HC Deb 27 March 1868 vol 191 cc361-88

Sir, although the Question which I propose to bring before the notice of the House is not one to excite any very general interest, it is, nevertheless, a question of no small importance. It affects and stands in connection with all our sailors, numbering hundreds of thousands, and with the whole of our population travelling by sea, numbering millions. The registered tonnage of the United Kingdom in the year 1866 amounted to 5,692,010 tons; the value of our exports and imports for the same period was £534,000,000; and the entries and clearances at the Custom House, in our foreign trade, were about 31,000,000 tons, and in our coasting trade a similar amount. All those persons and all those interests—those sailors and travellers by sea; owners of vessels and owners of goods exported and imported—are all materially affected by the condition of our pilotage laws; and, if the House will favour me with its attention for a few minutes, I think I shall be able to show that it is expedient—nay, that it is pressingly necessary—that these laws should be altered and improved forthwith. At present there are about fifty or sixty pilotage authorities existing around the coast of the United Kingdom; that is to say, pilotage authorities, all of whom possess some amount, more or less, of legislative power; and the laws which are in operation in the several districts are very nearly as various as the districts are numerous. From perfectly free and voluntary pilotage—in other words, between places where the captains and owners of ships have it in their discretion either to accept or reject the pilot's services, to other places where it is pretty nearly altogether compulsory — all intermediate conditions prevail. This want of uniformity—this variety in the laws of the country governing the pilotage system around our coast — is productive of the greatest possible inconvenience, and the anomalies which result from this variation of law are most embarrassing to the Mercantile Marine and shipping generally of this country, but more particularly so within the limits of the jurisdiction of the Deptford Trinity House, which is the great authority on pilotage. That body governs the river Thames and all the approaches to it, north and south. It governs besides not a few of our outports; and the general principle which lies at the basis of its government is that vessels navigating its waters must have a pilot on board, and be navigated under the authority and by the direction of a pilot. But it so happens that exceptions to this first principle are pretty nearly as numerous as the cases to which the principle itself is applied. The Merchant Shipping Act passed in 1854 is a consolidating Act. It sets out the exemptions from compulsory pilotage, and, with the permission of the House, I will read them. Section 379 says— The following Ships, when not carrying Passengers, shall be exempted from compulsory pilotage in the London district and in the Trinity House Outport districts; that is to say—1. Ships employed in the Coasting Trade of the United Kingdom. 2. Ships of not more than 60 tons burthen. 3. Ships trading to Boulogne, or to any place in Europe north of Boulogne. 4. Ships from Guernsey, Jersey, Alderney, Sark, or Man, which are wholly laden with stone, being the produce of those islands. 5. Ships navigating within the limits of the port to which they belong. 6. Ships passing through the limits of any Pilotage district on their voyages between two places, both situate out of such limits, and not being bound to any place within such limits, nor anchoring therein. Now, the anomalies and absurdities which result from these exemptions are almost incredible; and, in my opinion, are discreditable to the legislation of this House. These exemptions were secured by this Act purposely, as I apprehend, to restrain the further action of the compulsory system of pilotage; the policy of the Parliament of, 1854 being to restrain compulsory pilotage as much as may be, and henceforth to perpetuate all the pilotage which, up to that time, had been voluntary. Just let me show the House the anomalies which result from the first exemption set out in this clause, "Ships employed in the Coasting Trade of the United Kingdom," by reference to an example. A small vessel, say of 61 tons burthen, coming through the Downs from a port on the coast of France or Spain, is subjected to compulsory pilotage, and must take a pilot; while a large ship of 300 or 600 tons, or any larger size, and whatever her value, coming from an English port—say, on the South coast, or from Swansea or Bristol—and navigating the same waters as the 61-ton ship, notwithstanding her increased size and value; and the greater necessity for additional precautions in navigating her, is exempted from compulsory pilotage, and may take a pilot or not, as her commander may think most expedient. With the permission of the House, I will quote an authority well known to Members of this House—a Gentleman who was at the Board of Trade when a Committee was appointed to inquire into the Laws which regulate our Merchant Shipping in 1860. I allude to Captain—now, I believe, Admiral Sullivan. In reply to a question, he gave the following instance of this glaring anomaly:— A man coming from a foreign port, with a little vessel of 60 or 70 tons—though perfectly competent to take a vessel of any size through the navigation of the Thames and the Downsmust, because she comes from a foreign port, if she is 61 tons, take a pilot; but if he was going upon the coasting trade in a vessel of 1,000 tons, though he was much more incompetent, he would be allowed to navigate the whole of the reaches of the Thames. It may be supposed that a policy which allows the captain of a vessel engaged in the coasting trade to navigate his vessel without a pilot is in favour of the coasting as against the foreign trade; but there is also the same exemption for ships in some foreign trades; for whilst ships coming through the Downs to the river Thames must have a pilot on board, ships coming from a port north of Boulogne—Calais, Dieppe, Ostend, Antwerp, Hamburgh, St. Petersburgh, Archangel, or any port in the Baltic—are exempted from compulsory pilotage, and the captains have it in their discretion to take a pilot or not on board, as may seem most expedient. It is perfectly clear to me that the policy of enforcing pilotage, as a protection for property, is no ground whatever for exempting one ship from pilotage, whilst another ship navigating the same waters is compelled to take a pilot on board. Now, with regard to the exemption in favour of the vessels of Guernsey, Jersey, Alderney, Sark, and Man, laden with stones, the produce of those islands, is it possible for any man to say, with reason or sense, that there is any greater necessity for taking a pilot on board when a vessel is laden with stone than when laden with fruit or any other cargo, the produce of the islands? Another anomaly resulting from the compulsory system of pilotage occurs at Falmouth, at which port vessels are very much in the habit of calling for orders. Now, a ship coming from a port in the Mediterranean, and calling at Falmouth for orders, is compelled to take a pilot on board, though she only anchors in the roads; whilst the ship which puts in from stress of weather is not compelled to take any pilot at all. One would think that the state of the weather would have something to do with the question whether a pilot should be taken or not; but the fact is, that when the weather is fine, and the vessel merely comes in for orders, she is compelled to take a pilot, whilst, if she is driven in by the weather, and is, consequently, more or less in danger, she is not compelled to take a pilot. Some of the cases in the Bristol Channel are very striking. In some ports pilotage is quite voluntary, in others altogether compulsory. Thus at Bristol it is compulsory; on the other hand, at Gloucester it is voluntary. A ship coming up the Bristol Channel to Bristol must take a Bristol Channel pilot; but a ship coming through the same waters, if bound to Gloucester instead of Bristol, is free to take a pilot or not, as she pleases. It is perfectly clear, then, in the words of another able witness who was examined before the Committee which sat in the year 1860, that there is no sense or reason in this arbitrary use of pilotage in some cases, and leaving it altogether free in others. Then there is another strange anomaly. The first