Constitution of Commission

Merchant Shipping Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 30th March 1979.

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Photo of Mr Ian Lloyd Mr Ian Lloyd , Havant and Waterloo 12:00 am, 30th March 1979

I beg to move amendment No. 1, in page 1, line 6, leave out from beginning to the end of line 31 on page 15.

Photo of Mr Myer Galpern Mr Myer Galpern , Glasgow Shettleston

With this we may consider amendment No. 43, in schedule 1, page 58, line 2, leave out from beginning to the end of line 25 on page 65.

Photo of Mr Ian Lloyd Mr Ian Lloyd , Havant and Waterloo

Until a moment ago, it was not clear to me that my amendment was to be called, and I am glad to find that it has been. Perhaps I may start by referring to my interest in this matter. In the past when speaking on shipping matters, I have always found it necessary and wise to declare an interest, and on this occasion, too, I declare the same interest though I think that it will soon become clear that I am not speaking in any sense on behalf of or defending the interests which I happen to have in the shipping industry.

Second, I feel that I should at the outset say whether I have any competence to speak on questions of pilotage. I fear that my competence is very limited. My most professional experience of Pilotage is as a pilot of aircraft, not of ships, although I suppose that, as the owner of small craft. I have piloted small craft into more ports and harbours in the United Kingdom than have probably quite a number of professional pilots who have piloted vessels year in and year out into two or three particular ports and harbours. Perhaps I have some slightly exceptional personal knowledge of what I am talking about in that context.

However, my purpose in moving the amendment is to refer to what I can only describe as the ominous opening sentence of clause 1, and all my amendments would, of course, turn on the question whether clause 1 was accepted ultimately as part of the Bill. Clause 1 (1) provides that There shall be a body corporate, to be called the Pilotage Commission. It is to that proposal that I shall direct most of my remarks.

In his interesting contributions to the debate in Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Wirral (Mr. Hunt) pointed out that there have been two previous occasions when the House of Commons was asked to establish a corporate body in this field. They were interesting occasions. The first was in 1836, and that failed. The second was in 1911, and that also failed, although it took a few years to do so. Today, we are asked to consider this proposal again in what I am sure will be regarded as quite exceptional parliamentary circumstances.

The objects of the corporate body, as I understand them, are essentially to give advice. One is not told a great deal about the sources or directions of that advice, but the questions to which I particularly address myself are these. First, does such a body exist already? Second, is its advice freely available? Third, is its advice qualitatively deficient in any sense? Fourth, is it based on representative experience?

I believe that those questions should have been asked much more rigorously than they appear to have been in the Standing Committee.

My hon. Friend the Member for Wirral said—I was interested to hear it, because I strongly agree—that he had a natural reluctance to counternance the establishment of further quangos, and he coined the expression "quasi-quango". I should not describe this organisation as a quango. I should describe it—if I may coin the term—as a "quago", a quasi-autonomous governmental organisation, which is a slightly different thing. But its parentage is somewhat dubious. One could describe it as being by ACOP, the Advisory Committee on Pilotage, out of SCOP, the Steering Committee on Pilotage.

I should regard that, as I say, as a somewhat dubious parentage. It was, I think, once said of the Duchess of Buckingham that she was the natural daughter of the wife of James II, who was herself the natural daughter of someone else—a somewhat unnatural succession of events. But this proposal in the Bill seems to be even more unnatural in many ways.

My hon. Friend went on to say—I fear that this is where I must take issue with him on an important aspect—that the proposal came with the blessing of the industry, albeit reluctant in some quarters. This is one of the reasons why I suspect the Bill's parentage, by ACOP out of SCOP and with the blessing of both Front Benches.

My second reason for doubt is that I regard this as something of a "Q" Bill. Like a Q ship, it slips through unseen in the dead of night, and a Friday morning immediately before a Dissolution and general election I regard as being precisely the equivalent of dead of night. Once on the statute book, this apparently innocuous measure, this measure which is said to have the agreement of so many people in so many parts of the country, will be found to be as deadly as a Q ship and, when the sides drop down, its full armament will be revealed.

