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British Shipping (Usa Security Regulations)

Volume 524: debated on Monday 1 March 1954

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what protests he has made against the interference to which British ships have been subjected in United States ports whilst engaged in trade with China with the full authority of the United Kingdom Government and in accordance with decisions of the United Nations.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he is aware that British ships engaged on voyages with the full authority of the United Kingdom Government, and in conformity with the decisions of the United Nations, have been and are being shadowed and subjected to interference by the United States of America; what action he proposes to take; and if he will make a statement.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what representations have been made to the Government of the United States of American regarding the shadowing of British vessels engaged on the Far East trade by units of the United States Navy.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he has considered the Report of the Chamber of Shipping of the United Kingdom, which has been sent to him, protesting against the placing by the United States Government or armed guards on British merchant ships while in port and detailing naval cutters to shadow them from one United States port to another; and what reply he has sent.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what representations he has received concerning interference by United States naval vessels with British merchant ships trading in Far Eastern Communist ports; and whether he will make a statement.

Hon. Members will be aware that the 1953–1954 Annual Report of the Chamber of Shipping of the United Kingdom referred to certain restrictions which had been imposed on British vessels by the United States authorities. Though the Chamber do not make this clear in their Report, the restrictions in question are of two kinds and were imposed at different times for different purposes.

First of all the United States authorities have, since October, 1950, applied special security measures to ships arriving in United States ports directly or indirectly from Soviet or other Communist-controlled ports. These measures include an inspection of the ship and its surveillance by the United States Coast Guard while it remains in United States territorial waters.

Since these measures came into force, that is October, 1950, Her Majesty's Government have been informed of six cases in which these supervisory measures have been applied to British merchant vessels. In answer to our representations the United States authorities have assured us that these measures are part of the general security arrangements in force in the United States which are applicable without distinction or discrimination to American ships as well as to those of other nations. They have emphasised that the supervisory arrangements are unconnected with the trading intentions of the vessels concerned and they have given an assurance that ships will not be subjected to any unnecessary delays. Her Majesty's Government will continue to watch this situation and representations will be renewed whenever necessary.

As regards the shadowing of vessels on passage between American ports, representations were made by Her Majesty's Embassy in June and July, 1953, and there has been no recurrence of this practice since then in respect of British vessels.

Secondly, the Department of Commerce in June, 1953, issued supplementary regulations controlling the supply of ships' stores, supplies and equipment. These regulations placed special restrictions on the supply of bunkers to ships which had traded with, or intended to trade with in, any Far Eastern Communist port, or Macao. They go beyond what Her Majesty's Government think necessary to give effect to the resolution of the United Nations regarding strategic trade with Communist China. We have therefore carefully watched the application of these regulations to British ships. In only three cases have British ships encountered some difficulty in obtaining bunkers, but licenses were granted after representations by Her Majesty's representative at Washington. In one further case licenses for spare parts have been refused. This case is stall under discussion with the United States authorities.

While, on the whole, we are gratified by the action that the Government have taken in this matter, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman to give an assurance that neither the Government nor the British mercantile marine will in this respect act as supinely as the American armed forces have had to act in response to the allegations and attacks of Senator McCarthy?

I really do not think that that question is relevant or particularly tactful. However, it is quite clear that we have been fairly treated. There have been only six cases since October, 1950, and in all of them we have received satisfactory assurances. There has been no shadowing between American ports since our representations were made. The hon. Gentleman will notice that the instances have been minor and satisfactorily settled. I only hope that all international problems will be equally satisfactorily resolved.

In view of the close relations between the two countries, did the United States Government keep the Government informed of the action they were taking?

We made representations, and I think the right hon. and learned Gentleman will agree that we have received a very satisfactory response.

In view of the importance of doing everything possible to increase East-West trade, will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that the speech by the Prime Minister last week on this subject is extensively circulated by British Information Services in America?

I am sure it will be, but I do not see how that is even remotely concerned with the answer I have just given.