exemption is that of vessels engaged in the coasting trade; but the question is, What is the coasting trade? Any man of common sense would say that a ship going from London to a port in the North of England, for instance, would be employed in the coasting trade. But that is not necessarily the case. That depends upon what her cargo may happen to be composed of. So that the safety of the ship does not depend upon the question of what water she is passing through; but upon where the cargo came from which she is carrying. A coasting vessel is exempt from taking a pilot on board; but a vessel, say from a Mediterranean port, which discharges a part of her cargo in London, and carries the remainder to a port in the North, is called a foreign ship, and is compelled to take a pilot from London to Orfordness. And the absurdity of this will appear when I mention that, if this small part of her cargo is taken out of the vessel and put into a lighter, and then back again into the vessel, she is not then compelled to take a pilot! These are not the only evils resulting from the operation of the law as it stands; there are also legal consequences flowing from this state of the law as to pilotage which are of an exceedingly unjust character. Under the Merchant Shipping Act which I have quoted, ships having a pilot on board in pilotage waters by compulsion of law are exempt from liability for the damage which they may occasion. Section 388 says— No Owner or Master of any Ship shall be answerable to any person whatever for any loss or damage occasioned by the fault or incapacity of any qualified Pilot acting in charge of such Ship within any district where the employment of such Pilot is compulsory by law. Now, I ask the House to look at the consequences which are likely to flow from the operation of that provision, taken in connection with the vast number of exemptions which are established by the Act I have quoted, and the subsequent Act of 1862. As I have reminded the House, all coasting vessels are exempt from the obligation to take a pilot. It follows, therefore, that any vessel having a pilot on board by compulsion of law, and running into and destroying a coasting vessel, whether she has a pilot on board or not, is not answerable if that collision and the destruction of the vessel are the fault of the pilot. Let me show the House how this comes out in actual practice. Two ships, both of the same size and description, arrive in the Thames, one from the North Sea and the other from the English Channel. They each take a pilot, and subsequently get into collision; but although the one which conies from the Channel is at fault, the other has no remedy, and cannot recover damages for the injury done her. On the other hand, if the vessel from the North runs into and damages the vessel from the South, the latter can recover. So that in the one case there is absolute immunity; whilst in the other there is complete liability. Two ships from Leith to London both take a pilot at Orfordness. One has passengers, and the other has none. They get into collision. If the one with passengers on board is in fault, the other, which has no passengers, has no remedy; whereas, if the reverse is the case, and the one without passengers is at fault, the other, having passengers on board, may recover. Should both have passengers, and both carry pilots, neither can recover against the other. Two ships bound from Havre for London take pilots at Dungeness. The master of one of them has been at the pains of passing a pilotage examination, and has a pilotage certificate. The master of the other has neglected to do so. They both take pilots, and come into collision; but the master who is best qualified, and has a pilotage certificate, is liable for the damage which he does to the other ship, whilst the least qualified master is not liable for the damage which he does. Again, a ship bound from the West takes a London pilot at Scilly or the Lizard—a very common case. For damage by collision westward of Dungeness the owner is liable. For damage done eastward of Dungeness he is not. Take next the Bristol Channel. Ships bound to or from Bristol are bound to take a pilot up and down Channel. Ships bound to or from Cardiff, Newport, and Gloucester are not. And if a Bristol ship get into collision with a Newport, Cardiff, or Gloucester ship, both having pilots on board, the Bristol ship may recover damages; but the Cardiff, Newport, or Gloucester ship cannot recover. These anomalies in the state of the law lead, therefore, to most serious results. In the river Thames great damage is often inflicted by such collisions; and yet there is no redress against the vessel at fault if she has a pilot on board. Steamers coming up the Thames with pilots on board, and running down the coasting craft or the smaller craft in the river, may do so with perfect impunity. There is no remedy for the small coasting vessels which receive the injury. Some owners are much inclined to continue the law as it stands, because of this exemption from liability; but even this security is exceedingly imperfect and unsatisfactory, and, in fact, is a broken reed; for although there may be a pilot on board by compulsion of law, the owner of the vessel is kept presumably liable for the damage inflicted, and has the onus resting upon him of proving that the damage is done through the sole fault of the pilot. In 1866 a case was tried in the Admiralty Court where the pilot and crew of a vessel were both partly in fault, and there the liability of the owner was established. The presence of the pilot on board does not, therefore, give the owner perfect security. It has been objected that, inasmuch as pilotage usages are local, it is not for Parliament to interfere with the existing arrangements, and that the local authorities should be left to manage and regulate their own affairs. It is quite true that the local authorities are resident, and that they act locally; but the effects of their action are national and universal. Their jurisdiction is local; but the consequences of its exercise are universal, and call loudly and strongly for the interposition of Parliament. The anomalies to which I have adverted arise from the want of uniformity of system, and would not exist if there were either universal compulsion or universal freedom of pilotage. The policy of Parliament, however, and the teachings of common sense, mate it impossible to re-adopt the system of universal compulsion. The only mode, therefore, of putting an end to these anomalies is by making the law uniform, and pilotage universally free. The expenses of the present system, I was observing, are most oppressive. Experience, authorities, and sound principle all agree in proving the compulsory system to be dear, and the voluntary system to be cheap. The rates of compulsory pilotage are always higher than the rates of voluntary pilotage. The system at Cork Harbour is free, at Falmouth it is compulsory, and, at the latter place, the expense is double what it is at Cork; it is also double what it is in the Northern ports of England, where pilotage is also free. One of my constituents wrote to me about a case which came under his own notice. A vessel of 390 tons register had to pay for pilotage service, from Dungeness to London, the sum of £19 14s. 1d., although a great portion of the passage was made under steam. The vessel could not get a pilot from Dungeness in consequence of its being rough weather, and she had to pay boatmen for getting into the Downs £2; for getting pilot on board, £1 10s.; pilotage to Gravesend, £11 3s. 10d.; and pilotage to London, £4 10s. 3d.