HC Deb 04 April 1853 vol 125 cc579-85

Order for Second Reading read.


said, he was in favour of the Bill, but, as he had received several applications from the outports, wishing that it should be sent to a Select Committee, he wished to know whether the Government had any objection to that course?


said, he thought there was nothing in the Bill which could not be considered in the House itself. His only object was to facilitate the passing of the Bill, in order to relieve the shipping interests at an early period.


said, that the Pilot Board at Liverpool viewed this measure with some alarm, especially that clause of it which empowered the Board of Trade to grant licences to masters and mates of vessels to act as pilots on board their own ships. The Board were not themselves pilots, and they had no other interest in the matter than to render the pilot service as efficient as possible. But it was to be remembered that it took a young man seven years before he could be qualified to act as a pilot, while the average earnings of the full pilots did not exceed 125l. per annum, which could not be considered a large sum for men whose avocation was of so hazardous and laborious a nature, that their average ages only amounted to thirty-nine and a half years. And yet this new arrangement, with respect to the Board of Trade, would materially diminish the emoluments of the pilots, and, he feared, would render them as a class less efficient.


said, he would give the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cardwell) full credit for a desire to obtain the fullest possible information on this subject; but he submitted that that could only be done by sending the measure before a Select Committee, which would have the further effect of softening objections and smoothing down opposition.


said, he could not understand what the shipowner was to gain by this Bill, and he wished the right hon. Gentleman would be good enough to point out a single clause in the Bill by which the shipowner would be relieved from the burden of pilotage. The Cinque Ports pilots ought to be in favour of the Bill, for they were the only persons who would benefit by it, for it allowed them to take ships both outwards and inwards, instead of only one way, as at present. He considered the Bill was a delusion practised upon the House and the shipowners.


had been one of a deputation that waited upon the right hon. Gentleman upon this subject; but, after what had passed, he was willing to leave the matter in his hands.


said, that he must still urge that this Bill should be sent to a Select Committee, for all the pilots were opposed to it.


also urged that the Bill should be sent to a Select Committee, and said the Cinqne Ports pilots denied that they would receive any benefit under the Bill.


could not deny himself—a shipowner, and the representative of shipowners—the satisfaction of tendering his thanks for the comprehensive and conciliatory measure now laid before the House. His constituency (Gloucester), who were largely interested in this question, had, for many years past, had to complain of grievances which this measure was admirably calculated to redress.


said, he felt bound to say that the measure of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cardwell) had, generally, given satisfaction to his constituents. Sonic alterations might be suggested by them, and some improvements; but none which could not be best considered with a view to amendment in Committee. It was his intention to support the right. hon. Gentleman; for though the hon. Gentleman the Member for Berwick (Mr. Forster) said the Bill was of no use to the shipowners, he, and the shipowners of Sunderland, thought it was, and had very great reliance on this measure being very beneficial to the shipping interest generally. He thanked the right hon. Gentleman for the attention and ability he had shown in the preparation of this Bill.


trusted that the Bill would be sent before a Select Committee. There were several matters involving the interests of the Cinque Port pilots, which were worthy of consideration both by a Committee and in that House. For example, he thought the navigation of vessels both ways should be made permissive instead of compulsory: and there were provisions with regard to the funds which would press with great hardship on the Cinque Port pilots. These were questions which would best be considered by a Select Committee.


said, he was surprised the hon. Member for Berwick (Mr. Forster) could see no advantage to the shipowners in this Bill. He himself thought it an advantage both to the shipowners and the efficient pilots. By it, all the good and efficient pilots were to be employed under the Trinity House. At present many were not either good or efficient—a proposition which he could quote instances in support of. He knew an American captain, Johnson by name, of the Invincible, who recently signalised for a pilot. For a long while he got none, but at last he had to hoist on board an old gentleman between seventy and eighty years of age. Mr. Richard Green, too, had complained that in the case of one of his ships, containing 850,000l. of specie, though he had signalised, no pilot-boat had come off. Mr. Phillips, another well-known name, said it would do much good to centralise the control of the pilots in one answerable Board, and stated that many ships had been perilled under the present system by the supineness of the Cinque Port pilots. These evils would be obviated by the proposed Bill.


said, he thought the present Bill would only perpetuate a monopoly that had been a great burden to the shipping interest. He was surprised to hear his Colleague in the representation of Sunderland (Mr. Hudson) state that the measure was satisfactory to his constituents. His (Mr. Seymour's) experience was quite opposed to that of his hon. Colleague; and he believed that the measure was looked upon with dissatisfaction and discontent by the great majority of those connected with the shipping interest in Sunderland. The shipowners of Sunderland felt aggrieved at being obliged to pay a sum of money to that antiquated and useless body, the Trinity Board of Newcastle-on-Tyne. Under the charter by which that body was established, certain creeks were defined as liable to contribute to its funds, and one of these "creeks" was Sunderland. The right hon. President of the Board of Trade had taught the country to expect much advantage from his Bill; but now it was produced it proved to be comparatively worthless. The measure ought to be referred to a Select Committee.


