§ Order of the Day for receiving the Report of Amendments read.
§ LORD PARMOOR
My Lords, in moving that this report be now received, I think time will be saved if I say a word or two on the general position and on the point at which the matters under discussion between the noble Earl, Lord Stanhope, and myself have arrived. If your Lordships have the Paper of Amendments to be moved on Report before you, you will see a very long Amendment in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Stanhope. Except in one particular, I am prepared to agree on behalf of the Government to all the proposals made by the noble Earl. They are partly a compromise, partly matters arranged in a conciliatory spirit, and we need not discuss them again. At least, that is my view. I accept the Amendments and I accept them in the noble Earl's language. But I would like to say at the outset that if the one outstanding point between us cannot be settled—by Division, if necessary, or by agreement—then I am bound to state quite frankly that when this matter goes to another place it must be understood 384 that the Government will consider the whole question open, in the sense that they may ask that the Bill be put back into its original form, and the arrangement between the noble Earl and myself will not have any validity. I am a believer in conciliation and I hope that may not be necessary.
Your Lordships will see that the point between us will be raised by an Amendment which I propose should be made in subsection (1) of the new clause to be moved by the noble Earl, which is on pages 2 and 3 of the Amendment Paper. The difference between us may appear to be a small one, but as I have said on various occasions it is in our opinion an important one. The new clause to be moved by the noble Earl contains in subsection (1) the words "whether made before or after the passing of this Act." I propose to move as an Amendment to leave out those words and to insert "and made after the passing of this Act." I must say a few words—and I think it would be convenient to say them now—to explain why we consider this a very important matter. The noble and learned Marquess, Lord Reading, asked a question about this on a former occasion and I said that we must keep alive what I called our pioneer powers. That is the object of the Amendment which I shall move. For instance, various powers for the protection of passengers on passenger ships have been in operation now for many years, some of them I am told for nearly forty years. There has been no question as to the value of those powers and no question has been raised in any way seeking to repeal or alter them. Then the Convention comes along. A Convention properly considered is of course an agreement as to certain minimum regulations to which all the Powers party to that agreement have agreed to give their assent. It is not in any way a disabling Act which we are dealing with but an enabling Act, and indeed if no enabling powers were necessary we need not have any Act at all but simply ratification.
Particular countries have their special pioneer position on particular points. For instance, the Italian Government have what I call the pioneer position as regards wireless telegraphy. Your Lordships will appreciate that of all 385 safety improvements of modern times, a proper system of wireless telegraphy is the most important. When the question was being discussed, no one ever suggested that any alteration should be made as regards our existing powers or that there should be any change in regulations already in operation. It was never suggested, nor would it be really in accord with what is meant by the Convention, because if by acceding to a Convention you intended at the same time to cut down powers as regards public safety which you already possessed, people would not assent to it. It is an entire misunderstanding in our view of what the meaning of a Convention is. Therefore the purport of my Amendment is that as regards those powers which have been in force under regulations made in some, cases nearly forty years ago there should be no change of any kind. But as regards powers which come into operation after the Convention, we accept the suggestion made by the noble Earl. That was the matter to which the noble and learned Marquess, Lord Reading, called attention on Second Reading, and I think the noble and learned Lord, Lord Atkin, did the same.
Let me say one further word as to how this matter stands. As I have pointed out more than once, this Convention was not arranged by us but by our predecessors in office. It was arranged by Sir Austen Chamberlain, quite properly, in order that we might get from the humanitarian standpoint provision for passenger safety and also, what is of interest to us particularly, that as regards ships clearing at foreign ports—whether our own ships in foreign ports or foreign ships in our ports—a certificate under the Convention should be given which would prevent any further question being raised so that those ships could be dealt with in the ordinary way. I may mention that the general effect of the Convention is to bring ships of other countries up to a higher level because we were, as a rule, in a pioneer position. When this matter was before the Conference I am told that reference was made to this point once or twice. It was said at once that none of the Governments concerned would allow any interference with their national powers as regarded legislation or regulations already 386 passed. That was accepted and it is all that I am asking now.
Your Lordships will recollect that this matter was first brought forward in November last, but this point was not raised then. I am sure the noble Earl will agree with me on that. Two points were raised. One was the question of helm orders, which we have disposed of, and the other was the question of having the two Conventions in one Bill. On that latter point the noble Earl convinced the Government that his suggestion was right and we assented to it. That was why the matter stood over for so long. It was in order that the Bill might be drafted in that way. But this proposal came to the Board of Trade as a surprise. We thought that having settled the question of helm orders, there were certain concessions which the noble Earl wished to have. We went through them all with the greatest care, and also the drafting, which took some time, and wherever we could we tried to meet him, as I am sure he knows. We have met him on a great many points, but on that point we cannot. I will not argue it again for I have argued it very often, but if we have to go to a Division upon it and we me beaten, the matter will have to be discussed and settled in another place. We have tried for days and there is this one point left over between us. I think that will tell your Lordships how the matter stands, and I beg to move that the Report be now received.
§ Moved, That the Report be now received.—(Lord Parmoor.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and Amendments reported accordingly.
§ Clause 1:
§ Construction and survey regulations to secure compliance with Chapter II of Safety Convention.
