HL Deb 26 November 1996 vol 576 cc53-100GC

Tuesday, 26th November 1996.

The Committee met at half-past three of the clock.

[The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Burnham) in the Chair.]

Lord Berkeley moved Amendment No. 58:

After Clause 11, insert the following new clause— TRANS-SHIPMENT OF OTHER CARGOES ("The Secretary of State shall, no later than 1st November 1997, lay before both Houses of Parliament proposals for a Scheme setting out the requirements to be met by ships involved in the trans-shipment of cargoes, including oil cargoes, to which section 11 of this Act does not apply.").

The noble Lord said: I rise to speak to Amendment No. 58 set down in the name of my noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis and the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley. This amendment is in the shape of a probing amendment, continuing what the Committee discussed yesterday about how the various clauses in the Bill will be moved into regulations. The Committee discussed this matter yesterday and the Minister was very helpful in giving us some information about how it might go forward, but I for one am left with a great deal of uncertainty about what will be in all these regulations, and when they may appear. We discussed the matter in relation to klondyking, in terms of moving ships to other locations or safety, and waste facilities.

I thought it might be helpful if I drew to the attention of the Committee something which arose in relation to the Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Bill in the last Session, which I took some part in. There were great complications in relation to adjudication procedures for sorting out construction contracts, and there was a provision for a scheme of construction contracts which explained how the provisions of the Act, as it became, would operate in practice. After some prodding the Government very kindly produced a draft scheme for consideration, I believe at the Committee stage in your Lordships' House. It was very much a draft, and the Minister dealing with it said so, but it helped us understand the thinking behind some of the clauses involved and it contributed to significant improvements in the text of the Bill during its passage in your Lordships' House.

We have heard a great deal about the consultation which the Government have had and propose to have with various authorities, but I wonder whether the Minister could help us with some kind of timescale as to when these various regulations might be brought in. Obviously we are very pleased that the Minister is so keen to have consultation, and he is even having two sets of consultation, which is very laudable, but it is important that these regulations come into force quite quickly. I for one would be pleased not only to hear a timetable, but also a timetable for some first drafts of what might be in some of the regulations. Although this amendment is directed to Clause 11 concerning klondyking, if the Minister was able to help us on a more general timetable and preliminary text it would be extremely helpful. I beg to move.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Viscount Goschen)

I have listened very carefully to the explanation behind what the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, was seeking. On the specific point of what his amendment seeks to achieve, I can be helpful and tell the Committee that the Secretary of State already has powers, under Section 130 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995, to make regulations in relation to the transfer of cargo stores, bunker fuel or ballast between ships. That addresses the intention, I would say, behind this amendment.

In addition, I can go further and say that my department's Marine Safety Agency is preparing regulations to govern transfer operations between ships, and will consult soon with the shipping industry, local authorities and other interested parties. As we heard yesterday, there is clear justification for extensive consultation on these matters to get the regulations right and to make sure that they are not over-burdensome, but at the same time as effective as possible. That consultation will occur soon, as we are quite close to having the draft regulations on which consultation would occur. We are talking in terms of timescale of around two months, to give the noble Lord the answer to his question about the timetable.

Lord Berkeley

I am grateful to the Minister for that clarification. Did I understand him to say that the draft regulations would be available in two months for consideration, possibly at the Report stage of the Bill?

Viscount Goschen

What I indicated was that I hope that, within that timescale and possibly sooner, the Marine Safety Agency will be in a position to go out to consultation on regulations under Section 130 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995. The noble Lord might be slightly confused in thinking that it has a direct relation to this Bill; this Bill amends the 1995 Act. However, even without this Bill, even if we were not considering it, there would still be regulation-making activity and the MSA would still he going to consultation on this issue. I cannot be any more specific in terms of timing. I hope that the timescale I have given to the noble Lord is at the outside limit and that the consultation with the industry will occur within that timescale.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

It struck me that the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, was less confused than optimistic expecting these regulations to be produced over Christmas.

Lord Berkeley

I am very grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, for pointing that out to me. I probably was being highly optimistic, and I accept that of course a consultation on the Merchant Shipping Act is a different thing. Bearing in mind the whole tenor of these discussions, it would be helpful if perhaps the Minister could reflect on the timescales for producing the regulations that we have been discussing so far in this Committee—when they would be produced and how long the consultation would be. I am sure the Minister shares my concern that time is running out, and we would certainly not wish to see anything happen of an accidental nature, or anything else, which could have been prevented by a more speedy process of producing the regulations and consultation.

Viscount Goschen

I believe that I have answered the noble Lord pretty fully. What he is talking about is a different Bill, in effect, for the consultation on the regulations governing the transfer of cargo stores, bunker fuel or ballast. With regard to the regulations that are contained within this Bill, clearly in some instances I have been able to say "as soon as possible" or "directly after Royal Assent"—those sort of words. There are other regulation-making powers and enabling powers, and we have said with some of those powers that we would not want to go forward with them before a certain event occurred. So the general answer to the noble Lord is, "in as timely a manner as the circumstances dictate".

Lord Berkeley

I will not detain the Committee any longer. I shall read very carefully what the Minister has said and reflect on it. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 12 agreed to.

Schedule 2 [Funding of maritime services]:

Lord Beaumont of Whitley moved Amendment No. 59: Page 27, line 10, at end insert— (" "counter-pollution capacity" means emergency standby towing capacity and essential clean-up equipment, including aerial spraying, ship spraying and aerial surveillance capability and routine aerial surveillance operations; dispersant stockpiles; beach cleaning and at-sea equipment stockpiles; and cargo-transfer and salvage equipment stockpiles;").

The noble Lord said: This amendment is grouped with Amendment No. 68. The purpose of these amendments is to implement Recommendations 95 to 98 of the Donaldson report and the Government's responses thereto in Command 2766.

Recommendations 95, 96 and 98 call for the establishment of two separate funds: one for port state control and the other for emergency response; and also the publication of clear, separate accounts. In Command 2766 the Government did not demur; in fact, there was support in principle for the publication of separate accounts.

In the debate on 7th November (col. 746 of Hansard) the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donaldson, emphasised that the point of having two funds was to ensure that, in so far as the industry does pay, its payments should be ring-fenced and should not be used by the Treasury as an additional source of taxation. The noble Earl, Lord Caithness, also supported this view (at col. 763). We also believe that there should be a requirement on the Secretary of State to consult industry periodically on the state of each fund and the levels of charges.

I have every hope that the Government, having made that reply in their responses to the Report, will indeed accept these amendments. I beg to move.

Lord Greenway

I have some sympathy with this amendment. It is important, when we are trying to work out this new system of charging, that we look very carefully at ring-fencing these charges. It might well also apply to the General Lighthouse Fund, which we shall discuss shortly. I understand that it is early days yet and there is still a good deal of discussion taking place about how to raise these charges. I hope the Minister and his department will consider carefully any ring-fencing proposals which are put forward.

Viscount Goschen

The specific amendments that the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, has spoken to are Amendment No. 59 concerning definition and Amendment No.68 concerning the fund itself, as proposed in his amendment. Perhaps I could explain the Government's thinking behind these issues.

Amendment No. 59 would include in Schedule 2 an itemised definition of "counter-pollution capacity". We have broadened the definition of maritime services that may be charged for since we published our consultation draft. In our view, the definition used in that version of the Bill was not flexible enough to cover all the possible services we might wish to charge for. We need to cater for the scope of any international agreement which may be reached. The definition proposed in the amendment does indeed cover most of our present expenditure on counter-pollution activity, but it omits, for example, the staff costs of the Marine Pollution Control Unit, which might be a possible item to charge for.

It is also possible that there may be other items of counter-pollution expenditure which we cannot anticipate now but which may arise in the future. For these reasons, we believe that the more flexible definition in the Bill before the Committee today is the preferable approach. I can assure the Committee that we would consult interested parties before bringing forward any regulations. In particular, we would have to prepare a compliance cost assessment which would need to quantify the amount of expenditure for which we were seeking to charge.

With regard to the changes suggested by Amendment No. 68, I recognise that the proposal to establish funds, which the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, spoke to, flows from the recommendations of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donaldson. It is government policy to provide for the creation of separate funds only under prescribed circumstances. Appropriate levels of control and parliamentary scrutiny are ensured for other public revenue by their payment into the Consolidated Fund.

Broadly, the conditions which would both need to be met are that the revenue raised directly offsets the expenditure incurred directly and that there is a clear and demonstrable link between the payment of a specific charge by an individual and the receipt of a specific service by that individual. An example of this for comparison is the costs of inspecting vehicles. They are covered by separate specific fees which relate to the inspection and which are then used to fund the Vehicle Inspectorate. I provide that merely as an example to illustrate the case. That would not be the case for a marine pollution response. The standing costs of maintaining an adequate response capacity cannot be attributed to any particular individual, but any ship may need to call on them and may benefit from their availability. Where appropriate, the charging schedule would allow us to continue to recover some costs by direct fees, although we would never recover the same costs by more than one means; in other words, we certainly would not be double charging.

I also assure the Committee that, if charges were introduced, we would provide transparency by publishing accounts every year showing the amount raised and the expenditure incurred. We would thus ensure that the spirit of one of the recommendations of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donaldson, was met: namely, that there should be full cost recovery, with charges sufficient but not more than is required to meet the costs, taking one year with another.

I also assure the Committee that we would consult the shipping industry on the level of charges; in particular, we would publish a compliance cost assessment which would take account of the industry's views on the structure of charges. Finally, I emphasise that any charges would apply to both UK and foreign ships.

I hope that I have been able to give the Committee the background to the Government's thinking behind the charging proposals, in particular with regard to the specific considerations concerning definition, counter-pollution response—the first of the noble Lord's amendments—and the issue of setting up a fund, which was the second one.

3.45 p.m.

Lord Clinton-Davis

I should like to ask the Minister a number of questions arising from the report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donaldson, and the Government's response to it in relation to Recommendations 95 to 97.

One of the points that was made in relation to Recommendation 95 was that there should be wide consultation. The Minister has referred to consultation with the industry, but consultation was recommended in the report with partners in the Paris Memorandum of Understanding as far as the system of charging to be adopted was concerned. It was also recommended that other partners in the Paris Memorandum of Understanding states should be encouraged to set up similar systems in the long term.

The progress report in the document issued by the Government on 7th November does not mention any of those points at all, nor has the Minister alluded to that in his comments. Perhaps he will elaborate on that point.

Recommendation 96 said that the Government should set up a second new fund to pay for an emergency response and it dealt with what the fund should cover. Whether we agree with it or not, the Minister has done his best to answer that point.

On Recommendation 97, however, the Government are again encouraged to consult with their European partners on the general principles of charging, but this should not be allowed to delay the setting up of a UK fund. Has any discussion taken place with any of the parties mentioned in relation to Recommendations 95 and 97? So that we can look at this in the round, it is important to see what the Government have done in that respect.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

May I say a word about Amendment No. 68 to which the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, spoke. The first matter is the degree of parliamentary scrutiny. The Scrutiny Committee quite rightly, in my respectful submission, said that while there is a question of appropriation of money, if there is to be subordinate legislation the appropriate way of legislating is for the matter to be considered on affirmative resolution by the House of Commons. That entirely fits in with the concession since the 17th century, with a slight hiccup in 1909 and 1910 by your Lordships, that the other place has exclusive cognisance of those matters. That begs the question: should there be subordinate legislation at all on this matter?

The second thing is the Consolidated Fund, to which the noble Viscount referred. As your Lordships know well, the great revolution in public finance was the institution of the Consolidated Fund previously when some duty was imposed. When some act had to be performed which cost money, a charging provision providing for revenue was attached. In other words, revenue was hypothecated to the particular purpose. The great virtue of the Consolidated Fund was that all income—I mean not only revenue but capital—coming into the Exchequer was paid into the Consolidated Fund. The Government, with the assent of the House of Commons—in theory, at any rate—appropriated it according to their expenditure priorities.

What we have here is a proposal to allot capital to the Consolidated Fund. So far so good, but whose capital? It was generally agreed that the General Lighthouse Fund was the property of the shipowners. If the funds were to be wound up on every financial principle, the money should be returned to the owners and not transferred to the Consolidated Fund. That is a fundamental objection to the provisions which the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, proposes to leave out in order to substitute his provision. I confess I am not entirely with him because if the funds, which are the shipowners' property, are to be wound up, it is almost as objectionable to transfer them to some new fund as to transfer them to the Consolidated Fund.

