HL Deb 24 May 1994 vol 555 cc685-97

8.7 p.m.

Lord Donaldson of Lymington

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. I begin by congratulating the honourable Member for St. Ives, Mr. David Harris, for taking this Bill through its earlier stages in another place. I am most grateful to him for so promptly bringing forward legislation to implement some of the interim recommendations of the inquiry which I was appointed to chair, with terms of reference to identify what further measures could be taken to protect the United Kingdom coastline from pollution. I am sure that the House will support my view that we should strive to protect the marine environment whenever it is practical to do so. But when pollution occurs we must ensure that there is a response capability to minimise the effects of that pollution.

The Bill will help to combat maritime pollution in several ways, principally by permitting the implementation of international conventions and protocols which will enhance the protection of the marine environment. Those are the 1989 Salvage Convention, the 1992 protocols and the Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Cooperation Convention. Ratification of the Salvage Convention and accession to the 1992 protocols were two of the interim recommendations of my inquiry's report, Safer ships, cleaner seas. By providing for the implementation of those important instruments, the Bill is an essential element in the comprehensive national and international framework to ensure that our seas are both safe and clean.

Since 1980 the Lloyd's Open Form salvage contract has provided for a regime of reward for measures taken to protect the environment called special compensation. The 1989 Salvage Convention introduces the concept of special compensation to salvage law for the first time. Clause 1 of the Bill proposes a statutory basis for such payments.

The traditional "no cure—no pay" principle will continue to apply; that is, a salvage award will still be payable only when a salvor is successful in saving property of some value. However, under the new convention, salvors may claim special compensation from the shipowner if the vessel or its cargo pose a pollution or safety risk to the environment. This may be payable in the absence of, or in addition to, a traditional salvage reward. The convention will therefore encourage salvors to get involved—and, what is equally important, stay involved—in salvage operations when there is a threat of marine pollution, since special compensation assures them that they will at least recover their expenses. Salvors are further encouraged to get involved by the knowledge that, if they actually do prevent or minimise damage to the environment, they may be awarded payment of special compensation up to double their expenses.

Clause 5 provides for the implementation of the 1992 protocols. The 1992 protocols amend the two International Maritime Organisation conventions which established a liability and compensation regime for oil pollution damage. The first convention, adopted in 1969, makes the owners of laden oil tankers strictly liable for oil pollution damage. Liability is, however, limited. The applicable limit depends upon the ship's tonnage. The second convention, adopted in 1971, created an international oil pollution compensation fund, whose role it is to provide additional compensation when the shipowner's liability is inadequate. There is a limit on how much compensation the fund can pay out for damage caused by one incident. The 1992 protocols will dramatically increase the limits on shipowners' liability and the limit on compensation available from the international compensation fund. The protocols also extend the geographical scope of the regime, because pollution caused some considerable distance from shore can drift and cause pollution of the coastline.

At present the total compensation available to the victims of an oil pollution incident from the shipowner and the international oil pollution compensation fund together is limited to £55 million. After entry into force of the 1992 protocols this limit will initially more than double to £125 million, and could subsequently rise to £185 million. The 1992 protocols will also allow the limits to be increased on a regular basis in order to keep them in line with inflation. The protocols will therefore ensure that there is a greater likelihood that the victims of a future oil spill will be fully compensated.

Clause 2 enables the Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Co-operation Convention to be im-plemented by order in council. The convention will provide a framework for international co-operation in combating oil pollution and will encourage states to upgrade pollution preparedness and response capabilities to the high level of competence that already exists in the United Kingdom and in Europe.

Clause 8 of the Bill will improve the domestic framework for combating marine pollution by providing a clear statutory basis for the Department of Transport's marine pollution control unit. This will remove any threat of a legal challenge to the unit's operations. The MPCU is responsible for the co-ordination of counter-pollution measures in response to oil and chemical pollution emergencies in the United Kingdom. The unit also co-ordinates the provision and maintenance of resources in readiness for such operations.

