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Transitional Provisions And Savings

Volume 130: debated on Wednesday 30 March 1988

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

Amendment made: No. 7, in page 82, line 41, at end insert—

'3A. Section 4 (5A) of this Act shall not have effect at any time before the commencement of Part II of this Act, and shall not affect the operation of section 12(3) of this Act in relation to fishing vessels which are registered under Part I of the 1894 Act immediately before the commencement of Part II of this Act.'. —[Mr. David Mitchell.]

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read the Third time. — [Mr. David Mitchell.]

1.53 am

I repeat the welcome that my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford (Mr. Lloyd) gave to the Government's two new clauses on cabotage. It was good to hear the Minister say that they were long overdue. We are grateful for their inclusion in the Bill, and we shall be happy to see them implemented when the Bill reaches the statute book.

We are disappointed that the Secretary of State was unable to accept our new clauses on industrial relations. However, we are glad that the Bill retains section 19 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1974. As time goes by, the Secretary of State may find that section 19 is used much more frequently than it has been in the past. We are glad that that loophole has been left open and not closed in relation to section 42(2).

Some of my hon. Friends made a legitimate complaint about the hour at which we are discussing this extremely important legislation. Indeed, had we not been co-operative, we could have run the business through for a very long time, but we did not want to hold back progress on a Bill that we regard as necessary. I hope that the Government Whips and business managers will think very carefully in future about the timing of business on virtually the last day that we are here in Parliament—but I do complain about that. I will say, however, that when we have important business it is quite unnecessary for the Government to make statements that take up an hour of the House's time and delay the progress of a Bill unnecessarily. I hope that the necessary instructions will be relayed to the Home Secretary and the business managers.

Although we have rightly drawn attention to what we regard as deficiencies in the Bill—we would have liked its safety provisions to be stronger — we nevertheless accept that, in general terms, it was necessary, and we approve of the clauses dealing with registration and safety. I hope that the Minister will use the regulating powers that he has taken very strongly to protect the safety of those who sail in our ships, and of course the passengers who use them.

Despite our misgivings about some parts of the Bill, and our objections to the schedule, I do not intend to divide the House. We have made some progress. We shall watch the Government intently, and urge them to take action where it is necessary.

I hope that the Bill will prove an adequate measure to deal with merchant shipping. There is no doubt that, when we return to government, we shall make the necessary changes that we want to see. In the meantime, we accept what has been done, and hope that it will be carried out with expedition once it finally reaches the statute book.

1.56 am

Hon. Members who served on the Committee, and those who have taken part in today's debate, can take some satisfaction in having participated in the passage of a Bill that moves ship registration into the 20th century, ensures high standards throughout British dependencies, incorporates many safety lessons learned so sadly at Zeebrugge, sets up the Merchant Navy Reserve, assists training and provides Her Majesty's Government with powers to move against unfair competition, both in cabotage and elsewhere.

At the same time, the measure will bring to an end unfair competition by Spanish fishing vessels in the United Kingdom quota from the EEC.

This is not the stuff of a great parliamentary occasion, but it is a worthwhile modernisation of our merchant shipping law, which will further the safety and prosperity of the industry. As such, I commend the Bill to the House.

Those who go down to the sea in ships, whether at work or as passengers, will in future be able to do so with more safety and security as a result of our activities here tonight.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill read the Third time, and passed, with amendments.