—together £19 14s, or a sum quite equal to what the captain got for navigating the vessel from St. Helena. He also mentions a case which occurred when he himself was at sea; for he is now a retired ship captain, and, in this instance, he had to pay as much for pilotage from Dungeness to London as he had for wages to the Mediterranean and back again. Another effect of the compulsory system is, that it enhances the general charges upon shipping. It creates a necessity for employing 100 pilots, say where fifty would be sufficient to do the work; and the Commercial Marine has to pay for the extra fifty who are not wanted for the service. At the same time, the operation of the system is to limit the number of men for pilotage purposes to prevent competition and keep up the rates. Wherever pilotage has been free it has been cheap, and also efficient. There are no cases on record in which where pilotage is voluntary it has been found inefficient. At the Northern ports—at Cork, and other places where it is free—it is equally as efficient as at ports where it is compulsory; and the introduction of the voluntary system, leaving it optional to employ a pilot or not, has neither reduced the necessity for pilotage nor reduced the number of persons who offer themselves for the service. The principled upon which the compulsory system is founded are, as I apprehend, totally and entirely indefensible. They amount simply to this: — That whether a shipowner wants a servant or not, he is compelled to employ that servant. He is left without the discretion of saying whether he will employ him or not; and the theory is, that the ship is made for the pilot, and not the pilot for the ship. And it appears to me that where pilotage is imposed compulsorily, the law is precisely in the nature of the laws of trades' unions, and that the authorities in giving it effect tell the pilots under their control — "Nobody shall compete with you; you shall be protected from all competition; no one shall come into the trade without a license; and we will compel owners to employ you whether your services are required or not, and to pay you such wages as we choose to prescribe." I apprehend that no trades' union in this country has ever more grossly violated the first principles of political economy than these Pilotage Boards have done by means of the compulsory system which they impose upon the shipping of this country. But not only are all sound principles and all experience in favour of an alteration, but the best authorities are on the same side. In 1860 the hon. Gentleman the Member for Liverpool (Mr. Graves) gave an opinion in favour of voluntary pilotage, with some degree of modification; and his authority, coming as he does from a port where the compulsory system exists, and where it is better worked than in any other port, is surely worthy of being listened to and regarded on a question of this kind. Mr. Hudson, too, a gentleman who is well known to the shipowners of the North of England as an enlightened, intelligent man on all matters connected with shipping and marititime commerce, gives the most conclusive and unqualified testimony in support of a free system of pilotage. Admiral Sullivan also speaks most decisively upon the point. And inasmuch as I see the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Horsfall) in his place at this moment, I will read two of the Questions put by the hon. Member to Admiral Sullivan, with the answers which that gentleman returned. Question 6,437 [Mr. Horsfall]— Do you recommend that the same principle of voluntary pilotage should apply to every port?— I do, most decidedly. I can see no reason whatever against it. Question 6,438— Would you recommend it for such a port as Liverpool?—Most decidedly. I would have it just the same everywhere. Well, Sir, I think it is quite clear that the anomalies I have described to the House must continue to vex and harrass the shipping interest unless the pilotage system is made universally voluntary. It is for Parliament, then, to chose one course or the Other; for it is utterly impossible that the scandal which attaches to our legislation on this subject hitherto can be permitted to continue, and Parliament must interpose to put an end to those anomalies and the consequences of those anomalies, and the legal injustice which results from the present state of things. A few months ago the present learned Judge of the Admiralty Court (Sir Robert Phillimore) gave expression to a distinct opinion in favour of the abolition of the principle of compulsion. Not a few of the Elder Brethren of the Trinity House have in recent years expressed their abhorrence also of the compulsory principle; and Parliament itself, the highest authority of all, has testified in favour of the voluntary and against the compulsory principle. For in the year 1862 the General Act of 1854 was amended in many particulars touching pilots, and this Act gave to the Board of Trade the power to create local pilotage authorities in different parts of the country under certain conditions; but one essential and fundamental condition in every case was that no Pilotage Board should be established unless the pilotage was voluntary; and secondly, that the local pilotage authority shall licence every man seeking a licence. That lies at the bottom of the Act of 1862; and it is not in the power of the Board of Trade, by Order in Council, to create a local board unless the pilotage is free and open to any man who presents himself to the Board and, upon examination, is found to be qualified. With the permission of the House I will take the liberty of reading the Recommendations which were made by the Select Committee of 1860, but which Recommendations have never yet been fully embodied in our legislation. The following is the judicial deliverance of that Committee, after they had taken a large mass of evidence:— As regards the main question of voluntary or compulsory pilotage, your Committee, after weighing most attentively all the arguments upon the subject, have arrived at the conclusion that a system of voluntary pilotage might be safely established in most parts of the Empire, due consideration being had to the interests of those parties who have invested capital on the faith that the compulsory system would be maintained. Your Committee have had the most convincing evidence that where the system of voluntary pilotage prevails the supply of pilots is more abundant, their efficiency is in no way inferior, and the rates generally lower than at any of the ports where compulsory pilotage is still in force. The arguments, therefore, which have been used in favour of the existing system, and the fears which have been expressed in regard to obtaining, at all times and under all circumstances, a sufficient supply of pilots, must give way to the facts which have been adduced in evidence. … Your Committee would further observe that where pilotage is compulsory, it is generally the practice to limit the number of pilots, to prevent them from accepting a less sum than the fixed rates, and to make it compulsory on each pilot to take his turn, and to accept whatever employment may offer. If the obligation on the ship to employ a pilot were done away with, the corresponding limitations and obligations of the pilots would also be done away with, and the probable consequence would be that more men would offer, and that the supply would adapt itself to the demand. The general regulations which it would be necessary to frame, under the authority of Parliament, in order to carry into effect the requisite change, would be so simple as not to create any difficulty. Your Committee are of opinion that the pilots should be left under the local regulations of the existing pilotage authorities, who would fix the rates, and the qualifications of the pilots to be licenced, by the difficulties of the navigation and the wants of the place, subject to the approval of the Board of Trade. Your Committee do not anticipate that any difficulty respecting the law and practice of insurance will accrue from the change. The law will thenceforth leave all parties at liberty to form a free contract; and the merchant, the underwriter, and the shipowner will be competent to adjust their policy of insurance upon what terms they please. All experience proves that masters will avail themselves of the services of a qualified pilot in any navigation which is in the slightest degree dangerous; and the existing exemptions in respect of coasting vessels, which give rise at present to no difficulties, justify the anticipation that, if the pilotage of the foreign trade is thrown open, commerce and shipping may be relieved of restrictions which now, in many cases, fetter their efforts. I take it for granted, Sir, that this House must interfere to put an end to the absurd and scandalous anomalies which now prevail in our pilotage arrangements around the coast; that there is no other course by which to rectify them; that this cannot be done by local Pilotage Boards left to their own individual action, for they take within their view only the narrowest sectional interests, whereas the ports which they govern are open to the shipping of the world, and the payments they exact by their exorbitant regulations are a heavy and oppressive tax upon the shipping interest. I cordially thank the House for the indulgence it has shown to me, and, in conclusion, I beg to move the Resolution which stands in my name—

