HC Deb 25 March 1834 vol 22 cc647-9
Sir John Tyrell

was anxious to put a question to the noble Secretary for Foreign Affairs on a matter of great interest and importance. The subject he alluded to related to the seizure of four British vessels engaged in the fishing trade so far back as July last. Great anxiety was felt on the subject by many persons engaged in the fisheries; and they entertained hopes, that they should obtain some redress through the agency of the noble Lord. He had no wish to prejudice a question which might not be yet decided; but he hoped the noble Lord was in a situation to inform him what had been the result of the negotiation on the subject. The anxiety that was felt by persons engaged in the fishily, trade had been much increased in consequence of the aggression on the part of an armed French ship on some English fishing-vessels. In that case, a person had been killed, and the Coroner's Jury had returned a verdict of "Wilful Murder."

Viscount Palmerston

was well aware, that the question had for some time past produced a great deal of excitement among the maritime population on the southern and eastern coasts. The matter had been brought under his attention, and a communication had been made to the English Ambassador at Paris by the French government. Some correspondence had taken place on the subject, but he was not prepared to say what was the result, as the matter was not yet settled. He need not say, that his Majesty's Government was fully aware of the importance of the subject, and every care would be taken to bring the matter to a satisfactory conclusion. He could not go into the other subject which had been alluded to by the hon. Baronet at present.

Mr. Goulburn

wished to know whether any steps had been taken to secure the rights of British fishermen. In the case alluded to, the fishermen were acting in strict conformity to the provisions of the Treaty, and yet they were seized and carried into a French port by armed vessels. In the recent aggression an English fisherman had been killed.

Sir James Graham

said, that there was one fact connected with the last case which had escaped attention, namely, that the English fishing-boat was within two miles of the prescribed limits. Whenever the agreement existing between the two Governments respecting the fisheries was not violated every care should be taken to protect the fishermen.

Mr. Halcombe

wished to know whether the attention of the First Lord of the Admiralty had been directed to the Report of the Committee of last year on the state of the fisheries? The Report alluded to the want of protection to the fisheries on the English coast, and stated, that the French vessels were much larger than our own, and, from their mode of fishing, they were likely, in the course of a few years, to destroy the fisheries. At present he believed, that more than half the supply of herrings and other fish to the London market was brought by French vessels. The French government prevented the English boats going within nine miles of the coast, but the English Admiralty never interfered in the matter.

Viscount Palmerston

would only observe, that the subject was one of considerable difficulty, and was under the attention of the Government; he, therefore, did not think, that it was desirable to go on with the discussion.

The subject was dropped.