HC Deb 24 February 1870 vol 199 cc772-9

Order for Second Reading read.


, in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said that, in answer to the appeals made to him from various seaport towns, he had agreed, after the Bill had passed the present stage, to refer it to a Select Committee. He had some time ago decided to refer the compensation clauses to a Select Committee; but, on looking closer into the matter, he found it was difficult to separate those clauses from the other provisions of the Bill. He, therefore, upon further consideration, thought it better to refer the whole Bill to a Select Committe.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Shaw-Lefevre.)


said, he was sorry to hear that the Bill was to be referred to a Select Committee. The pilotage question had already been, in his opinion, sufficiently considered, and the propriety of abolishing compulsory pilotage was universally admitted.


said, he begged to thank the Under Secretary for the Board of Trade for the course he had decided to take. Looking to the large questions involved—questions much larger than hon. Members, without practical acquaintance with the subject, had any conception of—he thought the hon. Gentleman had come to a very wise decision on the matter. So far from coinciding in opinion with the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Gourley), he (Mr. Graves) thought that the question involved was much larger than a mere question of pilotage. He spoke not only for the pilots of Liverpool, but for the whole commercial interests of that important port. He was prepared with facts to satisfy the House that this Bill ought to be referred to a Select Committee. He had received communications from the Chairmen of the Liverpool Dock Board, the Underwriters' Association, and the Mercantile Marine Association, and from at least half-a-dozen of the most eminent shipowners of Liverpool, in favour of referring the Bill to a Select Committee, and stating that they had not had time fully to consider all the important details of the measure, much less to decide between the principle of voluntary and compulsory pilotage. He believed the course taken by the Government would in the end lead to a more rapid settlement of the question than if the Bill were loft to be discussed in the House itself.


, on behalf of the pilots of Dover, thanked the Government for referring the Bill to a Select Committee, and hoped they would deal liberally with the compensation clauses. Everyone who considered the present state of the law, which protected shipowners from the consequences of collision when a licensed pilot was on board, must be convinced that it required some alteration.


said, he regretted that the Government had consented to refer the principle of their own Bill to a Select Committee. He believed, howover, that the Bill would come out of the Select Committee with the principle unimpaired, that shipowners should be free to engage such servants as they preferred to do their work.


said, that, however great might be the gratitude of Liverpool and Dover, he felt certain that the other portions of the kingdom would hear with disappointment that the Bill was to be referred to a Select Committee. There was no burden which the shipowners were so anxious to remove as that of compulsory pilotage.


said, that his constituents had long been in a state of uncertainty on this subject, and were most anxious that the question should be settled this Session. The pilots were naturally desirous that in the settlement of the matter vested interests should be fairly considered. He thanked the Government for referring the Bill to a Select Committee.


I cannot agree with the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Candlish) that the House in sending this Bill to a Select Committee is referring the principle of the Bill to that Committee. We ask the House to read the Bill a second time, and thereby to affirm its principle, and then we propose to refer its details to a Select Committee. Nor can I agree that it would have boon right to pick out the financial clauses and to send them alone to a Select Committee. Any one who considers our Parliamentary practice will see that such a proceeding as that of separating the financial clauses from the rest of the Bill would be trenching on those duties which should only be exercised upon the responsibility of the Executive Government. It would lead to the establishment of an inconvenient precedent, and possibly to great and reckless expenditure. I think it much better that the whole Bill should go to a Select Committee than to pick out a particular point and make that the subject of investigation.


said, he had received a communication from the Chairman of the Shipowners' Society of London, authorizing him to state that they were perfectly satisfied with the principle of the Bill, and saw no necessity for referring the details to a Select Committee. As, however, the general opinion of the House seemed to be in favour of the Select Committee, he should not oppose the proposal of the Government.


