HC Deb 17 June 1835 vol 28 cc855-8

On the Clause being read relative to the casks which shall be used to contain water for the voyage,

A Member suggested that the owners should be restricted from using any that had been previously employed for any other purposes.

Mr. Hume

could see no objection to the use of wine or brandy casks. He thought it would be quite sufficient to declare "that the officer shall satisfy himself that the casks had not been filled with any thing to render the water unhealthy or impure."

Mr. W. Smith O'Brien

reminded hon. Members that if the officer were not allowed to use his discretion, oil casks might be used, which would render the water very unpleasant if not unhealthy. He was aware that many vessels left Limerick last season with emigrants, and all water on board of them was contained in oil casks.

Mr. Goulburn

admitted that it would be advisable to specifically prohibit oil casks.

The Clause was agreed to.

Mr. Hume

called attention to the fifth Clause, empowering the inspecting officer to examine the provisions, &c, immediately previous to sailing. He thought this interference would be likely to cause injurious delays to vessels on the point of sailing, and suggested that the officer should be required to complete his search a certain number of days previous—say three; or, better still, that the provisions should be examined and approved of before shipment.

Mr. Warburton

thought that the powers proposed to be conferred on Custom House officers of absolutely rejecting a stock of provisions already shipped, might be tendered the source of great abuse in outports, where it would be difficult to obtain a fresh supply, except from a favourite of the officer, and at a ruinous price.

Mr. Hume

was much against the minute and vexatious legislation pursued in Bills of this nature. He thought it would be quite as consistent to order an inspection of the steam-boiler of a packet preparatory to every trip, for it might blow up and destroy the passengers if not kept in a sound working condition, as had indeed frequently happened.

Mr. Goulburn

vindicated the principle of the Bill, which only interfered to protect those whom it was not the interest of the shipowners to take care of. The latter would look to the sufficiency of their boilers for the sake of their vessel, while it was found by experience that in many cases they allowed the poor passengers to starve.

Mr. Labouchere

was anxious that no restrictions should be imposed on ship-owners which could be avoided, but the general poverty of emigrants made it necessary that the Legislature should protect them. Such dreadful scenes had been heard of in consequence of ships proceeding to sea imperfectly equipped and provided, that the Legislature was bound to prevent such scenes if possible.

Mr. W. Smith O'Brien

knew that out of 2,500 poor emigrants who left Limerick last year, 500 died on the passage. Vessels had set sail for America in a state not fit to cross the channel to England, the proof of which was that from the third day after their departure the pumps were obliged to be kept going all the voyage.

Mr. Roebuck

believed that the loss of life was caused rather by the ships being unseaworthy than by the want of provisions on the voyage. He must add that precautions were necessary, for last year there were 30,000 emigrants (for the most part quite destitute) sent out to Canada without any supplies to keep them from starving during the five or six months that the country was bound up in frost and snow.

Mr. Clay

submitted that the example of the East-India Company (with respect to the systematic inspection to which their ships were subjected previous to a voyage) was the best that could be followed in the present case. The happy effects of this course was that the Company's insurance did not amount to one-sixth of the ordinary rates, for no ship of theirs was allowed to sail unless first approved sea-worthy. Their ship-stores never spoiled or afforded subject of complaint; in fact, no bad provisions were offered to their vessels, for it was well known that they would previously be inspected. If emigrant vessels were compelled to adopt similar salutary arrangements, they would no longer hear the just complaints of poor passengers respecting the deficient quantity or deteriorated quality of their provisions.

Mr. Barnard

suggested the propriety of prohibiting the employment of vessels in the emigrant service that were twenty-two years old.

Mr. Warburton

strongly objected to the restriction. It would act as a premium on the building of a bad class of vessels, designed not to last even twenty years. It would be much safer to trust to the character of each vessel on Lloyd's list.

Mr. Hume

recommended the adoption of the practice of Government, which caused a strict inspection of vessels that offered to take troops abroad, and suggested that no vessel should be allowed to take passengers on board unless similarly inspected and approved. The age of vessels could never be a satisfactory guide. He had sailed very safely in a ship seventy-two years old.

Mr. Thorneley

complained of the clause restricting the export of spirits in emigrant vessels. He thought a cargo in pipes or hogsheads as safe as one in bales.

An Hon. Member

stated, that he had known cases where the captains had taken out a large stock of spirits, apparently for exportation, but really to sell to the passengers for his own profit. In cases where the passengers mutinied, and took the control of the vessel into their own hands the presence of such a stock was particularly dangerous.

Sir G. Grey

thought that the only practicable way to prevent these evils was to prohibit the export of any spirits in vessels fitted out to take passengers.

Mr. Hume

had no objection to impose a penalty on masters or mates who should sell any spirits to emigrants on a voyage, but he did not think it just to limit the owners' right to ship what cargo he pleased.

The Bill went through Committee, and the House resumed.