Pilotage Directions

Orders of the Day — Debtors (Scotland) Bill [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 9:15 pm on 9th April 1987.

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Photo of Michael Spicer Michael Spicer Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport) 9:15 pm, 9th April 1987

I beg to move amendment No. 33, in page 7, line 37, after 'apply' insert `to ships of less than 20 metres in length or'.

The First Deputy Chairman:

With this we shall take Government amendment No. 35.

Photo of Michael Spicer Michael Spicer Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

The Bill as drafted provides for no general exemption from compulsory pilotage for pleasure craft or other small vessels. The decision about which vessels need to have pilots is best left to the competent harbour authorities. There is no reason to believe that any of them would be foolish enough to try to place a pilot on every small yacht that entered the harbour. However, as the anxieties of yachtsmen have been expressed to me and to Lord Brabazon by hon. Members on both sides, and as we believe that it is of little practical significance, we have decided to retain the exemption for the compulsory pilotage of yachts. Amendment No. 33, therefore, exempts all vessels of less than 20 m in length.

Amendment No. 35 is a drafting amendment to omit "vessels" and to insert "ships", which is the term that is used throughout the Bill.

Amendment agreed to.

Photo of Mr Malcolm Thornton Mr Malcolm Thornton , Crosby

I beg to move amendment No. 34, in page 7, line 41, leave out paragraph (a).

The First Deputy Chairman:

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 83, in page 7, line 43, leave out 'other'.

No. 36, in page 7, line 44, at end insert `and ( ) any persons representative of public bodies appearing to it to have an interest in the area to which a pilotage direction applies'. New clause 1 — Temporary procedure for resolving disputes as to provision of pilotage directions— ' —(1) Where any dispute arise between a competent harbour authority and any of the parties mentioned in section 7(4) above—

  1. (a) as to what the terms of any provision in any pilotage direction should be; or
  2. (b) as to whether the terms of any provision in any existing pilotage direction should be modified,
and that dispute cannot be resolved by negotiations between them, any of the parties to the dispute may refer the dispute to the panel appointed in accordance with subsection (2) below and the panel shall determine what the terms of that provision should be and the pilotage direction to which their determination is to apply ("relevant direction").(2) The panel referred to in subsection (1) above shall consist of a member appointed by the Secretary of State and two members appointed respectively by a body appearing to the Secretary of State to be representative of harbour authorities throughout the United Kingdom and a body appearing to him to be representative of the owners of vessels throughout the United Kingdom.(3) Where the panel make a determination under subsection (1) above then, subject to any agreement to the contrary between the parties and to the effect of any subsequent determination under this section—
  1. (a) on and after the date on which the determination is made any relevant direction issued before that date shall have effect with the substitution for any inconsistent provision of a provision in the terms determined by the panel; and
  2. (b) any relevant direction issued on or after that date shall contain a provision in those terms.
(4) Subject to the provisions of this section, the Secretary of State may by regulations make such provision as he thinks fit as respects the referral and determination of disputes under subsection (1) above and such regulations may, in particular, provide that the expenses of such referrals and determinations are to be borne by the Pilotage Commission or by such other person as the Secretary of State thinks fit.(5) The preceding provisions of this section shall cease to have effect on such date (not being earlier than the expiry of the period of three years beginning with the appointed day) as the Secretary of State may by order prescribe, but no such order shall affect the provisions of any pilotage directions continuing in force at that date.'.

Photo of Mr Malcolm Thornton Mr Malcolm Thornton , Crosby

It is acknowledged that at present most harbour authorities normally have to consult the General Council of British Shipping and sometimes the pilotage authority before making or amending regulations regarding the movement and berthing of ships. It is also acknowledged that under the present pilotage law, the Pilotage Commission has a duty to consult those persons who are likely to be affected when they fulfil their function of reviewing pilotage areas and non-compulsory areas, with an ultimate right of objection to the Secretary of State. Those duties, to consult both specifically and generally the General Council of British Shipping, really belong to an age long gone when British shipping flourished and when shipowners were based in most major ports and could be identified. That is not the case today.

British ships using British ports represent, sadly, only a very small percentage of all ships using British ports, and there are fewer British shipowners with any local base.

