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Liquor Regulations, United States

Volume 163: debated on Monday 7 May 1923

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asked the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware that the publication of the facts that the value of the annual imports of spirits into the Bahama Islands has increased from £6,370 in 1918 to £1,003,721 in 1922, and that practically the whole of this increase is re-exported to America, has caused considerable indignation in the United States; that a widespread impression has been created that the authorities in this country were condoning, if not aiding and abetting, an unlawful traffic; whether the United States Government had made any diplomatic representations to His Majesty's Government on the subject; and, in view of the possibility of friction arising between the two countries due to the systematic and organised law breaking which was being committed by British subjects in this regard, whether His Majesty's Government will take all possible steps to ensure that spirits so imported into the Bahamas are not smuggled into the United States?


asked the Prime Minister whether His Majesty's Government has considered the large trade in smuggled goods carried on between certain of the West Indian islands in His Majesty's possession and the American coast, with a view to its prevention; and whether the governors of these islands have been given instructions to discourage the trade in liquor smuggling which is being carried on from the islands under their administration?

I have been asked to reply. I would refer to the replies of the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to the questions of the hon. Members for Taunton (Mr. J. Hope Simpson) and Bodmin (Mr. Foot) on the 11th and 16th April. I may add that, some considerable time before representations were received from the United States Government, steps had been taken, particularly in the Bahamas, to prevent breaches of local laws and irregularities of any kind in connection with clearances of ships or the transfer of United States vessels to British registry. Supplementary instructions have been issued from time to time, and the United States Government has expressed gratitude for the action taken. I have no doubt that the Colonial Governments concerned will continue to take all legitimate steps to prevent irregularities conducive to liquor smuggling.

May I ask for a definite answer to the second part of my question—whether the Governors of these islands have been instructed to discourage this illegal traffic with a friendly country?

I have answered that part—"I have no doubt that the Colonial Governments concerned will con- tinue to take all legitimate steps to prevent irregularities conducive to liquor smuggling."

Will the Government consider the publication of a list of the names of British firms engaged in this traffic?

Before that question is answered, is it not true that most of the ships engaged in the "boot-legging" traffic leave the Clyde?

Will the hon. Gentleman consider the publication of a list of these names?

I have no knowledge who they are. It has nothing to do with the Colonial Office.


asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of a recent decision by the supreme court of the United States with regard to the complete prohibition of all liquor in foreign vessels in American ports, he will take steps to enforce on ships of all countries in British ports the British regulation which necessitates the carrying of a certain quantity of spirits for medicinal purposes?

I have been asked to reply. I have not seen the full text of the judgment, but I do not think it can in any way affect the enforcement of British regulations in British ports, which will continue as heretofore.


asked the Prime Minister whether His Majesty's Government have had their attention drawn to the proposals of the United States Government to prohibit liquor carried on board British liners arriving in United States waters after the 1st June next; and whether he can state what is the attitude of His Majesty's Government to this question?

The date on which the measures referred to by my Noble Friend will take effect is still uncertain; our information is that it will not be before the 10th June. With regard to the second part of the question, I would refer to the reply which I gave to the hon. and learned Member for East Fife (Mr. Duncan Millar) on the 2nd instant.

Is it the intention of His Majesty's Government to recognise the decision of the United States in this respect?

My Noble Friend will recognise that we must wait until we have full information as to what really is intended. We shall have that, I hope, in a few days' time. At present we are dependent merely on cable messages.

Is it not a fact that the United States Government have threatened to confiscate British ships? If you get the "Majestic" confiscated, what are you going to do?

Does the Government uphold the doctrine that the jurisdiction of the laws of a nation accompanies its ships into foreign ports, and that the ships are considered as part of the territory of the nation itself?

Whatever position we take up, we shall certainly act in full accord with international law.