HC Deb 17 February 1851 vol 114 cc768-71

, in moving the Second Reading of this Bill, said, that it embraced three objects. The first was to enable the Commissioners to shorten the time which should be deemed the length of a voyage for certain vessels, namely, steam vessels and screw ships. It had been decided by the law officers of the Crown, that the Commissioners could not, under the original Act, make any distinction between sailing vessels and steam ships, though the latter required a shorter time to perform the voyage, and hence it became necessary to take power to alter the length of the voyage. A second object was to alter the dietary regulations. At present, in all cases where passengers were conveyed, it was necessary to take all the articles of food mentioned in the Act, but it was now proposed to enable the commander to propose an alternative diet. The third object was the following: Under the Act as it then stood, when a vessel proceeded on her voyage, she must be declared seaworthy, but if she were driven back by stress of weather, or any other cause, she might put to sea without any fresh examination, or any insurance of seaworthiness. It was, therefore, now proposed to alter the original Act, and to require that in all cases where a vessel put to sea, a certificate of seaworthiness should be required. These were the sole objects of the Bill, of which he then proposed to take the second reading.


did not wish to oppose the second reading of this Bill; on the contrary, he thought the alterations which the hon. Gentleman proposed to make in the Passengers Act were quite necessary, and he was very glad that a Bill had been introduced for the purpose. But all that he asked was this—he had himself given notice that he intended to move for a Select Committee to inquire into the working of the Passengers Act as regards short voyages, as contradistinguished from voyages to Australia, and especially with reference to emigration to America, which is at present attended with abuses of the most flagrant description; and therefore he thought it most important, before any Act was passed to amend the Passengers Act, that they should first have before them the evidence which he hoped to be able to lay before the House through the Select Committee. The evils of such emigration which took place principally from Liverpool and Glasgow (and it was from Liverpool chiefly that the Irish emigration proceeded)—the evils of that emigration arose through the absence of all precautions as to health, cleanliness, or the separation of the sexes in the emigrant vessels. Indeed, the state of these vessels was such as to generate disease and immorality of every sort and description; and all he asked of the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for the Colonies was to undertake not to press the Bill to any further stage till the Select Committee, which he hoped would be granted, should have reported. The Committee's inquiry, he thought, would be a short one; and they would be able, he believed, to lay before the House suggestions calculated to effect very valuable additions to the measure of the hon. Gentleman.


hoped the right hon. Gentleman would not press him to postpone the further progress of the measure. The Bill would effect several practical amendments, which were absolutely required to be passed at once, to meet the necessities of the spring emigration, which was about to commence; while the Committee of the right hon. Gentleman, whose labours, with all the diligence that was possible, could not, terminate in less than two or three months, might lead to more extensive alterations in the Passengers Act. He, therefore, thought it better to pass the present Bill first, which would not interfere with any general amendments in that measure, and then he should be very happy to render the right hon. Gentleman every assistance in his Committee.


saw no objection to the provision empowering the substitution of one species of diet for another; but he hoped the hon. Under Secretary for the Colonies would be prepared in Committee on the Bill to give some information as to the average length of passages by steam which it was intended to regulate; because the hon. Gentleman must recollect that some steam-vessels had been out an extraordinary length of time, and severe misfortunes had happened. If a steamer took only fifteen or sixteen days' provisions, and was out thirty or forty days, it was clear the most deplorable consequences must ensue; and, therefore, he trusted the hon. Gentleman would make this matter clear in the Bill. Other parts of the Bill were extremely vague and unsatisfactory. What was meant by the term "putting back?" If a vessel from Liverpool encountered a foul wind, and ran into the Cove of Cork till the weather changed, must she be recertified before putting to sea again? because, if she must be recertified, how could that be done without unlading her? Such a regulation would prove an impediment that would necessarily throw the whole of our emigration into the hands of foreign vessels, because foreigners were not to be subject to it. It would also induce captains to stop out at sea in rough weather in order to evade its vexatiousness, and thereby endanger life and property. He thought the request of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Wilts, to have the Bill postponed until his Select Committee should "have reported, was a very reasonable proposition.


said, he should consider the remarks of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire.

Bill read 2°, and committed for Thursday.