What is the real object of this Bill? When a mercantile marine Bill was being brought in, one would expect it to contain something about an Irish flag in respect of Irish shipping. Why have we not got something in it as to recognition of an Irish flag for your shipping people?
Supplementary Estimate. - Merchant Shipping (Amendment) Bill, 1939—Committee and Final Stages.
The real object of the Bill is very hard to express in a sentence because it does a number of minor things in relation to the merchant shipping code. It effects various minor amendments which are considered necessary. With regard to the question of a mercantile flag, I hope to introduce, in this session, a Bill to prescribe a flag for the mercantile marine.
What is the reason for the establishment of this superannuation fund? Has there been a request from any workers' organisation, and, if so, from what organisation?
Under the existing law, it is not possible for seamen—and for this purpose the term "seamen" includes an officer—to agree in advance to have any part of their remuneration deducted for any purpose. A superannuation fund for seamen, for officers, has been set up in Britain, and British ship-owners are making it a condition of the employment of officers that they should agree to become members of the superannuation fund. To facilitate the establishment of a similar fund here, it is necessary that the law should be amended so that officers can agree to have their contributions to the fund deducted from their wages. That is the sole purpose of the Bill.
Is it confined to officers of the ships?
The only fund that exists relates to officers, but we are amending the word so as to allow seamen to agree to deductions being made from their wages for the superannuation fund.
The Minister stated, when introducing the Bill, that arrangements for a superannuation scheme for navigating and engineering officers of ships had been agreed on between ship-owners and officers' organisations. Will the Minister say how many ship-owners or groups of ship-owners are concerned in that agreement, and how many officers' organisations?
The only superannuation fund at the moment is in Great Britain. I have heard as yet of no movement to establish a similar fund in this country, but, of course, a number of Irish officers are employed upon British ships, and it is necessary to amend the law in their interests, so that they can continue to be employed on British ships.
I would like to get some idea from the Minister as to how exactly the fund is worked.
In Great Britain, of course, there are several funds.
I am not quite clear as to what Section 2 does. I am not quite clear whether there is a contribution from this State to any such fund as is mentioned in Section 2.
No; there is no contribution. Sub-section (1) of Section 2 provides that wages due or accruing to a seaman or to an apprentice to the sea service, or a part of any such wages, may be applied in paying contributions to a superannuation fund. Under the existing law that cannot be done. In order to prevent abuses, which were common in the mercantile marine many years ago, the Merchant Shipping Acts prohibited a seaman from agreeing to having any part of his wages deducted for any purpose. If seamen are to be permitted to agree to having part of their wages deducted for the purpose of a superannuation fund, the law must be amended. That, in fact, is what we are doing now.
Do I take it that there is already a superannuation scheme established on the other side of the water between the seamen's organisation and the ship-owners' organisation?
For officers only.
For officers only?
Yes. There is a number of these funds in Great Britain, and the position is that the ship-owners are making it a condition of the employment of officers that they should belong to one or other of those funds. This Bill is being introduced so that Irish officers can become members of those funds and agree to the regulations involved.
Could the Minister give us any idea as to what the fees mentioned in Section 5 are for? How many companies or ship-owners in the country are liable for payment of these fees?
These are fees for surveys and other services under the Merchant Shipping Acts. All ship-owners who are registered here are liable to pay these fees for one purpose or another under the Merchant Shipping Acts. The scale of fees now in operation here was fixed before the State was established. They have since been increased in Great Britain, and we think the same scale of fees should be in operation here. In order to bring in the same scale of fees, it is necessary to amend the law so as to permit of varying the fees.
When these fees are paid are they paid into a particular fund and who owns that fund? On what particular class of work is the money expended?
The fees are payment for services rendered by officers of the State in carrying out surveys of ships.
What is meant by a survey of a ship?
Determining its sea-worthiness and so on, whether the safety regulations are being carried out.
Does the Minister find any difficulty in bringing the question of a flag for the mercantile marine into this Bill?
We will have a Bill this session dealing with the question of a marine flag.