HL Deb 26 July 1849 vol 107 cc969-77

having moved the Second Reading of this Bill.


said, the object of this Bill was to give facilities to shipowners, with the view of relieving them from certain expenses to which they were at present subject; but he confessed that he doubted much whether the measure would afford them the relief from expense which they anticipated. But what he was chiefly apprehensive of with regard to this Bill was, that it would have the effect of putting down a certain ancient establishment which had existed time out of mind, and which had been most useful in the difficult navigation of the narrow seas, and most particularly in communication with this great commercial metropolis. Under the existing law, all vessels coming up the Channel were under the necessity of taking pilots on board, and of making signals that they were in want of pilots; but the object of this measure was to relieve those vessels from making such signals which might have on board a person certified to be competent to take charge of the ship in these narrow seas; and he was fearful that the consequence of the measure must be to put down that body, the fellowship of pilots, who had hitherto contributed by their labours to the safety and the usefulness of; the navigation. The fellowship of Cinque Ports pilots existed under the provision of; the Act of Parliament. Its duties were carried on under the superintendence of the Privy Council. No alteration could be made in its number, except by the consent of the Privy Council; and its remuneration had been fixed by Act of Parliament. Under these circumstances, therefore, he said that Parliament had formed and patronised this institution; and he entreated their Lordships to consider well before they adopted any measure that might have for its effect the putting of it down. He had held the office of Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports for the last twenty years—from 1829; and during the ten years from 1829 to 1839, there were 3,800 ships brought into the river in each year; and there had been only twenty-two complaints of any misfortune or misconduct on the part of the pilots during these periods. These complaints were all inquired into, and it turned out that only nine of them out of the twenty-two had any foundation. In the following ten years, from 1839 to 1849 (with 3,800 ships in each year), there were only fourteen complaints, and of these fourteen only six were found on inquiry to warrant any cause of complaint against the pilots. Now, considering the number of ships In the course of three years carried in safety by means of this fellowship of pilots, and that in the course of each of these periods of ten years so few complaints had been made, and every one of them inquired into, he thought their Lordships might reasonably suppose that they were a very useful institution, and that very great care ought to be taken in taking any steps that might tend to destroy it. The pilots were 120 in number; and if more were wanted, he (the Duke of Wellington) as Lord Warden, could apply to the Privy Council for an addition. Now, it certainly did seem to him that under this Bill it was placed in the power of any individual holding the position of Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports to give licenses to masters and mates of ships to undertake to navigate them in place of the fellowship of pilots; and he certainly, as Lord Warden, should not give a license to any individual to take charge of a ship unless he should prove himself, by examination, such as was required by the Act of Parliament to which he had referred, to be completely competent to all the dangers of the navigation, and capable of taking charge of a vessel, and bringing her in safety to the port. But the moment he signed a certificate for the master or mate, the ship would be immediately exempted from the necessity of taking on board a pilot. Therefore, it might depend upon the act of a single individual holding the office of Lord Warden, whether this fellowship of pilots should be put down or not; and he did not think it would be very desirable for the interests of the shipowners themselves to put down that institution, and to have instead a person on board of each ship who should have a knowledge of the pilotage. There was now a sufficiency of pilots to convey in safety 3,800 ships annually; and he thought it more desirable to the commercial interests to have the advantage of such an institution to perform this duty, than to be compelled to leave a pilot on board every one of these vessels to make the whole voyage. He confessed he did not see what advantage such an arrangement as that would offer in point of expense. He begged to observe, that, according to the best calculations that he could form, the average expense for these pilots was from 3l. to 4l. for each ship; and how could it be supposed possible that each of these pilots put on board of one of these ships, and going a long voyage, would not get more than 4l. by way of wages? That was the sum paid for a pilot at the end of the voyage, under the Act of Parliament; but if that man was put on board of a vessel and performed the voyage, he would have to receive his wages; and could any one suppose that they would not come to as much as 3l. or 4l., or even to 10l., or perhaps as much as 20l? He confessed to their Lordships that he doubted the advantage of such an arrangement, even in point of economy, to the shipowner; and he was sure that, for the commercial interests of that metropolis, it was advisable to refrain from taking any measures that might have the effect of putting down the fellowship of pilots.