Clause 4 of the Bill will allow the United Kingdom's jurisdiction for counter-pollution measures to be extended beyond the territorial sea. This will allow better policing of the requirements of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships. Such an extension of jurisdiction, up to a maximum of 200 nautical miles from our coasts, is sanctioned by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and is to be implemented as part of a co-ordinated exercise undertaken by all states bordering on the North Sea. I am very happy this evening that I am able to introduce a provision which I think meets a plea made by the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, in a letter to The Times which was published yesterday.

Clause 6 of the Bill will enhance the protection of the marine environment against pollution caused by fuel oil. At the moment, there is an anomaly in the treatment of different kinds of vessel. Only owners of laden oil tankers are strictly liable for marine pollution from oil spillages. But other ships can also pose a threat of serious oil pollution. All large ships carry fuel oil, often in very considerable quantities. This type of Gil can be thicker and more polluting than most types of oil carried in bulk as cargo. The Bill will extend strict liability for fuel oil damage to owners of all types of ships. Shipowners will be liable not only for the costs of actual damage caused, but also for the cost of measures taken to prevent such pollution occurring.

Clause 7 removes an inconsistency between the practice of the international oil pollution compensation fund and domestic legislation. It gives the fund a clear right to recover any compensation it pays when it is not in fact legally obliged to do so.

Clause 3 will save parliamentary time by aligning the procedure for making regulations concerning pollution from ships on that for regulations concerning safety on ships.

When the Bill comes before the House at the Committee stage I shall be proposing a small technical amendment. This is to make an order in council under subsection (3) of Clause 1 to implement any revision of the Salvage Convention subject to parliamentary control.

All in all I hope the House will agree that this Bill offers significant improvements on the present arrangements for protecting the United Kingdom coastline and surrounding waters. I am sure that there will be widespread support for the Bill in this House, just as there was in another place. I commend the Bill to the House.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time. —(Lord Donaldson of Lymington.)

8.16 p.m.

Lord Byron

My Lords, I should like to take this opportunity to thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donaldson, for introducing this important Bill into your Lordships' House. It is also particularly opportune that the Bill should be introduced a week after the publication of the major—perhaps I may say landmark —report into the prevention of pollution from merchant shipping by the inquiry in the name of the noble and learned Lord. I hope that in due course the House may have the opportunity to debate the report.

The report emphasises the vital role that the salvor plays in the whole question of safety at sea and in particular in relation to prevention of pollution. Recommendation 85 of the report invites the UK Government to set up a system to ensure that tugs with adequate salvage capacity are available at key points around the UK shores. The inquiry recommends that the tugs concerned should normally be owned, managed and manned by commercial operators but where adequate capacity cannot be provided in any other way, the UK Government should arrange for the funding of the difference between what is needed and what the private sector can provide.

These salvage services are by and large provided by the private sector and rely on salvage awards to make the whole operation economically viable. It is obviously desirable that so far as possible salvage services should be provided by the private sector and that the burden should fall on the public purse only where there is no viable alternative. It is clearly therefore in everyone's interest to encourage private salvage operators, and this Bill, enacting the 1989 Salvage Convention, the 1992 protocols and the other provisions to which the noble and learned Lord referred, is clearly an important step forward. In particular, Article 14, dealing with special compensation where damage is threatened to the environment, is a major step forward, although of course this particular provision has already been included in the 1990 LOF—the standard "no cure no pay" salvage contract.

In this context it is also worth emphasising the very important role played by the City of London and in particular the Lloyd's Open Form and its related arbitration arrangements. Statistics provided in the 1993 bulletin of the International Salvage Union show that in its survey of more than 2,400 cases over a 15-year period relating to salvage carried out in all parts of the world, 74 per cent. were carried out under a Lloyd's Open Form "no cure no pay".

Returning to the particular provisions of the Bill, there are two matters which I should like to raise. I heard the noble and learned Lord refer to a technical matter which he may wish to bring forward in Committee. Unfortunately, I did not detect that it was a technical matter in which I was particularly interested.

