New Clause 5 - Implementation and monitoring

Seafarers’ Wages Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee am 3:15 pm ar 17 Ionawr 2023.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

“(1) Within six months of this Act being passed, the Secretary of State must publish a report on the implementation of, and monitoring of the effects of, this Act.

(2) The report must include—

(a) an assessment of the impact of this Act on—

(i) roster patterns,

(ii) pensions, and

(iii) wages of seafarers;

(b) a statement as to whether further legislation will be introduced by the Government as a result of the findings of the assessment under paragraph (a);

(c) a strategy for engaging with trade unions for the purposes of monitoring the implementation of this Act, including in reference to conventions of the International Labour Conference;

(d) a strategy for monitoring the establishment of minimum wage corridor agreements with international partners of the United Kingdom, insofar as any such agreement ensures that any non-qualifying seafarer is remunerated for UK work at a rate that is equal to or exceeds the rate that would otherwise be required under this Act;

(e) an assessment of the interaction between this Act and existing international agreements or international maritime law, including reference to any litigation that has arisen as a result of this Act.

(3) The report must be laid before each House of Parliament.”—

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Mike Kane Mike Kane Shadow Minister (Transport)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Photo of Carolyn Harris Carolyn Harris Llafur, Dwyrain Abertawe

With this it will be convenient to discuss

New clause 7—Report: remuneration of seafarers—

“Within one year of the date of Royal Assent to this Act, the Secretary of State must lay before Parliament a report setting out an assessment of—

(a) the impact of this Act on the remuneration of seafarers, and

(b) whether there is any evidence that, as a result of this Act, seafarers have been dismissed and re-engaged on lower wages at or closer to the National Minimum Wage.”

Photo of Mike Kane Mike Kane Shadow Minister (Transport)

I rise to speak in support of new clauses 5 and 7. Earlier this year, the House stood completely united against the action taken by P&O Ferries. We had oral questions that day in the House, and the former Minister, the hon. Member for Witney, was at the Dispatch Box when the news filtered through that this company had sacked some 800 British workers with no notice. Eight hundred livelihoods were lost because a rogue company made a calculation that it was cheaper to break the law than to abide by it.

A married couple who had been employees of P&O for 14 years spoke to a colleague of mine about the reward for their years of loyal service—summary dismissal by a pre-recorded video message, and then being marched off the ships that they lived and worked on by private security guards, treated like criminals. That was the human face of P&O’s criminal act. It is the reality of a business model that has been allowed to prevail for far too long on our seas—a business model predicated and dependent on exploitation.

The P&O scandal was supposed to represent a line in the sand for seafarers’ rights. The Secretary of State’s predecessor was clear about that: the Government would work with

“unions and operators to agree common levels of seafarer protection on those routes.”—[Official Report, 30 March 2022; Vol. 711, c. 841.]

He was right, because seafarers’ exploitation is every bit as much about conditions as it is about pay. Baroness Vere of Norbiton, the Minister in the other place, said that the Government would act on that wider exploitation only

“where it is proven that it is appropriate to do so.”

Let me briefly give the House an illustrative example of why that is so important. An agency worker can be contracted on the Dover-Calais service at the shamefully low rate of £4.75 an hour. As is common in the industry, such workers could be expected to work up to 91 hours a week, on board, full time, for 17 weeks at a time. My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull East reminded us of the Herald of Free Enterprise and what happened there. Outside UK waters, those workers would not be entitled to any pension, the minimum wage or any sick pay. I ask Members to imagine a season of winter storms in the Irish sea or the North sea, where sleep is almost impossible, and to imagine spending up to 17 weeks on board, responsible for the safety of passengers and that vessel.

The industry has already learnt from painful experience about the dangers, but the Bill does nothing to address exploitative crewing and rostering practices. That is why we must see a legally binding seafarers’ charter on the face of the Bill—one that ends the race to the bottom from which P&O Ferries has benefited; one that smashes the business model dependent on the manipulation of vulnerable workers from around the world. That is precisely what our new clause 5 is about.

