HL Deb 14 December 1978 vol 397 cc837-9

5.6 p.m.

Lord WELLS-PESTELL rose to move, That the draft Social Security (Contributions) (Mariners) Amendment Regulations 1978, laid before the House on 5th December, be approved. The noble Lord said: My Lords, these are extraordinarily complicated regulations—perhaps the most complicated regulations that I have had to put before your Lordships' House. Therefore, because of their complexity, I do not propose to go into great detail, but I shall try to indicate, briefly, what they are about.

Under the Social Security Act 1975 mariners on board merchant ships are, in general, liable for national insurance contributions in the same way as other employed earners. Because they serve at sea, sometimes on long voyages which may run into more than one tax year, the Act gives the Secretary of State power to make regulations modifying certain provisions of the Act in their application to them, including those relating to contributions. Such regulations are subject to a draft having been approved by a Resolution of each House.

The main purpose of the amending regulations is to make provision—on a permanent basis—for the calculation of earnings-related contributions of mariners whose voyages fall in more than one tax year. Since 1975–76 it has been necessary to make amending regulations each year in order to take account of each annual change in contribution rates or earnings limits, but the regulations in draft make provision for such changes and remove the need to trouble the House with fresh regulations each year on this subject.

Put simply—if it is possible to put it simply—this part of the regulations provides the basis on which the amount of contributions is calculated in these circumstances. They set out the rules on which earnings and contributions should be apportioned between the different tax years. The result is a permanent arrangement which is administratively practicable and fair.

The main purpose of the amending regulations also bring within the national insurance scheme certain mariners not at present covered by it, thus enabling ratification by this country, as a member State of the International Labour Organisation, of the International Labour Organisation Convention No. 147. This convention lays down minimum standards for employment in merchant ships and embodies certain requirements as to social security, including a requirement that a mariner domiciled or resident in a member State and employed in a ship registered in the territory of that State should be covered by a compulsory scheme of sickness insurance.

As I said at the beginning, the draft regulations are, by their nature, highly technical. I do not think that I need trouble your Lordships with a detailed explanation of their contents. The essential point is that they have two functions. The first is to make a very modest extension to the categories of mariner who come within the National Insurance scheme. The second is to put on a permanent basis special arrangements for calculating the contributions payable for the majority of mariners; that is, those who are paid by the voyage.

The provisions of the draft amendment regulations have been considered by the National Insurance Advisory Committee—an independent body that looks into these matters. Their report, in which they recommend that the regulations should be made, was laid before Parliament with the draft regulations. My Lords, I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft Social Security (Contributions) (Mariners) Amendment Regulations 1978, laid before the House on 5th December, be approved.—(Lord Wells-Pestell.)

The Earl of AVON

My Lords, we are very grateful to the noble Lord for his careful explanation of these regulations, and are grateful to him too for his attention to the approaches in this matter.