HL Deb 16 March 1937 vol 104 cc672-5

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Temple more.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly:

[The EARL OF ONSLOW in the Chair.]

Clause 1:

Penally for taking or sending ship to sea with load line submerged.

(2) This section applies to all British load line ships registered in the United Kingdom and to all other British ships to which the said Section forty-four for the time being applies by virtue of an Order in Council made under subsection (3) of Section sixty-four of the said Act.

VISCOUNT BERTIE OF THAME moved to add to subsection (2), "and this section shall apply also to all foreign ships loading at a port in the United Kingdom". The noble Viscount said: Under this clause, if the master takes or any person sends a British load line ship to sea when loaded in contravention of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1932, he will be liable not only to a fine, as under the present law, but also to imprisonment. I do not disagree with the new penalty, which is doubtless intended as an extra safeguard to British lives, and rightly so, but I suggest that the clause should apply to foreign ships as well. It is never well that an Act of Parliament should be capable of being evaded, and under this clause evasion will be easy. All that a person intent on evading the law will have to do will be to charter a foreign vessel, and he could even have it manned by a British crew, thereby endangering the lives of British subjects, which, as I have suggested, is what this Bill is intended to prevent. In conclusion, I would ask my noble friend in charge of the Bill why a foreigner is to be in a privileged position in the matter.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 3, at end, insert ("and this section shall apply also to all foreign ships loading at a port in the United Kingdom").—(Viscount Bertie of Thame.)


I am bound to say that this Amendment attracted me at first, but it is really unsound in two points, which I will shortly point out to my noble friend. He is aware, I think, that it is already an offence for foreign ships to overload at a port in the United Kingdom. Section 57 of the Merchant Shipping (Safety and Load Line Conventions) Act, 1932, reads as follows: The provisions of Section 44 of this Act shall apply to load line ships not registered in the United Kingdom, while they are within any port in the United Kingdom, as they apply to British load line ships registered in the United Kingdom, subject to the following modifications— and so on. Section 44 is the section which provides penalties for submerging the load line of a British ship. What does this Bill do? Your Lordships are aware that Clause 1 (1) makes it an offence for the master of a ship to take a ship to sea when she is loaded in contravention of Section 44, and so forth. The Amendment now proposed endeavours to make it an offence for a foreign ship overloaded in the United Kingdom to proceed to sea, and, as I said, it is unsound on two grounds.

First of all, it implies that we should have jurisdiction to impose a penalty upon a foreign ship for an offence committed on the high seas, where we have no jurisdiction. Overloading in a port of the United Kingdom is already an offence, and it is right that it should be so, since the offence is committed within the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom. The offence of proceeding to sea is, however, not an offence committed necessarily within the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom. While the ship is within territorial waters no doubt she is technically within our jurisdiction, but I think your Lordships will agree that it is very doubtful whether we should take advantage of this point. The second objection is that there would be no means of enforcing penalties for this offence. The way to prevent overloading of foreign ships is to catch them before they leave the port; that is to say, to deal with them under Section 57 of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1932. Once they have left the port there is no possibility either of proving that overloading has taken place or of dealing with the ship while she remains outside the United Kingdom jurisdiction. The reason why the new offence is confined to United Kingdom ships is that we have jurisdiction to legislate for United Kingdom ships wherever they may be, whereas our jurisdiction over foreign ships can be exercised only when they are within our ports. If a foreign ship overloads in a United Kingdom port she can be dealt with under our law. If she succeeds in escaping observation and departs overloaded, she has, I am afraid, succeeded in escaping our jurisdiction, and it is then for the country to which she belongs to deal with her, because we cannot do so. I have tried to make myself clear, and I hope I have succeeded. For these reasons, I am afraid I cannot accept my noble friend's Amendment.


I do not propose to press this Amendment, but my noble friend has not answered the proposition I put before him: that it would be very easy to evade this clause by chartering a foreign ship and then overloading her. I would ask my noble friend to consider between now and the Third Reading whether something cannot be put in to prevent that evasion. I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.


Of course, any appeal made by my noble friend or any other noble Lord in this sense will meet with my earnest consideration, and I will certainly consider between now and Third Reading, in consultation with my advisers at the Board of Trade, whether anything can be put in. I do not, however, hold out any hopes that anything will appear suitable.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Remaining clauses agreed to.

Bill reported without amendment.