§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. Buxton)
I desire to explain to the House the provisions of this Bill. The pilotage system dates back a very long time and it is full at present of anomalies 744 and anchronisms of all sorts. We have harbour authorities, pilotage authorities, various trusts and Commissioners. We have various general Acts and a very large number of local Acts which govern the details of each separate port. Practically at the present time there is a hopeless welter of authorities which administer the pilotage laws. In that state of confusion in May, 1909, we appointed a Committee representative of the public, of the pilotage authorities, of the ship-owners, of the pilots, and of the Admiralty, to inquire into the condition of affairs. This Bill is largely founded on the Report of that Committee. I desire to take this opportunity, which I am sure the House will endorse, of expressing our indebtedness to the members of that Committee for the very great care which they gave to their duties, and for the very valuable Report which the Committee has presented to us. This is largely a consolidating Bill to evolve order out of chaos, and. to bring about in the pilotage system of this country simplicity and uniformity, which will be certainly to the advantage of all those concerned, the pilotage authorities, the shipowners, the pilots, and the public. The first point is the question of the machinery for simplifying the law, and I am proposing by this Bill, which is practically a consolidating Bill, to bring about simplicity in that respect. This Bill practically repeals all existing Statutes and all existing general Acts, and it will also repeal a large number of local Acts as well.
In future the pilotage system of this country will be governed by one general Act under which local pilotage orders may be made by the Board of Trade, and by local by-laws made by the pilotage authorities, which will have to be submitted to the Board of Trade, and which will follow the lines of a model code. The first step in order to obtain these is to have inquiries in the various pilotage districts in order that the inquiries may lead to Provisional Orders to be submitted to Parliament, to finally govern the local position and the general position as well. There are, as we know, many local pilotage authorities; there are some very good authorities, and there are some rather bad authorities, and there are some who are more or less in the middle. We are extremely anxious in no way to interfere unnecessarily with efficient and intelligent pilotage authorities, and where a pilotage authority can show that an inquiry is unnecessary, or 745 where possibly, not having a perfect system at present, they can show the Board of Trade that they are themselves going to improve the position and submit a scheme to the Board of Trade, then in those eases an inquiry will not be necessary to be held. The inquiries will be held by Commissioners who will be representatives of the Board of Trade, which will receive the reports and promote the Provisional Orders, which will be submitted to Parliament. Thus for the first time we shall have a complete code for the pilotage system.
The second part of the Bill deals with certain grievances which have necessarily sprang up in this matter of pilotage, very largely, in consequence of the difficulty of obtaining amending Acts. For instance, in certain parts the pilots' rates of remuneration and rates of charge are practically governed by Acts of Parliament, either general or local, some of them as old as a hundred years. The pilots have not been able to go to the expense of promoting and carrying amending Acts, although it is recognised in many of those cases that the rates which are charged are not fair ones. The expense and the difficulty of obtaining an alteration of an Act of Parliament has been so great that they have had to continue under that great disability. In future those rates will be fixed by by-laws, which from time to time can be altered as circumstances arise, while the question of expense in connection with them practically disappears. Even where the present law admits of alterations being made by Provisional Order there is considerable expense involved to the pilots, either in promoting the orders or in opposing them. The same applies to the shipowners. In future the only Provisional Orders that will necessarily require the sanction of Parliament will be the original Provisional Orders introduced after the inquiry and report of the Commissioners. After that, a Provisional Order will take effect, unless there is a petition against it, without having to come to Parliament. As regards the shipowners, and especially as regards the pilots, we are proposing to carry through a cheap and easy means of obtaining alterations and amendments, and of meeting grievances in that respect. It is fair and just that pilots should have some voice in the management of pilotage authorities and in the pilotage system. In some of the best pilotage authorities the 746 pilots are at present well and properly represented; in many others they have a very small measure of representation, and in some none at all. Everybody will admit that they ought to have some measure of representation, and it is in the interests of the pilotage authorities they should be so represented. The Bill, subject to a certain discretion on the part of the Board of Trade, will give the pilots a better opportunity of securing adequate representation on the pilotage authorities. The same applies to shipowners.
There is at present a considerable grievance, especially on the part of pilots, in the matter of appeals. There is an appeal to the County Court as regards fines, and the revocation or suspension of licences, but there is no power of appeal with regard to such matters of administration as examinations, excessive increase in the number of pilots, alleged favouritism in the appointment of pilots, the administration of pension funds, and so forth. In addition to the appeal to the County Court we propose to give the right of appeal to the Board of Trade in such matters as these. There will be a Court of Appeal equally as regards shipowners and pilots against the acts of the pilotage authority, or against any existing by-law made by the pilotage authority, or in favour of making fresh by-laws. This appeal will be to the Board of Trade. Therefore when this Bill is passed, we shall have a speedy and economical appeal in regard to various grievances of a local or general character in connection with the pilotage system. In order to establish this right of appeal, and for other purposes, the Bill will practically create a central authority, with real power to remove genuine grievances, and to hold the scales fairly as between the pilotage authorities, the pilots, and the shipowners. That central authority will be the Board of Trade. At present the powers of the Board of Trade are of a haphazard and nebulous character. They are a somewhat unknown quantity; it is very difficult to know exactly how far they extend and in what respects they are limited. That condition of things will be swept away by the Bill. The authority and the powers of the Board of Trade will be carefully defined, limited where limitation is required, and very largely extended for the purpose of these proposals. We are also proposing to associate with the Board of Trade an Advisory 747 Committee, representative of the pilotage authorities, shipowners, pilots, and other persons interested in the matter. By that means we hope that the Board of Trade will be kept in touch with the interests affected, and enabled to have such grievances as may arise brought promptly to their attention and dealt with by those specially competent to deal with them. I attach very great importance to the existence of this Advisory Committee, which I hope, as has been the case in other matters, will be of very great assistance to the Board in carrying out its duties. Those are the broad lines of the Bill.
The measure deals with many other questions and matters of detail, which will best be considered in Committee upstairs. I may, however, refer to the question of pilots' pensions, because that is a matter in which great interest is taken. It is an intricate subject, and one of some difficulty. Broadly speaking, what we want to do is to encourage pension funds, so that as far as possible they shall be universal in the various areas. To obtain that result it is necessary to secure that the money paid in is applied to pensions only, that the pension funds are disentangled from other funds, that they are properly managed, and that there are adequate sources of revenue to maintain them. Provisions for securing these ends will be found in the Bill. If it is thought that in one or two respects they fall short of what I have said, the matter can be dealt with in Committee. I am extremely anxious that the pension funds should be put on a really businesslike basis.
That brings me to the question of what is called compulsory pilotage. The House is probably aware that in some ports there is compulsory and in others non-compulsory pilotage. The ports are divided about equally between the two systems. Even where there is compulsory pilotage there are a very large number of exemptions. It is a difficult question to decide what course the Board of Trade should take in the matter. Some persons think that in all districts pilotage should be compulsory. Others hold equally strongly that it should be non-compulsory. The various Committees that have inquired into the matter have not given us much light and leading. Some of them recommended that it should be compulsory, some that it should be voluntary, and others that the matter should be left alone. 748 The Bill takes a middle course; experience shows that it is practically impossible to take any other. The Bill provides that, subject to the provisions of any pilotage order, pilotage should continue to be compulsory in every pilotage district in which it was compulsory at the time of the passing of this Act, and shall continue not to be compulsory in every district in which it was not compulsory at the time of the passing of the Act. It practically leaves the matter as it stands. I do not think it would have been possible for the Board of Trade to have proposed any other solution of the question.