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, representing that, in the opinion of this House, measures ought to be taken for the early abolition of Compulsory Pilotage, with due regard to existing interests, and for requiring Pilotage Authorities to examine and license all competent persons applying to them for the purpose of qualifying to act as pilots,"—(Mr. Candlish,) —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


The subject which the hon. Gentleman has brought before the House with much ability is one that is full of difficulty; and the difficulty is enormously increased by this circumstance, that although the House might agree upon such general principles as the hon. Gentleman has indicated — namely, that all trades should be thrown open, and that the days of close guilds and protected interests have entirely gone by, and that demand will always regulate supply; yet we are met at once by two impediments when we attempt to carry these principles into active legislation. The first, that public opinion on this point has not gone all the length the hon. Member supposes. He referred, in the course of his speech, to the case of trade unions. Now, these unions have been established and have instituted certain regulations for the protection of those engaged in trade. Well, I imagine that the opinions out of which such associations spring are very strongly implanted in the minds of large numbers of persons; and one of these opinions is that, in order to make an industry profitable, it is necessary to limit the number of those who practise it. The other difficulty s, that, even where certain general principles are admitted, yet people will be found to argue that, in their particular localities, exceptional circumstances exist which prevent the practical application of these principles. For example, I suppose that, in spite of the evidence of Admiral Sullivan, the hon. Members for Liverpool will declare that it is quite impossible to carry out the system of voluntary pilotage in the port of Liverpool; that under the peculiar circumstances of their magnificent estuary, with its shifting sands, and vast fleets of vessels arriving with every change of wind, it is absolutely necessary that the pilots should be, at any rate, under such a degree of control as to ensure there being a sufficient supply of them. So there are places in the entrance to the Mersey to which ships run in the hope of meeting a pilot, and where, in certain states of the weather, the consequences of a short delay might be fatal; so that it is absolutely necessary that the regulations should be strict, and that the pilots should be subject to certain authorities, in order to ensure there being a sufficient number always on the spot and always ready to take charge of a ship—in short, that they should be always found when they are wanted, just as a policeman is expected to be always on his beat. On the other hand, it is true that in Liverpool the voluntary system is beginning to make itself felt. There are there a set of voluntary pilots who take charge of vessels to Cape Clear or the Tuskar Lighthouse, far beyond the pilotage limits of the port; and I know that they are a very successful and enterprising set of men. I remember, many years ago, crossing the Magra, a turbulent mountain stream, between Spezzia and Lucca. The day was fine, the water about six inches deep, but a guide, with a sounding pole, walked in front of the carriage, and received, of course, the regular fee for the service—unnecessary as, under the circumstances, it happened to be—which was levied on the principle of obtaining, by a small payment, not very burdensome to anyone, sufficient to secure the constant presence of a guide, whose services might be necessary in case of a sudden flood. Well, I then come to the argument of the hon. Gentleman, that pilotage presses very heavily upon the class of small shipowners, and also that it is very hard that vessels which carry a master or mate, who have taken the trouble to qualify for the duties of pilotage, should yet be compelled to engage pilots they do not want. Admitting, for the moment, this argument, it would show that the effect of the change contemplated by the hon. Member would rather be to diminish the employment of pilots, and it is difficult to see how this can be reconciled with the arguments of those who contend that, by throwing open the trade, we should give still greater employment to the pilots than they now have. At any rate the only mode in which these two counter representations can be harmonized is on the supposition that the pilots would be more efficient under the voluntary than under the compulsory system, and that consequently the owners of vessels would be more likely to employ their services. The hon. Member (Mr. Candlish) has said that the Trinity House has expressed the very strongest approval of the voluntary system. [Mr. CANDLISH: I said that some members of it had done so.] Well, I think the hon. Member went rather too far when he said that; all that can be said is that an opinion has been growing for some time in the Trinity House in favour of the voluntary system. Considerable difficulty has been experienced by them in managing the pilots at Dungeness in consequence of their knowing that, under the present system, they were certain of employment under any circumstances, and consequently energy and good conduct have not been so remarkable among them as, perhaps, they would have been if the system were thrown open. At the same time I think that very strict regulations are necessary with respect to the licences, and the amount of the rates. The hon. Gentleman, I think, said that, in his opinion, the rates ought to be thrown open, as well as all the other circumstances of the trade; but I do not think that that would be a good plan. A case in point recently came under my notice. It occurred at St. Ives, where the voluntary system prevails to a great extent. I had a complaint last winter respecting the conduct of some of the pilots who went out to meet a French vessel. The weather was bad. The captain of the vessel hardly knew where she was, or what degree of danger she was in; and the pilots, taking advantage of the circumstance, made an extortionate bargain with him, as the condition of their bringing the vessel into port. I think that, if we were to leave the pilots to make their own bargains with shipowners, we should be likely to bring about an increase of all those abuses which are so much complained of in the case of salvors on the South coast. Complaints also have been made — and, no doubt, with very great justice — as to the conflict of jurisdiction, and with regard to many regulations, which, indeed, seem to be very anomalous — such as the shipping of fresh pilots when the vessel is moving out of one jurisdiction into another. This was formerly the case in the Bristol Channel. Masters of ships when they had reached a certain point were obliged to send back the pilot on board and to take another in his place; and sometimes they had to do this under circumstances which led to great delay and even danger. The hon. Member for Leith (Mr. Miller), I remember, complained on one occasion, that the regulations were bad that prevailed in that port, and mentioned the case of an old sailor—an excellent well-conducted and capable man—who could not get a certificate because of some technical or formal impediments, and the consequence was that he had sometimes been turned over the side by his own son, a good-for-nothing fellow, but who had the advantage of being properly qualified. No doubt there are great anomalies which call for remedy, exemptions that proceed on no principle whatever. It is obviously quite absurd that vessels from the north of Boulogne should be in a different position (as the hon. Member has stated) from vessels coming from the south of Boulogne. There can be no reason why vessels from the Baltic should not require a pilot quite as much as vessels constantly going backwards and forwards to Havre, Brest, St. Malo, or even the fruit ships of Portugal, or Spain. But the chief difficulty in dealing with this question, is the immunity from damage enjoyed by the shipowner who carries a pilot compulsorily. This matter is also full of anomalies. In former times, when you had to deal with sailing vessels, some reason might be alleged for this system of making pilots liable. The pilot, no doubt, not