HC Deb 25 July 1851 vol 118 cc1531-4

Order fur Committee read.


would suggest that as the Bill had been considerably altered, it would be expedient to postpone the further consideration for a week.


said, that a postponement for a week would be fatal to the chance of the Bill passing this Session. It was important that it should pass, to prevent the prevailing overcrowding of steamboats, as well as to regulate their machinery, &c. The Bill had been considered very carefully upstairs by a Select Committee, who bad given it a great deal of attention. To postpone its passing this Session, would be a public evil of no slight magnitude.

House in Committee.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2.


was fearful that inspection and approval of officers by Government officers, would go far to release the owners from responsibility.


said, this was not the first time that a survey of vessels had been authorised. It was at present confined to the machinery; but as each owner had the power of choosing his own surveyor, the system was very inefficient. By establishing authorised surveyors, this evil would be remedied.

Clause agreed to; Clauses 3 to 47 inclusive agreed to.

Clause 48 (not to extend to ships of war or foreign vessels).


wished to know why it was that foreign vessels were not to be included in the Act? Why should not the French and Belgian vessels running across the Channel be subject to revision?


said, that it would be impossible to include foreign vessels. The whole machinery of the Bill was made to apply to English vessels only. He had never heard of any case in which the Channel steamers, plying between Belgium or Franco and England only, were overcrowded.


said, the Bill proposed to tax the owner of British vessels four, six, or eight guineas a year for surveying, whilst foreign vessels were let off without any charge whatever.


said, that foreign Governments were equally particular in looking to the safety of their vessels. In the United States of America, experience had shown that as soon as we passed the Passengers' Act, the Government of the United States immediately passed a similar law with regard to its own vessels, as it found a decided preference given to English vessels.


said, that the Act intended to make the owners alone responsible, and that it would be impossible to reach foreign owners.


would support the proposition to include foreign vessels.


said, if the hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) would frame a Clause embodying his views, he could bring it up on the report, although he (Mr. Labouchere) would not pledge himself to accept it. He feared that the Amendment proposed would impede the passing of the measure, as alterations would have to be made all through the Bill.


apprehended that if foreign vessels were to be included, the States to which they belonged would retaliate, and tax our vessels.


said, he should propose to omit the latter part of the Clause.

Amendment proposed, page 18, line 9, to leave out from the words "Ships of War," to the end of the Clause.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 38; Noes 13: Majority 25.

Clause agreed to.


moved the insertion of a Clause of which he had given notice. It was useless, he said, to pass a law to compel the supervision of machinery so long as the engineer had it in.his power to endanger the lives of all the passengers by tampering with the safety valve. A great number of accidents had happened in consequence of the negligence and recklessness of engineers in this respect. In the case of the Cricket, it was notorious that the safety valves had been tied down for seven days together. The case was the same with the Glasgow, where the care- lessness of the engineer had led to the accident. Nothing could secure the public until they were relieved from the effect of this carelessness.

Clause— And be it enacted, That from and after the first day of January, one thousand eight hundred and fifty-two, it shall not be lawful for any Steam Boat to go to sea, or to steam upon the rivers of the United Kingdom, without having a safety valve upon each boiler, free from the care of the engineer, and out of his control and interference, and also subject to the approval of the Surveyors acting under this Act.

Brought up, and read 1°.


declined to agree to the Clause, although he admitted the necessity of having two safety valves. He did not think, however, that Parliament ought to set a precedent by legislating as to what description of machinery should be used in steam vessels, and he would therefore oppose the Clause.


would support the Clause. The argument of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade amounted to this—that it would be improper for Parliament to prescribe what was safe. Why, that was the whole principle of the Bill.


thought it would be a dangerous precedent to interfere with the management of steam engines; as they would lead parties to suppose that they were relieved from the responsibility which properly attached to them. He believed an additional safety valve could do no possible harm; but the Committee could not stop with such a recommendation, and their interference would ultimately do much more harm than good.


entreated the hon. Member for Birmingham to persist in pressing his clause to a division; for if ever a subject was brought before Parliament requiring legislation, this was one. True, the clause had reference only to boilers used in steam navigation; but if once passed into law, a case was made out which would apply equally to engine boilers employed in factories, where serious calamities were of constant occurrence. In his own borough one of the most dreadful on record happened last year, where a mill was literally blown to atoms, and numbers of its inmates perished on the spot, possibly in consequence of the want of that which this clause was directed to remedy. It was certainly high time for the Government to interfere, and he was convinced that some strict supervision was required as a security to the lives of the parties who at present were so entirely at the mercy of the engineer.


said, he had been endeavouring to carry this improvement for the last ten years; and the Government had always opposed him. He felt that he should not be doing his duty to society if he did not press his Amendment, and therefore he should take the sense of the Committee upon it.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the said Clause be now read a Second Time."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 37; Noes 13: Majority 24.

Clause agreed to.

House resumed; Bill reported as amended.

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