HL Deb 18 February 1954 vol 185 cc1019-38

4.5 p.m.

My Lords, this is a small but rather important Bill to the shipping industry. It is to amend the Merchant Shipping Acts in respect of the method of calculating the net tonnage of shipping, which is, of course, derived from the gross tonnage. As the existing calculations are set out by Statute, we need a new Act of Parliament to change them. The size of a merchant ship is commonly measured in gross tonnage. This is not a measurement of weight, but of space contained in the ship converted at the rate of 100 cubic feet to one ton. To calculate the gross tonnage of a merchant ship, one delves among the 748 sections and twenty-two Schedules of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894. There, Section 77, together with the Second Schedule, sets out the extremely complicated method of calculation.

But one also requires another measurement, namely, the net tonnage, to give an idea of the earning capacity of the ship, and for other reasons. This is obtained by deducting from the gross tonnage the allowances for the various spaces in the ship not available for freight, and Sections 78 and 79 of that Act tell one how to do this, the result being called the net tonnage. The crew space et cetera, is deducted in a straightforward way, set out in Section 79; but when one comes to deducting the space for propelling machinery the procedure is more complicated, and is set out in Section 79. In future, for brevity, I shall speak of this space as the engine room, for it represents the engine room, the boilers and the shaft tunnel of the ship—in fact, the space required to propel the ship. The standard deduction from the gross tonnage for the engine room is one and three quarter times the actual space used; but there is a complication in that, if the engine room represents between 13 per cent. and 20 per cent. of the whole of the gross tonnage, then instead of the one and three quarter formula one makes a flat rate deduction of 32 per cent. of the gross tonnage.

Now this flat rate of 32 per cent. produces certain absurdities which it is the object of the Bill to set right. For instance, a 12.9 per cent. engine room attracts an allowance of one and three-quarter times 12.9—say, 22½per cent.; whereas, if the size of the engine room jumps by a fraction to 13.1 per cent., then the allowance immediately jumps to 32 per cent. That is the full measure of the anomaly. The amount of this allowance—hence the net registered tonnage resulting—is extremely vital to shipowners because harbour dues are paid on the net tonnage, and on the existing formula the difference between a 12.9 per cent. engine room and a 13.1 per cent. engine room on a tanker of 18,000 gross tons represents an allowance of approximately 1,700 tons. If one were to assume harbour dues at 6s. per ton (as I believe they are at some of the terminal ports) that would mean that the 12.9 per cent vessel would pay over £500 more than the 13.1 per cent. vessel when it went into harbour. Clearly, this is a penal difference, and naturally, shipbuilders have done their best to see that the engine room occupies more than 13 per cent. of the whole ship.

In the days of reciprocating engines, 13 per cent. and over may have been a normal engine room, but to-day, with the advance in marine engineering, this is no longer so, particularly in the slower vessels. In the circumstances, designers have in some cases been forced to devote a little more space than is really necessary to the engine room and sometimes even to add superstructure connected with the engine room to bring the whole space over 13 per cent. This, of course, does not have any marked effect upon the ship, but it is slightly undesirable from either one or another point of view—either the engine room itself may be unnecessarily large, in which case the sub-division of the hull tends to suffer, or else, if the addition is by way of superstructure, the ship is carrying some additional unnecessary weight on top.

In calculating the net tonnage in this Bill we are proposing to abolish the jump in allowance which occurs at 13 per cent, and instead to allow the proportion of 32 per cent. which the actual size of the engine room bears to 13 per cent. For instance, a 12 per cent. vessel will get 12/13ths of 32 per cent, an 11 per cent. vessel will get 11/13ths of 32 per cent., a 10 per cent. vessel will get 10/13ths of 32 per cent., and so on, instead of one and three-quarter times the actual space, as at present. In fact, the new allowance will be substantially better than the old in every case where engine rooms are less than 13 per cent., and it will be unchanged above that size. I have dealt only with screw steamers, but precisely the same applies to paddle steamers, except that the figures are different, to allow for the normally larger size of paddle steamer engine rooms.

