HL Deb 25 July 1989 vol 510 cc1401-3

9.10 p.m.

The Lord Brabazon of Tara rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 22nd June be approved [25th Report from the Joint Committee].

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move. Before speaking to the order I should like to draw noble Lords' attention to a printing error in it. Paragraph 2 of the preamble should refer to subsection (3) of the Hovercraft Act 1968 and not to subsection (3)(b).

This order provides for the amendment of the Hovercraft (Application of Enactments) Order 1972 to apply to hovercraft operating in a marine environment, the provisions of merchant shipping legislation concerning marine pollution and casualty investigation. It also applies sections of the Merchant Shipping Act 1979 for legislative procedural purposes.

I should perhaps begin by explaining that the Hovercraft Act 1968 recognises that hovercraft are vehicles in their own right, not ships or aircraft, and provides general enabling powers to make provisions for hovercraft. These include the power to apply to hovercraft other enactments and instruments relating to other means of transport. Through the Hovercraft (Application of Enactments) Order 1972 a wide range of such legislation is applied to hovercraft. This includes Merchant Shipping Act provisions relating to the investigation of casualties.

The purpose of the present order is, first, to apply to hovercraft international requirements arising from the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships 1973. The main purpose of this convention is to ensure that oil and oily mixtures and garbage are not discharged into the sea or coastal and inland waters navigable by seagoing vessels. The convention applies to hovercraft and it will be brought into effect for UK hovercraft by applying, with modifications, sections of the Prevention of Oil Pollution Act 1971, the Merchant Shipping (Prevention of Oil Pollution) Order 1983, the Merchant Shipping (Prevention of Oil Pollution) Regulations 1983, the Merchant Shipping (Reporting of Pollution Incidents) Regulations 1987, the Merchant Shipping (Control of Pollution by Garbage) Regulations 1988 and the Merchant Shipping (Reception Facilities for Garbage) Regulations 1988. The effect will be that UK hovercraft operating in a marine environment will need to meet similar requirements to prevent pollution as are already applied to ships.

Secondly, the order will revoke the provision of the Hovercraft (Application of Enactments) Order 1972 which applies the casualty investigation sections of the Merchant Shipping Act 1894 to hovercraft. The casualty investigation provisions of the 1894 Act have been replaced by Sections 55 to 58 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1970 and the Merchant Shipping (Formal Investigations) Rules 1985. The order will apply, with appropriate modifications, these new legislative provisions and so bring up to date the powers to investigate hovercraft casualties in line with those now operating for ships.

Thirdly, it is intended to allow greater flexibility in the legislative process in applying merchant shipping safety legislation to hovercraft. At present it is necessary to make regulations which apply to ships and then make a separate enactment order to apply to hovercraft. An example of where this flexibility will save parliamentary and official time is in the United Kingdom implementation of amendments to the International Regulations for Prevention of Collisions at Sea 1972.

I am sure that the House will appreciate the need for this order to ensure that developments in maritime safety and pollution regulations are applied, as appropriate, to hovercraft engaged in maritime operations.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 22nd June be approved [25th Report from the Joint Committee].—(Lord Brabazon of Tara.)

Lord Underhill

My Lords, the House is grateful to the Minister for outlining the provisions of this order. I thought that this might be his last duty as Minister in the Department of Transport. However, I have seen the appointment of his successor in the other place and I do not know what will be the position. During the time that he has handled transport matters the noble Lord has always been co-operative and prepared to give advance information. While we may have disagreed on policy matters, we have always had a good understanding and relationship on transport issues. I should like to take this opportunity of wishing him the best of luck in his new position and I congratulate him on the appointment.

The order before us is quite important and I am glad that the noble Lord has explained the various provisions for prevention of pollution in paragraph 3. While the opportunity for pollution may be limited, it is important that provision to prevent pollution by oil and garbage should be related to hovercraft as well as other vessels.

Also, I am particularly pleased to see the provision under paragraph 4 on safety regulations and possibly more so the revised arrangements for inquiries and investigations into hovercraft casualties. Those seem to be very important points.

Perhaps I may also add, as I have been critical of the explanatory notes on previous orders, that I found these explanatory notes easily understandable and I have the greatest pleasure in accepting this order.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his kind words and for his unfailing courtesy certainly during four of the past five years in which I have dealt with transport matters in the House. I shall miss the opportunity of exchanging views with him and I am grateful to him for his words.

On Question, Motion agreed to.