It has been pressed upon us that we should extend the compulsory area. To make nil the ports practically compulsory would be a very great change, and would have met with great opposition. Before we could propose such a change as that, four things would have to be shown: first, that there were more casualties where pilotage was not compulsory than in the compulsory ports; secondly, that the supply of pilots was not properly maintained at non-compulsory ports; thirdly, that the pilots at the non-compulsory ports were not equally efficient with those at the compulsory ports; and, fourthly, that the earnings of the pilots at the non-compulsory ports were not adequate. No evidence has been brought before us to prove that, as regards either efficiency, suitability of pilots, sufficiency, or casualties, there is really anything to choose between the compulsory and the non-compulsory ports. In these circumstances it appeared to us that the only line we could take was to leave the compulsory and the non-compulsory ports as they stand. There is a provision in the Bill under which in future foreign-going as well as coasting passenger ships will be subject to compulsory pilotage. Further, Clause 6 (1) gives the Board of Trade power, by order, to make any district that is voluntary, compulsory, and vice versâ. This is a new provision which will give, in every case, both the shipowners and the pilots the opportunity of placing their views before the Commissioner who will inquire into the matter, and if they can make out a case, no doubt, a change will take place. I want to make it quite clear though, that while there may be cases in which a change is desirable, and may take place, there is no intention on the part of the Board of Trade, by this Clause, to utilise those powers to institute a general system, 749 either of compulsory pilotage on the one hand or non-compulsory pilotage on the other. If there is to be a change it will have to be done after very careful consideration. There is one point in which shipowners are especially interested, and in regard to which grave complaint very often arises, and that is the question of the difficulty often felt as to how far a particular port is a compulsory or non-compulsory port. There is great difficulty also in knowing what are the actual exemptions which prevail in a compulsory port. This leads to a considerable variation of practice, considerable confusion, and often litigation. We are therefore providing that where, after an inquiry, a Provisional Order is made in respect of any port, the Order may define the status of that port, and may declare whether it is a compulsory or non-compulsory port. Further, the exemptions at the present moment are very often very difficult to appreciate. By Clause 10 they are made quite clear and simple; so that there can be no doubt as to what they are.
They will be four-fold:—(1) An exemption for ships whoso master or mate holds a pilotage certificate, for which he has passed an examination; (2) for His Majesty's ships; (3) for non-passenger ships under 100 tons; and (4) for non-passenger coasting vessels, and fishing vessels under 600 tons, as fixed by by-law. In regard to this last point I have had various representations made to me by hon. Members behind me and others as to whether a limit of 600 tons is not too low.
§ Mr. BUXTON
Too low. But I have informed them that that is a point which we can consider in Committee, where both my hon. Friends opposite and hon. Friends behind me can put forward their views.
So far as regards the Bill itself, I may, just in conclusion, make reference to the reason why I am asking the House to read this Bill a second time to-day so that it may pass this Session. It really is a question of urgency. The question of the granting of pilotage certificates to alien masters and mates under certain circumstances constitutes the urgency. We deal with it under Clause 19. The question has created some interest and in some quarters, I think, 750 quite undue apprehension. I think the Clause has been a good deal misunderstood, and that it has not been sufficiently appreciated of what an entirely different character it is from the so-called Frequency Clause of last year, the Clause which was recommended by the representative Departmental Committee, to which I have referred, over which Sir Kenelm Digby presided. It was the unanimous opinion of the Committee.
§ Mr. BUXTON
I do not think there was a dissentient. I think the Report was a unanimous one, but possibly I may be mistaken. But the matter really is not material to the point. That Clause no longer exists. It gave rise to misapprehension. In the first place, it was thought that under it a large number of British masters and mates could obtain pilotage certificates without examination. Secondly, it was thought it would largely open the door to alien masters obtaining pilotage certificates under the same conditions—and without examination. That Clause has, however, now been superseded by the Clause of this year, which is of a totally different character, and which confines the question of alien pilotage certificates solely to the port and to the voyages in respect of which pilotage certificates were granted previous to June, 1906. An examination is required in the future. As I have already informed the House in reply to questions put, I think, by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Gravesend, I have been in consultation with the Admiralty, and in view of possible anxiety, and to allay any possible anxiety that may arise from that Clause from the point of view of national safety, I propose to add a Sub-section to that Clause the material part of which I will read in a moment. It enables the Admiralty on the ground of public safety to absolutely veto the issue of any new certificates in regard to any particular port. The words of the Sub-section added to Clause 19 will be as follows:—
"Provided that if the Admiralty at any time consider that on the ground of public safety the provisions of this Subsection should not be applicable with respect to any pilotage district or part of a pilotage district they may make an 751 Order excluding that district or part of a district from the operations of those provisions."
§ Mr. NEWTON
Is there going to be any provision for the cancellation of existing aliens' certificates in times of national emergency?
§ Mr. BUXTON
Under the Act of 1906, and the Act consolidating previous Acts, the Clause relating to that matter, and to any existing certificate, stands. No alteration has been made in that respect.
§ Mr. BUXTON
That arises under the head of national safely. The hon. Member opposite asked me concerning existing certificates and as to whether they were affected by this Clause. That is not so. The existing certificates, as the House knows, were saved in the Act of 1906. The first Sub-section makes no change in this respect. The history of the matter is this. Section 73 of the Act of 1906 was enacted solely on grounds of public safety. As soon as the Act came into operation representations were made from various quarters to the Foreign Office, and the argument was pressed that under the Section a disability was imposed upon the masters and mates of foreign ships which was alleged to amount to an infringement of certain treaty rights. His Majesty's Government, while they found themselves unable to accept that view, were not able to avoid the conclusion that a practical difficulty had been created involving to some extent discrimination as regards the dues charged on British and foreign ships entering the same British ports in some few cases in which the plea of public safety, which was the foundation of Section 73 of the Act of 1906, could not be urged with any force. At the same time it became clear on an examination of the facts and figures that the extent of the practical problem was minute in relation to the general pilotage system in this country.
Ultimately, in 1910, at the request of the Foreign Office, who were naturally anxious to arrive at an amicable solution, a small Commission representing the French and British Governments was appointed to consider the matter. They reported that an acceptable solution of the question would be afforded by the adoption of the recommendation of the Departmental Committee 752 over which Sir Kenelm Digby presided, with regard to exemption from compulsory pilotage on the ground of frequency of voyages. This recommendation was embodied in last year's Bill. As I have already said, the matter on several points was subject to strong and, I must admit, cogent criticism, so that the Clause, as it stood, was quite impossible to be enacted, with the result that it has been entirely superseded by the much more restricted Clause of this year. This Clause is further guarded and limited by the Admiralty veto. The French Government, I am glad to say, have agreed to this solution, and I should like to add that the discussions with the French Government, though prolonged, have been of the friendliest character throughout; and there is little doubt that this Clause, which completely guards national safety and inflicts a minimum of hardship to the pilots, will prove to be a mutually satisfactory solution of the matter. I am glad to know from the conversations I have had with various Members of the House on both sides, who, I think, were somewhat alarmed in regard to the question of national safety that they are fully satisfied with the Clause. As to the urgency of the Bill, we are pledged to the French Government to give effect at the earliest possible moment to the arrangement arrived at with them, and I think hon. Members will agree that it would be very regrettable if that arrangement should fall through. The result would be to reopen difficult and disagreeable international questions. I have now explained as shortly as I can the main provisions of the Bill, and I would like to say that in this matter I have had the advantage in drawing up the Bill of consultation with the various interests concerned. My hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend (Sir Gilbert Parker) has more than once said that I have the habit of introducing a Bill one year in order to have it criticised, and then re-introducing it next year. I do not think that is a bad, but rather a very good, habit. Since the Bill of last year was introduced I have had the advantage of consultation with the pilotage authorities, with the shipowners, with pilots, with Members of Parliament, and others interested in the matter, and I hope that the Bill is better and more acceptable now, and that these consultations will save a very great deal of time in the Committee upstairs, because I have had, as it were, almost a Committee stage already in regard to these matters. I 753 hope, therefore, when the Bill goes upstairs it need not involve much time or labour.
