« PreviousContinue »
The Powers assembled at the Hague Conference in 1907 attempted by Convention XII to establish an International Prize Court to which appeals in prize causes could be carried under certain rules from national prize courts. Having obtained some measure of agreement upon the substance of the rules of the law of prize to be enforced in such a Court by means of the London Naval Conference in 19081909, the British Government introduced into Parliament in 1910 a Naval Prize Bill to provide for appeals in prize from British prize courts to the International Court, for the appointment by the Crown of British members on the Court and for British participation in the expenses thereof.
That Bill was debated for a while and finally withdrawn. When Parliament reassembled in February, 1911, debate arose anew in anticipation of the reintroduction of the Bill or the introduction of one similar to it. Debate continued, after the Bill was brought into the Commons in June, until the lower house passed the measure by the safe vote of 172 to 125 on December 7, and ended when the Lords, by a vote of 145 to 53, refused the Bill a second reading at the time, December 12, and, to all intents and purposes, defeated the measure by thus postponing second reading to a point beyond the end of the current session.
The Liberal Government of Mr. Asquith, at the time in power, sponsored the Bill and had for its foundation a party situation in the Commons portrayed by the following figures:
In the Lords the characteristic Unionist majority prevailed, with the result that the Government was in a minority and the Opposition leader was the Majority leader.
The fact that the proposed International Court would be expected to apply the law as set forth by the Naval Conference of 1909 in the Declaration of London had the result that a large part of the debate on the Bill to allow appeals to that Court turned on the merits of the rules of law contained in the Declaration. Two subjects were therefore under discussion: (1) The question of the International Court and appeals to it from British prize courts; (2) the maritime law of the Declaration of London.
The following material consists of extracts from the official reports of the debate in Parliament. The material is arranged chronologically; when extracts are given from debates occurring in the House of Lords and the House of Commons under the same date the material from the House of Lords is given first. Captions, "House of Lords" and "House of Commons," are used to indicate the house in which the discussion is proceeding and these captions are inserted only when the scene of the debate shifts from one house to the other. Subtitles, as given in the official reports, are retained to indicate the subdivision of subject matter in the discussion.
House of Lords, February 6, 1911__.