HC Deb 27 April 1877 vol 234 cc33-5

said, that in putting a Question on this subject to the President of the Board of Trade, he wished to make a personal explanation. On the previous day he had had to put a Question to the right hon. Gentleman which was of great importance to the shipping interest, and he thought he was entitled to receive a courteous and accurate answer. The right hon. Gentleman replied that the facts of the case were the reverse of those stated in the Question. He (Mr. Mac Iver) would be unworthy of his place in that House if he were to put a Question of the description implied in that Answer, and he felt sure the right hon. Gentleman, on reflection, would see that the terms of his answer were not altogether justified. The Question was misunderstood by the right hon. Gentleman, for he (Mr. Mac Iver) was not complaining specially of the Labrador, against which vessel he had no charge. She had been properly surveyed, and if all emigrant ships—


interposing, said, the hon. Gentleman was entering into matters of argument and debate.


said, his Question had reference to the state of the law, rather than to the particular case of the Labrador, which, however, was the first vessel to come under the law. He now wished to ask, Whether it would be permitted to any British steamer to commence her voyage at a foreign port and to embark steerage passengers at any British port of call on the same conditions as those upon which the French steamer "La- brador" did so at Plymouth on Sunday 15th instant; whether it is not true that specific compliance with the Passengers Acts of 1855, 1863, and 1870 has always hitherto been required from all vessels alike, without distinction of nationality, and that there was no such compliance in the case of the "Labrador," but only a general compliance; whether it is intended to continue to enforce specific compliance as regards British vessels generally, or whether any exception will be made in the case of vessels registered in Canada and trading from continental ports, viâ Great Britain, under circumstances where it can be shown that the ordinary Board of Trade requirements have been substantially complied with; and, whether foreign certificates countersigned by British Consuls, as in the case of the "Labrador," are in all cases to be regarded as conclusive evidence of general compliance with such requirements?


in reply, said, he was extremely sorry the hon. Member should have felt that there was anything discourteous in his answer. He thought he had merely taken the shortest possible way of putting the House in possession of the facts, as the hon. Member had entirely misconceived the law, which his argumentative Question attempted to impugn; and they distinctly showed that the truth was the exact reverse of what was implied in the Question. The hon. Gentleman now resumed his argument in another form, as against the 19th section of the Merchant Shipping Act of last year. That section was fully discussed at the time and agreed to, its purport being to relieve foreign passenger ships calling at an English port from a second survey. If British steamers took to starting from foreign ports with emigrants and called at British ports for more, if they had been surveyed sufficiently at the port of departure they would not be subjected to the same survey again. A specific compliance with the law for the time being had been, and would be, required from all passenger ships. The Labrador under the Act of last year was exempted from a second survey of hull and machinery at the port of call; but the emigration officer of the Board of Trade had to examine and be satisfied about the arrangements made for any fresh passengers taken in, and no further survey could be of any use or validity. The ship would have to be unloaded to make the survey anything but a useless annoyance. The 19th section of the Act of last year placed duly surveyed foreign ships calling here for additional emigrants on the same footing as France had always placed duly surveyed English ships calling at a French port, so far as survey was concerned. Canadian registered ships would come under precisely the same conditions as other British ships. The attestation of a British Consul was not conclusive. The Board of Trade must be satisfied, and did satisfy itself, that the requirements were substantially complied with, and Her Majesty might, by Order in Council, direct that the section should not apply where corresponding provisions were not extended to British ships.