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Seafarers’ Wages Bill [HL]

Volume 825: debated on Monday 7 November 2022

Third Reading


Moved by

My Lords, in moving that the Bill do now pass, I would like to reflect for a couple of minutes on the Bill and its passage. This legislation, although necessarily limited in scope, is a key part of the Government’s nine-point plan to improve seafarer welfare and working conditions. The Bill delivers on the Government’s commitment to ensure that employees with close ties to the UK are paid at least the equivalent of the national minimum wage while they are working in the UK or its territorial waters.

I reiterate the Government’s intention to continue working closely with ports, the shipping sector and unions as the Bill continues its passage through the House of Commons and, crucially, as we develop secondary legislation. We are very grateful to stakeholders for their constructive engagement and interest in the legislation so far and are keen for this to continue.

I will also take this opportunity to clarify a point I made in Committee about seafarers servicing oil and gas platforms. I had previously stated that seafarers on services to offshore renewable energy installations were also covered by virtue of Article 2 of the National Minimum Wage (Offshore Employment) Order 1999. I would like to correct the record and confirm that they are not entitled to the national minimum wage under existing legislation but are considered to already be in scope of the Bill if calling at a UK port more than 120 times per year.

As ever, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Scott of Needham Market and Lady Randerson, for their constructive approach to each stage of this Bill and to all other noble Lords who contributed, many of whom brought deep and specific expertise. Last but definitely not least, I pay tribute to the work of the parliamentary counsel as well as the House staff, the Bill team, my excellent private office, and my noble friend Lord Younger for his support.

My Lords, I will comment briefly. The Bill is an important first step in the nine-point plan. I am very pleased that the Minister has reiterated her commitment to proceed on that plan; we all wait to see early progress. I will be studying the words relating to the clarification. I thank her and her support staff for the way that she has conducted the Bill. I do not have as many people to thank on my side, but I thank my adviser—who wrote some excellent speeches that the House heard—for supporting this work, and all noble Lords who took part.

My Lords, we on these Benches are absolutely committed to the Government’s aim of improving the pay and conditions of our seafarers. During the passage of the Bill, we heard some egregious examples which gave evidence as to why we need the Bill.

However, we do have concerns about the Bill that remain, falling broadly into two categories. One is the issue of compliance with international conventions, a number of which are potentially challenged by this legislation; the second is over issues around implementation and enforcement, which have been raised by the chambers of shipping, the British ports authorities and the trade unions. All of these have been thoroughly debated; although we continue to have reservations, we saw no point in bringing forward any amendments at Third Reading. I know that the Minister is committed to dialogue with the stakeholders and, therefore, we still hope that some practical ways of dealing with some of these issues may yet emerge.

The general health of the shipping industry is addressed in the Government’s nine- point plan. I was encouraged to hear the Minister on Report talking about the annual report prepared jointly with industry; we can all look forward to reading and potentially debating that. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, who has been affected by the rail strikes today and is therefore not here, and the Liberal Democrat Whips’ Office, as well as the Minister’s private office and her team of civil servants for her constructive and always helpful engagement with us.

A privilege amendment was made.

Bill passed and sent to the Commons.