only knew the banks and shoals, but the strength of the currents, as compared with the force of the wind, and other matters of this kind, which enabled him, in his own waters, to work and sail a vessel better than the master; he, therefore, entirely superseded the master, and took command of the vessel, and it was perhaps necessary that he should do so. It seemed fair, under these circumstances, to discharge the master from liability in the case of an accident happening; and the owner as naturally objected to be answerable for damage caused by one who was not his servant, and over whose appointment he had not any control. In those days, moreover, the vessels were smaller, and the pilots were probably supported by their guilds, so that they were able to pay when called upon, and the injustice was much less than it is now. But these considerations can hardly be said to be of much force in these days; because, in the case of a steamer, the pilot now really acts only the part of a guide, who shows where the rocks and shoals are, and the captain of the steamer is really the man who manages the vessel. It seems hard, that when the captain insists on putting on great speed, for the sake of obtaining an early market, and when, in consequence, he runs down some ship in the way, that the owner of the vessel should merely have a remedy against the pilot, whose whole fortune probably would not be sufficient to replace a single spar. And if it is unjust to make the shipowner responsible for the acts of a man in whose appointment he had no voice, and over whose actions he has very little control, certainly, on the other side — looking at it in a legal and technical point of view—it must be manifestly more unjust that the damage and loss resulting should accrue to the party aggrieved for the acts of a man whom he had not employed at all. Complaints have been made, as many hon. Members know, by large deputations of Thames bargeowners, complaining bitterly that they are perpetually run down by steamers in the river, and that they have no means whatever of netting anything out of the pilot. The pilot, perhaps, may go to prison; and that is the only compensation the owner gets for the loss of a barge worth £200 or £300. But it is fail also to observe that there have been representations on the other side from the owners of steamers, who say that if we alter the law to enable the owners to obtain new remedies, their barges will be always in the way of the navigation, and it will be quite impossible to pass up and down the river. Well, it is evident that the anomalies and difficulties of the matter are numerous and serious. It may be suggested that we should assimilate our practice to that which prevails on the Continent and in America; but even there the practice is still very uncertain as to the position or privileges of pilots. The modern tendency of our Courts is to cut down these immunities as much as possible. The shipowners in London are generally in favour of the system, and even of the extension of the system that now prevails. In other ports I believe there is not so strong a feeling on the point. With regard to the underwriters, no doubt it is strongly to their advantage that the pilots should be the best possible men to be obtained. If they are so, then, of course, the matter is in their own hands, as they can refuse to insure a vessel that does not take a pilot, or that has not on board a qualified master and mate. I mention these points to show how very difficult this question is, and how impossible it would be for the Government to pass a Bill based upon the Resolution of the hon. Member. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Milner Gibson) will bear me out in that opinion. He did very much when he was at the Board of Trade to get rid of the more glaring anomalies, though I think he was not able to go so far as he would like to have gone. He will bear me out when I say that the difficulties are such as to prevent the introduction of any such comprehensive measure as that embodied in the Resolution now before us. I recommend the hon. Member not to press the Motion, but to support the Government in remedying—as I hope to be able to do in the Merchant Shipping Bill—some of the more flagrant abuses, and in bringing the law into a more reasonable state, and for the rest to trust the local authorities to take a broad and enlightened view of the pilotage question within their own districts.


supported the Motion of the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Candlish). The question had been discussed for a long time in this country; and the point he held to be simply and absolutely this:—Whether a man should be at liberty to do as he liked with his own property, or whether in the disposition and management of it he should be subject to the control, supervision, and direction of the State. The meaning of the system of compulsory pilotage was just this:—That the State found for you a certain number of men to do something for you which you may or may not want them to do. Their remuneration is fixed; you must pay it to them whether you really require their assistance or not. The system, no doubt, had its origin in the days when paternal Governments undertook the task of doing for their subjects what their subjects could do much better for themselves. This system was a relic of the old time—a remnant of a plan of administration of which they had got rid—and in this, as in all other matters, he thought the best and soundest policy was the policy of Free Trade. A man who owned a ship was just in the same position as a man who owned a house, or any other form of property. The vessel, perhaps, was bringing a valuable cargo up the Thames. He had taken care to select a thoroughly good captain whom he could trust, and to whom he was willing to leave the safety of the vessel. Why should he not be allowed to do so? On what principle of sound trading or of common justice did they say to him that he should not be allowed to bring his vessel up the river unless he had a pilot on board? The Captain says, "I do not want a pilot." The State replies, "But you I must have one, and pay for one." The owner might fairly object to the unnecessary expense; and, at the worst, had a right to say that if he chose to run any risk with his ship it was his own affair, and that he ought to be at liberty to judge what was the best course to be adopted. The system amounts to direct interference with the liberty of shipowners in dealing with their property. The common argument, of course, was that the pilot was put on board to protect the cargo and crew, and the passengers if there should be any. But he failed to perceive what justification could be found in any of these circumstances for arbitrarily prohibiting a man from doing what he thought fit, what most advantageous. It may be said that navigation up rivers was dangerous unless conducted by pilots. Everything was more or less dangerous. The railway, the omnibus, the streets were all full of perils that required to be guarded against. But it had never been argued that, on that account, people should be compelled, with their will or against it, to be placed under the care of guides. Another plea in favour of compulsory pilotage was, that it helped to keep up a race of competent men. He believed that under a voluntary system we should get just as good men, if not better. Men of experience and practice would be always to be had, and would soon become known, whereas a pilot might hold a licence and yet be not very fit for his duties. Shipowners, if the trade were open to all, would be able to make their own selection, and the House might depend upon it that their choice would not fall upon incompetent men. Now-a-days a ship was generally towed up the Thames or the Mersey by a steam tug, and a pilot was of no use, for the ship had only to follow the steamer, and the master of the tug was really the pilot. It was he who knew every turn of the river, upon which he had been engaged for, perhaps, twenty or thirty years, and all the pilot had to do was to steer the ship in accordance with the direction taken by the tug. He did not say that pilots were never of any use. In many instances they were a necessity, as when a stranger approached our shores; but they were not always a necessity. For these reasons he hoped that, in the new Bill to which the Vice-president of the Board of Trade had referred, provisions would be introduced for the establishment of Free Trade in pilotage.