Now in this proposed change in the law there seem to be four different types of parties who may be interested, and all have agreed to the change. First, there are the owners. They want ships to be as safe as possible and as efficient as possible, without sacrificing any comfort in operation. Under this Bill, they will be able to go ahead and build ships incorporating the latest engineering developments, without having to aim at a 13 per cent. engine room the whole time to avoid extra heavy port dues. I am advised that, in some cases, it is expected they will be able to design 11 per cent. or 12 per cent. engine rooms. Furthermore, any saving on engine room may, in certain cases, be available for cargo. The owners welcome the Bill. Second, there are the officers and crew. They want ships to be safe, comfortable to operate, and as efficient as possible. As regards safety, as I have already said, any changes that the Bill makes will make for superior safety, owing to the possibility of better sub-division. I may say here that there is no question at all of the load line, the Plimsoll line, being affected. As regards comfort in the engine room, we have particularly provided that if the Minister's surveyors are not satisfied with the light and air conditions in the engine room the ship will not get the benefit of the new allowance, and, if it has already got it, it will lose it. The officers and crew are, of course, greatly interested, too, in the efficiency of the ship, because upon the efficiency of our merchant marine their livelihood depends. This Bill definitely allows designers to design more efficiently, and the unions representing officers and men have approved the Bill.

The third party are the harbour authorities, and as they stand to lose some revenue from harbour dues they might have objected, but, in the interests of progress, they have approved the proposals. The fourth body are the overseas countries with whom we have reciprocal arrangements for the measurement of tonnage. These arrangements extend to the Commonwealth and eighteen foreign countries, and, of these, all have agreed in principle except the Soviet, who have not replied, and Italy with whom we are in some explanatory correspondence at the moment. We hope that, in due course, the whole world will come into line. It is obviously to the advantage of all other countries to do so because until they have agreed the new arrangements with us, their ships cannot obtain the benefit of them when they come to pay harbour dues in British harbours. Other bodies who have been consulted and who have approved are the Institute of Naval Architects and the Shipbuilding Conference.

The clauses of the Bill are only three in number and they speak for themselves, so that I need not detail them to your Lordships. I think one can, however, congratulate the draftsmen on having produced a technical Bill which is reasonably simple for the layman to understand. If your Lordships pass the Bill, the Minister hopes to bring the new legislation into operation by statutory instrument some time this year. I claim that the Bill is progressive and uncontroversial, and I commend it to your Lordships as one likely to promote the efficiency of our Merchant Navy. I beg to move that the Bill he now read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2".—(Lord Hawke.)

4.17 p.m.

I have little criticism to make. The noble Lord, Lord Hawke, has rightly said that the Bill removes a limitation which ship architects and designers have felt for many years. I think it makes for a more sensible arrangement of the propulsive power in ships. In the past, any designer who attempted to put his propulsion machinery aft has been at a great disadvantage. I have been interested in the latest example, the new Shaw Savill liner, which has departed from the practice in large ocean-going liners by having her engines aft. This is claimed, by those who know far more about it than I do, to be the best practice to-day. The noble Lord pointed out that it will enable all ships affected by this Bill to expand their cargo space and, therefore, their earning capacity.

It must be plain to all of us that the British Mercantile Marine is up against a gigantic problem. The cost of building ships to-day is prodigious. I note with concern that the new P. & O. liner "Arcadia," which has been built for the company with which the noble Viscount, Lord Runciman, is so intimately connected, and which starts on her maiden voyage next week, cost approximately the same amount as the "Queen Mary" and the "Queen Elizabeth" and it is less than half the size. How British shipping companies are going to get a return on huge capital outlays like that puzzles me somewhat. When there was a change of Government, I thought it was a good time to have a holiday and went to Australia. The cost of going to Australia two years ago was heavy, but I looked up the cost of going to Australia to-day and, at those rates, I do not think Australia will see me again, not because I have no desire to go there but because of high fares and the activities of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The shipping industry is up against a big problem and any measure such as this which will help them to save money in design or enable them to make a better contribution to their costs is to be welcomed.

The scope of the Bill is limited to the space occupied by the propelling power, and does not go any further. Speaking as a layman, in face of many experts, I should have thought that common sense would have dictated that the whole question of tonnage measurement should be reconsidered internationally at the earliest opportunity. The noble Lord has said that the agreement of twenty-two countries has been obtained for this modest Bill, and with the example in another sphere of the difficulty of getting international agreement between four countries, I think the Minister of Transport is to be congratulated on obtaining this agreement amongst twenty-two countries—though I am sorry to see that Russia and Italy have not thought fit to come into the arrangement at the present time. There is in existence an Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organisation—a high-sounding title, which is shortened to I.M.C.O.—one of whose tasks is to see whether tonnage measurement cannot be internationally agreed. On the trip to Australia that I have just mentioned, I was amused to see the crew taking down the deck screens at one end of the Suez Canal and putting them up when they came to the other end; and they went through these operations on several other occasions. I was interested to know the reason why, and on inquiry I discovered that it was because covered deck space was charged at one rate in the Canal and at another rate somewhere else; so we altered the design of the ship as we went along, to suit the dues payable. I should have thought it advisable to have an international tonnage measurement. We usually look at the gross tonnage of a ship and then wonder why the registered tonnage is so much less.