Concern has been expressed by a number of organisations, including the salvage committee of the BLMA and the International Salvage Union, relating to the amendment of the Supreme Court Act 1981 contained in the second schedule to the Bill in so far as it relates to the Admiralty jurisdiction of the High Court in salvage cases. The concern is that to confine the court's jurisdiction to any claim under the Salvage Convention 1989 would probably dispose of the court's present jurisdiction in respect of so-called "engaged services" or "services at request," it being arguable that the words, under any contract for or in relation to salvage services", do not cover such services. The jurisdiction of the Admiralty Court may also be ousted in respect of claims by disposed salvors other than under contract; claims relating solely to determination of whether a casualty has a salved value; and claims contesting agency of necessity in respect of engaged services or services at request.

It has been suggested that the phrase, or in the nature of salvage", would serve to remedy the otherwise apparently limiting effect of Section 2. That phrase has significant historical foundation. It is of course the existing wording of the Supreme Court Act. It is a phrase which appears in the leading textbooks and in a number of Acts and it is a phrase with which salvage practitioners have long been familiar. This is a matter of considerable practical importance because, as the law now stands, if the master of a vessel asks another ship to stand by during the course of a storm or requests another vessel to fetch and anchor, and that service is carried out but for one reason or another no benefit accrues to the vessel in distress, nevertheless, a claim can be brought and the courts do recognise such a claim. It would be a pity if this important additional area of present salvage jurisdiction were to be lost as a result of this Bill coming into effect.

The second area of concern relates to life salvage. Under the provisions of Article 16 of the Salvage Convention any life salvor has to direct his claim to the property salvor rather than to the property salved itself. That is likely to present considerable problems to the professional salvor in future cases. They will either have to wait until the time limit for a claim by a potential life salvor has expired or actively promote claims by the life salvor in order to ensure that they are taken into account when assessing the property salved value. This will inevitably lead to delay which in the present economic climate the professional salvor can ill afford.

I am aware that in respect of the latter point any amendment to the Bill might well be thought to be a derogation of the UK's international obligation when it ratified the convention. In relation, however, to the jurisdiction point I am not sure that this difficulty arises.

This is not the time or the place to consider detailed amendments to the Bill, but I hope that the Government may be able to consider particular points. Perhaps the noble and learned Lord may be able to give his blessing to suitable amendments at Committee stage.

This is an important Bill which I very much welcome in your Lordships' House. (I do not know whether it is a coincidence that the Bill is being introduced on the 250th anniversary of the Baltic Exchange. I hope that no one here tonight is missing out on those celebrations as a result of being in your Lordships' House.) Therefore, I should like to take this opportunity again to thank the noble and learned Lord for his highly authoritative introduction to the Bill which has considerable significance for the world of international salvage and in relation to the prevention of pollution generally.

8.23 p.m.

Lord Clinton-Davis

My Lords, at the outset, I declare an interest: I speak also as chairman of the Advisory Committee on Protection of the Sea, which is a non-governmental organisation which receives reasonable—I would not say too generous—support from the Government. It was founded by my noble friend Lord Callaghan in 1952. I believe that it was very perceptive of him to do so. It has since become a notable international NGO.

This debate gives me the opportunity from these Benches to pay tribute to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donaldson, for the incredibly able chairmanship of the committee that has produced the report which I hope will, as the noble Lord, Lord Byron, has said, enable us to debate it in the not too distant future once the Government have come forward with their response to the various recommendations which have been made. Unquestionably, it was a work of great skill under the noble and learned Lord's chairmanship and of great significance. I hope that the Government will take urgent action to bring before Parliament not only their response but the actions they propose to take as regards many of the recommendations.

Against that background, it is therefore propitious that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donaldson, was asked to pilot this undoubtedly important Bill through this House which will have appreciated his explanation of the purposes of the Bill and of the various clauses contained in it. I know that neither the noble and learned Lord nor for that matter Mr. David Harris who piloted the Bill through another place, will take amiss—because my criticism is not aimed at either of them—my disapproval of the Government using this sort of procedure in introducing Bills which are in reality government Bills. These Bills ought to be introduced in government time. I made this criticism when the House was considering the Merchant Shipping (Regulation) Bill legislation last year. I believe it was, before the noble Lord who speaks for the Government tonight took office so he is in no way to blame for that. I said on that occasion that I thought it was a great pity that the government business managers did not take that criticism on board. I know it is not the fault of the department; maybe it could exercise a little more clout in future, but who knows?