said, that this Bill had for its object, and for its sole object, to relieve the shipping interests of this country from an existing burden which was strongly felt by individuals. At the same time that he must contend it was found to be a burden by numerous classes, and had been strongly represented by them to be such, he would be the last person in the world who would wish to proceed even to remove that burden, by doing anything that threw contempt or disparagement upon existing authorities whom we were bound to respect, not only on the ground of their antiquity, but for the long and efficient administration of the important duties committed to their charge. But he begged the noble Duke and the House to recollect that this Bill, so far from being founded upon disrespect for these existing authorities, was founded rather upon the most entire confidence in and respect for them, because it was a permissive Bill, and nothing but a permissive Bill; and under it the noble Duke, who discharged his functions as Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports with such great ability, would be left entirely at liberty either to preserve the existing system entirely as it stood, or to introduce into it such modifications, and such modifications only, as he might think expedient. But, further, this Bill certainly did give to other parties who had long exercised the same functions, and who were in a position which rendered them competent to judge how far the existing compulsory enactment could be judiciously dispensed with—it conferred upon them the privilege of dispensing with the compulsory enactment under such circumstances and under such limits as they thought fit, and believed most conducive to the safety of the public interests. At present the case of steamers was felt to be one of very great hardship, as, although possessing far superior knowledge and facilities as regarded entering port, compared with other vessels, they were yet subject to all the burdens which existed long before steam navigation was introduced. He could not help thinking that such corporations as the Trinity House and others enumerated in this Bill, were likely to exercise this particular duty, or rather relaxation of duty, cautiously and safely for the public advantage. The noble Duke himself had stated the conditions which he would require before he admitted any one to be pilots, even for their own ships; and he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) had no doubt but other corporations would use the same caution; and he hoped the system of licensing the masters and mates of ships would be beneficial in its consequences as affecting their character, and would prove—what it was very necessary, in the present state of our mercantile marine, should be proved to those connected with it—that sobriety and regularity of conduct would entitle certain men to privileges, which others, pursuing' a different course of conduct, would be deprived of; showing that those masters and mates who were competent to do the duty of a pilot, being acquainted with the navigation, and possessing the other requisite qualifications, would enjoy advantages which others less sober and less acquainted with the place, would not be able to obtain. Upon the whole, he thought this Bill one which their Lordships could safely pass, and particularly at a period when the burdens of the shipping interest should be lightened as far as possible; and he had no doubt that the other bodies mentioned in this Bill, would all discharge the functions it entrusted to them as wisely and judiciously as he was sure the noble Duke who had just addressed them would perform his.


was averse to retaining any burdens, especially under existing circumstances, that pressed upon the shipping interest; but with regard to this Bill, he must say it appeared to him, both by the statements made elsewhere, and by the noble Duke, that no pecuniary burden or practical inconvenience arose under those parts of the system of pilotage which this Bill sought to amend. This Bill was only introduced into the other House on the 12th of July, as a measure the importance of which he believed to have been greatly exaggerated by the Government; and he (Lord Stanley) had only just received a petition from the port of Hull, and from persons interested in the navigation of the Humber, praying that the Bill might not be allowed to come into operation; but owing to the haste with which the measure was pressed through the other House, the petition had not been able to reach town in time for presentation. There was nothing very urgent or pressing with regard to the passing of this Bill; and why did not the Government allow it to stand over till the whole of their scheme with respect to the mercantile marine was brought under the consideration of Parliament? By the present law a steady supply of pilots was kept up in each of the jurisdictions, adequate to meet the wants of the traffic; but if this Bill were passed, the number of masters and mates licensed would be uncertain and fluctuating, the amount of the payments realised by the corporations would become uncertain and much diminished, and the consequence would be that the fellowships would be obliged largely to reduce their staff, being dependent upon the uncertain and fluctuating number of licenses granted to masters and mates. The noble Duke, whose official acquaintance with the subject rendered him a high authority on the question, so far from believing the Bill would be a relief to the trade, or a benefit to the shipping interest, had expressed his conviction that it would only enhance their existing burdens, and be otherwise injurious in its results. It was true, as the noble Marquess said, the Bill was only permissive; and therefore, after the declaration of the noble Duke as to the course which he would individually pursue if the measure were to become law, the Bill would be practically a dead letter so far as the functions of the noble Duke were concerned. But if the Bill might lead to mischievous and inconvenient consequences in its effects upon the shipping interest and trade of this country, then he (Lord Stanley) concurred with the noble Duke that it ought not to be loft to the discretion of one individual authority, who besides could adopt one system in one part of the kingdom, while a totally different system might be practised in another. But, further, he wished to ask, did they intend to confine these licenses to British vessels and British men? Did they intend, by sanctioning the admission of British vessels with licensed masters and mates, and thereby relieving them of an expensive pilotage, to give them an advantage over foreign masters and foreign mates? If they did, it appeared to him that it would be inconsistent with those obligations which bound them to put the trade of our own and other nations upon an equal footing. But if we said that we meant to grant foreign masters and mates licenses to bring their ships into British harbours, he would ask whether it was wise or safe—in a national point of view—to adopt that course? If, as had often of late been represented to be the case, although for his part he very much doubted it—but if it were true that foreign masters and foreign mates were much more intelligent—or even merely as intelligent as British masters and British mates, was it wise or prudent, by holding out the premium of exemption from pilotage charges, to induce foreign and naval seafaring men to acquire that knowledge of the difficulties and intricacies of our harbours and rivers which might be certainly very useful in time of peace, but which in time of war it would be very undesirable that they should possess? So that by this Bill either they must put foreign shipping upon an unfair footing, or else they must induce, by holding out an unfair footing in violation of our treaties and obligations, by holding out a pecuniary premium in the shape of exemption from pilotage charges, to acquire a knowledge of our navigation, which in time of war they could turn to account in a manner very injurious to this country.


