HC Deb 13 February 1873 vol 214 cc373-4

asked the President of the Board of Trade, Whether it is the intention of the Government to bring forward any measure, during the present Session, for the better prevention of collisions at sea, and more especially with respect to vessels propelled by steam; whether it is the intention of the Government to take steps for establishing a danger signal, to be used only by vessels in cases of emergency; and, whether it is the intention of the Government to bring forward any measure giving powers for the infliction of penalties, where practicable, in cases where the master of a vessel which has been in collision with another vessel does not do his best to render assistance to the vessel with which he has been in contact, his own vessel being in a condition to render such assistance?


confessed that he did not think much more could be done by way of legislation than had been done for the purpose of preventing collisions at sea. The great thing was to secure that the lights should be as good as could be obtained. He was not prepared to propose any change in the steaming or sailing rules, or in the rules for regulating lights, which were now in force, and as they had been adopted by all nations it would be undesirable to disturb them. With respect to the goodness of the light—a very important matter—he believed a great improvement had already taken place, and that still further improvement would be made. The Marine Department of the Board of Trade had laboured hard upon this matter; various experiments had been made for the purpose of improving the lights, and he believed that a great deal had been done, and that the lights at present were better than those of any other nation in the world. With regard to securing effectual relief for injured vessels where collisions had occurred, he had no doubt that something might be done. On the subject of danger signals the Marine Department of the Board of Trade had long been engaged in investigations and in discussion with all parties interested, with a view to bring about an agreement as to a danger signal and on what it ought to be. Those discussions had come to a close, and he found himself in a position to be able to propose to the House legislation on the subject which would tend to the universal adoption of an effectual signal in case of danger. They had every reason to believe that other countries would take the same view of the matter as themselves. The French Government were already agreed with them on that point. As to the last part of the hon. Gentleman's Question, an attempt was made some time ago in the House of Lords, by no less an authority than the late Lord Kingsdown, to introduce an Amendment in the Merchant Shipping Act, making it felony for a vessel which had run down another not to render assistance where practicable to the vessel she had injured; but that proposal was badly received by the other high legal authorities in the other House, and it failed. The matter, however, was one well worthy of consideration, and he was now considering it in conjunction with the Law Officers of the Crown.