

The Government could not have been unaware of this position. They certainly could not have been unaware of it since July last when a Select Committee of this House wrote to the then Leader of the House drawing this problem to his attention and suggesting that a one-day debate should take place on all the regulations well in advance of the commencement order with its repeal provisions so that any decisions of the House may properly be reflected in the final regulations and the commencement order. This was not done. The Government have delayed the debate until we have this serious limitation imposed upon us.

Therefore, I ask my hon. Friends to join me in dividing the House against two of these orders not only because we believe them to be wrong, but in protest against a most unreasonable and intolerable restriction which has been put upon us in trying to carry out our duty to the merchant seamen of this country.

9.14 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Mr. Cranley Onslow)

I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House will take note of the general and particular comments made by the hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Booth). I do not accept that he is absolutely correct in placing the blame fairly and squarely on the Government, although I understand the impulse to do so. I believe that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House would have liked to be able to give time for an earlier debate on the subjects we have been discussing if that had been possible. I understand that there were some discussions through the usual channels but that no mutually convenient earlier opportunity presented itself. All that I can come to the House with, perhaps, is the reflection that owing to this situation we have the unusual advantage of discussing, at a much earlier hour than usual, and perhaps at greater length than we would otherwise have, matters which we could only have prayed against rather later in the evening. Hon. Members can draw some small comfort from that. As I have said, my right hon. Friend will note what has been said.

In starting my remarks I had it in mind to welcome the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott), on his maiden appearance at the Dispatch Box, but I understand that this is his second and not his first experience. If that is so, I cannot understand why I did not hear him on his first appearance, because the Department of Trade and Industry is only 500 yards away and I am sure that his voice would have carried there. He certainly brings a new breeze to our debates on this subject. I am sure that as time passes we shall all become less excitable. I look forward with interest to debating with him a number of the matters he has outlined.

I say that with all the more confidence because I can tell the hon. Member and the House that the present Government do not intend to let the matter of merchant shipping regulations lie fallow. We are proceeding as fast as is possible within the limits of human availability, on the departmental side and, indeed, on the side of the other parties concerned, with the implementation of the other requirements of the fresh legislation which, after all, was a fairly massive piece of law making, as the hon. Member has conceded, and it would be ambitious to think that the whole thing would be swept up in the briefest of periods.

The codes of safe practice for seamen and fishermen were published by my Department in 1970. They were to be reviewed after a trial period of three years. It is therefore our intention to carry out such a review this year and, in the light of the review, to consult the industry on the regulations under Section 19 of the Act. Discussions with the industry are in train in the making of manning regulations under Section 43 and regulations on medical stores under Section 24. Work is well advanced in drawing them up.

The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara), although no longer in the Chamber, would like to know that work is in hand on the provisions relating to hours of work in the fishing industry, and that it is our intention to start a review of the penal clauses in the Act this year. So I hope that the hon. Gentleman will accept that that represents a considerable earnest of interest in this matter. I do not seek to claim a monopoly of that. I believe that all hon. Members have an interest—which is not always partisan or keenly contentious—to advance the interests of people who carry on professions in dangerous and difficult circumstances. Perhaps we can proceed on that basis, at least until there comes cause to fall out.

Coming now to the specific matters, I thought that I caught a sort of echo of distant gunfire—a feeling that the battle had been progressing a little for some time before I arrived perhaps since King Alfred's time, or whenever it was that men first went to sea. It may be that some of the arguments which I advance will be no more convincing to hon. Members of the Opposition for the fact that they have heard them many times pre- viously, and have, perhaps, been beaten in the vote on them many times previously.

The debate has concentrated on the regulations which deal with discipline and deduction from seamen's wages. I want to speak briefly on them before turning to the other important matter specifically raised by the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved). I want to finish my speech by saying one or two things about that, to put what he said in perspective. I hope, therefore, that the House will understand it if I press on, because we are under a limitation as to time in any case.