The Green Paper—this theme is repeated in the White Paper—tells us: The statutory framework and administration of pilotage should he simple, with responsibility for decisions resting at the local level as far as possible, to take account of the differing navigational hazards in different harbours. In Committee in the other place, the Minister said: In addition, to give my right hon. Friend the power to override the decisions of the competent harbour authorities in this area would represent a serious dilution of the responsibility for pilotage which it is the intention of the Bill to place fairly and squarely on the shoulders of the competent harbour authorities…As in the case of harbour authorities' responsibility for the safety of navigation, the responsibility for pilotage would be laid unequivocally on the harbour authorities…We would immediately be back in these sterile debates which have characterised the existing system, with local issues being referred up to the national level and being bedevilled by national arguments. —[Official Report, House of Lords, Public Bill Committee, 9 December 1986; c. 15–16.] It has been said that the Bill is designed to simplify the statutory framework and administration of pilotage. In a Bill designed to place responsibilities for pilotage fairly and squarely on the shoulders of the local competent harbour authority, surely it is an anachronism to perpetuate a consultation process that belongs to another age. Therefore, on that score, it is unnecessary.

Photo of Mr Roger Moate Mr Roger Moate , Faversham

Is my hon. Friend going so far as to suggest that the users of a port have nothing to contribute by way of their experience or knowledge regarding what should or should not be the pilotage requirements of a particular area?

Photo of Mr Malcolm Thornton Mr Malcolm Thornton , Crosby

I am not saying that, nor am I responsible for the drafting of the Bill. My hon. Friend will appreciate that I am profoundly unhappy about many parts of the Bill. However, I am dealing with the Bill as it stands and accepting the reality of the situation. I am seeking to find an equitable course to steer between what the Government are seeking to achieve in the Bill and what I believe is a proper course regarding the competent harbour authorities' future responsibilities for pilotage areas.

I find it odd that we should have a particular provision for a special group in the Bill when, for the reasons that I have suggested, it no longer seems relevant. The Minister has said that evidence has shown that such involvement leads to "sterile debates". Such a consultation process has contributed in no small measure to the destruction of the present system.

Photo of Mr Roger Moate Mr Roger Moate , Faversham

I was directing my inquiry to my hon. Friend's first amendment, in which my hon. Friend asserts that there should not be even the necessity for consultation with the regular users of a port. In that sense, is my hon. Friend saying that he does not believe that regular users of the port have anything to contribute to the consultative process?

Photo of Mr Malcolm Thornton Mr Malcolm Thornton , Crosby

If my hon. Friend had listened to what I said, he would know that the answer to that is no. I do not believe that regular users should not be allowed to contribute. Clearly they have something to say. Why has the General Council of British Shipping been singled out in this respect? I believe that that is unnecessary.

I have al ready said that pilotage is essentially a local matter and that consultation should be a local level only. I believe that pilotage areas—my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham (Mr. Moate) discussed this when we debated amendment No. 1—are best determined at local level. Indeed, they have grown up over the years as a result of custom and practice and with regard to what is necessary in the particular area.

Under the terms of the Bill it is possible for a competent harbour authority to decide to change its pilotage area. It can do so in an almost arbitrary fashion. I believe that there should be a local input, which may well include the type of port users referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham and would certainly include those local authorities that have coastal waters that may be affected by a change of pilotage areas and boundaries. Coastal authorities may face the prospect of an oil spillage or spillage from a ship carrying chemicals—there are some strange cargoes carried around our coasts at the moment.

The prospects of environmental pollution, damage or disaster are not matters that any responsible coastal authority can lightly contemplate, nor should they be excluded from any consultation process. They have the right to be consulted if a competent harbour authority decides to change the pilotage area. It is clear that the public have a vital interest in the safety of navigation in port areas. They have an interest that can be satisfied by including the amendment in the Bill.

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace , Orkney and Shetland

The group of amendments that we are discussing contains new clause 1 in my name and the names of my hon. Friends. I shall speak to that new clause later.

First, I should like to comment on some of the remarks made by the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Thornton). I certainly accept much of what he said about the involvement of the public and of interests going beyond those mentioned in the clause as it stands. I do not agree with his suggestion that the owners of vessels that customarily navigate an area should be excluded. As users, they clearly have a very direct interest in the area and no doubt they have considerable expertise. The important thing is that they customarily navigate the area, going in and out of the harbour. If they have done that for many years, they will have something worthwhile to contribute. It would be regrettable if such people were not statutorily involved.

