HL Deb 22 December 1988 vol 502 cc1472-3

12.2 p.m.

Lord Hesketh rose to move, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 1st December be approved [2nd Report from the Joint Committee].

The noble Lord said: The regulations would extend to foreign ships when in UK ports the offence provisions of the five sets of merchant shipping regulations laid before Parliament on 30th September, namely the Merchant Shipping (Revised Means of Access) Regulations, the safe movement on board ship regulations, the entry into dangerous spaces regulations, the guarding of machinery and safety of electrical equipment regulations and the hatches and lifting plant regulations.

The five principal regulations apply in substance to foreign ships and have the effect of implementing ILO Convention 147 on minimum standards in merchant ships which provides very general requirements as to safety standards and so forth but which in general does not allow prosecution of foreign ships. The substance of those regulations also has the effect of implementing certain of the more detailed requirements of ILO Convention 152 concerning occupational health and safety in dock work. ILO Convention 147 has ben ratified by the UK, but ILO Convention 152 has not yet been ratified.

The regulations we are discussing today are made by the affirmative procedure since, under Section 49(3) of the Merchant Shipping Act 1979, as amended in 1986 and 1988, regulations made under Section 21 of the 1979 Act, as these and the principal regulations are, which apply to foreign ships must be subject to affirmative resolution unless giving effect to a convention already ratified by the UK.

These new merchant shipping regulations are limited to the essential features of the convention. They are quite short and backed by codes of practice which update where necessary existing chapters of the Code of Safe Working Practices for Merchant Seamen. Those codes will be issued as merchant shipping notices. The regulations and codes will of course apply to United Kingdom ships wherever they may be in the world and not just in the UK. For the most part they represent current practice. A useful and very comprehensive consultative exercise on both the regulations and the codes confirmed that there were no objections from the industry to the proposals in their final form. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 1st December be approved [2nd Report from the Joint Committee].—(Lord Hesketh).

Lord Underhill

My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord for outlining the regulations. Once again we give our full support. Any proposal from the ILO generally receives the support of the Opposition, particularly when it deals with health and safety. In this particular instance it concerns health and safety in dock work. Naturally we give the regulations our full support.

It is rather unfortunate that it takes so many years before such measures come to fruition. Reading very carefully the explanatory note—at least I hope that I have read it sufficiently carefully—one finds that the ILO convention was laid before Parliament in 1980, came into force internationally but was not ratified by the United Kingdom. Here we are in 1988 requiring regulations to bring the matters into effect. I am delighted that they are brought forward now; they have our full support.

Lord Tordoff

My Lords, I too support the regulations. I should also like to raise the critical question of why ILO Convention 152 has not yet been ratified by the United Kingdom. I have heard that ILO Convention 147 which was laid before Parliament in 1978 was ratified within two years. But it is now eight years since Convention 152 was laid before Parliament. It seems rather strange.

However, one is glad to know that the matters will take effect as a result of what we decide today. Not only does one want to see the best health and safety practice introduced in merchant shipping in our own country but also in competitors' vessels visiting this country. There is nothing worse than people undercutting the market not merely on price but also on standards, particularly relating to health and safety. The regulations are to be welcomed for that very reason.

Like the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, I should like to thank the Minister, as the second variation on the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, we have had today—indeed, the third variation. One wishes that the circumstances which have taken the noble Lord away were not quite so tragic. I thank the Minister for his statement.

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, I am pleased to have been able to present the regulations. I am pleased too that both the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, and the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff—although they feel that the regulations have arrived rather later in the day than they would have hoped—are nevertheless glad to see them.

I should say to the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, that ILO Convention 152 cannot be ratified until the regulations are in place. That is why it has not been ratified. I hope therefore that the regulations will meet with the agreement of the House.

On Question, Motion agreed to.