We on this side of the House have no serious complaint about the Bill, but I should like the noble Lord to place this suggestion before his right honourable friend the Minister of Transport. Is the Minister quite satisfied that the surveyors have a standard to which to work? Clause 1 (1) (b) of the Bill uses the words: …unless the surveyor of ships is satisfied that the space provided for the working of the boilers and machinery and the ventilation and lighting of that space are adequate. There is no definition in the Bill of the word "adequate," and it appears that the question of what is adequate in the case of lighting and ventilating the engine room is to be left to the judgment of the surveyor concerned. I think I am right in saying that no such wide discrimination is allowed when it comes to sleeping quarters: there the surveyor of a ship has no latitude. The space which a member of the crew is entitled to have is already laid down. Does the noble Lord not think that the powers given by this Bill to surveyors are too wide? I should like him to say something upon that when he winds up. Perhaps he will be able to tell your Lordships whether the Ministry lay down a standard, because, if so, perhaps it is not necessary for it to be included in this Bill. But, at least, I feel that we should have some information about it.

Other than that, we welcome the Bill, and hope that it will be the first of many to remedy these anomalies, and thus make it easier for the ship designer and shipbuilder to compete in world trade. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, would agree with me, also, in saying that probably the time has now arrived when the Merchant Shipping Acts should be consolidated. One has only to turn to the last page of this Bill to see that those Acts go right back to 1894. From that year up to 1954 there have been many of them. Does not the noble Lord think it would be as well if consolidation took place now? With those few remarks, and again welcoming the Bill on behalf of noble Lords on this side of the House, I will content myself by congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, on an excellent representation to your Lordships' House of a Bill which I am sure he could not have known a great deal about.

4.32 p.m.

My Lords, I should like to join with the noble Lord who has just sat down in congratulating my noble friend Lord Hawke or the extreme clarity with, which he moved the Second Reading of a Bill on a remarkably complicated and technical subject. I should also like to confirm, as I think I can fairly do, that the content of this Bill is welcome, not only to the naval architects but also to those whose business is to build ships and to run them. We are happy to feel that noble Lords opposite are in favour of this measure, too. I should like to touch, on two points only, both of which have already been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, though I am afraid that what I may have to say upon them is not, precisely in the same sense as the sentiments to which he has just given utterance.

The first is the point—a new one, so far as I am aware, in legislation of this kind—which leaves it to the discretion of a surveyor to decide whether certain spaces are, or are not, adequate for their purpose. If I remember rightly, the provision in the existing Merchant Shipping Acts is merely that the surveyor shall satisfy himself that the spaces are reasonable in extent, and that they cannot be used for anything else. He is now asked, to go rather further than that, and, while I do not think there is any other satisfactory way round it, one cannot help regretting faintly, as a matter of principle, another piece of legislation the effect of which is to depend upon the judgment of an individual not directly answerable to Parliament, or to anybody else other than his own masters.

On the other hand, I very much doubt, whether it would be a satisfactory way of attempting to get over that point to introduce regulations, by which the surveyor would have to be governed. It is not, if I may say so with respect, the same thing as producing regulations for the amount of air and space which members of the crew should have in their own accommodation. After all, from that point of view, human beings are all very much the same: they may look different in other respects, but, through and by, they breathe about the same amount of air; they require beds of approximately the same length, and will be satisfied by approximately the same amenities. Merchant engines, however, are now, and are likely to be in the future, exceedingly different in their characteristics.

If you seek to compare the appearance of a triple expansion engine, with or without an auxiliary exhaust turbine, a diesel engine, a turbine installation—to say nothing of the more modern proposals of gas turbines, and, for all we know, in the future, steam raised by atomic power, which we may find in ships' engine rooms—I doubt whether any regulations could be devised which would appropriately meet the conditions of engineers tending so wide a range of engines. They give off differing amounts of heat: some are larger than others, and some are smaller than others. As a purely practical point, I am inclined to think that the only successful thing to do—as I believe the shipping industry confidently does—is to place faith in the Ministry of Transport surveyors. We know them to be skilled and impartial people, and to be reasonable and far-sighted. I feel that, on the whole, the interests of both those who will have to work in the engine rooms and those responsible for building the ships—and, indeed, those like the Minister himself, who are responsible for the public safety—will be best served if these things are worked out as they go along, rather than by any attempt to draft in advance regulations on a subject of this kind.

