HL Deb 17 December 1963 vol 254 cc214-40

7.46 p.m.

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

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

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The LORD MERTHYR in the Chair.]

Clause 1 [Exploration and exploitation of continental shelf]:

On Question, Whether Clause 1 shall stand part of the Bill?


I wish to make some observations on the Question whether the clause shall stand part. We are rather a sparse Committee for discussing a most important measure in which we are about to add to the area of the world under our direct control for exploitation by tens of thousands of square miles. Although this is a small enabling Bill, Clause 1 is, I think, one of the quietest ways of extending what may be called "Empire" that this House has ever known, because, under the Convention, we could extend by not only tens of thousands of square miles, but hundreds of thousands of square miles.

I particularly want to ask the Government some questions in relation to subsection (5) of Clause 1, which says: Her Majesty may from time to time by Order in Council designate any area as an area within which we can exploit these rights. On the Second Reading of the Bill, the Minister and I had some exchanges on what these areas were, and I urged him to have a look at a map. Since that time I think we are probably both rather better informed. There are two aspects of this question to which I want to refer. We have to consider what we are doing when we are giving this power to designate an area. It is, therefore, appropriate to refer to the Convention, which says: For the purposes of these articles, the term 'continental shelf' is used as referring (a) to the seabed and subsoil of the submarine areas adjacent to the coast but outside the area of the territorial sea, to a depth of 200 metres"— and that might be more familiar if I say it is slightly more than 100 fathoms— or, beyond that limit, to where the depth of the superjacent waters"— that, I understand, means the waters above— admits of the exploitation of the natural resources of the said areas, (b) to the seabed and subsoil of similar submarine areas adjacent to the coasts of islands". This, I understand, means not only the continental shelf, which roughly extends to the 100 fathom line, but that the continental shelf now extends beyond the continental shelf, because it is quite probable that we shall be able to exploit areas far deeper than the 100 fathom line: indeed, "Operation Mohole", which is busy trying to prick the mantle of the earth for scientific purposes, is being conducted at a depth of somewhere around 4,000 fathoms. Therefore, it is not only half the North Sea that we may be taking; it may be half the Atlantic as well. I think, before we give these rather considerable powers to the Government, we should ask whether they interpret the Bill in the same way.

We had some discussion on the last occasion in regard to the Norwegian Deep, which 1 suggested excluded Norway from taking advantage of the North Sea continental shelf. I must confess that I was wrong in that interpretation. Undoubtedly, this matter will be settled by agreement. The Deep off Norway goes down in the Skagerrak to about 430 fathoms and in much of the area is little more than 200 fathoms—a little more and sometimes less than that of the accepted continental shelf depth given in the Convention.

These are tremendous powers, and they raise also the question of how we are to designate these areas. The Minister was very forthcoming on the position vis-à-vis France and the Channel. We understand that France, even though they will not sign, will none the less come along, and it should not be difficult to draw the areas on a map or a chart. Presumably, this line will be designated either by geographical co-ordinates or on a map of a graticule which will give to mariners or oil prospecting companies what they want. The great problem is how they will know when they are on the line. This is a matter on which the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, with his interest in radio and electronics, may have something to say.

I should like to make two points on this matter, because I should like the Government to give attention to it if we are to get on with what is a necessary operation and a necessary piece of legislation. It is not, of course, enough to use the time-honoured methods of sun and star sights, where one can get an accuracy of about a mile. Nor will it be enough even to rely on ordinary D.F. bearings. This is something which will need to he tackled by international agreement. One of the interesting things about this Bill and the clause is the tremendous international implications. There are two obvious ways at the moment, unless such devices as inertial guidance techniques will provide a satisfactory means. One is the use of Decca, of the kind the oil companies have already been operating, but which may go out of existence and which clearly will have to be established if a ship is to know whether it is in the right area to a degree of accuracy which, after all, the Government themselves will draw in rather small measures like 500 yards. The other way is to use some form of air between micro-wave distance equipment, using something like a helicopter with master stations on land; but this must mean that the frequencies must be available.

I would urge—and I am not expecting the Minister to deal with these points to-night—that this is a matter for fairly urgent international negotiation. I mention it because it takes a long time to negotiate on frequencies and this is an urgent matter. I apologise for dragging these points up on the Question that Clause 1 stand part, but if we are to designate areas it must be meaningful. I hope the Minister will draw attention to this question and that we shall treat this Bill and this clause with the importance it deserves.


My Lords, I do not want to be drawn into the intricacies of precision navigation, either at sea or in the air, as suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton. My only reason for rising this evening for a few moments is to remind my noble friend Lord Derwent of an undertaking he gave me, under subsection (3) of Clause 1. He kindly said, with regard to the compulsory acquisition of ancillary rights for the storage of petroleum—that is, shore facilities—that as the appropriate section in the Petroleum Production Act, 1934, has not been included in the Bill, he would be quite willing to have another look at this to see whether Her Majesty's Government wanted to take any further steps. Perhaps he has some further information this evening on his further consideration; otherwise there will be a further opportunity on Third Reading next Thursday. That will be the last opportunity your Lordships will have of raising this issue.

