HC Deb 10 October 1912 vol 42 cc496-8
10. Mr. HEWINS

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he had received any definite reply to the representations made to the Government of the United States in regard to the Bill which was then passing through Congress for regulating the Panama Canal dues; and whether His Majesty's Government are making any further representations, now that the Bill has become law, so as to secure equitable treatment for British and Canadian ships?


The Panama Canal Bill underwent some alterations in the course of its passage through Congress, and after it was passed towards the end of August we informed the Government of the United States that we would address a communication to them after we had received and had time to consider the full text of the Bill as signed by the President and his Memorandum respecting it. It was added that, should there eventually be a difference between the two countries respecting the interpretation of the Hay-Pauncefote Treaty that could not be settled by any other means, we should ask that it be referred to arbitration in accordance with the provisions of the existing Arbitration Treaty concluded with the United States in 1008. The whole subject is one of great importance, and together with the views of the legal advisers of the Crown upon it is now under consideration of His Majesty's Government. As soon as we are in a position to do so we shall be glad to make a further statement to the House.


May I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he has noticed the remark of President Taft that the British representation was made rather tardily?


I have not seen that remark. I shall be glad to know the date when that remark was made, because the Bill, as I stated in my answer, did not pass in its final form—which is the important matter—until towards the end of August, and immediately after the news that the Bill had passed we stated that we would consider it in its final form and make a further communication.


Did not the British Government make representations before the Bill was passed?


It is quite true that we did express our views while the Bill was in progress through Congress of course, it was impossible to make a final communication with regard to the Bill which was being shaped. We therefore expressly stated that we would address a further communication when the Bill had reached its final form.


Will the right hon. Gentleman consider the advisability of postponing these further representations until after the American elections?


I have said that the subject is one of great importance, and when we do make our communication it, ought to be the result of the very fullest consideration from all the legal points of view. That we hope to complete this month. We shall then address our communication to the United States. Of course, I cannot say that it will be dependent upon the internal affairs of the United States, but it must take a little time.

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