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Viscount Astor: My Lords, I am very grateful to the Minister for giving way. Perhaps I did not make it entirely clear in my speech. I did not say that there had been a cut in the funding of the fire service—at least,

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that is not what I meant to say. I meant to say that I understood that there had been a cut in the resources that the fire services had put in to fighting marine fires.

Can the Minister tell us—and, if not now, perhaps he would be kind enough to write to me—whether the Government feel that the number of fire services that have the equipment and the training is sufficient to cover the stretches of coastline along the United Kingdom? What mechanism does the Government have to ensure that there is, within the various fire authorities, enough cover for our coastline?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, as I say, there has been no cut in the funding of fire services. I am not aware that there has been a decrease in expenditure by fire authorities in dealing with marine fires, but I can write to the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, on that point. I made it clear that there has certainly been a cut in the number of firefighting authorities providing this maritime service. It is our belief that restoring the right to recover costs should encourage enough firefighting authorities to provide an adequate service around the coast.

We welcome these provisions, which will encourage, but not force, fire authorities to continue to provide this expert and life-saving service. This part of the Bill applies only to England and Wales. Scotland and Northern Ireland will have to introduce separate legislation if they wish, and I understand that they are both keen to do so.

We do a great deal to promote maritime safety and minimise pollution at sea. The Bill, with the two measures that have been described and the consolidating of existing provisions into a single document, is most welcome, and we support it.

12.34 p.m.

Lord Donaldson of Lymington: My Lords, I thank all those concerned who have supported the Bill. The noble Viscount, Lord Astor, said that fire services will have to spend money in advance of an incident and asked how they get it back. The answer is that we are dealing with salvage. In the law of salvage, it has always been accepted that salvors, some of them operating on spec, will incur considerable costs. Those costs have always been taken into consideration in making an award of salvage.

I do not doubt that, in the light of this Bill, once salvage arbitrators know that the fire services can—and undoubtedly will—put in a claim for what is euphemistically called their costs, they will take a generous view, for the same reason that they take a generous view when remunerating salvors. It is in the interests of the maritime community that people are available to render this service when necessary.

On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

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Race Relations Act 1976 (Seamen Recruited Abroad) Regulations 2003

12.36 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey rose to move, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 14th May be approved [20th report from the Joint Committee].

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the regulations to amend Section 9 of the Race Relations Act 1976 forms part of the Government's wider amendments to the Act implementing the race directive under Article 13 of the EC treaty.

The race directive makes it unlawful to discriminate in the areas of employment-related matters, social protection, social advantage, healthcare, education and goods and services—but only on the grounds of racial or ethnic origin. However, our proposals go beyond the requirements of the directive. The proposed amendment to Section 9 of the Act will outlaw discrimination on the basis of colour and national origins as well as on the basis of racial and ethnic origins as required by the directive.

This means that nationality will be the only grounds on which to justify treating people differently. This will apply to seafarers recruited abroad to work on ships registered in Great Britain, but only in terms of pay, including retirement and death benefits. Parallel legislation will be laid for ships registered in Northern Ireland.

Over the last few years, there has been a substantial revival in the United Kingdom merchant fleet, with an increase of around 90 per cent in UK registered shipping since 1997. The introduction of tonnage tax in 2000, and the registration reforms of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency have helped to produce a highly favourable environment for shipping. We are determined that this should continue.

That is the background against which we are laying the regulations to amend Section 9 of the Race Relations Act 1976. For most of the period that the Act has been in force, there has been a sharp decline in the number of UK-registered ships, and therefore in the number of ships that can be subject to UK legislation. However, as I indicated, there has been a huge increase in UK registered shipping since 1997.

During the public consultation on the implementation of the EC Article 13 race directive, our social partners' views were invited on a proposal to repeal Section 9 in its entirety. After careful consideration, the Government concluded that total abolition of Section 9 of the Act would seriously jeopardise the success we have achieved in reviving UK merchant shipping. This was not a course we were prepared to follow.