The final matter which I refer to without very much hope of anybody taking notice relates to the words in line 24, page 30, with the consent of the Treasury". I have repeatedly objected to that phrase not because Treasury consent is not desirable, but because it is quite unnecessary to say so. The machinery of government takes care that Treasury consent is required and forthcoming on such occasions. I am sure the noble Viscount will bear me out when I say that he has a Treasury official almost as close to him as the officials of his own department. He shakes his head. If so, he is very lucky indeed.

I venture to support the proposal of the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, that Amendment No. 68 is desirable—

[The Sitting was suspended for a Division in the House from 3.55 to 4.2 p.m.]

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

I was in the middle of a sentence when the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, not for the first and I fear not for the last time, shut me up. That was before the noble Lord in the Chair rose indignantly to adjourn the Committee. I have only a little more to say.

My objection was transferring what is the shipowners' money either to the Consolidated Fund or to the new fund which the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, favours. It is wrong in principle. The money should be returned to the people who own it if it is no longer required for the specific purpose. Any new funds which require to be financed should be financed separately. One can argue about whether dues should be hypothecated at all to the new funds, but we should not transfer the shipowners' money to the new funds or to the Consolidated Fund.

I just want to add this. I could not help noticing that there crept into the tone of the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, an all too frequent detestation of the Treasury. The word can hardly be said in this House without a hiss of hatred, but unless the Treasury kept the accounts we should be in a very sad mess. Having said that, I venture to support the noble Lord in his desire to excise those words, and I would like more consideration to be given to what should be substituted.

The Earl of Caithness

Contrary to what was said by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, I hope that my noble friend does have a Treasury official close by him. Having been a Minister in that department, I believe that it is extremely good that such officials are present because of the vital role that they play. I wonder whether, with due respect to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, we are not slightly treading into the next group of amendments. I know that this is a very important area that needs consideration.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

If I may intervene, I believe the noble Earl is certainly right. It is rather confusing because the linkage is not simply numerical. We are discussing Amendment No 68. I believe that Amendment No. 67 is grouped with the next amendment. I am sorry if I confused noble Lords, but I believe the noble Earl is right in drawing attention to that.

The Earl of Caithness

I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord, because I, too, have found some difficulty in this and I did not want to digress too far away from the point of the amendment. Perhaps I may advise the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, that I agree with what my noble friend the Minister said with regard to Amendment No. 59. I believe that it is too restrictive. I hate the idea of listing counter-pollution capacity because this is such a variable issue. With modern technology going the way that it is, as soon as one has prepared a list and got it in print, as sure as anything something will come along that is not included on it. It may be exactly what we need and what the agency would like but we cannot use either because it is not in the regulations, or because the cost of it cannot be claimed back because it is not in the regulations. With regard to the other matters, I will wait until we come to the next group of amendments.

Viscount Goschen

I thank my noble friend Lord Caithness for showing us where exactly we are on the Marshalled List. The points to which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, referred are pertinent, but there is probably likely to be a more wide-ranging debate on the issue of the General Lighthouse Fund, possibly with either the next group of amendments or the one after that.

Just for clarification—not that we in your Lordships' House refer to people other than your Lordships during our proceedings—perhaps I should point out that I am not aware of any Treasury official within shall we say 50 yards of where I am sitting. Nonetheless, I am sure I stand to be corrected.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, queries the "Treasury consent needed" phrase within the Bill. I believe I have heard the noble and learned Lord refer to that matter before; it is an ongoing campaign of his. I understand that the consent of the Treasury is now a standard provision in fees and charging regulations, so that particular dispute is ongoing and relates to all legislation.

The noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, asked me a number of questions about consultation. The consultation to which I was referring was very specifically within—

Lord Clinton-Davis

Are we going back?

Viscount Goschen

I am addressing the amendment. We are still on Amendments Nos. 59 and 68 which we were debating before we broke off.

Lord Clinton-Davis

I did not speak to that amendment.

Viscount Goschen

The noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, did speak to this amendment and he asked me a number of extremely pertinent questions which appear to have eluded him. I am not sure whether that means that I am not obliged to answer him, in which case he was obviously thinking that my reply would be so devastatingly accurate that it would not require him to listen to the point. Nonetheless, for the sake of other noble Lords present, and even with the noble Lord's reduced circumstances and his lowered lectern, perhaps I might answer them very briefly.

The consultation to which I referred was very much with regard to the industry and interested parties in the UK. However, I have made a number of references both at Second Reading and indeed here in Committee to our desire to see an international agreement on the charging issue. That, of course, raises the wider implication of consultation beyond the United Kingdom which was troubling the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis. We have raised both these points with both our Paris MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) partners and our EU partners.

At the last Transport Council there was agreement that the Commission should consider the user pays principle for maritime services. The question of user pays now rests primarily with the European Union. Initiatives at the IMO are also being considered. That covers the questions about which doubt was expressed earlier.

The question raised by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, concerned the ownership of the General Lighthouse Fund. As I have indicated, we shall have more detailed discussions about the issue later. The noble and learned Lord asserted that the fund was essentially owned by the shipowners, but it is not quite as clear-cut as that. It is a fund—the GLF has a clear statutory basis as a separate fund—but no ownership of it is specified in the legislation. Section 211, however, specifies that the fund shall be administered by the Secretary of State, which is what happens; that the accounts of the fund shall be examined each year by the Comptroller and Auditor General and certified by him; and that the Secretary of State shall lay copies of the accounts before each House.

There are a number of occasions when it is not possible to point the finger of ownership clearly at either funds or assets that essentially form part of a trust. I do not believe that it is quite as clear as the noble and learned Lord intimated. Nonetheless, I am sure we shall have a further discussion about the issues behind the General Lighthouse Fund, and I look forward to that discussion.

I hope I have answered the points raised with specific relevance to the two amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, one of which had regard to specific definitions of what should be included in counter-pollution capacity for charging purposes, and also to the question of the separate fund.

Lord Clinton-Davis

I apologise for the lapse of memory which arose as a result of the Division. When I was in South Africa recently—my memory is not what it was—I was installed as a member of a society called CRAFT (Can't Remember A Flipping Thing)!

As far as the location of the Treasury official is concerned, the Minister seems to be confident that there is nobody around from the Treasury, but it is possible that he could be bugged, and then the results could be leaked to all of us—as they were yesterday!

I find it strange—I suppose it might well have happened during a period of a Labour Government too—that the words "with the consent of the Treasury" should be imported into the legislation. I would have thought it was otiose, notwithstanding what the Minister has said, because one assumes that when the Secretary of State makes regulations he does so on behalf of the whole Government, including the Treasury. It does seem extraordinary. It was Winston Churchill who once described the Treasury as "an inverted Micawber, waiting for something to turn down". But I must not be rude about the Treasury because we may have a Labour Treasury in the not-too-distant future, and presumably it will do all the same things and incorporate these words into legislation in the future also.

I find it extraordinary that there should be this additional format. The mere fact that the Minister says that it has been done now because it is common form does not add to the logic of including those words. Perhaps he would like to look at it with his Treasury colleagues. They will turn it down, of course, but perhaps we should look at such things when we are scrutinising legislation because it seems to me to be absolutely absurd.

4.15 p.m.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley

I am grateful to the noble Viscount for the various assurances that he gave in his first speech on the amendment. I must take away some of the other things that he said, work them out on the back of an envelope and, if necessary, come back at a later stage. The same applies to the contributions from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, and the noble Earl, Lord Caithness.

Referring to what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, said, I do not really have a hiss in my voice when I speak of the Treasury, at least not nearly as big a hiss as I have in my voice when I speak of the Home Office. But I have no hiss in my voice when I speak of the department which might be represented here if we were allowed to refer to it being represented here. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley moved Amendment No. 60: Page 27, leave out lines 11 and 12.

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 60 and to speak to the other amendments to which your Lordships referred in the previous debate. The purpose of Amendments Nos. 60, 63 and 67 is to delete from the Bill the power of the Secretary of State to replace by statutory instrument the current system of light dues and direct charges and to wind up the General Lighthouse Fund. Those provisions were not proposed in either the February consultation paper on maritime charges or in the draft Bill published in July. No pre-warning of their inclusion was given to the Chamber of Shipping or the Lights Advisory Committee prior to publication of the Bill on 24th October 1996.

For about a century the provision of aids to navigation by the three GLAs—Trinity House, the Northern Lighthouse Board and the Commissioners of Irish Lights—has been funded by ships calling at British ports, with modest contributions from the Irish Government and the Royal Navy in more recent years. The GLF is, in effect, a private fund of shipowners' moneys existing in order to fund the GLAs' statutory responsibilities. This is treading on ground that we covered slightly on the previous amendment. The role of the Secretary of State is one of administration. He is effectively the trustee of the fund.

This private status was confirmed by the Government in evidence to the Public Accounts Committee in 1982. The Treasury saw the GLAs' services as, provided by the private sector for the private sector",

without recourse to public money and therefore not classified as "public expenditure". The then Department of Trade considered that their function was, something more akin to that of a trustee".

That is from the evidence to the Public Accounts Committee on 28th June 1982.

In addition to providing certainty for the funding of GLA expenditure, despite yearly variations, and to cover for various contingencies (thereby providing greater stability for light dues), the earnings of the GLF reserves provide an additional contribution—currently some £1.5 million to £2 million. A 2 per cent. rise in current rates would be needed to recoup this.

The LAC supports the principle of user pays—the LAC being the lighthouse group even though the UK's light dues system, which collects nothing from major classes of navaid users, particularly leisure craft, is a poor model. The Government have the power under existing legislation to widen the scope of light dues; the proposed new powers would not assist that process.

There is some discussion within the European Union of user pays principles regarding navigational aids. The UK Government in particular have sought endorsement of this principle from the Transport Council and have promoted a study within DG VII on potential European light dues. These initiatives are far from bearing fruit and the study remains unfinished. Should further progress be made there would undoubtedly be considerable time between the emergence of detailed proposals and their implementation by all member states, sufficient to prepare and consider any primary legislation required. In any case, the Department of Transport has admitted that further primary legislation would quite likely be required.

At this juncture it is difficult to imagine the type of internationally agreed proposals that would be incompatible with the continued rule of the GLF as a conduit for funding the GLAs.

In a substantial debate on November 7th, the Second Reading debate, the noble Lord, Lord Greenway, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, and the noble Lord, Lord Cooke of Islandreagh, expressed the above concerns forcibly, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donaldson, and the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, emphasised the importance of a ring-fenced fund approach. The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, probed further in his winding-up speech. In his reply the Minister apologised for the lack of consultation and, while repeating his assertion that the new powers should be taken now, undertook to "read extremely carefully" what had been said before the next stage of the Bill.

Nothing that was said by the Minister has calmed the fears of the shipping industry. The right approach, therefore, is to seek withdrawal of the sections of Schedule 2 that refer to the GLF.

The main points for debate I have set out and, in addition, the following questions are pertinent. There is now apparently an evaluation by the Department of Transport of the relationship between the GLF and any fund to meet the costs of a marine emergency (see Hansard, col. 777). This has not been published or seen by the industry. Can it be released? Another question which is pertinent is: what are the characteristics of an international agreement that could be incompatible with the continued levying of light dues by the GLAs?

Finally, I would like to seek assurances about the fate of the pension fund. That is a matter which is always of great importance to your Lordships when passing legislation, and this particular pension fund will need to look at its position fairly carefully because the General Lighthouse Fund acts as the pension fund for the three general lighthouse authorities. I beg to move.

Lord Greenway

I certainly support the thrust behind this grouping of amendments because in many ways it echoes what I am trying to achieve in Amendment No. 69, which we shall come to later. As the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, has said, I spoke at Second Reading on the question of the General Lighthouse Fund and admitted my interest as a Younger Brother of Trinity House, which I do again willingly.

As the noble Lord said, the main problem here is that feathers were ruffled because somehow, somewhere there was a slip-up in the consultation process. The Minister apologised for that at Second Reading and I take that very much in the spirit in which it was offered. Nevertheless, there is still a considerable degree of upset among the general lighthouse authorities and indeed the Lights Advisory Committee. As I shall explain later when I come to move my amendment, we would prefer the whole schedule dealing with raising charges to be left as it was when it was discussed earlier this year. It is the additions to the schedule that have upset everyone, and included in that is the contingent proposal to move the General Lighthouse Fund, if need be, into the Consolidated Fund at a later date.

I remain to be convinced that these powers which the Government seek are necessary at the moment. They are looking for powers to cope with a different system of funding which may have to be introduced because a new method of funding may be created by our European partners. We are looking some considerable way into the future. I know discussions are going on, and the present Government are very keen to persuade our European colleagues that our system of user pays—the light dues system—is the best one, and I would be delighted if they could indeed persuade our continental friends to go down this line as quickly as possible.

