HC Deb 24 July 1873 vol 217 cc901-2

asked the President of the Board of Trade, If his attention has been called to the case of the schooner "William," of Exeter, which left Hartlepool on the 25th June, and foundered at sea on 1st July; whether he is aware that this ship was known to be so unseaworthy that she had baskets of sawdust drawn under her that the action of the sea might suck the sawdust into the seams, and thus temporarily stop the leaks; whether the Board of Trade inquiry was held on the loss of this ship at Exeter, where the owner lived, instead of at Hartlepool, where the aforesaid facts were known; and, whether, as the finding was that the vessel was not unseaworthy, although it foundered in perfectly fine calm weather, and, to use the language of a correspondent of "The Times." she "took a header" and went to the bottom, he will cause the strictest inquiry to be made, and report to the House?


I have not hoard, Sir, of the baskets of sawdust; there is no mention of that in the evidence. It is true the inquiry was held at Exeter. The question where inquiries of this kind should be held is left to the solicitor conducting them, who decides on the balance of convenience. The Report states that the vessel had been repaired three months previously; but nevertheless she was not in all respects, a seaworthy vessel. The hon. Member is wrong in stating that the vessel foundered in fine, calm weather. Having read the evidence, I find that she was exposed to a very strong gale of wind—one of the witnesses said it blew very hard. She was struck by a very heavy sea at 11 o'clock in the morning of Monday, the 30th June, when it became necessary to work the pumps, and she did not founder till 24 hours after. She went down head-foremost three miles off the land, and the crew escaped in the boats.


asked the President of the Board of Trade, Whether the Royal Commissioners on Unseaworthy Ships have power under the Order of Reference to appoint assistant-Commissioners to prosecute inquiries during the Recess at the seaports; and, if they have not, whe- ther it is the intention of the Government to supplement their existing powers to this end, so that there may be no de-lay in prosecuting the necessary inquiries?


Sir, the Royal Commissioners have full power to appoint assistant-Commissioners for the purpose stated. It will depend on the Commissioners themselves whether they exercise that power. I have reason to believe, however, that they think it desirable to see and hear all the witnesses themselves; and, in any case, the House may have full confidence in the way the Commissioners are carrying on their inquiry.