Turning to new clause 9, the then Prime Minister himself said that P&O Ferries would face “criminal sanctions”. The then Transport Secretary said that it would be placed under “criminal investigation”. He demanded that the boss, Peter Hebblethwaite, stand down. He even demanded that P&O rename its ships, stating that it was completely wrong for them to sail under such names as the Spirit of Britain or the Pride of Kent. Six months on, however, that chief executive—

Photo of Carolyn Harris Carolyn Harris Llafur, Dwyrain Abertawe

Order. I remind the hon. Member that we are debating new clauses 5 and 7.

Photo of Mike Kane Mike Kane Shadow Minister (Transport)

Thank you, Ms Harris. That chief executive stays in place. The point is that if P&O Ferries or any of its low-cost rivals wanted to do that again, nothing in the Bill will stop it from doing so. That is why new clause 9 is important, because it clearly establishes fines and personal liability for a failure to abide by the legislation.

Photo of Carolyn Harris Carolyn Harris Llafur, Dwyrain Abertawe

Order. I again remind you, Mr Kane, that we are debating new clauses 7 and 5.

Photo of Carolyn Harris Carolyn Harris Llafur, Dwyrain Abertawe

New clause 9 will be later in our proceedings.

Photo of Mike Kane Mike Kane Shadow Minister (Transport)

Indeed. Given the track record of shameful companies such as P&O, we have to change.

My final concluding remarks, Ms Harris, are to thank you for your excellent chairing for the first time in such a Committee. I also thank Mr Davies for his excellent deliberations as Chair this morning, and the Minister, because the Bill was brought to the House in the right spirit, for trying to do something. Members across the Committee recognise that, and I thank all those who participated and contributed. With that, I also thank staff at the Department for Transport and the Clerks of the House.

Photo of Natalie Elphicke Natalie Elphicke Ceidwadwyr, Dover

It is to be noted that new clauses 5 and 7 concern reports about whether more needs to be done. I think we agree across the Committee and more widely that what happened in the P&O case was a spark to firm action going forward.

We touched on the issue of roster patterns earlier on, but I want to address it specifically. We know it is something the Maritime and Coastguard Agency has looked at on the short straits. For me, the new clauses do not address the fundamental question of who will be responsible for ensuring appropriate and safe working conditions on that route. That responsibility sits with the MCA, but concerns have rightly been raised about individual operations, and new clause 5 will not go any way to addressing those particular concerns. I think the bilateral agreements being discussed may form a route to looking at some of the issues, particularly those that apply to the route between Dover and France.

Turning to pensions and wages more broadly, this is the first piece of legislation of its type. There are a number of mechanisms in this place, including the Transport Committee, which has shown to be diligent in its support of not just the P&O workforce but transport matters more generally. There are additional forums in this place that provide the correct routes and opportunities to assess whether this legislation is reaching its objectives and intent.

On new clause 7, it is important that the remuneration of affected seafarers is assessed and considered. I have been encouraged during discussions I have had on remuneration with DFDS, which operates on the Dover-Calais route, to hear that it embraces the opportunity to have these conversations about improving conditions for seafarers. But as regards the Bill, part of the nine-point plan is a comprehensive approach to tackling this issue following the appalling actions of P&O. Overburdening the Bill with additional requirements for statutory reports and assessments may actually delay the important work we all have to do—be it bilateral or voluntary agreements or other options.

Photo of Karl Turner Karl Turner Llafur, Kingston upon Hull East

I am interested in why the hon. Lady thinks putting the requirement to report into a statutory format would create a delay. How on earth does she believe it would delay anything?

