HC Deb 22 April 1914 vol 61 cc910-1

asked whether the British mails, while being carried by the Norwegian steamer "Childar," were looted when that steamer was recently pirated in South China; has any satisfaction been obtained from the Chinese Government whose subjects effected the piracy; and whether, in view of the unsettled condition of the West River and the Canton delta, the Admiralty can see their way to expedite as far as possible the construction of the two river gunboats foreshadowed in the Naval Estimates of 1911–12, 1912–13, and 1913–14, but not so far proceeded with?


I am informed that nothing is known at the Admiralty or the Foreign Office of the pirating of the "Childar" beyond what has appeared in the Press. As regards the last part of the question, I have nothing to add to the reply I gave to the hon. Member for North Birmingham on the first of this month.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that last year a French steamer was pirated on the West River and another steamer was also pirated?


The two river gunboats to which the second part of the question refers were not for the West River at all, but for the Yangtse.


asked whether any compensation has been claimed from the Chinese Government for property lost by British officers on board the steamers "Shui-on," pirated in 1911, on the "Tai-on," pirated in 1913 in South China; and whether any compensation has been claimed for the dependents of the chief officer of the "Shui-on" who lost his life, and whose mother is in poor circumstances?


In the case of the "Shui-on," His Majesty's Government claimed the following sums from the Chinese Government:—

$299.77 for the damage to the vessel.

£1,000 for injury to the health of the master, Captain Johnston.

$166 for the funeral expenses of the chief officer, Mr. Nicholson.

No claim was made on behalf of Mr. Nicholson's relatives, as the representatives of his family stated that no one had been directly dependent on him, and that he had not been in the habit of remitting any portion of his earnings to his relatives. No other claims were put forward by the officers of the "Shui-on." In the case of the steamship "Tai-on," the pirates had embarked as ordinary passengers in British territory, and the circumstances disclosed no ground upon which any claim against the Chinese Government could be founded.


If these Chinese pirates get it into their heads that British officers may be shot and mail-looted with impunity will it advantage us much in that part of the world?


I hope they will not get it into their heads.