It is perhaps slightly in the same spirit that I should like to speak on one other subject raised by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth. Whilst welcoming the extent of the Bill, he went on to ask whether it would not be a good thing if the whole system of tonnage measurement could be revised. It is perfectly true that the system of measuring a ship's tonnage, as can be gathered, to some extent, from what my noble friend Lord Hawke said originally, is neither a particularly simple, nor in some ways, a particularly logical thing. It may well be that a philosopher from another planet, coming and inquiring how ships were measured, would not only be perplexed to understand it, but would also think it great nonsense. And, speaking as one who has had a good deal to do with the measurement of tonnage, I should be inclined to agree with him. It is a curiously illogical thing which has just grown up from time to time. If your Lordships will pardon the simile, I feel that it is rather like the case of a man who has lived for a great many years with a wife who, perhaps, is neither particularly attractive nor even particularly intelligent; who is slightly given, at times, it may be, to nagging and forcing him to a number of rather peculiar shifts and devices in order to preserve domestic harmony. Nevertheless, if somebody comes along from outside and says, "My good fellow, your wife is a really most unsatisfactory woman. Why do you not get rid of her and have a nice new, reasonable, good-tempered, pretty, sweet, straightforward woman to live with from now on?", curiously enough, though it might be greatly in his interests to do so, the husband is apt to suggest that it is not such a good idea as it might at first sight appear.

The noble Viscount will no doubt agree that that would depend on the extent of the nagging the man had to put up with.

That is true; but I venture to think that if the woman had been really intolerable the husband might have found some way of getting rid of her before. The truth of the matter is that this system of tonnage measurement has grown up over a long time. It contains a number of odd things, but we have got used to it. Except in regard to the particular point which this Bill, happily, is designed to put right, I do not believe there are any particulars in which it so seriously hampers the design and operation of efficient ships that it is worth while going to an immense amount of trouble to change it just for the sake of being tidy.

The noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, commented upon the difficulty of getting a great many countries to agree upon anything. I have myself had some slight experience of trying to negotiate amendments to tonnage regulations, and, so far as I can remember, the last one which we did negotiate, which was one connected with the proper allowances for ballast tanks, was finally compromised after something like nineteen years of fairly continuous discussion. If we have to embark upon an international discussion for the complete revision of all this, Heaven knows whether or not our, great-grandchildren will see the answer. Meanwhile, a great deal of trouble will have been gone through. It is true that a number of highly deserving experts may have been provided with an interesting livelihood in the process, but I doubt whether that particular game is worth the candle. I venture to hope that we shall try in the future, as is being attempted with this Bill now, to improve on things as we go along and as the necessity for it becomes apparent, rather than, as I fear will be the case, let the better be the enemy of the good.

Finally, although this may appear a comparatively small matter to-day, and although the number of engine rooms which will be affected is not at the moment particularly large—though as the noble Lord, Lord Lucas said, a growing tendency to place engine rooms aft is likely to be encouraged, and I think desirably encouraged, by this measure—nevertheless, with the developments which are in sight for marine engines, all of which tend to make them more corn-pact and lighter, I think that the knowledge that designers can go ahead without the rather ridiculous handicap of having to try to inflate their engine rooms to an unnecessarily large size will be a stimulus to design and can be nothing but beneficial to designers, builders, and shipowners alike.

4.43 p.m.

My Lords, in welcoming this Bill, perhaps I should declare my interest as a director of a ship-owning company. There is no doubt that the present rules of measurement of net tonnage have had an adverse effect upon modern ship design. With smaller and efficient engines it has become all too apparent, through the years, that some kind of revision was necessary, aid I congratulate Her Majesty's Government on bringing this Bill before your Lordships' House to-day. I understand that this Bill, when it becomes an Act, will come into operation at a date to be approved by the Minister—which will be, I suppose, when the other countries have been able to pass their own legislation on this matter.