Photo of Natalie Elphicke Natalie Elphicke Ceidwadwyr, Dover

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. Let me explain. This Bill is a piece of legislation that has been brought forward very quickly—in a number of months. I think we would all agree with that, considering the time that things take in this place, but it has a number of journeys to continue on. The first reports under the proposals here would take some time—within six months for the first report. This work is ongoing with the Department right now. I do not want to wait six months. What happens if France says, “Let’s not conclude the bilaterals. Let’s wait for your report.” It is absolutely right that Transport Ministers and the Secretary of State keep us updated and that they are accountable in this place to us all, as they are through the Transport Committee and on the Floor of the House, to make sure that the legislation does what it says, but I do not want to be waiting on a report for six months or a year; I want action now for the workers on the short straits.

Photo of Gavin Newlands Gavin Newlands Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport) 3:30, 17 Ionawr 2023

I rise to support new clause 5 and must start by congratulating or commending—through heavily gritted teeth, it must be said—the DFT drafting team for drafting the Bill so narrowly that the only recourse we have is to ask for reports on the protections for seafarers on these very important issues.

New clause 5 follows the work done on the seafarers’ charter, work which unfortunately appears to be stuck in the long grass. One of the reasons given by the Minister in the Lords to oppose the original amendment by Lord Tunnicliffe was the 90-day timeframe. The hon. Member for Dover has just said that she does not want to wait. The original amendment was for 90 days; we have had to up that to six months, because the Government rejected that amendment and referred to six months.

The issues outlined in the new clause are real and serious. We have reports of seafarers employed by P&O Ferries—that is, the people employed to replace those they sacked illegally—working 17 weeks straight on board. That is simply unacceptable. A tired and overworked crew is a dangerous crew at sea.

Photo of Karl Turner Karl Turner Llafur, Kingston upon Hull East

The crucial point about safety is that the Dover to Calais run involves an incredibly fast turnaround and the work is incredibly intensive. It is not just that these exploited seafarers are working 17 weeks on, 12 or 13 hours a day, seven days a week. They are going to and fro, and the most dangerous part of that run is pulling into the harbour and coming back out. The work is intensive and incredibly dangerous. Does the hon. Gentleman agree?

Photo of Gavin Newlands Gavin Newlands Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport)

I could not agree more—rather them than me. It is bizarre that sometimes we argue around the fringes of these issues. We are talking about such dangerous and onerous work for weeks on end, and we are quibbling over whether we pay them the national minimum wage or not. It beggars belief. We cannot trade safety for the profits of DP World.

This is not just an issue of fairness at work. It is an issue of human and environmental safety. It is just over 30 years since the Braer wrecked on Shetland and caused an ecological disaster that I suspect we all remember well, even three decades on. If we have seafarers around our shores working 17 weeks straight with no oversight and no action, sooner or later we will have another Braer or, even worse, a Herald of Free Enterprise.

Similarly, on wages and pensions, we know what many seafarers are expected to put up with. The key point of this Bill is to prevent wages falling below the national minimum wage equivalent, but we also hope it will have the additional impact of improving wages across the board in the industry. If minimum wages go up, there could be benefits for those who are already earning more than that floor.

We know that the Government currently support a voluntary charter for seafarers, and the Minister repeated that again today. I say in all sincerity to the Minister and the Government Members sitting behind him: what good is a voluntary charter when we have operators such as P&O Ferries, which was content not only to break the law but to sit in front of a Select Committee and freely admit to breaking it? A voluntary charter has about as much legal effect as the back of a fag packet, and if P&O Ferries is happy to break the law, it will not look back as it smashes a charter to shreds.

Putting these elements of the charter in the Bill will at least give the Government firm legal ground in assessing how this legislation has benefited the industry and its employees. Again, the new clause calls for nothing more than a report, as the hon. Member for Dover said, on the main issues from the charter. It commits the Government to nothing, except a report. If the Government are serious about a real seafarers’ charter developed in partnership with trade unions and aimed at protecting exploited workers, they have nothing to fear from accepting this new clause.

I turn to new clause 7 in the name of the hon. Member for Easington, and supported by myself and my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow East. Last July, we saw the publication of the nine-point plan for seafarers. No. 6 on that plan was to develop a statutory code for “fire and rehire” practices, and failures to engage in employee consultations. Sadly, that has progressed no further.

