HC Deb 26 July 1939 vol 230 cc1623-4W

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether any negotiations have taken place between His Majesty's Government and that of the French Republic concerning the rights of British subjects resident in France in the matter of rent legislation, and the equivalent rights of French subjects resident in Great Britain; and whether he has any statement to make regarding the matter?


Yes, Sir. The terms of the French laws of 1st April, 1926, and 30th June, 1926 (as subsequently amended by the law of 22nd April, 1927), concerning the rights of lessors and lessees of dwelling houses, and of commercial and industrial property respectively, which in certain respects differentiated against foreigners resident in France, appeared, since the subjects of certain other nations were already entitled in virtue of existing treaties to claim national treatment in such matters, to conflict with the provisions of the Franco-British Convention of 1882, which laid down that British subjects in France were to enjoy mostfavoured-nation treatment. Steps were, therefore, at once taken in 1926 to protest against the relevant clauses in these laws and to declare that in the opinion of His Majesty's Government British subjects in France were entitled to enjoy all the benefits extended to French citizens by the French laws in question. The resulting negotiations with the French Government were brought to a satisfactory conclusion by an exchange of Notes on 21st May last between His Majesty's Ambassador in Paris and the French Minister for Foreign Affairs.

In these Notes, the text of which was recently published by the French Government, and will shortly be published in the treaty series, it was laid down that the Franco-British Convention of 1882 is not restricted to matters of commerce and navigation, but applies also to residence; that the most favoured-nation clause in this convention gives British subjects the right to benefit by the grant of national treatment to foreigners in other treaties concluded by France, and thereby the right to enjoy the benefits of all the provisions, whether they apply to landlords or tenants, of the French laws of 1st April, 1926. and 30th June, 1926 (as amended by the law of 22nd April, 1927), notwithstanding the provisions of Article 11 of the French Civil Code and any provisions in the laws in question limiting or excluding their operation in regard to foreigners; that similarly the convention of 1882 entitles French citizens in Great Britain to enjoy the same treatment as British subjects to the same extent as the nationals of any third Power; and that in particular French citizens have the right in England and Wales to benefit by the provisions of the Landlord and Tenant Act, 1927. Despite the fact that a further rent law recently enacted in France contains similar provisions differentiating against foreigners, it is to be hoped that the interests of British subjects in France will be adequately safeguarded by this exchange of Notes.

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