HC Deb 31 May 1892 vol 5 cc368-70
MR. KELLY (Camberwell, N.)

I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that a certain Syndicate gave, many months ago, orders for several tank-steamers under the lines of construction laid down in the "Provisional Regulations," issued by the Directors of the Suez Canal Company, and proposing to permit the transit of petroleum in bulk through the Canal in tank-steamers built according to conditions therein contained; whether he is aware that such a steamer has been already launched, for which the order must have been given before the issuing of such regulations; and whether the facts with reference to the construction of the tank-steamers for such Syndicate show that there has been a contravention of Article 15 of the original Charter granted to the Company in 1856, by which it is laid down that the Universal Company, to which the concession is granted, shall never in any case have power to grant to any vessel, company, or private person any advantages or favours not granted to all the other vessels, companies, or private persons under similar conditions"?


I am not aware of either of the facts alleged in the first and second paragraphs of the hon. Member's question. Upon the assumption, however, that both are correct, the matter is not one upon which Her Majesty's Government can be called upon to pronounce an opinion.

MR. H. GARDNER (Essex, Saffron Walden)

Should not this question have been put to the First Lord of the Treasury?

[No answer was given.]

MR. LLOYD-GEORGE (&c.) (for Mr. PRITCHARD MORGAN,) Merthyr Tydvil

I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will inform the House whether, since the commencement of traffic on the Suez Canal, vessels passing thereon from sea to sea have been subjected to compulsory convoyage, and to discrimination in regard to anchorage, construction and cargoes; under what Article and in what words in the Suez Canal Charter or Concession the power and right was given to the Suez Canal Company, at its discretion, to make convoyage compulsory and to impose exceptional tolls and charges for hire in regard thereto; to create novel and exceptional systems of anchorage in the isolation of steamers by means of floating booms; to lay down principles for the construction of steamers according to the views of the Suez Canal Directorate, and to debar steamers not so constructed from passage on the Suez Canal from sea to sea; and to exclude from the Canal one class of cargoes and to impose exceptional conditions on other classes of cargo; whether these proposed Provisional Regulations are in excess of the powers in the Charter or Concession of the Suez Canal Company, irrespective of the equality of flags; and whether, before being sanctioned, with all the safeguards necessary for the security, safety, and freedom from interruption of the Canal, they will be submitted to the Sublime Porte, Egypt, and the Great Powers for ratification?


My reply to the first question of the hon. Member is: No, so far as Her Majesty's Government is aware. To the second question my reply is that, under Article 14 of the Concession to the Company of the 5th January, 1856, the Company is empowered to establish regulations for the passage of the Canal and its adjuncts, and that the new regulations do not raise any of the tolls hitherto paid. To the third question my reply is that the Provisional Regulations are not, in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government, in excess of the powers conferred by the Concession; and to the fourth question my reply is that there is no provision in the Concession of the Company or elsewhere for a submission to the Great Powers for ratification. So long as the Company does not refuse admission to any class of commercial vessels which comply with the regulations and treats the flags of all nations on a footing of equality, the intervention of Her Majesty's Government would not be justified.


I beg further to ask the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the responsibility for the proposed Provisional Regulations for the navigation of steamers carrying petroleum in bulk on the Suez Canal rests with the British Government, through its Inter-Departmental Committee, or with the Suez Canal Directors?


The responsibility for the regulations referred to rests with the Directors of the Suez Canal, who made them.