, on behalf of a considerable shipping port, begged to express his general approval of the Bill before the House, more particularly as Clause 3 of the Bill still provided for efficient pilotage, and effectually shut out a body of men called "hobblers" who usually prowled about pilotage waters. From the port of Greenock seaward there was at present no compulsory pilotage; but between the port of Greenock and Glasgow, a narrow river of twenty-three miles long, compulsory pilotage does exist, and he was not prepared to say it should be done away with. He had received from a number of the chief pilots on the river Clyde, between Greenock and Glasgow, a remonstrance against the Bill, and he was not sorry that it was to be referred to a Committee upstairs, when all interests, both vested and otherwise, would be duly heard and considered.


said, he thought that the Government had done wisely to refer the whole Bill to a Select Committee. There were two points in the Bill which the Select Committee would have to consider—one the question of pilots, and the other of shipowners. As ten years had elapsed since the question had been considered by a Select Committee, and as that Committee had pronounced its opinion with rather a faltering voice, a great deal of dissatisfaction would have been felt by the pilots generally if the measure were passed over too rapidly by the House. By referring the Bill to a Select Committee the time that must necessarily elapse before communication could be held with the pilots, many of whom were at sea would be gained, and the dissatisfaction that would be certain to arise if the matter were disposed of too hastily and without due investigation would be avoided. There appeared to be a wide difference of opinion among the different ports upon the question of the abolition of compulsory pilotage. In many ports, no doubt, compulsory pilotage might be abolished at once, while in others it was stated, upon authority which could not be lightly passed over, that the adoption of such a course would be exceedingly dangerous to the shipping interest. It was evident the question was not one that could be fully discussed in that House, it being one of detail, and therefore more fitted for discussion before a Committee. The hon. Member opposite (Mr. T. E. Smith) treated the subject as though no middle course could be adopted; because it was quite impossible to do away with what was the greatest abuse of compulsory pilotage that—namely, of the owner throwing the responsibility in all questions of damages upon the pilot—he seemed to think that either there must be an abolition of compulsory pilotage or that that rule should be kept up. But he begged to remind the hon. Member that under this Bill there was the same compulsion upon the owner of a ship to take a man who was not his own servant. It might be said that it was not right or fair, and that it was contrary to law, that when you obliged a shipowner to take a man who was not his own choice he should be held responsible for his acts. But they would do so by this Bill as it stood, because if the owner took a pilot at all, he must take one from among a certain number, and, therefore, notwithstanding the limited number from which he could select, he was still responsible for the acts of a man who was not his own servant and over whom he had no control. Even the Secretary to the Board of Trade had some doubts whether the future profits of pilots would not be lessened by the Bill, and the case that was mentioned, that of the Bristol Channel, evidently admitted of another explanation. These were questions that might well be considered. He had no wish to obstruct the progress of the Bill, having, on the contrary, every desire to facilitate its passing. The course adopted by the Government would have the effect of giving time and of preventing dissatisfaction.


said, he thought the Government had done right in referring this subject for further consideration. The hon. Member for Sunderland thought he understood the interests of the shipowners; but, in his opinion, the shipowners of Liverpool themselves wore the best judges of matters that concerned them. In Sunderland a pilot standing on the quay might see a vessel in the distance and might go out to her in a small boat and bring her in without difficulty; but in Liverpool the pilots had to thread their way among twelve miles of sandbanks to do the like duty. Under those circumstances, it was not to be wondered at that differences of opinion on the subject of compulsory pilotage should exist at different ports. It would be desirable before any steps were taken in the matter that there should be further investigation.