As has been mentioned by the noble Viscount, Lord Runciman, the requirement in the Bill that the Ministry's surveyor must be satisfied as to adequate space as regards propelling machinery is a new feature. I, too, think that it would be a mistake to have regulations, because the factors are so variable. Perhaps the noble Lord who is to reply for Her Majesty's Government: will confirm that each case will be determined by the Ministry of Transport from plans supplied of the ship, and that the examination, which of course I agree is necessary, will not be unduly delayed. It has been suggested in some quarters—and, I believe, in another place—that the adoption of the new measurement for engine rooms would adversely affect: the revenue from harbour, pilotage, and light dues, through a reduction in the registered net tonnage, the basis, of course, on which they are paid. The noble Lord, Lord Hawke, rather suggested that there might be a reduction in harbour dues. In cases where the propulsion space is under 13 per cent., I venture to point out that quite the contrary is the case. Shipowners will prefer to have smaller engine rooms in their ships, which will in fact, increase the net tonnage. On the other hand, the increase in the dues payable an the increase in net tonnage will be more than offset by the increased carrying capacity, lower construction costs, and, last but not least, greater safety.

I was rather astonished at some views put forward in another place. It was said that marine underwriters were concerned about the provisions of this Bill because new ships would be able to carry more cargo in view of the smaller engine room. In fact, the whole question of how much cargo and what weight a ship is allowed to carry is governed by the load line convention and the rules made under it: and this Bill in no way affects these rules. There is, of course, no question of reducing the margin of safety in that respect—indeed, the safety factor will be increased, because it will be possible to have a better sub-division of water-tight compartments in these new ships. I, too, support the views put for. ward to-day by the noble Viscount, Lord Runciman, that we should proceed with some caution as regards amendment of the tonnage rules generally. They are of a complex nature: international agreement might be somewhat difficult to obtain; and in any case the rules are not of a very serious nature. I consider this Bill to be an excellent one, and I support it in every way.

4.46 p.m.

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, in commending this Bill, mentioned two points. One was the reduction in harbour dues which will follow. Shipowners to-day have to watch their overheads very carefully, and a Bill which reduces harbour dues and, at the same time, gives a little additional cargo space must be welcome news indeed to shipowners.

The noble Lord will forgive me for interrupting. There will be no reduction in harbour dues, except in certain cases.

At any rate, in those cases there will be. The noble Lord, Lord Hawke, mentioned that fact, and I am sure that it will be welcomed. The noble Lord, Lord Hawke, also mentioned the question of superior safety. I believe it to be true that, as a result of ships having been designed and built with larger engine rooms than were necessary, safety and efficiency may to some extent have been affected; at any rate, the possibility of their being affected was there. A welcome feature of the Bill is that if in future engine rooms are less than 13 per cent. of the gross tonnage, the deduction from the 32 per cent. will now be tapered off, to some extent, instead of being rather abrupt, as was the case before. In reducing the size of the engine rooms, it will be essential that ample working space is provided and there, I take it, the responsibility will be that of the surveyor. The noble Lord mentioned that the Bill is welcome to the unions concerned. I am associated with one union, the Navigators' and Engineer Officers' Union. I have consulted the officials of that union about this Bill, and I am happy to be able to say that they welcome it.

The noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, said something about consolidation of the Merchant Shipping Acts. That would be a formidable task upon which to embark. But considering the great technical developments that have taken place in propelling plants in the latter part of this half-century, and as so much greater power is now obtainable, and has for some time been obtainable, from much smaller engines, it is rather remarkable that a reform in the manner envisaged by this Bill has not been carried out long before. After all, the Act which this is to replace is dated, I think, 1894, and I feel that this matter might have been looked at before now. There is another point which I think has not been mentioned this afternoon. Not only is the propelling plant more compact, and takes up less room, but oil fuel has replaced coal and requires less space for stowage. I believe that oil fuel is frequently carried in the double bottom, which is, as I understand it, exempted space.

It may have come as a surprise to many people to know that there are no regulations affecting ventilation and lighting in the engine-room spaces. I noticed what the noble Viscount, Lord Runciman of Doxford, said about the difficulty, in his view, of drawing up regulations affecting the ventilation of engine-room spaces because of the different characteristics and behaviour of various types of plant. I should have thought, however, that it would have been possible to establish some formula relating ventilation to engine-room temperatures, although they vary. This is a technical point, and I am not fully qualified to speak upon it, but on the question of lighting I should have thought that there was no difficulty whatsoever in providing regulations. Ventilation and lighting are very important matters. Great attention has been paid from time to time to ventilation of accommodation for the officers and crews, and I should have thought it was equally important to impose regulations affecting the ventilation and lighting of these engine-room spaces. May I call your Lordships' attention to the fact that engineer officers and men spend a third of their lives on duty in these engine-room spaces and that the ship may be practically continuously employed in tropical or semi-tropical waters? Certainly it is of the utmost importance that they should not have to spend so much of their time in what may be ill-ventilated engine rooms.