However, we all know what happens in matters European. They tend to be very convoluted. They take an extremely long time, and we are looking at something here that may happen one day or may not happen, and I cannot see the necessity of including these contingent provisions in this Bill for something that may never happen. It was not something that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donaldson, mentioned in his excellent report. This is going somewhat wider than his recommendations. I remain very much to be convinced on this, and I hope that the Minister will enlighten us more on the Government's thinking behind these provisions, which have been added since the consultation process took place earlier this year.

Lord Clinton-Davis

I want to raise one or two matters. I promise to remember that I have raised them when the Minister comes to reply. Incidentally, I say parenthetically that the reason I asked for a change as far as the Dispatch Box was concerned was that I could not see noble Lords opposite, and in particular my old sparring partner Lord Caithness, and I thought that was a disadvantage.

[The Sitting was suspended for a Division in the House from 4.26 to 4.36 p.m.]

Lord Clinton-Davis

As I was saying, the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, said at the very beginning of his remarks that the provisions we are considering here were not included in the February consultation paper on maritime charges, nor in the draft Bill which was published in July. There was, indeed, a very short period of consultation of about four weeks as far as that was concerned. Whatever the merits of the argument may be, the Government did slip up by not providing for consultation on that matter with the Chamber of Shipping and indeed others who had a direct involvement in the issue. Included in that would be the LAC (Lights Advisory Committee). The Government therefore owe an explanation to the Committee as to why that occurred. It may well be that there were good reasons for it, although I cannot think of any. If there was a mistake, it would be as well to acknowledge it.

The noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, referred to discussion within the European Union about the user pays principle. As I understand it, the Government have power under current legislation to widen the scope of light dues, so how would the new powers assist in the process if, in fact, that provision is already embodied in existing legislation? Is it, on the other hand, the Government's desire to widen the scope of lighthouse dues? This is relevant, and I rose at this stage because I thought it important that the Minister should have the opportunity to reply to those additional points.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

I rise to support Amendment No. 60 and particularly to support what has been said by my noble friend Lord Greenway. I have already been caught out by the noble Earl straying into this area when discussing the previous amendment, which in fact has the following number. I was rather encouraged to do that because the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, the arch intervener, allowed me to go on. The noble Baroness on these occasions sits there rather like an oriental goddess of destruction—in one hand the Bill, in a second hand the list of amendments, in a third hand the groupings, and in the fourth hand a thunderbolt. As it was not hurled at me, I went on!

I need only add this. As my noble friend has pointed out, and as the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, has pointed out on another point, this provision is completely unnecessary. It gives the Secretary of State power to adopt the draft financial provisions which your Lordships last considered if he thinks it is necessary to bring our provisions into line with the European regulations or international law.

The first thing to be said about that is that it is highly unlikely that there will be any such conflict in the code. As the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, pointed out at Second Reading, at present it is proposed that the user pays and, as I understand it, that is the way the Community thinking is tending. I see that the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, who knows both sides of this business, nods, but perhaps the noble Viscount can confirm that.

What is being done is to take a power to be operated in the unlikely event of it being required. Secondly, the Secretary of State is not a fountain of all wisdom when it comes to a legal judgment. I do not refer particularly to the Secretary of State of the department, because there is only one Secretary of State in law. We have seen time and time again in recent years how the Government have been mistaken in their view of the law. That is the second reason why this sort of provision is undesirable.

The third reason is this. It will be used as a precedent even if it is not used for the purpose for which it is designed. Last century, the poets spoke of freedom broadening down from precedent to precedent. What we have seen this century is bureaucracy broadening down from precedent to precedent. It is highly undesirable to establish such a precedent, particularly since it is unnecessary, as has been pointed out, and, thirdly, because in no way does the Bill depend on this provision.

4.45 p.m.

Viscount Goschen

I would like to thank all noble Lords who have spoken in the debate on this very important subject. As I said at Second Reading, I feel that the provisions of the Bill have generated considerable anxiety, not least among the general lighthouse authorities. Perhaps part of the reason was the fact that there was not extensive consultation on these provisions of the Bill. I regret that, and feel it is my duty at this stage to attempt to allay the fears that have been voiced around this table, and indeed by people concerned with the General Lighthouse Fund and authorities outside the chamber.

At the time of consultation on the draft Bill in June we thought that it would be possible to bring in any necessary consequential changes to light dues using secondary legislation under the European Communities Act. We have since concluded that we could not do this because the particular financial measures need primary legislation. That is why the draft Bill said one thing and the final Bill said another. However, that does not mean that we should not attempt to put the position right. That is essentially what we have sought to do with this Bill.

I listened very carefully, also, to the words of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, on the subject. The one point which I did not accept was that because the courts have occasionally found against the Government it would be unwise to write anything into a Bill which meant that the Secretary of State would have to interpret the law. I have not expressed that very well, but I thought that was the thrust of what the noble and learned Lord was saying.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

If the noble Viscount would allow me, surely Ministers and the Executive are not the people to interpret the law. Our constitution vouchsafes that to courts of law.

Viscount Goschen

I certainly agree with the noble and learned Lord, and it would be very unwise of me to enter into a legal argument with such an authority on the subject of the constitution as the noble and learned Lord. Nonetheless, Ministers continually have to take decisions that involve being presented with legal advice by our legal advisers, and Ministers have to take decisions on the basis of that advice. Those decisions are occasionally challenged in the court; sometimes the Government win and sometimes they are found against. Nonetheless, Ministers have to take decisions, and they are advised by competent legal advisers. If people seek to challenge those decisions then of course the court is the authority which decides whether the Ministers acted correctly or not. I do not suppose I have expressed that in a very concise manner, but I understand that that essentially is the situation.

Going beyond that specific point, I would like to explain again the Government's thinking on this issue, and where we feel we are now. Schedule 2 makes provision for a range of new charges to recover the cost of maritime services. But such a system already exists for the more limited purpose of paying for aids to navigation, and we have heard some of the history from the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont. Briefly, ships pay light dues when they enter British and Irish ports, and those dues are paid into the General Lighthouse Fund. The fund is managed by the Secretary of State and disburses revenue to the three GLAs. These three GLAs maintain lighthouses and other aids to navigation out of this revenue. The General Lighthouse Fund is separately accounted for, in effect it is ring-fenced and there is a transparent account of these transactions.

In drafting the Bill, we needed to consider the position of the General Lighthouse Fund as it was a living example of the sort of system which Schedule 2 envisages. That is why the two issues of seeking to generate a wider charging system and the charging system on a much more limited basis, already in place in the UK are linked. Let me say at once that we are content with the present operation of the GLF, but we did not wish to decide now to exclude the light dues from being considered when a new international agreement had been developed. So it seemed sensible to make provision on the face of the Bill for contingent powers to amend or to abolish the GLF. At the same time we wished to be as clear as possible on the circumstances in which it might become necessary to alter the GLF. There are references in paragraphs 3 and 12 of Schedule 2 to show what would happen and the mechanics thereof when a new charging system came into being. To address some of the earlier concerns, the important point here is that these provisions leave unaffected the constitution and main responsibilities of the three general lighthouse authorities. Indeed, the only mention of the GLAs in the Bill is in their capacity as collectors of light dues.

Paragraph 3 of the schedule makes clear that the Secretary of State will have no power simply to incorporate the General Lighthouse Fund into any new arrangements. Two preconditions are set out on the face of the Bill. First, there must be a European Community or other international obligation which envisages the incorporation of lighthouse expenditure with other marine services within a new payment structure. Secondly, those obligations must be incompatible with continuing the present lighthouse fund arrangements under Part VIII of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995. If the new international arrangements were compatible with continuing the present arrangements, the present arrangements would continue, and that is a very important point indeed. The noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, felt that it was unlikely that such wider agreement would come forward. In that case, the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, has no need whatever to be concerned about this part of the Bill, because that precondition would not be met. Therefore, there would be no triggering of the consequential provisions about which there has been considerable discussion.

There is a third precondition before the Secretary of State can act, which has already been perceived. In introducing a new charging system by regulation, the Secretary of State would need to subject his proposals to the affirmative resolution procedure, so requiring parliamentary debate on specific proposals. There is no question of the Secretary of State, under these provisions, being allowed to amend the present arrangements at will. As was mentioned during Second Reading, the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee has looked at the powers in Schedule 2 to amend the primary legislation. It has concluded that the affirmative resolution procedure, which is stipulated in the schedule, provides: the appropriate degree of Parliamentary control". Paragraph 12 makes consequential provisions for the General Lighthouse Fund, and it is subject to the same constraints or preconditions. Occasionally, we have heard the point made that paragraph 12 would allow a "raid" on the General Lighthouse Fund by the Exchequer. This is not realistic. The fund is prudently managed, indeed with the advice of the shipping industry as the Lighthouse Advisory Committee. It does not represent a huge reserve, and it has definite obligations, both towards expenditure on maintaining and replacing aids to navigation, and also towards paying the pensions of employees and former employees of the three general lighthouse authorities. I would like to deal with that point, as I was asked specifically by the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, at the end of my remarks.

If, therefore, the preconditions set out in the Bill were met, and if in those circumstances, the Secretary of State decided to bring forward proposals for the abolition or merger of the General Lighthouse Fund, it is evident that he must also make arrangements for the continuation of the obligations now falling to the fund's resources. The point is evident, but if it would reassure the Committee, I would be quite happy to repeat that assurance.

If, however, we accepted these or similar amendments we would perpetuate a division between, on the one hand, lighthouse expenditure and the General Lighthouse Fund and, on the other, the funding arrangements to support the other maritime services with which Schedule 2 is concerned. The point of view that we have taken is that we already have an existing system which achieves part of what we are trying to achieve within Europe and wider; that is a user pays system, but we are trying to take that wider. We do not feel that we could ignore what we already have when we were considering proposals to bring about a wider system.

Several noble Lords, during the Second Reading debate, and indeed the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, during the course of your Lordships' Committee stage, raised the question of prematurity. It certainly is the case that there are no existing European or international obligations which would trigger these provisions. However, as we have heard, there has been some support in the European Community and we have initiated the call for studies which would bring such an arrangement about. In other words, it is not just a theory but it is an active proposal and it is something for which we felt we had to make provision.

On the specific question of pensions activity, the GLAs' collective pensions cost some £10 million per annum. The GLF published accounts include a statement that the Secretary of State will seek to ensure that annual reserves are maintained at sufficient levels to meet the pension liabilities. The Government's view is that this is a secure and sensible way of paying GLA pensions. We are effectively charging pensions through light dues against the maritime trade of Britain and Ireland, a population of 60 million. Since 90 per cent. of our trading requirements are met by sea, there is a very secure base indeed for sustaining pension liabilities.

Our forecasting obviously relies heavily on the GLAs themselves, but the current view is that the pension liability will peak in the year 2001 at about £10.5 million and will decline thereafter. The duty already falls on the Secretary of State to specify matters of funding under Section 214 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995. It is clear that any arrangements under this Bill which may imply a contingent change to the GLF do not change the duty on the Secretary of State to determine the form of pensions. At present—again quoting from the GLF accounts—the Secretary of State must determine that the rules of the Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme shall apply.

In summary on the pension question—which is important and was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont—we would expect, if it proved necessary to activate Schedule 2, paragraphs 3 and 12, that the normal rule of no worsenment would apply in respect of pensions, while the details of funding would obviously depend on the detail of international agreement, as we have heard. That is a powerful assurance with regard to the important matter of pensions, and I hope it will be considered.

I have listened very carefully to noble Lords who have argued that such preparatory legislation is wrong in principle, but I do not believe that to be the case. We have had to make provision for what might happen as a result of a wider agreement.

The noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, drew attention to the GLF issues. A number of noble Lords have commented on them. I hope what I have been able to say this afternoon has given further assurance to noble Lords and others who are concerned about the GLF. I hope I have been able to reassure the Committee about the specific points on which there have been concerns and, therefore, the specific reasons why we have brought forward the proposals. However, I feel that this is again an important issue and one on which the discussion will continue. If the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, wishes to withdraw his amendment, the discussion can certainly continue at another stage of the Bill. I have no doubt that between now and that stage further discussions can occur beyond the precincts of your Lordships' House.

