HC Deb 23 July 1844 vol 76 cc1310-2
Mr. Wawn

rose to move for a statement of the equivalent advantages, if any, which have been granted to British navigation by the Russian Government, in consideration of the exemptions conceded by Her Majesty's Government to Russian ships, by the second separate Article of the Treaty of St. Petersburgh, of the 11th day of January, 1843, which reserves to Russian vessels The exemption from Navigation Dues during the first three years, which is enjoyed by vessels built in Russia, and belonging to Russian subjects. He had reason to believe that concessions had been given to Russian ships under this Treaty which gave them the greatest advantages over the owners of British ships, and which, if Her Majesty's Government could have contemplated before the Treaty was signed, they never would have conceded the point. He wished to learn from the right hon. Gentleman what advantages had been given to the owners of British ships as a return for their concession of our Navigation Laws. At present he had been informed that when a British vessel entered a Russian port all the provisions on board were put under seal until the vessel sailed, and they were obliged to obtain provisions from shore; this, he regarded as a great hardship, as no such restrictions are imposed on Russian vessels in this country.

Mr. W. Gladstone

would not go into a lengthened explanation on the subject, as he feared that he could not make it intelligible to the House without appearing tedious. The hon. Member had pointed out the advantages obtained by Russian ships entering our ports in being exempted from the payment of navigation dues for three years: and he had then asked what equivalent advantages was given to British ships in Russian ports. It was the practice of this country, when making Navigation Treaties with countries whose commerce was in a backward state, to allow certain relaxations of our Navigation Laws, without claiming corresponding concessions. For instance, in our Navigation Treaties with some of the South American states, it was provided that the strict provisions of our Navigation Laws, as regarded the owners and the manning, which were refused with regard to the ships of more important commercial states, should not be enforced. In many of those Treaties it was allowed that the ships of these countries might claim the benefit of the exemptions granted by these Treaties, although the ships were not navigated in conformity with our Navigation Laws. He had stated this to show that the principle alluded to in the Navigation Treaty with Russia was not entirely new. He would now give a direct reply as to the advantages given to British vessels under this Treaty, which were not awarded to Russian vessels in our ports, and this advantage was to be considered as an equivalent for the non-claiming navigation dues for three years on Russian ships. He would reply, without going at length into the terms of the Treaty, that the privilege of equality with Russian ships, as regarded dues and treatment in all respects in Russian ports, was to be conceded to British ships coming from any part of the world. That was, that our vessels might trade from a third country, as it was termed, as well as direct from this country. For instance, that a British vessel might at once proceed to a Russian port with a cargo from Brazils, without coming to an English port. He conceived that this might be regarded as being a fully counteracting advantage. Such a concession, with regard to fees, might not be expedient as regarded the ships of a great maritime power, but in the case of a power like Russia, whose vessels must compete with us under disadvantages, he thought such a concession but proper and reasonable. As for the statement respecting the difference of treatment of British and Russian ships as regarded provisions, he could only say that he had not heard of it before; but if any such case were made known to the Government, proper representations would be made to the Russian Government on the subject. There was, however, a case which had recently been brought under the notice of the Government, and with respect to which representations had been made to the Russian Government. He alluded to the great difference in the duty on herrings imported into Russia from Sweden and Norway and from this country. He was not prepared to make a definite statement on the point, as the correspondence with the Russian Government was still being carried on. With regard to the Motion, he would not accede to it; and indeed it was evidently one which the hon. Member had brought forward with the view of raising a discussion, and the information moved for could not be embodied in any return. All the information which the hon. Member required might be gathered from the face of the Treaty itself.

Motion withdrawn.