§ Mr. BUXTON
I hope the Second Reading of this Bill will be passed without a Division, and then in Committee all matters brought to my attention will be considered. Various Members have mentioned various Amendments. I do not think there is any matter of principle involved in any of them that would prevent, me considering them with an open mind. On a Bill of this kind, of a non-contentious character, affecting a very considerable number of interests, I certainly will do my very best to consider the Amendments with an open mind, with a view to making the Bill generally acceptable to the various interests concerned, so that it may pass through Committee and pass into law.
§ Mr. JOYCE
I have listened with great attention to the statement of the President of the Board of Trade in moving the Second Reading of this Bill, and I only wish I could see this Bill through his spectacles, and that I could have the same optimistic opinion as he has, as to all the good that is going to be got out of this Bill when it becomes an Act of Parliament. With all such Bills as this, especially dealing with pilotage matters, I have my doubts. The President of the Board of Trade spoke of the alien pilotage question. I want to refer to that question because it has played a very important part in the affairs of the pilots of Great Britain and Ireland for many years past. From the first day that a pilot's certificate was granted to an alien pilot, the pilots of this Kingdom have been in arms against it, and we did our best to bring public opinion to bear in order to stop it. After twenty-five years of hard struggling the pilots succeeded at last in what we thought at the time meant the killing of the alien pilot for ever by getting a Clause inserted in the Bill of 1906 refusing to grant any further pilots' certificates to alien shipmasters and men. We were very pleased at our success, because the system had been enlarged year after year, and the pilots looked forward to the time when those aliens who held those certificates would die off and the alien pilots would cease for ever in this Kingdom. But some, international difficulty existed which was found out after some years, and when the 754 French and the English diplomats met to consider the question, as is generally the case, the French got the weather gauge of the English Foreign Office, and I presume the English Board of Trade were outmanœuvred by the members representing the French Government, and they agreed that France had a grievance. How did they propose to remedy it? Simply at the expense of the pilots. We had great cause for anxiety when we saw what the outcome of that meeting in Paris was and what the outcome of the Departmental Committee was. Why should this great rich Government make the pilots pay if there was any difficulty between them and the French Government? Why could they not find some other way out of the difficulty? That is the question which has been troubling my mind. Why should the poor man be made to pay the piper in this case? There was a grave national danger in granting those certificates, and this caused the pilots last year to appeal to their friends in this House and out of it, and, thank God! they have got plenty of friends in every quarter in this House, in the Press, and among the public outside, to fight what we considered was an iniquitous Clause inserted in the Bill of last year. By our struggle we succeeded in defeating the attempt made to insert that Clause in an Act of Parliament. That great difficulty is removed, but in Clause 19 of this year's Bill the difficulty is there still, although in a lesser form.
I confess I have sonic sympathy with the President of the Board of Trade in regard to the position in which he is placed. It is for that reason that, having made the best fight we could, the pilots of this Kingdom are not opposing the Second Reading of this Bill. We recognise the difficulty, and we recognise that the Board of Trade in all the deputations that have appeared before it this year on behalf of the pilots have met us in the frankest and most friendly spirit. I stand here voicing the opinions of the pilots of this Kingdom, and I say we do recognise the perfectly frank and friendly manner in which we were met, and how every man of the deputation was allowed to air his opinions and to voice his feelings as freely as he cared to do. We proposed a remedy to the Board of Trade, even if they are bound by this international difficulty and even if they do bring in the foreigner in small numbers. We always believe, however small the numbers may be, the bringing in of the foreigner is introducing the thin end of 755 the wedge, and whatever promises may be made we shall see what this Bill will be when it becomes an Act. We recognise the danger in introducing the thin end of the wedge. Clause 19 does introduce the thin end of the wedge, and I am opposed to bringing in one foreign pilot. I hope the Admiralty will see to it that all the great ports are safeguarded, as has been promised to various Members during the past few months. We proposed an alternative. If we were to be hit and injured by this Clause, then we asked the Board of Trade to give us compulsory pilotage. There are several reasons why compulsory pilotage should be adopted in this Kingdom. You have compulsory pilotage in all foreign countries. No foreign country will allow a British shipmaster or mate to pilot in their waters, and we say, "Why should they be allowed to pilot in our waters?" I may be told there are one or two open ports, like Marseilles, into which a child of six years could bring a ship, but I do not call that pilotage. Pilotage is where a man has to use his considered judgment, where navigation is dangerous, where he has served a long apprenticeship, and where he must be a thorough seaman if he is competent to do his work. I go further and say the pilots of this Kingdom, whose mercantile interests are so large, greater I believe than those of all the other nations of the world put together, are a national asset. If a vessel approaching the shores of this Kingdom has sickness on board, the pilot must bring it to the proper quarantine ground, where she must be brought to anchor and boarded by the health officers of the port. More than that. No matter how stricken she is with disease—whether with cholera or not—that pilot must remain on board, and dare not leave her until the medical officers give her a certificate of exemption and of freedom from disease. Again, the pilot has to serve a long and arduous apprenticeship to his profession, and in many instances he has to do it without fee. In most cases he holds a master's certificate or a mate's certificate, and many hundreds hold an extra master's certificate. He cannot leave the particular port for which he has been licensed by the authority; he cannot ply his profession in any other port. That is where the difference conies in between pilots and other trades and professions. A pilot on the Thames cannot go to the Mersey; a pilot on the Mersey cannot move to the Shannon, and 756 a pilot on the Shannon cannot go to the Clyde—he is, in fact, bound to the port for which he holds his licence. Furthermore, at any time of national crisis the Admiralty have the power to call on every pilot in this Kingdom to come under its command and perform any work allotted to him. Thus the pilot cannot be looked upon in the same way as a member of any other trade or profession. He cannot carry his wares to other markets, and for this reason the Board of Trade and the Government of this country—this is not a party question—should exercise some parental character over our pilots here as the Governments of other countries do in regard to their pilots.
So much for the question of alien pilotage. I know that at this time it would be difficult for the President of the Board of Trade to take up the question of compulsory pilotage, but that does not take from it the question of fair play. It is not a question of Free Trade; it is a question of safeguarding the rights of a valuable body of men who are a great national asset, in time of war as well as in time of peace. Having said so much about what I think is not good in the Bill, let me state very frankly that there are a good many points in the Bill which I should like to see brought into operation, and these of course had great weight with the pilots when they withdrew their objection to the Second Heading. There is the question of pensions. That is very important to the pilots of this Kingdom, where the pension funds have accumulated, and we want that the old pilot shall be able to look forward after his labours to getting a pension to which, mark you, he has largely contributed himself during his life's work. Masters and mates who have been granted certificates under the maritime laws of this country have been subscribing a certain amount—I do not say it is enough—but this has been carried forward to the pension fund I hope that in the passage of this Bill through Committee the President of the Board of Trade will strongly set his face against any pilotage authority being able to fritter away that pension fund of the pilots, or apply it to any other purpose than that for which it was originally intended, or to pay any of the expenses incidental to carrying out their work out of the pensions of the pilots.