§ 1.—(1) With a view to giving effect to the provisions relating to construction, machinery, equipment and the marking of load lines which are contained in Chapter II of the Safety Convention and the Regulations referred to therein, the construction regulations applicable to passenger steamers plying on international voyages shall (except in so far as effect is otherwise given to the said provisions by the Merchant Shipping Acts) include such requirements as will, in the opinion of the Board of Trade, secure that when a passenger steamer complies with the construction regulations so 387 applicable, the steamer will also comply with the said provisions of the Safety Convention:
§ (3) With a view to giving effect to the provisions relating to tests and surveys which are contained in Chapter II of the Safety Convention and the Regulations referred to therein, the survey regulations applicable to steamers plying on international voyages shah (except in so far as effect is otherwise given to the said provisions by the Merchant shipping Acts) include such requirements as will, in the opinion of the Board of Trade, secure that when a passenger steamer has been surveyed in accordance with the survey regulations so applicable the steamer will also have been surveyed in accordance with the said provisions of the Safety Convention.
EARL STANHOPE moved, in subsection (1), to leave out all words down to "Provided that" and to insert:
( ) The construction regulations applicable to passenger steamers plying on international voyages shall include such requirements as appear to the Board of Trade to implement the provisions relating to construction, machinery, equipment and marking of load lines which are contained in Chapter II of the Safety Convention and the Regulations referred to therein (except in so far as the said provisions are otherwise implemented by the Merchant Shipping Acts).
The noble Earl said: My Lords, the first few Amendments on the Paper are really very much of a drafting character. I believe the Government on the whole prefer the wording of the Bill, but are willing to agree to the wording that appears in my name.
§ EARL STANHOPE
We prefer those words because we think they are clearer and also shorter. I beg to move.
Clause 1, page 2, leave out lines 20 to 32 and insert the said new subsection.—(Earl Stanhope.)
§ LORD PARMOOR
My Lords, if I may speak for one moment, only to be sure upon the matter, I would suggest if the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack would put the Amendments on the Paper down to the end of the Amendment to Clause 6, the Amendments that I propose to the noble Earl's Amendment would then arise and we could discuss them. Down to that point I do not want to raise any criticism.
§ EARL STANHOPE
I do not quite understand. Surely the first Amendment to my Amendment is on my proposal to insert a new clause after Clause 34. We have to get through the earlier Amendments first.
§ LORD PARMOOR
I see the mistake that I made in one respect. I thought those could be carried en bloc, but they have to be carried in the form in which they have been put down.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Amendment moved—
Page 4, line 6, leave out subsection (3) and insert:—
("( ) The survey regulations applicable to passenger steamers plying on international voyages shall include such requirements as appear to the Board of Trade to implement the provisions relating to surveys which are contained in Chapter II of the Safety Convention and the Regulations referred to therein (except in so far as the said provisions are otherwise implemented by the Merchant Shipping Acts).")—(Earl Stanhope.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 4:
§ Rules for life saving appliances to secure compliance with Chapter III of Safety Convention.
§ 4. With a view to giving effect to the provisions of Chapter III of the Safety Convention and the Regulations referred to therein, the rules for life-saving appliances applicable to passenger steamers plying on international voyages shall (except in so far as effect is otherwise given to the said provisions by the Merchant Shipping Acts) include such requirements as will in the opinion of the Board of Trade, secure that when those rules have been complied with in the case of any such steamer, the said provisions of the Safety Convention will also have been complied with in the case of that steamer:—
§ Amendment moved—
Page 5, leave out lines 27 to 37 and insert:—
("( ) The rules for life-saving appliances applicable to passenger steamers plying on international voyages shall include such requirements as appear to the Board of Trade to implement the provisions of Chapter III of the Safety Convention and the Regulations referred to therein (except in so far as the said provisions are otherwise implemented by the Merchant Shipping Acts).")—(Earl Stanhope.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.389
§ Clause 6:
§ Wireless telegraphy rules to secure compliance with Chapter IV of Safety Convention.
§ 6.—(1) With a view to giving effect to the provisions of Chapter IV of the Safety Convention, the wireless telegraphy rules applicable to ships plying on international voyages shall (except in so far as effect is otherwise given to the said provisions by the Merchant Shipping Acts) include such requirements as appear to the Board of Trade, after consultation with the Postmaster-General, to secure that when those rules have been complied with in the case of any such ship, the said provisions of the. Safety Convention will also have been complied with in the case of that ship.
§ Amendment moved—
Page 8, line 15, leave out subsection (1) and insert:
("( ) The wireless telegraphy rules applicable to ships plying on international voyages shall include such requirements as appear to the Board of Trade, after consultation with the Postmaster-General, to implement the provisions of Chapter IV of the Safety Convention (except in so far as the said provisions are otherwise implemented by the Merchant Shipping Acts).")—(Earl Stanhope.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ EARL STANHOPE moved, after Clause 34, to insert the following new clause:
§ Certain miles and regulations to be laid before Parliament.
