HC Deb 27 March 1868 vol 191 cc450-1

said, he wished to ask the Vice President of the Board of Trade, Whether the Regulations of that Board with regard to the overloading of Passenger Steamers, and other Regulations intended to secure the safety of Passengers, do not at present remain un-enforced; and, whether he would have any objection to bring in a short Act to provide for the enforcement of such Regulations?


said, he also desired information, upon this subject.


objected to the monopoly which existed with regard to certain ferries.


said, the question of the hon. Member did not state the case quite accurately. Before a steamer could legally carry passengers she must be provided with certain equipments, which were, however, not required by regulations of the Board of Trade, but by the Merchant Shipping Act of 1854. On a vessel being so provided, a surveyor appointed by the Board of Trade gave a declaration that the provisions of the law were complied with, and that the hull, equipments, and machinery were sufficient for the service and in good condition. As regarded passengers, the law provided that the Board of Trade certificate should contain a statement of the number of passengers the ship was fit to carry. The power of the Board of Trade ended there. The statute required that this certificate should be placed in a conspicuous place on board, and imposed heavy penalties if the number of passengers was exceeded; but no power was given to the Board of Trade to prosecute, and no funds were provided. As a matter of policy, he did not think that a Department like the Board of Trade should undertake these duties, which more properly belonged to the police; and practically it would be impossible for them to have sufficient officers to count the passengers and to watch every case. Any persons aggrieved by overcrowding, or any local body who might think that the safety of the passengers was neglected, could take steps to proceed for the penalties incurred. This had been done in many instances. Where the law was not enforced in this and many similar cases, it was owing to supineness on the part of those who were most interested in enforcing it. The penalties went to the Crown, and not to the informer, which might account for this supineness. The Government were considering whether any alteration in this respect might be introduced into the Merchant Shipping Bill, but he did not think it advisable to introduce such a Bill as the hon. Member recommended.

Motion, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," by leave, withdrawn.

Committee deferred till Monday next.

House adjourned at a quarter before Two o'clock, till Monday next.