This is a very important point, because, as I mentioned on Second Reading, the provision of shore facilities, or the right of compulsory acquisition of these facilities with regard to petroleum depðts, has been excluded from the provisions of the Pipe-lines Act. I believe that, even if they were brought within the ambit of this Bill, the problem of amenity along the shore could still be safeguarded. As I mentioned on Second Reading, it will be extremely costly and more difficult if petroleum companies whose pipe-lines come from the continental shelf through territorial waters to the shore, do not have compulsory rights to see that appropriate storage and other facilities are readily available.

7.57 p.m.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, for raising this general question, because it is, as he said, a very exciting and important story. I will not say that the Bill is exciting, but it does something which may lead to the most exciting developments. The noble Lord started off by asking: what is this shelf? What is the area which we are considering? The area we are considering is, as he said, virtually everywhere. It was agreed in the Convention, and in the negotiations for the Convention, that apart from the actual continental shelf all adjacent waters to countries shall count as part of the continental shelf. That deals with the question of the Norwegian waters.

The Convention itself goes further than that: it goes to any depth at which you can work. The noble Lord is quite right that, beyond what is accepted as the continental shelf, there is no reason why we should not have international agreements in the deeper water, maybe well out into the Atlantic. I would say that the whole idea of this Convention is that at this stage there is nothing rigid about the lines. Every single delimitation of line between countries has to he negotiated country by country, and that is the intention of the Convention. It may be that in certain cases it could be perhaps three countries, but not where they immediately start in the North Sea —that is, straight lines drawn between countries. If you want a station on a particular part of the North Sea, you draw a line across the two countries and they have to negotiate where that line goes.

The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, asked how one is to settle where the line is? Is the method to put down a line of lobster pots, or what? The answer is that again it will be done by negotiation; but it is laid down in the Convention that it should be by chart, map or plan and it must be connected with some fixed landmark as regards bearings and so on. That is laid down in the Convention. But the best method of delimiting a particular line which is already agreed is open to negotiation. That is as far as I think I can go at the moment. But the Convention does lay down that you cannot just draw a sea map, as it were, and put a point: a reference has to be made to fixed land points when fixing stations and limits of what one might call territorial waters—except, of course, that these are not territorial waters, but the open sea.

With regard to the question raised by my noble friend Lord Merrivale about ancillary rights, all I can say at this stage is that we have not been able to get much further. We have not quite made up our minds. I think it is almost certain (though I am not promising in the House at this stage of the Bill) that at some later stage an Amendment will be introduced. It is not quite so easy as the noble Lord seemed to think. There are certain difficulties, but I think we shall be able to do it. I do not know whether it will be on Third Reading or when the Bill goes to another place.


I agree with my noble friend that it is not easy, and that is one of the reasons why I did not put down an Amendment. I know that various elements concerned in the industry have not reached agreement among themselves, but they are very keen on the principle.


We, too, are rather keen on the principle, but I cannot say at what stage we shall be able to introduce an Amendment. We hope to have further discussions. I do not know whether I have answered all the points which have been raised on the question, "That the Clause stand part." If the noble Lord has no further questions, perhaps we can proceed.


I am grateful to the noble Lord, because we have it clear what are the purposes and powers in this Bill. I think it is surprising that nobody except the two of us have said anything powerful about this matter, because it is tremendously important. He did not—of course I did not expect it—answer my suggestions for fixing these areas. I fully realise they would be either related to fixed points, or drawn in the form of geographical co-ordinates and the rest of it. But I hope that he will look at the actual technical side, whether it is the airborne micro-wave fixing or the Decca system, because I think this is something we ought to get on with. I hope, too, that he will be very cautious about what his noble friend Lord Merrivale asked for.


I am grateful to the noble Lord for having brought this point to our attention in the form he has. We will, of course, read what he has said.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2:

Protection of installations in designated areas

2.—(1) The Minister of Power may for the purpose of protecting any installation in a designated area by order made by statutory instrument prohibit ships, subject to any exceptions provided by the order, from entering without his consent such part of that area as may be specified in the order.


I am going to take Amendments 1 to 5 together. They all relate to the same subject and all arise out of the point that the noble Lord, Lord McNair, raised on Second Reading when he questioned whether or not the Minister of Power had, in fact, the necessary power to control the flying of aircraft over these particular installations. The noble Lord, Lord Derwent, said that there is already power under international agreement. He did not say what form that took, and it seemed easiest to test it by putting down an Amendment to cover not only ships but aircraft. I am not suggesting that the words I have used are entirely appropriate, but I think they will give the noble Lord an opportunity to provide peace of mind to the noble Lord, Lord McNair. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 19, after ("ships") insert ("or aircraft").—(Lord Shackleton.)


