HC Deb 16 March 1981 vol 1 cc13-4
15. Mr. James Johnson

asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he will set up an inquiry into the current system of provisional registration for shipping, following the abuses in the case of the "Tiger Bay", which ran aground on a voyage to Riga in the winter of 1980.

Mr. Eyre

The facility of provisional registration is under examination as part of a general review of the registration provisions of the Merchant Shipping Act 1894. It is our intention to introduce new legislation as soon as possible after the review has been completed.

Mr. Johnson

Does the Minister admit that the 1894 legislation allows registration without inspection or survey? Does not that amount to the "flag-of-convenience" process, albeit under our own flag?

Mr. Eyre

The hon. Gentleman fairly acknowledges that the legislation has applied since 1894. Under the Merchant Shipping Act there is provision for the master to take certain steps if a ship is not seaworthy. We shall bear in mind the case of the "Tiger Bay", but we do not have evidence of widespread abuse.

Mr. Skinner

Is the Minister aware that in the past three-quarters of an hour the Department of Trade has set up half a dozen quangos to watch various matters and six committees to take other matters into consideration and that a further half a dozen matters are being put under review? How many more civil servants will all that require?

Mr. Eyre

The first Merchant Shipping Act was passed in 1894. Instead of criticising us for not doing anything about it, the hon. Gentleman should accuse his right hon. and hon. Friends.

Mr. Clinton Davis

Is the Minister so ignorant that he does not recognise that there was a substantial change in the law relating to merchant shipping in 1978? Does he accept that the "Tiger Bay" incident illustrates the fact—as my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. Johnson) said—that substandard shipping can join the British register, as admitted by his noble Friend Lord Trefgarne? When will the law be changed to ensure that permanent and provisional registration will be conditional upon inspection and survey?

Mr. Eyre

The changes in 1978 that the hon. Gentleman mentions did not relate to this loophole. I have made it clear that the review will take account of the considerations mentioned by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. Johnson).