The Bill is only part of the effort to bring into effect a number of salient IMO conventions. It enables enhanced co-operation to take effect within Europe to prevent accidental and routine pollution from shipping. It is noteworthy to say in parenthesis that contrary to public perception it is not shipping which is responsible for the greatest measure of pollution at sea. I believe in that respect that the correct calculations are of the order of 15 per cent. of the total amount of pollution, whereas it is land-based sources of marine pollution which constitute by far the greatest peril. It is appropriate of course that that issue should have been addressed at Rio. I am glad to say that the Advisory Committee on the Protection of the Sea has played a great part in seeking to produce ideas for introducing effective measures and then enforcement to deal with that particular and very complicated problem.

I notice in the briefing that was sent out by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and presumably not only to me, that it identified what might be, but what I do not believe is, a difference in approach between the Donaldson Report, with its essential emphasis of the prevention of pollution, and what they thought was the Government's emphasis on accident response—that is to say, clean up. I do not believe those things to be mutually exclusive. They are complementary and I am sure that the Minister would refute that that alleged distinction of approach exists at all.

I thought it right to refer to that not because I am critical of the RSPB. I am very grateful that it sent the briefing; and in the light of what I have said, I hope that it will not desist from doing so in future. But it is a distinction which it is unfair to draw. There must be an efficient response to accidental and even deliberate acts of pollution from ships. I know that only too well from bitter experience when holding office as shipping Minister some years ago. It is an issue which led directly to the establishment of what was then known as the marine contingencies unit.

But the RSPB is right, as ACOPS has been, in asserting that the priority has to be prevention. It is consistent with what is said in the Single European Act, in the fourth environmental action programme, in the European Year for the Environment and in the Government's own documentation about environmental policy that you must attack pollution at source and the sea can be no exception.

One cannot insulate the Bill from the entire context of the battle against unsafe practices at sea. Sub-standard ships, sub-standard crew and sub-standard operators constitute a standing menace to our coastline and those of many other countries and indeed—and quite as important—to the lives of too many seafarers, lives which are lost in great numbers each year.

Coming to the Bill and to some of the recommendations in the Donaldson Report which touch on the provisions, I should like to know whether the Government are in a position to spell out what they will be doing, pursuant to the provisions of the Bill, to claim a 200-mile exclusive economic zone so that they can take advantage of the provisions for the protection of that area in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. What is the Government's thinking about establishing compulsory routing measures for ships around the United Kingdom? Initiatives have to be undertaken, principally through the IMO; but, by being members of the European Union, we are able to exercise a little more clout and to introduce rather speedier action on the part of the IMO. In saying that, I am in no way criticising the IMO because it is bound by the will of its member states.

One of the important recommendations in the Donaldson Report related to research into shipping practice and data collection programmes which need support if appropriate actions are to be undertaken. I do not know whether the Minister is in a position to say anything about that; but it is highly relevant to many of the provisions of the Bill if the measures to be taken are to be actively and effectively implemented.

I noted that Article 8's important recommendations on the duties of the salvor and of the owner and master are dealt with in the Bill. But will those provisions wholly cover the situation of ensuring that shipowners will be under a duty to call for assistance—the same would apply to masters—without delay when the situation arises? I am not entirely sure that the provisions cover such situations in their entirety. I wonder whether the Minister or the noble and learned Lord can cast a little more light upon it.

In relation to salvage, it is very important that the coastguard should be given enhanced powers to initiate salvage measures if a serious risk is involved. The shipowner must be liable for the cost, providing that any such action is taken reasonably. It is idle to talk about enhanced powers in this connection unless the salvage industry in the United Kingdom is provided with adequate support to enable it to mount effective coverage, a point that was made in the noble and learned Lord's report.

