HC Deb 01 February 1977 vol 925 cc170-1W
71. Mr. Prescott

asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he will make a statement about the outcome of the Legal Conference on Liability for Maritime Claims held in London from 1st to 19th November 1976 under the auspices of the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organisation (IMCO).

Mr. Clinton Davis

The Conference, over which I had the honour to preside, adopted a new Convention designed to replace the 1957 Brussels Convention relating to the Limitation of the Liability of Owners of Sea-going Ships.

The new Convention takes into account changes which have occurred since 1957 in the international legal field—e.g., the adoption of conventions relating to the liability of operators of nuclear ships, to liability for oil pollution damage and to the carriage of passengers and their luggage by sea—and in the value of money and the capacity of the insurance market. Thus the limits of liability are substantially increased, especially in relation to small ships whose low limits of liability hitherto have most frequently brought limitation into play. For medium-sized and large ships the increase makes up for inflation since 1957; for very large ships the increase is less because of the limited capacity of the reinsurance market. A separate limit for passenger claims is established relating to passenger carrying capacity and with a ceiling of $30 millions.

On the other hand, the new Convention also covers claims for damage to harbour works, basins and navigable waterways, which could be excluded by reservation from the scope of the 1957 Convention. Further, it gives the person liable much greater certainty than in that Convention as to the circumstances under which limitation of liability may be denied.

The new Convention, which will enter into force one year after 12 States have become parties, opens for signature today—1st February—and the United Kingdom's representative at the Conference, Lord Diplock, is attending the Headquarters of IMCO to sign on behalf of the United Kingdom.

I would like to express the appreciation of the Government and, I am sure, of the House, for the valuable work undertaken by Lord Diplock and his team on behalf of the United Kingdom.