Lord Clinton-Davis

It has been said that there was no extensive consultation and that this produced anxiety. Was there any consultation? If there was only limited consultation or no consultation, what is the explanation for that? After all, we rely in matters of this kind on the Minister's department to ensure that there is adequate consultation precisely to allay anxieties and, more than that, to ensure that the department—which does not have a monopoly of wisdom in these regards—is able to take advantage of the expertise and experience of those who ought to be properly consulted. The Minister owes the Committee a little more substantial explanation because we do not want this to become a precedent. I know it is not uncommon for mistakes to be made, but if that can be acknowledged we can move on.

I am not seeking to capitalise on this matter. It is just that under any government this sort of thing can occur and it is not good. It is not good for the practice of democracy. It is not good for Ministers themselves, who ought to have access to the view of people who are alive to the situation affecting their industry and, for that reason alone, ought to be consulted. I would ask the Minister, before this debate is concluded, whether he would enlarge a little on that point. It may well be that there is a perfectly good explanation, but the Committee is entitled to hear it.

5 p.m.

The Earl of Caithness

Before my noble friend replies, I would like to take up the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, and use the phrase used by the noble Lord, Lord Greenway—"feathers have been ruffled". I can understand that, particularly with regard to the shipping industry. My noble friend has given a very honest admission and has apologised to all those concerned. I hope we can move forward from that, and that the department has learned the lesson that consultation, particularly on an issue such as this, is advisable.

It seems that we share much common ground. We are all on common ground that the user should pay, which relates quite clearly to the shipping industry and the costs incurred as a result of its activities. The noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, said there are existing powers, and I know he is right, but the existing charging regime can be widened—for instance, to the leisure industry, which, in all equity, ought to pay its fair share for navigational aids.

I hope my noble friend will confirm, however, that the existing legislation is not broad enough, which is one of the reasons why we need items in this schedule. There are certain costs which are borne which we cannot claim back and which ought to be claimed back under the user pays principle.

Having said that, there is the downside which I mentioned at Second Reading, which takes me back to the preamble of the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, to his speech at Second Reading, which is that this will incur extra cost, if we are the only country to impose these costs, because it will impose costs on shipping and on our ports that perhaps our European partners will not impose. That will lead to a distortion of trade and extra costs.

On the question of Europe, having listened to what my noble friend says, it appears that the situation has moved forward quite markedly from what I remember with regard to an acceptance of the user pays principle. It is on this point that I believe that the Government are now right to include these provisions. I know that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, says that there is no agreement yet. But, having listened to what my noble friend said and noting the quite substantial improvement there has been in three or four years, this provision is worth keeping in the Bill because of the other matters which are set out in paragraph 3. That is the big "if' at the beginning which limits the Secretary of State's powers quite considerably, and then subparagraphs (a) and (b) follow on.

I do take note of the concern of the shipping industry, but I also feel that the explanation given by my noble friend has been a good one, worthy of merit.

Viscount Goschen

I would like to thank my noble friend Lord Caithness for his points with regard to the situation of charging and user pays.

My noble friend is quite right that we do need the additional powers given in this legislation to charge on a wider basis for a different set of services—for the counter-pollution and other services that are detailed in the Bill. We could not simply use existing legislation to achieve that, so my noble friend is right.

Secondly, I strongly acknowledge the point about unilateral action and the effect on competitiveness in this country. This country takes the competitiveness of UK industry extremely seriously. At Second Reading I went to considerable lengths to emphasise that our very firm preference is for action with regard to an international agreement, for the very reasons my noble friend raises. I am grateful to him for raising those points. It has enabled me to give that assurance a second time.

With regard to the consultation, I feel that the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, is perhaps going over old ground. I have sought to provide an honest explanation with regard to our then understanding of the European legislation and our change of view subsequent to the consultation exercise. That is the reason why there was no specific consultation on this measure, and I regret that. I regret the fact that, because of this change of view, no consultation occurred on that specific proposal, and indeed I made an apology to that effect at the Second Reading stage of your Lordships' consideration of the Bill. This was not so much an oversight as a change of view about what was and was not possible. That is the reason why we have come to the situation now; and I certainly regret that the lack of consultation has caused rather more feathers to be ruffled than I suspect would have been the case otherwise. There is nothing I can add to that. It is the policy of the Government to consult as widely as possible and gain as much detail as possible. Indeed, we covered that in earlier amendments when the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, was remarking on the level of consultation that the Government generally undertake.

I hope I have given an explanation of why the situation has occurred. I regret it. But I hope that with the assurances that I have been able to give, we can take the discussion on from there.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley

I would like to thank the Minister for the detailed explanations and also for the assurances that he has given. A number of those assurances are particularly welcome, including the one about pensions. I would like to take this matter away and look at it again. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn. [Amendments Nos. 61 to 63 not moved.]

Lord Beaumont of Whitley moved Amendment No. 64: Page 28, leave out lines 10 to 16 and insert— ("(4) In particular—

  1. (a) regulations under paragraph 2(2)(a) above may not impose a charge in respect of a ship where no action has been or is being taken with a view to enforcing international shipping standards in the case of that ship:
  2. (b) regulations under paragraph 2(2)(b) above may impose a charge in respect of a ship even though no action has been or is being taken with a view to preventing, reducing or minimising the effects of pollution from that ship; and
  3. (c) regulations may provide that no charge is imposed in respect of a ship which does not exceed a prescribed tonnage or does not exceed a prescribed length.").

The noble Lord said: The purpose of this amendment is to ensure that charges in connection with port state control are not levied on the good ship or on ships that are not subject to port state inspection. Charges in connection with port state control should not be levied on ships which are either in the first place not selected for inspection or found on inspection to be in compliance with the international standards. Charges should only be levied on those ships found deficient. In particular, UK-flag ships are not subject to port state control in the UK but they are already subject to flag-state control for which charges are raised.

I realise that if the good ships do not have to subsidise the bad ships that may keep them good, but there is no reason to think they will not keep good anyway. I beg to move.

Viscount Goschen

I have listened carefully to what the noble Lord had to say about this group of amendments and I understand the noble Lord was speaking to Amendment No. 64 on its own. The thrust behind the amendment would preclude charging in respect of which no action is being taken to enforce international shipping standards. Action would typically be a survey or an inspection, whether a UK ship under flag state control or a foreign ship under port state control. We do not feel that such a restriction would be appropriate. The shipping industry as a whole benefits from the application of international standards on safety and pollution, and it is right that the industry as a whole should pay. I emphasise that any charging regime would apply both to UK and foreign ships.

I am not sure that the noble Lord is quite right in what he says about UK ships already paying for flag state control. There are some fine differences to point out here. They would pay for surveys but it is my understanding that that would not be the case for ad hoc inspections. There is a technical point between us here. I should like to ascertain the definitive position for him. If he will allow, I shall write to him with those details and circulate that to Members of the Committee who have shown an interest because it is an important point. Essentially the Government believe that the industry as a whole benefits, so the industry as a whole should pay; otherwise one would simply be imposing a change to the fee regime.

I hope that the noble Lord will await my letter on the details of who pays what for what. We might take that matter up if the noble Lord is not satisfied with my explanation.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley

I shall await the Minister's letter with avidity. In the meantime I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley moved Amendment No. 65: Page 28, line 43, at end insert ("and any charges imposed shall be reasonable").

The noble Lord said: The purpose of Amendments Nos. 65 and 66 is that there should be an overriding requirement that charges imposed are reasonable, and that there should be an appeals procedure against the level of charges. Recommendation 98 of the Donaldson Report calls for, charges sufficient, but not more than is required".

In their response to Recommendation 98 in Cmnd. 2766, the Government supported that in principle and therefore I imagine that they will accept the amendments. I beg to move.

The Earl of Caithness

Could there not be a case where a shipowner thinks that something is reasonable but it does not cover the cost?

Viscount Goschen

My noble friend has made a reasonable point on that issue. Amendment No. 65, as the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, has described, would require charges to be reasonable.

I do not believe that including such a requirement in primary legislation is necessary. I understand that there is no precedent for such a provision in any of the existing regulations which cover the fees charged at present. The requirement for the regulations to be subject to affirmative resolution provides a sufficient safeguard against excessive charges. In addition, as I said earlier, we would publish a compliance cost assessment before introducing regulations. We would also publish accounts showing the amount raised through charges and the associated expenditure.

The presumption, therefore, is that Government will act in a reasonable way, and that is the precedent that has been set throughout all the other regulations. I see the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, showing some mirth at the idea of government acting reasonably; it often occurs!

Amendment No. 66 imposes a requirement that regulations must provide for appeals against both decisions that charges are due and the amount of charges. Again, we do not believe that that is necessary. We would expect there to be an appeals mechanism against decisions that charges are due, and paragraph 10 specifically provides for that. However, we do not believe that this need cover the amount of charges; the requirement for affirmative resolution is a sufficient safeguard. Indeed, there is a direct parallel with light dues. There are no such provisions for appeal as to the amount of the dues. That is a precedent which we should consider carefully.

For those reasons I ask the noble Lord to think again about the amendments.

We all support reasonableness, but we have an existing system whereby that reasonableness is already built in.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley

I shall certainly take the matter away and look at it, but for once, I both understand the answers and accept them. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 66 to 68 not moved.]

5.15 p.m.

Lord Greenway moved Amendment No. 69: Leave out Schedule 2 and insert the following new Schedule—



1. After section 302 of the 1995 Act there is inserted—

"Funding of counter-pollution measures etc. 302A. Schedule 11A (funding of counter-pollution measures etc.) shall have effect. 2. After Schedule 11 to the 1995 Act there is inserted— SCHEDULE 11A FUNDING OF COUNTER-POLLUTION MEASURES ETC. Charges in connection with port state control 1. Regulations under this Schedule may make provision imposing charges for the purpose of recovering the whole or a part of any costs incurred by the Secretary of State in connection with any of his functions which—

  1. (a) are exercised through the Marine Safety Agency; and
  2. (b) are functions of enforcing international standards relating to—
    1. (i) the safety of ships;
    2. (ii) the prevention of pollution from ships; or
    3. (iii) living and working conditions on board ships.
Charges in connection with prevention etc. of marine pollution 2. Regulations under this Schedule may make provision imposing charges for the purpose of recovering the whole or a part of any costs incurred by the Secretary of State in connection with his functions under section 293.

Charges in connection with setting of standards 3. Regulations under this Schedule may make provision imposing charges for the purpose of recovering the whole or a part of any costs incurred by the Secretary of State in connection with his functions which—

  1. (a) are exercised through the Marine Safety Agency; and
  2. (b) are functions of establishing, developing or monitoring standards relating to
    1. (I) the safety of ships; or
    2. (ii) the prevention of pollution from ships.
Ships in respect of which charges may be imposed 4.—(1) Regulations under this Schedule may not require a charge to be paid except in respect of—
  1. (a) a ship which has entered a port in the United Kingdom; or
  2. (b) a ship which is anchored within 500 metres of an installation which is in United Kingdom waters or a part of the sea specified by virtue of section 129(2)(b).
(2) Nothing in any regulations under this Schedule shall be construed as requiring a charge to be paid in respect of a ship which is exercising—
  1. (a) a right of innocent passage through the territorial sea, Or
  2. (b) a right of transit passage through any straits used for international navigation, unless the charge is for a specific service rendered.
(3) Subject to sub-paragraphs (1) and (2) above, the regulations may impose a charge in respect of such description of ship as may be prescribed. (4) In particular—
  1. (a)regulations under paragraph 1 above may impose a charge in respect of a ship even though no action has been or is being taken with a view to enforcing international shipping standards in the case of that ship;
  2. (b) regulations under paragraph 2 above may impose a charge in respect of a ship even though no action has been or is being taken with a view to preventing, reducing or minimising the effects of pollution from that ship;
  3. (c) regulations under any of paragraphs 1 to 3 above may provide that no charge is imposed in respect of a ship which does not exceed a prescribed tonnage.
(5) For the purposes of sub-paragraph (I) above, the circumstances in which a ship shall be regarded as entering a port in the United Kingdom include circumstances in which the ship enters any United Kingdom waters which are regulated or managed by a harbour authority. (6) In sub-paragraph (1)(b) above "installation" means an installation which is—
  1. (a) an offshore installation within the meaning of the Mineral Workings (Offshore Installations) Act 1971; or
  2. (b) to be taken to be an installation for the purposes of sections 21 to 23 of the Petroleum Act 1987.
Persons by whom charges to be paid 5.—(1) Regulations under this Schedule may not require a charge to be paid in respect of a ship by a person who is not—
  1. (a) the owner of the ship;
  2. (b) the person registered as the owner of the ship;
  3. (c) the operator of the ship;
  4. (d) the manager of the ship;
  5. (e) the charterer of the ship; or
  6. (f) the agent of a person mentioned in any of paragraphs (a) to (e) above.
(2) Subject to sub-paragraph (1) above, charges imposed by the regulations shall be payable by such persons as may be prescribed. Amount of charges 6.—(1) Regulations under this Schedule may impose a charge—
  1. (a) of a fixed amount, or
  2. (b) of an amount determined in accordance with the regulations,
and may, in particular impose any charge authorised by sub-paragraph (2), (3) or (4) below. (2) Regulations under paragraph I above may impose in respect of a ship a charge whose amount depends on—
  1. (a) whether action has been or is being taken with a view to enforcing international shipping standards in the case of that ship; and
  2. (b) if action has been or is being so taken, the nature of the action.
(3) Regulations under paragraph 2 above may impose in respect of a ship a charge whose amount depends on—
  1. (a) whether action has been or is being taken with a view to preventing, reducing or minimising the effect of pollution from that ship; and
  2. (b) if action has been or is being so taken, the nature of the action.
(4) Regulations under any of paragraphs 1 to 3 above may impose in respect of a ship a charge whose amount depends upon the ship's tonnage. Collection and recovery, etc. 7. Regulations under this Schedule may make provision—
  1. (a) with respect to the collection and recovery of charges; and
  2. 77
  3. (b) for charges which fall due under the regulations but which are not paid to carry interest.
8. Regulations under this Schedule may make provision for appeals against decisions that charges are due in respect of ships.

