HC Deb 08 April 1878 vol 239 cc853-4

asked Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Whether it is true, as stated in the "Pall Mall Gazette" of Saturday, that, at a meeting of the Society for the Aid of Russian Maritime Commerce, held at Moscow, on Thursday, it was unanimously resolved to organize a volunteer fleet of light vessels to destroy the enemy's commerce, to form committees and open subscriptions for that purpose all over Russia, and to request the Cesarewitch to accept the honorary presidency of the Central Committee; whether it is also true that the chief of this society (Count Kameroffski) has consulted Professor Bluntschli, of Heidleberg, on the question of public law in Europe, with regard to capture at sea in time of war, and that the Professor has given the same opinion which he gave at the outbreak of the Franco-German War to the Government of Prussia—namely, that merchant vessels might be turned into cruisers or other war vessels, provided their crews were organized in a military manner and placed under responsible officers; also, whether, in view of possible war, the Government propose to consider measures for arming and commissioning the Mercantile Marine of Great Britain and the Colonies, in order thereby to augment the Naval strength of the Country, to enable the Mercantile Marine to protect itself against privateers and pirates, and to facilitate the early capture of the ships of the enemy in the various waters of the world?


Sir, Her Majesty's Government have received no information that would enable me to answer the first part of the Question of the hon. Member. With regard to the second part, I can only say that we are well aware of the fact that this country possesses in her Mercantile Marine a very powerful reserve of maritime force, and that, in the event of any necessity arising, Her Majesty's Government will take measures to gain the full benefit of that reserve.