If I may be allowed to deal with Amendments 1 to 5 together, this is the actual legal position on the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord McNair. We have no right in international law to prohibit aircraft generally from flying over any part of the continental shelf belonging to the United Kingdom. Article 3 of the Convention says that the rights of the coastal State over the shelf do not affect the legal status of the superjacent waters as high seas or that of the air space above those waters. As regards ships, this is overriden by the explicit stipulation in Article 53 of the Convention that ships of all nationalities must respect safety zones. But there is no corresponding stipulation as regards aircraft. In any case, we doubt whether installations require protection from aircraft. The height above the water of such an installation is unlikely to exceed 150 feet and normally aircraft do not fly as low as that deliberately. That is the position as regards both ships and aircraft.


At this late hour I hesitate to enter into the debate, but the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, has just said that there is no power to control the flight of aircraft over the continental shelf. But there is. The approach to every aerodrome, so far as this country is concerned, is by lanes. The entry, through a gateway, and the approach in this country to every aerodrome, is determined by a lane on the basis of safety. If we are going to have that position in so far as the approach to an aerodrome and the effect on safety are concerned— we are dealing here with the right of the Postmaster General in relation to wireless—there is every right to protect installations and the safety of men on installations from interference from aircraft.

It is a comparatively easy thing for an aircraft, whether of an international airline or any other airline, provided that the required notice is given and the arrangements are made in let-down procedures for aircraft, to be re-routed on to any particular lane. It may be quite necessary for the safety, not only of aircraft in flight, but also of men working on an installation out at sea, that aircraft should be re-routed. Surely, if we can do it for the approach of aircraft coming towards our coast from well over the Channel and even out into the Irish Sea and Atlantic, we ought to be able to do it for installations such as this.


The legal position is as I stated it. By other international agreements there can be air lanes for the safety of aircraft traffic. But this continental shelf, of course, is outside territorial waters, and the fact remains that, except by international agreement which goes on, we have no actual right in international law to prohibit aircraft from flying over the shelf outside territorial waters. If there is no international flying agreement, we cannot in the middle of the North Sea say, "Aircraft cannot fly over here."


I did not know it went as far as the middle of the North Sea.


The noble Lord, Lord McNair, was right. This is quite a serious matter, and this matter perhaps shows a defect in the Convention. I will not say that the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, deliberately misled us, but on Second Reading, in the matter on which the noble Lord Lord McNair, was concerned, he said that these rights are expressly reserved by the Convention—this is with regard to ships—and that the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord McNair about aircraft flying over an installation was in fact covered under an existing international agreement. What he meant was that it is specifically not covered under international agreement, or that it is excluded.

I would just say this to the noble Lord. We cannot do anything about this, and this is one of the difficulties. We are bound by the Convention. Parliament's powers are continually being whittled down by this type of thing and it is unavoidable. But it would be perfectly possible for a ship to go outside the 500 metre limit, to put up a helicopter, which then flew 5 feet above the installation and took photographs of what what was going on—I am not saying that people would want to. Equally, people could make a nuisance of themselves.

There are strict controls over all forms of flight over land. All we are saying is that there ought to be a similar power in regard to these installations. If it had been earlier, I would almost have suggested this was something on which we might test the opinion of the House. But it is obviously outside the powers of the Government. However, I think that at least they should now consider these points against the background of the remarks of my noble friend Lord Lindgren to see whether the necessary powers can be taken, because I am sure they ought to be.


I think the answer is that they could not be taken under this Convention. The point as to whether they could be taken by agreement is a different matter. At the moment under this Convention we have no power to prevent it. Under international flying agreements we might have.


Could the noble Lord say what steps would be necessary to alter the Convention? It is quite clear to me—and I must admit I had not previously taken much interest in this—that the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has made a valid point, and if the answer is that the Convention governs it, then perhaps the Convention ought to be altered to make allowance for this point.


I will certainly look into this. At the moment I am saying we have no legal powers under the Convention or under other international law, except by certain air agreements, and they apply to only certain places.


Surely this would be the time, when you are going to ratify, to put the point my noble friend has made. This should be part of the negotiation.


I should point out to the noble Lord that most countries have ratified this. But the point will be taken up again.


I agree we are extremely laggard and this makes our position weak. We are the last country to ratify. I think it is something which should be considered, and I might consider later putting down a Question to ask whether the Government have taken any view on this issue. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 2 agreed to.

Clause 3 [Application of criminal and civil law]:

8.2 p.m.

LORD SHACKLETON moved, in subsection (1)(a), to leave out "yards" and insert "metres". The noble Lord said: I raised this point on Second Reading, and the Minister suggested that I was applying a requirement of the Convention to a different matter. This clause gives power to apply the criminal law (it says also the civil law, but on that I have more doubts) to any act or omission which takes place on, under or above an installation. I am not sure, therefore, that the Government have not got powers to deal with aircraft up to a height of 500 yards or 1,500 feet. I am surprised that the Government did not use that argument in reply to us. It may be that we are all right, after all. It may be that this is, in fact, permitted under the Convention.