Miscellaneous and supplementary 9. Any sums received in consequence of regulations under this Schedule shall be paid into the Consolidated Fund. 10.—(1) Regulations under this Schedule shall be made by the Secretary of State with the consent of the Treasury. (2) In this Schedule "prescribe" means prescribe by regulations." ").

The noble Lord said: The Committee will be pleased that I do not intend to rake over the ground we covered a few moments ago when the Minister gave a very full explanation of the Government thinking behind the possible proposals for winding down the General Lighthouse Fund.

My amendment, which seeks to replace the present Schedule 2 in the Bill with the Schedule 2 that appeared in the draft Bill, and therefore has been consulted upon by all parties, is in many ways a probing general amendment to air the whole subject again. This we have already done.

I should like to reinforce what the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, said about light dues in general. This is a user pays system. It has worked extremely well for a great number of years. I know there are arguments from time to time on the part of shipowners that it costs too much and the ports argue that it is making them uncompetitive with ports on the Continent. Nevertheless, it is a tried and tested system. It works well. It has been well managed over the years and in fact we have not had a rise in light dues for the past two years which is evidence that it is well managed.

Concurrent with that, the general lighthouse authorities have been carrying out a long and complicated process of automating all our lighthouses, our lightships and indeed our buoys which are now by and large converted to solar power instead of the old gas power. It is a rolling programme that is proceeding as planned.

Trinity House has issued a consultation document on how we should proceed with navigational aids after the year 2000. They were concerned at the contingency proposals in the Bill to wind down the General Lighthouse Fund. If those were to be implemented, they wondered where they stood on plans for the next century because they thought that the proposals might have some bearing on their future plans.

I listened carefully to what the Minister had to say earlier. I am not entirely convinced by his argument yet. On the one hand he said that the user pays system is the best one—the one we employ at the moment—and I am delighted that some interest is now being shown in Europe. There are still many stumbling blocks to overcome before we have general agreement. I believe I am right in saying that the Germans are not at all happy about following our system.

If, as we all hope, our system prevails in the end and the rest of Europe comes into line, then as the Minister has said, we do not need to make any changes. The present system of light dues will continue. On the other hand, I cannot help feeling that the Government are not quite so confident; otherwise why put in this effectively long stop in case Europe should not decide to go down the route which we currently follow and should come up with an alternative, which would mean winding down and transferring the General Lighthouse Fund into general government funding?

I shall read carefully what the noble Viscount has said, and I look forward to hearing anything further that he may have to say at the moment. I should just point out one further thing in my amendment, which again relates to the schedule in the draft Bill, and that is on the question of charges for maritime services. The general lighthouse authorities have no problem with this, nor indeed I believe do the shipowners. It is the correct way to proceed, as indeed was so ably put forward by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donaldson, in his report. However, there was one funding provision which was not included in the draft Bill, and that is charges for functions relating to the promotion of the safety of ships.

I do not know whether the Government are going to try to get shipowners to pay for advertising campaigns to tell them to run safer ships or whatever, but that was certainly not consulted upon, and that is one reason why it is not in my amended Schedule 2. I believe I have said enough, and I will listen to anything further that the noble Viscount has to say, but I am sure we will return to this matter at a later stage. I beg to move.

Viscount Goschen

I certainly welcome the approach that the noble Lord, Lord Greenway, has taken in moving his amendments, which return essentially to the text of the draft Bill. The noble Lord is quite right that we have had discussions already this afternoon concerning the charging regime and the General Lighthouse Fund. I am pleased to hear of the noble Lord's support for applying pressure within Europe to get a wider user pays charging regime. The fact is that we have a user pays regime for the lights, but again the United Kingdom Government want to widen that. Hence the provisions to include charging for other matters such as marine pollution contingency. Therefore, there is inevitably change involved in the UK's arrangements if we can achieve this wider agreement.

Again, I would just briefly return to the point which I made to the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, that if noble Lords are of the view that this is a very long way away, of course the contingent provisions that kick in with regard to changing the GLF would not apply; they would not kick in.

Let me just give a brief rehearsal of the rationale for the provisions which the noble Lord's amendment seeks to remove. In taking enabling powers to cover a possible new charging system, we need to deal with the possible implications for the existing charging system. In effect, we need to be clear how the existing and new systems would relate to one another, and that is what the Bill's present text sets out. The consultation draft of Schedule 2 did not cover the point, as I have explained, because at that time we understood that any changes to the light dues system which were required by an international agreement could be achieved through secondary legislation under the European Communities Act. As I have said, we now understand that that is not the case.

We therefore set out in the Bill limited and contingent but explicit proposals to change the light dues system if, and only if, an international or European obligation requires us to do so. That is the key point here. I understand that by moving the original text of the Bill as an amendment, the noble Lord has sought to probe further the Government's thinking behind that, but I hope I have been able to give him some further detail. However, as with the previous amendment, I would expect the discussions on this important matter to continue.

Lord Greenway

I am most grateful to the Minister. Rather than delay the Committee any longer, I will just say that I will read carefully what he has said, and, as he rightly says, I am sure we will return to this matter at a later stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 2 agreed to.

Clause 13 [Carriage of hazardous and noxious substances]:

Lord Berkeley moved Amendment No. 70: Page 15, line 44, at end insert—

("Review of Chapter. 182D.—(1) The Secretary of State shall review the operation and effectiveness of this Chapter as soon as practicable after the period of three years beginning with the date on which it came into force and in the course of that review he shall consider—

  1. (a) the adequacy of the compensation provided under the Convention for pollution of fishing grounds;
  2. (b) the effectiveness of the procedures for alleviating the hardship suffered by persons affected by such pollution; and
  3. (c) the need to seek to amend the provisions of the Convention concerning the limitation of liability in accordance with the procedure laid down in Article 48 of the Convention.
(2) The Secretary of State shall prepare a report based on the review and, as soon as practicable after the report is prepared, shall lay copies of the report before each House of Parliament.'"').

The noble Lord said: I wish to move Amendment No. 70 standing in the name of my noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis. As the Committee will be aware, this is an addition to the end of Clause 13 which gives effect to the International Convention on Liability and Compensation for Damage in Connection with the Carriage of Hazardous and Noxious Substances at Sea 1996. The convention is set out in Schedule 3 to the Bill. Amendments to this convention cannot be tabled to the text because that would impose different obligations in respect of compensation for claims in the UK compared with other countries and would conflict with the UK's obligations under the convention. I think we understand that.

This is a probing amendment which would impose a statutory obligation on the Secretary of State to review the operation of the convention in the UK three years after it comes into force. Unless something like this is done, there must remain a concern among those who could be affected by this compensation as to how it will work. The amendment seeks some mechanism to require the Secretary of State to review the operation and effectiveness of this chapter—"the adequacy of the compensation", as it says, and "the effectiveness of the procedures"—and to provide a forum to discuss the need to amend the provisions in the future if they are seen to be unsatisfactory. That is the purpose of this amendment. I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say. I beg to move.

Viscount Goschen

The Government have some sympathy with the intention behind this amendment. Officials of the Department of Transport have participated fully in the lengthy discussions on the text of the Hazardous and Noxious Substances Convention which was adopted by the IMO earlier this year. We were determined that the convention should be effective in providing prompt and adequate compensation to victims of marine pollution. Indeed, the convention contains many provisions which were suggested by the United Kingdom delegation specifically to achieve that aim.

This determination to get the convention right does not end when it enters into force. We intend to be one of the first states to ratify the convention. This will enable us to participate in the decisions of the organisation established by the convention and to review its effectiveness on a continuing basis. That is also the policy we have adopted for the International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund, on which the HNS Convention is closely modelled. We are all agreed that the HNS Convention is very good and plugs a gap which previously existed. Officials of my department would certainly want to play a close role in the policy-making process of the new body, as they have done with the IOPC.

The noble Lord's amendment would require a single review of the HNS Convention three years after it had entered into force. It would be very unlikely that the convention would have had sufficient time to generate enough useful experience of compensation for such a review to be useful. We anticipate that the incidents which the HNS will deal with will be quite infrequent—that is the nature of what the fund is seeking to do in dealing with potentially extremely serious incidents. We hope they will be infrequent.

I recognise what the noble Lord is trying to achieve through his amendments. I suggest that it would be far more profitable to continue the Government's existing policy of on-going work to ensure that the convention is effective. The convention already provides that it should be assessed after five years by the assembly of the HNS Fund, and I endorse that. I hope that, with my information on the on-going review process and the interest of the UK Government in this specific scheme, the noble Lord will be satisfied that we take this seriously and do not feel that consideration has ended upon introduction of the scheme.

Lord Berkeley

I am grateful for the Minister's explanation. It is good to hear the detailed involvement of the British Government in this very important subject.

The Minister is absolutely right that three years may be the wrong time, and maybe it should be longer, but he has responded positively to my comments on the amendment. I shall study what he said with interest. In the meantime I beg leave to withdraw this amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn. Clause 13 agreed to.

Schedule 3 agreed to.

Clause 14 [Limitation of liability]:

On Question, Whether Clause 14 shall stand part of the Bill?

5.30 p.m.

Lord Clinton-Davis

I have given notice that I wish to debate clause stand part here because it will give us the opportunity to examine the issue of punitive damages and the processes pursued, particularly in the United States. The background to this is that neither the 1976 Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims, nor the 1996 protocol to the convention, provides for adequate liability for damage to what are termed "non-use resources"; that is to say species and habitats that cannot readily have a monetary value attaching to them. The same is true of the 1969 Civil Liability Convention and the 1971 Fund Convention, as amended by their respective protocols. All these were established to provide compensation to victims of oil pollution from tankers.

Under any of these conventions liability for damage to non-use resources is limited to paying for reasonable wildlife rehabilitation measures—for example, the cleaning of birds—and reasonable wildlife or habitat restoration measures. An example of that may be salt marsh replanting. The conventions do not allow for the levying of punitive damages for damage inflicted on wildlife or habitats by oil pollution. This limitation is reflected in the definition of pollution damage at Section 181(1) of the 1995 Merchant Shipping Act, which specifically excludes: Any damage attributable to any impairment of the environment except to the extent that any such damage consists of—

  1. (i) any loss of profits, or
  2. (ii) the cost of any reasonable measures of reinstatement actually taken or to be taken".
Indeed, the Minister (at col. 777 of Hansard of 17th November) said this: We do not subscribe to the notion of punitive damages per se as applies in the USA oil pollution Act of 1990". In the United States punitive damages are permissible under the Domestic Oil Pollution Act of 1990. What happens is that assessments are made of damage to non-use resources; for example, the number of individual birds killed. The punitive damage is then calculated using a variety of methods aimed at placing monetary values on individual plants, animals or habitats. One such method is known as contingent valuation, whereby members of the public are interviewed in order to assess their willingness to pay—in dollars, that is to say—to have, for example, a bird protected. The funds collected from the shipowner for punitive damages are then fed into rehabilitation and restoration projects, and surplus funds can then be used for other unrelated conservation projects if that is necessary. However, some groups have concerns about the method used for assigning monetary values to wildlife and habitats. Perhaps a better way of employing this approach would be to levy a financial penalty based on other factors such as the amount of oil spilled.

