§ MR. J. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
On behalf of the hon. Member for South Birmingham (Mr. J. Powell Williams), I beg to ask the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that the vessels to be employed by the Northern of France Railway Company in conveying British mails and British passengers from Dover to Calais are the well-known and modern English steamers Empress and Victoria; whether the following five of the London, Chatham, and Dover Railway Company's passenger steamers, Invicta, Foam, Petrel, France, and Prince, plying between Dover and Calais, now fly the French flag, and, being manned by Frenchmen, are exempted from examination for seaworthiness by the Board of Trade; and, whether he has considered the danger which may result to the safety of British passengers and British trade if the cross-channel service is virtually converted into a French enterprise, by the addition of the Empress and Victoria to the number of English vessels already transferred to the French flag?
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE (Mr. BRYCE,) Aberdeen, S.
I can only repeat what I said on Tuesday last, in reply to a question from the hon. Member—namely, that the French Government have decided that when the existing contract for the conveyance of their mails expires in 1896, the new contract shall be given to the Northern of France Railway Company, on the express condition that the vessels employed shall be built in France and owned by a French company. The present contract for the conveyance of the French mails is held by the London, Chatham, and Dover Railway Company, and, in accordance with its terms, several vessels owned by the company fly the French flag, carry French crews, and are surveyed by the French authorities. When the contract expires next year, the reason referred to for continuing to sail these vessels under a foreign flag will cease to exist. I do not see why any danger, either to British passengers or to British 1472 trade, should be anticipated from the fact that a certain number of French vessels participate with our own vessels in the cross-channel service, but the matter is one over which I have no jurisdiction.
§ MR. T. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
asked, if the right hon. Gentleman could say how many vessels in this service flew the British flag?
§ COLONEL HOWARD VINCENT
inquired whether the right hon. Gentleman would, in communication with the Postmaster General, take care that English mails were given to vessels flying English flags? and whether he would also see that vessels flying French flags and carrying mails between Dover and Calais were subject to the Life Saving Appliances Act of 1880?