§ ".—(1) Where, any of the construction regulations, survey regulations or rules for lifesaving appliances applicable to passenger steamers plying on international voyages, or any of the wireless telegraphy rules applicable to ships plying on international voyages, being a regulation or rule in force at the commencement of this Part of this Act (whether made before or after the passing of this Act), contains a requirement which is at variance with any specific requirement of the Safety Convention the regulation or rule as the case may be shall be laid before each House of Parliament as soon as may be after the commencement of this Part of this Act.
§ (2) Where any of the construction regulations, survey regulations or wireless telegraphy rules, being a regulation or rule applicable as aforesaid and made after the commencement of this Part of this Act, contains such a requirement as aforesaid, it shall be laid before each House of Parliament as soon as may be after it is made.
§ (3) All rules for life-saving appliances made after the commencement of this Part of this. Act shall be laid before each House of Parliament as soon as may be after they are made, together with a report stating whether any, and if so which, of the rules applicable to passenger steamers plying on international voyages contains such a requirement as aforesaid, and all rules for 390 life-saving appliances made before the commencement of this Part of this Act, which have not come into force at the commencement of this Part of this Act by reason of the provisions of subsection (2) of Section four hundred and twenty-seven of the principal Act, shall be laid before each House of Parliament as soon as may be after the commencement of this Part of this Act, together with such a report as aforesaid.
§ (4) If either House within the next subsequent twenty days on which that House has sat after any regulation or rule is laid before it in pursuance of the foregoing provisions of this section resolves that the regulation or rule shall be annulled, the regulation or rule shall thenceforth be void, but without prejudice to anything previously done thereunder or to the malting of a new regulation or rule:
§ Provided that this subsection shall not apply to any rule for life-saving appliances laid before either House of Parliament after the commencement of this Part of this Act unless the rule is applicable to passenger steamers plying on international voyages and contains such a requirement as aforesaid.
§ (5) Subsection (2) of Section four hundred and twenty-seven of the principal Act shall cease to have effect with respect to any rules for life-saving appliances made after the commencement of this Part of this Act and with respect to any such rules made before the commencement of this Part of this Act which have not come into force before the commencement of this Part of this Act by reason of the provisions of that subsection."
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, I do not know whether your Lordships have quite grasped the point of difference between myself and the Government on this matter, but it has now resolved itself into a very small point in some respects, though it raises a matter of principle. When the Bill was introduced, those for whom I am speaking—I am not speaking from a Party point of view at all—were very anxious that anything that was outside the Convention should have to come before Parliament and pass by means of a Bill. We have receded from that because we thought it was imposing too severe difficulties on any Government. We then suggested that it should be by affirmative Resolution. We have receded from that, too, and I was prepared to agree with the noble and learned Lord and the Government on the Committee stage that we should then submit all regulations at variance with the Convention to a negative Resolution of bath Houses of Parliament.
§ Then arose the question raised by my noble and learned friend Lord Atkin, as to whether that applied both to regulations in force at present and to regula- 391 tions which would be made. That is the point of difference. The Government are now prepared to agree that new regulations shall be submitted to both Houses of Parliament for a negative Resolution, and that will include regulations made after the passing of this Act, which do not therefore come into force until later, and it will also include regulations made before the passing of this Act, which have not come into force because the first Part of this Act does not come into force until five nations have ratified the Convention. At present two have ratified, and we shall make three, but we know very well that a large number of other nations are simply waiting for us to ratify and then they will follow our example. Accordingly the date when ratification is to take place is likely to be very soon after the passing of this Bill. All that is now left are the rules and regulations made before the passing of this Act, which are now in operation.
§ This is not a very large point, because I am informed that practically the whole of the previous regulations will require to be re-modelled, but it does raise a very large point of principle as I shall explain. I and others for whom I speak are extremely anxious that this Merchant Shipping Convention shall be the bedrock on which the whole principle of safety of life at sea stands. We know perfectly well, as the noble and learned Lord has said on several occasions, that we are the leading country in this respect and that what we do other countries will do also. Accordingly, if we accept the Convention but keep the other powers in our own hands, except, of course, by saying that Parliament is always supreme, as Parliament must be supreme—if, apart from Parliament, we say that this Convention is the bed-rock by which we are going to stand and which applies to British ships, then if we sign the Convention, other nations will follow suit. Otherwise we might have cases, such as were referred to by the noble and learned Lord of a country applying its own regulations to its own ships, and you will get differences of all sorts. We think that probably, when we ratify, countries with these differences will probably come into, line with us.
§ This raises a difficult question in many respects. Your Lordships have several times had before this House the ques- 392 tion of the way by which Ministers, by Ministerial order, would be allowed to over-ride Parliament, and so on. This is really a very curious situation. The Government have said to masters and mariners: "It is quite true that you now use indirect helm orders, but in order to come into line with the Convention we think it necessary to change those helm orders, and this House has agreed with the Government on that point." Then the Government says, in this Bill, that Parliament must change the law. If your Lordships will turn to the last Schedules you will find that there are various laws which are to be cancelled when this Bill comes into force. Therefore, you are going to change the law in order to bring it into line with the Conventions. But when it comes to Ministerial orders, then we are told that the Minister has made an order; that is sacrosanct and they see no reason why it should be changed.
