§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ LORD DESBOROUGH
My Lords, it falls to my lot at a rather late hour to move the Second Reading of the Petroleum Bill, a measure which has been urgently required for some time in the interests of public safety. A Bill which came before your Lordships' House in 1923 met with considerable opposition from the various interests concerned. It was referred to a Select Committee of the House of Lords and objections were raised to a great many of its provisions. The consequence was that the Bill was dropped. This is an entirely new Bill dealing with a very important subject. The controversial propositions have been excluded, and the measure is limited to carrying out certain alterations of the law, which were approved by a Committee of 1101 your Lordships' House which sat on the matter, and as to which it is believed that everybody is agreed.
The original Act was passed more than fifty years ago, and it must be obvious to your Lordships that the conditions of the petroleum industry have very much changed since that time. The Acts passed in the course of more than fifty years are the Petroleum Act of 1879 and a very small Act which was passed in 1881, the Petroleum (Hawkers) Act. The whole position was reviewed in 1910 by a Departmental Committee, and their recommendations have been included in the present Bill. The most important alteration is that contained in the new provisions for the conveyance of petrol by road. At present the only powers to regulate the transport of petroleum by road are possessed by the local authorities and they vary in different cases. This Bill will give power to the Secretary of State to make regulations which will apply universally to the carriage of petrol by road. There will also be power under Section 14 of the Petroleum Act, 1871, to apply these regulations to other dangerous substances, such as carbon-bisulphide. Another important provision in the Bill is that in Clause 2 which relates to the handling of petroleum in harbours. At present there are only regulations regarding the landing of petroleum, but under this Bill powers would be given for securing the safety of the public not only with regard to the landing of petroleum but in the loading of ships and the precautions to be observed while ships are carrying petroleum in harbour. The want of these provisions has led to very serious accidents such as the well-known case of the "Dauntless" in 1921. The third provision of the Bill which is of some little importance is that which relates to the investigation of accidents. All these provisions were not only recommended by the Select Committee of your Lordships' House, but were approved of by the Departmental Committees which reported in 1910 and 1913.
In regard to the other clauses, Clause 1 contains what is, perhaps, not quite a 1102 definition, but a description of petroleum. Clause 3 provides that in cases where petroleum has been improperly labelled and a mistake has been made, the penalty shall be defined by the Court, and it will not be necessary, as at present is the case, to destroy the whole consignment. Clause 4 makes a similar amendment in regard to petroleum kept without a licence. Clause 5 increases the amount of the fee payable for a licence which is at present limited to 5s. It is not supposed, for one moment, that the fees charged will really pay for the cost of the administration of the Act, but power is taken to charge more than the 5s. which is required at the present time. The Bill has been prepared in consultation with the representatives of the chief oil companies and is also in accordance with the Report of the Committee of your Lordships' House and the Report of the Departmental Committee. It has also the full concurrence of the President of the Board of Trade and the Minister of Transport. At this hour of the evening I do not think it is necessary for me to say anything more about the Bill, and I hope your Lordships will give it a Second Reading. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Desborough.)
§ LORD PARMOOR
My Lords, there will certainly be no opposition on our part to the Second Reading of this Bill. It is a useful measure and, as the noble Lord has pointed out, it is drafted in accordance with the opinions of all the experts and other persons interested in the subject.
§ VISCOUNT YOUNGER OF LECKIE
My Lords, as Chairman of the Committee which condemned the Bill of 1923 I very cordially support the Second Reading of this Bill. It is entirely in consonance with the Report of that Committee and with its recommendations.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.
§ House adjourned at half past six o'clock.