HC Deb 23 December 1915 vol 77 cc589-91

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on what previous occasions the Government of this country has on the outbreak of hostilities issued, in the form of an Order in Council or otherwise, a general statement of the rules of international law applicable to naval warfare which are to be adopted and enforced by His Majesty's Government during the War?


I am not sure that there is any case in which the whole rules of international law have been stated by Order in Council in the way referred to by my hon. and learned Friend. But he will be no doubt familiar with the Orders in Council issued on the outbreak of the Crimean War, which are somewhat analogous. The maritime questions arising in this War are of a much more complex character than those which arose in any previous war.

3. Sir O. D. REES

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether any further interval must elapse before the Government formally and totally repudiates the Declaration of London?


I am not quite sure whether I follow what is in my hon. Friend's mind. The Declaration of London has not now and never has had any force or effect in itself and no question of repudiating it has or can arise. Certain of its provisions have been adopted by the Allied Governments as a convenient statement of existing international law applicable to belligerent conditions. If my hon. Friend thinks that some of the provisions so adopted are incorrect statements of the law and he will call my attention to them I will consider whether they should be formally rejected by Order in Council or otherwise. But the fact that they are stated in the Declaration of London does not add to or diminish their legal force.

Sir J. D. REES

Is the Noble Lord aware that in the country this Declaration is regarded as only less disastrous than the discussion of the freedom of the sea, and that it really calls for some form of repudiation in order to satisfy the country?


I quite recognise the desirability of removing any misapprehension which may exist, but really, if I may respectfully say so, I think the misappre- hension has arisen from the statements of those who ought to know better on this subject.

Colonel YATE

Will the Noble Lord—


I called on the hon. Member to ask the next question. We cannot debate every question.