I turn immediately to the question of reluctant blessing. When these proposals were first announced, Trinity House was reported as follows: Costly, largely unwelcome, and unnecessary—that is how Trinity House views plans for a Central Pilotage Board for Britain. The report in the press cutting that I have here went on to say that emphasis is placed, in our view incorrectly, on the unanimity of the report and it is stated that its recommendations are substantially agreed by the Government, with only minor reservations. It went on to report Sir David Tibbits, the most recently retired deputy master of Trinity House. In a letter to me Sir David stated: I think the first paper explains pretty well the problems which we have had. You could not know, however, the conditions under which the Steering Committee on Pilotage were set up. Pilotage has always been a controversial and difficult subject because there are so few marine pilots relatively (between 1600 and 1700) and every one of them is an individualist otherwise he would not be a pilot in the first place. The role of the Pilotage Authority, whether Trinity House or the many others in the big ports around the coast, is that of administrator, always under pressure from the four vested interests in marine pilotage. These are respectively the ship owner, the ship's master (whose responsibilities are not necessarily the same as his owner's, although this requires explanation); the port authority: and finally the pilots. I always sum this up by saying that if all four are satisfied, and are complaining about the Pilotage Authority —there was a great deal of evidence of that in Committee— all is well and running smoothly. As soon as any of the protagonists run into difficulties, they then gang up if they can, with the Pilotage Authority for help in dealing with the other three, or two, whatever the case may be. In the same letter he stated that One last point which we find most unsatisfactory is the claim on the part of the Minister of State … that the SCOP report was unanimous. This is not true, although we all signed it, some of us under protest. Many of the members of the SCOP committee signed as individuals and in no way committed their authorities. This particularly applied to Trinity House, the United Kingdom Pilots Association and the General Council of British Shipping. We were informed that our organisations would have two months in which to state any views that they might have on the SCOP report and that they would be taken into account when proposing the views on marine pilotage. This was in the Secretary of State's preamble but has never been acknowledged, nor have the letters which we have all written been answered. The Honourable Company of Master Mariners, who were not signatories, are particularly incensed that their own representation has been ignored. For this reason alone, I trust that any effort to slide through pilotage legislation, possibly attached to a merchant shipping Bill, should be contested if possible. I regard that as damning evidence.

Photo of Mr Robert Adley Mr Robert Adley , Christchurch and Lymington

Will my hon. Friend tell us the date of that letter?

Photo of Mr Ian Lloyd Mr Ian Lloyd , Havant and Waterloo

Yes, March 1976.

I give another example of the attitude of those who are likely to be affected. I shall not name the individual concerned, as I consider that it would not be fair to do so. However, he is a senior marine superintendent. He states: Whilst Trinity House and the Elder Brothers are essentially benevolent they are not good at public relations. We know that. He continues: This may be due to the fact that the Elder Brothers, which are the Board, are either senior naval officers or masters from the Merchant Navy.Technically this is excellent, but they tend to paint a rather autocratic picture. These are not autocratic times and many practical people connected with the sea and ports consider that to keep abreast of the times it would be better if the Board of Trinity House was reconstituted on a wider base to include capable persons from other walks of life.To sum up. I do not think Trinity House as constituted would be acceptable as a national pilotage authority but reconstituted on more democratic lines could be a sensible compromise. That, as most of us know, is precisely what Trinity House endeavoured to do when it set up its own advisory committee to provide all concerned with the advice that the new centralised State organisation is supposed to give.

11.45 a.m.

I quote another source, which is equally authoritative and which I think the House should hear. It was written after Trinity House had proposed its new committee. The letter reads: Thank you for this most interesting paper; I am glad to see that Trinity House has taken such a positive step. Generally speaking, I am in total agreement with all that they write. On grounds of economy and efficiency the introduction of a national body would be a retrograde step. All pilotage authorities demand a degree of local administration (utilising persons with a firm knowledge of the local conditions etc.) and the Sub-Commissioners of Pilotage attached to Trinity House are ideal in this respect. The letter goes on to suggest that it would be inappropriate for this Commission to have executive or legislative powers—it should be purely advisory. To that extent, and to that extent only, a condition has been met.