In this Bill a great deal of reliance, as has been mentioned by other noble Lords, is placed upon the surveyor. The surveyor must be satisfied that the ventilation and lighting of boiler and machinery spaces are—the word employed is "adequate." It seems to me that the surveyor is given very wide powers indeed if he is the authority to decide whether ventilation and lighting are really adequate. Perhaps we might hear a little more about the surveyor. The Minister may feel able to tell us—as has been suggested to me, I think very pertinently, by the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye—a little more about the functions of the surveyor: to whom he is responsible, and so on, so that we may know whether the conditions of his work are such as to make him a reliable judge of what is adequate in these respects. With those few words I should like, on my own behalf and on behalf of the union which I have mentioned, to say once again that we welcome this Bill and that we are grateful to the Government for having brought forward a measure which will remedy some of the anomalies which have perhaps existed for too long.

4.54 p.m.

My Lords, I speak a second time by leave of the House. I should first like to extend my thanks to noble Lords for their kind reception of the Bill and for the remarks they have made indicating that I have managed to explain it with a reasonable degree of clarity. It is always welcome when a Bill meets with approval on all sides of this House. To take the various points that were made, I should like to say first that I think my noble friend Lord Runciman of Doxford answered the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, to some extent on several points, particularly on this question of getting a universal tonnage throughout the world. It presents the most formidable difficulties, because the interested parties are so many and so various that the possibilities of disagreement go up in geometrical (or should it be arithmetical?) progression according to the parties concerned. However, it is an aim; and this Inter-governmental Maritime Consultative Organisation—I.M.C.O.—is a body which will come into operation at some future date, in which case we shall have gone some way towards standard tonnage for the world. I should next deal with the question of consolidation and I do this with considerable trepidation because my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack is the master of consolidation. No doubt he will correct me if I am wrong. I think I can say straight away that the consolidator's time is just not available in the near future for this monumental task—for it is a monumental task. The 1894 Act, as I have said, is one of the longest on the Statute Book.

And there are a good many others knocking at the door.

Before the noble Lord leaves that point, may I say that I appreciate what he has said; but can he give the House an assurance that even if this matter is not within arm's length to knock at the door, it is at least in the queue somewhere?

It is certainly in the mind of my right honourable friend's advisers, but do not think they aspire to a very high place in the queue.

The main point raised by several speakers is this question of the surveyors. In my first speech I made one slight slip which will come out on Lord Winster's side, and that is that should a new vessel of under 13 per cent. not measure up to the standards of light and air which appear proper to the surveyors, the engine room of that vessel will get no allowance at all until it is put right, while an existing vessel would net get the benefit of the new regulations but would, of course, not be deprived of the existing ones which it has had all the time.

Will it be the surveyor who will decide whether the lighting and ventilation are correct to qualify under this Bill?

I will come to that in a moment. In the case of an existing vessel the surveyors are the authorities. They go on board these vessels at frequent intervals—for fire inspection alone once a year is the minimum, and they are out and about on these vessels. They are mostly men of seafaring experience and are highly qualified to judge whether the light and air in an engine room is sufficient to enable the machinery to be worked in comfort by the crew. I was greatly impressed by my noble friend's argument that it is possible to lay down regulations for human beings, who are roughly the same. I do not altogether agree with his statement that they all require the same length of bed; but they certainly require roughly the same amount of air. It is extremely difficult to give it in vessels which are of different sizes and shapes. Her Majesty's Government set great importance on this matter. My right honourable friend has given it a great deal of thought; but he is firmly convinced, and I am sure he is right, that he can do these things better by human judgment than by putting everything down in regulations. Perhaps I may be allowed to remind your Lordships that regulations for a minimum for any purpose nearly always become in the end regulations for a maximum as well. That, I think, would have unfortunate consequences. We are unshaken in our belief that it is better to trust to our surveyors.

