HC Deb 12 November 1908 vol 196 cc532-3

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether his attention has been called to the arrest of the British steam trawler "Taurus" by a German gunboat, on the 14th May last, and of the trial of Captain George Barker, at the Royal Provincial Court at Flensburg, on the 24th August, when he was fined 300 marks and the vessel's gear and voyage confiscated; whether he is aware that at the trial it was admitted that the commander took no cross-bearings or angles, that he stated he took soundings and that the vessel was in 9 feet of water, whereas the ship draws 13 feet; whether the Court refused to recognise the vessel's chart, and that the Court in giving judgment charged the captain with carrying an inaccurate chart of the waters on that coast; whether he is aware that the chart in question was one of Close's charts, which was prepared under the surveys of Commander Lindup of the British Admiralty, who has since seen the chart and guarantees its accuracy; and whether the Foreign Office are aware of any difference between the German and English charts as to the limit-line in these waters, or whether the Germans are entitled to fix the three-mile limit-line where they choose and arrest British vessels without notice.


Acting under my instructions, the British Vice-Consul at Finsburg was present in the Court at the trial of the master of the British steam trawler "Taurus." I am not aware of the admissions and statements attributed by the hon. Member to the commander of the Gorman gunboat. As regards the chart in use on the "Taurus," no authority was given to Mr. Lindup, a chief officer of coastguard, to assist Mr. Close in preparing the chart, and any assistance given by him to Mr. Close was unofficial. I understand that Mr. Close did consult him privately in the matter. I am in communication with the Admiralty as to any difference which may exist between the British and German charts. The German authorities are of course bound by the definition of the exclusive fishery limits contained in Article 2 of the North Sea Fisheries (Police) Convention of 1882, which runs as follows:—"The fishermen of each country shall enjoy the exclusive right of fishery within the distance of three miles from low-water mark along the whole extent of the coasts of their respective countries, as well as of the dependent islands and banks."