HC Deb 26 August 1887 vol 320 cc13-4
MR. A. M'ARTHUR (Leicester)

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies, If it is a fact, as stated in the recent Consular Reports, and by the Hong Kong Chamber of Commerce, that, by order of the Home Government, French and German steamers carrying the mails obtain in British Colonial Ports the status of men of war, which includes freedom from arrest, freedom from search, and freedom from the operation of the Habeas Corpus, while those privileges, which give the vessels a prestige in the eye of shippers, are not granted to British mail steamers, which carry infinitely heavier mails; and, if he can state why this arrangement in favour of foreign steamers is made?


The fifth Article of a Convention between England and France, dated September 24, 1856, and presented to Parliament in 1857, provides that when the packets employed by the British Post Office, or by the French Post Office, in execution of Articles 1 and 2 of the Convention are national vessels the property of the Government, or vessels chartered or subsidized by Government, they shall be considered and treated as vessels of war in the ports of the two countries at which they regularly or accidentally touch, and be thus entitled to the same honours and privileges. They shall not on any account be diverted from their especial duty, or be liable to seizure, detention, embargo, or arret de prison. The German Government applied to Her Majesty's Government in February, 1886, to grant the same privileges to the German subsidized steamers when those vessels began to run. Ordinances have been passed in Hong Kong and certain other Crown Colonies, at the instance of the Home Government, conferring on French and German mail steamers the privileges of men-of-war in the ports of those Colonies. This has been done in the case of the French steamers in order to give effect to certain clauses of the French Postal Convention of 1856; and in the case of the German steamers in order that they may be placed on the same footing as the French, so long as the above-named Convention remained in force.