HL Deb 08 November 1983 vol 444 cc711-2

Report received.

Clause 5 [Compensation in connection with invalid prohibition notices):

4.13 p.m.

Lord Mottistone

My Lords. I beg to move Amendment No. 1:

Page 5, line 38, leave out from ("unless") to the end of line 41 and insert ("such notice caused delay to the ship of a kind which would entitle the owners to compensation for provisional or final detention by virtue of section 459 and 460 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1894").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I should tell your Lordships in moving this amendment that I have been advised by the General Council of British Shipping. Historically, shipowners have been entitled to compensation for the costs incurred incidental to the wrongful detention of a vessel. This stems in particular in recent times from Section 460 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1894. The original draft of Clause 5(3) of the Bill sought to extend the right to invalid prohibition notices that resulted in the delay of a vessel by more than 24 hours even where not specifically detained. However, my noble friend's amendment No. 4 in Committee has restricted the compensation to prohibition notices that expressly prohibit the departure of a ship.

I understand that my noble friend and his advisers have accepted that the new clause is now unduly restrictive, withdrawing, as it does, the right to compensation where a notice has the effect of detaining a vessel while not expressly doing so; for example, by prohibiting the use of a ship's propulsion machinery. I also understand that discussions have taken place between my noble friend's department and the General Council of British Shipping and that they are in the course of arriving at a suitable alternative wording for this subsection. My amendment is therefore in the nature of a probing amendment. I hope that my noble friend the Minister will undertake to move a further amendment at the next stage of the Bill on the broad lines of my amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, in the light of what the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, has said, I await the Minister's comments with great interest. As a layman, looking at the amendment and the wording of the Bill, I see a considerable difference between a notice prohibiting departure and a notice causing delay. The delay may not be due to the actual notice. It may be caused, perhaps unnecessarily, by the authorities handling the ship. If, however, there is to be discussion between the General Council of British Shipping and the Minister in order to provide a more suitable amendment, we await it with interest.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

My Lords, since I am in complete sympathy with my noble friend's amendment, or the substance of it, and with what Lord Underhill has had to say, I do not think that it would be helpful if I was to reiterate what has already been stated. It is, I believe, sufficient to advise your Lordships that we have sympathy with the amendment. The aims are synonymous with those of the Government in drafting the Bill. However, I believe that arbitrators might find it very difficult to interpret the words that are set down in the amendment. As a result, further discussions between officials in my department and the General Council of British Shipping have taken place.

I might perhaps add, at this stage, that I am very grateful to my noble friend Lord Mottistone for writing to me on this matter. The discussions to which my noble friend and I have referred have proceeded very amicably. I understand that agreement on the form of words to be used is about to be reached If my noble friend is prepared to withdraw the amendment, I can give a firm undertaking this afternoon to put down a mutually acceptable amendment on Third Reading which, it may interest your Lordships to know, is set down on the Order Paper for 17th November.

Lord Mottistone

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for his undertaking. With that assurance, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.