HL Deb 16 January 1964 vol 254 cc706-8

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the second Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government which countries have ratified, and which have not ratified, the 1960 Convention on Safety of Life at Sea; and whether they are satisfied that the Convention provides adequate safeguards on cruise liners plying their trade primarily from ports outside their country of registration.]


My Lords, I understand that the following countries have so far deposited their acceptance of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, 1960: Haiti, Norway, France, Republic of Viet Nam, Ghana, Peru, United States of America, Madagascar, Morocco, Spain, Greece, Japan, Tunisia, Cuba, Paraguay. It is open to any other member of the United Nations to accept the Convention. Her Majesty's Government hope to be in a position to accept the Convention in the fairly near future. This will depend upon the passing of a Bill, which is at present being considered in another place.

Both under the existing Convention of 1948 and also under the new Convention of 1960, responsibility for issuing international certificates certifying that a ship has complied with the provisions of the Conventions is solely that of the Government of the ship's country of registry. And this principle continues to apply even though a ship may operate entirely outside its country of registry. Irrespective of where a ship operates, it must conform to the standards of the Convention.

In answer to the last part of the noble Lord's Question, the United Kingdom would not accept the Convention if Her Majesty's Government did not consider that it contained a number of improvements over the provisions in the Convention of 1948.


My Lords, may I ask the noble and learned Lord two supplementary questions? First, as the noble and learned Lord will recall, in the last Session the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, indicated that the difficulty in having the Convention ratified was the pressure on Parliamentary time. We have now a Bill in another place, to which the noble and learned Lord referred. May I ask whether the Government propose to give assistance to see that this Bill does not run the risk of falling owing to the natural hazards for a Private Member's Bill under severe Parliamentary pressure? I hope that the noble and learned Lord will agree, because the Bill should be passed as quickly as possible.

Secondly, in view of the fact that many ships never return to their countries of registration, and of the fact that the Convention merely lays down that the country of registration should carry out inspection, or alternatively arrange for it, do the Government feel that this requirement is sufficient, particularly for those steamers which now come to this country and carry a large number of British citizens?


My Lords, in answer to the first supplementary question, I see no reason to assume that the passage of the important Private Member's measure will be unduly delayed. With regard to the second question, that really deals with the obligation of foreign countries to comply with the Convention, and, in particular, if they accede to it, the 1960 Convention. I am not aware that because of the failure of ships to report to their port of origin there has yet been any difficulty in securing compliance with the Convention. After all, a certificate has to be produced when the vessel comes to these shores. In the case of the "Lakonia" this was done. But I will certainly ask my right honourable friend the Minister of Transport to look into the point the noble Lord has raised.


My Lords, may I ask the noble and learned Lord whether the Convention on Safety of Life at Sea, or any other international agreement on this subject, gives the right to Her Majesty's Government to collect evidence and submit it to a court of any foreign Government that is a signatory to this Convention? If they have such a right, is it the intention of Her Majesty's Government to collect such evidence and submit it to such foreign inquiry?


My Lords, that is a quite different question from any of the Questions upon the Order Paper. So far as I am aware, reading from the Press, as I am not informed upon the matter officially, it would seem likely that there should be no difficulty in collecting the information necessary for the inquiry which I understand is going to be conducted.