HC Deb 15 July 1889 vol 338 cc400-1

I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if there is still outstanding an old chronic quarrel with the French about rights on the coast of Newfoundland; and, whether, looking to the character of the case, Her Majesty's Government have proposed to refer the whole matter to arbitration; or, if not, whether they will now do so?


The dispute in question relates to the interpretation to be placed on Art XIII. of the Treaty of Utrecht of 1713, and on the arrangements made at Versailles in 1783. A summary of it is given in Lord Derby's despatch of June 12, 1884 to the Governors of Newfoundland, which was laid before Parliament in January 1886, together with an arrangement signed at Paris in April of that year for the settlement of the several points at issue. That arrangement has, unfortunately, not taken effect, as the Legislature of Newfoundland refused their consent to it, and questions continue to arise from time to time as to the interpretation of the Treaties. Whether those questions or any portion of them can with advantage be referred to arbitration is a matter which requires careful consideration, and on which Her Majesty's Government cannot undertake at present to express an opinion. As I have before said, difficulties arising out of the respective claims of the two countries have hitherto been prevented from becoming acute by the conciliatory action of the Governments and of their officers.


As Her Majesty's Government have been considering this question for upwards of a century and a half, it might be thought that one conclusion or another had been arrived at by this time.


As no serious quarrel has resulted, this shows the advantage of not being in a hurry.