The purpose of the new clause is to provide a safeguard against the imposition of compulsory pilotage on ships navigating within harbour limits where at present compulsory pilotage does not apply. In discussing the previous set of amendments the Minister made a concession to people with yachts. Perhaps he should consider extending this concession to the many small coastal vessels and small cargo ships that trade along our coasts and which up to now have not been subject to compulsory pilotage directions.

We are talking about making provisions that would allow the owners of such ships to be involved in an arbitration procedure if they were dissatisfied with the outcome of negotiations or consultations between the competent harbour authority and themselves. On the face of it, an exemption for ships rather than for masters—this is in clause 8—may look like something that has to be justified. The first ground on which I seek to justify it is that the practice of exemption existed even before the Pilotage Act 1913 was enacted and there does not appear to be any evidence that that has in any way impaired safety over that long period.

We are also talking about ships that regularly ply the coast and use harbours. Obviously, the masters of such ships use the harbours. There are many harbours, and it is almost impossible to suggest that a master should be allowed an exemption certificate for each of the harbours that he has to navigate in the course of a year.

A further important consideration is that cost of pilotage for a fairly small ship can be high. Some estimates put it as high as 30 per cent. of the entire voyage revenue. We have heard many complaints over recent months about the increasing problems that the British merchant fleet is facing. These ships are under the British flag, and to put another imposition on them, in some cases perhaps as much as 30 per cent. of their entire voyage revenue, would be seen by many people as another hurdle to be overcome and another pressure contributing to the diminution of the British fleet. The new clause proposes that there should be some form of arbitration, and the scheme of arbitration suggested is the one that was originally in clause 5 before it was amended. The new clause would probably pass the legislative test and be a competent provision. I hope that the Minister will give serious consideration to that, because a competent harbour authority would effectively have a monopoly and be able to impose compulsory pilotage in the event of a disagreement.

All that we ask and all that the new clause seeks is that, where disagreements exist and exemptions have not been forthcoming, there should at least be some independent arbitration to resolve such matters. I hope that the Minister will respond in positive terms.

Photo of Mr Peter Griffiths Mr Peter Griffiths , Portsmouth North 9:30 pm, 9th April 1987

I find some merit and attraction in new clause 1. I rise to seek clarification and to ask about the effects of amendments Nos. 34, 83 and 36 on the procedures that would follow subsequent to a decision by a competent harbour authority to extend the powers of compulsory pilotage.

There appears to be a strange anomaly in that if the competent harbour authority wishes to extend compulsory pilotage outside the harbour area it has no direct powers to do so, but must seek a harbour revision order which, under the Harbours Act 1964, as I understand it, is granted by the Secretary of State and is subject to an appeals procedure. Therefore, the owners of vessels that are affected by this and that will be affected in cost terms by the imposition of compulsory pilotage would have a straightforward appeals procedure and the ability to object to someone who was not a concerned party with the making of the order.

However, oddly, when the competent harbour authority seeks to extend compulsory pilotage within the harbour, the Bill provides for consultation with the owners of vessels and other persons who carry on harbour operations. I am sure that that is valuable, but it appears to be markedly less helpful to the operators of vessels than are the provisions that apply outside, where there is a third and independent party, the Secretary of State. After all, the right to be consulted by a competent harbour authority, which is itself already committed to extending the powers of compulsory pilotage, does not seem to confer much opportunity on the operators of vessels to object to such an order.

New Clause 1 may well get round that by providing a system for arbitration which appears to be more fair. However, before deciding my attitude to the new clause and, indeed, to the amendments that have been tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Thornton). I should like the Minister to explain why he considers it essential that we have a system of appeals outside the harbour area, whereas we only have consultation within the harbour.

Photo of Dr Norman Godman Dr Norman Godman , Greenock and Port Glasgow

I have some sympathy with new clause 1. However, I must express some reservations about amendment No. 34 because it seeks the deletion of subsection (4)(a) which refers to the owners of vessels which customarily navigate in the area to which the proposed direction would apply. There is no mention of the General Council of British Shipping. I think that that is what the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Thornton) said in response to an intervention by his hon. Friend the Member for Faversham (Mr. Moate).