The Convention says that a Government has power to establish safety zones around such installations and devices and to take in those zones measures necessary for their protection; and the safety zones referred to may extend to a distance of 500 metres around the installations. I am not quite sure whether the powers under Clause 3 to declare criminal an act done on, under or above 500 yards from an installation are quite the same as this. It would seem to me that there is a correlation between the safety zone in the Convention and this particular power—and if there is not, there ought to be. Whereas we may separately declare a safety zone of 500 metres it would be rather silly to apply the criminal law only at a distance of 500 yards, which is about 125 feet less, if my recollection is right. I suggested that the Government preferred yards to metres, now that they have failed to take us into the Common Market, but I feel that it would be for the general convenience, where this clause is an application of the powers under Article 5, to use the same measurement in each case. And 500 metres is, of course, rather larger than 500 yards. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 36, leave out ("yards") and insert ("metres").—(Lord Shackleton.)


As the noble Lord says, the effect of this Amendment would be to substitute 500 metres for 500 yards (and this is important) as the distance from the installation within which certain acts or omissions constitute offences. I think it is worth pointing out that the 500 yards mentioned in this clause is something quite different from the 500 metres mentioned Article 5(3) of the Convention; the two have nothing to do with each other. It is only regrettable that the figure of 500 yards was put in. The 500 yards reference was chosen by the Government as being appropriate in relation to offences. It might have been less muddling if we had made it 525 or 450 yards. The distance of 500 metres mentioned in the Convention limits the area which ships must respect, and in the corresponding provisions in Clause 2 the Government propose to stipulate no distance for that, as we have in mind to judge each case on its merits and stipulate such distance by order as may be appropriate. But, of course, the distance of the Convention must not be more than 500 metres; that is where the metres come in. This 500 yards was a figure taken as a suitable distance within which, if certain offences were committed, penalties would be incurred.

There is no difficulty about charts nowadays. I am told that nowadays, in navigation, distance is shown in miles, yards and metres We use yards on land, for dealing with offences of certain kinds, and we think it appropriate to use yards in dealing with offences which will virtually come under the United Kingdom law. We do not feel very strongly about this matter although the two figures have nothing to do with each other. If the noble Lord really wishes to press me, I will have another look at it, but I shall probably come back with the same answer that, on balance, we think yards is better. I think it is a pity it was put in as 500, which I agree muddles everyone; but, as I say, we do not feel strongly on this.


I think the noble Lord has misunderstood my noble friend. As I understood it, his point in moving this Amendment was that we are dealing here with an international Convention where all the measurements are in the metric system. The continental shelf is 200 metres, and not 100 fathoms, and, so far as I know, all the measurements are given in metres. We are dealing here with an area where foreign shipping is likely to be concerned, so would it not be more consistent if in this Bill Her Majesty's Government used the metric system?


That is just the point. In so far as part of the safety zones are concerned, the distance may well be given in metres. This Bill applies to acts done within 500 yards of the installation. This has nothing to do with foreign ships; the 500 yards relates to possible offences under United Kingdom law. It has nothing to do with ships committing an offence within a certain distance. The figures are quite distinct but, as I say, if the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton wants to press me on it, I will have another look at the Amendment.


They are distinct to the extent of 125 square feet. We shall have an installation, and around it will be drawn two circles, one within which it will not be safe to break the British law, and a slightly outer circle where a foreign ship will be in breach but no constable will be able to go aboard in that distance of 125 square feet. This seems to me to be a nonsense. Surely we could reach a stage in international matters when we use metres. However, I do not press the point.


With all respect, I do not want the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, to misunderstand the situation. This is not an international matter; it is a question of our law operating, and in certain respects it operates in yards.


On the high seas?


Not on the high seas.


The noble Lord has said the water above the continental shelf is the high seas.


But the installation is on the shelf, and not on the high seas.


I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

8.23 p.m.

LORD SHACKLETON moved to add to the clause: (5) Notwithstanding that no Order in Council shall have been made under subsection (2) of this section the High Court of Justice in England shall have jurisdiction to determine in accordance with the law of England any question of damages for personal injury to any person employed in connection with the exploitation of the resources mentioned in section 1(1) of this Act or with the exploration of the sea bed and sub-soil in any designated area.

The noble Lord said: This is a rather difficult Amendment, and it is concerned with the application of Civil Law and Common Law rights within, presumably, the 500-yard area. Some doubt was expressed on Second Reading as to how far Common Law rights would exist. I admit that I am not a lawyer, and I may have this wrong. It is quite clear that if a criminal act is committed it is possible, under Clause 9, for a constable to arrest the individual, and for a prosecution to take place. It is not clear, however, whether civil actions can follow—indeed, there may not be a breach of a specific law.

