HC Deb 25 April 1873 vol 215 cc973-4

asked the President of the Board of Trade, Whether the investigation lately held at Halifax into the loss of the steamship "Atlantic," was held by the officer of Customs there on his own mere motion and responsibility, or under the authority and directions of the Governor in Council of the Dominion; whether it was held in accordance with the requirements of any and what Colonial Ordinance regulating the conduct of inquiries into wrecks; and, whether, in the event of the Halifax inquiry having been illegal and invalid, the Board of Trade will order another inquiry into the circumstances of the loss of the ship?


Sir, I am unable to give a complete answer to the right hon. Baronet in consequence of the absence of the official Minutes of the inquiry at Halifax, and until they have been received I can only say what we know at present. The inquiry lately held at Halifax purported to have been held under the powers of a Colonial Act passed under the authority of the Imperial Merchant Shipping Act, under which the Dominion authorities have the power to hold inquiries in all respects similar to the inquiries held in this country under the direct authority of the Merchant Shipping Act. Whether all proceedings in connection with the inquiry at Halifax were regular or not I am not able positively to say. I must at the same time say, according to our experience, Canadian inquiries of this kind are generally well looked after. The result of this inquiry has been that the captain's certificate has been suspended for two years. If that inquiry has not been regular, it can be had over again in this country; if it has been regular, and in strict accordance with the law, the captain, cannot be tried over again so far as his certificate is concerned. Whether any further proceedings should take place affecting the captain or officers, it will be impossible for us to say until the official Minutes shall have been received. There is, however, another separate subject which can only, and must be inquired into in this country—namely, the allegations that the quantity of fuel and provisions on board the Atlantic was insufficient, and that this circumstance necessitated her going out of her course. This affected, in the first place, the conduct of her owners, and also the conduct of the officers of the Board of Trade; and into this matter, which can only be properly investigated at Liverpool, I have ordered a full and searching inquiry to be held. I may add that a wish that such an inquiry should be instituted was strongly expressed by the owners of the Atlantic.