The contentious regulations, as the Opposition Front Bench has identified them, are only two of the 21 sets of regulations made under the Act, which came into effect on 1st January. Taken together, they form the main body of those made under the Act and are largely designed to protect the interests of seafarers.

The combined effect of the 1970 regulations and the repeal of earlier legislation is therefore very much to the advantage of seamen, and I am sure that the House welcomes these much-needed reforms, even if there are two regulations among them which are being taken to a vote tonight. The making of these large number of regulations has been a heavy task for my Department, but it has been equipped to carry it out and is glad to have enjoyed the co-operation of both sides of the fishing and shipping industries, including the National Union of Seamen, the Merchant Navy and Airline Officers' Association and the British Shipping Federation, each of which made a valuable contribution. In the fishing industry we are indebted to the British and Scottish Trawler Federations and the Transport and General Workers Union for their help.

Perhaps, having listed some of those involved, I may say that under the relevant section of the Act the Secretary of State is bound to consult those organisations appearing to him as representative. It will not be disputed that the principal organisation for seamen is the National Union of Seamen. There is also the Transport and General Workers Union and the National Union of Public Employees, who represent the sludge workers in I know not what proportion amongst the total of the 80 crew members involved. They represent only a very small fraction of the men in the Merchant Navy and it would be pushing things to far to say that unions which represent a fraction of 80 men have to be consulted. The Transport and General Workers Union was consulted over the fishing industry and it may be that on another occasion consultation may be taken further, but as I suggested to the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North, I have the feeling that in Committee and in all the stages on the Bill in which Labour Members no doubt took an active part the particular problems of the sludge vessels were never identified.

It would perhaps be too much to expect the disciplinary offences regulations to meet with universal approval, especially in view of the evidence of a split on the Opposition Front Bench in this matter—[Interruption.] It may be a range of thought but, however elegantly expressed, it is a split just the same. On discipline the Pearson Committee records that the National Union of Seamen argued strongly for the transfer of jurisdiction from the master to some other authority. The representatives of the British Shipping Federation, the Merchant Marine Services Association and the Merchant Navy and Airline Officers' Association were strongly in favour of preserving the master's jurisdiction, and the House will probably be aware of the sense of the findings of that committee at the end of the day. It is to be found in paragraph 287 of the report, which went on to say that the statutory provisions should not exclude a ship's committee system being brought in eventually and it recommended some experiments with ships to be made in the meantime. A section was included in the 1970 Act which provided for regulations to be made to provide for the setting up of ships' disciplinary committees and it was decided to have experiments before consideration was given to the drafting of regulations.

Under the terms and conditions agreed by the National Maritime Board, on which both sides of the shipping industry are represented, an experiment was carried out in 10 ships over six months. Under the arrangements a seaman who was alleged to have committed an offence was given the option of being dealt with by the master or by the disciplinary com- mittee. The upshot of the experiment was that not one seaman charged with a disciplinary offence elected to be dealt with by the ship's committee. They all elected to be dealt with by the master. I cannot tell how many cases there were but the House will agree that the evidence was fairly conclusive, and it was for this reason that the National Maritime Board wrote to the Department saying that it did not wish the regulations to be made under Section 36 at the present time—and no such regulations have, therefore, been made. The matter has been left until, at some future date, it appears that the introduction of disciplinary committees is desirable. The matter can then be looked at again, and it may be helpful in the meantime for the House to have that statement of the position.

I do not know whether it would be particularly helpful now to deal with the question of shore-based committees but perhaps, instead, I may turn to the question of deductions from wages. It has been argued that there is no case for treating seaman differently from shore-based employees in relation to deductions from wages, and that it is wrong that a seaman's employer should have the right to make statutory deductions without having to prove justification for the deduction at law. That overlooks the provisions of Section 7 of the 1970 Act, which provided for a seaman's wages to be paid to him in full when he is discharged from his ship.