My hon. Friend the Member for Christ-church and Lymington (Mr. Adley) asked for the date of the letter written by the most recently retired deputy master of Trinity House. I shall now quote from the Deputy Master of Trinity House, whom I telephoned last night to discuss this issue. The deputy master expressed to me last night his continuing concern about pilotage measures. In a document produced not long ago he stated: In this way, we believe, that by co-ordination —he is referring to the Trinity House proposal— with the Department of Trade, the Trinity House Pilotage Advisory Board could achieve the primary objectives of the SCOP report while maintaining our usual Trinity House open door policy' on personal matters.This approach is most desirable in dealing with specialist marine pilots who shoulder great responsibility and who do a job of work under often very trying conditions, with a record of safety and service second to none. Their self-employed status must be respected. The Advisory Board will not supplant local pilotage sub-commissions or interfere with the valuable contribution they make to day-today running of pilotage services.In summary, by making this initiative, we in Trinity House wish to avoid a costly, largely unwelcome and unnecessary upheaval of setting up a Central Pilotage Authority as recommended by SCOP, with the inevitable added bureaucracy that would go with it So often these days we see bureaucracy take the reigns and lose the common touch. Let us have no 'Folly at the helm and wisdom under the hatches' where marine pilotage is concerned. We have seen a certain amount of folly at the helm, and perhaps too little wisdom under the hatches.

Photo of Mr Arthur Blenkinsop Mr Arthur Blenkinsop , South Shields

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that many of us on both sides of the House have met Trinity House representatives and have had discussions with them? They have submitted papers and various proposals. None of them has suggested the root and branch alteration and opposition that the hon. Gentleman is advancing.

Photo of Mr Ian Lloyd Mr Ian Lloyd , Havant and Waterloo

I am interested to hear the hon. Gentleman say that. I have recited what I have been told as recently as last night. I have referred to the information and written comments that I have had in my file for some time. I shall be interested to know whether the situation has changed so dramatically that the organisations involved are no longer in opposition. However, if that were the position, my own opposition would not be diminished, for the reasons that I am about to put before the House.

Photo of Mr Julian Ridsdale Mr Julian Ridsdale , Harwich

I have had close conversations with Trinity House representatives and with the pilots. In my opinion, which is based on the conversations that I have had, my hon. Friend is putting a slant on these matters, which he is using for his own argument and which is not the fact.

Photo of Mr Ian Lloyd Mr Ian Lloyd , Havant and Waterloo

Naturally I pay attention to what my hon. Friend says. I spent most of the night reading most of the reports of the proceedings in Committee. I have read the full debate on the subject. Despite what my hon. Friend says, I am not moved from my opposition to the proposal to set up a completely new centralised Government organisation to do something which for centuries has been most adequately done by Trinity House. That is a proposal that I am not prepared to support. I shall develop that argument in relation to clause 1 and the rest of my amendments.

Photo of Mr Myer Galpern Mr Myer Galpern , Glasgow Shettleston

The House has before it amendments Nos. 1 and 43. Did the hon. Gentleman refer to new clauses?

Photo of Mr Ian Lloyd Mr Ian Lloyd , Havant and Waterloo

No. In speaking to my amendment, I am proposing that the clause should not stand part of the Bill. I think that that is an argument that I am entitled to deploy.

Photo of Mr Ian Lloyd Mr Ian Lloyd , Havant and Waterloo

It seems that every quango, every nationalised industry and every State body corporate is supposed to have proper safeguards and a proper balance. Safeguards and balance are supposed to be the main objectives of the new body. That is dubious in two respects.

I do not think that safeguards and balance are necessarily undesirable objectives. They are obviously desirable in almost any form of organisation. However, there is no evidence that the safeguards, balance and representation already provided in the institutions and machinery of Trinity House—an organisation about which I have seldom, if ever, heard any substantial or serious criticism—would necessarily be improved merely by establishing a central Government organisation.

I turn specifically to the question of Trinity House. I regard this as a wholly successful and efficient private organisation. There is no doubt of that. Let us look at its history. I do not want to extend this too far. Many hon. Members will remember that a very great parliamentarian, the late Sir Winston Churchill, addressed the Elder Brethren of Trinity House on important occasions during the war. It seems that this organisation reflects the best of British tradition. It is representative, authoritative and non-subsidised. It carries out its purposes and functions in a wholly pragmatic way. It deals with the problems of pilotage and has done so for four and a half centuries without any difficulty and with great success. Despite this, we propose in the Bill a modification of this organisation—almost as if to say that if we cannot compete with it, we must legislate.

For these reasons, we should reject clauses 1 to 13. The argument is not that some should be represented on Trinity House—I understand that—but that Trinity House should be represented. The words "properly represented" do not enhance the objective of this new centralised Government organisation. My hon. Friend the Member for Harwich (Mr. Ridsdale) said in Committee that we must be careful not to create a body with extensive powers. It seems to me that we have done just that. He said, in an interesting speech with which I agreed, that we must beware of centralising. But what is that if it is not a centralised body? He said—and I agree entirely—that the whole objective was to ensure the safety of navigation.

