§ SIR SAVILE CROSSLEY (Suffolk, Lowestoft)
asked the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Whether he is aware that the numerous actions brought by English fishing-boat owners against Belgian owners, to obtain compensation for wilful damages, have resulted in every case in the infliction of a merely nominal fine; and, in view of the fact that justice cannot be obtained, what steps will be taken by Her Majesty's Government to amend the present North Sea Fisheries Convention?
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE (Sir JAMES FERGUSSON) (Manchester, N.E.)
I am aware that in numerous prosecutions of Belgian fishermen for wilful damage to the property of British fishermen, fines, with alternative imprisonment, of small amount have been inflicted. There is a certain confusion in the terms of the hon. Member's Question, as fine or imprisonment could not be inflicted in actions brought for compensation, nor could the Judge in a criminal proceeding award compensatory damages. As I stated some time ago, the Belgian law gives a certain facility to aggrieved parties in permitting them to bring civil actions for compensation before the same Judge before whom 887 official prosecutions have been instituted. I am not aware that fair compensation has not been obtained in such cases. Her Majesty's Government have represented the inadequacy of the penalties inflicted for some acts of wilful damage. The Belgian answer is that the amounts are similar to those imposed in French and Dutch Courts in like cases; that the persons convicted are condemned to pay the cost of the proceedings, and are subjected to loss of time and wages, besides having in the background the liability to civil actions. Her Majesty's Government cannot, therefore, admit that justice in these cases cannot be obtained.