I wish to refer to the question of the Advisory Committee. That, I think, will 757 be one of the most valuable suggestions in the Bill. I have great faith, if you get a good Advisory Committee set up under the Bill, comprising representatives of pilots, shipowners, pilotage authorities, and harbour authorities, who will meet together and talk matters over; that the time will come when the friction which is so much in evidence now as between pilots and the various pilotage authorities in the country, will be largely removed. I am sure that when such a Committee is set up to advise and consult the Board of Trade, and with the Commissioners which the Bill will set up, nothing but good will result. One word as to the Commissioners. I agree that these Commissioners should be set up. I do not agree that they should have a free hand, and I am glad that the President stated so, to go into any port to capsize arrangements which have been working well for a good many years. I should like to see a body of Commissioners in whom all those concerned would have perfect-trust, in whom the pilots could trust, knowing that if their case was brought before the Commissioners fair play and strict justice would be dealt out. I do not think the Commissioners should be allowed of their own sweet will to go round the country into any port or group of ports, and change what has been working well. Where they are asked to go into a port, where those who have a right to ask them, be they pilots or others, do ask them to make inquiries, I have no hesitation in saying they should go. We look forward to these Commissioners, in conjunction with the Advisory Committee, carrying out the work that will have to be carried out under the Bill both thoroughly and well. The President said that this was a Bill which tried to bring all ports and pilotage authorities into uniformity. That is a very good thing, but I think it will be almost impossible to do it. The Bill may go far in doing it, but each port in this Kingdom has its own peculiar laws and conditions, and if the Bill will assimilate so far as it is possible, all those ports whose conditions approach each other now, it will be doing a very good work. I hope when the Bill comes into Committee the President of the Board of Trade will not be wheedled or cajoled by Gentlemen with sweet tongues, who have other interests, which are always well served in this House. I hope he will listen with patience to the case put forward on behalf of the pilots, and where we have not a good case we will not try to put a case 758 forward. We accept the Second Heading of this Bill for the reasons I have given. I think it is only my duty, speaking on behalf of the pilots of Great Britain and Ireland, to thank all those Members, in every quarter of the House, who took such a kindly interest in the pilots and who have done so much towards making the Bill even as good as it is at present.
§ Sir J. COMPTON-RICKETT
I rise to support the Bill in its general lines, and yet to indicate that to a class of traders there has been, inadvertently I am sure, some wrong done. I have not a word to say against anything that may be urged in favour of pilots—a body of men who are worthy of respect and confidence, but at the same time pilots exist for the ships and not the ships for the pilots, and I am quite sure it is not the intention of the Board of Trade, or even the idea of the pilots themselves, that rules should be multiplied for pilotage, in cases where it is not needful, in order that sufficient work may be found for so useful a body of men. I have no sort of interest in the matter myself. I am speaking on behalf of constituents and others who represent five large associations of traders in the narrow seas, and they find themselves in the position—I do not think it was contemplated—that if the Bill is carried into law and not amended in Committee, they will be liable to some thousands of pounds —I do not know how many: it may run into tens of thousands, for additional charges for pilotage, and they have not been charged, nor has it been proved against them that the system existing at the present time has involved danger to life or limb. The Board of Trade has taken powers to set up a pilotage authority in regard to vessels which are coastwise trading—that is, running from one port to another in these islands. Many vessels which are running coastwise are also running across the narrow seas into ports in France, Germany, Holland, Denmark, and the Baltic. These vessels are used alternately and indiscriminately, and being in that category they are excluded from the operation of exceptions in this case. They have been accustomed to run, say, from the Humber to London, or from the Tyne to London or to other ports in the British Channel. In future they will not be able to plead that their captains and mates are fully acquainted with the navigation, and do not require a pilot, although the Bill permits exceptions in the 759 case of those who are presumably well acquainted with the coast. If the short services across the seas were added to the coastwise trade, there would be no wrong done to parties, for it would be simply maintaining the existing arrangements, and there would be a considerable saving, or rather there would be the avoidance of a very considerably increased charge for those vessels. I am told that in some cases the extra amount of pilotage for a single vessel will be £13 on one journey. Of course, it might be said that the owners could qualify their captains and mates. Still, as we have heard, that would mean examinations and a close acquaintance with one particular part of the coast and not with others, and it would be a very great, infliction on owners to have one captain or mate qualified for the successive ports to which they might go in sailing from one place to another. There is at the present time in some of the coastwise trade, captains qualified as pilots running from one port to another. They have passed the examinations and paid the fees. These things are a great infliction on individual captains and mates, and they can hardly be carried out to any great extent. We have heard from the President of the Board of Trade that the question of pilotage is quite open. There is no uniform system proposed in the Bill for the whole of the United Kingdom. At the present time there are several ports which are all free as regards pilotage. My point is that a very small extension of these exceptions would enable the Board of Trade to continue the system which up to now has worked well. The evidence which was taken before the Commission proves that there is no percentage loss of life under a system where there is no pilotage as compared with a system where pilotage is compulsory. There is no danger of a uniform system being established for the United Kingdom. It must be remembered that owners are perfectly aware of the necessity of taking care of their own property, and where there is any question of doubt they are employing pilots at the present time. When they plead for exemption it is because they wish in regard to pilotage to exercise a permissive power instead of being subjected to a compulsory system.
As to the size of vessels it is proposed that those of 600 tons and under shall be free from the obligation of having pilots. Why should that be1? It is because these 760 vessels being small could not pay the charges. The trade they are engaged in would not bear the charges. These small vessels are so numerous that the charges for pilotage, if imposed, would have to be so small that the pilots could not be remunerated properly in view of the large number who would be required. We have a state of things in which neither the necessities of the case nor the conditions of humanity require that there should be an inexorable rule. I would argue that a small vessel is more likely to take risks in certain places such as we have on the Eastern seaboard of this country than a large one. A vessel of 3,000 tons goes up the Humber or the Ouse with a spring tide. There are more or less recognised channels. These are subject to fluctuations, but still the captain of these big vessels does not take any risks. He waits for the tide and keeps to the well-defined channels that are used for large vessels. Small vessels are much more apt to take risks in running up and down. They are not so careful about the state of the tide. Consequently I may say, though I have not the figures here, that the percentage of loss is very much greater in the case of small vessels than in the case of many of the huge ones. All that my friends want is to have the right, not to decide themselves, but to appeal to the Board of Trade to decide whether it is or is not wise to give a relaxation in this particular case. There are steamers at present specially built for tidal work in rivers in which there is a great difference in depth between high and low water, and they are so arranged as to carry a considerable tonnage with a very small draught. It is not a question so much of pilotage being required for the large as for the small vessel.