My reservation is that such interested parties have a right to be consulted. Only today I received a letter from Captain Leitch, director of J. and A. Gardner and Co. Ltd. shipowners in Glasgow, which refers to the wide experience of his firm in passages between Cairnryan and Faslane on the Clyde. Such a firm should be consulted by the relevant competent harbour authority, but this amendment would deny it that opportunity.

Incidentally, Captain Leitch seeks to discipline me for misleading the House recently. He refers specifically to my reservations about this amendment and states: You stated that no vessel of over 500 tonnes can proceed along the channel past the entrance to the Holy Loch without a pilot because of stringent local regulations. This is where his company's experience and knowledge comes in— This is totally misleading and incorrect as we have vessels at present whose Masters/Mates hold pilotage certificates trading every day from Cairnryan to Faslane. I am pleased to put Captain Leitch's stricture on the record because I did not mean to mislead the House. His firm has years of experience of navigation on the Clyde, to such an extent that its captains and mates have exemption certificates.

I have listened with great sympathy to many of the speeches of the hon. Member for Crosby tonight, but such a shipping company has every right to be consulted under the clause. Captain Leitch continues: The regulations for this area state that any vessel over 100 tonnes requires a pilot but the Master/Mate of such a vessel can also hold a pilotage certificate to cover the upper reaches of the River Clyde. Firms with that sort of everyday involvement in the traffic on the River Clyde cannot be denied consultation.

Photo of Mr Robert Hughes Mr Robert Hughes , Aberdeen North

I congratulate my hon. Friend on being so honest about misleading the House, but he is being rather hard on himself. What he said was absolutely correct: a vessel would not be allowed to ply without a pilot. The company has assumed the pilot to be an external pilot, but providing the master has a pilot's certificate, he is the pilot.

Photo of Dr Norman Godman Dr Norman Godman , Greenock and Port Glasgow

As always, my hon. Friend has shown his innate kindness and courtesy, and I am grateful for it.

Without labouring the point, shipping firms that use the Clyde, the Forth, the Humber, the Thames, the Dee or the Don on a regular basis must have some recourse to consultations with competent harbour authorities. I hate to say this, but in this case the hon. Gentleman has sailed into danger with this amendment.

Photo of Mr Paul Bryan Mr Paul Bryan , Booth Ferry

I support the hon. Members for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) and for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman) on the necessity to consult competent shipping companies about this matter.

I should like to report to the Minister a slightly more optimistic situation under the Bill on pilotage on the Humber. At present pilotage is compulsory throughout the Humber district. That does not mean that every ship must take a pilot. Certain classes of small ships are exempt from compulsion and exemption certificates are available to some masters who navigate frequently in the district and who pass an examination of their competence in local knowledge.

Associated British Ports, which is the competent harbour authority there, will be seeking to preserve this principle of compulsory pilotage for all but the smallest vessels. However, we believe that, with the possible exception of vessels carrying dangerous and hazardous cargoes, many ships which regularly trade in the Humber should be able to qualify for certificates. It will be necessary for masters to pass an examination in competence and local knowledge, and some proficiency in the English language is obviously required.

On Second Reading I pointed out how highly successful the wharves on the Trent and the Humber are. Some of these suggest there is no need for compulsory pilotage downstream from Hull since, in contrast with the higher waters, the navigation is comparatively straightforward. Therefore this argument is put forward by some of those using Goole, Gainsborough and so on. They will obviously be consulted, but at the end of the day I do not think that the harbour authority is going to be able to let up much on its side.

Photo of Mr Roger Moate Mr Roger Moate , Faversham

I am sure that those affected will be grateful for the assurances that my hon. Friend is relaying to them, but the point of the new clause, as has already been mentioned, is that the port authority should not be judge and jury in these matters. If, for example, ABP or any other port authority were to seek to extend compulsory pilotage to smaller vessels, is my hon. Friend saying that it is right that that authority— ABP in this particular case—should be judge and jury?

Photo of Mr Paul Bryan Mr Paul Bryan , Booth Ferry

I am reporting on the situation as it now and, as almost complete compulsory pilotage operates on the Humber now, any change would be in the other direction altogether, so I do not think that there are great fears.