, on behalf of the port which he had the honour to represent (St. Ives), expressed his pleasure that the Bill had been referred to a Select Committee. The more the subject of compulsory pilotage was ventilated, the sooner we should come to free trade in pilotage. The Bill provided that a shipowner might select his own pilot, and he believed that by the time the Education Bill now before the House had had its due effect, there would be an ample supply of duly-qualified pilots to pilot ships to any port in England.


remarked that in respect to pilotage between London and Gravesend there were pilots employed, but the Trinity House did not license more than seventy five, and therefore the bulk of the work was done by the unlicensed men and watermen of the Thames. The Trinity House was not likely to increase that number, particularly as the 6th clause of the Bill gave them no inducement to do so. The case of the pilotage of the Thames was a special one, and he hoped the Select Committee would bear that fact in mind. The free watermen and unlicensed pilots who had served a long course of apprenticeship tinder their masters were in the habit of piloting vessels up and down the Thames, and possessed a more intimate knowledge of the river than the licensed pilot, and an hon. Member, a shipowner, had assured him that between London and Gravesend he employed for that reason an unlicensed as well as a licensed pilot. This Bill would place those free watermen and unlicensed pilots in a worse position than that in which they were at present by increasing the monopoly of the licensed pilots.


said, that he hoped the House would not be led into a discussion upon those different points and details in the Bill which would certainly come under the consideration of the Select Committee. If the Government were to blame for consenting to this Committee, he was anxious to share their responsibility to the fullest possible extent, since he had given his opinion, most earnestly and emphatically, that this was the fair and just course to pursue. What he understood by referring a Bill to a Select Committee after its second reading was this—that whilst the House conceded the principle of the Bill, it left it to the Committee to inquire in what manner that principle should be applied—whether its application should be universal or only partial, and how it could be applied so as to avoid hardship or injustice to any persons who would be affected by it. As reference had been made to the Report of the Select Committee upon Merchant Shipping in 1860, he wished to point out what that Committee had actually said. It had certainly reported that a system of voluntary pilotage might safely be established in most parts of the Empire; but it had evidently had in view a system under which, as was also stated in the Report, the regulations and limitations which were imposed upon the pilots at present should be removed. This question would naturally come before the Committee, who would have to consider whether, in making the proposed change, vexatious restrictions might be got rid of, any subjects of complaint on the part of the pilots removed, and a continued supply of competent pilots secured. Herein lay the only justification of compulsory pilotage—that it secured a competent and efficient body of men. As you paid a policeman in quiet as well as disturbed times, in order that you might have him ready to hand whenever he was wanted, so the shipowners had been called upon to pay for pilots in fine weather, so that fit and proper persons might be forthcoming when the weather was foul and the coast dangerous. He could only say, as representing a large body of licensed pilots, that they feared no inquiry. They were a useful body of public servants; and if it seemed good to Parliament to introduce legislative changes which might materially affect their position, and the occupation upon which they had entered after a special education and upon certain terms, they only asked that such changes might not be adopted without that full and fair inquiry into ail the circumstances of their case which they thought they had a just right to demand at the hands of Parliament.

Motion agreed to.

Bill read a second time.

On Motion "That the Bill be referred to a Select Committee,"


remarked that he had assented to the second reading of the Bill on the understanding that the whole subject was to be referred to a Select Committee, who should have power to take evidence, and not on the undertanding that the principle of the Bill should be taken as accepted.


said, the only understanding of which he was aware was that the Bill should be read a second time and then be referred to a Select Committee.


And with power to the Committee to take evidence?


Yes; but not to hear counsel.

Motion agreed to.

Bill committed to a Select Committee. And, on March 9, Committee nominated as follows:—Mr. CHILDERS, Mr. GRAVES, Mr. STEVENSON, Mr. CAVE, Mr. NORWOOD, Sir HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON, Mr. GRIEVE, Mr. PEMBERTON, Sir CHARLES WINGFIELD, Mr. CHARLES TURNER, Mr. PHILIP WYKEHAM MARTIN, Mr. JONN STEWART HARDY, Mr. THOMAS BRASSEY, Mr. MALCOLM, Mr. WILLIAM PHILIP PRICE, Sir JOHN HAY, Mr. GOURLEY, Colonel BOURNE, and Mr. SHAW-LEFEVRE:—Power to send for persons, papers, and records; Five to be the quorum.