That brings me to a central point. What evidence do we have of a serious deficiency in the safety of navigation which is due to the failure of the present pilotage authorities—either Trinity House or the autonomous pilotage authorities—to perfom their duties properly?

There have been navigational disasters which were wholly associated with the vast increase in the amount of shipping, much of it oil. However, I do not believe that there is any direct or specific proof of correlation between what may be an increase in navigational disasters and the deficiences of those bodies presently responsible for them. What evidence is there that this is attributable directly to pilotage authorities? I believe there to be none.

My hon. Friend the Member for Tyne-mouth (Mr. Trotter), in an equally interesting speech, said that the House had not been involved in this matter for 60 years. I was delighted to hear that. I hope that this House will not be involved in the matter for another 60 years. In the present organisation of Trinity House and pilotage in this country, we have wholly adequate and successful organisations. We do not need backdoor nationalisation of pilotage. We do not need a Bill of this kind to be rushed through today. Although it may have been discussed in detail upstairs, there is unlikely to be the opportunity for the full discussion that it deserves downstairs.

My hon. Friend the Member for Essex, South-East (Sir B. Braine) said that the Committee was there to voice the public interest. So is the House. The public interest now suggests that the move towards more collectivism, centralism, Government organisation and public expenditure is something from which the people of this country now wish to retreat. I may have to qualify that judgment in four weeks' time, but that is my judgment at the moment. If that be true, is this the time, the occasion and the purpose when we should continue this move towards Government organisation, more public expenditure, more centralism and quangos? My view is that this is not the occasion.

Photo of Mr David Hunt Mr David Hunt , Wirral

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Havant and Waterloo (Mr. Lloyd) for raising the issue of pilotage. Undoubtedly, he feels strongly on this matter. It is better that he expresses those views in the debate so that we may take account of them and seek to answer them. We are well aware of his expertise in the matter. I agree with him that Trinity House represents the best of British tradition. It is composed of men of great experience and expertise who perform an unpaid, vital task for the country. In agreeing with him on those matters, I point out that Trinity House has, in my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich (Mr. Ridsdale), a fine exponent and advocate in Committee. We spent eight morning sittings in Standing Committee going through the pilotage provisions line by line with constant contributions from my hon. Friend, who sought to ensure that the Committee was aware of the vital role that Trinity House played. May I reply briefly to some of the points made by my hon. Friend?

My hon. Friend the Member for Havant and Waterloo referred to substantial objections that Trinity House put forward to the SCOP report. We are dealing with a situation that goes back a long way. My hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) set up the SCOP committee in September 1973. Since then there has been the most extensive debate on these important issues on both sides of the House. The SCOP report was greeted with some hostility. Mr. David Tibbits signed the SCOP report. Nevertheless, there was a great deal of indignation about its provisions. Those were strongly taken into account. I assure my hon. Friend that if we were dealing with pilotage provisions based on the SCOP report they would not be greeted with approval by the Opposition. Neither, I imagine, would they be met with approval by Government supporters. What happened then was that the ACOP committee sat. I do not think that my hon. Friend paid sufficient tribute to the work of Captain Mason, the elder brother of Trinity House, who sat on the ACOP committee and put forward strongly the views represented by my hon. Friend this morning.

Eventually, we were presented with pilotage provisions based on the ACOP report. We have taken immense trouble—that is recognised by Trinity House—to consult Trinity House on every possible occasion. We have had tremendous help over the past few months, especially from the deputy master, who came to the House to address a meeting of the Conservative shipping committee. I cannot remember whether my hon. Friend was present on that occasion. He dealt convincingly with the major point of difficulty, the advisory nature of the commission. We argued that we saw this commission as an advisory body. Unfortunately, our amendments were defeated in Committee. However, I hope that it will be the next Conservative Government who will administer and set up the commission. Indeed, the matter is still in the hands of Parliament under clause 4(2), which lays down the further functions given to the Pilotage Commission.

Photo of Mr Ian Lloyd Mr Ian Lloyd , Havant and Waterloo

What advice, quantitative or qualitative, can the Pilotage Commission give—either to the Secretary of State or any other interested party—that is not already available in superb quality from Trinity House?

