HC Deb 20 February 1899 vol 66 cc1434-6
MR. DOUGHTY (Great Grimsby)

I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether his attention has been called to the treatment of British fishermen off the Faroe Islands by a Danish gunboat; whether he is aware that on Sunday night, 5th February, when 23 Grimsby and Hull steam trawlers had taken shelter from the severe weather in Fugleford Bay, they were arrested and ordered to proceed to Shorshaven under escort of the gunboat; that when two of them slightly altered their course to speak each other the gunboat opened fire on them; that the captains were ordered ashore and detained there for five hours in a severe snowstorm; that fines were inflicted on them, varying from £3 to £12; and that in one case the whole of the fishing gear as well as the whole of the fish, was taken off the vessel and confiscated; and that they were charged with the trivial offence of having broken the new Danish law, which only came into operation four days before, and of which the fishermen were entirely ignorant, namely, of being laid in Danish waters not having stowed their gear away; and whether he will institute a searching inquiry into the whole question, and represent the case fully to the Danish Government, and take such steps as may be possible to secure the alteration of this law, and secure for British fishermen the same treatment when in Danish waters that Her Majesty's Government gives to Danish fishing vessels when in British territorial waters?

ADMIRAL FIELD (Sussex, Eastbourne)

I beg at the same time to ask the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether any representation has been made to the Danish Government relative to the action pursued by the Danish authorities in the Faroe Islands, who seized 23 trawlers from Hull and Grimsby, which had taken refuge in Fugleford Harbour through stress of weather, and inflicted heavy fines in some cases for breach of some local bye-laws, to the extent of £45 in the case of the "Hypatia," besides confiscation of her entire cargo of fish and gear to the extent of 100 tons; and whether the Secretary of State will cause a thorough inquiry to be instituted into the circumstances of the alleged ill-treatment complained of.


A report of these occurrences has reached the Foreign Office through a telegram published in a Danish newspaper and a communication from the honourable Member. The at- tention of the Danish Government was at once called to the matter, and the Danish Government have undertaken to use their best endeavours to expedite the official report from the captain of the Danish war vessel in question. Pending this no action can be taken.


I beg to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty whether his attention has been called to the arrest of 23 Grimsby and Hull steam trawlers by a Danish gunboat on Sunday night, 5th February, when sheltering from the severe weather off Faroe Islands; whether he is aware that similar treatment used to be practised by Danish gunboats on British trawlers off the coast of Iceland before Her Majesty's Government sent gunboats to protect British fishermen; and whether he will station at the Icelandic and Faroe fisheries during the present fishing season gunboats to protect our fishermen and British trade interests against such practices?

THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. G. J. GOSCHEN, St. George's,) Hanover Square

The Admiralty have received no official communication on the subject to which the honourable Gentleman refers, nor is it known to what cases he alludes in the second paragraph of this Question. With regard to the third Question, even if gunboats were stationed in the waters of Iceland or the Faroe Islands they would not be entitled to protect our fishermen against penalties for breaches of Danish law to which they may have rendered themselves liable.