HC Deb 05 March 1940 vol 358 cc223-4W
Rear-Admiral Beamish

asked the President of the Board of Trade what is the intention of the Government with regard to the British-owned cargoes now detained in German ships taking refuge in neutral ports all over the world; and what he proposes to do in the case of those neutral Powers who are continuing to permit the indefinite detention of British-owned property within their territory?

Sir A. Duncan

Under licence from the Board of Trade, the London Chamber of Commerce have been conducting negotiations on behalf of all British cargo-owners with a view to concluding a general settlement with representatives of the German ship owners for the recovery of British-owned cargoes from enemy ships in neutral ports. On 7th February, however, the negotiations broke down, as extraneous and unacceptable demands were advanced by the German ship owners when an agreement had already been drafted and was believed to be on the point of signature. Unless the German ship owners reconsider their position, a series of test actions will be fought on behalf of the cargo owners in the courts of the neutral countries concerned. Funds for this purpose have been advanced by British insurance interests, on the understanding that the sums expended will be recoverable from cargo owners when in due course their cargoes are released. The proceedings will be conducted under the direction of a joint committee comprising nominees of the insurance interests and the Chamber, and His Majesty's Government have noted with satisfaction the comprehensive plan of action which this committee has formulated. The question of making representations to the neutral countries concerned would only arise in the event of proper facilities not being granted for pursuing the matter in their courts.