On the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, on the subject of the new vessels and their plans, may I say that they will be given provisional approval by the Ministry, but the final approval will have to be given by the surveyors on the spot. I think one can promise the minimum of delay, as the noble Lord asked.

I hope the noble Lord will forgive my interrupting: I am grateful to him for giving way. On this question of discretion, there could be somewhat of a difference between the views of one surveyor and those of another. I agree with the noble Lord that regulations in this matter can be irksome, but one surveyor may suffer from claustrophobia while another may not. The Minister of Transport is the arbiter. May we have some assurance from the noble Lord that the Minister will give to his surveyors some kind of direction which will be a yardstick to which they may work? If the Minister still thinks that it is far better to leave it to the unfettered discretion of the surveyor, is there machinery for either the representatives of the crew or the representatives of the shipowner to appeal against the surveyor's decision?

The crew or the owner can complain to the Minister. The procedure then would presumably be for the Minister to send down, perhaps two surveyors, or a more senior surveyor, to examine the substance of the complaint. But I do not think that a surveyor who suffered from claustrophobia would long remain on the pay-roll of my right honourable friend the Minister of Transport. These people are practical men, and must remain so.

I am sorry to press the noble Lord again on this point, but surely engine-room temperatures and boiler-room temperatures are recorded in the ship's log, and over a period of a year it is quite possible to determine what is the average temperature in those machinery spaces. Cannot this be related to same question of adequacy of air space for working in those temperatures? It is not a matter of guesswork: the temperatures are recorded.

I am not a seafaring engineer but, having read my Kipling, I should have said that it is by no means certain that the temperature in an engine room is uniform the whole time. There obviously must be wide fluctuations, even in comparison with the temperature of the outer air. If the noble Lord thinks that there are engine rooms which are not up to standard, it is open for the union to complain to the Minister that the engine room of such-and-such a ship is not fit to work in; and a surveyor will then be sent along to deal with the matter. To my mind, that is a far more practical method than sending along a surveyor with a notebook full of figures which might be quite inapplicable in the case in question.

The only other point which I record as having been raised is this question of harbour dues. I think there is an opening for difference of opinion as to whether in fact the total of harbour dues in the future will be more or less than at present. My own speculative estimate of the future—this is not Her Majesty's Government's estimate; it is a purely personal one—is that there should be a slight decrease in the incidence of harbour dues per ton on cargo brought into the ports of this country. Whether those cargoes will be carried in more or in fewer vessels I do not know. It is obviously not a matter on which one can dogmatise. I repeat, I am most grateful for the reception given to this Bill by your Lordships. I feel sure that you, will accord it a Second Reading.

5.5 p.m.

My Lords, before the Second Reading is given, may I ask the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, a question (I have listened to the debate, as have other noble Lords) on the powers given to the surveyor? It was not quite clear from the noble Lord's two speeches that the survey ors are, in fact, employees of the Ministry of Transport—I understand that that is the case. Therefore, when the Minister, if there is some conflict between the owners, or the crew, and the surveyors, says that further surveyors will be sent down, it means, in fact, that he is sending down again officials from exactly the same Department. So the executive is given great powers. I think the Minister made a most convincing case that this is a matter that cannot be defined by regulation, but if we are to give the executive —that is to say, the surveyors employed by the Minister—the power to decide whether this concession should or should not be granted—and presumably that would be decided only after the ship had been constructed, not at the stage of the plans—

May I interrupt? I said that the approval in principle was given at the planning stage, but the final approval only on the ground, so to speak.

The final approval must be given on the ground. Would the Minister ask his right honourable friend, between now and the further stages of the Bill, whether he would consider the provision in the Bill of some administrative machinery whereby there could be an appeal to some impartial tribunal, or someone other than the Minister's own employees, in respect of any fundamental difference as to what is satisfactory ventilation and lighting between, on the one side, those who own the ship or travel in it and, on the other, those employees of the Government who do the surveying? I merely ask him to consider that suggestion between now and the next stage.

I will certainly look into the suggestion of my noble friend, but I think he is making rather a mountain out of a molehill, because, so far as I am aware, these matters have never failed to be settled amicably. In the last resort, the Minister is responsible to Parliament, and if, in the case of some ship or other, there is a complete inability to reconcile the two sides, the question could certainly be raised in Parliament. I feel certain that an agreement would result. Nevertheless, I will certainly bring my noble friend's suggestion to the attention of my right honourable friend.

On Question, Bill read 2ª; and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

House adjourned at nine minutes past five o'clock.

Back to