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Lord Greenway: I can see where the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, is coming from in moving the amendment. He is right in saying that harbour masters, as part of their duties, control shipping within their harbours. As in the days of old, they do not necessarily spend their time going around the harbour in boats, when perhaps they could come under the auspices of the Bill.
We are in danger of widening the scope of the Bill. What would be the position, for instance, of the Marine and Coastguard Agency which monitors shipping going through the Dover Strait? Would it, by association, be brought in through Amendment No. 33? I shall be interested to hear what the Minister has to say about that.
As regards Amendment No. 34, I believe that the noble Viscount's concerns are misplaced. Those people would already be covered under the Bill because it would be a professional master in charge of a ship. "Ship", as we know from the definition in the Bill, covers almost anything down to a rowing boat. I believe that the amendment is unnecessary.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I shall start with Amendment No. 33. The noble Viscount, Lord Astor, compares what we are doing as regards shipping and as regards aviation functions. As he said, a long list of aviation functions is covered by the stricter alcohol limits, but only two are other than on the flight; that is, the air traffic controller and the licensed aircraft maintenance engineer. If we were to extend land-based professionals in the shipping area, we would be widening the scope of the Bill considerably.
If harbour masters are on board a vessel and exercising a navigational function, they are covered by the Bill. But if they are on shore, the analogy with air traffic controllers is not as strict as the noble Viscount suggests. Air traffic controllers have the sole responsibility for the movement of aircraft and aircraft have to obey their rules. Therefore they are in constant two-way contact with the aircraft. The navigators are responsible in the harbours. There is on many occasions, although not always, radio contact, but it is not the same control function that is exercised by an air traffic controller. They are not responsible for making split-second decisions, which is the definition required for the stricter alcohol requirements. However, we would expect harbour authorities to enforce company policy that is designed to combat alcohol and drug abuse among its workforce.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: There is still going to be consultation, as we know. We discussed on Second Reading that there would be consultation about the extreme limits of a vessel. There is an issue about jet-skis as well, for example. We do not want to put a final definition in the Bill while we are still consulting.
The Earl of Mar and Kellie: The description "professional seaman" strikes me as slightly wrong. I had the honour of being a seaman with the Royal Navy's auxiliary service for a short while, and I noticed that "seaman" referred to those who worked on the deck and the bridge, but that "engineer" was the term used for those who worked, obviously, in the engine room. Should the provision read "professional crewman"? That might not upset half the crew by calling engineers "seamen".
Viscount Astor: I have something more to say on Amendment No. 41, but I will wait until we get to it. I am not entirely convinced with the Minister's explanation on Amendment No. 33. I am not an cexpert, so perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Greenway, could help me. The Minister referred to those responsible for navigationfor example, boats that cross the English Channelwhich seem to me to be directed. They do not set their own course; they are directed to follow various routes and paths.
Lord Berkeley: I am sorry, but I cannot let the matter go by. I know about directions in the Dover Strait, but there is a shipping channel in the middle of the English Channel, between Cherbourg, the Channel Islands and the UK. Last week, a ship that was alleged to be registered in Monrovia knocked down and cut a yacht in two. I happened to be around there at the same time, and the fog was very thick. That bloke must have been doing 20 knots in 50-metre visibility. Who was directing him? From whom does one seek redress if one happens to be cut in two?
Viscount Astor: I am grateful to all Members of the Committee who have spoken. I am not sure that I am much clearer and who is responsible for whom. I am certainly not trying to widen the scope of the Bill beyond a fairly narrow definition. That is the main point that I hope the Minister will take on board. I may be wrong, or may have to add something or make changes. However, my point is that, in the same way that there are air traffic controllers, those who are responsible for issuing instructions to ships in busy shipping lanes, whether they are entering or leaving a harbour, should be subject to the same restrictions on alcohol intake, because it is an extremely important and safety-related occupation.
I have probably not got the amendment right, and I will have to go away and consult. Perhaps I will talk to the Minister about it. However, that is my concern. I am not trying to widen the Bill; I merely think it quite important that we ensure that those who give instructions to ships come under some scrutiny. I am grateful for the Minister's help and, in the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 35, I am also speaking to Amendments Nos. 38, 42, 47, 52 and 55. On the Floor of the House, these would be probing amendments because I am really seeking information. Part 4 of the Bill deals with shipping. Part 5 deals with aviation, and we are entirely familiar with that. These parts create offences of acting while under the impaired influence of drugs. I should like to ask the Minister whether he is satisfied that this Bill, as drafted, is enforceable in so far as drugs are concerned.
We know easily, simply, straightforwardly and well how to make a judgment in respect of alcohol. There is a well-established practice as regards drivers who have had an excess of alcohol. That makes it very simple to translate that regime into this field with appropriate embellishment. Drugs has been a more difficult area in the past, but none the less it is very important. The
Lord Faulkner of Worcester: This might be an appropriate moment for me to declare an unremunerated interested as President of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents. I shall speak about further road safety issues later today. I, too, support what the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, said on these amendments. I supported the Private Member's Bill which he introduced in your Lordships' House some months ago, the Prevention of Driving Under the Influence of Drugs Bill. I was convinced that as the incidence of drug-taking in society has increased, so the incidence of drugs being found in people who have been concerned in road accidents has been increased. It is necessary for us to know a great deal more about this problem. I hope that by these probing amendments we shall be able to move this matter forward today.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: We have already debated these matters at very considerable length at Second Reading of the Bill sponsored by my noble friend Lord Dixon-Smith. I do not know that I have a great deal to add to that. I find the way in which these amendments are framed slightly odd. They would take out the issue of navigating or flying under the influence of drugs, whereas Amendment No. 62, which is being debated separately, deals with the more complicated issue of driving under the influence of drugs. I should have thought that if one was to take out drugs in these amendments, one would want to put something comparable in for shipping and aviation. But that opportunity has not been taken.
These amendments are copying the wording which is in current use for roads. I must say that I believe that is the right thing to do for the moment, but we are seeking to improve the situation for roads. The major problem is that there is no single test of prescribed limits for drugs because there is such a wide variety. Their effects and the time for which they are retained in the body varies very much. There would have to be a whole variety of prescribed limits.
Therefore, we have to rely on improved roadside tests of impairment and the comparable test would have to be done for shipping and aviation. All I can say is that we are working on that. We are looking to improve the number of police who are capable of conducting impairment tests. We are looking to improve the enforcement of impairment tests at the roadside. If and when we can do that then, of course, we would seek to apply that also, where appropriate, to aviation and shipping. But I am convinced that that is the way forward rather than taking out the drugs element of the offence as provided here for shipping and aviation.
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