Photo of Mr David Hunt Mr David Hunt , Wirral

My hon. Friend should not get the impression that it is Trinity House versus the Pilotage Commission. The continuing expertise of Trinity House will be available through the commission, but it will be joined by other important elements in the shipping industry in combining to give that advice. That is surely the most important point. I hope that Trinity House will be playing the most important part within the new commission.

12 noon

During the extensive consultations that we have had, it has never on any occasion—this was reinforced by my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich—been put to us that Trinity House wishes to oppose this part of the Bill. Indeed, I spoke to the deputy master yesterday—albeit at an earlier hour than my hon. Friend—and he made very clear to me that the last intention of Trinity House was to sabotage the provisions of the Bill.

There are 12 fears which have been put to us by Trinity House, and I have had a number of meetings since we finished the Committee stage on 15 March. I have answered some of those. The deputy master believes that I have, and he has confirmed it. Much will depend on the way in which the commission is set up.

Although my hon. Friend may decry the consensus, there is no doubt—this has been made quite clear by the United Kingdom Pilots Association and by the pilots themselves—that this is a package deal which has been agreed to unanimously by all members of the Advisory Committee on Pilotage, including Captain Mason. I pay tribute to the members of ACOP and, indeed, to SCOP for the very effective work they did. I also pay tribute to Trinity House and to the General Council of British Shipping, the Association of Pilotage Authorities, the British Ports Association and the unions, including the Transport and General Workers Union, the Merchant Navy and Airline Officers' Association, the pilots' organisations and all the smaller groups which have been discussing this matter with us. This package deal was agreed by that Committee, composed of shipowners, pilots, pilotage authorities and ports.

Photo of Mr Ian Lloyd Mr Ian Lloyd , Havant and Waterloo

My hon. Friend referred to the conversations that we both had with Captain Wingate. It was made very clear to me by Captain Wingate that he has no wish or intention to sabotage the whole Bill, and neither have I, but it was made abundantly clear that he would welcome any move to delete the pilotage clauses. I am sure that he would confirm that. As for package deals, obviously all these issues represent compromises between various interests. It is always so. But within the total package I would like to think that there was sometimes a greater recognition of one organisation that is never represented when package deals are concluded, and that is the public interest.

Photo of Mr David Hunt Mr David Hunt , Wirral

I hope that we have always had the public interest in mind when we have been considering the setting up of the commission. I am sure that, on reflection, my hon. Friend would recognise that, in particular, as he has read the proceedings in Committee. I would, however, like to support him on one matter, and we made this point in Committee. We would have much preferred to see a separate pilotage Bill. I have always felt—and I have made this point several times to the Minister—that it would have been far better to amend the Merchant Shipping Act 1911 by a separate pilotage Bill, but it must be recognised that we have been considering this matter since at least 1973. We have a consensus now and we must be very careful not to lose it, because it is a vital consensus.

I am sure that this is not the last occasion on which we shall be discussing pilotage, because we now have a number of things to do over the establishment of the commission as soon as the new Parliament is convened. I have expressed the view that we need a consolidating pilotage Bill. Some of the provisions have been rather piecemeal and I would like to see an opportunity provided to discuss a new consolidating Bill at an early opportunity. I understand that work is going ahead on that at the moment.

I hope that my hon. Friend will accept from me—and from my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich, who intervened—that at no stage has Trinity House wished us to remove clauses 1 to 13. That has never been communicated to me. I am sure that, on reflection, nobody would put that forward, for we should then lose what I believe to be a vital consensus, which not only has the interests of the industry at heart but also has the interests of the public and the safety of mariners paramount in it.

Photo of Mr Clinton Davis Mr Clinton Davis , Hackney Central

The hon. Member for Havant and Waterloo (Mr. Lloyd)—in the days when I was in that area the constituency was called Portsmouth, Lang-stone—has made a very robust attack on the whole concept which has been supported basically by each side of the House and by the industry as a whole. I was referring previously to hyperbolic aids. The hon. Gentleman seems to think that he can use hyperbole to aid his argument, and that is what has happened throughout.

There has been a tremendous measure of development since the SCOP report. We have had the ACOP report. I join the hon. Member for Wirral (Mr. Hunt) in the praise he offered to the members of each committee. They performed an invaluable service in scrutinising, with the greatest possible care, all the arguments which have to be adduced in this important area. I do not think that the hon. Member for Havant and Waterloo gave proper credit to those who were involved and provided this invaluable service, nor do I think, with respect—perhaps this is an inappropriate time at which to say it—that he paid proper credit to his hon. Friend the Member for Wirral, who led the Conservative side on this matter with some considerable distinction, if I may say so. He scrutinised these matters and gave them careful consideration. It is quite wrong to suggest that the Committee bypassed this matter and did not give it the consideration it deserved.