gave his testimony in favour of the fellowship of pilots, over whom the noble Duke (the Duke of Wellington) presided, and opposed this Bill, as likely to produce very injurious effects. He should also anticipate much advantage from the establishment of sailors' homes.


, in reply, said he did not think there was any point in connexion with this Bill which had not been anticipated by the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Lansdowne). With respect, however, to the permissive power given to the Trinity Masters with respect to treaties with foreign nations, he did not think that our treaties with foreign Powers would compel us to admit as pilots the seamen from foreign vessels; but he was of opinion that if a French vessel had a man on board both ready and competent to be examined by the Trinity-house, it would be unfair to deny him the privilege. He anticipated no difficulty from permitting foreign nations to become acquainted with the technicalities of our harbours and rivers. At present the ships of Holland, France, and the United States, under 60 tons burden, were allowed to enter our harbours without pilots; and it was notorious that smugglers on the opposite coast were as well acquainted with all the ins-and-outs of our coast as any licensed pilots could be.


believed that this Bill had been introduced at the present moment, and was now being hurriedly passed through the House, in order to meet the demands of the owners of steam vessels regularly plying between this country and the neighbouring coasts. But in modern legislation, the remedy for a grievance, instead of simply acting as a cure, led to evils greater than the malady sought to be removed. A certificate once given, testifying to a man's knowledge of a particular locality, lasted for a year. A man might proceed on a long voyage, but on his return he would be necessarily unable to navigate a coast whose characteristics had changed. Whilst he felt every confidence that neither the Trinity-house nor the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports would give a certificate improperly, he could not place the same reliance on those other authorities in whom this Bill would vest the power of giving certificates. He saw danger in certificates being granted by the Trinity-house, merely because a man showed himself acquainted with a particular locality; and he should say that no certificate should be granted except for competency to ply between our own and the neighbouring coast. He objected to leaving with the Trinity-house the power to decide with respect to reciprocity treaties; and, generally, he saw considerable risk attending the operation of this measure. He thought it would diminish the inducement to enter the pilot service, and by so far increase the danger of navigating the shores of this country. Legislation on the subject should have been preceded by a searching inquiry. He doubted whether this Bill would be productive of economy. A few pounds might be saved by employing mates instead of pilots; but the charge for insurance would be found to advance, for in proportion as the insurance companies saw risk from the employment of incompetent persons to navigate the vessels insured, would they increase the rate of premiums. Thus, what was saved in the pilotage of a vessel would be lost in the charge for insurance. Entertaining these objections to the measure, he moved as an Amendment that the Bill be road that day three months.

On Question, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Motion,"

The House divided:—Content 15; Not-Content 10: Majority 5.

List of theCONTENTS.
Lansdowne BISHOPS.
Anglesey Manchester
Clanricarde Hereford
Suffolk Say and Sele
Carlisle Byron
Grey Campbell
Minto Monteagle of Brandon
List of theNOT-CONTESTS.
Wellington Warwick
Nelson Chichester
Harrowby BARONS.
St. Germans Stanley
Ellenborough Redesdale

Resolved in the Affirmative.

Bill read 2a

House adjourned till To-morrow.