HC Deb 19 March 1846 vol 84 cc1227-9

rose, pursuant to the notice he had given, to ask the hon. Gentleman the Secretary of the Admiralty, whether the Admiralty intended to institute any inquiry into the circumstances attending the loss of the Great Liverpool Steamer. As the vessel was not one of Her Majesty's ships, it did not fall directly within the jurisdiction of the Admiralty to institute an inquiry; but as this vessel carried the mails, and had one of Her Majesty's officers on board, a general feeling prevailed that there was a necessity for more than ordinary care, and that an inquiry might properly be instituted by the Admiralty. All he thought it necessary to add was, that he was not desirous of giving pain to any parties; but as a strong feeling prevailed upon the subject, he thought it right to put the question to the hon. and gallant Gentleman.


said, that this was a case which did not fall properly under the cognizance of the Admiralty. The only parties on board connected with the Government were the mail contractors, and upon them no responsibility as to the management of the ship rested. Their duty consisted exclusively in taking care of the mails; and upon the Oriental and Peninsular Steam Navigation Company all the care and responsibility as to the vessel depended. Such being the case, the Lords of the Admiralty had thought it objectionable to lay down a precedent for instituting an inquiry where the parties concerned did not serve under the Crown. The company themselves, however, had determined to institute an investigation, and had requested the Admiralty to appoint a naval officer to superintend that investigation. That request the Admiralty had also, for the reasons he had already stated, felt itself bound to refuse; but they had recommended the company to apply to the Trinity House for one of the officers attached to that corporation. The Admiralty had also directed the Admiralty agent to attend the investigation, and to afford every information in his power to forward the proper objects which the company had in view.


, as chairman of the Oriental Steam Company, thanked the right hon. Member for Devonport for bringing the subject under the notice of the House. It was a matter of the deepest and most anxious interest, and the company had no other wish but that it should be publicly and thoroughly investigated. Life and property were entrusted to the company, and they were not in the habit of allowing any instance of supposed negligence to pass without the strictest scrutiny. They had carried many thousand persons many thousand miles, and this was the first serious accident that had occurred. Many months ago the company thought that some symptoms of carelessness had been evinced, and they had issued the most stringent orders to the commanders of their vessels: they had reminded them, that as the compasses of steam-boats were likely to be deranged and untruthful, it was their duty always to apply to the superintendent at Southampton. They had also been most earnestly enjoined, on approaching land, especially in dark and foggy weather, to use the utmost vigilance, and in no instance to dispense with the use of the lead. Captain Macleod had been for ten years in the service of the company, had conducted himself with diligence and fidelity, and was especially popular with passengers. He was expected home to-morrow, and the investigation would be commenced immediately. The company had appointed three nautical men belonging to the Board for the purpose, and had applied to the Admiralty that it would appoint an officer to be a member of the Court of Inquiry. He (Mr. P. M. Stewart) regretted that the application had been declined, but trusted that the officers of the Trinity House would supply the deficiency. He would only add that when the tribunal, after completing the investigation, had arrived at an opinion, its sentence ought to be made as public as the fate of the unfortunate vessel.