Members may remember that I have certainly highlighted and challenged companies that have used fire and rehire over recent years since its first big deployment in this country by British Airways. Many Opposition Members have repeatedly asked the Government to bring in legislation to end it, as is the case in most of Europe, with some of us introducing multiple Bills to that effect. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, the Government felt that a simple change to guidance would solve the worst of the problem.

Fire and rehire seems to be used disproportionately in the transport sector, by British Airways, Menzies Aviation and Go North West to name just three. Elements of it were deployed by P&O Ferries last year—another charge to add to its self-declared rap sheet, which the RMT said amounted to one of the

“most shameful acts in the history of British industrial relations”.

While some Government Members may have views that differ from mine on the RMT, I hope they would at least agree with them on the depths to which P&O Ferries plumbed last year.

Seafarers are particularly vulnerable to fire and rehire. The particular circumstances of the maritime industry, surrounded by international treaties and conventions, mean that workers are subject to greater exploitation overall than those on land. We saw with P&O how that exploitation can be deployed by a company that is happy to willingly and publicly break the law and make no secret of it. It is a practice that has absolutely no place in a modern society. Our workplaces are not those of a Dickensian novel, yet the legislation that regulates the power dynamic between employer and employee is stuck in the Victorian age.

The UK is almost unique in Europe on fire and rehire. Most other countries in Europe have embraced modernity and made their employment laws fit for the future. P&O Ferries could not have pulled off its scam in most European countries, just as BA’s parent company did not attempt fire and rehire in Ireland or Spain. New clause 5 would not prevent fire and rehire in itself—amendments 71 and 72 tabled by me and my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow East would have offered greater protection but they were deemed out of scope, so I will not refer to them any further in case I am called to order by the Chair.

However, new clause 5 would ensure that any instances, attempted or otherwise, in connection with seafarers within scope of this legislation are reported by the Secretary of State to Parliament. That will give this place the opportunity to again look at legislation not only in this specific sector, but also across the whole economy. Hopefully by that time, Government Members will finally have made the jump from warm words to tough action, and we will see legislation put on the books to put an end to fire and rehire and an end to these rogue companies. It quite frankly a disgrace that the UK lags so far behind the rest of our neighbours. We can start the process of remedying that disgrace and dragging our employment laws into the 21st century by adopting this new clause.

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Ceidwadwyr, South Holland and The Deepings

I rise briefly to address new clause 5, which has much to recommend it. The hon. Gentleman was right to talk about a seafarers’ charter, which has been long called for. He was right to recognise the need for engagement with the trade unions. When I was the Minister, I had a positive dialogue with the RMT maritime section, as my former shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull East, will know. It is also right, as I said earlier, that we understand that pay should be seen in a broader context, as the new clause recommends. I called earlier for a strategy that looked at the whole maritime sector, pertinent to the matters we have been discussing today, which would identify common concerns across ports, business services, manufacturing, engineering, science and all the other ancillary industries linked to maritime.

It seems critical to recognise that seafarers are particularly vulnerable to exploitation because of the peripatetic nature of their employment. Where people take advantage of that vulnerability, we need to act. We have moved on from the dark days when economic liberalism prevailed and we thought the free market would solve everything—at least I hope we have. This country has a proud maritime past. One thinks of great seafarers such as Drake, Captain Cook and Lord Nelson, who are heroes, whatever the liberal bourgeoisie, with their doubt-filled, guilt-ridden preoccupations, may think. We can have a maritime future that is just as great, but that must be built on the right terms and conditions, pay and circumstances for our seafarers.

My only reservation about the new clause, which is why despite teasingly suggesting that I might support it, I will not, is that it does not actually go far enough. I would want to do still more. The Government are to be commended for introducing the legislation, and my hon. Friend the Member for Dover in particular is to be commended for championing the interests of seafarers on the back of the awful events that have been reflected on today, when P&O behaved so disgracefully. I say to the Minister let this be the beginning of new thinking about how we can revitalise the maritime sector by doing right by the people who work in it.