The purpose of this Amendment, which I move, is directed to a particular question, partly to test this and partly in order to provide some protection to individuals who are employed on these installations. It is, in fact, to establish that the High Court of Justice in England shall have jurisdiction to determine, in accordance with the law of England, any question of damages for personal injuries. I have a later Amendment which would strengthen the position, I hope, by bringing Statute Law to bear on such matters. As we pointed out on Second Reading, it is much easier for somebody who suffers injury to sue for breach of statutory duty rather than for negligence at Common Law.

We are not quite clear how far the courts will have jurisdiction. The noble Lord, Lord McNair, suggested on Second Reading (again this may be on a different point, and I wish we had some lawyers here to advise us—perhaps we have) that the courts had jurisdiction over British subjects. I do not understand this automatically to follow, because I recall that in a debate we had some years ago on the Antarctic, it was stated that if you committed murder in the Antarctic you could be taken back to England and tried as if it had been committed in England; but if you committed bigamy in the Antarctic you could not, in fact, be brought within the jurisdiction of the court. I am afraid I have gone a little wide, but I find difficulty in making this particular point. It may be that the later new clauses, on which perhaps the Government will take action, will make the position clear. But, at the moment, lawyers who are most learned in this particular matter—one a professor of International Law and another a legal adviser much concerned with the application of the Factories Acts—have felt that the position is obscure. That is why we have put down this Amendment, to enable people who may be injured to sue those responsible, who would normally be the employers, even if the injuries are as a result of the negligence of one of the servants of the employers. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 3, line 16, at end insert the said subsection.—(Lord Shackleton.)


I wonder if it would be helpful to the noble Lord and to the Committee if, having dealt with this particular Amendment, which we do not like (I will explain why), I were to deal with the whole legal position at some length. The reason I suggest this course—it will probably take five minutes—is that it will give the noble Lord and others time, before the next stage of the Bill, to look at what really is the legal position all round. I do not expect the noble Lord to take it all in at one stretch.


Why not?


The noble Lord may be cleverer than I am, but this is a most technical matter. I will deal with this Amendment first.

Clause 3(2) provides that Orders in Council may confer jurisdiction on courts in such part of the United Kingdom as may be specified in the Order. This will automatically include jurisdiction with respect to the particular questions referred to in the Amendment. It is the intention of the Government that appropriate Orders in Council shall be made contemporaneously with orders designating the areas under Clause 1(5), with the intention that jurisdiction shall be appropriately divided geographically between the courts or component parts of the United Kingdom. I hope that is clear. Therefore this Amendment is unnecessary.

I must add that it also does not do what the noble Lord wanted it to do. It leaves out Scotland. One of the reasons why it cannot take in Scotland is that the only method of making Scottish law tie up with English law on these matters is by having separate Orders in Council. That is what the Order in Council does, to confer jurisdiction in a certain part of the United Kingdom. As we are talking about Clause 3, may I say one more thing about the earlier point, about aircraft? If an aircraft pilot commits an offence, Clause 3(1) enables the pilot to be prosecuted. That is not the same thing as saying that we can prevent aircraft from flying over an installation. If the pilot commits an offence while flying or by flying in this way, then of course be can be prosecuted.

I will try not to keep your Lordships but I think this ought to go on the Record. This clause deals with the application of the criminal and civil law. The purpose of subsection (1) is to give the protection of the criminal law to people working on installations on the continental shelf just as the Merchant Shipping Acts give that protection to persons aboard British ships. The offences mainly aimed at are offences against the person or against property. The clause, however, is not confined to such offences, and it follows the general line of Section 70 of the Army Act, 1955, and the similar enactments governing the Air Force and the Royal Navy and certain civilians attached to them. The effect of Section 70 of the Army Act was discussed by the House of Lords in the recent case of Cox v. The Army Council where it was recognised that there are some offences which are so peculiar to conditions in the United Kingdom that they are not capable of being committed elsewhere. It was also recognised that it would not be possible to lay down any useful definition of what is to be excluded, and the Government have not attempted to do so in framing the clause. Although it would not be possible to lay down such a definition or to compile an exhaustive list of enactments which are or are not to apply—and this is a point which was raised by the noble Lord last time about other Acts—it is possible to be fairly clear how Clause 3(1) would work in particular instances.

The noble Lord mentioned last time the safety provisions of the Factories Acts and the provisions of the Young Persons Acts. The Factories Act, 1961, applies only to factories and certain other places and activities. So it is an offence under Section 14 of that Act to leave dangerous machinery unfenced only if the machinery is used in a factory. The offence could not be committed on an installation on the shelf unless a factory were established there. But if works of engineering construction are carried out there a contravention of Section 127 of the Factories Act, 1961, which applies to such works, might result in the commission of an offence. Again, if any children or young persons should happen to be on one of these installations, they will enjoy the full protection against cruel treatment afforded by Section 1 of the Children and Young Persons Act, 1933. But as no juvenile court will be sitting on a platform in the North Sea, it will not be possible to make an application there with respect to a child in need of care, protection or control. What we are saying is that certain parts of these Acts apply, as in the case of the court-martial about which I was talking.

