HC Deb 04 July 1923 vol 166 cc410-2

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether his attention has been called to the judgment which has just been given by the Court of Appeal of the United States of America in the case of the Schooner "Henry L. Marshall," from the Bahama Islands, which was seized by the American authorities on the high seas when 10 miles from the American coast because she had transferred liquor to American craft while on the high seas; whether he is aware that the American Appeal Court have held the seizure of the vessel to be legal; and what action the British Government propose to take in the matter, seeing that the effect of the above decision is contrary to the accepted rules of international law and applies American municipal law to foreign ships on the high seas outside the accepted three miles limit?


asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been called the fact that the United States now claims that if a ship of any nationality transfers part of her liquor cargo to an American craft anywhere at sea, the presence of the United States boat or boats gives the United States the right of search and seizure of the foreign ship; will he state the attitude of His Majesty's Government in such a contingency; and will he take steps to see that our merchant ships are protected from this menace?


The action taken by His Majesty's Government, in the face of the seizure of British vessels by the United States Government outside the three-mile limit, was explained in my reply to the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley on the 6th June. In the course of last autumn the United States Government issued instructions that these seizures were to be discontinued, except in cases where the vessel's own small boats could be shown to have entered the three-mile limit for an illegal purpose. I am not aware that any claim such as that referred to by the hon. Member for Richmond is now advanced by the United States Government. The case referred to by the hon. Member for South Kensington is an exception, since the vessel in question was found on investigation to have obtained British registry by fraudulent means. It was therefore intimated to the United States Government nearly a year ago that His Majesty's Government did not regard her as a British vessel. Had she not been condemned by the United States courts, steps to secure her forfeiture would have been instituted in the Bahamas, where she fraudulently obtained British registry.

Captain Viscount CURZON

Can the hon. Gentleman assure us that the Government will not tolerate one course of action with regard to territorial waters in American waters and another course in Russian waters? Will the same rule apply to both?


I can give an assurance that the British Government in both cases will do their utmost to maintain British interests.


Will the Government put the forces of the British Empire behind this discreditable practice of rum-running?


No; on the contrary we are doing everything we can to prevent it.


A most unfair question.

46. Captain BENN

asked the Prime Minister whether he will lay upon the Table the terms of the American proposal asking for powers to seize outside the three miles limit ships alleged to be engaged in the smuggling of intoxicating liquor?

The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Stanley Baldwin)

I am perfectly willing to do so, provided that the consent of the United States Government can be obtained. Steps will be taken to secure this.