The line drawn at 600 tons is quite artificial, and I suggest to my right hon. Friend that there should be no special limitation except he and his successors consider it necessary in any particular case to make such a provision. But unless power is given in the Bill for discretion to be exercised by the Board of Trade, of course it cannot be done. There is another consideration. If a pilot is compulsory, the captain is bound to take the pilots in rotation. He may have one pilot on one voyage and another on another, but where it is permissible, he advises beforehand, and in some cases he obtains the same man. We all know that the captain knows his ship and that ships have 761 temperaments and peculiarities. So peculiar are ships in temperament that we invariably call them by the female gender. But the captain may know a great deal more about his own ship than the pilot who is quite strange, and may navigate it more safely. At any rate, he will not take risks, and he will get a pilot who knows his ship. I am told that there are two groups of pilots, those who are the compulsory service and those who are pilots of exemption with whom a contract can be made. It is proposed in the near future, I believe, to amend the law to make the owner responsible for damage done by his ship when in charge of a pilot. If that is so, it makes it more necessary perhaps for the owner to have some sort of choice in the selection of the pilot. Therefore, to summarise, the request from this large group is that coastwise shall be extended to coastwise and short trades, short trades being described as trades from these islands to places north of Brest in France; that we may have an appeal to the Board of Trade as arbitrator in the fixing of exemptions, and that the limitations as to the size of the vessel shall be not retained.
Sir GILBERT PARKER
The President of the Board of Trade, at the beginning of his remarks, said that this was a non-contentious measure.
Sir G. PARKER
The right hon. Gentleman did not intend to convey that in the fifty-two Clauses of this Bill there were not a great many questions which are controversial and must be dealt with. I think it a pity—I am not blaming the President of the Board of Trade, for we had not expected the previous Debate to continue so long—that this Bill, involving so many grave questions, should be dealt with late in the afternoon at the end of the week in a House which naturally would be expected to be very empty after very tiring and fatiguing nights. I agree with the President of the Board of Trade that is was high time that the pilotage of this country should be brought under one system as far as possible, and that there should be a central authority. For a very long time there has been a division of authority which has been, not injurious to effective pilotage, but injurious to effective administration; and I am not disposed to agree altogether with the hon. Gentleman below the 762 Gangway on this side, who says he thinks it would be a great mistake if the Commissioners go into a port unless they are invited by the pilotage authorities. This brings me to one of the chief points of the Bill. I object entirely to the appointment of these Commissioners if there is going to be any restriction upon the authority of the Board of Trade in connection with the authority of the Commissioners. If the purpose of this Bill is to codify the rules and regulations which control pilotage in the United Kingdom, if the purpose is to get something like uniform administration, then certain it is that your Commissioners must be Commissioners appointed with something like a broad authority intended to carry out the purpose of the Bill, and that is codification and uniformity of regulations which the President of the Board of Trade says is one of the chief purposes of the Bill. I assume my interpretation is correct that these Commissioners are to have large authority given to them. If that is so, I trust no question will arise concerning the Commissioners going into any individual ports to make inquiry when the Board deems necessary in its administration for the better government of the ports of the Kingdom and the pilotage within the ports of the Kingdom.
This appointment of Commissioners is growing to be a very serious question in this House and in the administration of the country. It will be noticed that in Clause 3 and Clause 8 not only the Commissioners but the persons who assist them in the discharge of their duties are to be paid. Then the Advisory Committee, I have no doubt, is to be paid, and with their expenses. It has been charged against this Government that it lends itself to jobs. I am not saying that this is a case of jobbery. I do believe, if you are going to have this codification and rearrangement of the regulations of pilotage in the ports of the United Kingdom, that Commissioners are necessary; I admit that, but I am glad to see that those Commissioners are to be appointed only for five years. Am I to assume from that the President of the Board of Trade has it in his mind that these Commissioners are not to be permanent.
§ Mr. BUXTON
After the inquiries into all the various ports, I do not see anything there will be to occupy them
Sir G. PARKER
I am glad to have drawn that from the President of the Board, and to know what the intentions 763 of the Government are, because it is quite clear when you have had your inquiries, and have established something like uniformity of regulation of pilotage throughout the country, that the usefulness of those Commissioners will disappear.
Sir G. PARKER
I still can offer no apology. I know what the tendency is. Once the Commissioners are appointed they are indeed like limpets, they hang on to office so long as they can, and as long as the Government, which is pressed by its supporters in favour of those Commissioners will permit them to do so. I do not want to carry that point any further. I just wish to register in a general way my objection to this growing habit of appointing Commissioners and paying for them heavily, and paying for Advisory Committees. I believe there are great numbers of people in this country who would be perfectly willing to act upon such a Commission without any salary for the honour and duty of the thing, only with their expenses paid by the Government, and I do certainly think that to pay an Advisory Committee beyond the ordinary expenses attached to their services, is something to which this House ought to object. This country has found enough people in the past to do service for the State without being paid for it, and if you are going to carry from the House of Commons down through all the official administration, this payment of hitherto voluntary service, you are going to raise the expenditure of this country beyond all reason.
I hasten on to two extremely important things, and one is that to which my hon. Friend has referred. I may say in passing, that the pilots have had a very warm and very good friend in the hon. Member for Limerick (Mr. Joyce), who opened this Debate after the President of the Board of Trade. I desire to refer to Clause 19. The President of the Board of Trade has explained why it is that he intends to add to that Clause as it stands the Section which he read to the House. I would like to recall to the memory of the House the circumstances to which the President of the Board of Trade referred, but which he did not refer to, and quite naturally, with full scrutiny. This is the situation. In 1906, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who was then President 764 of the Board of Trade, under pressure from Members, in the Committee upstairs consented to the exclusion of alien pilots. That was done, as I have papers here to show, on the advice of the Law Officers of the Crown. The President of the Board of Trade stated that the Law Officers were of the opinion that, though there might be difficulties, we were justified, no matter what our international agreements were and under those agreements, in excluding alien pilots. What I want to point out is that this was a case of hasty legislation. It was like the Workman's Compensation Act. We believed in the principle and we hastened it through. There is great danger in that; I hope there is not going to be more danger concerning this Bill. If that Bill had not been forced through Committee in 1006, if we had not had the absolute assurance of the President of the Board of Trade that the Law Officers were of opinion that we could act in that way, we would not have allowed that Clause to be inserted. See the position in which the Government are placed. Some years pass, and the French Law Officers, evidently better informed, insist that out Law Officers did not rightly interpret international agreements. Either our Law Officers were wrong or else France, once again, as in the New Hebrides case, has scored diplomatically off this country. While I say that, I also express my great satisfaction that a solution has been reached. I do not say that the pilots of this country are grateful for the insertion of this Sub-section. It is not a question of the pilots; it is a question of national safety, above and beyond all claims of the pilots. As the President of the Board of Trade said in 1906:—The Director of Naval Intelligence has 9ent a report to the Admiralty expressing the opinion that the granting of these certificates to aliens introduces a possible source of danger to ourselves in war and that the withdrawal of such a privilege would correspondingly diminish our danger.5.0 P.M.
No one need express any gratitude whatever to the Government for that provision. My point is that the legislation of 1906 was hasty. The Law Officers were evidently wrong, or else the French Government are now saying that they will not object to a Clause being inserted enabling the British Admiralty for the safety of the country to prohibit alien pilots from being employed in navigating the waters of any individual port. That being the case, having stated what I believe the circumstances were, and having registered my conviction that 765 this situation ought never to have occurred if due inquiry had been made in 1906, I leave the point, because I am satisfied that the solution now reached will on the whole be satisfactory. There will be general agreement in regard to that. If our Law Officers were wrong, I can congratulate our diplomacy for having achieved this result. If our Law Officers had been right from the beginning, there is no reason for congratulation.