There is a history now of years of consideration. The hon. Member for Havant and Waterloo exaggerated the position; in fact, so much so that he destroyed his own case. I will put one question back to the hon. Gentleman. Against that background of consideration, does he think that there is unanimity for the view that the status quo should be supported? That is a question to which he did not address his mind. I can tell him that there would be no unanimity for that. That, in my view, is a conclusive argument against his denunciation of the considerations which have been given to this matter.

Photo of Mr Ian Lloyd Mr Ian Lloyd , Havant and Waterloo

I was not suggesting for one moment that there was unanimity for the proposition that the status quo should be maintained. What I suggest is that a combination of organisations, Trinity House and the other pilotage authorities, which over a period of four and half centuries have managed to deal with the evolving status quo, are quite capable of doing so again without its being necessary to establish a new governmental organisation.

Photo of Mr Clinton Davis Mr Clinton Davis , Hackney Central

There is a need, however, to enrich advice from time to time, to expand on it, and to benefit from the help of others who have a contribution to make. I do not believe that there is a monopoly of wisdom in this regard or, indeed, in any other field that one cares to name, whether it is politics, the law or anything else. That is the point that the hon. Gentleman singularly fails to acknowledge.

This is not a quango, either. My hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives (Mr. Nott) said clearly on Second Reading that this is not a quango. This is an organisation which is supported financially by the shipping industry. I shall not go into all the ridiculous arguments about dubious parentage and all that stuff. The hon. Member for Havant and Waterloo can, if he wishes, buttress his arguments in that way. There is no great bureaucracy here. We are talking about a membership of a maximum of 15, including the chairman. What huge bureaucracy is that? The industry is prepared to bear that.

I believe that the sort of precedent that was established through the composition of ACOP—well-balanced geograpically, well-balanced in its composition in terms of membership, and well-balanced in the wide variety of types of pilotage organisation represented there—constitutes a useful precedent on which we can now build.

I make no criticisms of Trinity House, but there is a time when we have to change and enlarge our experience. It was not possible to satisfy everybody—of course it was not.

As the hon. Member for Wirral said, this is not a package deal. What the provisions do is modernise pilotage, provide for self-regulation of the industry, greatly improve our compulsory pilotage arrangements, and set up a new well-informed body to advise all interests on further modernisation of the industry. As a result, I believe that this will contribute massively to safety around our coasts. I believe that the credibility, which will depend upon retaining a consensus for this Pilotage Commission, will enable the Pilotage Commission to establish itself as an authority that will not fail because of the rather dubious precedents that the hon. Member for Wirral brought into aid. As I have said before, this will be a very real contribution to the objectives that I imagine the overwhelming number of hon. Members wish to see achieved.

Amendment negatived.

Photo of Mr Stephen Ross Mr Stephen Ross , Isle of Wight

I beg to move amendment No. 2, in page 1, line 13, after 'pilots', insert '(who shall occupy at least six places on the Commission);'. I do not wish to hold up the Bill any longer than necessary, because I accept that all sections of the industry wish to see it enacted and on the statute book before this Parliament dissolves. However, it is the duty of hon. Members at least to take note of the further representations received from pilots. I am particularly concerned with that, because I have a number of pilots in my constituency.

I read the report of the Standing Committee and I should like to remind the Minister that towards the end of that debate he said that he did not want to hasten into any ill-considered draft clauses, that this was a matter that could be dealt with on Report, and there would be time to deal with it. Those were his words.

I realise that there is not much time left but I also realise that there was general agreement on both sides of the Committee that there certainly should be a substantial pilotage representation on the commission. I believe that the figure of three was agreed to be too low and an amendment was put forward in which the figures of 5 and 7 were mentioned. It was said that 7 was too high and 5 was too low. I have suggested the figure of 6, and all I can ask—and I ask both Front Benches to consider this—is whether the Minister and the Opposition spokesman can give an undertaking to pilots this afternoon that a figure of 6, as I have suggested, is in the mind of both parties, whoever actually implements the Bill.

