HC Deb 30 March 1894 vol 22 cc1059-60
MR. MACDONA (Southwark, Rotherhithe)

said, he wished to call attention to the danger to life resulting from floating derelicts in the Atlantic. He should not attempt to occupy the time of the House except for two reasons: first, because he believed the matter to be one of very great urgency—a matter of very great importance to large numbers of people not only in this country but of every country in England and America. Great numbers of passengers crossed the Atlantic every week, and those passengers were all subject to the possibility of a momentary catastrophe which they could not very well contend against. The catastrophe was very different to every other danger to which sailors were liable. There were remedies against other risks, such as fire, but at night they had no remedy against floating derelicts, which were absolutely unseen. He had done all he could as a private Member to direct the attention of the Government to this most important subject. He had put questions to them, and he was bound to say that he had been received with great courtesy by the President of the Board of Trade and the Secretary to the Admiralty. These gentlemen, however, had shuffled off responsibility from one to the other. The question was one which could not be deferred, and, in order that it might receive the attention it merited, he took upon himself to ask a question of the late Prime Minister, which was one of the last questions which the right hon. Gentleman answered on the Treasury Bench. The right hon. Gentleman had given a most satisfactory answer, stating that the matter was one of very great importance, and that it would receive the attention of the Government. It did, in fact, receive the attention of the Government. The right hon. Gentleman had not sent despatches, as had hitherto been the practice, but in answer to urgent questions put from time to time he had telegraphed to Washington to obtain further information. That further information had been asked for since, and they had been told that the Government were considering the matter. Questions of this kind the Government had been considering for a long time, and it appeared to him that the time had now come when the House ought to take some action for themselves. A Petition had been presented to the present Prime Minister signed by 800 masters of vessels, representing 31,000 sailors. The lives of these 31,000 sailors were of as much concern to the House of Commons as the lives of anyone in the country. They should look after those who were in peril on the seas, and they should take care they were not liable to this terrible and sudden catastrophe. It was their duty to limit the danger as much as possible, and they had the experience of another Government as to what could be done, because the American Government had had two of their men-of-war fitted up for the destruction of these derelicts.


Order, Order! I have just ascertained that notice has been given for the Second Reading of a Bill on this subject; therefore, the discussion is out of Order.