HL Deb 23 March 1937 vol 104 cc777-9

Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.


My Lords, in moving that this Bill be read a third time, I should like to remind your Lordships that I promised on the Committee stage of the Bill, in answer to my noble friend Viscount Bertie, that further consideration would be given to his suggestion that the provisions of Clause r of the Bill with regard to overloading a British ship should be extended to apply to foreign ships. As I explained to your Lordships at the time there are two difficulties about this. In the first place, we are legislating for British ships wherever they may be, and on that point I may say that the need for legislation arises not so much in United Kingdom ports—where overloading is perhaps less likely to go undetected than anywhere else in the world, and where if it is detected action can be taken under the provisions of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1932—as in other ports of the world, particularly those where supervision is for one reason or another not so strict as in this country. The second reason is that, whereas the overloading of a foreign ship in our ports has a reasonable chance of being detected and dealt with, there are no means of detecting or of dealing with the foreign ship which succeeds in leaving our ports in an overloaded condition. Once this has happened the authorities who should deal with her are the authorities of the country to which she belongs.

I gather, however, that my noble friend's anxiety was that there might be an incentive to a man who wished to over- load his ship to charter a foreign ship so that he might escape penalties imposed by this Bill. The answer is that overloading does not arise quite in this way. A ship is not chartered for the purpose of being overloaded, but a particular ship may be overloaded if opportunity arises and if the persons responsible think that they can escape detection. The risk of detection in a United Kingdom port is precisely the same whether the ship is British or foreign, and the consequences of detection are the same in either case. The theoretical advantage which the foreign ship has, owing to the fact that if she escapes detection she does not commit an offence against United Kingdom law in proceeding to sea overloaded, is not one which we think is likely to appeal to a charterer when he has to decide whether to charter a United Kingdom ship or a foreign ship. The real fear in the mind of a man who deliberately overloads is the fear of detection before he sails. The risk of detection after he sails is much less and is not likely to affect his course of action to the extent of deciding the nationality of the ship he will charter.

It is true that this Bill imposes penalties upon a British ship if she proceeds to sea overloaded from a port in the United Kingdom, but the case which gave rise to this particular clause and the case with which the clause is really intended to deal is the case of the British ship which overloads, not in the United Kingdom, but abroad. So far as the United Kingdom is concerned, the law as it stands is probably sufficient to deal with most cases, although it is, of course, conceivable that cases of overloading in the United Kingdom may be dealt with under it; but in a general way it may be taken that the law as it stands, coupled with the supervision exercised at British ports, is in practice sufficient to deal with overloading at home, whether that overloading takes place on a British ship or on a foreign ship. With that explanation, which I hope will satisfy my noble friend, I beg to move that the Bill be now read a third time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.—(Lord Templemore.)

On Question, Bill read 3a.

Clause 3 [Short title and citation]:


My Lords, this Amendment is consequential upon the passing of the Merchant Shipping (Spanish Frontiers Observation) Act and is quite formal. I need say no more upon it, I think. I beg to move.

Amendment moved—

Page 2, lines 22 and 23, leave out ("1936, and those Acts and this Act") and insert ("1937, and shall be included among the Acts which").—(Lord Templemore.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Bill passed, and returned to the Commons.