HC Deb 23 April 1877 vol 236 cc826-7

asked Mr. Attorney General to state, How far British shipowners are amenable to British Law when carrying contraband of war for neutral peoples other than British for the use of Russian or Turkish Governments; if trading in horses by sale or transport for either of the belligerents by British subjects is a breach of the Foreign Enlistment Act; and, if he can define the meaning of " contraband of war?"


Sir, the carrying of contraband of war exposes the owner of, the ship to the risk of having his ship seized, and the confiscation of anything contraband found on board; as a rule, there is no other consequence. With respect to the trading in horses, by sale or transport, for either of the belligerents, I cannot say whether such trading would be a breach of the Foreign Enlistment Act or not until I was made acquainted with the precise circumstances in which it occurred. I should prefer not to attempt to define what would or what would not constitute an infringement of this Act, as any statement by me on the subject might be regarded by British subjects and Foreign Powers as a declaration proceeding from the Government, and not merely the expression of the opinion of a lawyer. As to the concluding Question of the hon. Gentleman, "contraband of war" may be defined roughly to consist in articles which it is probable will be used for the purposes of war, and which are being carried to a port of a belligerent.