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Volume 503: debated on Wednesday 6 January 2010

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will publish legal advice (a) obtained and (b) considered by his Department in the last two years on the application of the minimum wage to seafarers sailing between UK ports. (307815)

The Government’s legal advice on this issue is clear, and was reflected on a number of occasions in several different communications between Ministers and representatives of the trade union movement—i.e. that under international law, a coastal state may not legislate in respect of foreign-flagged vessels which enjoy the right of innocent passage in the territorial sea, as provided in the UN convention on the law of the sea. This is a right enjoyed globally by UK-flagged vessels. We are equally clear that this right also applies to foreign-flagged vessels travelling between two UK ports, and that to apply the national minimum wage in such circumstances would not be consistent with customary international law of the sea.