Crewing costs are a substantial proportion of overall shipping costs, and shipping companies are operating in a highly competitive sector. We estimate that the additional costs to shipowners, which could be up to 40 million, incurred by the total repeal of Section 9 would drive many shipping companies to register their ships abroad. Up to 400 ships, possibly

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more, could leave the UK register, thus removing them from the jurisdiction of the UK with the risk that they could move to less safety-conscious registers.

All other EU member states are retaining the ability to pay foreign seafarers at different rates. Not to proceed with our proposals could put UK registered ships at a significant commercial disadvantage in a highly competitive market.

I recognise that there are concerns about paying foreign seafarers at local rates, but I firmly reject the argument that it amounts to employing cheap labour. The local rates may compare favourably with rates for other jobs in the countries concerned. Furthermore, the UK fully supports the current exercise of the International Labour Organisation to consolidate its maritime conventions. That will achieve a workable and enforceable international system of maritime standards for seafarers' living and working conditions.

The Government are firmly committed to removing discrimination wherever possible. We are also firmly committed to the continued success of the United Kingdom register and of our shipping policy in general. We are convinced that to achieve those objectives the continuing payment of local wage rates to seafarers recruited abroad on United Kingdom ships is absolutely necessary. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 14th May be approved [20th report from the Joint Committee].—(Lord McIntosh of Haringey.)

Viscount Astor: My Lords, I support the regulations. The Government have a sensible balance in terms of employment of people from abroad on British ships. As the Minister said, if the situation changed, it would have a dramatic effect on the amount of tonnage registered in this country. At the same time, we fully support the notion that the Race Relations Act should cover people employed in this way.

Lord Newby: My Lords, the Minister referred to a number of concerns expressed about the regulations, which we understand. On balance, we agree that the Government's course is a wise one.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Co-operatives and Community Benefit Societies Bill

12.42 p.m.

Lord Carter: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Carter.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

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Clause 1 [Community benefit societies: power to restrict use of assets]:

Lord Carter moved Amendment No. 1:

    Page 2, line 20, leave out "him to perform" and insert "or assist him to perform any of"

The noble Lord said: In moving the amendment, I shall also speak to Amendments Nos. 2 and 3. This group of amendments and the amendment that follows are designed to meet some concerns expressed by the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee. I express my thanks to Peter Hunt and the team of the Co-operative Party, Lucy Ryan and her team at the Treasury and particularly to Christine Salmon, the Clerk, and Alan Roberts, the special adviser to the Select Committee. They have all been extremely helpful in drafting the amendments.

The amendments deal with the first of three observations from the Select Committee on the drafting of the Bill. Members of the Committee may remember that paragraph 29 of the committee's 18th report stated:

    "The Committee considers that the delegation in clause 1(5)(d) would be appropriate only if expressly limited in the bill to a specific purpose such as that described in the Treasury's memorandum".

The object of the group of amendments is to meet that requirement. Amendment No. 1 is the paving for Amendment No. 2, which is the main amendment in the group, and Amendment No. 3 is consequential on Amendments Nos. 1 and 2. The new subsection (5)(d), as set out on the Marshalled List, meets the point made by the committee. The Treasury memorandum on the subject, addressed to the committee, states that the amendment narrows the scope of Clause 1(5)(d),

    "so that the regulations can only authorise a prescribed person to make binding rules for the purpose of enabling or assisting him to perform his functions under the regulations . . . Prior to full consultation it is not certain exactly what functions may be conferred on a prescribed person".

The important point now is that any regulations conferring functions,

    "can only make provision for the specific and limited purpose expressly set out in subsection (1): i.e. they can only set up an asset 'lock-in' regime for community benefit societies".

It goes on to say that,

    "since the regulations are subject to the draft affirmative resolution procedure, they will require approval by a resolution in each House before they can be made. That will give both Houses the opportunity to prevent any regulations that confer functions on a prescribed person, or which authorise a prescribed person to make binding rules for the purpose of enabling or assisting him to perform those functions, which are considered inappropriate".

I beg to move.

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