The section imposes severe penalties on an employer who fails to comply with the provision—[Interruption.] It is not a privilege but a right. The effect of Section 7 of the 1970 Act is to put a seaman in the same position as a "workman" who has the protection of the Truck Acts. Seamen have never been treated as "workmen" within the meaning of the Truck Acts and, in view of their separate treatment over a long period, they would, in the absence of special legislation, be in the same position as shore-based employees who are not protected by the Truck Acts. Their employers could delay or default in paying wages, or pay them in forms other than money. Seamen are not always paid at regular intervals. The amount of wages outstanding at the end of a voyage may well be considerable. It is more important to them than to many shore-based employees that their wages should be promptly and properly paid, as Section 7 requires. If I may interrupt myself at that point, I will write to the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East about the matter he raised in connection with the balance of seamen's wages held by the Department. I have no wish to withhold any information from him which I may have. However, it will take a bit of time before the hon. Gentleman receives the information.

For shore-based employees not within the scope of the Truck Acts there nothing to prevent an employer from retaining any part of an employee's wages to meet an alleged debt, leaving an employee to sue for his wages if he wishes to dispute the debt. That would apply in the case of a seagoing employee also were it not for Section 7. Furthermore, Section 7 places a seaman in a more favoured position than a shore-based employee—even one who has had the benefit of the Truck Acts—because the Truck Acts make no provision for payment of interest on overdue wages.

It is necessary, however, to balance Section 7 with the provision which enables an employer to recover from a seaman's wages sums properly due to him. That is the purpose of Section 9 and the regulations made under it. The regulations under Section 9 were agreed by the National Maritime Board, on which both sides of the shipping industry are represented. They are subject to a limitation imposed by the terms of the crew agreement, which in the case of seamen employed under the National Maritime Board Agreement means that deductions in respect of a breach of the agreement can be made only for those breaches which the board have agreed entail liability for deduction. The amount of deduction for such a breach must be no more than the ascertainable loss incurred by the employer, subject to a maximum amount which has been agreed by the National Maritime Board.

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will find that of some help. I should explain that Section 10 provides for appeal to one of the Department's mercantile marine superintendents, or to a proper officer overseas, in the case of a dispute between an employer and a seaman about the amount payable to a seaman under a crew agreement. Although the section requires that both parties must appeal before a superintendent can deal with the dispute, I understand that it has been agreed between the representatives of the employers and the seaman that if the seaman wishes to appeal, the employers will agree to the dispute being referred to a superintendent or a proper officer.

The whole purpose of the provisions is to provide for a prompt settlement of these matters without recourse to the lengthy process of law. The regulations do this in a fair and reasonable way, and with adequate safeguard for the seaman. However, if there is disagreement about that and if we find that the regulations do not work out in practice as we hope, they can be reviewed. It is trite to say that they are constantly under review, but if we find cases where we fail in our intention, or where inequity results from action that has been taken with good intention, we shall look at it at the time when it comes up, rather than set ourselves a distant time-scale within which to go to a review.

Perhaps I can leave the matter at this point. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman still speaks for the National Union of Seamen, but he and other hon. Members who speak with an identical voice on matters of this kind should not feel that they will be ignored by the Department. It is a matter of balance and a matter of negotiation. Basically it is in many cases a matter of common sense.

Turning to the Barrow Deep, I must say that having looked at the charts, I think that if the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford were able to come over to this side of the House and look over my shoulder he would agree that he must be fairly well out at sea by the time he gets there, whatever the lines on the map may say. I understand that the place where the activities of the sludge dumping vessels reach their culmination is a fair way out down the estuary and, I believe, capable of being seen to be outside the partially smooth water areas—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Erith and Crayford makes a point about the 10-hour return. It takes less than 10 hours to get from Dover to Calais by ferry. It may even take less than 10 hours from Stranraer to Larne. There have been nasty seas and tragic accidents in those waters. It is an over-simplification to suppose that because it appears to be a short journey it involves no danger, no rough water and no other vessels in the seaway. I do not think the hon. Gentleman means to suggest that.

