HC Deb 15 April 1889 vol 335 cc477-8

asked the President of the Board of Trade if British vessels plying from the ports of the United States with passengers, are subject to the same regulations as American vessels; if a like rule obtains in most foreign ports, to avoid prejudice to the National flag; if it is a fact that Foreign vessels are allowed to convey passengers and cargoes from the ports of the United Kingdom without the supervision of the Board of Trade, and without complying with the regulations deemed essential by Parliament for the safety of the lives of Her Majesty's subjects on British vessels; and, in such case, if legislative power will be sought to place foreign vessels using British ports under the same regulations, as to overcrowding, overloading, and the adoption of precautions for saving life, as are imposed upon British vessels?


In answer to the first paragraph in the hon. Member's question I have to say that, according to the strict letter of the United States law, British vessels plying with passengers from United States ports are subject to the same rules as American vessels; but in reply to certain representations made by this Department in 1883, the United States Government intimated that, under the discretionary powers lodged with their Treasury by the Act of Congress, it was (in view of the courtesy extended to American vessels in this country) intended to grant similar exemptions to British vessels. Since that time the Board have received very few complaints, and they have reason to believe that but little inconvenience has been experienced by the working of the American rules. As regards the second paragraph, I have to inform the hon. Member that inquiries are being instituted through the Foreign Office. As regards the third paragraph, I have to state that no survey is held of British or foreign ships that carry cargoes and no passengers from any port in the United Kingdom, nor of foreign ships carrying passengers unless the passengers carried are emigrants, so as to bring the ships under the Passengers Acts. British ships can be detained if unseaworthy from any cause, and foreign ships if unseaworthy from overloading or improper loading. The subject of the fourth paragraph is one that will need the very gravest consideration in the interests of British trade and with a view to maintaining as far as possible freedom from interference with British ships in foreign ports.