HC Deb 13 February 1894 vol 21 cc387-8
MR. PARKER SMITH (Lanark, Partick)

I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that the Brazilian Government have appointed a safe anchorage and a safe landing quay at Rio; whether he is aware that insurgent ships are in the habit of taking refuge among British merchant vessels and drawing the Government fire upon them; whether he is prepared to instruct our officers to prevent the insurgents from taking refuge amongst our ships, and to protect British ships and lighters containing their cargo in going to the landing-place; whether ho is aware that such protection has been given by German and American men-of-war, and whether he will instruct our officers to concert with the officers of these nations measures for the general protection; whether he is aware that our officers have repeatedly interfered with the discretion of the captains of merchant vessels in endeavouring to get their cargoes discharged; and whether, if he is unable to give any assistance to British ships, he will instruct our officers to leave merchant captains to act in accordance with their own judgment?


In response to representations from the foreign Representatives, the Brazilian Government made a change of landing-place on December 16th, and subsequently promised to remove the guns from the Island of Bom Jesua until a safer anchorage than the one then available could be assigned. The British senior naval officer was instructed by telegraph on the 10th to report on the statements that insurgent vessels were in the habit of sheltering themselves among merchant vessels, and he has had, and still has, authority to protect British goods and lighters carrying British goods from seizure or interference when engaged in legitimate business. Such protection cannot be given within the zone of fire when the combatants are engaged. We have no information to the effect that the instructions to the German and United States Naval Authorities direct them to give a greater degree of protection than is accorded to the Naval Authorities of the other Powers. The measures taken have been decided upon at conferences of the senior naval officers, including the French, Austrian, Italian, and United States. The British Naval Authorities have refused assistance in cases where, owing to the firing between the combatants, the discharging of the cargoes would have endangered the lives of the seamen of Her Majesty's ships and of the merchant vessels. With reference to the last paragraph of the question, I have to say that we cannot undertake to send instructions differing from those which have been sent already.