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Spain (Detained British Vessel)

Volume 524: debated on Monday 1 March 1954

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the British motor vessel "Sevro," detained by the Spanish authorities on 26th January, has now been released; and if he will make a statement.

I am informed that the master of the "Sevro" has been found guilty of an infringement of the Spanish law relating to contraband and has been fined 800,000 pesetas. The ship's cargo of tobacco and lubricating oil has been seized and the vessel is held pending the payment of the fine. Her Majesty's Ambassador at Madrid has been instructed to ask the Spanish authorities for a full report on the Spanish court's proceedings.

While thanking my hon. Friend for that reply, may I ask if he is aware -that the Spanish authorities claim that they can seize any vessel under 100 tons in the Straits, even if it is carrying Her Majesty's mails? Can he say on what ground of international law that claim is based? Can he give an assurance that in future ships carrying Her Majesty's mail will not be intercepted in this high-handed way?

I understand that it is accepted in international law that a State has the right to apprehend contraband goods passing through its territorial waters. In this particular case Her Majesty's Ambassador has asked for a full report from the Spanish Government, and I should prefer to suspend judgment until we have the report.

Is it not a rather extraordinary thing that we have to have Questions dealing with interference with shipping going to China, interference with shipping going to Spain, interference with shipping going through the Suez Canal? Do these foreign Governments know that there is a Tory Government in power here?

The hon. Gentleman has no reason to be proud of the record of the Labour Government so far as these matters are concerned. As the hon. Gentleman may have observed from the answer to the last Question, the Government have taken energetic measures, which have received a satisfactory answer.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has any further information with regard to the exclusion of the British Honorary Vice-Consul in Cadiz, Spain, from the hearing of a case against British subjects in a Spanish court.

No, Sir. Her Majesty's Ambassador at Madrid has requested an explanation of the reasons for the exclusion of Mr. Hempson from the hearing of the case against the British ship "Sevro."

Will my hon. Friend make a statement when he receives the Ambassador's report, or would he prefer another Question to be put down?

I could tell my hon. Friend when we have the Ambassador's report, and then he would know when to put down a Question, if he would like to do. so.

Is my hon. Friend aware that this treatment of our Vice-Consul lends colour to the fears of Gibraltar merchants that the Spanish authorities are determined to make things difficult for British ships based on Gibraltar? Will my hon. Friend bear that fact very much in mind?

I would prefer to await Her Majesty's Ambassador's report. The Vice-Consul at Cadiz, on instructions, sought and obtained permission from the court authorities to be present at the hearing, and I await Her Majesty's Ambassador's report on why he was not allowed to be present after all.

While these discourtesies are being made by the Spanish authorities, why do we continue to make courtesy visits, including that of the mine sweeper "Apollo" with Rear-Admiral Currey last week-end? Would it not be better to discontinue these courtesy visits until the Spanish decide to behave courteously?

I do not think that because certain discourtesies have been suffered by Her Majesty's Vice-Consul we should also be discourteous. A perfectly good answer was given by my right hon. Friend last week on this subject.