HC Deb 16 February 1922 vol 150 cc1212-5

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (1) whether he has received re-presentations from British shipowners against the recent action of the Portuguese Government, who has recently increased the charges on British ships entering Portuguese ports to four times that of Portuguese ships; whether any protest has been, or will be, made by our Government here to the Portuguese Government on these increased shipping charges to British ships; can he make any general statement as to what the Government propose to do in order to protect British shipowners and trade with Portugal;

(2) whether the Secretary of State has been asked to receive a deputation from British shipowners trading with Portugal to put before him their case against the increase of harbour, pilotage, light, and other dues on British ships entering Portuguese ports; whether he has agreed to receive the deputation; if not, will he further consider the matter in view of the importance of maintaining the existing trade between Great Britain and its Dominions and Colonies with their old ally Portugal;

(3) whether his attention has been called to the recent increased charges made by the Portuguese Government upon all British shipping entering Portuguese ports; whether he is aware that this Neill have a detrimental effect on British shipping and trade with Portugal; whether Portuguese ships entering British ports are charged the same harbour, port, light, and other charges as shipping from all other nations; and can any steps be taken towards retaliating on Portugal for penalising British shipping in the way that has been recently done?

83. Mr. L. SCOTT

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether His Majesty's Government are taking any further steps by way of representation to the Portuguese Government, or otherwise, with a view to relieving British shipping from the prohibitive taxes or duties recently imposed by the Portuguese authorities; and whether he is aware that until such relief is obtained the shipping trade of this country with Portugal is, and will remain, so penalised as in a commercial sense to be excluded from the ports of that country?

Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether his attention has been called to the new Portuguese Shipping Act, which has just been brought forward in the Portuguese Parliament; if he is aware that this Act will give very great and special advantages to Portuguese shipping and will discriminate severely against British shipping; and that, in particular, all port charges, licences, etc., in Portuguese harbours will have to be paid in gold at par of exchange by British ships, while Portuguese vessels will only have to pay these charges in paper money; and whether any protest is being made to the Portuguese Government or other means taken to protect British shipping rights in that country?


Representations have been addressed to the Portuguese Government calling attention to the injurious effect which their legislation will have on British shipping. Retaliation, by means of increased charges on Portuguese shipping visiting British ports, is impracticable, in view of Articles 13 and 14 of the Anglo-Portuguese Treaty of 1914, which provides for reciprocal most-favoured-nation treatment in shipping matters. I will communicate to my hon. Friends a copy of a letter addressed to certain interested bodies in this country, in which the considerations determining the attitude of His Majesty's Government in this matter are fully set out; and I will see that a copy is also laid in the Library of the House. I hope my hon. Friends will agree, after perusal of this letter, that a deputation would serve no useful purpose.


Has attention also been drawn to the fact that British ship-owners are required to pay their duties in gold, which makes a very considerable difference, on the present rate of exchange, against the British shipowner?


Yes, I believe that is so.

Viscount WOLMER

Why was the Treaty drawn so that the Portuguese can hit us while we cannot hit them?


I think the Treaty is drawn in the common form.


Have the Foreign Office any information as to whether German capitalists are behind the pur- chase of Portuguese shipping, and has that anything to do with the increased charges?


No, Sir, I have no information.