§ MR. BANISTER FLETCHER (Wilts, Chippenham)
asked the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Whether the attention of Her Majesty's Government has been invited to the consideration of the various acts of oppression to which Mr. Godden, a British subject and merchant of the City of London, has for some years been persistently subjected, both, directly and indirectly by the Dutch authorities in Curaçao, a system of oppression that, in 1885, culminated in the imposing on the said Mr. Godden of taxes such as no other proprietor in the Dutch West Indies is obliged to pay; taxes assessed on a valuation of his property made by a Commission composed of employés of the Dutch Colonial Government, and of Mr. Godden's Dutch competitors in trade, and not by independent citizens of Curaçao as required by the Law of that Island; whether Her Majesty's Government have instituted an inquiry as to some of the grievances indicated, and what is the result of that inquiry; whether the Dutch Colonial authorities in the West Indies profit by having conceded to a second party lands in the adjoining Island of Aruba, previously granted by them to Mr. Godden, and for which he has continued to meet all obligations, and has been accredited accordingly by the same authorities; though, at the same time, excluded by the second Concessionaire, and with their sanction, from possession of the said lands; and, whether, as the Dutch Colonial and Home Law Courts afford no remedy for the aforesaid and other grievances, Her Majesty's Government will make an official representation on 1720 the subject to the Netherlands Government?
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE (Mr. BRYCE) (Aberdeen, S.)
It would be impossible, within the limits assigned to the answer to a Question, to enter into the merits of this case. It has been inquired into and very fully considered by Her Majesty's Government. A representation was addressed to the Netherlands Government asking for a favourable consideration of Mr. Godden's complaint, and an unfavourable reply having been received from them, the opinion of the Law Officers of the Crown was taken upon the legal aspect of the case. The question at issue is really one of law, and turns on the proper construction of an Ordnance under which the lands in Curaçoa are assessed. Mr. Godden was informed in April last that unless he could show that there was any inequality in the application of the Dutch Assessment Law, there did not appear to be any ground for the further intervention of Her Majesty's Government. I may add that Her Majesty's Government will give the fullest consideration to any further arguments which Mr. Godden may adduce in support of his case.