§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY OF THE MINISTRY OF HEALTH (THE EARL OF ONSLOW)
My Lords, modern inventions have so increased the importance of petroleum products, and have also so increased the quantity of those products, that legislation is necessary to safeguard in time of emergency the supplies of oil fuel and light petroleum products suitable for naval, military or air purposes, and also to ensure the safety of important works which might be damaged or otherwise rendered ineffective by the ignition of such supplies.
In these circumstances it is proposed to amend the Petroleum Acts, 1871, 1879, and 1881, by substituting a Home Office licence for the licence which is issued by the local authority under the present law. This is done in Clause 1. This Home Office licence will be granted, of course, after consultation with the local authority, and it will only apply to stores of 1,000 tons of petroleum spirit or 5,000 tons of other petroleum, or mixed stores in like proportion; that is to say, one to five. In addition to this provision advantage is taken in this Bill to carry out some of the more important of the recommendations of the Home Office Departmental Committee on Petroleum Spirit which sat in 1910. The penalty provisions are amended; in particular, penalties are introduced for contravening the conditions of petroleum licences. Hitherto, responsibility for breach of conditions of safety has been entirely upon the employer, but now by this Bill an employee who contravenes any conditions which he is required to observe can be dealt with. These conditions must be stated publicly in a notice which is visible in any workshop. A revised scale of fees will be introduced on a scale corresponding with the amount of 256 petroleum kept in the store. It is not proposed to revise the scale of fees on a profit-making basis but with a view of paying the expenses of inspection and so forth.
One important provision in the Bill to which I ought to draw your Lordships' attention is that by-laws can be made for the loading of ships carrying petroleum. Up to the present the law only provides for the unloading of ships which carry petroleum. The reason why previous Acts did not deal with the question of loading is, I believe, that it was unnecessary at the time. This difficulty is dealt with and harbour authorities are enabled to make by-laws for the loading of ships. Until such by-laws are made the Bill provides a Schedule specifying certain precautions to be observed, which are adapted from those generally required to be observed in connection with the unloading of such ships. These rules will be enforced as by-laws until the harbour authorities have themselves considered the matter and made special by-laws which may be necessary for their own particular harbour.
To deal with the transport of petroleum by road a second Schedule has been introduced which applies the powers given by the Explosives Act, for regulating conveyance by road, to petroleum with such modifications as may be necessary. The Schedule, which also includes provisions as to reporting and investigating accidents, is of considerable length and the reason for its not being embodied in the Bill is that it simply repeats the provisions of the Explosives Act with the necessary modifications to make it deal with petroleum. Clause 8 of the Bill simplifies the definition of petroleum and substitutes a more convenient term, namely, petroleum spirit for petroleum which gives off an inflammable vapour at a temperature of less than 73 Fahrenheit. The Bill will provide certain useful alterations in the present law with regard to petroleum which will bring the handling of that material up to date in the way of storage.
There is one other point which I think I should mention. Installations for the storage of petroleum other than petroleum spirit do not at present require, as such, to be licensed under the Act of 1871, though, as a matter of fact, all, or almost all, the installations which the Bill would affect are used for both kinds of 257 storage, so that in practice few, if any, licences will be needed in the future for establishments which in fact do not need licences now. I understand certain interests which may be affected by the Bill would like a little time for consideration, and I shall be glad to consult with my noble friend Viscount Devonport, who has mentioned the matter to me, with a view to fixing a date for the Committee stage convenient to himself and other noble Lords who may be interested.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Earl of Onslow.)
§ VISCOUNT DEVONPORT
My Lords, I have to thank the noble Earl for his promise and to ask him whether he can make it a little more definite. The dock and harbour authorities who are interested in the Bill desire to have full time for consideration, and they have requested me to ask whether my noble friend can agree that the Committee stage shall not be taken until after Easter. That is not a long way ahead now and it would be a great convenience to the Dock and Harbour Association, which is a federation of all the important dock and harbour authorities in the country. They will have to meet and they cannot be called together at short notice. If my noble friend can see his way to defer the Committee stage until after Easter it would be much appreciated.
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
I think I can undertake to do that, but before giving a definite promise I should like to consult my right hon. friend.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.
§ [From minutes of March 1.]