§ That is an extraordinary attitude. If there were anything of real importance in it, I should agree that the orders that are at present in force should continue to be in force, but I have asked and I have utterly failed to find any single rule or regulation, which would have to be changed in order to bring the rules and regulations into line with the Convention, that is going to conduce to the safety of life at sea. I am told by shipowners and others that if there is any such rule or regulation which the Ministry wishes to retain, because they can use it for safety of life at sea, they would be prepared to consider it most carefully, and probably without any difficulty it would be made an exception to the Convention; but to allow the Board of Trade to be in the happy position of requiring two things to be proved really means that the equality and uniformity of the Convention goes by the Board. Let me illustrate. It will be necessary to prove that the order proposed by the Board of Trade is contrary to the terms of the Convention, and it will be necessary to prove that the order proposed by the Board is not already in force under some ancient order, which may have been in force but not really followed for a large number of years.
§ Just consider. Here is an order which is at present in force. The Board of 393 Trade have the power to require a ship which is engaged in foreign trade "to carry in lieu of, or in addition to, davits, some other approved form of launching apparatus, or some arrangement for launching boats, which may be in their view effective." That may mean anything, and it is impossible, if new rules or suggestions are brought forward, to prove that the new rule is not in accord with the rule already in force. That is why we lay such stress on the fact that anything which is at variance with the Convention, whether old or new, shall come before Parliament, and Parliament shall say whether it shall be kept in force or not. Parliament, of course, remains supreme, and if Parliament thinks it is necessary for safety at sea Parliament will enforce that. Parliament will do that with its eyes open, and knowing that it will then be enforced upon British ships and British ships alone.
§ I have said that I think the whole of these regulations will require redrafting. I think so for this reason. Under present conditions the Board of Trade have regulations for two types of ships—(1), ships engaged in the home trade and (2), ships engaged in foreign-going trade. The home trade includes all coasting vessels and all ships going between this country and Europe between Brest and the Elbe—a very nasty piece of sea. The Convention differentiates between the home-going and coasting trade, the short international voyage and the long international voyage. It is quite possible that the short international voyage will impose obligations upon ships going from this country to Brest and the north of Europe, perhaps rather more severe than those existing at present, but which will bring these ships into line with the rest of the world. There is, however, a real fear that if the Board of Trade say that where ships are engaged in trade away from this country—that is, not leaving the shores of this country but going between ports neither of which are in this country—they may possibly allow exceptions for voyages similar to those in the home trade (obviously not a very accurate phrase to describe exactly what kind of voyage is meant), and you may get other countries saying: "Very well, we also are going to make exceptions for similar voyages." We might have the case of ships going 394 from the coast of North America down to the coast of South America. That is why it is really important you should stick to the terms of the Convention, which have been carefully framed, and not attempt to apply our rules for quite a different outlook and try and attach them to the Convention.
§ If you are going to get uniformity it is really, from the point of view of the Government, a small point, but from the point of view of making the Convention the centre round which these rules should pivot, it is a very big point. This clause which I am proposing is an extremely complicated-looking clause and I do not know whether you would desire me to explain it a little further. Perhaps I had better do so. In subsection (1) we deal with the regulations which are in force at the commencement of the Act. In subsection (2) we deal with the e6nstruction regulations which come into force after the passing of this Act. Subsection (3) deals with rules as to lifesaving appliances which come into force after the passing of this Act. It is pro posed now that instead of lying upon the Table for forty days they should lie on the Table for twenty days, but should become subject to a negative Resolution. I think the rest of the clause is fairly clear. Subsection (5) rescinds subsection (2) of Section 427 of the principal Act, which enacts that these lifesaving regulations should be on the Table for forty days.
§ EARL STANHOPE
There is this alteration, that if they are already in force they come under that. There is no point of difference with regard to their lying on the Table for twenty days. The only point of difference is that where regulations are already in force we propose that they should come before Parliament if they are at variance with the Conventions. The Government are opposed to that. I hope your Lordships will agree to support my Amendment as it stands, and then agree to oppose the Amendment to my Amendment, which is to be proposed by the Leader of the House.
§ Amendment moved—
§ Page 28, after Clause 34, insert the said new clause.—(Earl Stanhope.)395
§ LORD PARMOOR moved, in subsection (1) of the proposed new clause, to leave out "(whether made before or after the passing of this Act)" and to insert "and made after the passing of this Act." The noble Lord said: My Lords, it now becomes my duty formally to move my Amendment to the noble Earl's Amendment. After the statement which I have already made I only desire to say a few words. I ask your Lordships to recollect that this is the only point between us. Earl Stanhope said it was desired to abrogate the existing rules dealing with the question of safety at sea, which is a matter of extreme importance to us. The point between us can be very well isolated in this way. We say that you ought not to abrogate these rules. They are rules which have been well tried and found to be of great value, and it is not the intention of a Convention of this kind that you should abrogate rules which the Board of Trade proposed nearly forty years ago. The purpose of the Convention is not to disable the powers which we now have nor to reconsider them, but to give new powers, and the new powers are those which the Convention will bring into force. How does the matter stand with my Amendment? It stands in this very simply way. We have assented to the proposition that powers, are given—and must be given; that is the meaning of the whole Bill—in order that the Board of Trade may enforce upon our own ships the Convention proposals. There is not the slightest question about that. You give the same power to Italy, to Germany or to France, but none of those countries would for a moment assent to the abrogation of the rules and regulations which they may now have—and such rules may be considerably in advance of the general standard up to which they have persuaded other people to go.