In the wider context of the Bill, there is also the whole question of the training of ships' crews and marine surveyors. In my judgment, that is imperative if the United Kingdom is to make a full and substantial contribution to resolving the problems of deteriorating ship and crew standards. I hope therefore that the Government will give proper support to the institutions that are capable of rendering those important services.

The Bill has major implications for implementing the MARPOL convention. How do the Government see the value of the increased jurisdiction that the Bill provides and the improved European Union and wider international co-operation in helping to implement MARPOL? Do the Government agree or disagree with the Donaldson Report about the inadequacy of the United Kingdom's port reception facilities for the legal discharge of waste oil? I do not know whether the Minister can answer that question tonight. If he cannot, he will no doubt send me a reply in writing.

I should like to know, however, whether the Government agree with the concept of special areas which was promulgated in the report. Most of the dangers that arise from ships arise through the operations of flags of convenience with their permissive attitude towards international conventions. I know that the Government share those anxieties because they have been active in ensuring that there is enhanced port state control through the Paris Memorandum of Understanding. However, we need uniform control and monitoring throughout the European Union and in the countries that are signatories to that memorandum of understanding. I am by no means convinced that that happens at present. However, that is an important ingredient in everything that we are trying to do and which we shall partially have effected once the Bill becomes law.

In conclusion, we shall do all that we can to facilitate the progress of the Bill through the House. Once again, with the qualifications that I have uttered, I congratulate the noble and learned Lord on the steps that he has taken in seeking to pilot the Bill through this place. I am sure that he deserves not only our commendation, but our support for so doing.

8.36 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish)

My Lords, it is a pleasure to be able to agree with many of the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, and, in particular, with his remarks at the beginning of his speech when he paid tribute to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donaldson of Lymington, not only for introducing the Bill, but also for giving us the results of his inquiry into the whole question of shipping around our coast and the dangers from pollution arising out of the "Braer" incident on Shetland a year ago in January.

Perhaps I may advise those of your Lordships who have not yet read the report that it is a fairly weighty document and an extremely good read. The noble and learned Lord has covered all of the issues in a great deal of detail and laid out extremely clearly the various arguments on the issues that he addressed. We are extremely grateful to the noble and learned Lord and I am pleased to have this opportunity to pay tribute to him for his work. We did not have that opportunity when my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport made a Statement on the report in the other place. Therefore, I am happy to join the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, and my noble friend Lord Byron in paying that tribute now to the noble and learned Lord.

I should like to add to the remarks of the noble and learned Lord my tribute to my honourable friend David Harris, who, because of the nature of his constituency in the south west of England, is pretty well surrounded by the sea and takes a great interest in matters relating to the sea, fishing and the ships which pass the coast of his constituency.

Merchant shipping is, by its very definition, an international industry. It has long been our belief that the rules governing shipping should be agreed and implemented internationally through the work of the International Maritime Organisation. We have always encouraged the development and implementation of IMO conventions which improve safety at sea and the marine environment. What is more, we have an excellent record of firm enforcement of such measures.

The noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, rightly pointed out—I concur with him entirely on this—that any suggestion that looking at the pollution aspect means that we are oblivious to the safety aspect is totally false. The truth of the matter is that the sea is an extremely dangerous place and the idea that it could be made accident-free is false. It would be quite wrong of any government—no matter how careful they may be to make rules and regulations which try to make the sea as safe a place as possible—to ignore the necessary steps that are needed to deal with an accident should one happen.

The Bill will allow the UK to implement two new IMO conventions and two protocols amending existing conventions. The IMO instruments to which the noble and learned Lord has referred should soon have sufficient signatories to enter into force internationally. The Bill therefore provides an opportunity for the UK to play a key role in triggering those important measures.

The House may wish to know the mechanism for entry into force of the instruments. The 1992 protocols will enter into force one year after the date on which a total of 10 states, representing both leading carriers and importers of oil, have agreed to be bound by the protocols. No state has yet formally agreed to be bound by the protocols; but measures in the Bill would enable the UK, like others, to have legislation in place to allow such a commitment to be made in the coming months.

