13. Sir GILBERT PARKER
asked whether there has been any alteration in international circumstances, or in our treaties with foreign Powers, since a statement was made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1906 that, after consulting the Law Officers of the Crown as to whether any international difficulty would be caused by discontinuing the grant of British pilotage certificates to alien shipmasters and after careful consideration, the Government had decided that they could deal with future applications; and, if there has been any such alteration since that statement was made, whether it necessitates the repeal of Section 73 of the Merchant Shipping Act of 1906, by which the grant of British certificates to aliens was prohibited for the future?
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. Buxton)
The answer to the first part of the question is in the negative. But as has been already stated in reply to previous questions in this House, persistent remonstrances and representations have since 1906 been addressed to the Foreign Office by certain foreign countries and especially by France, whose contention was based not on any specific claim that British pilotage certificates must under treaty be granted to French shipmasters and mates, but on the general ground that French shipping is entitled to enter British ports without paying higher charges than those imposed on British shipping in the same ports. As the effect of Section 73 of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1906, had, according to the French contention, been to impose on certain French vessels higher charges than those imposed on British vessels in the same circumstances, it was in their view necessary to endeavour to find some practical method of redressing this inequality. After careful examination of the question through a Joint Commission, His Majesty's Government considered that the case would probably be best met by the enactment of a frequency exemption applicable to British and foreign vessels alike which trade regularly with the same port, and a clause for this purpose was inserted in the Pilotage Bill introduced last year. I understand, however, that this proposal though in accord with the recommendation of the Pilotage Committee, and acceptable to the French Government as a solution of the international question, raised unforeseen practical difficulties for the pilots; and I do not think I am wrong in saying that the pilots as a body would greatly prefer the more strictly limited and carefully guarded exemption embodied in Clause 19 of the present Bill, although in form this Clause introduces a limited exception to the operation of Section 73 of the Act of 1906. There is no question of the repeal of Clause 73.
Sir G. PARKER
Will the right hon. Gentleman reconsider in that case the redrafting of the Clause so that those who are concerned may more clearly understand what it means?