The House might wish to know where other statutory provisions might apply, and I should like to put this on record. The Government will be glad to give all possible assistance in removing any doubts, but in view of what I have said we shall need to know the particular circumstances which noble Lords have in mind and the particular sections of Acts which it is thought are not applied by the clause, and ought to be made to apply, to those circumstances. We believe that by subsection (1) of Clause 3 and specific provisions elsewhere in the Bill we have covered what clearly needs to be covered, but if it is suggested that we should make further provision in respect of some other criminal matter, the Government will certainly be prepared to consider the arguments and examine whether the Bill ought to be amended for that purpose.

Another point raised by the noble Lord was in relation to the health of employees. Instructions for securing the health and safety of employees are given to present licensees under the 1934 Act, and this shows that the Government are conscious of the need for regulating such matters. If, however, noble Lords find these insufficient in any particular, the Government will consider whether further protection is required. We cannot go further than that. This Bill will take some time to go through this House and another place, and if noble Lords wonder whether a particular Act applies in a particular case, would they let us know about it so that we can give them an answer, so that we can then decide together whether the Bill should be extended. I cannot get closer to that question at the moment. I hope that will satisfy noble Lords.


I think that to some extent I followed the noble Lord's explanation of this extremely difficult and involved matter. I am, however, in this difficulty. Clause 1(5) says Her Majesty may from time to time …designate any area … The noble Lord referred to this subsection and said that in those cases where the Government make such an Order they will follow it by an Order in Council under Clause 2 or Clause 3. The difficulty here is that although under the terms of this Bill the Government may designate an area under Clause 1(5), it does not become obligatory on the Government to make an Order under 3(2). It would seem to me that Clause 3(2) ought to be obligatory and not permissive in those cases where an Order is made under Clause 1(5). I do not know whether I have made this clear. It is a little involved, but a permissive word is used in both cases, and clearly the Order in Council under Clause 3(2) ought to be made in every case where one is made under Clause 1(5).


I am grateful to the noble Lord. May I have another look at that before the next stage? I will write to the noble Lord in between times. I see the point of his argument. I will not answer it straight away, but before the next stage I will write to him.


I am delighted to hear that the noble Lord sees the point of my noble friend's argument, because this is the whole point of the Amendment. The noble Lord in fact said, "You do not need this Amendment because Her Majesty may by Order in Council make the provison." The Amendment says that, notwithstanding that they shall not have made this, it will still be possible to sue for personal injury. We can leave out the question of Scotland at the moment because I do not think it will be possible to bring in Scotland appropriately. This is what the Amendment is about, this is its intention, and I have had some fairly good legal advice about it. I would ask him to look at it again, and perhaps he would write to me as well as to my noble friend.


I am not going to argue the point and I will write to the noble Lord, but we consider that the Amendment does not quite do what his noble friend suggested.


My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, whether Clause 3 shall stand part of the Bill?


Before we leave Clause 3, I am sorry to raise something to which I have already referred, especially in view of the late hour, but I feel there will be few opportunities to raise it again. On Second Reading I referred to the question of the power of interception by Her Majesty's ships in designated areas. If I understand the Convention on the Continental Shelf aright, I presume that under Article 3 of that Convention there would not be any power given to Her Majesty's ships to investigate in any way whatsoever ships that happen to be carrying out what are considered to be unlawful occupations in a designated area. In view of what the noble Lords, Lord Shackleton and Lord Champion, said, this might be something which could be looked into at a later date to see whether in effect the Convention could be amended. There could be ships which had no right to be in a designated area; in other words, ships which were trespassing there and carrying out a survey or exploration and which did not belong to a licence holder who had the sole power to explore or exploit within that designated area.

I am wondering whether or not Her Majesty's Government have power to legislate against any unlawful survey or drilling by anyone excepting licence holders in a designated area in view of the provisions of Article 2(1) of the Convention, which reads as follows: The coastal State exercises over the continental shelf sovereign rights for the purpose of exploring it and exploiting its natural resources. If, in effect, this country has the sovereign rights over the continental shelf for the purposes of exploring and exploiting it, would Her Majesty's Government not be able to legislate to stop any unlawful exploitation or exploration within that designated area?

There is another point that I should like to raise. I am not expecting an answer now, because my noble friend may not be able to give it, but perhaps he would be kind enough to refer to the matter on Third Reading on Thursday. This is a very important point indeed, and it is on the question of disclosure of secret information. I feel, in all fairness to those firms who are being granted a licence to exploit or explore a certain designated area, that there should be some restriction with regard to the dissemination of secret information. I think, in effect, there is a precedent which may be applicable to this case, and that can be found under Section 154 of the Factories Act, 1961, under the rubric, Prohibition of disclosure of information.