Photo of Mr Clinton Davis Mr Clinton Davis , Hackney Central

The objectives of the Pilotage Commission, as distinct from local pilotage committees, will be of a wide-ranging nature, reflecting the broad, national pilotage interests. It is right, therefore, that the membership of the commission should reflect the varying interests that will define objectives. There must be a balance. I spoke about that in the last debate. I also spoke of the geographical balance that needs to be maintained. However, the balance must enable the wide-ranging interests of the industry as a whole to be reflected.

In Committee I quoted ACOP as an example that could be built on in this respect. What it did was to have an independent chairman, four pilot members, three ship owners, three from the ports—one of whom is also chairman of the local pilotage committee—and two from pilotage authorities. What happened was that a slight edge was given to the pilots because of that composition. I believe that that was right. However, I believe that six pilot members would be too many. I think that it would unbalance the commission. Moreover, it would be difficult to achieve the delicate numerical balance that would be necessary for the commission, bearing in mind the criteria to which I have already referred.

12.15 p.m.

I therefore firmly resisted defining precise numbers for the representation of each interest, because it would remove the degree of flexibility that is needed to attain the balances of which I have spoken. I say to the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross) that I believe that that view is still correct. If we unbalanced it in the way suggested by the hon. Member, there would be considerable pressure to make the Commission a much more bureaucratic organisation, with a larger membership. I hope that the hon. Member accepts that the ACOP precedent is one that it would be right to build on.

At this juncture, it would be quite wrong for me to appoint the chairman of the Pilotage Commission. If Parliament had sat for several more months, one would, of course, have been under a duty to do that, but I believe that it is wrong to do that, because we must not pre-empt the role of the next Labour Government and the next Labour Minister in this matter.

Photo of Mr Robert Adley Mr Robert Adley , Christchurch and Lymington

We cannot wait for the next 20 years.

Photo of Mr Clinton Davis Mr Clinton Davis , Hackney Central

No, no—just four weeks. Having said that, I hope that the hon. Member for Isle of Wight will think that the arguments that I have adduced are sufficient to urge him to ask leave to withdrew the amendment.

Photo of Mr Arthur Blenkinsop Mr Arthur Blenkinsop , South Shields

I want to intervene only very briefly, because I raised this matter in Committee. Like the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross), I am concerned about the position of pilots. I believe that all of us felt that three was too few on the ground of trying to ensure geographical representation. This was the issue that many pilots put to me very strongly indeed. If we can be assured that the number will be more than three, we can accept the position as it stands in the Bill.

Photo of Mr David Hunt Mr David Hunt , Wirral

I believe that I had a question addressed directly to me by the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross). I should just like him to know that I wish we had the benefit of his experience on the Committee, because I am aware of his expertise in these matters, and also because we would have defeated clause 31 had he been present at an earlier stage.

I know the arguments put forward extremely cogently by the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Blenkinsop) in Committee. I also pay tribute again to my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich (Mr. Ridsdale), who has put considerable pressure on me on this topic. I cannot possibly bind my future hon. Friend the Minister who will be implementing these provisions. Without that commitment, I can say that we realise the vital importance of ensuring that pilotage interests are substantially safeguarded.

Photo of Mr Stephen Ross Mr Stephen Ross , Isle of Wight

I do not wish to hold up the proceedings one minute longer. We heard the earlier remarks of the hon. Member for Havant and Waterloo (Mr. Lloyd) about the role of Trinity House. In my speech during Second Reading—I know the hon. Member for Harwich (Mr. Ridsdale) made the same point—I said that I was disappointed that Trinity House had not played its role. I realise that it was because of the opposition of pilots, and not the members of Trinity House, that this particular measure had not come forward.

However, I make the plea that I believe that it is essential that there should be substantial pilotage representation on the commission, otherwise we would tend to go back to where we were before. I am quite satisfied with the observations that have been made, and I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Mr Clinton Davis Mr Clinton Davis , Hackney Central

I beg to move amendment No. 3, in page 1, line 15 leave out from first "wide" to "the" in line 17 and insert practical experience of the management of ships;

  1. (bb) persons appearing to the Secretary of State to have wide practical experience of the administration of pilotage services;
  2. (bbb) persons appearing to the Secretary of State to have wide practical experience of".

Photo of Mr Myer Galpern Mr Myer Galpern , Glasgow Shettleston

With this amendment we may take Government amendments Nos. 4 and 5.