said, he had listened with great interest, but with still greater surprise, to the speech of the hon. Member for Sunderland. He laid down two propositions, which he asked the House to affirm—first, "that, in the opinion of this House, measures ought to be taken for early abolition of compulsory pilotage;" and, secondly, that measures should also be taken "for requiring pilotage authorities to examine and licence all competent persons applying to them for the purpose of qualifying to act as pilots." To his surprise, the hon. Gentleman stated that he founded these propositions upon the Report of the Committee of 1860. He (Mr. Horsfall) had the honour of being a Member of that Committee, under the presidency of his right hon. Friend the Member for Ashton (Mr. Milner Gibson). He attended every meeting of the Committee, and he certainly was considerably surprised to hear that statement. But the hon. Gentleman himself answered his own propositions, and showed clearly that they were not in accordance with the Report of the Committee, because he read a portion of that Report which distinctly stated on the proposition that there should be one system of voluntary pilotage— As regards the main question of voluntary or compulsory pilotage, your Committee, after weighing most attentively all the arguments upon the subject, have arrived at the conclusion that a system of voluntary pilotage might be safely established in most parts of the Empire. Observe! "Most parts of the Empire"—which was a totally different thing from that represented by the hon. Member. The hon. Gentleman endeavoured to support his argument by the evidence given before the Committee; and what was the evidence that he gave us? He (Mr. Candlish) gave us the evidence of Mr. Hudson, of Sunderland, and of Captain Sullivan; but their evidence was simply Sunderland versus London, Liverpool, and Glasgow. Mr. Wigram, Mr. Duncan Dunbar, Mr. Marshall, Mr. Green, Mr. Gilman, and others, all well-known as the largest shipowners of London, and Mr. Anderson, Chairman of the Peninsular and Oriental Company, all gave evidence before the Committee in approval of a system of compulsory pilotage. The great mass of the evidence on the part of the shipowners was decidedly in favour of compulsory pilotage. But he did not look upon it as a shipowner's question only. There was a vast amount of property shipped by manufacturers in British vessels; there were also a vast number of passengers who went by these vessels; and although the shipowners might save a trifle by not being required compulsorily to take a pilot, it would be at the risk of the lives of the passengers and the safety of a very large amount of property. The hon. Gentleman spoke in reference to the coasters. He said that the coasters go free of pilotage, and he looked upon that fact as though it were intended to favour the coasting trade in preference to the foreign trade. He (Mr. Horsfall) thought that a more charitable construction might be put upon the matter; and the construction which he put upon it was that as the captains of coasters were going constantly in and out, they knew the character of the waters as well as the pilots themselves. The latter part of the hon. Member's Motion declared that it was necessary to take measures for requiring pilotage authorities to examine and licence all competent persons applying to them for the purpose of qualifying to act as pilots. But what was the fact now? He (Mr. Horsfall) spoke only with regard to Liverpool, where, since 1860, every master and mate who had come forward to be examined (with the exception of two who had not passed the examination) had been licenced. He had no wish to find fault with the hon. Member for having brought forward this question. He quite admitted that there were certain matters of detail which required close examination by the Board of Trade. But he objected to this Resolution on the principle that it offered to the shipowners and the local authorities—who were much better judges than this House—a system which they did not want. He could not therefore consent to this Resolution, and if the hon. Gentleman pressed it, he should feel it his duty to divide the House on the subject.


said, the hon. Member who had just sat down read at some length various opinions which were expressed in 1860 on the question of compulsory pilotage; but, without exception, the opinions thus given were those of large shipowners on the Thames, who by this compulsory pilotage escaped an action for damages when any injury was done to small craft on the river. Everything that had come out so far in the debate proved enormous anomalies to exist and that those anomalies begot other anomalies. There is no uniform practice whatever on this question of compulsory pilotage. The evidence of the gentlemen referred to was all to one point—that, if they were offered the Free Trade system with regard to pilotage, it would not be satisfactory, and that the demand for pilots would not create a sufficient supply. Now, he (Mr. Pease) thought that all the facts of the case were against that doctrine. In the port of Cork there were now 103 pilots, while in the port of Falmouth there were only thirty-six. Both ports were equally accessible; but in the latter the compulsory system was carried out. He thought that case afforded a fair sample of what Free Trade would do in the way of providing pilots, whose interest it would be always to be on the look-out for vessels. With regard to Falmouth he knew from personal observation the way in which the compulsory pilotage system worked there. He knew that, in many instances, in order to avoid the expense of pilotage, large vessels had kept out of the harbour altogether, keeping out for days at sea rather than come into the harbour with a pilot, when they have been waiting for orders from Liverpool or elsewhere. It did seem most absurd that at Liverpool, at Dublin, in the Clyde, at Howth, and at Bristol, all vessel should be compelled to take pilots, and at Newcastle, Shields, Sunderland, and Cork, they should be comparatively free. His hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland put the case well when he said that the men the captains must take must be an inferior class to the men whom the captains might take. One depended upon good conduct and intelligence; while the other, like all those possessed of monopolies, might do exactly as they liked, whether they please anybody or nobody. He came, now to the question, perhaps the most important one. What was the origin of all these peculiar laws with regard to pilotage? They knew that they arose out of those guilds which the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Board of Trade had told them had now nearly expired. In fact, in one case the vessel was made for the pilot, and in the other the pilot was made for the vessel. It must be to the interest of every shipowner to do that which was for the safety of himself, his insurers, and those with whom be was connected. If a pilot was wanted he would see that one was taken; or he would leave the matter in the hands of his own certificated captain. The matter before the House was the difference between the advantage of a Free Trade system, as applied to all pilots, and the great difficulties and anomalies which arose from the mixture of the two systems. He (Mr. Pease) thought that each port ought to have a little more of the Free Trade system, with those necessary police regulations which would enable the vessels to work to the satisfaction of the harbour authorities.


