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Timber Ships

Volume 49: debated on Wednesday 17 July 1839

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Mr. G. Palmer moved the second reading of the Timber Ships Bill.

said, the Bill would prevent timber ships from carrying their cargo on deck. Why should such a bill be temporary? The hon Member applied it to the cargoes between this and Christmas. A measure of this kind should be prospective. If a bill of this description were to be permanent, it ought to apply to the autumn rather than to the spring voyage. Of 309 timber ships lost between 1832 and 1838, 252 were of the autumn voyage. The evidence assigned not only the lading timber on the decks, but the bad quality of the ships, as the cause of the disasters which were so frequent. Yet this important fact was slurred over by the Committee. They had not given the character and quality, not merely of the ships lost, but of the whole number engaged in the trade, information necessary to test the correctness of these inferences, respecting the causes of those disasters. And he could not agree in the conclusion of the Committee, that good vessels were as frequently lost in proportion, as bad vessels. He had taken the trouble to analyze the returns, and had found that of 78 vessels lost, 44 were lost going out, therefore it could not have been from carrying timber cargoes. Of the remaining 34, 27 were either bad ships, or deficient in stores, &c. He admitted that there was a body of the evidence attributed in part the loss of vessels returning from America, to carrying part of the cargo on deck; an equal body of testimony attributed it to the bad quality of the vessels employed. The Committee had slurred over every thing, but what was their "hobby," which did not seem to be properly performing their duty. This bill was only for one year; the views of the hon. Member as to any permanent measure, were not known. It was to be hoped that the hon. Member would restrict his legislation to the autumn voyages.

was no great friend to this kind of legislation, but he thought a case had been established, showing the danger of deck loads, and calling for legislative interference; he should, therefore, give his support to the bill, coupled with the conditions of his hon. Friend confining its operation to the autumn voyages. As this was merely an experiment, he thought it better to make it a temporary measure.

said, this was a bill required by humanity, and requested by the shipowners themselves, and therefore he was glad there was no opposition. The object of the bill was to relieve old ships by doing away with deck loads, which were carried in no other trade. He was happy that there was no opposition to this bill, which would greatly benefit the trade.

supported the bill, and thought it ought to apply to spring as well as autumn voyages, as he thought deck loads ought never to be carried.

replied, that he did not propose this as a permanent bill, because he thought that was the duty of her Majesty's Government on a point of so much importance. The Committee had not slurred over any evidence, but had been anxious to obtain every information in their power. It was clear that losses had taken place to a great extent, in situations in which no such losses ought to have happened, occasioned solely by faulty stowage, and faulty management. The loss to the owners would be nothing by prohibiting deck-loads, as the difference in insurance and charges would more than compensate them.

thought the observations of the hon. Member for Bridport were hardly fair; all his suggestions were regarding matters to be discussed in Committee. He would not detain the House longer than to express his admiration of the manner in which the Committee had made out a case calling imperiously, in the name of humanity, for legislative interference.

suggested, whether it would not be more efficient to prevent bad ships being employed, by permitting an increased rate of insurance being taken, because as long as they could be insured, merchants would send mere rafts to sea.

said, that what had fallen from the hon. Member for Kilkenny would be properly discussed in Committee, and ought to be attended to.

Bill read a second time.