As I said at the beginning, I have given notice of this debate because I believe the Minister's view that the principle of punitive damages should be discounted should be discussed. It may well be that damages of this kind could create a significant deterrent to shipowners against taking some of the measures that they might otherwise take. It may be a way of helping to reinforce the fact that much of the damage caused to wildlife and habitats by oil pollution simply cannot be remedied by rehabilitation or restoration measures. The method of calculating damages certainly needs further consideration.

I would be most interested to hear what the Minister has to say in relation to this matter. I am not saying for myself that I go along with the idea of punitive damages, but I thought it was a useful vehicle to discuss the issue, and I hope that the Minister will be able to respond to the points I have made.

Viscount Goschen

I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving us this opportunity to discuss the matters that are contained within Clause 14, which is concerned with the limitation of liability. Clause 14 provides for the UK to implement and ratify the protocol, which amends the 1976 Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims. The proposal would increase the amount of compensation available to meet maritime claims not met by the present oil compensation regime and the HNS Convention once it is in force. So I would just like to re-emphasise for the benefit of the Members of the Committee that we are not talking here about the IOPC Fund nor the HNS Convention once it is in force.

The convention that we described allows shipowners the right to limit their liability to third parties, and, as I have mentioned, it specifically excludes liabilities which are covered in other international instruments, for example oil and in future HNS, and I thought perhaps that some of the remarks that the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, made might have been addressed to matters concerning the International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund. However, I was not entirely clear about whether he was talking about oil damage that would be related to the IOPC. As that is not what Clause 14 describes, I will just go on to make a couple of further points about the protocol itself.

In May 1996, the IMO adopted a new protocol to the 1976 convention. The main effect of this protocol is to increase the limit on liabilities by a factor of about 2.5. This is the first increase in the limit since 1976. The protocol also provides for a rapid amendment procedure for future increases in the limits.

We are determined that limits on shipowner liability should be high enough to provide sufficient protection for innocent third parties, but it should still be insurable at reasonable costs. I believe that the limits in the 1996 protocol achieve those two aims and get that balance right.

However, I do not believe that we should forget that the shipping industry is one of very few which is allowed or able to limit its liability in this way. There is a real danger that the international community could question this right to limit liability if the limits were found to be too low to meet the legitimate needs of victims. We are fully committed to ensuring that this does not occur by working to ensure that the limits are realistic and appropriate. That is what Clause 14 does and we believe that it is of considerable importance to get those limits right.

Some of the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, concerned what occurs in the event of oil pollution that would be covered by the IOPC Fund. Non-economic damage is not covered by the existing Conventions because of the difficulty of assessing that damage. After the Oil Pollution Act, the members of the IOPC Fund, and later the IMO, considered the matter and decided against taking environmental non-economic damage forward. That remains the position for the international community.

The final point is a caution not to mix compensation with punishment. We agree that they should be separate under the IOPC Fund. For the oil compensation we have sought to set up a fund which works quickly and effectively to compensate those who have suffered because of oil damage rather than a system for punishment. I hope that answers some, if not all, of the questions the noble Lord raised with regard to Clause 14.

Lord Donaldson of Lymington

Before the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, replies, could I draw the attention of the Committee to paragraph 19.45 of what is referred to in my family as "the good book"? It deals with the question of punitive damages and points out that with regard to the major spills at least, the chances of anybody deliberately producing a major spill or being in a position whereby the possibility of punitive damages would in any way increase his reluctance to produce a major spill are negligible.

There are tales without number of the way in which the American authorities administering the OPA have managed to put in claims for non-economic damage which almost beggar belief. It may not be true, but I am told that they have done surveys of people living in the hinterland of places where there was an oil spill. They have said to them that surely they would have been going to the beach to bathe rather than playing golf if it had not been damaged, and asked them how much it was worth to them not to be able to go even if they would not actually have gone; and thus enormous claims are built up. I hope we shall not go down that route. I do not really think it is a question of hope; I am certain that we shall not. But it is as well that we realise where that route could lead us.

Lord Clinton-Davis

I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donaldson, for drawing attention to paragraph 19.45 in the report where he expressed very tersely but effectively the case against punitive damages. I do not dissociate myself from that. I merely thought it was right that we should discuss an issue which is important in the shipping industry, which, as the Minister says, is one of the few industries where there is limitation of damages.

It is right to point out that as far as aviation is concerned, there appears to be a move away from limitation of that kind and, as I understand it, already the United States and Japan do not limit their claims in the way that is done in shipping or in the way that is done generally in relation to aviation matters. Indeed, there appears to be a movement in the International Civil Aviation Organisation in the direction that the United States and Japan have gone. The two industries are not that dissimilar as far as this issue is concerned. It may well be that there will be a similar movement in shipping.

The Minister has replied pertinently to the points which I have raised, but I would like to think carefully about what he has said. We may want to return in some way, not to the substance of the question of punitive damages, but to other matters which are germane to this clause. It was worth while having the opportunity of listening to the Minister and, indeed, to the noble and learned Lord, in their comments on this debate.

Clause 14 agreed to.

Clause 15 [Compulsory insurance]:

Lord Clinton-Davis moved Amendment No. 71: Page 16, line 33, after ("regulations") insert ("subject to approval by resolution of both Houses of Parliament").

The noble Lord said: This is a short point which does not require very much explanation. I would like to know from the Minister why these regulations should not be subject to approval by resolution of both Houses of Parliament. Certainly some examination of these issues by Parliament is appropriate, and I will listen to what the Minister has to say. I beg to move.

5.45 p.m.

Viscount Goschen

The Government believe that regulations made under the powers in Clause 15 would not be appropriate for the affirmative resolution procedure. There are just a few points to make on this basis which I hope will satisfy the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, as to why we have chosen to go down this route under the note of procedure for these regulations. They would be highly technical and may need to be updated frequently. We believe that it would be unnecessarily time-consuming for Parliament to be required to approve all such regulations. The other point is that it would also delay the introduction of measures which the Committee has agreed are essential and indeed urgent.

As the Bill is currently drafted, the regulations would be subject to annulment in either House. This would allow Parliament the option to scrutinise the regulations without imposing unwarranted delay or demands on its time. In other words, if the noble Lord or his colleagues felt that the Executive was trying to rush through measures that were inappropriate, they would of course be able to draw this to the attention of Parliament. But as they are technical regulations and as there might well he a need to update them, I hope he will agree with me now that in this instance it is more suitable to the negative procedure.

Lord Clinton-Davis

It is not so much this noble Lord or noble Lords on this side of the House. It is much more likely that it will be the noble Viscount who will have to make that decision. If I were the Minister, I would adopt exactly the same response to the point that I made. But it is common practice in most of these debates to test the Government as to what is appropriate in the circumstances. I agree with the Minister that the negative procedure is more appropriate than the affirmative one. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Viscount Goschen moved Amendment No. 72: Page 16, line 39. after ("specified") insert ("and satisfying such other requirements as may be so specified").

The noble Viscount said: These amendments relate to insurance. Yesterday we had a long and detailed debate on the amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, which I understood was essentially attempting to achieve the same thing.

These amendments are intended to clarify the provisions relating to shipowner financial security for third party liabilities. The amendment does not make a significant change to the content of the Bill, but the intention is rather to make explicit what was previously implicit.

The intention behind Clause 15 was that the Secretary of State should have the power to specify, first, the persons required to have insurance rather than security; secondly, the liabilities to be covered; and thirdly, the types of insurance or other security which would be acceptable. These amendments would amend new Section 192A(1) of the 1995 Act to make this explicit.

The changes we are seeking to introduce, and which I hope will meet with the approval of the Committee, are in response to an important point which was raised by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donaldson, at Second Reading. We have therefore brought forward the approach of saying that, after ('specified') insert ('and satisfying such other requirements as may be so specified')".

During the debate yesterday we reached agreement that we were not entirely sure what would be the "such other requirements" that may be so specified, but we all agreed that it was important for the Secretary of State to be able to qualify that in order to tackle the potential problem of worthless insurance whereby the contracts were meaningless because they had no real force or power behind them.

I hope therefore that the Committee will feel able to agree to the two amendments. I thank the noble and learned Lord again for raising this important point at Second Reading. I beg to move.

Lord Donaldson of Lymington

I hope the Minister will not take it amiss if I say that Sir Humphrey would have been proud of the statement he has just made. I had no doubt at all that the Bill was defective and did not have the powers which are now to be put into it and which were so necessary. The Bill is now making explicit what was previously implicit. That is a remarkable achievement.

Suffice it to say that I very much welcome the additional words. They will achieve what is required. It is difficult to see exactly what form the regulations will take at the moment, but they are sufficiently general and explicit to give the Minister all the powers that he will need. I thank the Minister for moving the amendment.

Lord Clinton-Davis

I am grateful to the Minister for that response. He is quite right: we had a long debate yesterday on this issue and the matter was left in a fairly satisfactory position. We agreed that it would not be inappropriate for this House, at a later stage of the Bill, to ascertain by means that are available what progress has been made in the discussions with the insurance industry about making effective the assurances that the Government make.

We hope that the Minister will find through his officials that the consultations that go on will secure the objective that he has set out both yesterday and today. In those circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Noble Lords: Order!

Lord Clinton-Davis

The Minister is quite right. I am so used to moving amendments, but these, unusually, are his!

Viscount Goschen

We all have to have a go at moving amendments every now and again. We feel that these government amendments achieve the purpose that was identified by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donaldson, at Second Reading, and I am pleased to hear his welcome and acceptance of them.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Viscount Goschen moved Amendment No. 73: Page 16, line 41, leave out ("may be") and insert ("satisfies requirements").

The noble Viscount said: I spoke to this amendment with the previous amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 74 not moved.]

Lord Clinton-Davis moved Amendment No. 75: Page 17, line 43, at end insert ("(7) Regulations under this section may provide that any claim for compensation for damage against the person or persons so insured or secured may be brought directly against the insurer or other person providing security and such regulations shall provide for the rights or defences or limitations of liability, or all of them, to which the insurer or other person providing security shall be entitled.").

The noble Lord said: This is a somewhat different point. The idea underlying Amendment No. 75 is to enable a claimant to acquire a direct right to enforce the policy or security against the insurer or the surety. The creation of rights in third parties against the insurer or surety would clearly require a careful examination of the legal issues involved. For example, the present shortcomings of the domestic insurers Third Parties (Rights against Insurers) Act 1930 would have to be addressed.

Apart from domestic legal issues, there may be private international law issues where the security is provided by a foreign insurer or surety, and so on. In this draft amendment we are seeking to introduce an enabling provision to the Bill so that these issues can be addressed and the mischief identified by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donaldson, can be properly resolved.

In alluding to this issue during the Second Reading, and also in the debate yesterday, I said one has to worry a little about a situation where the benefits thought to accrue to creditors which arise directly out of the damage involved should be paid to those creditors. We should not have a situation where that money is utilised by the shipowner to be discharged to other—perhaps many—creditors who had nothing to do with the accident concerned. I am not suggesting that we have exactly the right wording, but it is important that the issue should be addressed. It is a matter which may also be included in the discussions which the Minister and his officials propose to have with the industry to discover how workable this proposal is. This is not an easy matter, but it needs to be addressed with some degree of urgency. I beg to move.

Viscount Goschen

The amendments under consideration would allow the regulations to make provision for direct action against the insurer. This could include a foreign insurer. Our view is that we could not introduce such a requirement unilaterally. We opposed the United States' recent Oil Pollution Act which provides for such action. The US has since experienced difficulty in securing marine pollution cover from overseas insurers.

We believe that direct action can only be achieved through international agreement, as has already been done for oil and HNS. Discussions are continuing at the Legal Committee of IMO on a possible international scheme for compulsory insurance. These discussions will all cover the possibility of direct action by third parties for claims other than for oil and HNS damage. We will strongly support such proposals.

I hope that, with an explanation of our support for this type of approach in the international forum and of our difficulties and the potential breach of international law obligations, the noble Lord will see fit to withdraw his amendment, bearing in mind that we support what he is trying to achieve.

Lord Clinton-Davis

I am grateful to the Minister for his response, not for the first time. This is not an easy matter, and I readily agree that it is an issue which needs to be confronted on an international scale. Perhaps the Minister could inform the Committee what action has so far been taken to address this issue at the instance of Government, at the IMO or some other organisation. It is a matter of urgency.

The Minister is right that the United States have experienced difficulties in regard to their own problems. I wonder whether the Minister could therefore indicate what action has been taken by the Government to promote discussion, first, at the IMO or, secondly, in any other forum, and what seems to be the response from people whose support the Government are seeking to elicit so that there might be some possibility of the principle underlying this amendment coming to fruition.

