HC Deb 09 March 1826 vol 14 cc1244-6
The Lord Advocate

rose to move for leave to bring in a bill to regulate vessels navigated by Steam in Scotland. The object of his bill was, he said, to prevent accidents, and to take care that the persons appointed to navigate Steam-vessels should be properly qualified, that the vessels should undergo examination, and be obliged to carry lights, and that in navigating them, they should follow the same rule as those observed by carriages in the streets.

Mr. Hume

said, he would not directly oppose the bill, but he had great doubts of the utility of it. It was brought on in consequence of some recent accidents, which every one must lament; but he did not approve of the system of legislating upon particular events. The public might be left, he thought, to take care of itself. People would choose their steam-packets as they chose other conveniences that they wanted, and would take those which had the best reputation for safety.

Sir H. Parnell

had strong doubts of the propriety of such a bill as this. Unless the learned lord could show that there was a necessity for the measure, it would be better not to interfere. In consequence of some accidents which happened between Liverpool and Dublin some years ago, a bill containing regulations of this sort requiring inspection, &c. was enacted; but the law was altogether neglected. A law of this sort was as applicable to stage coaches as to steam-vessels.

Sir E. Harvey

said, that if the bill was brought in, it ought to be general. It was as much wanted in other parts of the kingdom as it was in Scotland.

Mr. Sykes

objected to any bill of this sort proposing intricate regulations, which it would be impossible to carry into effect. It would be better to leave the conduct of the captain free, and not to interfere with him.

The Lord Advocate

said, that the object of the bill was' to establish public rules for the regulation of steam vessels. Had those regulations been in existence a year ago, the accident in October last could not have occurred.

Sir J. Newport

would object to the motion. If the people of Scotland were not to be trusted with the management of their own steam-boats in their own way, it would be much better to introduce a bill to prevent them from using them altogether.

Sir C. Cole

hoped, if any enactment were deemed necessary, that it would be applicable to all parts of the empire. The best regulation that could be suggested was that which prevailed in the royal navy, in which, by given signals, each ship knew on which side of the other it ought to pass. Had that principle obtained, the fatal accident alluded to could not have happened.

Mr. Secretary Canning

hoped that hon. gentlemen would not refuse permission to bring in the bill. A notion had become prevalent, that there was a disposition in the House to rob Scotland; and it would, indeed, be a most serious robbery to deprive her of her inhabitants. A long list of grievances under which Scotland laboured had recently been sent out into the world; and if the House of Commons now refused to give a hearing to this bill in the first instance, the refusal would be set down as an additional item in the long catalogue.

Mr. Hume

strongly urged the learned lord to withdraw his bill.

Mr. Hobhouse

trusted that the learned lord would withdraw his bill. The people of Scotland would not thank him for this interference. He might just as well bring in a bill to prohibit them from navigating by steam.

The House divided: For bringing in the bill 70; Against it 26: Majority 44.