HC Deb 10 March 1851 vol 114 cc1176-8

begged to put a question to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, which related to a subject of great importance, and one which had been noticed even by the press of foreign countries. It related to an inquest which had been held on a child of one Anne Connell, who came to England by the Pelican steamer, from Cork. An inquest had been lately held on the child, from which it appeared that the passage-money from Ireland was 2s.; that the unfortunate passengers were on deck during the whole of the journey, without covering, three days and nights; that there were 750 of these miserable creatures, in all the rain and inclement weather, mixed up with cattle on the deck; and that the unfortunate infant had died of the hardships it endured during this passage. It further appeared that the parochial authorities in Ireland were in the habit of supplying money to pay the passage of poor creatures to get rid of them; and the summoning officer stated that he knew that as many as 1,000 had been shipped from Ireland at 1s. 6d. per head. It was to be deeply regretted that the Government had not taken steps to prevent such horrible proceedings; and he desired to know whether or not the attention of the Government had been directed to this subject, and whether they proposed to bring forward any measure to prevent such disgraceful and shocking events?


wished the hon. Gentleman had consulted with him before putting his question. At the same time, he begged to remind the hon. Gentleman that, two years ago, he introduced a Bill, which obtained the sanction of the Legislature, to prevent the overcrowding of steamboats. The consequence had been, that the Board of Trade had closely watched the proceedings of steamboats since that period; and had instituted several prosecutions—some of them recently—in cases where it was reported, or where they had good reason to believe, that overcrowding existed, especially in the steamboats between Dublin and Liverpool. With respect to the particular instance now adverted to, his impression was—though he could not speak with certainty—that an inquiry had been instituted; but, if it had not, an inquiry should be instituted immediately.


said that, probably, the right hon. Gentleman would agree with him that the law, as it at present stood, had been found by the Board of Trade to interpose difficulties to the vigorous execution of its original object. He had understood that it was the intention of the Government to amend the law in order to make it really and practically what it was technically.


said, that the statement of the hon. Gentleman was perfectly true to the extent that the present penalties had been found inadequate. He had a Bill in preparation, which he hoped in a few days to be able to lay on the table of the House, one clause of which would raise the penalties to such a degree as would probably make them sufficient to check the abuse in question.


said, that he had occasion, about eighteen months ago, to call the attention of the House to the complaints of the dangerous crowding of the river steamboats. He had found, upon inquiry at the Office of the Board of Trade, that, notwithstanding the Act to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, those boats were still able to carry as many persons as a seventy-four.


hoped he should not be called on to go into the general matter, merely on the asking of a question, but that discussion would be postponed until he brought in his Bill for the regulation of the steam service.

Subject dropped.