There is one more point. In Clause 47 in will be noted that pilots who have held exempt pilotage certificates in the waters of the Thames, Rochester, and the Note shall have their certificates made permanent. That is an Act of justice. If that had not been arranged this Bill would have had very great trouble in this House, for I am absolutely certain we should have been able to enlist Members on both sides of the House to support the, contention that those exempted pilots, having done river work for so many years, having given their lives to the profession, were entitled to continue in it, and work it for their own interests and also effectively and efficiently in the public safety. I would ask the sympathy of the House for one question that remains, and I think I shall have the sympathy of the President of the Board of Trade who, when he knows the circumstances—as I imagine he does—will see that the thing is put right in Committee. The exempted pilots are provided for. But there is a large number of men who have been candidates for exemption certificates. Many of these men have worked on the Thames for twenty or thirty years. I have a list of seventy-seven. Of these six have done from thirty to forty years service, seventeen from twenty to thirty, and seven from ten to twenty. Fifteen of them have been captains of tugs on the Thames and its estuaries, and four of them mates. Three of them have been captains, and seven mates of coasting vessels, with pilotage certificates for navigating their own vessels. Thirty-nine of them have assisted in the navigation on the Thames; and have been captains of British steamers on the Thames. These men, I want to point out, have been for years living with the reasonable expectation of some time or other being called by Trinity House and given exempt pilotage certificates. It has been their ambition in life to get exempt pilotage certificates for working the river. Meanwhile they have worked the river, but not as 766 pilots, and they have had experience extending from ten to forty years. I know-many of these men personally. They are-men of good character and thoroughly efficient, inasmuch as they are pilots who already have certificates for working the river. These men are cut out under the Bill, since compulsory pilotage is accepted, on the Thames and its estuaries. I ask the House to agree with me that the President of the Board of Trade should insert a Sub-section in his Bill empowering Trinity House to engage those men.
I want to pay a tribute to Trinity House. It has had not only the confidence of the pilots, but it: is entitled to the confidence-of the mercantile trade and of all those whose interests are affected in the Thames, district. Trinity House ought to be empowered under this Bill to make selections, no matter how high they put their restriction, from those men who have devoted so many years of their lives to the river and who have done efficient service, so that those men shall become compulsory-pilots for the river alone, as the exempted pilots are. I do not think there is a Member of this House who will not see the absolute justice of this pica for men who have a reasonable expectation in this matter. The names of a great number of them have been on the list of Trinity House, and they had a right to expect that they would be called upon. Until three years ago they were called in. Then the whole question was to be gone into and their expectations for the moment ceased. But they have the right to demand from this House that they shall not now be crippled in their profession, of watermen, dock masters, mates, and captains, but that they will become pilots. I beg the President of the Board of Trade not to> resist that plea, but to give me an assurance that he will accept my Amendment, or, at any rate, that he will deal with this point effectively and do justice to a number of men worthy of our consideration. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to give me an assurance this afternoon that this case will be considered and that Trinity House will be empowered by this Bill to draw upon those men who should have a preference over any outside their own ranks who have not had the same training, and who, perhaps, may go to sea tomorrow and go through a two years' training as compulsory pilots and be appointed instead of them. I believe the Bill, whatever it may lack in detail, however it may 767 fail in certain points, which can be corrected in Committee, is on the whole good for pilotage in the United Kingdom, and if the Commissioners do their work properly, and if the President of the Board of Trade and his Department carry out the purposes of the Bill, good service will be done by the codifying of the Regulations and bringing the pilotage of this country under one central authority.
§ Mr. BRACE
As one who worked upon the Bill of 1906, and particularly upon the Clause dealing with alien pilots, I express my profound regret that the President of the Board of Trade has felt it his duty to ask for the cancellation of that Clause in the present Merchant Shipping Act. The hon. Baronet opposite said that pilots existed for ships and not ships for pilots. I must not be associated with any such sentiment. As a matter of fact, I think the pilots have a very serious grievance and complaint that the Board of Trade has not seen its way to accept the whole principle of compulsory pilotage. The point has been made that pilots are limited in their activities and are not free agents. They are confined to their own particular area and are not at liberty to refuse. If a master wants a pilot the pilot is compelled to give his services, but the pilot has no right to demand that he shall be taken on. The argument for compulsory pilotage is unanswerable from the standpoint of the pilots themselves. When this Bill gets into Committee I hope my right hon. Friend will bear an open mind on these matters and not limit himself to the plea of the hon. Baronet to make this Bill less advantageous to the pilots than it is. It is a mistake to assume from the statement made by my hon. Friend who spoke on behalf of the Pilots' Association, that there is no division of opinion in regard to some of the proposals in this Bill. They came to a majority decision, but there was a strong minority against it. When we come to mould this Bill into an Act of Parliament in Committee we shall probably revise the pilotage dues in order to bring them something nearer what they ought to be. It is twenty-four or twenty-five years since the pilotage dues were fixed, and therefore it may be necessary to come forward with proposals which will give to the pilots a rate commensurate with their responsibilities and duties. In addition, we may have to ask for a recasting of the pilotage boards under which the 768 pilots will have a fuller representation. I shall be prepared to vote for the Second Reading with the reservation that we may bring forward proposals in Committee which will call for much change, and in these matters I hope the President of the Board of Trade will meet us in that fair spirit which he has always displayed in the House and in the Committee.
§ Mr. GEORGE TERRELL
This is a most important public measure, and I think we are entitled to make some complaint that at the end of a very busy week the sittings of the House should be indefinitely continued. I feel that this Bill has been prepared without proper consideration. It is one of those measures where you are going to legislate first and inquire afterwards. These Commissions which the Government propose to set up are very unnecessary indeed. A Select Committee, if it had been properly directed, might have obtained all the information, which you now require, and if there is any information which has not been obtained, why you have Members of the Government who are more or less unemployed who might have obtained it. Then with all the information at your disposal it would have been possible to have prepared a proper Bill, because there is not the slightest doubt uniformity in our systems of pilotage is as far as practicable very desirable. One can realise a good deal more information is required than is at present in the possession of the Government, or certainly than is at present before the House. It is a very complicated Bill. There are fifty-two Clauses in it, and it requires reading not once but a good many times before one can really understand what it is all about. It is not as if this Bill was going to be the end of it all, because after, the Commissioners have reported the Board of Trade will proceed to make pilotage orders which may or may not require the confirmation of Parliament. I should have thought it would have been a very much better plan to have got all your information and material together and then to have endeavoured to deal with it as one big comprehensive Bill of Pilotage. You are going to give every pilot a copy of this Bill. He is required to carry it, and to produce it at all times. What on earth will be the good of it to him I do not know, because it is full of pains and penalties. There are something like twenty-three different penalties, either penalties to which the pilot is liable, or to which the 769 master is liable, or to which owner is liable, and they are extremely difficult to follow, they are so scattered about in the Bill. There is a penalty of £5, I think, for not having a copy of the Bill, right up to a penalty of £100 if a pilot sells an ounce of tobacco. These penalties ought to have been arranged in the form of a schedule, so that a pilot who has to take a risk may be able to look down his schedule and pick any penalty which he will chance.
§ Mr. BUXTON
The hon. Member is under a misapprehension. I think very nearly all the penalties are existing penalties. This is a Consolidation Act.
