§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ LORD ROYLE
My Lords, I am sorry to speak again so soon, but I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. It is a small but important Bill, and I hope that your Lordships will give it a speedy Second Reading. I have inherited the Bill from my honourable friend, the Member for Goole, Mr. George Jeger, and it was supported in another place by honourable Members from all sides. In excuse for not going through all the eight clauses and two Schedules, I would say that the Bill received a Second Reading in another place without debate after a ten-minute speech in seeking the leave of the House to introduce it; in Committee there was one explanatory or draft Amendment; and the Report and the Third Reading of the Bill were obtained without any further debate at all.
I think your Lordships will find most of what I would want to say in the Explanatory Memorandum to the Bill as printed for your Lordships' House. Very briefly, the Bill is concerned with the complicated subject of the measurement of ships for tonnage. It continues legislation which is scattered through the? Merchant Shipping Acts from 1894 down to 1954, but the wording of those Acts seems to be rather archaic and it is felt that at this stage the law on the subject ought to be given a new look and brought up to date. The Bill confers powers on the Board of Trade to act by means of regulations, and sets the basis for agreements with the International Maritime Consultative Organisation concerning what are known as "shelter-deck" ships. I suppose that. after all, this is merely an extension of Plimsoll and all that, and continues the great work done in the past to ensure the safety of our seagoing men and the preservation of our ships.
I am sure that, in view of the Business with which your Lordships are still concerned to-day, I shall not be expected to make a long Second Reading speech, and I will content myself at this stage by asking your Lordships to support the Second Reading and principles of the Bill. I give an assurance that, if 1070 your Lordships desire it, I will try to deal, either at the end of this debate, which I hope is going to be a very short one, or at the later stages of the Bill, with any detailed points which are raised. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Royle.)
§ LORD HOBSON
My Lords, I want first to congratulate my noble friend Lord Royle on introducing this Private Member's Bill, which, of course, received Government support in another place. Like my noble friend, I do not propose to transgress what we are coming to know as the "Egremont rules". My speech, I trust, will be commendably short. Nevertheless, although this is an unopposed Bill, and not a very long one, it is of very great importance, and I think it would be quite wrong if we were to let it go through without explaining, in your Lordships' House, what the Government's position is.
The particular subject with which it deals—that is, the tonnage of ships, gross and net—has been traditionally a very complicated matter, and there are various systems of measurement of tonnage. We can take pride in the fact that our method of assessment of tonnage is pre-eminent in the world, but the time has come when these matters have to be regulated internationally. They are internationally governed by the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organisation, which is part of the United Nations and is one of the few international organisations which has its headquarters here in London. In view of the need for standardisation in the measurement of ships, it is necessary that we bring ourselves into line with the international decisions of what is known as IMCO.
This Bill, as I say, went through all its stages in the other place without any opposition, and I do not think that any of your Lordships will find anything to disagree with in its contents. However, if any Member of your Lordships' House desires any elucidation, I shall be only too happy, with permission of the House, to offer any explanations.
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord, Lord Royle, or the noble Lord, Lord Hobson, for clarification of one point? What is the meaning 1071 of the words "artificial openings" in the Explanatory Memorandum?
In the Explanatory Memorandum there is mention of "artificial openings". I should like to know if either the noble Lord, Lord Royle, or the noble Lord, Lord Hobson, could kindly tell me what is an "artificial opening" in a vessel—whether it means in the hull, a hatch, or what it means.
§ LORD ROYLE
My Lords, the noble Lord knows a great deal more about this subject that I do—I confess that at once—but I gather that the main problem with regard to the changes now envisaged is that, on the upper decks, there are places used for storage which are not quite closed and not quite open, and that this state of affairs has been regarded as one of the serious deficiencies in the existing legislation. I hope the noble Lord will feel that that is an answer to his question—I think it is—but if this does not satisfy him then, at a later stage of the Bill, I will try to give him a more complete and better answer.
I was thinking about motor cars driving in through the hull, as they do up the St. Lawrence; or in the ships that take motor cars across the Channel. I was thinking of that idea, and not so much as up topsides; that is all. I gather it is nothing to do with that at all; but I thank the noble Lord very much for his answer.
§ LORD ROYLE
I do not think that is what was intended or thought of at all. If there is no other noble Lord who wants to speak on the Bill, I will exercise my right to speak a second time merely to thank my noble friend Lord Hobson for the Government's support in this matter. I tried to pay your Lordships the compliment of believing that you would have read the Bill. I am now assured you have, so I think we can proceed to Second Reading.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.