In 1803, the Parliament of the United Kingdom passed the Passenger Vessels Act. It was the first of many laws intended to regulate the transportation of immigrants and to protect emigrants on board ships from exploitation by transportation companies (such as exorbitant rates and consequent subjection to poor sanitary conditions). The Passenger Act required improved conditions relating to hygiene, food and comfort for passengers travelling to North America. However, this law was not always followed by transportation providers and the spread of infectious diseases such as typhus continued.
This act was established under humanitarian pretences, but the more practical and desired effect was to raise the cost of passage to prevent as many as possible from leaving. Landlords who feared the emigration of their population lobbied extensively for this piece of legislation, and where one could previously travel to Canada for £3–4, the price for the same passage was in some cases raised to £10 or more. The ability to move abroad was subsequently limited to a small class of people until it was repealed in 1826.