HC Deb 05 August 1975 vol 897 cc420-1

12.30 a.m.

Mr. Walker

I beg to move Amendment No. 196, in page 87, line 44, leave out '49, 50'.

Since we drafted the Bill, there has been fresh evidence on the basis of which we no longer feel that an outright exclusion of all seamen from Clauses 49 and 50 can be justified. Clearly, there will still be circumstances where an employer or his agent could not reasonably be expected to allow time off, but the duty on employers is only to do what is reasonable in all the circumstances. We think that the code of practice supporting these clauses will be able to outline reasonable and unreasonable circumstances.

However, I must tell my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott), who is very anxious about this matter, that we still feel that it is right that Clause 51, which places a duty on employers to allow reasonable time off for the performance of certain public duties, should not be applied to seamen. It could, at best, benefit only a very few seamen; public duties of the kind covered by this clause cannot of course be performed on board ship, and nor can public bodies organise their meetings to suit the likely availability of seamen. We have therefore concluded that Clause 51 should not be applied to merchant seamen in present circumstances. If circumstances change, the Secretary of State may by order change the application of the clause, as is provided for in Clause 107(15).

Mr. Prescott

I will not detain the House for more than one minute. I want to put on record my grateful thanks to the Government for this amendment and for recognising that seamen do not have to be excluded from the rights granted to other workers.

I do not accept the argument for exclusion from the provisions of Clause 51. Many seamen are already magistrates or serve on statutory tribunals and education authorities. Councillors and other public representatives can and do carry out their duties adequately—especially with the number of short trips many of them are now doing.

I do not intend to press the matter further tonight, but I note that the Secretary of State would be prepared to consider a review if there are further representations.

Amendment agreed to.

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