§ SIR EDWARD GOURLEY (Sunderland)
I beg to ask the Attorney General can he state to what extent under the Declaration of Paris belligerents possess the right of search of neutral ships; can the warships of the United States and Spain stop and examine ships' cargoes and papers of neutrals when outside territorial waters, although adherents of the Declaration; will he also inform the House whether subjects of the British Empire, under the Foreign Enlistment Act, can convey contraband of war to neutral ports, the ultimate destination of which being for the use of the belligerents, and can cargoes of this description be cleared at the Customs as legal merchandise; and is he aware that considerable quantities of coal are being exported from the United Kingdom to Spain; if so, should 1083 it be transhipped for use on board the ships of war of that country, will it be a breach of the declaration of neutrality?
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir R. WEBSTER,) Isle of Wight
The warships of the United States and Spain have a right to stop and examine ships' cargoes and papers in order to ascertain whether such ships have on board contraband of war. Subjects of the British Empire can convey contraband of war in ordinary merchant vessels to neutral ports even though the ultimate destination be for the use of the belligerents, and such cargoes can be cleared at the Custom House. Such contraband of war would, of course, be subject to the risk of capture and condemnation, and, under some circumstances, the ships in which it was being carried. The Foreign Enlistment Act does not affect the case in question. I am not aware of the shipments of coal referred to in the last paragraph; whether transhipment for use on board ships of war would be a breach of the declaration of neutrality would depend upon the circumstances under which it took place.
§ MR. M. DAVITT (Mayo, S.)
May I ask the honourable and learned Gentleman if he will make inquiry whether it is true that coal has been shipped from England to Spain for the benefit of the Spanish navy?
§ [No Reply.]