Schedule. — (Minor and consequential Amendments of the principal Act.)

Orders of the Day — Pensions (Mercantile Marine) Bill. – in the House of Commons on 2nd June 1942.

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Photo of Mr Nevil Beechman Mr Nevil Beechman , St Ives

I beg to move, in page 7, line 11, at the end, to insert: At the end of paragraph (5) of sub-section (2) of section four there shall be added the words 'and keepers of lighthouses which are relieved by tender.' On the Second Reading I pointed out that, although the provisions of the Bill apply to mariners of all sorts, and I am glad to say to the crew of a lightship, and to the crews of tenders going out to lightships, they do not apply to keepers of lighthouses, even of lighthouses which are right out at sea. It seems ridiculous that a member of a lightship crew or of the crew of a tender, if injured, should be protected, yet if the keeper of a lighthouse situated far out at sea is injured on the same tender he is not assisted by the Bill. The reason for this anomaly proceeds from the definition of the word "ship." A lighthouse is stationary out at sea and a ship is something that is propelled. The very fact that a lighthouse at sea is stationary increases the hazards which must be encountered by those who live in it. They are subject to attacks from aircraft or surface craft. They may encounter floating mines, and it is their duty to report mines so that these may be speedily and effectively dealt with.

The Amendment seeks to assist keepers of lighthouses out at sea who are relieved by tender. It was thought that, as the Bill refers only to mariners, it would be difficult to include those who attend to shore establishments, though if the Government could see their way to include them too I should be only too happy. Indeed I should be very happy to see coastguards included, because I have for a long time felt that the provision for their pensions is not all that it should be. However to avoid risk of losing the whole, the Amendment has been limited as I have described. I hope very much that the Government will accept the Amendment or find some way of achieving the purpose that I have in mind, and I hope we shall hear something of the provision which is in fact made for lighthouse keepers. I know that Trinity House is interested in those whom it employs. These men perform an extremely important and perilous task for the good of the country and I think it is right that the Committee should make sure that it has a clear statement from the Minister on the way in which provision is made for them.

Photo of Mr Philip Noel-Baker Mr Philip Noel-Baker , Derby

When the hon. Member raised the matter on the Second Reading I promised that the Government would consider his proposal with an open mind, and I did so with the concurrence of the Minister of Pensions. We have considered the question with an open mind but I am afraid the facts of the case make it impossible to accept his proposal. Lighthouses are not ships. They are on solid ground of some description. They cannot be torpedoed, and therefore their keepers are not in constant danger of being sunk, as are people in ships. That is the essential distinction between keepers of lighthouses and, for example, keepers of lightships and salvage workers, whom we now propose to include. Moreover, the attacks to which they are liable do not differ in practice, and have not differed in character, from the attacks which beset the general civilian population, and in particular industrial workers. How are they covered? Like other industrial workers they are eligible for compensation under the Personal Injuries (Civilians) Scheme for war injuries. For other injuries they are covered, like other employed persons, by the Workmen's Compensation Act. Is there anything unjust to lighthouse keepers as such if they receive no special treatment beyond that accorded to other civilian workers? Is their employment connected with the sea in some such way that it creates a special risk different from the risk of other civilians? Does that special risk result from the nature of their employment as lighthouse keepers? To the last question the answer is "No," because the hon. Member, who said he would like to have done so, has not in fact included all lighthouse keepers in his proposal. He only proposes to include keepers of lighthouses who are relieved by tender, that is to say, those who have to make a sea journey to reach their place of work. The special risk which he thinks strong enough to justify his proposal is the sea journey that they have to make. How many such journeys must they make, and are there not other civilians who have likewise to make sea journeys to reach their work?

Photo of Mr Nevil Beechman Mr Nevil Beechman , St Ives

I do not think the hon. Gentleman quite appreciates why I have defined these lighthouses as lighthouses relieved by tender. It is not just because I thought there was a special risk attaching to the journey, though there is that special risk. It was in order to make it clear that the lighthouses we are considering are right out at sea, just as a lightship would be.