Mr. Wellbeloved

Can the hon. Gentleman define the line on the Admiralty chart of the smooth and partially smooth water areas?

Mr. Onslow

I do not think it is the same in summer as in winter; in summer the partially smooth water areas lie within a line from Clacton pier to Reculver and in winter from Colne Point to Whitstable. I am glad that the hon. Gentleman and I have been to the same source for our information. The hon. Gentleman said that half a mile either way the sea was not likely to be noticeably smoother. I do not believe that we need to dwell too long in dispute on this. I have other things to tell the hon. Gentleman that I believe he will wish to know.

In any case, there is little doubt in the minds of the mariners, the masters, the experts on these conditions, that the vessels are fairly and squarely at sea when they go out there. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would like to try it when the service is resumed. I understand that he has volunteered to go on the first boat out.

The background to the dispute is much as the House has been told. The GLC operates five vessels, each of about 2,000 tons gross for the purpose of dumping sludge, which is carried from the GLC works at Beckton and dumped at Barrow Deep, a round voyage of about 45 miles. The dumping grounds are outside the partially smooth water limits laid down for compliance with the Merchant Shipping (Life-saving) Rules 1965, but marginally within the PLA harbour limits, which have recently been substantially extended to allow for the prospective Maplin Sands developments. That extension may alter lines on the map, but probably does not make much difference to the water.

The GLC takes the view that in the course of their regular voyages the vessels go to sea. Having taken legal advice, the Department is inclined to agree. The GLC is not prepared to allow its vessels to go to sea unless the requirements of Section 1 are complied with. That is the origin of the difficulty. It is not a lock-out but a genuine legal difficulty in which the GLC finds itself unless it can satisfy the requirements of the Act by which it is bound.

There is a dispute. It is unofficial, but the GLC has, I understand, had meetings with the men and the unions which represent them—the Transport and General Workers' Union and the National Union of Public Employees. It has also discussed the matter with the Merchant Navy and Airline Officers' Association, which represents the officers. The view of the MNAOA is understood to be that the vessels are sea-going and that the men should be employed under crew agreements and subject to the disciplinary regulations. The GLC is exploring ways of reaching a settlement, which will have to take account of the views of both the officers and the men.

Mr. McNamara

Will the Minister accept that the men sailed under articles before but that the GLC staff agreement applied to them? Why cannot he suggest now that if the men are prepared to sign the articles the staff agreement will nevertheless apply to them?

Mr. Onslow

That is a matter not for me but for the GLC. However, I have seen articles of the type which I understand were signed without question and complaint, and I must say, if the anxiety of the men is about their liability under the Act to deduction of wages, that those articles seem to have exposed them to more stringent penalties, such as the deduction of a day's pay.

The inferences to be drawn from the situation are not for me to analyse, but it is perhaps fair to bear in mind that there is another side to the coin of being regarded as seagoing. The hon. Member for Erith and Crayford said that the men had never regarded the ships as seagoing. But other sections of the Act, notably Section 71, under which discharge books are supplied to seamen, apply only to seagoing ships, and I understand that the men have not hesitated to apply for such books and thereby at least to indicate that they do not dispute the proposition that the vessels are seagoing.

Nevertheless, in response to requests from both sides to the dispute, guidance has been given on the effect of the 1970 Act and the regulations. The GLC has been informed that in the event that they wish to use provisions in a crew agreement in addition to or in place of approved provisions consideration will be given to the request. It has also been indicated that the Department would give consideration to any request for administrative exemption from the requirements of Section 1—crew agreements. But if the GLC is correct in its view, with which we agree, that these are sea-going vessels, the disciplinary offences regulations will apply; but, as explained above, they provide only that a fine may be imposed.

