HC Deb 19 March 1877 vol 233 c112

asked the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Whether he is aware that the Custom House officials in Spain are permitted to retain for their own use one half of certain enormous fines levied upon shipping in Spanish ports; and, what steps have been taken to prevent a repetition of such conduct on the part of the Spanish authorities as that of the case of the "Spray," of West Hartlepool, which vessel was detained in the port of Palma, threatened with the imposition of double duty, and a fine amounting to about 1,333, for a mere clerical error in her manifest?


Sir, Her Majesty's Government understand that it is the practice for Spanish Custom House officials to retain for their own use one-half of the fines levied upon shipping in Spanish ports. Instructions were sent by telegraph to Her Majesty's Charge d'Affaires at Madrid to endeavour to obtain the release of the Spray, and he reported, in reply, on the 10th of August, that orders had been telegraphed from Madrid to Palma for the ship's release. Her Majesty's Government have repeatedly and strongly remonstrated with that of Spain in every instance which has come to their knowledge of fines being improperly levied in Spanish ports upon British shipping, and the return of the fine in such cases has been demanded. He need hardly say that they should continue to do so in future.