said, that as he had been referred to be would say a few words upon the subject of the Motion. He was glad to hear from his right hon. Friend the Vice President of the Board of Trade that the opinion was growing in favour of the voluntary system of pilotage. He hoped it would grow faster than it had hitherto done, because he entirely admitted the truth of what had been stated, that when an attempt was made to deal with the question great difficulties had to be encountered, great interest was taken in the question in the House, and great political interest was exercised in defending the pilotage system. This pilotage system had always been, more or less, a party political question, he was sorry to say; and whenever an attempt had been made to place the pilotage law on a sound and rational footing, the parties making these efforts had been met with a kind of semi-political opposition. However, they had got now, seeing the unsatisfactory state of the law with regard to collision, to this position—that something must be done. His hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool (Mr. Horsfall) said that the great shipowners were in favour of compulsory pilotage. No wonder that they were in favour of compulsory pilotage. A great shipowner would in any case employ a pilot. There was no additional expense put upon him in compelling him to employ a pilot; but if by that compulsory law to employ a pilot you gave with it an indemnity for all damages his ship might do while in charge of such pilot, and a freedom from all liability, of course he was in favour of compulsory pilotage. But if his hon. Friend had consulted the owners of small ships, who were not liable to compulsory pilotage, and who now were deprived of all remedy for injuries which large shipowners might do to them, because the large shipowners were indemnified by the clause of the Act of Parliament, in consequence of having compulsory pilots, they would have told him a very different story. He imagined that the Solicitor General would agree with him that there existed a great wrong without a remedy. If he had a small vessel in the Thames run over by a large steamship in charge of a compulsory pilot, if his crew and captain were drowned, and his property destroyed, he had no remedy whatever. There was absolutely no remedy, as he understood, by the laws of this country for that great and signal wrong; and it arose entirely from the compulsory system of pilotage; because the law said, if the State puts a man on my ship, to take the management of the ship out of my hands, then the State was responsible; but the State does not recognize any responsibility for any damage that might arise. Hence there was no remedy whatever. In cases of collision the question frequently was not which ship was wrong, and ought to be liable, but which ship was in charge of a compulsory pilot. He would ask his hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General if he was not correct in his view of the case?


Not quite. The law was this:—That the owner of the ship was not liable, because the pilot was not his servant. The pilots themselves, by law, were liable.


Virtually, the hon. and learned Gentleman agreed with him that, in this case, there was practically no remedy. A great wrong might be committed upon an industrious class of our fellow-citizens, and yet they would be left in the position of not having any remedy. He wanted any hon. Member to point out any other remedy than the abolition of compulsory pilotage. It would, no doubt, be most unjust to put State pilots on board a vessel and then to make the owners responsible in the event of the pilots not being able to handle the vessel as well as those who were more regularly in charge of her. He thought we ought to require from the Government some undertaking that this question would really be seriously considered with a view to a settlement. He did not believe that the difficulties after all would be so very great. He thought persons were becoming more and more convinced of the necessity—the absolute necessity—of some radical change in our pilotage system. If they looked to the enormous trade upon our coasts and the vast number of collisions that took place, he thought they must feel that it was every day becoming more and more an obligation to deal with this very important subject. The hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Candlish) had brought the question forward with so much clearness and in so much detail that it was unnecessary to go into the various anomalies of the present pilotage system; but he (Mr. M. Gibson) was clearly of opinion that they ought to do something to provide a remedy for the great wrong he had pointed out. With regard to the second part of his hon. Frend's Motion, that the pilotage authorities should be required to examine and licence all competent persons applying to them, for the purpose of qualifying to act as pilots, he thought that it was most reasonable. It appeared to him very strange that a person was not to be permitted to follow that calling for which he was competent; or that some pilotage authority was to say that a man was not to be permitted to follow the calling of a pilot however respectable, however industrious, or however competent he might be. Why, they might as well say that a man shall not follow the calling of a shoemaker, or butcher, or baker, or any other pursuit, as that of a pilot. Therefore, he did think that we ought to get rid of that absurd restriction of trying to fix the number of pilots any given trade would employ, and making it almost a matter of favour, sometimes not without political motives, to make men pilots. Let us be content with the ordinary rules of supply and demand. The freedom of competition among pilots was the best receipt for supplying ships with pilots; and rely upon it, if they let fishermen and qualified men who, in pursuit of their calling, were constantly at sea, have the benefit of these licences, the ships would much more frequently find pilots, when they wanted them, than they did now. They knew that regulations and by-laws of a severe character had been constantly passed to compel pilots to keep the sea and do their duty, because there was an absence of competition. Competition would provide better for the trade than by fixing the number of pilots the trade might require, which he contended was highly inexpedient.


