Railways and Transport Safety Bill

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Mr. Randall: I would be more likely to extend my praise of the Secretary of State if he answered some of my correspondence.

Mr. Jamieson: I shall take note of that. I would have thought that most of our correspondence is answered efficiently and effectively. If the hon. Gentleman has a particular problem with any correspondence and he informs me about it in the margins of the Committee, I would be pleased to assist him.

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The difficulty with the amendment is that the larger the list of organisations to be included in the consultation, the larger becomes the list of those not included. It is already clear that the Secretary of State will consult organisations as he thinks fit. That is tightly defined, and it is replicated elsewhere in the Bill and in other legislation. After that assurance, I hope that the hon. Lady will withdraw the amendment.

Miss McIntosh: We hear what the Under-Secretary says, but the idea of taking assurance and comfort from him is novel. We reserve the right to return to the matter later, but for now I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Miss McIntosh: One hesitates to use the term ''dog's dinner''—

Mr. Randall: Dog's breakfast.

Miss McIntosh: Indeed. Some of the orders and regulations are to be made under the negative procedure, but others are subject to the affirmative resolution procedure. It would be helpful to know which are which, and which amount to Henry VIII provisions.

Mr. Jamieson: Perhaps I can add some clarity for the Committee. Clause 85 deals with the introduction of the secondary legislation on the various matters covered in part 4 of the Bill. Subsection (4) provides that regulations under this part are to be made using the affirmative resolution procedure. That applies to any regulation creating exceptions for non-professionals under clause 77(4) and (5), any regulation amending the prescribed limits under clause 78(2), and any regulation amending the table in clause 80(1) that may be made under clause 80(2). I hope that the hon. Member for Vale of York has followed that, and that I am not going too quickly.

However, clause 85(5) provides that an order by the Secretary of State under clause 81(3)(c) to designate ''marine officials'' with the power to detain a vessel may be made by secondary legislation subject to the negative procedure. Negative procedure is appropriate here because such an order does not create a criminal offence, and the power for a marine official to detain a vessel is conditional on a police constable being requested to attend as soon as possible. Furthermore, the power lapses if the police inform the marine official that they have decided not to take specimens, for whatever reason. I hope that I have clarified the issue of secondary legislation.

Miss McIntosh: Not really, but we will study Hansard when it is printed.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 85 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 86

Interpretation

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

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Miss McIntosh: In defining different expressions, the clause refers to section 313 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995, but that section in full is much greater than the reference in the Bill, in so far as a fishing vessel is defined and deemed to be part of the Bill only in the event that the pilot or crew of the vessel are deemed to have committed an offence—in particular, the offence of being the cause of an accident, under earlier clauses. We tried, and clearly failed, to define what constitutes a recreational mariner, but the Government have had sufficient time to come up with their own definition. We look forward to hearing what that is.

The most controversial definitions are those of ''United Kingdom ship'' and ''United Kingdom waters''. At the time of the consultation, that was probably the most vexed issue. The marine section of the United Kingdom Pilots Association, whose members could be interpreted as mariners, believes that they could be called upon to act as marine officers for the purposes of this part of the Bill, but they are not included. The association said:

    ''Under those covered by legislation should be added 'including foreign merchant seamen in UK waters'. We consider it should cover UK ships in UK waters and that all crew members should be covered.''

I assume that in debating either clause 86 or 88, the Under-Secretary will explain that the Bill will cover all seafarers, merchant shipping and recreational craft. I would hate to think that people on a French yacht might think that we were picking on them because they had had a better lunch than our British yachtsmen, but I assume that the police or marine officer will have the power to board and detain a person on a craft who is accused of an offence under this part of the Bill. That would be helpful.

I note that ''pilot'' has the meaning given under the Pilotage Act 1987. Can the Minister confirm that a pilot could be deemed to be a marine officer for the purposes of the Bill? To clarify the definition of UK ships and UK waters, can the Minister confirm that he intends to extend the jurisdiction to non-British—that is, foreign—merchant seamen, fishermen and recreational craft owners? It will be helpful to have the Government's definition of what constitutes a recreational mariner.