Photo of Grahame Morris Grahame Morris Llafur, Easington

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak on the new clauses.

New clause 7 is in my name and that of my hon. Friends the Members for Glasgow East and for Paisley and Renfrewshire North. We are using the F-word, aren’t we: fire and rehire. In the context of this new clause and new clause 5, I remind Members of the awful circumstances of the sacking of the seafarers on the P&O Ferries. The Minister has brushed aside all attempts by the Opposition to amend the Bill and address concerns about the number of days in port. That means that the Bill’s scope is incredibly narrow. I am afraid that many seafarers who might have anticipated being afforded a degree of protection will be terribly disappointed. Given the powers we have conferred on the Secretary of State, I think it is completely reasonable to suggest that the Government should produce a report within a year of Royal Assent to assess whether they have been effective. Indeed, the Minister and his predecessors have suggested that if those powers are not effective, further measures would be introduced to ensure that seafarers are protected from unscrupulous rogue employers.

New clause 5 relates to important issues that the Government need to address, not least the fact that the 2018 regulations were breached by P&O Ferries. When Peter Hebblethwaite, the chief executive of P&O Ferries, addressed a joint session of the Transport Committee and the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee—the hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North and I are members of the Transport Committee—he was quite open about the three areas of law that he had breached. In fact, he was quite boastful, which was shaming in my opinion. I believe that the 2018 regulations, which P&O Ferries breached, are up for revocation under the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill. I understand, however, that an agreement was reached to retain a number of labour protections in UK law, so I am looking to the Minister for some reassurance on that. If that is the case, I hope that appropriate action will be taken to keep those protections in place for those who Members on both sides of Committee acknowledge to be an extremely vulnerable employment group because of the nature of their work.

Before we lose sight of it, the whole purpose of the Bill is to protect pay, working hours, pensions and other remunerated conditions of seafarer employment on ferries. We rehearsed many of the arguments on Second Reading, and it is the belief of many on the Opposition Benches that the Bill’s scope needs to be widened to more effectively cover employment issues, as well as minimum pay, for seafarers working on those ferry routes.

I am rather disappointed about the seafarers’ charter. I know that it has had a number of iterations; we have at least two former Shipping Ministers on the Committee: the right hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings and the hon. Member for Witney. I think it started off as the—this is a bit of a tongue-twister—fair ferries framework agreement. It was then the fair ferries charter and then the seafarers’ charter. But it still has not been published, as far as I am aware, and it is only voluntary. If it were in the Bill and we could have some confidence that employers would have to implement it, we would have major reassurance.

However, the thing that we should not lose sight of, and that we are trying to remedy with our amendments and new clauses, is what happened back in March, when almost 800 seafarers were notified—many of them by Zoom—that their employment was being terminated. They were being fired. They were not being rehired; they were being replaced by crews that were not UK based and that were on half the wages and on far worse terms and conditions, particularly in relation to the rosters. DP World, the parent company, said that that was essential to its future viability. I do not think any of us are convinced by that, given the huge sum of money that DP World spent on sponsoring a golf tournament, which I think was far in excess of what it would have taken to maintain the terms and conditions of those hard-working seafarers.

I will explain what I want to ensure even if we cannot get the changes that we want in the Bill in relation to 52 days instead of 120 days—that provision is taking out a whole lot of seafarers who we were hoping would be covered by the Bill. To be fair, 52 days was in the initial iteration of the Bill, but it was subsequently taken out. The very least that we can ask for is to have some monitoring of the effectiveness of the measures that the Minister assures us will address the issues that we are all concerned about.

Photo of Richard Holden Richard Holden Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport) 3:45, 17 Ionawr 2023

I will write to the hon. Member for Easington on the specific issue of the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill. I will start now by saying that there have been some strong and robust improvements from this Bill, not the least of which is the imposition of a duty on the harbour operators, which I think goes a long way to addressing many of the concerns expressed at earlier stages by hon. Members.

