HC Deb 06 March 1857 vol 144 cc1956-7

said, he wished to ask the noble Lord at the head of the Government a question respecting the Ordinance passed by the Legislative Council of Hong Hong in 1855 relative to the licensing of vessels, and to which reference had so often been made in the course of the late debates on the Chinese question. Holding, as he did, that that ordinance was altogether illegal, and that it was not only highly objectionable on that ground, but had led to hostilities in China, he wished to know whether the Government meant to take any steps for procuring its repeal. It had been contended in another place, by the very highest legal authority, that the Ordinance was legal, upon the principle that it was competent to the Government and the Legislature of this country to bind foreign nations, and, among others, to bind China, by the laws of this country, and that it was competent to enforce obedience to the Ordinance of Hong Kong. Now, inasmuch as that was a policy which had for the first time been adopted in this country, and, so far as he knew, by every nation in the world, and as it was one calculated to put an end to the amicable relations that subsisted between this and other countries, he wished to ask whether it was the intention of the Government to allow the Ordinance of Kong Kong to continue to remain in legal force.


It seems to me, Sir, that the question of the hon. and learned Gentleman goes rather to reopen in a short compass a great part of that which constituted the lengthened debates of the two Houses on the Chinese question. The hon. and learned Gentleman assumes that this Ordinance imposes on foreign countries, and imposes on the Chinese, arrangements which relate only to British law. This question was argued at great length, and the argument in favour of the Ordinance was that, so far from imposing restrictions on the Chinese Government, it was, in fact, intended to aid them in their maritime arrangements, and that it did so aid them by imposing additional restrictions on the use of the British flag. All I can say is that I am not aware of any intention to impose British law on foreign nations, and that there is no intention on the part of Her Majesty's Government to deal in any way with the Ordinance of Hong Kong.

Motion agreed to.

House at its rising to adjourn till Monday next.