Clause 88 - Territorial application

Railways and Transport Safety Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:00 am on 4th March 2003.

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Photo of John Spellar John Spellar Minister of State (Department for Transport) 11:00 am, 4th March 2003

I beg to move amendment No. 79, in

clause 88, page 37, line 20, leave out subsection (2).

Photo of Mr Alan Hurst Mr Alan Hurst Labour, Braintree

With this it will be convenient to take Government amendments Nos. 80 and 81.

Photo of John Spellar John Spellar Minister of State (Department for Transport)

The application of the alcohol and drugs provisions to recreational mariners on internal Scottish waters is a devolved matter. However, the Scottish Executive have now confirmed that they wish the proposed offence to apply to Scotland in full. Maritime safety is a vital issue, and the Government are pleased that the Scottish Executive are supporting as a general principle the application of maritime safety rules on a consistent basis throughout the United Kingdom. Clause 88(2), which disapplies clause 77 in relation to Scotland, was drafted before that decision by the Scottish Executive. It is now no longer required, and amendment No. 79 deletes it accordingly.

Amendments Nos. 80 and 81 are technical. They ensure that parts 4 and 5 properly reflect and preserve the existing position under Scottish law. In doing so, they reflect the approach adopted in the Road Traffic Act 1988 relating to alcohol provisions applicable to drivers. Similar provisions in the Transport and Works Act 1992 relate to railways.

Such provisions reflect the Scottish common law powers of entry—one hesitates to venture into this territory with two Scottish lawyers on the Committee—for obtaining evidence in the case of car drivers, train drivers and now mariners and aviation personnel who may have committed an alcohol or drug-related offence. Without the amendments, clauses 83 and 95 could conflict with the common law powers available in Scotland.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

The Minister has put the amendments in context. My only query is about what happened between the drafting of the Bill originally and its being before us today. It is developments in the Scottish Parliament that we are being asked to—

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

Presumably the Scottish Parliament will endorse the proposal in the usual way or has endorsed it.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

That seems an extraordinary way of making law. However, we would tend to regard the amendments as fair.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment made: No. 80, in

clause 88, page 37, line 26, at end insert—

'( ) Subsection (3) does not affect any rule of law or enactment (including an enactment comprised in, or in an instrument made under, an Act of the Scottish Parliament) concerning the right of a constable in Scotland to board a ship or enter any place for any purpose.'.—[Mr. Spellar.]

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

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

The Minister said earlier that we would return to this issue. In terms of jurisdiction and the successful application of the Bill, this is an extremely important clause. It will be deemed to have territorial application not only to UK ships, but to all foreign ships in UK waters and un-registered ships. Will the Minister explain what ''un-registered ships'' are? I am not entirely familiar with that

category. I do not know if it refers to ships that are not flagged under a UK register, or ships flagged with no register.

If we are creating a new jurisdiction, presumably it will apply to all categories: fishing vessels, recreational craft such as French, Danish and German yachts coming into UK waters, as well as commercial vessels. Are there corresponding jurisdictions whereby our ships face similar provisions in other EU states, for example, or is the International Maritime Organisation considering making international provisions that are similar to those that the Bill will impose? If the pilot, officers or crew of an oil tanker caused an accident that was deemed to be an offence under the Bill, it would have consequences beyond our shores, as there may be serious pollution that had ramifications in other countries.

The Minister explained why Scotland is being treated differently, but I should be grateful if he repeated the arguments to put my mind at rest in relation to recreational mariners in Scotland. For those who do not mind wind at sea and fairly heavy waters, a sailing holiday, especially navigating around the west coast of Scotland and the east coast is an enjoyable experience that is growing in popularity. Clauses 77 and 83 should apply in Scotland, or the Minister should give reasons why they should not. My concern is that the territorial application, the jurisdiction that is being extended, should be practicable. It was put to the Government in forceful terms on consultation that the proposal should apply to all ships and we seek the Minister's confirmation that that will be so.

Photo of John Randall John Randall Opposition Whip (Commons) 11:15 am, 4th March 2003

I am delighted that the Government amendment was accepted because it saves my asking questions about Scottish waters and boundaries. When I introduced a private Member's Bill, the boundaries between English and Scottish waters were still disputed, but the matter is resolved in the amendment.

United Kingdom waters can mean different things to different people. The jurisdictions of marine law are very complicated and any ongoing disputes may have an impact on the Bill. I should be grateful for the Minister's assurance in that respect. I should also be grateful if he confirmed that United Kingdom waters do not include waters off Crown dependencies such as Gibraltar and St. Helena.

My hon. Friend the Member for Vale of York referred earlier to hot pursuit, which makes it sound more exciting than it may be. However, at sea it is difficult to ascertain the precise location of a vessel in respect of territorial waters. The territorial application referred to is not where the alleged offence was committed, but where the ship is when the constable tries to board it. The Bill covers United Kingdom ships wherever they are, but presumably our jurisdiction over a foreign ship would end if it were outside territorial waters. How would that be ascertained? Will it be an offence or breach an international agreement if officers go after a person who is alleged to have committed an offence in our territorial waters but who at the time of apprehension is outside them, even

though our officers have the right to go after the person involved? I should be grateful if the Minister elucidated on those matters.

Photo of John Spellar John Spellar Minister of State (Department for Transport)

We dealt with the questions about Scotland raised by the hon. Member for Vale of York in the debate on amendment No. 79. It is common for legislation to apply to foreign vessels in UK waters, in the same way as road legislation applies to foreign vehicles on British roads.

Unregistered ships are those that are not registered under part 2 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995. That definition will therefore cover smaller vessels such as recreational vessels and pleasure craft.

The definition of UK waters is contained in section 313 of the Merchant Shipping Act, and covers

''the sea or other waters within the seaward limits of the territorial sea of the United Kingdom.''

That covers all UK national internal and territorial waters to the 12-mile limit.

The police jurisdiction extends to the 12-mile limit, and the police would only be able to pursue action outside that limit with the co-operation of other countries. The hon. Member for Uxbridge may have explored that issue when he tabled his private Member's Bill.

I believe the clause to be straightforward, and commend it to the Committee.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

I am grateful to the Minister for his response. I would like to raise the issue of whether other jurisdictions or the International Maritime Organisation seek to introduce similar legislation. The Opposition welcome the provisions. We sought to introduce similar provisions and would have done so, had the change of Government in 1997 not stopped us in our tracks. Is there any indication that the IMO or the European Union are seeking to introduce similar provisions? Clearly, it would be a problem if a shipping disaster caused by alcohol or drug intoxication happened in their waters, just as it would be a problem if a foreign tanker caused an

accident arising from an offence provided for under the Bill.

Photo of John Spellar John Spellar Minister of State (Department for Transport)

I understand that there are no international plans for legislation, but many countries have their own laws. I indicated that taking action beyond the 12-mile limit would be possible only with the co-operation of other countries. I presume that such action would be with the co-operation and assistance of the countries in which the vessel is registered, which is in accordance with the international law of the sea.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 88, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.