HC Deb 23 February 1875 vol 222 cc754-5

asked the President of the Board of Trade, How many prosecutions there have been under Clause 11 of the Merchant Shipping Amendment Act of 1871; and what have been the results of such prosecutions; if he is aware that ten British steamers have foundered in the Bay of Biscay during the last six months, drowning upwards of two hundred people; and how many inquiries have been held or are likely to be held in regard to these disasters; and, whether, supposing any of these vessels to have been unseaworthy, it is proposed to prosecute anybody; and, in such event, how he proposes to reach the persons responsible for the improper condition in which vessels that have gone to the bottom, with all hands, sailed from foreign ports homeward bound?


There have been several prosecutions under consideration. The cases of the Nimrod, of Belfast, the Mary, of Glasgow, the Alcedo, of Waterford, the Ceres, of Whitehaven, and others are now in the hands of the Crown Lawyers. But there has been no Public Prosecutor hitherto; now the Board of Trade have a solicitor. Hitherto prosecutions have been conducted indirectly by correspondence between the Board of Trade and the Home Office, the Treasury, and the Law Officers. Of the 10 steamers named, five are reported as having foundered in the Bay of Biscay, with 100 lives lost; five are missing. Inquiries have been held in the first five cases—namely, the La Plata, Cortes, Mary, Clifton, and Alpha—and inquiries will be held in the other cases if any trustworthy evidence should be forthcoming. Of the first five, the Mary was found by the Court to have been unseaworthy, and the case is in the hands of the Lord Advocate for a criminal prosecution. As to homeward-bound ships from foreign ports, it is the Consul's business to report any suspicious cases, and he may summon a Naval Court which can order survey. Owners of unseaworthy ships would be prosecuted on evidence sent home by the Consul.


I beg to give Notice that to-morrow I shall ask the President of the Board of Trade, on what authority he imputes to me. any responsibility for the inquiry into the case of the Viceroy, as at the present moment I am entirely unaware of having had anything to do with it; and, whether he thinks it wise on the part of the Board of Trade to parade themselves before the public continually by attacking me without just reason?