My Lords, I congratulate the Minister on introducing this order, which was long overdue. The National Minimum Wage Act 1998 created a minimum wage across the United Kingdom for workers. The aim of the Act was to guarantee a decent minimum standard of pay for workers and to promote fair competition between businesses. However, the Act excluded from its provisions various workers in offshore employment. Some of those workers were brought into the scope of the Act by The National Minimum Wage (Offshore Employment) Order 1999. However, certain exemptions applied. It did not cover employment on a ship in the course of navigation or workers on shipping vessels or dredgers. It is therefore important that these loopholes be examined.
I commend the Government on setting up a working party to look at the issues and to commence consultations. The working party was made up of maritime unions, the UK Chamber of Shipping, and the shipping companies. Following the consultations, it is now proposed that the wide-exception 1999 order be amended and that the 1998 Act will apply to employment in connection with a ship in course of any kind of navigation, or for workers on fishing vessels or dredgers. However, a narrow exception will apply to workers
“employed for the purposes of activities on a ship exercising the right of innocent passage or the right of transit passage.”
Can the Minister say why that exception applies?
It is appreciated that the provisions of the National Minimum Wage Act will apply to seafarers working in UK territorial waters or in connection with certain activities in the UK sector of the continental shelf. Can the Minister say whether there is any intention to extend the scope of applying the 1998 Act?
We were, and we are still, a great maritime nation. However, it is important that we do not have cheap labour in our shipping industry, and that these workers enjoy the same rights as employees working on land. We need to close as many gaps as possible to ensure that workers in our shipping industry are paid adequately in accordance with the spirit of the 1998 Act. We also ought to make sure that UK workers are not replaced ?by cheap workers from abroad in our shipping industry. In the past, UK workers made up less than 20% of the industry, which was not acceptable. I therefore support the order.