HL Deb 30 April 1970 vol 309 cc1109-13

3.15 p.m.


My Lords, I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen to acquaint the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the Merchant Shipping Bill, has consented to place her interest, so far as it is concerned on behalf of the Crown, at the disposal of Parliament for the purpose of the Bill. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a third time.

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

On Question, Bill read 3a, with the Amendments.

Clause 94 [Power to extend Act to certain territories outside the United Kingdom, and to ships registered therein]:


My Lords, with the permission of the House, I should like to move Amendments Nos. 1 to 4 together. These four Amendments are minor Amendments to paragraphs (i) and (ii) of Clause 94, to clarify the interpretation, about which some doubts have recently been expressed. Clause 94 gives Her Majesty power, by Order in Council, to direct that the provisions of the Bill and of regulations and rules made under it shall apply (with specified exceptions, adaptations and modifications) to dependent territories outside the United Kingdom and to ships registered therein. These Amendments make it quite clear that this power is exercisable not merely in relation to all the pro-visions but also to only some of them; that is to say, to such of the provisions … as may be specified ". I beg to move Amendments Nos. 1 to 4. Amendments moved—

Page 44, line 26, after ("that") insert (" such of ").

Page 44, line 27, after ("thereunder") insert (" as may be specified in the Order").

Page 44, line 33, after ("that") insert (" such of ").

page 44, line 34, after ("thereunder") insert (" as may be specified in the Order ").— (Lord Brown.)

On Question, Amendments agreed to.

Clause 101 [Citation, construction and commencement]:


My Lords, with the permission of the House, I propose that Amendments Nos. 5 to 7 inclusive be taken together. In view of the stage which the Fishing Vessels (Safety Pro-visions) Bill has now reached, I am advised that it would be helpful, from a drafting point of view, if the Statutes with which this Bill is to be cited and construed as one included that Bill, as well as the remaining Merchant Shipping Acts. I beg to move Amendments Nos. 5 to 7.

Amendments moved—

Page 47, line 30, leave out ("and")

Page 47, line 30, at end insert ("and the Fishing Vessels (Safety Provisions) Act 1970")

page 47, line 34, at end insert (" and the Fishing Vessels (Safety Provisions) Act 1970 ").—(Lord Brown.)

On Question, Amendments agreed to.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill do now pass. In moving this Motion, I should like to make one or two observations. We have had a useful discussion, and I am grateful to noble Lords for their reception of the Bill and for their comments upon it. Our discussions have concentrated on matters such as the payment of wages, medical treatment, discipline, inquiries into misconduct, and treatment of seamen left behind abroad. All these are important —of great importance to the individual seaman. I make no complaint that those subjects were selected for attention. It was quite right and proper to do so. I am doubtful, however, that some of the Amendments which have been made in these matters do preserve a fair balance between the due rights and obligations of employer and seaman in the special circumstances of sea employment. I appreciate the care and attention which Members have devoted to these Amendments. I have sympathy with some of them, but I do not feel able to accept them and the Government must review them carefully. I cannot forecast that they will be found to be acceptable by my colleagues in another place.

Attention has been directed to the statutory offences about discipline. I appreciate the concern which has been expressed about them. Your Lordships will not wish me to go into this matter again at this time. I would only emphasise that our concern is with safety at sea, for crews as well as passengers and ships. The Government think it right that in the interests of safety these provisions should remain. But they will be reviewed in three years and if a consensus of view in the industry emerges to ask for an earlier review, we will consider it.

We have also taken the opportunity to introduce new clauses and Schedule 1 amending the 1949 Act about radio equipment, radio navigational aids and direction finders. These provisions will enable us to implement recommendations of the Holland-Martin Report on trawler safety and amendments to the Safety of Life at Sea Convention proposed by IMCO, the governmental maritime organis ation of the United Nations. We have also provided for consultation about the rules in these matters. A new Clause 91 also amends the 1965 Act so that an inter-national convention on tonnage measurement may be implemented. We have also introduced a number of technical and drafting adjustments of the text which have improved it substantially and will, I hope, ease it on its way. I am grateful to your Lordships for your co-operation in these matters, and to the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, for the kindly and courteous way in which he has put his points, and for his co-operation in many of these Amendments. I cannot go the whole way with him on all the Amendments but I am grateful for his help overall.

Your Lordships would not wish me to conclude without paying our tribute to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Pear-son, and the Court of Inquiry under his chairmanship. That the Bill has stood up so well to our searching review is a tribute to the Report on which it is based. We are grateful, too, to the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, for his presence and for his helpful interventions in these debates.

It has been pointed out elsewhere that this Bill represents the first substantial amendment of many of these provisions since 1894, and indeed some of them were earlier still. Our seamen deserve the measure of modernisation which will be given to them under the Bill. It will open the way to conditions of service for the future, and I hope that it will help the shipping and fishing industries in continuing to provide these essential and traditional services which we take so much for granted. The implementation of the Bill will require a very large number of regulations. We must now devote our energies at the Board of Trade to that rather formidable task, but in it the Board is happy to be able to rely, as it has in the past, on the help and co-operation of all sides of these industries. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.— (Lord Brown.)


My Lords, I am sure that the whole House will want me to congratulate the Government, and the noble Lord, Lord Brown, in particular, in having brought the work begun by the previous Administration as far back as 1962 to a satisfactory, or almost satisfactory, conclusion, in the shape of this Bill as it leaves us to-day. I should like to add to those congratulations remarks similar to those made by the noble Lord, Lord Brown, about the work done in the course of those negotiations by the Court of Inquiry under the chairmanship of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Pearson. This has immensely facilitated and strengthened the work that has been done in the Board of Trade, the National Maritime Board and in Parliament so far. Our only wish on this side is that we had succeeded more completely in persuading the Government to adhere more closely to the recommendations of that admirable Court. It is unfortunate that they have not done so, but I hope that, to the extent that our Amendments have brought the legislation more closely into line with those recommendations, the Bill will come back to us from the Commons substantially in the form in which it leaves us to-day.

On Question, Bill passed, and returned to the Commons.

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