§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE FIRST COMMISSIONER OF WORKS (VISCOUNT PEEL)
My Lords, this Bill, of which I now move the Second Reading, deals with certain arrangements made for the mutual recognition of rules. The Merchant Shipping Act contains certain sections which provide for the conclusion of agreements with foreign countries for the mutual recognition of regulations relating to the safety of ships, the agreement being, as a rule, limited to cases in which the foreign Power has given similar terms to British ships. Such an agreement can only be made where the laws and regulations in the foreign country in question are equally effective with, or substantially equivalent to, our own laws, though they may not be in exact agreement with them. The power to make those agreements is of great advantage to us, as it enables our ships to avoid the great inconvenience of having to obtain similar certificates in foreign countries.
Recently, however, the French Government passed a law relating to wireless telegraphy on ships, and this law differs appreciably from our law on the subject. The French Government offered to make a reciprocal arrangement with us providing 504 for the acceptance in French ports of compliance with our law as equivalent to compliance with the French law, on the understanding that similarly we accepted in our ports compliance with their law. When the matter was gone into, it was found that the French requirements were substantially the equivalent of ours, but we also found that the Government had not Dower to make such an agreement, because the British law on the subject of wireless telegraphy on ships required foreign ships to comply strictly with the British requirements while they were in the ports of the United Kingdom. The main object of this Bill is to give us power to make reciprocal arrangements with France or other Governments on the subject of wireless telegraphy on ships; but the Bill goes a little further than that and gives power also to make those reciprocal arrangements on other matters as they may arise.
Of course, this condition giving us the power as regards reciprocity is very convenient indeed in providing us with bargaining power in dealing with foreign countries, and it becomes of great value in connection with the 25th Article of The recent Treaty of Commerce with Germany relating to the measurement, fittings, equipment and safety of ships. This Bill, if it is passed, will put us into the position of being able to carry out that undertaking. By a further provision of the Bill power is given to recognise the provisions of a Dominion or of a Colony relating to safety requirements as being equivalent to the provision required by the Merchant Shipping Act. There is power already to accord such recognition in regard to certain matters, such as passenger certificates and load line. It would be very useful indeed if the Government had a similar power with regard to other matters affecting merchant shipping. It appears that the French law with regard to these wireless telegraphy provisions comes into force this month, and there are in it substantial obligations which would, apart from this Bill, be laid upon certain 505 British ships—small British ships, which are really, I believe, exempt from these regulations under our law. It is very important, therefore, that we should be put into a position to be able to negotiate with the French Government as soon as possible. I hope your Lordships will pass this Bill, the Second Reading of which I now beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a—(Viscount Peel.)
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
My Lords, I have read this Bill and I see no objection to it. So far as I am concerned, I am anxious that it should pass.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.