HC Deb 10 July 1928 vol 219 cc2015-7

asked the President of the Board of Trade with what countries his Department is negotiating on the question of the immunity of shipping from process of law?

The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Sir Philip Cunliffe-Lister)

The answer is rather long, and the hon. and learned Member will perhaps allow me to circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.


Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether the negotiations would cover the position of the United States Shipping Line, and whether they will ascertain that this company is not registered under the Business Names Act, is not incorporated in this country, and that its right to plead diplomatic immunity has been sustained in the Court of Appeal?


With regard to the last part of the question, I think there is a question which came to me as a written question to which I have supplied an answer to-day, and so the hon. Member will get a considered reply. With regard to the first part of the question, the Convention would cover all State-owned or operated shipping which, I understand, in the opinion of the jurists of all the lands concerned, was the relevant matter to consider.


If diplomatic immunity is held to cover the operations of State-owned shipping, would it also cover the operations of nationalised industries and the operations of Russian companies in this country which are State controlled.


The whole object of this Convention was that, where a Government either owned or chartered vessels, it should be subject to the same process of law as an individual who is engaged in that capacity. That is the whole object of the Convention.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the citizens of this country are deprived of their legal rights as against this line, although it gives no indication that it is anything but an ordinary trading concern, and can he take any steps to protect them?


I do not think that I can answer that question other than to say that it has been the consistent practice of this country, by means of Petition of Right or other means, to give to the subjects of this and of other countries the fullest possible recourse to the Courts against ships owned or chartered by the Government.


That does not apply to the United States Line.

Following is the answer:

The draft International Convention for the unification of certain Rules relating to the Immunity of State-owned vessels was signed at Brussels on the 10th April, 1926, by the delegates of the following countries: Germany, Belgium, Brazil, Denmark, Spain, Estonia, France, Great Britain, Hungary, Italy, Mexico, Norway, Holland, Poland, Portugal, Roumania, the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, and Sweden. Most of the delegates, including the British, signed subject to confirmation by their Governments. On examining the draft Convention it was found that it could not be adopted by His Majesty's Government as it stands, and a draft supplementary protocol was prepared after discussions with representatives of the Belgian Government, embodying the amendments which would enable His Majesty's Government to adopt the Convention. This draft supplementary protocol has been circulated by the Belgian Government to the other Governments concerned for their consideration.