There are at present 14 contracting states to the Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Co-operation Convention. The next state to agree to be bound by the convention will trigger its entry into force 12 months later. It would be, I am sure your Lordships will agree, agreeable if the UK could be the first contracting party to the 1992 protocols and also the state which triggers the entry into force of the Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and Co-operation Convention.

Entry into force of the Salvage Convention also requires 15 contracting states. There are currently nine. Several other states have, or will soon have, the necessary legislation in place. There is widespread support for the measures contained in the Bill within the maritime community and, in particular, in the London insurance market. Commercial interests were party to the negotiation of the international agreements which the Bill will implement. They agree that the protection of the marine environment must be enhanced,, and that polluters should be liable for any additional costs that arise.

The Bill has no new public spending implications. It places no significant new requirements on the Department of Transport or any other public body. It will allow the department's Marine Pollution Control Unit to act more effectively, secure in the knowledge that the cost of its operations will—in the majority of cases—be met by the polluter. My department is working within the IMO to see that the "polluter pays" principle is extended to all forms of marine pollution.

In my opinion, the most important measure in the Bill is the power to implement the International Convention on Salvage. As my noble friend Lord Byron said, private salvors must be encouraged to maintain salvage capacity. They will do so only if they are assured of a fair rate of return for their work. The traditional "no cure, no pay" system no longer provides such an assurance in all circumstances. When ships arc. carrying petroleum products, or other dangerous or polluting substances, the costs of intervention are very high but the value of the property recovered may be comparatively low. The new Salvage Convention guarantees salvors just recompense for their efforts in those circumstances and implementation will encourage the continued existence of a private salvage industry which is able to intervene to protect shipping and the marine environment.

My noble friend Lord Byron raised the subject of the powers of the master of a vessel. The convention also gives the master of a vessel the authority to conclude salvage contracts on behalf of the owners of the ship and its cargo. The noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, asked a similar question. This is crucially important, since in the past serious pollution has been caused while authority to conclude salvage contracts was sought, and such delays have even resulted, tragically, in loss of life.

We have clarified the position with regard to coastguards intervening if they think that it is necessary and taking steps to summon assistance when they feel that the captain of a ship is rather slow in doing so.

A number of questions were put to me, but some of the questions that the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, asked arise from the report, to which we are considering our response. He asked about the 200-mile EEZ. In accordance with the Paris declaration of North Sea states, our prevention of oil pollution regulations will be extended to cover discharge by all ships out to the 200-mile limit around the UK. On the subject of port facilities for waste to which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donaldson, rightly drew our attention in his report, we are concerned about the position that he highlighted which contradicts some previous evidence that we received. I have asked the Marine Safety Agency to investigate as a matter of urgency what is the situation at the ports around our shores.

On the question of routeing, which formed an important part of the report, we are working on those matters largely with our European Union partners, because, due to our position, a great deal of the shipping does not call at our ports and many of the waters around the UK are shared with adjacent countries, such as the Channel with France and so forth. We believe that that is a matter which we have to look at with our European friends.

My noble friend Lord Byron asked about salvage claims and the position of the life salvor. We shall probably go into that matter in a little more detail in Committee, and I shall examine what he said, but the 1989 Salvage Convention was intended to codify the law of salvage. My understanding is that we cannot derogate from that convention.

It is a long-established rule of the sea that it is a seafarer's duty to save persons in danger and that no remuneration is due from the persons saved. The Salvage Convention restates that rule. This is a tradition of the sea which the Government and the UK and international maritime communities strongly endorse. It has however also long been the practice for life salvors to share in salvage rewards paid to salvors of property. The convention preserves that practice. The Bill also preserves a back-stop provision currently contained in a section of the Merchant Shipping Act 1894 which has to be repealed to avoid inconsistencies with the Salvage Convention. The provision gives the Secretary of State the power to make awards to life salvors who have not been able to receive a reasonable reward in any other manner, although the Secretary of State exercises that power only in rare and very exceptional circumstances. The most recent instances of such payments were in 1939 and 1951 and were for very modest sums. Nevertheless the status quo has been retained at the request of the shipping industry.

