HC Deb 08 August 1844 vol 76 cc1923-5
Captain Pechell

said, that the right hon. Baronet at the head of Her Majesty's Government had promised to state to the House, the course which had been pursued by the French Government on that matter; perhaps the right hon. Baronet would then state, whether any law had been passed by the French Chambers in respect to it.

Sir R. Peel

The question which the hon. and gallant Gentleman has put, re- fers to the convention which has been made between the two countries, and the regulations which have been established in respect to the Fisheries by the Commissioners who presided over that convention. It was provided by that convention, that regulations should be drawn up and submitted to the two Governments, in order that they might adopt legislative measures thereupon. In accordance with the regulations of the Commissioners, regulations were drawn up, which received the sanction of the Legislature last Session. I must explain that the French Government is differently situated to the English Government with respect to the making of laws, the French Government having greater powers, and being enabled to effect that by an ordinance which we require the sanction of the Legislature for. I apprehend that it is unnecessary for the law to pass the French Chambers before due effect can be given to it by the French Government. When the Commissioners were prosecuting their enquiries certain legal difficulties stood in their way; for here it is necessary to have vivâ voce evidence for the conviction of any prisoner. The French Government proposed that written evidence should be deemed sufficient, to which they (the Commissioners) replied that that would be altogether opposed to the principles of British law where penal consequences followed upon conviction. There was also another difficulty arising out of the difference of the law in the two countries in respect to murder on the high seas, for, according to the French law, a Frenchmen committing murder upon a foreigner on the high seas was not subject to the penalties of murder. It is altogether different with respect to the English law, by which there is no more difficulty for committing an Englishman for the murder of a foreigner on the high seas than there is for committing an Englishman for the murder of a countryman. The law, however, in respect to these fisheries was passed in April. I do not understand the anxiety of the hon. and gallant Officer in respect to the regulations which have been passed. The two countries have the right of fishing within three miles of their respective coasts; these regulations have been sanctioned by the convention, to which the force of law has been given. The law which passed last Session, provided that any subject of the King of the French breaking this con- vention, might be punished, and a penalty of 10l. inflicted, and in case of non-payment, the vessel detained as a surety for such payment. Our interests are completely protected; the interests of the French are much more concerned than ours in this law passing the French Chambers; and it is for them to consider whether it should be passed at once or not. I am sorry that no law has been passed, but the inconvenience chiefly attaches to those engaged in the French fishery. I hope that the hon. and gallant Gentleman and his constituents clearly understand that, if any infraction of this law by the French takes place on the coast off Brighton, that such infraction may be dealt with and punished, by the Magistrates of the county of Sussex.

Subject at an end.