We must be so cautious on the lower Humber—every hon. Member has his own river to think about—because of the very wide variety of vessels there. As well as the general run of cargo vessels there are numerous tankers carrying gas and oil products, and there are passenger ferries. Of course, some of the passenger ferries do have certificates. The speed of vessels, as well as their size and type, varies tremendously, and then there is the variety of traffic in the presence of substantial petro-chemical installations. All these things make this area a dangerous one, although so far it has been a safe one.

The greater difficulty ahead of us is that now the wharves are going to be, shall I say, under the authority of the harbour authorities. They think that they are going to have very much less flexible arrangements than they have been used to. These arrangements are very important indeed to these wharves. It is the duty of the harbour authority now that it is in charge to preserve both the flexibility and the safety.

Photo of Mr Roger Moate Mr Roger Moate , Faversham

I support fundamentally the principles of this legislation, but there is a sense of disappointment that we have not been able to achieve a certain number of changes that would improve it somewhat. I suspect that I am not alone in feeling somewhat frustrated by the procedures that we are following at this time. I do not think that the House of Commons is ever particularly happy when it is playing second fiddle to the other House. That House has worked very hard on this legislation, but it does mean that by the time it gets to us there is almost a sense of having exhausted every opportunity of lobbying the Minister and seeking concessions. Furthermore, taking the procedure on the Floor of the House and taking all stages in a few hours means that there is very little chance of being able to persuade the Minister, by the force of argument or perhaps even the weight of numbers, to make a concession even at a later stage, because the later stages this evening are rather academic.

Photo of Mr David Harris Mr David Harris , St Ives

Would my hon. Friend note that on the first Division there was a great flurry in the Chamber and the Whips were sent all over London to bring Members back? Does he not take some heart from that?

Photo of Mr Roger Moate Mr Roger Moate , Faversham

I do.

My hon. Friend the Member for Harwich (Sir J. Ridsdale) has established an even greater reputation for rebellion and for causing worry on the Government Front Bench. Alas, even then the Government had a majority of about 40 on the amendment while in Standing Committee they might have had a majority of only four. That concentrates Ministers' minds more acutely than this evening's proceedings.

9.45 pm

Amendment No. 34 and the amendments that accompany it illustrate my point. I believe that we have a strong case for at least an appeal procedure in the early stages of this new legislation. I suspect that the Minister has only to say no and that will be the end of the matter. We will not be able to squeeze anything out of him and we will get no concessions. A vote will result in a substantial Government majority. That is the way of life and what faces us at the moment. However, that is not the best way to carry this legislation through.

I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will listen carefully to our arguments and bear in mind how many hon. Members have spoken tonight in support of the proposition that here should be some appeal broadly against the imposition of new compulsory pilotage directions, at least in the early years. If a competent harbour authority at some time is unreasonable—and, in the nature of things, local authorities and harbour authorities can be unreasonable—and imposes byelaws which some shipowners consider to be unreasonable, those shipowners will go to the Minister and ask what they can do because the harbour authority is imposing compulsory pilotage on small vessels going to that port and the costs are threatening to put the owner out of business. What can the shipowner do? The shipowner will ask the Minister because he believes that the Minister has given monopoly power to that harbour authority.

What will the Minister say? He will say, "Well, there is a consultation requirement in the Act." That is all very well, and consultation is very helpful. However, if consultation has taken place and the users claim that the action is unreasonable, yet the harbour authority still introduces the new regulation imposing pilotage direction, the Minister will say, "I am very sorry. Ultimately that port will learn the folly of its ways and business will be lost." However, that is no consolation to the shipowner who in the meantime may have gone out of business or suffered a loss of trade. After all, a shipowner cannot switch from one port to another. He must take the goods where the shipper or geography dictates that they should be taken.

There is no appeal procedure in such circumstances. I cannot understand why my hon. Friend, representing a Government who believe in competition, is prepared to give a monopoly power to authorities which might not always behave reasonably, without any recourse or right to appeal. New clause 1 contains a sensible and fair arrangement, at least for an interim period. I am very disappointed that we have seen no sign that the Minister is prepared to give any ground on that.

