HC Deb 13 October 1976 vol 917 cc139-40W
Mr. Alan Lee Williams

asked the Secretary of State for Trade whether Her Majesty's Government intend to take over the functions of Trinity House; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Clinton Davis

I am pleased to have this opportunity to set the record straight on the Government's proposals, particularly in view of recent misleading publicity.

My Department is currently working on amendments to the Pilotage Act 1913 to implement the unanimous recommendations of the Steering Committee on Pilotage (SCOP), which comprised representatives of pilots, shipowners and port operators as well as two Elder Brethren of Trinity House, London. It is our intention that the pilotage service should continue to be based on local districts which is one of the main strengths of the system. However, SCOP recommended various changes in pilotage administration, notably that in larger ports pilotage authorities should be representative of all pilotage interests together with some independent members who could contribute additional navigational and management experience.

These organisational changes would be carried out progressively and in full consultation with all interested parties, including, of course, Trinity House, whose experience in pilotage is fully acknowledged. A Central Pilotage Board would act as a catalyst to reorganisation and undertake various continuing functions to promote the efficiency of the service which can best be carried out centrally. There would be no charge to the taxpayer for the work of this board: the costs of operating the pilotage service would continue to be met from dues charged on shipping.

These proposals are supported by the General Council of British Shipping and the other interests concerned with the exception of Trinity House, which now advocates a central advisory board; and it is agreed by all the parties concerned that there is a pressing need to bring up-to-date the law governing pilotage.

The Government have no intention of changing Trinity House's responsibilities in England and Wales as a general lighthouse authority.