I hope that I may be forgiven if I do not allow myself to be drawn any further, because I want to give assurance on the other matters which the hon. Member raised. His language was a little colourful; that must have been the effect of listening to the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Hull, East. On the issue of health hazards I can assure him that there is no indifference to the health of his constituents on the part of the Government or, I believe, on the part of the GLC. I am advised that the GLC consulted its medical officers today and they were satisfied that there is no medical risk. They say that the sewage is treated and any smell is minimal. Storage in lagoons has only recently started. If the lagoons have more than one foot of sludge in them they are being fenced.

I do not say that the hon. Member must take this from me, I can pass on to him an offer from the GLC that facilities will be given to him to visit these lagoons tomorrow morning in company with the GLC medical adviser. After this debate

I can give him two telephone numbers which he can ring to make arrangements. I have no doubt that he will receive enormous publicity over this. I am sure that he will take particular care not to fall in, but he will find conditions so safe that that danger does not beset him I hope that I have given him the indication that there is no danger and that the GLC will be glad to explain the circumstances.

I am aware that in a relatively short time I have had to cover a great deal of ground, and I am conscious of the fact that I have left out much of what I wanted to say. I am also conscious that the hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness asked questions which I have not answered and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke) made a point about conspiracy which I certainly can confirm. I am sorry that I was not able to hear the whole debate, but I put it fairly to the House that there is a matter here where there may be dispute and disagreement and at the end of the day a vote, and the reasons for that vote go back deep into time. I hope, however, that taking a vote will not be taken as indicative of basic disagreement that we all want to see safety and good conditions for men in this industry as I believe the Government wish to see in all other sections of the industry of this country.

Question put, That the Merchant Shipping (Disciplinary Offences) Regulations 1972 (S.I., 1972, No. 1294), dated 17th August 1972, a copy of which was laid before this House on 25th August, in the last Session of Parliament, be withdrawn.

The House divided: Ayes 125, Noes 144.