I would like to reflect on a couple of comments from my hon. Friend the Member for Dover. She mentioned the bilateral agreements and how important they are. With us legislating in this way and other countries now starting to look to the legislation for their own societies, perhaps the hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North will reflect on how it is Britain leading the way in this space—a little.

In terms of the Laffer curve, I did not think I would see my right hon. Friend the Member for South Holland and The Deepings and the hon. Member for Wythenshawe and Sale East perhaps come out on the same side of things, but they do seem to have reflected a general, cross-party consensus that it is important to act in the best interests of working Britain. That is entirely what this legislation is designed to do.

Regarding fire and rehire, which has been mentioned by several hon. Members but is outside the scope of this Bill, I want to put it on record that BEIS will be launching a consultation and code of practice on fire and rehire shortly.

Photo of David Linden David Linden Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Social Justice)

Can the Minister tell the Public Bill Committee how many consultations and letters BEIS has issued about fire and rehire? There is cross-party agreement in this House about what the problem is, so why do the Government have to take forward yet another consultation on it?

Photo of Richard Holden Richard Holden Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

I do speak for the Government but, on the specifics of what BEIS has been up to, I urge the hon. Member to speak to a BEIS Minister. But I do understand the broad thrust of his point. Where we are taking action here today is regarding seafarers.

The hon. Member makes quite an important point: how many consultations and reports can be had? The Opposition are currently proposing two more reports in their new clauses 5 and 7, both of which seek to legislate for the Government to produce a report. The first seeks to legislate for the Government to produce a report within six months of the Bill being passed on its implementation and monitoring. A number of the points that are sought to be included in such a report are well beyond the scope of the Bill. As hon. Members have said, the Bill is focused very much on the remuneration of seafarers who do not qualify for the national minimum wage. Six months after the Bill has been passed, there will be little to report on—hopefully very little indeed, as people will be complying with it. Indeed, the Bill will not be brought into force until secondary legislation is in place, and it is not expected that that will be the case within a short space of time after the Bill has passed.

Let me turn to the detail of the new clause, in particular subsection (2)(a). As a matter of course, we will be conducting a post-implementation review of the Act within five years of it being passed that will cover pensions and pay, as covered in the impact assessment. In any event, pensions and roster patterns are outside the scope of the Bill, and any effect on rostering would be indirect and challenging to distinguish from other factors.

Subsection (2)(b) goes beyond the implementation and monitoring of the Bill itself, and is therefore out of scope. We do not have plans to legislate further than is necessary, but that does not mean that we will not take action on areas beyond the matter of minimum pay, which we all know is not the only aspect of seafarer welfare that requires attention. As hon. Members have mentioned, as part of the nine-point plan, a new seafarers’ charter will be launched as a voluntary agreement, which aims to improve long-term employment and welfare conditions for seafarers. It covers a far wider range of employment protections than is currently covered by the Bill.

Photo of Gavin Newlands Gavin Newlands Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport)

The Minister confirms again that the seafarers’ charter, when it is published, will be voluntary. Does he think that P&O Ferries and other operators—perhaps Irish Ferries—will sign up to the charter?

While I am on my feet, I forgot to say in my earlier contribution that I also add my thanks to everyone on the Committee, given that this is my last contribution on the Committee. I thank the team, the Clerks, the Doorkeepers, Hansard and of course yourself, Ms Harris, and your glamorous assistant this afternoon, Mr Davies, who chaired us so ably this morning.

Photo of Richard Holden Richard Holden Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

I hope that people do sign up. The entire aim of the Bill is not to have people being fined but to drive best practice, so I hope that, in time, operators that have not operated in a positive way towards employees in the past, in a way that we would like to see, will sign up.

Photo of Karl Turner Karl Turner Llafur, Kingston upon Hull East

The Minister must accept that, when we consider the shocking and utterly disgraceful behaviour of P&O Ferries, companies such as that—and Irish Ferries, which I respectfully submit is equally as bad—will not do anything if it is just a “hope”. We need to put things in statute to force these bad employers to behave in a way that is acceptable. That is the truth of it. Hoping is not enough; unlimited fines are necessary as well.

