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Territorial Sea Bill Lords

Volume 116: debated on Thursday 14 May 1987

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Considered in Committee.

[SIR PAUL DEAN in the Chair]

Clauses 1 to 3 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 4

Short Title, Commencement And Extent

Amendment made: No. 2, in page 3, line 45, leave out subsection (5).— [Mr. Eggar.]

Clause 4, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedules 1 and 2 agreed to.

Bill reported, with an amendment; as amended, considered.

Order for Third Reading read.

5.7 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
(Mr. Tim Eggar)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

This is a short, technical Bill that has been welcomed by both sides of the House and by the other place. That general support is valuable, because it is an important Bill despite its technical aspects. It will mean that legislation that applies in the 3-mile limit will, in general, apply in the wider limit. This will cover, in particular, the prosecution in United Kingdom ports of owners and masters of vessels who discharge oil or infringe traffic separation schemes, shipping accidents giving rise to pollution, and arrests for smuggling.

I should like to mention two specific points. The first was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Chislehurst (Mr. Sims), who expressed some concern that the extension of the territorial sea would place an additional burden on the policing authorities of Kent and Essex. I assure my hon. Friend that we consulted all the Government Departments concerned with administration and enforcement in the terroritorial sea. We reached the conclusion that the expense in these matters would not significantly increase. Departments are satisfied that such activities as they consider necessary in the remoter belt of waters from 3 to 12 miles will not significantly alter the general pattern of expenditure or calls on authorities.

I also want to mention a point about the extension of the Bill's provisions to the Isle of Man, which the right hon. Member for South Down (Mr. Powell)—he has given me notice that he is unable to be present tonight—raised with me. I am sure the House will agree that it is proper to follow the usual route of close consultation with the Isle of Man authorities on the issue of the territorial sea around the island and, in particular, on that of fishing there, which I understand to be the right hon. Gentleman's main concern. I assure the House that we remain determined that the arrangements for the conservation and management of fisheries in those waters should not, in any way, be to the detriment of fishermen in the United Kingdom, and I include Northern Ireland in that.

I should not go too far ahead of the consultations with the Government of the Isle of Man, but the Government recognise that the House will wish to be informed about the extension of the territorial sea adjacent to the islands, and I undertake that the House will be so informed.

Having made those two small points, I ask the House to give the Bill its Third Reading.

5.11 pm

It is entirely appropriate that we have had a smooth passage from a Bill dealing with Irish sailors to the Territorial Sea Bill. It has been a pleasure for the Opposition to help with both measures.

We have given the Bill a general welcome, here and in the other place, but we have expressed some reservations about it. I am grateful to the Minister for his answers in Committee and subsequently. However, we are still concerned that some provisions will be introduced by Orders in Council, although, as the Minister made clear on Second Reading, they will be technical. We do not like the procedure of delegating to the Privy Council the power to enact legislation that should properly be dealt with by the House. We would prefer the Bill to legislate now for the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. We recognise the need for close consultation, and we recognise the power that the House has to legislate on these matters for the small islands off the shore of the United Kingdom, including those with special constitutional relationships to it.

We regret that the Government have not seen fit to accept all the provisions of the United Nations convention on the law of the sea, and have accepted only this one. We wish to register our regret that the extension to cover marine nature reserves has not been included in the Bill.

We still believe that there is a degree of complacency about the threat to fishing vessels from submarines, which we reckon will be increased by the extra area that is covered by the provisions of the Bill. We hope that other Ministers—I know that this is not the responsibility of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office—will take account of that.

Finally, in spite of the clear and categorical assurances that the Minister so kindly gave to his hon. Friend the Member for Medway (Dame P. Fenner) on Second Reading, there is still a wide misunderstanding that the Bill will affect the arrangements for the sale of duty-free liquor and other goods on cross-Channel ferries. It would be appropriate for the Minister to try to dispel that concern once and for all. It seems much more prevalent on the Conservative Benches, for reasons that I can quite understand. It would be helpful if the Minister would make it clear that when the Bill becomes an Act tomorrow it will have no effect whatever on the purchase and subsequent enjoyment of duty-free goods on ships.

With those reservations, and the search for that assurance, we generally welcome the Bill and look forward to the return of a Labour Government to implement its provisions.