§ Mr. G. TERRELL
I quite agree, and in a Consolidation Act you should endeavour to simplify as far as possible. You might very well have put these penalties in a schedule so that the pilot could understand them at a glance. The question about alien pilots seems to me to be a very much more important question than has so far been realised. It seems particularly important to those who have some knowledge of the passages and the work which these alien pilots undertake. I have been particularly impressed with how in the thickest of fogs and with practically no reduction of speed the line of steamers which runs from Flushing to Queenborough are brought right up the Thames estuary, inside the North Sand, and right past our Fleet which is moored at Sheerness, into Queenborough Harbour. It is no unusual thing for them to make the passage without sighting land from Flushing until they are alongside Queenborough Pier. That is a serious menace in these times of huge armaments. Because they are aliens it is not fair to say that they would necessarily use their knowledge against this country. But, at any rate, it is a knowledge which they possess. It is a knowledge which as aliens they would be perfectly free in time of war to use against this country, and it is knowledge of the greatest possible value. They know the soundings, the tides, and the channels; they can bring a ship in almost any state of the weather from the open sea, into our great naval base at Sheerness. From that point of view I venture to say that Clause 19 and the Amendment which the President of the Board of Trade proposes to introduce requires a great deal more consideration than it has received. I do not want to urge anything that would 770 cause complications in foreign negotiations. My one object in referring to it is to call attention to what I think every one must agree is a peril which requires our earnest consideration.
There are various kinds of pilots, and one would have thought that the Government would have incorporated in this Bill the qualifications of pilots. What is the training of a pilot to be? We ought to have some definite, clear proposal for the training and examination of these men, and not leave it to the Board of Trade or to the various pilotage authorities. Personally, I should have been quite content to have left it to the old Trinity House, but, as that is not possible, I think the House should be fully informed of what the Government proposals arc, and should have an opportunity of considering very carefully what are the qualifications that these new compulsory pilots are to have. The hon. Member for Limerick referred to foreign compulsory pilotage. I think there is this great distinction between British and foreign compulsory pilotage. In Continental waters the compulsion is as to fees and the master still remains in charge and responsible for the ship. The pilot goes on board: he is the adviser of the master, who is still in charge. Now under the law as it stands here that is not so. I think I am right in saying that the compulsory pilot goes on board and to some extent entirely supersedes the master in his authority. It is interesting to inquire what are the relative positions of the masters and pilots under the existing law. Under the Merchant Shipping-Act of 1894, one of the Clauses provides that the master gives charge of the ship to the pilot when he comes on board. This Bill is absolutely silent as to the position of the pilot. The Pilotage Sections of the Merchant Shipping Act are repealed, but this Bill does not say and gives no idea as to what position the pilot will occupy. This is important from the point of view of Section 633 of the Merchant Shipping Act, which gives relief to the owner where any loss is caused by fault of the pilot acting in charge of the ship where the employment is compulsory. There are three things under Section 633: first, that the pilot is at fault; second, that he is in charge; and third, that he is compulsorily in charge, but under this Bill as framed, I fail to see that the pilot would be in charge. The pilot's position may be merely the position of the foreign pilot 771 to whom I have referred, and the ship-owner may get no relief whatever in the event of any accident.
The law as it stands is extremely complicated, and as this is a consolidation Bill, and you desire to have uniformity—you are going to give a copy of the Bill to every pilot when it becomes law—I should have thought that the first thing you would have done was to have made it as simple as possible, and to have made it perfectly clear, so that after the pilot has mastered the measure and the master has read it they would both know where their respective duties and responsibilities begin and end. Nothing of the sort is done. The law is left in absolutely the same confused and ambiguous condition that it is in to-day. It may be said that these are matters which may be dealt with in Committee, but I think that they require consideration by the House. It is not fair to rush a Bill of this sort through at this late hour, involving very important changes and consequences, without giving Members the fullest and freest opportunity of considering the points in all their bearings. The difficulties which have been experienced in the law as between pilot and shipmaster are extremely complicated. I have here a leading text-book which lays it down that although a pilot has charge of the ship the owners are most clearly responsible for the—competency of the master and crew, their obedience to orders and, under ordinary circumstances, that the commands of the pilot are implicitly obeyed. To the pilot belongs the whole conduct and navigation of the ship, to the safety of which it is important that the chief direction should be invested in one only.There are a number of instances where owners are held rsponsible for the acts of the pilot, and there are other instances where the shipmaster is held responsible for not having taken the command out of the pilot's hands. Surely these are cases which might easily have been dealt with in this Bill with very great advantage to mariners generally. Here is a ease of very common occurrence, a ship in collision in the Thames in a fog. The judge who tried the case expressed the opinion that it was the duty of the master to take the charge of the ship out of the pilot's hands and to bring her up. There are heaps of cases of that sort. If this Bill is to be of real benefit and use to the mercantile marine, opportunity should be taken to incorporate and deal with difficulties of that character. 772 Another point which does not appear to be dealt with is what is known as the choice system. Will owners, when this Bill becomes law, be able to choose their pilot, or will they have to accept the first pilot who is offered to them? As matters stand at present owners have their own pilots. A particular ship is, perhaps, a little difficult to handle, and the owner is in the habit of having a certain pilot who knows the ship to take her in and out of harbour. That is quite a reasonable and a very desirable matter. You are setting up this system of compulsion, and, after all, the idea of compulsion does not come from the owners. It is really coming from the pilots themselves. They are at the back of it. It is not because there is any necessity for compulsory pilotage. It is because this is to some extent a pilotage trade union Bill. The pilots themselves are seeking by compulsory pilotage to get advantages which they do not get at present. On the Severn there are certain ports where pilotage is voluntary and others where it is compulsory, and naturally the pilots desire to make it compulsory at all the ports. If they get compulsory pilotage, the pilots, as in all other trade union movements, will work for a general levelling up of the incompetent, shall we say, with the competent. Will not the next stage be to prevent owners from exercising the choice they exercise at present as to the men they will engage to pilot their ships?
§ Mr. BUXTON
There is no change made in regard to the particular point the hon. Member is dealing with.
§ Mr. G. TERRELL
It is perfectly true that no change is made, but when you get the powers proposed to be conferred by the Bill the Board of Trade can make the change. At present I think you cannot make the change without an Act of Parliament. I have heard of pressure being put on a Government Department at the instance of a class. By this Bill yachts will be liable to compulsory pilotage. They have never been liable to compulsory pilotage in the past. It is particularly desirable that that proposal should be altered in Committee, because no one in any part of the House would like to do anything which would in any way hamper the sport of yachting or make it inconvenient for foreign yachts to visit our waters as they do at present. I think this Bill has been hastily prepared, and I trust 773 it will receive more consideration before it is placed on the Statute Book.
§ Mr. ROWLANDS
I think it is necessary for those who are interested in one of the most important rivers on which pilots work to give some slight expression of opinion as to the action of the Board of Trade in introducing this Bill. I regret that we have not had more time this afternoon to discuss it. I think those interested in legislation of this description view with pleasure the fact that this Bill has been brought in. One thing in favour of legislation is the continued uncertainty that has prevailed year after year. That uncertainty has been hanging over the whole of the shipping interest—both the shipowning interest and the pilotage interest, and it was felt that, sooner or later, there should be legislation of some description. This is largely a consolidating measure, and many of the things that have been criticised as though they were something new have been only the re-enactments necessary in consolidating measures. The measure is one which, more than most measures, requires to be threshed out thoroughly in the Committee upstairs, all the details being so highly technical, and I would appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to receive with an open mind the suggestions that will be made from both sides. I believe that a very good measure can be made of it. This measure is of considerable interest in my Constituency, which extends for ten miles along the river, and I associate myself with those who desire to see this great question settled, not only in the interests of the shipowners, but also in those of the pilots.