§ EARL STANHOPE
I only suggest that the rules should come before Parliament for Parliament to decide, and not to the Department.
§ LORD PARMOOR
You used the word "abrogate," and therefore I used it as a convenient word. Whatever the powers of the Board of Trade now are as regards these rules and regulations, they have come into force under powers which the Board of Trade now possess. What we 396 say is that these Conventions are not intended to cut down the national powers of any country.
§ EARL STANHOPE
I am sorry to interrupt, but I really must insist that they are not national powers which are being cut down, but Departmental powers.
§ LORD PARMOOR
But Departmental powers are for this purpose national powers. These Departmental powers or regulations have been exercised under legislative provisions, and when so exercised they have just the same authority as if they were in the original Act of the Legislature itself. There is no difference whatever. They are powers which we have at present in order to deal with the safety of passengers in our own ships. But we cannot of course enforce those rules against other ships which only come in under the Conventions. That is quite clear. But surely it must be obvious, I think, to any one that in a Convention of this kind, which does what is possible to raise the level, you do not at the same time intend to abrogate rules under legislative authority, which have been in operation for a long time, which are in advance of the Convention regulations, and which, in the opinion of the Board of Trade, have acted admirably. But that is the principle. In Conventions of this kind if you were to allow the fact of a Government entering into a Convention to abrogate powers which that Government already had, I think you would have very great difficulty in getting any Convention settled at all. It was mentioned during the proceedings of this Convention, but I was told at once: "Of course we do not touch those matters." It is all the better for us if individual countries are in advance. What we desire is to bring the backward countries up as far as we can, in order to ensure the general safety of passengers at sea.
§ Amendment to the Amendment moved—
§ In subsection (1) leave out ("(whether made before or after the passing of this Act)") and insert ("and made after the passing of this Act").—(Lord Parmoor.)
§ LORD ATKIN
My Lords, I ventured to raise this point last time, arid I am rather interested to find that the Lord President on consideration does not find it a technical point. He was rather inclined to think it was on the last occasion. As a matter of fact, it does 397 appear to me to involve a very serious question. I am bound to say that I speak with very little knowledge of the details of the actual regulations, but the position at the present moment, as I understand it, is that the Board of Trade has power to make, and has made regulations, which have been in existence for generations, under the Merchant Shipping Act, which deal with questions of the construction of ships, survey regulations and life-saving appliances. Those regulations are the existing law of England, and they have statutory authority. Now, the Convention provides that there shall be now a certain standard of safety involving construction, survey regulations and life-saving appliances, but. I think it cannot be disputed that in some respects our existing law provides a higher standard of safety, both as to construction and life-saving appliances and survey regulations, than is prescribed in the Convention. The Convention is the minimum—call it the minimum or the maximum as you choose; it does not matter—to which some fourteen countries are prepared to agree; and some countries are in advance of that agreed standard, and one of those countries is this country.
The noble and learned Lord naturally disclaims any suggestion of reducing the standard of safety in this country to something which is the Convention standard, and if he did make that proposal I do not suppose that the Legislature in this country would be prepared for a moment to embark upon such an undertaking. Why should our safety standard be reduced to the safety standard to which foreign Powers have bound their own ships? So the question is this. There is a law at the present moment which provides for certain safety rules. Now, there is nothing in this Act which abrogates the existing law. I want that made quite plain. The only provision is that the Board of Trade shall have power to make regulations to implement the provisions of the Convention, and that would mean that, except in so far as such regulations, so made, are inconsistent with the existing regulations the old law stands. Now the words that are used in this Amendment are that existing regulations that are at variance with the provisions in the Con- 398 vention are to come before Parliament. I do not think that is a very happy phrase, because it may cover regulations that provide for less safety or more safety, or safety in a different way. I am not quite sure how it would be construed, but I want the House to bear this in mind. First of all, this proposal is a proposal that the existing standards of safety shall come up for review, and, secondly, it provides the means as to how they are to be reviewed.
In the first place, I do not know of any case where it has been enacted that an existing law or existing regulation shall be brought up to Parliament for confirmation; because there is no provision as to what is to happen if it is not brought up to Parliament for confirmation. It has its present statutory effect and value, and it would appear that something was necessary, such as was provided in the first proposal of the noble Earl, Lord Stanhope—namely, that all the old rules should be swept away and new rules should take their place. That I understood. That would be a very logical way of doing it. But that is not the present proposal. And may I point out another objection as it appears to me? This is an existing law. It is to be brought to Parliament, but, according to the suggestion made now, it is to be annulled on the Resolution of either House. Surely, that must be an entirely new proposal.