Division No. 44.] AYES [9.39 p.m.
Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis) Coleman, Donald Fisher, Mrs. Doris (B'ham,Ladywood)
Armstrong, Ernest Concannon, J. D. Fitch, Alan (Wigan)
Ashton, Joe Cunningham, Dr. J. A. (Whitehaven) Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)
Atkinson, Norman Dalyell, Tam Ford, Ben
Barnett, Joel (Heywood and Royton) Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Galpern, Sir Myer
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove) Gilbert, Dr. John
Bishop, E. S. de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey Gourlay, Harry
Blenkinsop, Arthur Dempsey, James Grant, John D. (Islington, E.)
Boardman, H. (Leigh) Doig, Peter Griffiths, Will (Exchange)
Booth, Albert Dormand, J. D. Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.
Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur Douglas-Mann, Bruce Hamilton, James (Bothwell)
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Duffy, A. E. P. Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)
Campbell, I. (Dunbartonshire, W.) Eadie, Alex Hamling, William
Carmichael, Nell Edwards, William (Merioneth) Hannan, William (G'gow, Maryhill)
Clark, David (Colne Valley) Ellis, Tom Hardy, Peter
Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.) Evans, Fred Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)
Cohen, Stanley Fernyhough, Rt. Hn. E. Hart. Rt. Hn. Judith
Heffer, Eric S. Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy Sillars, James
Horam, John Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert Skinner, Dennis
Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Mendelson, John Small, William
Howell, Denis (Small Heath) Millan, Bruce Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)
Hughes, Mark (Durham) Miller, Dr. M. S. Smith, John (Lanarkshire, N.)
Hughes, Roy (Newport) Mitchell, R. C. (S'hampton, Itchen) Spearing, Nigel
Janner, Greville Murray, Ronald King Spriggs, Leslie
Jones, Barry (Flint, E.) Ogden, Eric Stallard, A. W.
Kaufman, Gerald O'Halloran, Michael Steel, David
Kelley, Richard Orme, Stanley Stoddart, David (Swindon)
Lambie, David Oswald, Thomas Strang, Gavin
Lamond, James Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, Sutton) Tinn, James
Latham, Arthur Parry, Robert (Liverpool, Exchange) Urwin, T. W.
Lawson, George Perry, Ernest G. Varley, Eric G.
Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick Prescott, John Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Probert, Arthur Watkins, David
Lyon, Alexander W. (York) Reed, D. (Sedgefield) Wellbeloved, James
Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.) Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy (Caernarvon) Whitehead, Phillip
McBride, Neil Roderick, Caerwyn E. (Br'c'n&R'dnor) Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
McCartney, Hugh Roper, John Woof, Robert
McElhone, Frank Rose, Paul B.
McGuire, Michael Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
McNamara, J. Kevin Rowlands, Ted
Marks, Kenneth Sandelson, Neville Mr. Joseph Harper and
Marquand, David Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne) Mr. John Golding.
Marsden, F. Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)
Marshall, Dr. Edmund Silverman, Julius
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Grylls, Michael Monks, Mrs. Connie
Archer, Jeffrey (Louth) Gummer, J. Selwyn Monro, Hector
Atkins, Humphrey Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm.
Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone) Haselhurst, Alan Mudd, David
Balniel, Rt. Hn. Lord Havers, Sir Michael Murton, Oscar
Biffen, John Hawkins, Paul Nabarro, Sir Gerald
Biggs-Davison, John Hayhoe, Barney Neave, Airey
Blaker, Peter Higgins, Terence L. Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.) Hiley, Joseph Normanton, Tom
Boscawen, Hn. Robert Hill, John E. B. (Norfolk, S.) Onslow, Cranley
Bossom, Sir Clive Hill, James (Southampton, Test) Osborn, John
Bowden, Andrew Holt, Miss Mary Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.)
Bryan, Sir Paul Hornby, Richard Page, Rt. Hn. Graham (Crosby)
Buchanan-Smith, Alick(Angus,N&M) Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame Patricia Page, John (Harrow, W.)
Buck, Antony Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.) Parkinson, Cecil
Butler, Adam (Bosworth) Hunt, John Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis
Campbell, Rt. Hn. G. (Moray & Nairn) Hutchison, Michael Clark Redmond. Robert
Chapman, Sydney James, David Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)
Churchill, W. S. Jennings, J. C. (Burton) Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Clark, William (Surrey, E.I Jessel, Toby Ridley, Hn. Nicholas
Clegg, Walter Jopling, Michael Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Cooke, Robert Kaberry, Sir Donald Scott Nicholas
Coombs, Derek Kellett-Bowman, Mrs. Elaine Shelton, William (Clapham)
Corfield, Rt. Hn. Sir Frederick Kershaw, Anthony
Cormack, Patrick Kilfedder, James Shersby, Michael
Critchley, Julian King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.) Skeet, T. H. H.
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Maj.-Gen. Jack King, Tom (Bridgwater) Soref, Harold
Kinsey J. R. Speed, Keith
Dean, Paul Knight, Mrs. Jill Spence, John
Digby, Simon Wingfield Knox, David Stanbrook, Ivor
Dodds-Parker, Douglas Lane, David Stewart-Smith, Geoffrey (Belper)
Dykes, Hugh Langford-Holt Sir John Stokes, John
Eden, Rt. Hn. Sir John Sutcliffe, John
Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) Le Marchant, Spencer Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)
Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.) Longden, Sir Gilbert Tebbit, Norman
Eyre, Reginald Loveridge, John
Luce, R. N. Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)
Fenner, Mrs. Peggy MacArthur, Ian Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)
Fidler, Michael McCrindle, R. A. Trew, Peter
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Maclean, Sir Fitzroy Tugendhat, Christopher
Fookes, Miss Janet McMaster, Stanley Turton, Rt. Hn. Sir Robin
Fortescue, Tim McNair-Wilson, Michael Waddington, David
Foster, Sir John Madel, David Walder, David (Clitheroe)
Fowler, Norman Mather, Carol Ward, Dame Irene
Fox, Marcus Mawby, Ray Weatherill, Bernard
Gibson-Watt, David Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Wiggin, Jerry
Goodhew, Victor Meyer, Sir Anthony Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Gower, Raymond Mitchell, Lt. -Col. C. (Aberdeenshire, W)
Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.) Moate, Roger TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Gray, Hamish Molyneaux, James Mr. Hugh Rossi and
Green. Alan Money, Ernle Mr. Kenneth Clarke.