5.15 pm

In Committee my hon. Friend the Minister was kind enough to give me the assurance to which the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) referred. Because my hon. Friend's Department is not responsible for Customs and Excise matters, he gave me a copy of a press release from Customs and Excise that confirms what he said in Committee.

I am sure that the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley is right when he says that there is still some concern about the matter. We have a large number of ferry ships in my home county and constituency. The constituency has a close connection with ports and the sea, and merchant men there have expressed this concern to me. At what point does a ferry master close the duty-free office if the 3-mile limit no longer obtains? It always closes at that point because of the territorial sea limit. I draw my hon. Friend's attention to the fact that if a vessel was 12 miles out from this country and 12 miles out from France, those on board would sell little duty-free merchandise.

I thank my hon. Friend for the great trouble that he took to reassure me in Committee, and if he can give any further reassurance, I know that the ferry men and merchant men in my constituency will be grateful.

5.18 pm

I was unable to take part in the Second Reading debate an the Bill, which, of course, is greatly welcomed in my constituency. It has a long seaboard and is bounded by the North sea and the Humber estuary, where there are often a large number of oil tankers and ships from all over the world. My hon. Friend will know of the discharge of oil in our waters by the foreign tanker Sivand in 1983. That was handled by my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry, the hon. Member for Pudsey (Mr. Shaw), when he was the responsible Minister in another Department. The great joy, from the point of view of my constituency, is that, now that legislation is to be put on the statute book tomorrow, we shall have the opportunity to seek some redress.

The Humber estuary, as I have said, is thick with sea traffic carrying hazardous material, and many oil tankers. There have been discharges in the past, and we are most grateful to the Government for introducing the Bill. I thank my hon. Friend for what he has done to see it safely through the House.

5.19 pm

I thank the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) and the Opposition for supporting the Bill. Many of the detailed reservations that the hon. Gentleman has expressed were those that he expressed in Committee. I understand them, but, on balance, the Bill deals with the issues in the appropriate way.

I wish to tell my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) that I appreciate the point about the benefits that the Bill will bring to his constituents and to many other constituents who are affected by pollution from the sea. There are clearly significant benefits in being able to extend the provisions of our law, which previously applied only to the 3-mile limit, to 12 miles.

Finally, I refer to the point made by the hon. Friend the Member for Medway (Dame P. Fenner) and the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley about duty-free liquor and its supply on cross-Channel ferries. I can state categorically that the Bill makes no difference to the present procedure on ferries. Customs and Excise has stated publicly that, for sound practical reasons, it has long accepted that bars and shops on board ships sailing to foreign ports may be opened once connection with the shore has been severed. The extension of the territorial limit from 3 to 12 miles will therefore have no effect.

I hope that all those doubters who, we are told, surround the bars of our ports—there are even some such doubters inland in my constituency—will be reassured by that. It is with some pleasure that I realise that my final contribution to this Parliament has been to give such a vital assurance.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed, with an amendment.

Statutory Instruments, &C

With the agreement of the House, I shall put together motions 6 to 13 on the Order Paper.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 101 (Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.).

Local Government (Scotland)

That the draft Definition of Capital Expenses (Scotland) Order 1987, which was laid before this House on 1st April, be approved.

Urban Development

That the Tyne and Wear Development Corporation (Area and Constitution) Order 1987, dated 2nd April 1987, a copy of which was laid before this House on 7th April, be approved.

Urban Development

That the Black Country Development Corporation (Area and Constitution) Order 1987, dated 2nd April 1987, a copy of which was laid before this House on 8th April, be approved.

Race Relations

That the draft Race Relations (Offshore Employment) Order 1987, which was laid before this House on 1st May, he approved.

Sex Discrimination

That the draft Sex Discrimination and Equal Pay (Offshore Employment) Order 1987, which was laid before this House on 1st May, be approved.

Urban Development

That the Teeside Development Corporation (Area and Constitution) Order 1987, dated 13th April 1987, a copy of which was laid before this House on 27th April, be approved.

Agriculture

That the Home Grown Cereals Authority Levy Scheme (Approval) Order 1987 (S.I., 1987, No. 671), dated 6th April 1987, a copy of which was laid before this House on 8th April, be approved.

Rating And Valuation

That the New Valuation Lists Order 1987, dated 31st March 1987, a copy of which was laid before this House on 7th April, be approved.— [Mr. Peter Lloyd.]

Question agreed to.