HC Deb 18 December 1916 vol 88 cc1098-9

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware of the number of German steamers sheltering in the ports of neutral countries; whether he is aware that many of these steamers are potential commerce destroyers; and whether, in view of international welfare and commerce, the Foreign Office will make representations to these neutral countries of the danger arising out of the presence of these German steamers in their ports, with a view to their internment or disablement or use by these neutral Governments under proper safeguards or of handing them over to Allied Governments for commercial use, making it clear to these neutral Governments that Germany's aim and object is to diminish or destroy all mercantile vessels, irrespective of nationality, with a view to prevent or destroy international trade and commerce while conserving German mercantile tonnage for immediate use on the termination of the War?


The answer to the first two parts of the question is in the affirmative. His Majesty's Government have on many occasions since the War began drawn the attention of different neutral Governments to the responsibility they would incur if enemy vessels were to leave their ports and take part in belligerent operations, and will continue to make similar representations if and when they seem to be desirable. The precise measures which may be required to safeguard the neutrality in this respect of the neutral Governments concerned must necessarily be left to those Governments. As regards the utilisation for commercial purposes of German steamers lying in neutral ports, the matter is one in which the initiative must lie with the Governments concerned.

Back to