The substantive provisions of the 1992 protocols mirror exactly those of protocols adopted in 1984. Entry into force of the 1984 protocols was dependent on the expected participation of the United States of America. Although not party to the original regime, the US signed the 1984 protocols and legislation was even prepared to implement the protocols. However, in the wake of the "Exxon Valdez" disaster in Alaska, the US Congress decided instead to adopt unilaterally the 1990 Oil Pollution Act. To ensure that the 1992 protocols will come into effect, the entry-into-force provisions have been made less onerous. Contributions to the international oil pollution compensation fund from any one state after entry into force of the 1992 protocols are also temporarily limited to 27.5 per cent. of the total in order to ensure Japan's acceptance (Japan is the largest contributor to the fund).

It will be necessary, as the noble and learned Lord said, to amend the Bill slightly in Committee. Those amendments will improve the drafting of the Bill either to ensure that its provisions have the intended effect or to remedy oversights. The most significant of those amendments relate to the implementation of the Salvage Convention. I support the amendment that the noble and learned Lord has proposed to subject to parliamentary scrutiny subordinate legislation to implement revision of the Salvage Convention. Amendments will also be tabled in relation to what is termed in the Convention "maritime cultural property"; that is, property of prehistoric, archaeological or historical interest situated on the sea-bed. These are technical amendments intended purely to maintain the status quo.

Like all noble Lords who have spoken, I welcome this Bill.

Lord Clinton-Davis

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. He has responded very well to many of the points that were raised. However, the one point that he studiously avoided was the criticism that I made at the beginning of my speech. Will the Minister give an undertaking that, at the very least, he and his colleagues at the Department of Transport will use their best endeavours to ensure that government Bills are introduced by the Government in government time, and notably when this House is not particularly taxed, which is normally at the beginning or even the middle of a Session?

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, invites me to go a good deal wider than my brief at the Department of Transport. I am sure that the people responsible for such matters will note what he says.

I urge the House to support the Bill, which will help to secure cleaner seas in the UK and thereby encourage other member states of IMO to follow suit. We have much to thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donaldson, for. Tonight we are thanking him for bringing the Bill forward and in the wider scene we are thanking him for his inquiry. I commend the noble and learned Lord's Bill to the House.

8.51 p.m.

Lord Donaldson of Lymington

My Lords, in view of the hour, perhaps I may reply briefly. I appreciate the kind words that have been said about my report. In that context, it is right that I should say that it was the work of a team. I had two assessors and a remarkably effective Civil Service team was seconded to help us. The report reflects a great deal of help received from industry and from the Government. But tonight we are here to talk about the Bill and not about my report.

Perhaps I may again express my great appreciation for the support that the Bill has received from all noble Lords who have spoken. The noble Lord, Lord Byron, laments the wording of paragraph 6 of Schedule 2, which would abolish the jurisdiction in respect of claims in the nature of salvage. I make no secret of the fact that I share his regret. It is quite clear that we cannot possibly derogate from the Salvage Convention and would not wish to do so. But paragraph 6 is jurisdictional; it neither adds to nor subtracts from the Salvage Convention or anything else.

Today I looked at the Supreme Court Bill, in particular the part which deals with the jurisdiction of the Admiralty Court. It is interesting that it always adds to the jurisdiction and never subtracts from it. One paragraph expressly re-enacts all the previous jurisdictions of the Admiralty Court. Furthermore, the phrase "in the nature of is not limited to salvage; it becomes a repetitive refrain. It relates also to towage and to pilotage and I believe that it would be a great mistake for the Bill to go through in a form which consigned the words "in the nature of salvage" to the dustbin. But as the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, detected with such perspicacity, I am only the surrogate parent of the Bill. It: will be necessary for me to consult the natural parent, the biological parent, the godfather—whatever the expression should be. I shall undertake the necessary consultation; indeed, I have an appointment at 10.30 tomorrow morning to begin on just that process. I commend the Bill to the House.

On Question, Bill read a second time and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.