§ MR. STOREY (Sunderland)
On behalf of my colleague in the representation of Sunderland, I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, seeing that war has been declared between China and Japan, neutral vessels will be interrupted in their trade between those two countries; if so, what time will be granted for sailing to and from belligerent ports; within what distance from British Indian and other colonial coasts and harbours capture and seizure by either of the belligerent Powers will be considered legal; and if it is intended to define, for the guidance of British merchants and shipowners, what description of merchandise is to be considered contraband of war, thus avoiding, as far as possible, complications similar to those which arose during the American Civil War; and whether coal conveyed to non-blockaded ports will be legal traffic?
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Sir E. GREY,) Northumberland, Berwick
The Japanese Government have promised that no warlike operations will be undertaken against Shanghai and its approaches, and upon this condition the Chinese Government will not obstruct the approaches of Shanghai. The contending Powers will have, speaking generally, no right to interfere with neutral vessels, except in the event of an effective blockade with due notification, or in a case of contraband of war. It would be a dangerous and unusual course 145 for Her Majesty's Government to undertake to define by a general statement what is and what is not contraband of war; for instance, coal has been held not to be contraband of war as a general rule, but it is possible that it might in certain cases become so. Her Majesty's Government, of course, adhere to the doctrine which they have heretofore maintained, that it is not for the belligerent to decide what is and what is not contraband of war, regardless of the well established rights of neutrals.