I am wondering whether an Amendment worded like this could be considered by Her Majesty's Government. For instance: that if any person who is admitted or enters into any designated area discloses to any person any information obtained by him in the designated area, with regard to any exploration or exploitation process or trade secret, he shall, unless the disclosure was made in the performance of his duty, be guilty of an offence. It may be that that would not be applicable, but words to that effect were incorporated in the Factories Act; and I know that the industry is very worried with regard to this question of the disclosure of secret information on exploitation, processing and so forth.


My noble friend does not expect me to answer either of those two highly technical, legal questions at the moment. But, speaking off the cuff on the second one, I should have thought that, if you were going to make the jurisdiction of United Kingdom courts operate, a similar offence could be committed on the installation as on land, and I should have thought that the courts would then operate automatically. But I must have a look at that and get legal advice on it. It is far too complicated to try to answer off the cuff.

Clause 3 agreed to.

Clause 4 agreed to.

Clause 5 [Discharge of oil]:

On Question, Whether Clause 5 shall stand part of the Bill?


In order to save time, I am not moving my Amendment. We do not want to go through all the motions on this, but I want to emphasise that it ought not to be possible for there to be a blow-out in the sea. I should have liked to suggest that the law should be strengthened in regard to this danger, but wider issues are also raised, including the question of a possible extension of the obligations of the Nature Conservancy or the Department of Natural Resources. I think, therefore, that it would be unreasonable to move the Amendment, especially since there will certainly be no chance of pressing it. But I hope that the Government will press the oil companies as hard as possible on this matter. I am sure we must all be agreed on the fact that to have oil wells leaking into the North Sea would be intolerable.


As the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has not moved his Amendment but has referred to it, perhaps I may be permitted to say that I imagine the petroleum companies will be pleased that he did not move it. They were to some extent, anyway, very much against it, because it took away the second defence with regard to the discharge or escape of oil into any part of the sea. I would draw the attention of Her Majesty's Government to Section 4(2)(a) and (b) of the Oil in Navigable Waters Act, 1955. If the noble Lord had moved his Amendment and it had been accepted, then this Bill and the Oil in Navigable Waters Act, 1955, would no longer be on a par. I do not wish to weary noble Lords at this late hour by reading out the provisions, but if they read them I think they will find that, in effect, those provisions and the provisions of this Bill as it stands at the moment are rather similar.


May I just answer the noble Lord very briefly by saying very much what my noble friend has said, although perhaps slightly differently? Under the although in Navigable Waters Act there is a defence, and the position is this. The defence is open to a person charged under Section 3 of that Act, in respect of a discharge of oil or oily mixture into United Kingdom waters from a place on land, or from apparatus used for transferring oil to a vessel. Because of this precedent, and on merits, we think that this defence should be retained in this Bill. In modern oilfield practice, escapes are uncommon, and elaborate precautions are taken against them. In dealing with natural forces, however, there can be no certainty, and we think it would be wrong to penalise a person who acted with reasonable care and took prompt and reasonable action to remedy an escape. In those circumstances, a defence is given in the 1955 Act. Perhaps the noble Lord will look at what I have said, because we rather think that this defence ought to remain in this Bill, too.


I would only point out that the defences under the Oil in Navigable Waters Act apply primarily to discharge from ships. There are certain defences for discharge on land, but they do not include the one to which the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, was referring. I do not think, therefore, that my Amendment would in any way have vitiated that particular Act. None the less, I have made the point. I think it is absurd for the oil companies to be quite so sensitive on this subject. This is what gives one slight grounds for alarm, because there simply must not be these leaks. We are not really concerned with a defence. The alternative would be to strengthen the penalties where there is negligence. But we will leave it there.

Clause 5 agreed to.

Clauses 6 to 8 agreed to.

8.49 p.m.

LORD LINDGREN moved, after Clause 8 to insert the following new clause

Power to make regulation for health, safety and welfare and to apply the Factories Act 1961 and the Mines and Quarries Act 1954.

".—() The Minister of Labour shall by regulation make provision—

  1. (a) for securing the health, safety and welfare of persons employed in connection with the exploitation of the resources mentioned in section 1(1) of this Act or with the exploration of the sea bed and sub-soil on any designated area; and
  2. (b) for treating as a factory within the Factories Act 1961 for such of the purposes of that Act as he may in such regulation prescribe any installation in or upon which persons are employed in any designated area.

(2) The Minister of Power shall by regulation make provision for treating as a mine within the Mines and Quarries Act 1954 for such of the purposes of that Act as he may in such order prescribe any mine of whatever description in any designated area."

The noble Lord said: No doubt the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, in his observations on Amendment No. 7, hoped to cut short the discussion, or to make it possible to cut short the discussion, on this Amendment. I hope that will be so; but, quite frankly, his statement made me even more confused. It is perfectly true, as the noble Lord said, that the Factories Acts apply to factories; but through the powers given under the Factories Acts there are regulations in regard to woodworking machinery on building sites, cranes on building sites and so on. If there is an offence with an unguarded woodworking machine on a building site, then the factory inspector visits the site after an accident and prosecutes as he otherwise would have done.

