HC Deb 10 August 1893 vol 15 cc1749-51

I beg to ask the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that the accommodation provided for their passengers by the Victoria Steamboat Association is frequently limited to closely packed standing space; whether any Rule exists limiting the carrying capacity of these river steamers; and whether steps will be taken to compel this Association to pay more regard to the comfort of the people, especially on Sundays and holidays?


The steamers referred to by the hon. Member are carefully measured and surveyed by officers of the Board of Trade under the provisions of the Merchant Shipping Acts, and the certificates granted indicate, in each case, the maximum number of passengers to be carried and the limits within which the steamer may ply. The certificate is required to be put up in some conspicuous part of the ship, so as to be visible to all persons on board, and, if the certified number of passengers is exceeded, the owner or master is liable to a heavy penalty. The question of comfort (as distinct from safety) is not one in which the Board of Trade have power to interfere. We have had no complaints.


May I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman is aware that the Inspector in the employment of the Association did not appear to know how many passengers the steamboats were authorised to carry? Will he give instructions that full information on this point shall be plainly marked on each steamer as in the case of tramcars and omnibuses.


In the present state of the law the Association is bound to exhibit on board each vessel belonging to them the certificate of the Board of Trade fixing the number of passengers authorised to lie carried by such vessel.


May I ask whether any steps are taken to compel Steamboat Companies not to carry more than the authorised number of passengers? Have the Board of Trade officers any instructions on the point? What remedy have the passengers in case of overcrowding?


In all cases where the fact that a Steamboat Company has carried more than the authorised number of passengers on board their steamboats is brought to the notice of the Department steps are taken to enforce the law on the subject. Of course, the Board of Trade cannot keep Inspectors to go on every vessel, but Mercantile Marino officers and Superintendents of the Ports between which the vessels ply will at once inquire into any complaints made to them.


Will the right hon. Gentleman be willing to receive evidence from the Members of the House and others as to the absolutely dangerous condition of these steamboats on holidays, and especially on fine Sundays, and the impossibility of anyone being able to ascertain the number of passengers they carry?


I shall be glad to receive such evidence.

ADMIRAL FIELD (Sussex, Eastbourne)

Will the right hon. Gentleman re-issue the Order issued by his Predecessor at the time of the Jubilee Review in order to prevent overcrowding?

DR. COMMINS (Cork, S.E.)

Is it not the duty of piermasters to count the number of passengers on any steamer which appears to be overcrowded, and to institute prosecutions in cases of overcrowding?

[These questions were not answered.]