Question accordingly negatived.

Motion made, and Question put, That the Merchant Shipping (Seamen's Wages and Accounts) Regulations 1972 (S.I. 1972, No. 1700), dated 9th November 1972, a

copy of which was laid before this House on 17th November, be withdrawn.—[Mr. Booth.]

The House divided: Ayes 125, Noes 144.

Division No. 45.] AYES [9.48 p.m.
Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis) Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Orme, Stanley
Armstrong, Ernest Hamilton, William (Fife, W.) Oswald, Thomas
Ashton, Joe Hamling, William Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, Sutton)
Atkinson, Norman Hannan, William (G'gow, Maryhill) Parry, Robert (Liverpool, Exchange)
Barnett, Joel (Heywood and Royton) Hardy, Peter Perry, Ernest G.
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Prescott, John
Bishop, E. S. Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith Probert, Arthur
Blenkinsop, Arthur Heffer, Eric S. Reed, D. (Sedgefield)
Boardman, H. (Leigh) Horam, John Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Booth, Albert Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Roderick, Caerwyn E. (Brc'n&R'dnor)
Bottomley Rt. Hn. Arthur Howell, Denis (Small Heath) Roper, John
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Hughes, Mark (Durham)
Campbell, I. (Dunbartonshire, W.) Hughes, Roy (Newport) Rose, Paul B.
Carmichael, Neil Janner, Greville Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)
Clark, David (Colne Valley) Jones, Barry (Flint, E.) Rowlands, Ted
Cocks, Michael (Bristol S.) Kaufman, Gerald Sanderson, Neville
Cohen, Stanley Kelley, Richard Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)
Coleman, Donald Lambie, David Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)
Concannon, J. D. Lamond, James Sillars, James
Cunningham, Dr. J. A. (Whitehaven) Latham, Arthur Silverman, Julius
Dalyell, Tam Lawson, George Skinner, Dennis
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick Small, William
Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove) Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)
de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey Lyon, Alexander W. (York) Smith, John (Lanarkshire, N.)
Dempsey, James Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.) Spearing, Nigel
Doig, Peter McBride, Neil Spriggs, Leslie
Dormand, J. D. McCartney, Hugh Stallard, A. W.
Douglas-Mann, Bruce McElhone, Frank Steel, David
Duffy, A. E. P. McGuire, Michael Stoddart, David (Swindon)
Eadie, Alex McNamara, J. Kevin Strang, Gavin
Edwards, William (Merioneth) Marks, Kenneth Tinn, James
Ellis, Tom Marquand, David Urwin, T. W.
Evans, Fred Varley, Eric G.
Fernyhough, Rt. Hn. E. Marsden, F. Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Fisher, Mrs. Doris (B' ham, Ladywood) Marshall, Dr. Edmund Watkins, David
Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy Wellbeloved, James
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert Whitehead, Phillip
Ford, Ben Mendelson, John Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Galpern, Sir Myer Millan, Bruce Woof, Robert
Gilbert, Dr. John Miller, Dr. M. S.
Gourlay, Harry Mitchell, R. C. (S'hampton, Itchen) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Grant, John D. (Islington, E.) Murray, Ronald King Mr. Joseph Harper and
Griffiths, Will (Exchange) Ogden, Eric Mr. John Golding.
Grimond, Rt. Hn. J. O'Halloran, Michael
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Digby, Simon Wingfield Higgins, Terence L.
Archer, Jeffrey (Louth) Dodds-Parker, Douglas Hiley, Joseph