We want clear responsibility transferred to the harbour authorities and we want it to be taken out of the area of governmental decision. I agree with those aims. However, we are now moving into a new era. We have conceded temporary arbitration procedures for pilots. Is it not reasonable that we should provide temporary transitional arbitration or appeal procedures for shippers or shipowners entering those ports? I would have thought that that was eminently reasonable. However, we have had no sign of any concessions. I am very disappointed about that.

I do not think that there is an awareness by my hon. Friend—and I am sure that this is unintentional on his part — of the battles that many of those shipping companies have had to endure to survive. The sheer burden of costs makes it exceedingly difficult for many shipping companies to survive, especially those operating the smaller coastal vessels. Those companies have used tremendous initiative and cost-cutting techniques to remain in business. If an unreasonable port authority imposed pilotage requirements on smaller vessels, some of those shipping companies could be put out of business at a time when we are all desperate for our Merchant Navy to survive and, indeed, expand. I do not think that my hon. Friend the Minister has made any helpful move to assist companies that are worried about the possibilities of having unreasonable burdens imposed on them. I hope that my hon. Friend can reassure me that my fears are misplaced. He should find some way of providing reassurance.

Photo of Mr James Couchman Mr James Couchman , Gillingham

Mine will be perhaps the briefest contribution because much of what I want to say has been eloquently expressed by my hon. Friends the Members for Faversham (Mr. Moate) and for Portsmouth, North (Mr. Griffiths) who put a reasonable case for the setting up of an appeal procedure. Consultation is one thing: appeal is another. The Bill is not fair and equitable in that respect.

I talked today with a shipowner who said that perhaps 90 per cent. of the Bill is right, but there is still an unknown quantity. This measure dramatically changes the position of pilotage harbour authorities. There should be an appeal procedure for at least a temporary trial period while the legislation settles down. I should like my hon. Friend the Minister to give a concession in the direction of the new clause tabled by the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace).

Photo of Michael Spicer Michael Spicer Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

My hon. Friend the Member for Faversham (Mr. Moate) was a little unfair. We have been giving away concessions like confetti. The thrust of the Government amendments is that they have conceded various points raised by hon. Members. My hon. Friend the Member for Faversham was particularly punchy in his criticisms of this aspect of the Bill, although I am grateful for the fact that he did so from a basic position of supporting the thrust of the Bill.

The legislation is by no means lopsided and unfair to the shipowner. We are dealing with one aspect of the Bill — compulsory pilotage — but, when we deal with exemption certificates, it will be argued that we are being far too hard on the pilots because we are introducing arrangements whereby exemption certificates must be issued so that safety and other factors can be guaranteed. Under the compulsory pilotage arrangements, shipowners will also have an appeal procedure which can consider charging, for instance. The Bill is by no means lopsided and unfair, as my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham described it.

I come to the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, North (Mr. Griffiths). The distinction between the consultation required within the harbour area and outside it springs from the fact that within the harbour area the competent harbour authority is already the authority responsible for safety and other navigation factors. We believe that consultation is appropriate. If the competent harbour authority aims to go outside the harbour area in terms of compulsory pilotage, it should be subject to an appeals procedure, and the procedures of the House of Commons, should that become necessary.

Amendment No. 34 removes the requirement on competent harbour authorities to consult the shipowners who will be directly affected by the arrangements that they make for compulsory pilotage. A harbour authority is always required to consult shipowners in the exercise of its other functions in relation to safety of navigation, such as the power to direct the movement of shipping in its harbours. I cannot see any serious case for not requiring the competent harbour authority to consult the shipowners about the introduction of compulsory pilotage.

The Government believe, however, that the new clause proposed by the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace), and supported by others, goes too far in the other direction. It would apply an arbitration procedure to any dispute that arose between the competent harbour authority and the port users about a pilotage direction introducing compulsory pilotage. The fundamental principle of the Bill is that the final decision is the clear responsibility of the competent harbour authority once it has carried out consultation. There is an argument about that, but the responsibility has to rest somewhere.

I do not believe there is a case to be made for wider consultation under amendment No. 36. It does not seem sensible to write in a statutory right to consult bodies or groups that lack any knowledge of navigational safety. There is no similar obligation to consult about the exercise of a harbour authority's other functions, and there is no such obligation in the existing legislation on pilotage. For those reasons, I ask that this amendment be withdrawn or rejected.