The Bill states

    '' 'drug' includes any intoxicant other than alcohol.''

There will be problems with this definition—as in earlier clauses—when testing for certain types of drug. What legislation is the Government drawing on in their definition of a drug? Is it the Merchant Shipping Act 1995 or the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984?

Mr. Randall: In a discussion on an earlier clause I raised a question about hovercraft that was not addressed. While waiting for the answer, I also thought of amphibious vehicles. There is a commercial tourist operation that sometimes travels around the roads of Westminster and then goes down into the river. In this interpretation, are such vehicles covered by the Road Traffic Act 1998 when they are

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on the road and by the Bill when they go into the water? Is that covered in any of the interpretations?

Similarly, I can see that right of entry to a hovercraft is a very different matter from right of entry to an ordinary ship—with those nasty great propellers going round, and the sealed cabins. I would also like clarification regarding the definition of ''foreign ships'' and ''UK ships''. Does this relate to where the ship is registered, or who the owner is? I am thinking in particular of cross-channel ferries—or even cross-channel hovercraft, although I think that service has now stopped.

Subsection (5) defines ''drug'' as

    ''any intoxicant other than alcohol''.

Somebody may try and include nicotine in that. Many people would regard the nicotine in cigarettes as a drug with intoxicating effects. The heady effect of a cigarette on someone who is not used to it is well known.

Mr. Spellar: Section 313 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995, to which clause 86 refers, was extensive in its coverage and its various interpretations and meanings. It does not as far as I can see cover a recreational mariner, which means any mariner who is not a professional as explained in clause 77(1)(c). The issue would apply to nicotine only if it was impairing someone's ability to carry out navigation functions—for example a severe bout of coughing.

The hon. Member for Vale of York is right in that the territorial application detailed in clause 88 makes it clear that part 4 extends to foreign and unregistered vessels in UK waters. We might return to that subject in due course.

I can reassure the hon. Member for Uxbridge that hovercraft are covered by section 310 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995, and that amphibious vehicles are, as he said, covered by both road traffic and merchant shipping legislation. The hon. Member for Vale of York asked about pilots. According to the definition in 31(1) of the Pilotage Act 1987, a pilot is any person not belonging to a ship who has the conduct thereof. In essence, pilotage is the provision of navigational advice to a master. The pilot does not assume the role of the master, who remains at all times responsible for the navigation and safety of the vessel. The definition of ''drug'' in subsection (5) is similar to that in the Road Traffic Act 1988. We are trying to ensure consistency across legislation for ease of implementation.

Miss McIntosh: I am comforted by the fact that the Minister of State seems to be suffering from the same lurgy as me.

Mr. Spellar: The hon. Member for Bath has it, too.

11 am

Miss McIntosh: We are in good company. I shall do my best to keep it to myself, and not to pollute my hon. Friends.

The Minister refers to the definitions in the Merchant Shipping Act 1995 and suggests that they are all very clear. However, I refer him to the explanatory notes to that Act. The notes say that,

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although it might be thought that defining ''ship'' was the simplest of tasks, there has been a mass of litigation on whether a particular structure was a ship under the Merchant Shipping Act 1894 for a variety of purposes, from marine salvage to the application of safety regulations and tide bars. That is good for lawyers—I declare an interest. Incidentally, I did not hear the Minister reply to the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge made about hovercraft.

Mr. Randall: He did.

Miss McIntosh: I apologise to the Minister.

The notes say that courts have generally taken a rather restrictive view of what is a ship—I presume that ''a moving object on water'' would be a start—and that there is particular emphasis on the expression, ''used in navigation.'' They go on to say that the definition of ''ship'' uses the word ''includes'', so that new craft can be recognised as ships.

 
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