HC Deb 10 March 1915 vol 70 cc1381-2

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will state the reason for stopping goods shipped by the British steamer "Mongara," from Aden to New York, for transshipment viâ London, consigned to Messrs. S. H. Shotwell and Son, Gloversville, New York, the goods consisting of Berberah blackhead sheepskins; and whether, seeing that Berberah is in British Somaliland, and in view of the fact that many cases of this kind are arising, His Majesty's Government will appoint somebody with commercial knowledge to deal with the business matters of this kind, so as to avoid unnecessary interference with legitimate business and expense to merchants?


The British steamer "Mongara" arrived in London on the 4th ultimo and reported inter alia 400 bales of skins for transhipment to New York. Of these, 260 bales were shipped under the transhipment regulations of the steam ship "St. Stephen," which sailed for New York on the 16th ultimo. The remaining 140 bales were left over for shipment by a, later vessel; but on the 1st instant it was observed that the bales were marked "Arabia." This fact raised a suspicion of enemy ownership which would, if established, ipso facto debar the goods from the benefit of the transhipment concession and entail their seizure as prize. Inquiries were accordingly set on foot to establish the ownership of the goods, which were meanwhile placed under provisional detention as is usual in such cases. Satisfactory evidence has already been produced in regard to thirty-five bales, and these were released on the 5th instant. Further evidence has been called for in respect of eighty-four bales. No applicant for the release of the remaining twenty-one bales has as yet appeared. In reply to the second part of the question I may say that such cases are dealt with by men of commercial experience, nor can I regard the present case as one of unnecessary interference. I wish further to point out that the importance of these examinations is so vital that it is impossible to avoid some temporary inconvenience to merchants, though this is minimised as far as possible.


Will the Government pay the expenses incurred on account of this detention?


I must have notice of that.