rose to move for papers relative to the practice of Smuggling on the northern and western coast of France, and said that he would not trouble their Lordships with any observations except in explanation of the reasons which induced him to give notice of Motion on the subject. First, he wished for an opportunity to show the noble Earl (Earl Grey) that the charges which he (Viscount Strangford) made on Friday against the French government were founded on facts, and more important than the noble Lord appeared to suppose at the time. Next, he desired to show that in point of chronology he was correct, and that the regulations of the French government of which he complained did come into operation subsequently to the date of the present Ministry's accession to office.
§ Lord Auckland
thought he had good ground to complain of the conduct of the noble Viscount, who came down to the House on Friday, and, without previous notice, made a heavy charge against Ministers, accusing, nay, condemning them for acts of great carelessness and indifference as to the protection of the interests of the country; charging Ministers with employing incompetent diplomatic agents, and being badly served by them; stating on Friday that we had been ill-used and refused redress by France, and on Tuesday coming down and asking for evidence whereby to prove his charges. It would have been better if the noble Lord had 1088 examined evidence first, and allowed the conviction and condemnation of the offenders to follow. He was glad, however, that the noble Lord had made the Motion, because it would enable him to vindicate the Government from the charge of total neglect and want of information in matters nearly concerning the public interest. But he must refuse the noble Lord the documents for which he asked, because they were not such as could be communicated with propriety, and observing a due regard for the public service. It was not usual to call for the correspondence between Ministers and our Ambassadors at foreign courts. Indeed, it would totally cripple the execution of business if publicity were to be given to such notes and despatches as the noble Lord required. He meant to state the substance of what passed in relation to the subject. It appeared that the regulations in question commenced in 1791, when a law was passed in France under which a reduction of tonnage dues was allowed on going into certain ports for the purpose of smuggling goods into England. The regulation was continued in 1802, in 1825, in 1830, and in 1832. In 1832 it, for the first time, came to his (Lord Auckland's) knowledge that such regulations existed and the Foreign Office immediately obtained the best information it could on the subject, with a view to making representations to the French government. Such of their Lordships as were masters of the rules of national law upon this point, must know that it was impossible to justify strong representations from one government to another on such a ground. Such transactions as those referred to always existed, and the only reasons for representation consisted in this—that the mask had been taken off, and it was no longer mere connivance. In February, 1833, Government instructed our Ambassador to make a representation to the French government on the subject of the regulations. That representation was made, and the French government assured our Minister of its surprise and regret that such regulations should have been adopted and continued, adding a declaration of its determination to investigate the matter. So much for the unfriendliness of the French government. [Viscount Strangford:—When was that?] In March, 1833. In September, 1833, the French government assured the British Minister that what 1089 depended on law should be immediately remedied, and that what depended upon regulation should be gradually amended, it not being possible at once to abolish practices of forty years standing. This assurance had been acted on, the tonnage dues had been so altered as to reduce the advantages of the smuggler. But the English Government having ascertained through the inquiries of a Commission that the tonnage dues should be still further reduced, in order more effectually to discourage smuggling, a representation to that effect was made to the French ministry, and acceded to by it. Thus it appeared that Government had not been negligent as the noble Viscount had asserted, and that the French government was not unfriendly in this matter, as the noble Viscount had represented.
said, what he complained of were the culpable facilities afforded to smuggling by the French government. He did not charge the Government of this country with being in collusion for such a purpose, and only asked whether noble Lords opposite were aware of the practices that existed? The noble Lord did not allude to one facility given in these French ports to smuggling by allowing articles to be exported in such small quantities. He certainly was not before aware that the French government had proceeded so far in the application of a remedy. He wished to ask the noble Earl if it were not true, that British cruisers were not allowed to enter any of those small French ports, or to approach within a certain distance of them?
§ Lord Auckland
said, that such was undoubtedly the fact, but this did not arise from any specific order of the French government, but from revenue regulations which prohibited British cruisers from entering French ports. But those regulations he could inform the noble Viscount, dated from 1828.
§ The Duke of Wellington
must acknowledge, that he had never heard of the inconveniences to which his noble friend had alluded until he had spoken of them the other night. They certainly never came under his notice when he was in office. With respect to the explanation that had just been given by the noble Lord opposite (Lord Auckland), he must admit, that it was perfectly satisfactory. That explanation had distinctly shown, that the Government did remonstrate with the French 1090 authorities when the facts came to their knowledge. He could not, however, but express his regret that the noble Lord had not given his explanation on the former evening when the subject was first introduced, as the noble Lord must have been then aware of all the circumstances which he had just stated to the House. It appeared that the port regulations alluded to had existed for many years, and, as the noble Lord explained, some of them were to be put an end to altogether at once, and others to be gradually abolished. Nothing more than this could be wished for or expected. With reference to the second topic, the hinderance of British cruisers from resorting to French ports, we had no right to complain of such a prohibition. Our ships were not privileged to approach beyond a certain distance from the French coast, and he considered that the French authorities were quite justified in giving orders to that effect.
§ Lord Auckland
said, that the reason he did not on the former night give the explanation he had now given was, as he stated at the time, that he had been taken by surprise. If the noble Viscount had given notice of his intention to accuse the Ministers, he should then have been prepared with the explanations he had now made. All he could say at that time was, that remonstrances had been made to the French government, and that satisfactory arrangements had taken place, but he was not then prepared to go into the details.
§ Motion negatived.