HC Deb 26 February 1894 vol 21 cc1027-8
SIR C. W. DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)

I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the attention of the Foreign Office has been called by the Colonial Office to the official journal of the French Islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon, of the 29th December last, in which there is an official advertisement directing French fishermen who wish to fish on the so-called "French shore" during the next fishing season to register themselves at the Inscription Maritime for fixed places on the coast of Newfoundland; and also to an independent newspaper published in the same islands, of the 4th January of the present year, in the first leading article of which it is stated that the French Government is going to improve the position of the fishermen, in assuring them fixed places on the French shore; whether it is supposed to be the intention of the French Government to itself carry the fishermen to the shore by steamer; whether the Treaty right of France is confined to the drying on shore of the fish caught by Frenchmen in French vessels; whether the proposal to bring the fishermen to the coast, and carry them back again, would constitute a breach of Treaty; and whether Her Majesty's Government will explain in advance, for the purpose of preventing those conflicts which must otherwise arise, that it would be contrary to Treaty for foreign fishermen to live on the strand, or otherwise than on board their ships, and that provisions lauded for them would be liable to the same duties which have to be paid on provisions landed for the use of the inhabitants of the Colony living on the coast?


The answer to the first paragraph is in the affirmative. In answer to the next three paragraphs, I have to say that the Treaty right of France is defined by the 1oth Article of the Treaty of Utrecht, which limits the rights of the French on the Treaty shore to stages made of boards, and huts necessary and usual for drying fish. According to our information, the pro- posal now appears to be that a bounty of 50 francs should be given to each fisherman to cover the cost of transport, but not that transport should be furnished. It is a question whether the arrangements contemplated are consistent with Article 5 of the Treaty of Versailles of 1783, and with Article 3 of the British Declaration annexed to that Treaty. The question asked in the first, part of the last paragraph is now under consideration in conjunction with the Law Officers of the Crown; and, with regard to the second part, the Colonial Government have stated that— While they have no intention of levying duty on goods brought by French citizens in their fishing vessels solely for the sustenance of the crew during the season, or for use in catching and drying fish, they intend for the future to exercise the right of requiring ail vessels entering Newfoundland ports to conform to the Customs Laws of the Colony, and of collecting duties on all goods imported into the Colony for whatever purpose."' Her Majesty's Government have communicated this decision to the Government of France, and have at the same time stated that there is no ground for interfering with the Colonial Government in the exercise of this right.