§ MR. DIXON-HARTLAND (Middlesex, Uxbridge)
asked the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Whether, in the case of the Belle of the Fleet, Ramsgate boat, the master of the Ostend boat was fined £1 and sentenced to three days' imprisonment and to pay the whole costs; whether no damages were awarded by the Belgian Court to the owner of the British vessel; on what grounds, if the captain of the Ostend Boat was found guilty of having wilfully run into and injured the Belle of the Fleet, he was not ordered to make good the damage and loss incurred by the British owners; and, what further steps he proposes to take in the matter?
§ MR. WOOTTON ISAACSON (Tower Hamlets, Stepney)
asked, whether the British seamen who gave evidence in the Belgian Court were each awarded the sum of one franc only for the trouble and inconvenience to which they were put?
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE (Sir JAMES FERGUSSON) (Manchester, N.E.)
I have no information on that matter; but I can say, with regard to this inquiry, that several points seem to require further explanation, which has been asked for. In answer to the Question on the Paper, I may say that the master of the Ostend boat was condemned to pay a fine of 25 francs, with the alternative of three days' imprisonment, and to pay the costs. As to the question of damages being awarded, it rested with the owner of the Belle of the Fleet to make a claim for damages by a civil action at the same time and in the same Court in which the criminal proceedings were taken by the Public Prosecutor.
§ MR. DIXON-HARTLAND
Is it not a practical denial of all justice that a poor man is expected to bring a civil action in a Belgian Court of Justice to obtain damages in a case like this?
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
I can assure the House I have again and again inquired into the matter. The Belgian law seems to afford peculiar facilities for recovering debts in the way I have described; and I have always been surprised that these facilities are not embraced by our fishermen, and that Associations do not take advantage of the opportunity to bring civil actions in the way I have indicated.