HC Deb 11 June 1891 vol 354 cc149-50

I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies whether the regulations which were in force for issuing licences for coal hulks at Gibraltar, involving a trade of nearly 500,000 tons per annum, have recently been made more stringent by the addition of clauses making the licences Revocable at any time at the absolute will and pleasure of the Governor, without assigning any reason whatever for such revocation, and that the Governor may refuse to renew a licence without assigning any reason whatever; whether in licences previously in force the words used were— The licence is revocable at any time at the pleasure of the Governor; whether he is aware that, on representations from the Local Chamber of Commerce, Governor Sir Arthur Hardinge wrote to the Chamber, on 30th September, 1889, extending the term of licences to 12 months, and adding that— Such licences should be continuous unless any breach of regulation call for non-renewal; and that His Excellency also stated— That he much regrets that he is constrained to retain the clause as it now stands in case the power therein conferred should in any case of national emergency be of necessity put into action. Hulk owners may, however, rest, fully assured that the Government, having the interests of the trade of Gibraltar fully at heart, would never put such powers in force unless circumstances fully justified such action. Long custom appears to have assured to hulk owners a prescriptive right to the berths they occupy, provided always due regard be paid to the Port Office rules and terms under which the licences are issued; whether any, and what, circumstances have arisen to demand an alteration of the licences, and a withdrawal of Sir Arthur Hardinge's assurance; and whether the Government will consider the effect on the coal trade, which produces a large proportion of the Colony's revenue, of withdrawing the above assurance?

SIR J. FERGUSSON (for Baron H. de WORMS)

The Regulations governing the issue of licences for coal hulks at Gibraltar have not been altered; but the wording of the licences has been altered in the manner indicated in the first two parts of the question, in order to remove misconceptions which were found to exist as to the discretionary power of the Governor to revoke, or refuse to renew, licences. The Secretary of State has quite recently been informed that in September, 1889, Sir A. Hardinge wrote to the Gibraltar Chamber of Commerce a letter, containing the passages set out in the 3rd paragraph. He is unable to concur in the terms of that letter, so far as they can be understood, to limit the discretionary power of the Governor in the matter of the revocation or renewal of hulk licences, and to admit a prescriptive right. The alteration of the form of licence was occasioned by claims put forward in opposition to a refusal of the Governor to renew the licences of certain hulks, the berths of which were required for the use of Her Majesty's ships. The Secretary of State does not anticipate that this alteration of form will have an injurious effect on the coal trade, and those who are interested in the trade may rest assured that the Governor will not exercise the discretion necessarily vested in him in an arbitrary manner, but will have full regard to the representations of those who hold licences.