HC Deb 25 February 1841 vol 56 cc1020-1
Viscount Sandon

, seeing his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade in his place, begged to call his attention to a report which, in consequence of recent events, had become one of great public interest. He was sure that the attention of his right hon. Friend must have been called to the melancholy occurrences that of late had happened more than once, and to the great loss of life that had taken place upon the high seas, in consequence of the absence of a distinct rule in regard to steamers when they met, as to which side each should take in passing. The House was no doubt aware that rules had existed for a great length of time with regard to sailing vessels, by which collisions of this kind had been avoided. He wished to ask whether the Government had any intention of calling the attention of the House to the subject, or whether they would bring in any measure relating to it?

Mr. Labouchere

said, that the subject had occupied the attention of the Government with the view to some legislative interference with regard to it; but in consulting with certain individuals whose authority he considered was of great weight, he found they were strongly of opinion that it was not desirable to legislate on the subject. The Trinity House had issued regulations regarding steamers and their lights. These regulations were enforced in the case of their own vessels, and were adopted by the Admiralty and Government steamers. These rules had also been circulated, and been generally adopted in the steam trade of the country. Under these circumstances the question was, whether it were desirable to give to these rules the validity of an enactment. As he had before said, this was not considered to be advisable by those who were the best judges in the matter. He believed the rules for sailing vessels, and for carriages and vehicles on high roads, all rested on custom alone, and not on enactment. At the same time he had no doubt that any court of law would visit with severe penalties any infringement of these rules arising from carelessness or neglect. He thought it desirable that foreign steamers, especially those which entered the waters of this country, should adopt the same rules as our own, but this could be accomplished better by general consent than by any particular enactment. He could only say that, after the best consideration which he had been able to give to the subject, he did not think it advisable to introduce any bill relating thereto.

Lord Sandon

inquired whether any communications had taken place with foreign powers on the subject?

Mr. Labouchere

said, that no formal communications had taken place.

Back to