said, he would beg to explain that he had pointed out to the right hon. President of the Board of Trade those portions of the Bill which the shipowners of Sunderland objected to, and which, he hoped, would be altered, and had stated that in other respects they were satisfied with the measure.


said, it was not uncommon, in bringing forward a measure of reform, to encounter the opposition of those whose interests would be affected, or who believed their interests would be affected by it. The object of the Bill was to effect that union between the pilots of the Trinity House and of the Cinque Ports, which he had always understood, and which he now knew, to be earnestly desired by the shipowners of the Thames. They desired not to be subject to a controlling power at a distance, but to one near at hand, from which they could obtain prompt and immediate redress. An hon. Member had challenged him to point out any advantage which the shipowners would gain by the Bill. If they gained a more economical system of pilotage, they would gain an advantage; and it would be new to him to be told that the removal of the grievances of the port of London, with regard to pilotage, would not be an advantage to the shipowners of London. Another hon. Gentleman said there would be no reduction in the charges. It was never an object of the Bill to enable the Board of Trade to effect a compulsory reduction in the charges. He had stated on a former occasion, not without authority, that the Trinity House was about to make a reduction in the charges to the amount of 25 per cent, and also a reduction to one-third, instead of one-fourth, for vessels tugged by steamers. This Bill gave them power to make reductions, subject to the control of the Board of Trade. The Bill might be opposed by those who felt aggrieved by the displacement of ancient habits, as, for instance, the Cinque Port pilots; but it did not violate vested interests. The hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Turner) had said he should move for a Select Committee to examine into the Bill and take evidence. But what was the objection communicated to him from the port of Liverpool? It was an objection to the 10th clause, which gave power to carry into effect the permissive power to masters and mates to navigate their own ships. Was that, he would ask, no benefit to the shipping interest? This permissive power had always been exercised by the Trinity House in London, but it had always been resisted by the people of Liverpool. A Commission had been appointed by a former Government, of which the Earl of Lonsdale was at the head, and that Commission recommended that, if there should be on board a vessel a master, mate, or other competent person, who had passed an examination, such vessel should be exempted from the obligation to employ a pilot. The hon. Gentleman opposed the Bill on behalf of the Shipowners' Association. Now, it so happened that he (Mr. Cardwell) had that day received an official communication from Liverpool, which contained a recommendation, on the part of the Shipowners' Association, that Liverpool should be exempted from the 10th clause, but upon the condition that the pilots should undertake to reduce their rates on coasters and coasting steamers, and vessels towed by steam, to a certain scale, to be examined and approved of by the Board of Trade. Then followed resolutions signed by the master pilots, stating that they would cordially agree to such a reduction. The mere printing of this clause in the Bill had therefore produced an effect which had never been produced since the time of the Earl of Lonsdale's Commission. They also said that the owners of coasting steamers had complained, and with reason, of the heavy and constantly recurring charges imposed for the pilotage of their vessels. The Bill, therefore, then redressed an acknowledged grievance on the Thames and the Mersey. He was surprised at being told that the people of Sunderland did not approve of the Bill; and as the two hon. Members differed on the subject, it was fortunate that he had a letter from the Sunderland people themselves. It contained some comments entirely in the spirit of those which were made by the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hudson) opposite. Some hon. Members proposed to send the Bill to a Select Committee for the express object of striking out the 10th clause; and, on the other hand, complaints were made that the operation of the 10th clause was not expedited. The Bill redressed the grievances of the Thames and of the Mersey by means of the reasonable concessions which the Commission had recommended. So much for London and Liverpool; and, with regard to the Severn, he had the satisfaction of knowing that it was approved of by the hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. Price). The Bill, by calling for Returns, enabled them to obtain in a shorter time, and in a more satisfactory manner, than they could by a Select Committee, all the necessary information with respect to the finances of the pilot bodies. He thought they should have been guilty of precipitancy if they had dealt with their finances without first inquiring into the state of them. The shipping would know from the financial state of the pilot bodies whether they were charged what was more than a reasonable compensation to hardworking men. The Board of Trade would be placed in a mediatorial capacity between the shipping interest and the pilots, and would be able to lay a case before Parliament after having obtained full information. These were the general purposes of the Bill. He should not have thought it respectful to the House to have allowed the second reading to pass by without having stated them; and although those who spoke for vested interests said the Bill went too far, whilst others wished that it went further, he believed that by passing it they would confer a great boon on the shipping interest. Let them endeavour to make this an unambitious piece of legislation, practically useful and beneficial to the shipping interest.


said, as he understood the matter, there was to be a reduction of one-third in favour of vessels towed by steam; and he wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether a similar privilege would be allowed to vessels propelled by steam?


said, the 17th clause contained a provision relating to those vessels.

Bill read 2°.

The House adjourned at a quarter before Eleven o'clock.