HC Deb 27 April 1858 vol 149 cc1837-9

said, he rose to call the attention of the House to the state of the law affecting pilots in the Isle of Wight and Portsmouth districts; and to move for returns from the Trinity House showing the rate of profits accruing to such pilots. He brought forward the subject as a matter of justice to a valuable body of men who were led to believe they were treated with injustice, but at the same time he hoped the House would not fancy that the question was one of local interest merely. In 1853, when the Merchant Shipping Act was introduced, the question of the remuneration to the pilots of Southampton was urged on the attention of the House. It was then shown that there was no reciprocity between the Southampton pilots and the pilots of the Isle of Wight, for while the Southampton pilots were allowed to enter any port of the Isle of Wight, the Isle of Wight pilots were obliged to leave the ship they were piloting the moment it entered Southampton Water. The remuneration given to the Plymouth pilots was considerably larger than that given to the Southampton pilots. For piloting a ship drawing fourteen feet water the distance of three miles and a half into Plymouth harbour, the Plymouth pilots wore paid 5s. per foot or £3 10s., while the Isle of Wight pilots got only 3s. 9d. per foot or £2 12s. for piloting such a vessel from the Needles to the Motherbank, a distance of twenty-two miles. With respect to the Merchant Shipping Act of 1853, he admitted that it ought to be considered as a monument of the ability and industry of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of Oxford (Mr. Cardwell); but unfortunately words had crept into it which were never intended to be introduced—aliquando dormitat Homerus. He believed it was the intention of the President of the Board of Trade at that time to leave the law as to the exemptions of personal pilotage in the same state as it stood previous to that measure. But the introduction of three little words—inserted, he believed, in forgetfulness that the Isle of Wight came within their operation—had suddenly deprived the Isle of Wight pilots of the ad-vantage of the boat trade. Another regulation of which the pilots complained was that by the terms of the Merchant Ship-ping Act the conditions of any agreement they might enter into with the captain of a ship must he entered in the log-book of the merchantman and in that of the pilot-boat; but in stormy weather, when the pilots were most wanted, it was physically impossible to comply with that condition, and thus they were left at the mercy of the captain as to whether they should be paid. The remuneration to the pilots was now so small, owing to their great number, that he thought it would be advantageous if the Government in future would put some limit to the number employed. His license cost the pilot £2 2s., and his net earnings were little more than 12s. a week, being just the wages of an agricultural labourer. A more gallant, more industrious body of men than the pilots did not exist. They were ever ready to face danger in the pursuit of their vocation or for the preservation of life and property, and he thought that no class had a better claim on the favour of those hon. Gentlemen "who live at home at ease" than those whose cause he was then advocating. If the Government would take up the question and look into it, he felt assured they would come to the determination that something ought to be done to put these men on a better footing than they were at present. The hon. Member concluded by moving for returns of the profits of the pilots of the Isle of Wight and the Portsmouth districts distinguishing the gross from the net profits.


said, he would not then enter into any examination of the minute details raised by the Motion of the hon. Member. He had no objection to make to the production of those Returns, as far as they could be furnished by the Trinity House; and, indeed, he doubted whether the hon. Gentleman might not find the greater portion of the information he desired to obtain in documents which had already been laid before Parliament. He believed the real reason why those men earned a less sum than could be desired was, that there were too many of them for the work they had to perform. In the four rears ending in 1857 the number of those pilots had actually been increased, for twenty of them had been appointed during that time, while only seventeen vacancies in their business had occurred. It certainly seemed to him to add in that way to the number of persons engaged in a pursuit in which the sum earned had previously been too small.

Motion agreed to.

Returns ordered,From the Trinity House, showing the rate of profits accruing to the Pilots in the Isle of Wight and Portsmouth Districts; distinguishing gross profits and net profits.