Therefore, what we are saying in this Amendment is that regulations should be brought in by the Minister of Labour to apply to installations such as this, in exactly the same way as he would bring in regulations applying to a building site or any other works where it was necessary to do it. The noble Lord, Lord Derwent, implied that that is not necessary. In fact, if I remember the Second Reading debate aright, he said, in reply to a point which my noble friend Lord Shackleton raised, that the matter would be covered in the licence that would be given to those engaged in the work on the site. But here, it will be seen, we have just dealt with Clause 8, which refers to the National Insurance (Industrial Injuries) Acts and to the powers that the Minister has under those Acts to make regulations, and which also gives the Minister power to make regulations under the Act.

If it is necessary to include within this Bill power for the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance to make regulations concerning the much more complicated problem of dealing with industrial injuries and the prevention of accidents and with the welfare of workers on sites, why should it not be possible and equally desirable that regulations should be made by the Minister of Labour in regard to this new type of installation in exactly the same way as he now makes regulations in regard to new types of factories? Because, to take building sites as an instance, much of the work previously done in factories is actually now done on the site. Quite a lot of it is done there now, and the actual site although not a factory in the normal sense of factory precincts, sometimes becomes a factory. The erection of these installations, working on the seabed, will become very much the same job as the erection of a 15- or 20-storey block of flats, a large factory or something similar. Therefore, I beg to move the Amendment, and I hope that the Minister can at least make the position a little clearer than in his previous statement.

Amendment moved— After Clause 8, insert the said new clause.— (Lord Lindgren.)


We fully recognise the importance of this subject. Our present thinking—and I will not go further than that—is that the wide enabling power of this Amendment is unnecessary; but noble Lords have heard what I said on Clause 3, subsection (1), and they heard my offer to consider any particular matters, such as this one, which are raised—and, if they are raised, the more detail in which we can have them the better. But in the light of what the noble Lord has now said we will take another look at whether, in this particular connection, we need any further powers. If there are any parts of the Factories Acts, or anything of that kind, which we have not mentioned to-day, in respect of which noble Lords would like me to consider whether or not we have enough powers, we should like to have their contributions so that we may look at them. I am afraid this must be done piecemeal in this way, because we think we have sufficient general powers; but if noble Lords will let us have their contributions, pointing out where, in particular instances, we have not got enough powers, we will have a look at them and, if that is the case, during the course of the Bill we will certainly take those powers.


My noble friend did not mention subsection (2) of this Amendment, which refers to the Mines and Quarries Act. This would seem to me to be perhaps particularly applicable to the sort of thing which will have to be done. I do not know whether the noble Lord touched upon that—as I said, I tried to follow his previous explanation of this—but, if he did not mention it, perhaps he would just comment on it.


I will make the same comment: that we think, at the moment, that we have sufficient powers to put these things into force. However, as this has been specifically mentioned in this Amendment we will have another look at it to see whether the powers really do cover it. If they do not, we will bring forward an Amendment. That, I think, is the way we shall have to treat this very complicated subject.


It is very complicated, and, as my noble friend said, the Ministers took it very lightly on Second Reading. They merely said that they would see that the licence covered all these matters. I would urge that it really is undesirable to extend the law by means of a licence to a particular company. I see no reason why, if in fact the full provisions of these laws do not apply, they should not be applied—and here we were giving the Government powers to do so by regulation. It may well be that, under Clause 3, subsection (2), they can do this by Order in Council. But what is not right is for the Minister to ask noble Lords what ought to be put into the Bill in this respect. They have the Ministry of Labour, they have the Ministry of Power. Normally the Government are not afraid to govern in this sort of matter, and I really would ask them to consult the experts and, possibly, even the trade unions on this matter. Normally, again, they consult the trade unions or the Trades Union Congress.

I would urge one particular point, and that is this. If the law is not in force and an accident is caused the person who suffers that accident is in a weaker position because, as I understand it, he can sue only under Common Law and not because of a statutory breach. That is the point which, in particular, we emphasise. Secondly, we want the provisions of the Acts relating to inspection to be applied as may be appropriate, and I am not sure whether the Government can in fact do that at the moment. At any rate, the noble Lord has said that he will consider it. It is a complicated subject, but, as we said earlier, in certain respects this Bill extends the British dominion over vast areas. It is not a matter that we can deal with very quickly, and I hope that, perhaps before we come to the Report stage, we may be able to hear a little more from the Government.


I must put one point right. I am sure that the noble Lord did not want to misrepresent what I said, but I want to get things right. What I said was that we think we have the necessary powers. All I am saying is this. If any noble Lord thinks that in any particular respect we have not got those powers, will he let us know, and we will have a look at it. It is not that we want noble Lords to help us to write the Bill. We think we have got the powers.


In the light of what the noble Lord has said, and in view of the lateness of the hour, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Remaining clauses agreed to.

House resumed.

Bill reported without amendment: Report received.