§ SIR R. TEMPLE (Surrey, Kingston)
On behalf of the hon. Member for Lynn Regis, I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, during the continuance of the existing war between China and Japan, British merchant vessels are liable, in common with other neutrals, to the exercise by any man-of-war of either belligerent of the right of search, in order to ascertain the nationality of the vessel as professed by its flags, and also to ascertain whether any part of its cargo is contraband of war; whether this right of search is exercisable in the case of China by duly commissioned Chinese privateers, China not having acceded to the Declaration of Paris of 1856, but not by Japanese privateers, Japan having acceded to that Declaration; whether, China having retained and Japan having renounced, by the Declaration of Paris, the exercise of the right to capture enemy's goods in neutral vessels, Her Majesty's Government propose to issue any notice to shipowners and shipmasters warning them that, though not liable to capture by Japanese men-of-war or privateers when carrying Chinese goods, enemy's property, they are nevertheless liable to capture either by Chinese men-of-war or by Chinese privateers when carrying Japanese goods, enemy's property; and 370 whether Her Majesty's Government propose to give to British shipowners and shipmasters any intimation or guidance as to whether coal is contraband of war, and whether they are prohibited from supplying either belligerent with coal under risk of capture and confiscation by the other belligerent?
§ SIR E. GREY
It is impossible to answer this question without departing from the course which has hitherto been followed by all British Governments in the course of former wars. In time of war commercial transactions must be conducted on the responsibility of those interested in them, who can obtain legal advice on questions of International Law, and Her Majesty's Government consider that it would not be for the public interest to attempt to lay down rules with reference to cases which have not yet occurred.