§ LORD ATKIN
How comes it that either House of the Legislature is to have power for the first time to annul that which is in fact an existing law? One understands the proposition when it is directed to new proposals which are to have statutory power only if they are approved by both Houses of Parliament. That is constitutional and in order; but it seems to me to be an entirely new provision to suggest that you are to bring up to Parliament regulations the qualification of which for review is rather vague, and then provide that this House or the House of Commons alone can decide that any of those regulations is no longer to be in force. This seems to me to be an objection that is worth consideration. But on the general position I venture to suggest that your Lordships' House should not lend its Support to a 399 proposition that may result in reducing the existing standards of safety in this country.
§ THE MARQUESS OF READING
My Lords, we are dealing with a matter to which your Lordships' House is capable of applying its mind very successfully. We are in no sense involved in any Party discussion. What we are seeking is the best that can be obtained from the Convention, and also that British ships shall not be placed at any unnecessary disadvantage. It may be that there are things upon which we in this country should insist which do not appeal to other countries. If that is the case, obviously it must be within our power to do them, and nothing I have heard that has fallen from the noble Earl who moved the Amendment to-day contravenes that principle in the slightest degree. Indeed, I think, we are all agreed upon the main propositions which may be stated perfectly simply and so as to get rid of all matters except one point which is in controversy. We are all agreed that there must be power in this country either to enforce what is in the old regulations or to enforce new regulations, if we think necessary, which go beyond the Convention or are in some form at variance with the Convention—whichever, may seem to be the better course. There is no dispute about that.
As has been said, we are the pioneers of the provisions for the safety of passengers and crews and ships at sea. We adhere to that, of course. The only question that arises upon the Amendments which have been passed and the one which is now before your Lordships is whether the Departmental rules, which have been in existence for a considerable time and may be at variance with or extend beyond the requirements of the Convention, should remain in force without being submitted to Parliament. That is the real question. A question which arises largely upon the constitutional point taken by my noble and learned I friend Lord Atkin, is as to whether it should be done by either House or whether any change would have to be made by the two Houses of Parliament. What I would like to say on the first point to my noble and learned friend the Leader of the House in reference to the whole question we are now considering—that is, the rules and regulations that 400 are to apply—is this: Is it not worth while for the Board of Trade, which has hitherto been very successful undoubtedly in the way in which it has dealt with ships and ship owners, to reconsider all its regulations? Is it not, indeed, absolutely necessary that the Board of Trade should do so before allowing these new regulations to be brought into operation or to be laid upon the Table of Parliament in order to meet the requirements of the Convention?
What we want is to give the British shipowner and all the British ships every advantage we can from the Convention. Now that we have more uniformity by means of this Convention than we have had hitherto we do not want, if we can help it, British ships to be placed at a disadvantage if it is for no real purpose. Where, on the other hand, it is of sufficient importance that there should be a departure from the Convention or a requirement in addition to those in the Convention, then I agree that not only is it proper but that we should take the matter in hand. All that we ask (I follow the arguments with the noble Earl who moved the first Amendment) is that Parliament should have power of negativing, if it thinks fit, any new rule or regulation that may be introduced. Would my noble and learned friend the Leader of the House consider this?
There are, of course, many rules and regulations and all those who have had to make them know it is sometimes difficult to find a particular rule. Some of them have existed for a very long time. As I think my noble friend pointed out, there are means of saving life at sea now which were not known in the days when the regulations were framed, more particularly those relating to wireless telegraphy and so forth. When the Board of Trade are considering these rules and regulations, is it not desirable that they should go through all that would apply? I am not asking them to do this in reference to matters other than those dealt with in the Convention.
If I were for the moment to place myself in the position of the President of the Board of Trade or of those who are advising him in this matter and had to consider what should be done in ful- 401 filment of the obligations under this Statute, if it becomes one, the first thing I should require to know is: What is it that must be done under the Convention? What is the purpose of the Convention and what are the obligations upon us under it? What are the things we really must see enforced? In order to do that the Board of Trade must go through the various rules to see what rules are already effective and where they require to pass new ones. In considering the whole of this matter, is it not worth their while to re-consider all the rules applying to the Convention, those applying to life-saving appliances and other matters dealt with in the Convention, and in a word to codify them and bring them in that way before Parliament? It would be an immense advantage to shipowners as it would be, I think, to all those engaged in any way in shipping. That would be one way of doing it.
I do not know what the difficulties may be. I would ask my noble and learned friend, if it has not already been considered, to examine this proposal with the Board of Trade and to see whether it offers any serious obstacle. I would point out that there can be no difficulty. It preserves all the rights that are needed for adding to the requirements of the Convention and maintaining the highest standard. That can all be done. There is nothing to prevent it, and they are not at variance in any way with the Board of Trade. As a rule the Board of Trade challenges what it desires in the way of regulations because it is trusted and has done very well in the past, certainly in regard to shipping. I suggest to my noble and learned friend that this may be the better way of doing it, and that with the desire we all have of trying to reach a conclusion acceptable to all sides of your Lordships' House, it is really a proposition which I think is worthy of examination.