Photo of Mr Malcolm Thornton Mr Malcolm Thornton , Crosby

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment made: No. 35, in page 7, line 41, leave out `vessels' and insert `ships'.—[Mr. Michael Spicer]

Photo of Mr Malcolm Thornton Mr Malcolm Thornton , Crosby

I beg to move amendment No. 37, in page 7, line 46, leave out subsection (5) and insert— `( ) A competent harbour authority shall have jurisdiction for the purpose of pilotage over the area which immediately before the appointed day was a pilotage district which included the area of that authority.( ) A pilotage direction shall not specify an area other than an area which immediately before the appointed day was a pilotage district unless a harbour revision order has been made under section 14 of the Harbours Act 1964 or, in Northern Ireland, a harbour order has been made under section 1 of the Harbours Act (Northern Ireland) 1970, to alter the limit of the area in respect of which the direction is to apply.( ) Schedule (Altered Areas) shall have effect in relation to harbour revision orders under subsection ( ) above.'.

The First Deputy Chairman:

With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment No. 82—schedule—

'ALTERED AREAS

1. Where a harbour authority, which proposes on or after the appointed day to direct that pilotage shall be compulsory for ships navigating in an area other than an area in which pilotage is compulsory by virtue of an order under section 9(1)(i) of the Pilotage Act 1983 applies before that day for the making of the harbour revision order—

  1. (a) paragraphs 3 to 5 of Schedule 3 to the Harbours Act 1964 (procedural requirements for making harbour revision orders) shall not apply;
  2. (b) before making the order the Secretary of State shall consult such persons as appear to him to be affected by it; and;
  3. (c) if the draft order extends the limits of the authority's jurisdiction into the area of another harbour authority's jurisdiction and any person consulted by the Secretary of State under paragraph (b) above objects to the making of the order the Secretary of State may modify the order so that the limits of the authority's jurisdiction do not extend into that of the other authority.
  4. (d) after the making of the order the direction shall apply to the area within the authority's limits of jurisdiction as extended by the order, notwithstanding that the order is not yet in force.'.

Photo of Mr Malcolm Thornton Mr Malcolm Thornton , Crosby

This amendment on the theme of safety in our coastal waters is very important and will ensure that pilotage districts and consultative procedures are complied with. These procedures are outlined in the consequential amendment before schedule 1, Altered Areas. The effect of the Bill as drafted is to limit compulsory pilotage to the areas presently defined as port areas or parts of such areas. In some cases this will mean a contraction of such areas which could leave sensitive and navigationally hazardous parts of our coast and estuaries unguarded, notably the Thames and Mersey estuaries. Pilotage services will not be available where ships first begin to look for them. That has been a major criterion whenever pilotage legislation has been considered. In days gone by this was the most sensible criterion because the lack and fallibility of navigational aids were factors which are not of real relevance today.

But the criterion is as valid today as it ever was. The size of ships and in particular their draught, which when entering some ports can be 70 feet, nearly 12 fathoms, or more; the nature of some of the cargo carried and the consequences of an incident involving such ships; the manning standards, both in a qualitative and numerical sense; and the increasing commercial pressures that are employed—this could well be a recipe for disaster. The incompetent and the foolhardly—as we see all too often in incidents around our coast — will be tempted, especially in bad weather, when navigation in shallow enclosed waters is at its most difficult and proper or alternative pilotage services will not be available, to navigate their vessels into areas where their skill, experience and local knowledge will be wholly inadequate.

The Bill makes provision for a competent harbour authority to be able to propose to extend the area in which pilotage should be compulsory outside its harbour limits, providing that it is an area in which pilotage is presently compulsory, and for that to be effected on the appointed day. It will be done by means of a modified harbour revision order procedure, which has to be by order, and the Secretary of State, before refusing, approving or amending same, has to consult such persons as appear to him to be affected by it. All this will take time, because the competent harbour authorities will be taking on new responsibilities which will require a great deal of consideration. Yet the Bill——

It being Ten o'clock, THE FIRST DEPUTY CHAIRMAN left the Chair to report Progress and ask leave to sit again.

Committee report Progress.