Atkins, Humphrey Dykes, Hugh Hill, John E. B. (Norfolk, S.)
Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone) Eden, Rt. Hn. Sir John Hill, James, (Southampton, Test)
Balniel, Rt. Hn. Lord Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) Holt, Miss Mary
Biffen, John Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.) Hornby, Richard
Biggs-Davison, John Eyre, Reginald Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame Patricia
Blaker, Peter Fenner, Mrs. Peggy Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.)
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.) Fidler, Michael Hunt, John
Boscawen, Hn. Robert Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Hutchison, Michael Clark
Bossom, Sir Clive Fookes, Miss Janet James, David
Bowden, Andrew Fortescue, Tim Jennings, J. C. (Burton)
Bryan, Sir Paul Foster, Sir John Jessel, Toby
Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N&M) Fowler, Norman Jopling, Michael
Buck, Antony Fox, Marcus Kaberry, Sir Donald
Butler, Adam (Bosworth) Gibson-Watt, David Kellett-Bowman, Mrs. Elaine
Campbell, Rt. Hn. G. (Moray&Nairn) Goodhew, Victor Kershaw, Anthony
Chapman, Sydney Gower, Raymond Kilfedder, James
Churchill, W. S. Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.) King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)
Clark, William (Surrey, E.) Gray, Hamish King, Tom (Bridgwater)
Clegg, Walter Green, Alan Kinsey, J. R.
Cooke, Robert Grylls, Michael Knight, Mrs. Jill
Coombs, Derek Gummer, J. Selwyn Knox, David
Corfield, Rt. Hn. Sir Frederick Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Lane, David
Cormack, Patrick Haselhurst, Alan Langford-Holt, Sir John
Critchley, Julian Havers, Sir Michael Le Marchant, Spencer
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Maj. -Gen. Jack Hawkins, Paul Longden, Sir Gilbert
Dean, Paul Hayhoe, Barney Loveridge, John
Luce, R. N. Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael Stanbrook, Ivor
MacArthur, Ian Normanton, Tom Stewart-Smith, Geoffrey (Belper)
McCrindle, R. A. Onslow, Cranley Stokes, John
Maclean, Sir Fitzroy Osborn, John Sutcliffe, John
McMaster, Stanley Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.) Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)
McNair-Wilson, Michael Page, Rt Hn. Graham (Crosby) Tebbit, Norman
Madel, David Page, John (Harrow, W.) Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)
Mather, Carol Parkinson, Cecil Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)
Mawby, Ray Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis Trew, Peter
Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Redmond, Robert Tugendhat, Christopher
Meyer, Sir Anthony Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.) Turton, Rt. Hn. Sir Robin
Mitchell, Lt. -Col. C. (Aberdeenshire, W) Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon Waddington, David
Moate, Roger Ridley, Hn. Nicholas Walder, David (Clitheroe)
Molyneaux, James Roberts, Wyn (Conway) Ward, Dame Irene
Money, Ernie Scott, Nicholas Weatherill, Bernard
Monks, Mrs. Connie Shelton, William (Clapham) Wiggin, Jerry
Monro, Hector Shersby, Michael Wylie, Rt. Hn. N. R.
Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm. Skeet, T. H. H.
Mudd, David Soref, Harold TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Murton, Oscar Speed, Keith Mr. Hugh Rossi and
Nabarro, Sir Gerald Spence, John Mr. Kenneth Clarke.
Neave, Airey
Question accordingly negatived.

Mr. Speaker: I understand that the other Prayers and motions are not being moved.

Mr. Booth: That is correct.

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