Viscount Goschen

We consider the whole issue of insurance to be very important. Not only do we give it that importance within this Bill, but also in the international forum, and in particular the IMO. We have made it very clear that this is a priority. We had this agreed by the IMO Legal Committee in September as the next priority after HNS. I understand that the situation is that the United Kingdom representatives at IMO made it very clear that we consider this a high priority. The view that it is a high priority has been accepted by IMO. I hope that provides the indication the noble Lord is seeking.

Lord Clinton-Davis

It will encompass this issue?

Viscount Goschen

The discussion is primarily about compulsory insurance, but the point that the noble Lord has raised is important and we would strongly support this type of approach. I hope that that, combined with the priority that we give to the insurance as a whole, gives the noble Lord a proper explanation of the position.

Lord Clinton-Davis

I thank the Minister for that explanation and am satisfied that that is the appropriate approach. In the circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 15, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 16 [Discharge books]:

[Amendment No. 76 not moved.]

Clause 16 agreed to. Clause 17 agreed to.

6 p.m.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley moved Amendment No. 77: After Clause 17, insert the following new clause TRANSFERS OF LOCAL LIGHTHOUSES TO HARBOUR AUTHORITIES (" In section 203 of the 1995 Act (individual transfers of local lighthouses to harbour authorities) for "A general lighthouse authority may. at any time, with the consent of the Secretary of State, transfer to a harbour authority" there is substituted "A general lighthouse authority shall, at any time, after consultation with a harbour authority and with the consent of the Secretary of State. transfer to that harbour authority.").

The noble Lord said: The purpose of this amendment is to continue the effect of Section 202 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995, which is expected to be repealed by Section 27(2) (Schedule 7) of this Bill, and to require the transfer of local aids to navigation to port authorities where appropriate.

Section 202 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995 originated in the Ports Act 1991 and required the transfer by the general lighthouse authorities to port authorities of aids to navigation in their statutory areas where those aids were primarily for local navigation. That particular programme was completed in 1995. However, a number of aids to navigation were identified as possible candidates for transfer, but proposals were not forthcoming from the GLAs. Section 203 of the Merchant Shipping Act governs the voluntary transfer of such aids to the ports.

From time to time new cases will arise where transfer would be appropriate, due, for example, to changes in users' navigational patterns, or changes in port authority or geographical limits. In these circumstances transfer should also be compulsory. The principle of compulsory transfer was established by the 1991 provisions. Such transfer would be consistent with the principle of user pays, since the users of individual ports should pay for all appropriate infrastructures through conservancy dues or charges. General light dues should fund only aids to general navigation. I beg to move.

Lord Greenway

I am in general agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, on the amendments he has moved this afternoon, but here I feel I must part company with him. This new clause would, in general terms, mean that instead of general lighthouse authorities having the discretion to transfer to harbour authorities any lighthouse, buoy or beacon which it appears to them is only used for local navigation, and which therefore should be the responsibility of the local harbour authority, there would now be an obligation on the general lighthouse authorities to do so.

A general transfer of local lighthouses from the GLAs to local harbour authorities was effected, as the noble Lord has just said, by Section 202 and Schedule 9 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995, which gave effect to the regime set out in the Ports Act 1991. This general transfer took place in April 1993, and accordingly Section 202 is repealed by the current Bill as a spent provision.

My understanding is that Trinity House and the other general lighthouse authorities wish to retain their discretion as set out in Section 203 of the 1995 Act, which is itself specifically intended to deal with cases where circumstances have changed since the general transfer of lighthouses to which I have already referred.

It is fully consistent with the overall responsibility which the GLA has had under the 1995 Act to decide which aids to navigation are to remain as general navigation aids and which should properly be transferred to the local harbour authority's jurisdiction. I submit that is not a matter for the local harbour authority to decide.

Viscount Goschen

I rise to speak to the amendment with much the same view as that established by the noble Lord, Lord Greenway. I, too, am slightly mystified by the amendment in that it removes a discretion and replaces it with an obligation, and I wonder whether that was possibly not the intention behind the noble Lord's amendment. I originally thought that what he was seeking to do was seek a duty of consultation, but of course consultation already occurs and is a major part of the system, and indeed representations could be made to the Secretary of State. I believe that perhaps we are talking at slightly cross purposes. If I am wrong, I apologise to the noble Lord, and recognise that his intention was to create a duty, an obligation, rather than giving the general lighthouse authorities discretion as they have at the moment.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley

I would like to thank both the noble Viscount and the noble Lord for what they have said, which I will take away and consider. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn. Clauses 18 to 20 agreed to.

Clause 21 [Retention of documents by Registrar General]:

On Question, Whether Clause 21 shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Clinton-Davis

I have chosen to promote a debate in relation to this clause, which refers to removing a requirement which currently exists for the registrar general to retain documents transmitted to him. It replaces that with a requirement to retain documents at the Secretary of State's discretion. Many of the documents, I believe, are useful in terms of settling disputes, and the registrar is in a position to act as an arbiter. Consequently, I question whether in fact the action which the Government desire to take in relation to this clause is right, and whether the registrar general should in fact keep documentation to assist him in this particular process.

The 1995 Act requires the registrar general to record and preserve all documents. It is not very long ago that the House debated that Bill, and the Government have themselves come forward with that proposition. It enables archive records to be available for investigation of incidents and accidents so that blame can, where appropriate, be apportioned and lessons learned for the future. I believe, therefore, it is conceivable that an archive which is incomplete could prejudice that purpose.

It is useful to have records of the kind to which I have referred located in a central place. It is important for the seafarer, and personal details can be verified if the seafarer should require assistance from the welfare organisations. I would therefore not be remiss in calling for retention of something that has existed for 75 years, because it is usually the case that reference to records for such purposes is necessary, particularly in later life.

I do not know what has motivated this change. Is it the sweeping aside of unnecessary regulation, which I support? I question it in this case, however, because the deregulation Bill was in fact being discussed by this House at much the same time as the Merchant Shipping Act 1995. So they must have had some other reason. Is it that there is a lack of storage space? I know very little about CD-ROMs, scanners and things of that kind, but I understand that storage space is not at such a premium these days. New records are stored electronically, old records can be disposed of annually if they are unnecessary. Surely, the registrar general's duty to record and preserve could be interpreted to mean that retention of the original is not required in all circumstances.

I gave notice of my intention to oppose the Question so that the Minister could respond to what is an important probing debate. 1 have some suspicion about the Government's motivation here, for the reasons I have sought to explain in this short speech and I hope the Minister will be able to allay my anxieties.

Lord Greenway

I share some of the concerns that the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, has just mentioned. I am connected with all sorts of maritime organisations, some of which delve into history, and I know that there has been concern in the ranks that it is getting more difficult to get hold of some records which are potentially very useful to would-be historians of the future. I know storage is a problem, but if some of these records are to be disposed of, as I think was hinted at by the noble Lord, I am sure that there must be some way that we can guarantee that they are handed over to some other organisation with the space and the willingness to preserve them for future posterity.

Viscount Goschen

I have listened extremely carefully to the debate. Clearly, maintaining proper records is an important objective. It is an important thing to do but we must all agree that there has to be a limit somewhere here. Clause 21 replaces the requirement for the registrar general to record and preserve all documents transmitted to him with a requirement to hold all such documents as required by the Secretary of State. The recording and preserving of all documents is, indeed, an onerous task and in practice the majority of records are accessed infrequently. The clause reduces the burden of document storage and subsequent cost to the department by allowing the Secretary of State to limit the period of storage.

The noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, summed up the argument by saying that many of the documents are useful, and I emphasise the word "many". The noble Lord also recognised the spirit of deregulation and that just because something has been happening for a very long time and is a very intense bureaucratic task it does not necessarily follow that we should seek to perpetuate it unless we can find good reasons for doing so. The important documents, as specified by the Secretary of State, would continue to be held.

The question was raised as to whether the registrar general would destroy the documents that he no longer requires. The answer to that is "not automatically". In consultation with the department's record officer in the Public Record Office, records would either be passed to an official place of deposit or be destroyed. Listening to the concerns of the noble Lord, Lord Greenway, I am sure that it would not be beyond us to have the records preserved in some manner if it was felt sufficiently strongly that there was a real desire to have that done.

One might suggest that we transmit them to the office of the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, and see how he gets on with cataloguing them all for electronic storage.

Lord Clinton-Davis

Yes, for an appropriate charge.

Viscount Goschen

The noble Lord has identified the value of his time. We all agree. Seriously, it is important to keep proper records. However, we do not want to perpetuate a highly bureaucratic task which results in a huge amount of documentation, most of which is never looked at by anyone. I would be happy to continue to have discussions (perhaps with the noble Lord, Lord Greenway) to see whether there is any other solution. I am not sure about the position of the Public Record Office. It would depend on whether it wanted to accept the volume of documentation. Perhaps someone else would. We would have to make checks with regard to confidential material. The Government have no intention of destroying useful documentation; we are merely trying to streamline the burden. I hope the Committee will accept that Clause 21 makes a valuable contribution to that end.

6.15 p.m.

Lord Clinton-Davis

What appears unimportant to a Secretary of State may not appear unimportant to a seafarer with a particular problem. That constitutes a real anxiety. What consultation was undertaken by the department in relation to this issue? What parliamentary control would there be? It is very difficult to imagine that Parliament would be able to control this situation any better than the Secretary of State. Why, I repeat, was this issue passed by in the 1995 Bill? I would be very interested to know whether the Secretary of State or the Minister would care to let us examine a document which, I hope, has not been destroyed—the Notes on Clauses which support the 1995 proposition that this right should be retained. The Minister has not explained that.

How would the Minister or his officials know what should be kept? Would not seeking to distinguish between what should be kept and what should not be kept impose as bureaucratic a burden as keeping the present system? If the Minister can persuade the Committee that there is a real need for this provision, that masses of documents have accrued which are of no interest to anybody at all, and that nobody's rights will be submerged as a result of this destruction of documents, I would accept it, but I am suspicious.

I am more confused by the Minister's explanation than ever, particularly with regard to what happened in that year. Why was this issue not noticed at that time? Was it considered to be something which ought not to be challenged? I suspect that the Government did not want to challenge it at the time. I repeat that it was when we were contemplating the Deregulation and Contracting Out Bill—it cannot be separated from that—so the Minister's attention, and that of his officials, must have been drawn to that point in relation to all legislation going through the House at that time.

I am not in favour of keeping undue and unnecessary regulatory processes which ought to be swept aside. However, I am deeply concerned that some rights, some ability to be able to look at and to scrutinise documents which may be of great relevance to an individual but of no relevance of anyone else and to seek assistance in certain circumstances, should be maintained.

I am grateful to the Minister for saying that he is prepared to consider this with the noble Lord, Lord Greenway. However, I think that others are involved too. It would perhaps be right to consider it with the seafaring unions which are more concerned than anyone about the situation regarding individual rights. It may be that at the end of those discussions the Minister will feel that their anxieties are not real. However, I am not persuaded at the moment that that is so. I will listen with great interest to the Minister's reply to, or rebuttal of, what I have said, but so far I am not persuaded.

Viscount Goschen

I particularly enjoyed the noble Lord's lengthy and dramatic peroration with regard to the 1995 Act and why we did not examine this matter then. The noble Lord knows that that Act was pure consolidation and that we are not able to change the law during a consolidation measure such as that.

With regard to consultation, the measure was included within the draft Bill. The same consultation procedure was used as was followed for all the other measures, with the exception of the GLF provisions.

There is no difference between the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, and myself on this. It is important to maintain proper records. I noted his commitment to deregulation and his desire not to impose a large bureaucratic burden where there was limited benefit. We believe that that is the case in this specific instance, but the Secretary of State, as we know, can say which documents should be held and which should not. I do not understand why the Secretary of State should be passed every single document in his evening Box. He will make sure that the important categories of document are maintained.

There is very little difference between us on this. We recognise the concerns put forward by the seafaring unions and other bodies about the maintenance of records. Indeed, some of the records are very important.I fully recognise that. However, the fact remains that a huge amount of documentation is being held which is of very little interest to anyone, but I am willing to discuss this further with whoever wants to discuss it and to take all views further into consideration.