said, that as he had had some experience in the discussion of these subjects, and had heard opinions on both sides, he would venture to make one or two remarks. It was no part of his duty or inclination to defend the present pilotage laws. He apprehended, however, that the real question before the House was the question of compulsory pilotage, and that the question of the examination of pilots had nothing to do with it. [Mr. MILNER GIBSON paid, it formed the second part of the Motion.] He would confine himself to the question of compulsion, and the legal results of that compulsion. There were two considerations involved in the matter. The one was a mercantile consideration—whether it was desirable to have compulsory pilots or not, and the other was the legal result of having compulsory pilots. As to the first, he had had occasion to consult the opinions of many different classes. There were the shipowners in one class; but they were again divided into two opinions—one being the opinion of the large shipowners, and the other of the small shipowners. There were also the views of the underwriters. Now, the reason why pilotage had been made compulsory, and why the Legislature forced on the ship and captain the necessity of taking a pilot, was to ensure the safety of the crew and of the cargo. When the right hon. Member for Ashton spoke of anomalies, he meant that there was a want of uniformity in the system adopted on all parts of the English coast; but that want of uniformity had arisen from the varied character of the different parts of the coast. It might not be necessary or expedient that ships should take a pilot in going into a safe port; but, upon going into a port that was dangerous, such as the port of Liverpool—in reference to which anybody who had any experience of the matter was astonished that any ship gut in safe at all—of course, it was necessary that the master should take a pilot. He quite agreed with the right hon. Member for Ashton that large shipowners always would take pilots, without any regard to the legal result, simply to secure the safety of their ships and property, because they had an immense stake at risk; but the smaller shipowners were inclined to run great risks in order to save themselves a momentary expense; and the law said "We will not allow the small shipowner to risk the lives of his crow and the value of his property in order to save the expense of employing a pilot." In those ports where ships were exempt from this obligation, it was probably on the supposition that the masters of those ships were well acquainted with the channel, and had had considerable experience themselves. He simply pointed these out as reasons which had been given by people who had taken opposite views on the matter from those now urged; but not for the purpose of supporting the law, with which he had had but very little to do. As to the rule of law arising upon a ship being required by compulsion to take a pilot, it was a general law; and he would like to state how far that law went, because he thought that some hon. Gentlemen who had spoken were not fully acquainted with the nature and extent of the liabilities which it imposed. By the law of England, a master was liable for the act of his servant. Many thought it was a hard law that, after you had taken all possible precautions to select an experienced and careful servant, you should be subjected to an enormous liability, because for a time he had been negligent. That law was only applicable to the case of a servant; the moment therefore the Legislature placed a compulsory pilot on board a ship, it did not require an enactment to show that the shipowner would not be liable for any damage occasioned by his negligence; it followed by the common law of the land that the shipowner could not be liable, because the pilot was not selected by him; he could not order him to do what he desired, and, in point of fact, the pilot would not be his servant. It was quite true then that, under certain circumstances, the shipowner was not liable in cases of collision when his ship was the one in fault; but it was only where the collision was occasioned solely by the fault of the pilot. If it was caused partly by the fault of the crew and partly by that of the pilot, then there was not an exemption from liability. The exemption only existed where the fault was solely on the part of a person over whom the shipowner had no control. It had been suggested that the shipowner should be liable for any damage done by the ship, although there might be a compulsory pilot on board; but he was not prepared at present to say that that would be just. It was a matter that required consideration — a matter for the Government to consider in any Bill they might bring forward. The hon. Member who had brought forward the Motion would readily perceive that it would not be desirable to bind the House to an absolute decision on the subject, inasmuch as modifications rather than absolute changes of both branches of the law referred to in the Resolution might hereafter be introduced which would meet the views he entertained.


said, it appeared to him that the hon. Member had dwelt too much upon the mere carrying out of what had been called the Free Trade system in this matter. He had overlooked that which lay at the very bottom of the subject—namely, the question of liability. The hon. Member only regarded the point as one of supply and demand. But he (Mr. Graves) thought that the question went very much beyond that. They had, first of all to decide, whether they would have an irresponsible supply of pilots, free from all obligations but those dictated by their own interests, or whether they would have them subject to control; because he held it to be quite inconsistent with a voluntary system to uphold the present system of stringent regulations; he believed these to be necessary to the safety of life and property. At present, in consequence of the compulsory powers which existed, they had a most perfect system of control. For instance, at Liverpool, a certain number of pilots were always ready for duty at all times of the year, whether the weather was fine or bad; and the master of a ship running up in a gale of wind, can be sure of meeting with four points on the coast where pilots are always to be met with; so that if the master misses one pilot, he is sure to meet with another, and this is in consequence of the control exercised over them. The precise proportion of pilots required by the wants of the port to be afloat and ashore was determined. Again, they were prevented from making salvage claims—from making any claim whatever except subject to the supervision of the Board, and were not allowed to own shares in tug steamers. A large question, further, must also arise as to superannuation claims—for there were certain rights of this character to which they were entitled, and which would have to be considered. Such advantages as these would have to be abandoned for a voluntary system. The hon. Member asked—what remedy could be suggested for the anomalies in the present system which he had pointed out, except that which he had brought forward? He (Mr. Graves') would suggest that a remedy lay, not so much in a uniform system of compulsion or of freedom, as in defining more accurately the question of liability. At present it was most undefined. When the pilot came on board of a ship, the master, in most cases, considered himself relieved of all responsibility, and the pilot took charge. To that pilot, the peculiarities of the vessel was entirely unknown. Every ship had her own specialty, of which the pilot was ignorant; and it would be found by the statistics that a very large portion of the losses in the Channel have taken place when a pilot was on board. He would suggest that the duties of the pilot should be defined more accurately—where they begin, and where they end. He would rather try to find a solution of the question by having a uniform system of liability attaching to the owner; and let the pilot's duties be confined to pointing out the dangers of the channel which he had to navigate. He believed when they came to deal with the Merchant Shipping Act, that it was with that question they would have to deal, and not with any attempt to lay down a uniform system, suitable to the whole coast. He believed, on the contrary, that every district had its peculiarities; and those principally interested in a port were the right persons to judge what the system of pilotage ought to be, and what number of pilots were sufficient to keep up, in a satisfactory and efficient state, the pilotage requirements of the port. It would be most unfortunate if the Government stepped in and took out of the hands of the local authorities the regulations of those most important duties. It must be remembered that, as the law now stood, it was a mistake to suppose that shipowners were free agents. For instance, they could not employ masters or mates unless they held certificates from the Board of Trade; and the tendency of legislation was to limit still further their freedom. But now it was to be argued that a step in the contrary direction ought to be taken in the case of pilots—that they ought to be regarded only in the light of supply and demand, and that owners should be free to take them or not as they pleased. That was an inconsistency which seemed unjustifiable; as it seemed to him the real question to be grappled with was, to define the duties of the pilots, or to declare upon whose shoulders the real responsibility must rest. He hoped the hon. Member would not force his Motion to a division; but if he did he should be compelled to vote against it.


After the assurance of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. S. Cave) that the matter would have his attention, and understanding that his feelings were in favour of the Motion, he would beg to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question again proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."