Photo of Mr Philip Noel-Baker Mr Philip Noel-Baker , Derby

I will deal first with the risk in the tender, to which the hon. Member referred, and I ask how many such journeys must these lighthouse keepers make, and are there not other civilians who have to make similar journeys in going to their work? There are two classes of lighthouses which would come within this proposal, what are called rock stations and island stations—rock stations where there are only the lighthouse keepers, who are relieved once every two months, and island stations, where the keepers and their families live together, where there is no regular system of relief and where they leave the island only by special arrangement, as is required. On the rock stations they are relieved every two months, that is, six journeys a year, and short journeys. On island stations they do not make even so many journeys as six. I venture to say that the special sea journey risk is, therefore, very small indeed.

To the second question the answer is that there are other classes of workers who have to make sea journeys to their work. I cite only two, which are germane to the point—the mechanics who look after the electrical and other apparatus of the lighthouses and the superintendents who supervise the work. They make more journeys than the keepers, but they are based on shore and, therefore, no one would claim that they are mariners, and my hon. Friend does not suggest that they should be included. He says that he is thinking of the risk of lighthouse keepers on a rock a long way from the shore who are liable to be attacked by aircraft and who have been so attacked. I ask him to look at the facts. There have been attacks on lighthouses. It would not be in the public interest for me to state the figure here, but I will give it to my hon. Friend afterwards. About half the number of the attacks made on lighthouses have been on lighthouses on shore, but my hon. Friend would exclude that kind of attack.

Photo of Mr Nevil Beechman Mr Nevil Beechman , St Ives

I hope that they can be included.

Photo of Mr Philip Noel-Baker Mr Philip Noel-Baker , Derby

I am afraid it would not be possible without driving very deeply into the general principles of compensation for war injury. The attacks in proportion to the total number of lighthouses have been far fewer than the attacks made on many coastal towns and even towns inland. Among the people employed in lighthouses there have been only three casualties. None of them occurred on the sea journeys in the tender. Two persons were injured by blast and one was fatally injured by picking up some explosive object, a thing which has happened in every town in the Kingdom. I suggest that these facts do not support the view that there is for these people any special risk similar to that of merchant seamen or of lightship keepers or of salvage workers who are included in the Bill. I hope that my hon. Friend will agree that they are adequately covered by what is done for other civilians in the light of the actual casualties that have occurred and that no injustice or hardship will result if the Amendment is rejected.

Photo of Admiral Sir Roger Keyes Admiral Sir Roger Keyes , Portsmouth North

Suppose the crew of the "Bishop" Lighthouse, which is further off than any lightship, about 50 miles from its relieving station, became casualties on the way over, how would they be compensated?

Photo of Mr Philip Noel-Baker Mr Philip Noel-Baker , Derby

They would be dealt with as civilians are dealt with under the civilians risk scheme. There are other classes of civilian workers who have to go by sea to their work.

Photo of Admiral Sir Roger Keyes Admiral Sir Roger Keyes , Portsmouth North

The relieving of the "Seven Stones," which is the most exposed lightship, is not so formidable as the relieving of the "Bishop." If the crew of the "Bishop" suffered from attack while they were in their tender, would they get as much compensation as the crew of the "Seven Stones "?

Photo of Mr Philip Noel-Baker Mr Philip Noel-Baker , Derby

They would get the compensation due to them under the Personal Injuries (Civilians) Scheme. A. voyage of 50 miles is a considerable distance and involves a certain risk, but it is extremely small compared with the risks we are dealing with in this Bill to people who are all the time at sea. It is not a greater risk than that of people who live in some towns on the South-East and East coasts who are subject to continual attack from German bombers even now. I venture to suggest that the risk to these people is greater than the risk to the lighthouse crew on their tender journeys.

Photo of Admiral Sir Roger Keyes Admiral Sir Roger Keyes , Portsmouth North

From personal knowledge I know that the risk in relieving the crew of the "Bishop" lighthouse is greater than that in relieving the crew of the "Seven Stones" lightship and men much prefer service in the "Seven Stones." It is a much more formidable undertaking to relieve the "Bishop" than to relieve the "Seven Stones."

Photo of Mr David Adams Mr David Adams , Consett

I take it that the Minister has given the Committee a definite assurance that lighthouse keepers and their assistants, whether their journey to their employment be by sea or land, are adequately covered under previous legislation?

Photo of Mr Philip Noel-Baker Mr Philip Noel-Baker , Derby

They are covered the same as everybody else.

Amendment negatived.

Schedule agreed to.

Bill reported, with Amendments; as amended, considered; read the Third time, and passed.