Lord Clinton-Davis

Of course, your Lordships will know that the Secretary of State will never directly consider this matter at all, except perhaps where a document of some real significance generally arises, but the Secretary of State will be asked to consider the destruction of certain documents. He will not know—the officials will not know—whether they are really important to an individual or to a group of individuals.I appreciate the fact that the Minister is prepared to discuss such matters, but it would be desirable for such a meeting to be arranged before we come to Report stage.

I am not satisfied that we have the right answers here, but we do not need to consider the matter in any further detail now and I propose to return to the matter at a later stage.

Clause 21 agreed to.

Clauses 22 and 23 agreed to.

Schedule 4 agreed to.

Clause 24 [Piracy]:

Lord Clinton-Davis moved Amendment No. 78: Page 21, line 33, leave out from ("shall") to ("be") in line 34.

The noble Lord said: It may be for the convenience of the Committee to discuss also Amendment No. 79. I seize this opportunity to debate an issue of supreme importance to shipowners and seafarers. The marginal note relating to this clause refers to the word "piracy". It is on that issue that I wish to detain the Committee for a short period of time.

Piracy is certainly a serious matter. There have been frequent instances where crews have been exposed to unacceptable perils, with people being set adrift in rafts, being manacled and being given no provision for food or clothing. If such activities were to take place in the air or on land, there is no doubt at all that there would be a hue and cry, a public outcry, and demands for swift action to deal with the situation. Somehow or other, however, although debates take place from time to time on the issue of piracy, there is not the same degree of public concern.

Pirates have been described in their passports as "entrepreneurs", which is going a bit far, but they have been so described. The majority of reported attacks, which might be described as "maritime mugging", are ferocious. Excessive violence is used often for very little gain, perhaps for a mooring rope, a few pots of paint, or the relatively small amount of money which can be stolen from crews. However, a great number of such attacks go unreported.

The financial loss involved may not be huge; it has been estimated within the IMO as something of the order of 200 million dollars a year. That is not huge in the whole context of the maritime world. Nevertheless, I believe that we should not avoid taking those issues very seriously indeed.

There is also a risk to other shipping which should not be overlooked. There have been a number of instances where ships attacked by pirates have been allowed to make their own way, effectively crewless, without anybody on the bridge, in congested areas. That is a matter of some importance.

What is piracy? According to Article 101 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, it is defined as follows: Piracy consists of the following acts: [a] any illegal acts of violence or detention, or any act of depredation, committed for private ends by the crew or the passengers of a private ship or a private aircraft, and directed:

  1. (i) on the high seas, against another ship or aircraft or against persons or property on board such ship or aircraft;
  2. (ii) against a ship, aircraft, persons or property in a place outside the jurisdiction of any state;
  3. [b] any act of voluntary participation in the operation of a ship or of an aircraft with knowledge of facts making it a pirate ship or aircraft;
  4. [c] any act of inciting or of intentionally facilitating an act described in subparagraph [a] or [b]".

Article 103 defines a pirate ship or aircraft. I shall not weary the Committee with that definition.

Someone who has great experience in the field of fraud and crime in the maritime world is Mr. Eric Ellen, the executive director of the International Chamber of Commerce Commercial Crime Services. I have known Mr. Ellen for many years. I met him when I was a Minister responsible for shipping and I have a high regard for his integrity and ability. He is a former senior police officer. He is certainly acknowledged as one of the world's leading experts on piracy.

What he is campaigning for is a wider and more appropriate definition of piracy to deal with its present realities. He wants to define it as follows: Piracy is the act of boarding any vessel with the intent to commit theft or other crime and with the capability to use force in furtherance of the act".

I believe that would be a useful definition to apply. However, I recognise that it can only be applied internationally: it cannot be applied by this country alone. It is not appropriate to import that definition into the Bill. Having said that, I should like to know what initiatives the Government are taking in relation to the whole question of piracy.

I am aware that in 1993 the Government issued the Merchant Shipping Notice M1517 which sets out measures that can be employed to lower the possibility of attack. In my submission that is not really adequate because that notice omits emphasis on manning levels, which seem to me to be crucial in dealing with this whole area. If one has satisfactory manning levels the chances of pirates being able to attack the crew are necessarily reduced. They might not disappear altogether, but they would certainly be reduced. Some people might ask whether the expense of making vessels less vulnerable in danger areas would be excessive. However, some owners, for example the Swedish company, Concordia Maritime—this step is perhaps rather unusual, but the company is nevertheless profitable—believe that the better manning of vessels by well-trained crews of good quality produces real rewards for shipowners. That company has, I repeat, been extremely profitable in this field.

I said before that this is a serious issue. Some 125 piracy attacks have taken place this year so far in Asia, in the Mediterranean, in Brazil, in Indonesia, in the Indian sub-continent and indeed in many other places. Death results quite frequently. I invite the Minister to indicate to the Committee what initiatives the Government are taking to promote proper and adequate discussion and action in the IMO. I know the Minister is as concerned about this as anybody in the Committee—of course he is, he must be—but it is international action that is required. I believe the Committee would be interested in hearing what the Minister has to say in that regard. I beg to move.

6.30 p.m.

Viscount Goschen

The first thing to say on this subject is that I wholeheartedly agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, has said about the seriousness of piracy. It is not as irregular in its occurrence as one might think if one did not have specific knowledge of shipping circles. There have been a number of very serious attacks indeed, and even fatalities. This is an issue on which we have had substantive discussions with, for example, NUMAST, the officers' union. We certainly take seriously our role of disseminating information.

I shall say a few words about the amendments to which the noble Lord is speaking. Clause 24 of the Bill currently deals with piracy beyond the territorial sea. The noble Lord's amendments would widen the scope to include piracy within the territorial sea. This is unnecessary because existing legislation in the Aviation and Maritime Security Act 1990 provides sufficient powers to suppress illegal acts in the territorial area, and such offences would be caught by the ordinary criminal law.

I suspect the reason the noble Lord tabled these amendments was not necessarily to try to promote the provision which he has mentioned but rather to draw attention to this issue. The Committee is grateful to the noble Lord for drawing attention to the issue.

The noble Lord asked what the Government's role is in this matter. First, it is to listen to the views of such bodies as NUMAST, the officers' union, and the views of ship operators and others who are involved in the industry. Secondly, our role is to disseminate information, which is a role and task which we take seriously. I understand that the information is often provided by Mr. Ellen's organisation, which the noble Lord mentioned. We also discuss problems with foreign administrations where there are particular problems in their areas. In addition, as the noble Lord said, we have produced a merchant shipping notice on piracy. This was later adopted by the IMO as its guidance to the international maritime community. Our advice is comprehensive and covers the points which were raised by the noble Lord. Members of the Committee might be interested in seeing that document and, if so, I shall certainly place copies in the Library.

To sum up, piracy is a very serious issue indeed. We deplore the attacks that have taken place. We believe that we have a role in issuing guidance, in disseminating information and in discussing matters with foreign administrations where there are particular problems in their areas. I hope I have taken the opportunity to discuss the Government's position on this important issue. I hope the noble Lord will take on board the explanation with regard to his specific amendment.

Lord Clinton-Davis

I thank the Minister for his generous support. In a way the amendment is almost irrelevant to the discussion we have had. I simply wanted to promote a discussion about piracy.

Viscount Goschen


Lord Clinton-Davis

The Minister says "Py-racy"; I say "Piracy". What I would like to know before I withdraw the amendment, which I certainly propose to do, is this. The Minister referred to discussions which go on with other governments from time to time. Is there anything happening currently with regard to the International Maritime Organisation? Do the Government propose to take any further initiative? It would be useful for the purpose of the Committee if the Minister could answer those two points.

Viscount Goschen

The IMO is indeed concerned about this issue, as we all are. The fact that it has adopted our merchant shipping notice as international guidance is an encouraging step. I understand that the matter is kept under continuous review and is due to be raised at a meeting which will occur shortly. When the United Kingdom Government discuss this issue with colleagues in the IMO we make very similar points to those which I have made to the Committee today: that this is indeed a very serious issue, particularly in some specific parts of the world.

With regard to ongoing talks with foreign governments, I think the noble Lord was referring to whether there were specific problems; for instance, where there has been a serious attack, we would certainly take the matter up, and we will continue to do so.

Lord Clinton-Davis

I am grateful to the Minister for that. I would encourage him perhaps to persuade the Foreign Office to ensure that this is a matter which is raised at the Commonwealth conference, because a number of the most serious acts of piracy occur in the seas adjoining Malaysia, India and Singapore, as well as Indonesia. These three Commonwealth countries could have a specific role to play alongside the Government. It is of such importance because it damages trade; it interferes with the security of people going about their legal business; and it imposes threats upon them in the future. That is a wholly undesirable state of affairs. Having said that and listened to the Minister, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 79 not moved.]

Clause 24 agreed to.

Schedule 5 agreed to.

Clauses 25 to 27 agreed to.

Schedule 6 [Minor and consequential amendments]:

Viscount Goschenmoved Amendment No. 80: Page 61, line 21, after ("authorities)") insert— ("(a)").

The noble Viscount said: It may be convenient if I speak also to Amendments Nos. 81, 82 and 83. The purpose of these amendments is to make absolutely clear which references in the Merchant Shipping Act are to statutory harbour authorities and which are to harbour authorities. This clarification has been thought necessary following the consolidation provisions of the Merchant Shipping Act 1894 and the Harbours Act 1964, now contained in Part VIII of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995. The amendments restore the position prior to that consolidation by reintroducing the distinction between the two types of harbour authority. I beg to move.

Lord Clinton-Davis

As I understand it, the purpose of the amendments moved by the Minister is to alter the words "harbour authority" to "statutory harbour authority". The term "harbour authority" is defined in Section 313 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995, but "statutory harbour authority" is not defined in Section 313, and nor do the four proposed amendments seek to address that point. Can the Minister indicate the definition of "statutory harbour authority" in the Merchant Shipping Act 1995 if I am wrong about that?

It may well be that there is not a lot between us, because it may be possible to define "statutory harbour authority" either in terms of the 1995 Act or elsewhere. I do not have the answer to that immediately to hand, but perhaps the Minister would like to answer that point.

Viscount Goschen

Perhaps I may draw the attention of the Committee, and particularly the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, to page 62 of the Bill, line 40, new subsection (2)(d). There is contained therein a definition of "statutory harbour authority".

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

The noble Viscount referred to the amendment being designed to facilitate consolidation. That is admirable, but can he say where the merchant shipping legislation stands in the queue for consolidation?

Viscount Goschen

There has already been considerable consolidation within the merchant shipping legislation, resulting in the Merchant Shipping Act 1995.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

I mean to consolidate this Bill with the general corpus.

Viscount Goschen

I do not have an instant answer to that. I should have anticipated it because it is just the sort of question that the noble and learned Lord often asks Ministers and they are unable to respond. I would certainly like to consider it. It may be premature as this is still a Bill and not yet an Act. But I would hate to use one of the noble and learned Lord's own arguments back to him.

Lord Clinton-Davis

The Minister has more than adequately responded to the point I made. I was wrong, and I thank him for putting me right.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Viscount Goschen moved Amendments Nos. 81 to 83: Page 61, line 23, at end insert (", and (b) in subsection (4)(b), for the words "harbour authority", where they first occur, there is substituted "statutory harbour authority". 4A. In section 197 of the 1995 Act (general powers of general lighthouse authority), in subsection (2), for "harbour authority" there is substituted "statutory harbour authority". 4B. In section 201 of the 1995 Act (powers of harbour authorities), in subsection (1), for "harbour authority" there is substituted "statutory harbour authority"."). Page 61, line 26, at end insert— ("5A. In section 203 of the 1995 Act (individual transfers of local lighthouses to harbour authorities), for the words "harbour authority", where they first occur, there is substituted "statutory harbour authority". 5B. In section 204 of the 1995 Act (surrender of local lighthouses), in subsection (2), for "harbour authority" there is substituted "statutory harbour authority"."). Page 61, line 30, at end insert ("6A. In section 210 of the 1995 Act (light dues leviable by local lighthouse authorities, in subsections (1) and (2) for the words "harbour authority" there is substituted "statutory harbour authority".").

The noble Viscount said: I have spoken to these amendments with Amendment No. 80.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Lord Greenway has given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 84: Page 62, line 12, leave out ("or Schedule 11A").

The noble Lord said: The Minister has responded with great courtesy and patience, and not a little humour, to our amendments in the course of this Committee and so the least I can do is save his voice for our future deliberations on Report by not moving my last amendment.

[Amendment No. 84 not moved.]

Schedule 6, as amended, agreed to.

Remaining schedule and clauses agreed to.

Title agreed to.

Bill reported with amendments.

The Committee adjourned at sixteen minutes before seven o'clock.