Suppose my noble and learned friend says that cannot be done, for some reason which, for the moment, I do not know. Then the only question outstanding is on the Amendment of my noble and learned friend whether or not it should be necessary to bring existing regulations, which may be extensions of the requirements under the Convention, or additions to them which have been 402 already in existence, before Parliament, or whether they should be left merely to the Board of Trade to deal with. That is the whole question involved in the Amendment. I understand my noble and learned friend says we ought not to interfere because they do make certain requirements of a high standard which we ought to try to maintain. I agree with regard to the maintenance in every way, and I am not seeking in the slightest degree to interfere with it. If these regulations were brought before Parliament the same question will arise upon them—that is to say, is there any reason why Parliament, or either House as it stands now, should wish to negative a rule of that kind? Many of the rules with regard to life-saving dealt with in the Convention must be obsolete. Many of them were necessary thirty or forty years ago, but cannot be required now. If they are required, I cannot imagine that either House of Parliament will raise any objection to a rule that the Board of Trade brings before it and satisfies Parliament is necessary in order to maintain a high standard such as the Board of Trade wish. I would suggest, if that is the case, that no great harm can be done.
I confess I do not take a very strong view on this matter, because I cannot help thinking it is not a very large point which is dividing the noble Earl and the Leader of the House. It simply relates to those rules which were in existence before the passing of the Convention. I am sorry there has been no agreement. I think my noble and learned friend has met the demands that were made on the last occasion very fairly, but he does not see his way to accept this. I can only say for myself that whilst I am very anxious everything should be done which would place the British shipowner on an equality with any other shipowner, still I would not insist if the Board of Trade really feel it is necessary to hold these rules. In that case I should prefer them to hold them—and they must take the responsibility—rather than have any division which might perhaps endanger the Convention. I would suggest to my noble and learned friend again that this question of the reshaping of all rules is well worthy of attention, and I hope that at any rate the Board of Trade will be able to give it attention.
§ LORD PARMOOR
My Lords, would it be convenient if I answered the question asked of me, because I have no right to speak again? As regards the redrafting of the rules, there would be no difference between the noble Marquess and myself, but that is not the question we are on at the present moment. The question is whether rules already passed under legislative powers should be abrogated. That is a matter concerning the general organisation of the Board of Trade which we consider very important, and a Convention of this kind is accepted on the ground that there is no interference with existing legislative rights or obligations. The new legislation that we are dealing with now is only of an enabling character so that the terms of the Convention may be complied with. That is what the other countries require. Before we ratify they want to know that we have taken what we consider to be sufficient powers to put the Convention rules into operation. No country asks another to abrogate existing rules. I do not think the noble Marquess asks for that.
THE MARQUESS OF BEADING
I do not think my noble and learned friend has appreciated the point I was putting. I was not suggesting there should be any interference with that right. What I was suggesting was that when they come to reconsider the rules, as they must do for the purpose of drafting new rules, they should then consider whether there are any old rules which should now be abrogated, and, after they have done that, whether it is not possible to put all the rules and regulations into one code. Then the rules should be placed in that way before Parliament, whether old or new, and dealt with, and, if there is no objection, they would receive Parliamentary assent.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
My Lords, if I may I should like to add my plea in support of the suggestion of the noble and learned Marquess, and for this reason. I do not think—the noble and learned Lord will forgive me saying so—that he is quite right in thinking the effect of the Convention is not to interfere with any existing legislative rights. As I understand the position, since 1906 the rule has been that under the Merchant Shipping Acts the Board of Trade can make and must make regulations dealing with safety, and those 404 regulations of necessity apply to all ships which ply from our ports, and it is of the essence of those regulations—indeed I think it is laid down in the Merchant Shipping Acts—that they must apply equally to British and foreign ships. Under the Convention all foreign ships are exempted from any safety regulations made by the Board of Trade outside the Convention regulations. The Board of Trade, in fact, loses the right which it at present has to impose any regulations in excess of the Convention stipulations upon foreign ships. If, therefore, the Board of Trade in any given case maintain a regulation in excess of the Convention requirements they can only maintain it in respect of British ships, and, therefore, there will be created in future a difference, disadvantageous of course to our ships, a burden laid upon our own ships which cannot be paid upon foreign ships. Therefore our right to legislate has been interfered with, although it has only been interfered with in so far as it regards foreign ships which come to our ports.
I do hope the Government will not think I am putting this from any kind of partisan view. I am only trying, as my noble and learned friend has tried, to state the position as it comes to my mind. If I am right in that statement of the legal position, the result is that after the Convention, one of the factors which the Board of Trade must consider with regard to any safety regulations in excess of the Convention regulations is that it is imposing upon our ships a burden which the foreigner competing with them from our ports does not have to bear. I am quite sure no one wants to reduce our safety regulations. Nobody wants to treat the Convention as a maximum instead of a minimum requirement, but when the Board of Trade is considering some requirement which is not included in the Convention but which is included in our existing code, they have, I suggest, to take into account the new fact that in future that regulation cannot be imposed on foreign ships, and, therefore, that if it is maintained it is maintained only in respect of British ships, and to that extent operates as a handicap against British ships and in favour of foreign ships.