Photo of Richard Holden Richard Holden Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

As the hon. Member will know, we are indeed legislating, but we are looking at the seafarers’ charter. The Government are not opposed to looking at this again if the voluntary charter is not successful, but it steps in the right direction. We will see how it plays out. I do not want to see a race to the bottom; I want to see standards rising, and we think that the voluntary charter will be a step in that direction. We have had to legislate in order to deliver another element of what we are looking to do.

Photo of Karl Turner Karl Turner Llafur, Kingston upon Hull East

The analogy for fining a company such as P&O Ferries 2,500 quid is a bit like slapping a parking ticket on the windscreen of a Bentley for parking in a disabled bay. They are just laughing at it. In reality, the fines need to be punitive. They need to be threatening and to make the company realise that if it behaves in this intolerable, disgraceful manner, it will be fined savagely and brought to justice. That is the only way we will get the results that the Government want—I agree that the Government intend to do the right thing, but we need the punitive tool to make it happen.

Photo of Richard Holden Richard Holden Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

I appreciate exactly what the hon. Gentleman is saying, but I think we have strayed a little from new clauses 5 and 7.

The scope of the Bill is limited to ensuring that seafarers are paid the equivalent of the UK national minimum wage and it is not concerned with broader relationships. Furthermore, there is no requirement for crews to be unionised, so it would be an unusual requirement to put so much focus on that, as the new clause proposes. That does not mean that the Government are not looking to work with the unions, as we have done throughout the process and will continue to, as we look at the regulations to come.

The requirement to publish a strategy for monitoring the establishment of corridors would also be out of the scope of the Bill. In any event, it would be inappropriate and potentially counterproductive to provide a running commentary on live negotiations with international partners, such as those with the French Republic, which I mentioned earlier.

On proposed subsection (2)(e), we do not consider that the proposals in the Bill interfere with rights and obligations under international law, including the United Nations convention on the law of the sea. We therefore we do not deem it necessary to state as such in the Bill, or to have an obligation to assess the interaction between international law and the Bill on the face of the legislation.

Measures taken under the Bill will not interfere with the right of innocent passage, so as to breach the obligations under UNCLOS. The Bill requirements will apply and be enforced only as a condition of entry to UK ports in which the UK has jurisdiction over visiting ships, and where the right of innocent passage does not apply. Vessels visiting a port are not in innocent passage and not merely passing through territorial sea, so associated restrictions on the exercise of jurisdiction as set out in UNCLOS do not apply.

The measures that may be taken under the Bill can be applied only to a narrow subset of services with a close connection to the UK: services on a regular scheduled service, determined by clear, objective criteria—for example, services for the carriage of persons or goods by ship between a place in the UK and a place outside the UK that will have entered the harbour on at least 120 occasions in the period of a year. Given the huge number of additional areas that the new clause would bring in scope, I cannot accept it.

New clause 7 would require an assessment of the impact of the Bill

“on the remuneration of seafarers” and also whether there is any evidence that, as a result of the Bill,

“seafarers have been dismissed and re-engaged on lower wages at or closer to the National Minimum Wage” within one year of the Bill being passed. This is simply not feasible. Again, one year after the Bill receives Royal Assent would be far too early to see the real impact. I have already made the point that we will naturally be looking at the legislation five years after implementation. Also, as I have said, there will already be a delay between Royal Assent and the Bill becoming fully operative.

In any event, it is not necessary to include that as a requirement on the face of the Bill. As a matter of course, we will conduct a post-implementation review. I hope I have provided colleagues with enough reassurance to withdraw new clause 7 with confidence.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time.

Rhif adran 5 Seafarers’ Wages Bill [Lords] — New Clause 5 - Implementation and monitoring

Ie: 7 MPs

Na: 10 MPs

Ie: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Na: A-Z fesul cyfenw

The Committee divided: Ayes 7, Noes 10.

Question accordingly negatived.