§ Mr. Greenway
asked the Minister for Trade if he will make a statement on the proposals to provide compensation for pilots put forward at his request by Samuel Montagu; what the details of those proposals are; what consideration, and by whom, is now being given to those proposals, and when he expects to reach a conclusion; what proposals his Department has to introduce more voluntary and less compulsory regimes into pilotage in light of technological and navigational advances; and what consideration the Pilotage Commission, following discussion with himself, is now giving to reorganisation of the pilotage service.
§ Mr. Sproat
My hon. Friend's question raises the three central and difficult problems of pilotage that have vexed shipping in United Kingdom ports for many years, namely alleged overmanning, alleged restrictions and high cost arising out of pilotage, and the most flexible and effective way to organise the pilotage services. I am glad to be able to tell my hon. Friend that important advances are now being made in all three areas.
Last August I invited the merchant bankers, Samuel Montagu, to look at financial proposals originally put forward by the Pilotage Commission. This involved Samuel Montagu in investigating whether the present number of some 1,400 marine pilots was surplus to the commercial needs of shipping in British ports. Samuel Montagu carried out a widespread investigation of the present number and activities of pilots, and suggested a reduction of some 40 per cent., that is about 600 pilots, who might be surplus to the commercial needs of shipping in British ports today. The cost of this commercially unnecessary number of pilots places a heavy extra cost on shipping at a time when I have been undertaking a continuing and widespread campaign to increase the competitiveness of the Merchant Navy by the removal of burdens upon it. Samuel Montagu has put forward an interim scheme for the compensation of piliots which succeeds in fulfilling three important criteria namely, first, that it should be voluntary as far as pilots taking it up is concerned; second, that it succeeds in removing a substantial part of the cost of pilotage from the shipowners; and third, that it places no extra burden on Government funds. I have invited the Pilotage Commission to take the report forward in consultation with the interested parties. I hope that all parties will be able to reach agreement quickly, and thus help to end a very long-standing and complex complaint for shipping using United Kingdom ports.
Regarding compulsory or voluntary pilotage regimes, many experts believe that the advance of modern navigational aids has, and can increasingly be expected to, reduce the needs in certain circumstances for a pilot. Compulsory pilotage regimes that were once regarded as essential for safety reasons may no longer be so. I am therefore now considering under what circumstances, and to what extent, there should be a shift away from compulsory regimes to voluntary ones.
The Pilotage Commission has proposed that a widespread reappraisal of the pilotage service should be undertaken. In particular, the commission believes that the possibility of a central pilotage authority which would be 396W the pilots' employer, and responsible for the provision of all pilotage services in the United Kingdom, should be examined.