HC Deb 15 October 1908 vol 194 cc466-7
MR. G. H. FABER (Boston)

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs seeing that it is now more than a year since the Russian Government recouped the German shipowner for the sinking of the steamship "Tetartos," and that in no single instance has compensation been obtained for any British vessel destroyed by Russian warships, in defiance of International law, during the war in the East, will he say if the Russian Government claims a prescriptive right to sink British vessels on the high seas, and if such claim applies to British vessels alone.


The circumstances in which compensation was paid in the case of the German ship "Tetartos" were explained in the Answer given to the hon. Member on July 13th last, and His Majesty's Government have no reason for assuming that any other or different course will be followed in the cases of British ships in which the Russian Supreme Court of Appeal have found that the vessel was not liable to confiscation. Some of these cases are still pending before the Russian tribunals, but His Majesty's Government have done all in their power to expedite decisions. In one British case, that of the "Ikhona," the decision has been substantially the same as in that of the "Tetartos." The action of the Russian naval officers, in sinking certain neutral vessels of various nationalities during the hostilities with Japan, was taken in pursuance of Paragraph 21 of the Russian Naval Regulations published in the London Gazette of 18th March, 1904, which, though His Majesty's Government are unable to admit, the Imperial Government maintain are not inconsistent with generally recognised principles of International law. The Hague Conference disclosed a difference of opinion amongst the nations on this point, and it is one of the questions on which it is to be hoped some understanding will be reached with Maritime Powers at the Conference to be held in London towards the end of this year. There is, however, no ground for the suggestion that the right was claimed by Russia with regard to British vessels alone.

MR. PIKE PEASE (Darlington)

May I ask, Sir, whether, considering the time that has elapsed, some real reason for some of these delays cannot be given to the House? I have raised the same question in reference to various other ships.


Some progress has been made. In one case, that of the "Ikhona," a satisfactory decision has been given, and in one or two others we are doing all we can to expedite matters, though I admit the progress is very slow.