HL Deb 29 June 1860 vol 159 cc1186-8

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether the Appointments to the Command of the new Steamers about to convey Passengers and Mails between Holyhead and Kingstown have been all filled up; and whether it is correct that Two Appointments to those Vessels of Commanders have been made whose Ago is far advanced, and whose state of Health was such as to preclude their being able during the last Winter to cross over in person with the Packet Boats under their direction? The subject was of the greatest importance to the public generally, but more especially to that particular portion of it that was perpetually crossing and recrossing the Channel. Their Lordships were aware that it had been for some time in agitation to construct vessels to perform the passage of a larger size than those formerly employed. Three of the new vessels were now completed, and would commence running, he understood on the 1st of August. He had been given to understand that the direction of two of the vessels had been given to officers whose age was very advanced, and whose state of health precluded them very often from going over in person with the vessels under their charge. He believed these officers to have great nautical knowledge and long experience; but their ages were very advanced; and one of them during the whole of last winter was, he was credibly informed, unable to go across the Channel in person with the vessel under his command, while the other was also laid up for several months. These new vessels would move with far greater speed than those formerly on the station; it was well known that frequently there was a very heavy sea between Holyhead and Kingstown; and on approaching the coast of Ireland the Channel presented a very crowded appearance, so that there would be a hazard that these large vessels, going with increased speed, would experience collisions. It was obvious, then, that the commanders should be persons not only of nautical experience and science, but men in the full vigour of health and strength. Yet he understood that both the commanders he had referred to were past the age of 70. Considerable anxiety had been manifested on the subject, and he should be glad to hear from the noble Duke opposite how far the information which had reached him on the subject was correct.


replied that the Admiralty had nothing whatever to do with the appointment of the officers in question. The Company appointed their own officers, and he had no right to call on the Company to tell him what officers they were going to employ. He should be very glad if these appointments were in his gift, but they were not.


thought that at any rate he might have been informed where to apply in a matter of this kind. The safety of the public was completely in the hands of the Company, and it was a notorious fact that the two officers, though experienced and skilful, were of such age and in such a state of health as rendered it improbable that they would be able during the winter to take charge of their vessels.


said, the Government had no right to interfere with the transactions of a private Company, and the Company, having the contract of the boats between Holyhead and Kingstown stood precisely in the same position to the Admiralty that any other Company stood in, and the Companies appointed their own commanders. The action and pressure of the public, he thought, would be sufficient to cause them to appoint proper officers.


said, the noble Viscount was right in calling the attention of Parliament and the public to the matter; and, as the Company received £200,000 a year for the postal service, some questions might be asked them by the Post-office authorities.


said, he should sincerely regret if no means could be found to remedy the evil.