HC Deb 07 June 1976 vol 912 cc905-7
18. Mr. Gould

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what proposals he has to bring forward a new Merchant Shipping Bill.

19. Mr. Prescott

asked the Secretary of State for Trade whether he will introduce new merchant shipping legislation in the next parliamentary Session to include repeal of disciplinary sections of the present Merchant Shipping Acts, pilot legislation and safety provision.

Mr. Clinton Davis

I propose to introduce new merchant shipping legislation dealing primarily with stafety standards, pilotage, discipline, the limitation of damages payable to seafarers and the carriage of passengers as soon as a place can be found in the parliamentary timetable.

Mr. Gould

Is my hon. Friend aware that there is growing impatience in the industry, particularly among the trade unions, to see this legislation brought forward? Will he therefore perhaps give consideration to even a short Bill for next Session to deal with the most pressing of these issues?

Mr. Davis

I think that my hon. Friend, who was associated as a Parliamentary Private Secretary until recently with the Department of Trade, knows that the impatience of the whole industry, shipowners and trade unionists alike, is fully shared by me. There is a very strong case for a Merchant Shipping Bill in the very near future, but I do not know whether it will be necessary to have a truncated version.

Mr. Adley

Will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind the danger of the breaking of the current animal quarantine regulations by animals brought into this country by merchant ships? Will he give an assurance that this aspect will be taken into consideration by his Department when the new legislation is being framed?

Mr. Davis

I am not sure that that question would fall within the ambit of a Merchant Shipping Bill. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to alert me to some specific evidence, no doubt he will write to me.

Mr. Prescott

Is my hon. Friend aware that our seafarers will not continue any longer to operate under archaic disciplinary conditions and safety legislation which is carried by recommendation and not regulation? Will he consider in the proposed legislation closing the loopholes which have allowed wages not to be guaranteed to seamen in some cases, as in Maritime Fruit Carriers, and will he bear in mind what has happened in the North Sea oil industry with the exploitation of cheap foreign labour by United Towing Company and others, about which I have written to him?

Mr. Davis

My hon. Friend, who has a considerable knowledge of these matters—I pay him a tribute for all the help he has given to me and to my right hon. Friends in the matter of shaping the new legislation—will be aware that the points affecting discipline and safety are very much in the forefront of my mind, and the disciplinary matters were the subject of a unanimous report on the part of the whole industry. I am looking at the other matters to which he referred, as he well knows.