That is a material factor. Is it unreasonable—because that is all my noble 405 friend, the noble Earl suggests—to say, if the Board of Trade think it necessary to maintain in respect of British ships a requirement which is not in the Convention and which therefore will not in future apply to foreign ships, that the Houses of Parliament shall be consulted as to whether or not that is a right handicap to impose? That is really, I think, the suggestion of the noble Earl and while I agree with the noble and learned Lord that, of course, we do not want to treat the Convention as abrogating the standards which we have already reached, yet, when the effect of the Convention is of necessity to create a differentiation which at present does not exist between British and foreign ships, I would suggest that it is not unreasonable that Parliament should be allowed to have a voice as to whether that differentiation is necessary in the interests of safety before the handicap is finally imposed upon British ships.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (LORD SANKEY)
My Lords, I have been very much struck by the speeches made by my noble and learned friend Lord Atkin and by my noble and learned friend the Marquess of Reading and by my noble and learned predecessor. I think it will be a great pity if we do anything in a hurry this afternoon which we subsequently find is wrong. I am sure that I am speaking not only for my Party, but for the whole House. Nobody here wants in any way to minimise the rules for safety at sea. I must say that I think there is considerable difficulty in the constitutional point raised by my noble and learned friend Lord Atkin. I would venture therefore to ask whether it would not be the best thing for us not to try to deal for the moment with this new clause, but to bring it up again on Third Reading. We can do that. We can go into the matter with the advantage of being able to consider all the arguments placed before us to-day. No one's position will be prejudiced, and I would venture to suggest that it is far better to hold over the matter for a little time, rather than try to deal with it in a state of unpreparedness, not quite appreciating all the points. Let me confess that I do not myself appreciate all the points. It would be far better to have a little time to think over the matter rather than act in a 406 hurry and regret it afterwards. I would suggest, therefore, to the noble Earl that for the moment he should not press his new clause, but bring it up on Third Reading after all the points raised to-day have been considered.
§ LORD PARMOOR
May I say, as your Lordships are dealing with my Amendment, that I fully assent to the view expressed by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, and that I am quite willing to withdraw my Amendment. I feel strongly that in this House, with all the legal ability in it, this is really a matter which we ought to be able to settle finally. There is a good deal to be thought over, and I hope that the suggestion of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack may be adopted.
§ EARL STANHOPE
My Lords, may I be allowed to say that I fully agree with the course suggested by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, but I should like to say a few words before that course is adopted. I think I used a wrong word in speaking about abrogating rules because what I understand is really proposed is, as the noble and learned Marquess suggested, that they should be redrafted. That is really the difficulty that arises. May I say, in addition, that I have made myself a perfect nuisance to anybody who I thought was likely to be able to tell me whether there is anything in the old rules which tend to safety but which are outside the Convention and will therefore drop. I have failed to discover one. There are differences in powers, but as far as I can see, there would be no reduction in safety. Indeed I am convinced that when the Convention is once in force ships and passengers at sea will be a great deal safer than at the present moment.
§ LORD PARMOOR
I said that I would withdraw my Amendment on the understanding that we should assent at this stage not to carry the matter further, but to let it wait until Third Reading. I do not want to contradict the noble Earl, but he is making statements which I cannot accept.
§ EARL STANHOPE
I was entitled to speak on the noble and learned Lord's Amendment, but I have not done so, 407 and therefore I thought I should be justified in making my position plain. I apologise to the House.
§ EARL STANHOPE
May I say that I have taken a great deal of trouble over this Bill and I thought that perhaps your Lordships might like to know the conclusion at which I had arrived.
§ Amendment to the Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 52:
§ Inspection and control of Convention ships not registered in United Kingdom.
§ (2) If a valid Load Line Convention certificate is produced to the surveyor on any such demand, the surveyor's powers of inspecting the ship with respect to load line shall be limited to seeing—
- (a) that the ship is not loaded beyond the limits allowed by the Load Line Convention;
§ LORD PARMOOR
All the other Amendments on the Paper we accept. There is no other contentious matter.
§ EARL STANHOPE moved, in sub section (2) (a), to leave out "Load Line Convention" and to insert "certificate." The noble Earl said: My Lords, this Amendment deals with a point which I raised on the Committee stage. It is not of great importance, but the position is that this country has to accept a certificate given by a foreign country to its own ships. The power under the Bill would be to see whether the certificate was in accordance with the Convention, whereas it ought to be in accordance with the certificate. I understand the Government accepts the Amendment, arid therefore I will not say anything further. The drafting is not my own but it has been submitted to me and I understand that it is acceptable to the Government. I beg to move.
Page 40, line 26, leave out ("Load Line Convention") and insert ("certificate") —(Earl Stanhope.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.408
§ Amendments moved—
§ Page 41, line 2, leave out from ("loaded") to ("the") in line 3, and insert ("beyond the limits allowed by the certificate").
Page 41, line 33, at end insert:
("( ) For the purposes of this section a ship shall be deemed to be loaded beyond the limits allowed by the certificate if she is so loaded as to submerge in salt water when the ship has no list, the appropriate load line on each side of the ship, that is to say, the load line appearing by the certificate to indicate the maximum depth to which the ship is for the time being entitled under the Load Line Convention to be loaded.")—(Earl Stanhope.)
§ On Question, Amendments agreed to.
§ Clause 56 [Submersion of load line on ships not registered in the United Kingdom]
Page 43, line 16, leave out ("indicating or purporting") and insert ("appearing by the certificate").—(Earl Stanhope.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.