HC Deb 03 June 1886 vol 306 cc839-41
MR. KIMBER (Wandsworth)

asked the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies, Whether his attention has been call to a printed letter or pamphlet headed British honour and interests in Trinidad and Venezuela, appealing for justice to Members of this House; whether the statements contained in it (in particular the following) are true: that two British merchant vessels, the Henrietta and the Josephine, were illegally seized by Venezuelan officials in May 1883, the crew and passengers of the Josephine landed and imprisoned, and the passengers half starved for eleven days, and then turned adrift to get back to Trinidad as best they could, and the captain and crew detained and subjected to gross ill-treatment for six weeks, and then also cast adrift, no definite charge even being made against them; that an illegal judgment was obtained against the ship, behind the back of, and unknown to, the captain, and that, on a decree reversing the judgment being obtained, the ship was found to have been allowed to sink, with all her cargo; that the Henrietta, after being released, was again seized, because her captain and owner had protested to the Government of the British Colony of Trinidad against the former seizure, and the captain and crew imprisoned for five months, no charge whatever being found or proved against them, and that the Venezuela Government refused to give up the vessel except on condition of relinquishment of all claims, and that, in consequence, the vessel lying neglected, became and remained— A wreck and a reminder to Venezuelans how British subjects may be insulted and robbed with impunity; that by those proceedings the owner of the Josephine has been entirely ruined, and the captain and owner of the Henrietta reduced to earning his living in an open boat; and that claims for compensation were made by our Foreign Minister upon the Venezuelan Government in December 1884, for a portion only of the damages sustained by the British subjects thus injured, and without result; whether the statement added to such letter— That the legitimate trade of British merchants in Trinidad is crushed by being subjected to an extra duty of 33 per cent. imposed by Venezuela, in spite of Treaty obligations, is true; whether any redress for the fore-mentioned grievances has been, or is being, sought by Her Majesty's Government; and, whether the Government will lay any Papers on the foregoing subjects before the House?


The pamphlet referred to has been brought to the notice of Her Majesty's Government, and the statements contained in it relative to the cases of the Henrietta and Josephine are substantially correct. The claims of the injured parties for compensation have been repeatedly pressed by Her Majesty's Minister on the Venezuelan Government. The amounts claimed, although less than those to which the parties themselves considered they were entitled, were such as the Governor of Trinidad and Her Majesty's Representative at Caracas thought reasonable. Her Majesty's Government have heard by telegraph from the British Minister at Caracas that the Venezuelan Government have returned an unfavourable reply to their representations; but the text of this reply has not yet reached this country, and until it has been received and considered it is not proposed to take any further action. The trade of Trinidad with Venezuela has suffered by the imposition of an additional 30 per cent in Venezuela on imports from British Colonies. Her Majesty's Government have protested against the duty, but hitherto without result. There will be no objection to laying the Correspondence before Parliament.