§ Lord CHARLES BERESFORD
I quite agree that our pilots are a great national asset and we cannot do much for them. I would like to ask, however, is it to be enacted that the pilot and the master of the vessel are to be in almost equal authority? On board a man of war the captain is always responsible.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
A man may be a brilliant navigator and yet useless as a pilot. The two things are absolutely different. So much in the mercantile marine do they use pilots that captains are often very bad in bringing a ship alongside a wharf or to anchorage in pilotage waters.
§ Sir J. COMPTON-RICKETT
I ought to have mentioned the case of captains coming constantly to the same point.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
Then I do not think that Clause 19 is half strong enough. There is very grave danger of having alien pilots and captains. I quite appreciate the diplomatic difficulty, and I do not want to make it more difficult. Let me give an instance. The first time I went down the Thames it was with a Belgian ship under a Belgian captain at night, at 20 knots an hour. I was amazed to think that a foreign vessel could do that, while I was convinced that not a single ship in our service had ever done it. The point that struck me was that the pilot was able to pilot in our waters without marks. He knows the tides, he knows the soundings, and he is so well acquainted with the waters that if the marks were removed he could go in and out with equal ease. The Clause relative to what the Admiralty is going to do is rather like shutting the stable door after the horse has been stolen; but I suppose the provision will never be acted upon except in war. You must have some of these alien pilots, but you should curtail the number as far as possible because their experience and knowledge and practice in going in and out of these harbours gives them great facility in piloting vessels. Suppose they went to the side of our enemy, they would be a very great danger to us in time of war, and therefore the number of these alien pilots and captains who pilot their own vessels should be limited as far as possible and as far as it can be conveniently done having regard to diplomatic relations. Attention has been called to the large number of men who have all their lives worked and used their experience with the definite object in view of becoming pilots. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will remember those men, and will allow a certain number of them to gain those positions in life to the attainment of which they have devoted the whole of their experience and knowledge in the hope of getting positions by and by.
§ Mr. BOOTH
I rise to protest against the introduction of this Bill at the end of November, and I do so not only on my own behalf but for others. There can be no proper opportunity to give adequate consideration to a measure of this length and importance at this period of the Session. If this is seamped in Committee and is going to be rushed through in a few sittings, it is going to jeopardise the life of the Government. We have had one instance of this kind of proceeding in the 775 Mental Deficiency Bill, and we are now going to have another fiasco over this attempt of the Government to extort the utmost from their loyal supporters in the way of legislation. I suppose the right hon. Gentleman, the President of the Board of Trade, thinks he can placate and conciliate all the various interests affected by this Bill. I do not think he can. An attempt is being made on the opposite benches, and in the Garvin newspapers, to get the Government to go on with non-contentious business in preference to the Welsh Disestablishment Bill and other measures; but the Conservative party do not drop their programmes in order to please their opponents, and yet they have the cheek and impudence to think that this Government will do it. You will have exactly the same cry over this Bill, now you have brought it in, that you have had over others, that it has no chance of going through.
Sir G. PARKER
Does the hon. Gentleman suggest that the Unionist party have pressed for this Bill? If he suggests that he is absolutely inaccurate.
§ Mr. BOOTH
The hon. Gentleman is quite capable of understanding the meaning of my remarks. I say they are bringing pressure through the Press and in the Committee to induce the Government to pass the Mental Deficiency Bill as a nonparty measure with the object, the avowed object, of defeating Welsh Disestablishment. Any man who would deny that would make a laughing-stock of himself. Surely you can see that this is a highly controversial measure. In Clause 3 yon have a set of new Commissioners, a thing I abhor. The hon. Member for Gravesend (Sir G. Parker) hinted that he does not like the appointment of these Commissioners. Of course, the Conservative party always say that in this House, but when they get into Grand Committee they always vote for them—the more the merrier, and with the largest salaries. Whenever they think they will not be reported in their own faithful Press, which will only make selections out of their speeches, they invariably vote for the largest number of officials at the largest salaries. The hon. Member himself will vote for this in Grand Committee, and for the larger salary, and if there is any Radical Amendment, in favour of economy he will carry his whole party against it. That is what 776 takes place in Grand Committee. That is highly controversial matter. Very soon we will have so many of these Commissioners that we will have to devote a great portion of the Metropolis where they can reside. It may be thought I am pressing this objection too far, but hon. Gentlemen who are becoming impatient at my remarks know that is the hardest charge we have to meet. Hon. Members opposite who vote for all these posts under a Liberal Government go down to our constituencies and pretend we are manufacturing salaries in order to give away jobs. They will do so again.
One of the Clauses of this Bill provides that the Board of Trade shall be able to repeal any Act, Order, custom, by-law, regulation, or provision, thus giving them power to repeal all the Acts that have ever been passed on this subject. The Government cannot hope to get through all these points without discussion. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir J. Compton-Rickett) mentioned some important points which I am sure had the sympathy of the House. There are many other points. The consequence of this is that we are jeopardising the existence of the Government by all those measures, and by bringing in a huge controversial topic of fifty Clauses at the end of November. I cannot say it is good generalship or good management. I am cue who stays to the last, and as a rule I am first to arrive at the House night after night. I am blessed with good health and strength, and have a keen admiration for the Government in spite of what I say. There are business men of the Labour party who have many anxious problems and duties to attend to apart from this House. There are business men from the North who cannot be expected to give time for such measures. They demand our sympathy, and I appeal to the Government not to proceed with this measure which cannot pass, and which will occupy the time of their supporters in Grand Committee, and which will run the risk of another lamentable defeat on the floor of this House.
§ Colonel CHALONER
I should like to join in the protest against the action of the Government in putting down such a Bill of such far-reaching importance at the fag-end of a Friday, and that Friday being the fag-end of a very strenuous week in this House. One or two very important questions have been raised, such, for instance, as the question of alien pilots. That is an important question both from the 777 national point of view and from the point of view of the livelihood of the pilots themselves. I hope the right hon. Gentleman, whose sympathies I believe are with us on this question, will use his influence in the direction of reducing to a minimum the number of alien pilots that are allowed to work in English waters. Not only is it a national danger, but it adds to the competition amongst our own pilots, and so prevents many of them earning the livelihood which they might otherwise do. When we know, as we do, that foreign nations deny to our pilots the right which we give to theirs, the least we can do is to treat them as they are treating us, and if they shut our pilots out of their waters, shut theirs out of ours. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will assist us in this matter.
§ Mr. GOLDMAN
I wish to associate myself with the protest of the hon. Member for Pontefract, and to express my regret that the Government should have given such short notice of the Second Reading of this Bill. I would make an appeal to the President of the Board of Trade to see if he cannot possibly give us another day for the discussion. I know the very strong feeling which exists on the question of alien pilots. The situation is viewed with positive alarm, and I think that those concerned would like to have an opportunity of considering the remarks of the President of the Board of Trade on the matter. We believe that my own Constituency, Falmouth, would play a very important part in the case of war, and the people there are greatly interested in this subject. I therefore hope the right hon. Gentleman will consider the advisability of giving an opportunity for the further consideration of the matter.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.
§ The Orders for the remaining Government business were read, and postponed,
§ Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER, pursuant to the Order of the House of 14th October, proposed the Question, "That this House do now adjourn."
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Adjourned accordingly at Six o'clock, till Monday next, 25th instant.