HL Deb 04 August 1873 vol 217 cc1512-3

on behalf of Lord HOUGHTON, asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Whether any steps had been taken towards concluding a Consular Convention with the United States of America; and, whether he was prepared to include in such Convention the means of effectively punishing acts of violence committed by the subjects of either nation on the high seas?


said, the matter had occupied the attention of the Government for a very long time, and the difficulty that had arisen in concluding a Convention had been the necessity of some preliminary legislation on our part. Correspondence had gone on with several foreign Powers, especially with the United States, for 20 years. A Memorandum embodying the views of Her Majesty's Government led some years age to a proposal by the United States for a Convention, but difficulties arose; principally respecting the question of jurisdiction. The negotiations dropped, and had not been formally renewed with the United States; but there had been some informal communications between Sir Edward Thornton and Mr. Fish, and between General Schenck and himself. They had made some progress in the matter, and a Paper had been prepared embodying the whole question. The Foreign Office was in communication with other Departments of the Government, and he had hopes that some agreement would be arrived at during the Recess which would form the basis of legislation next Session—though he could give no absolute pledge. Of course, in any such scheme, acts of violence at sea would form an important element. Progress had also been made in another way, for by the 11th section of the Merchant Shipping Acts Amendment Act of this Session the Government were empowered by Order in Council to extend to those countries which desired it the provisions of the Merchant Shipping Acts with regard to the enlistment and dis- charge of seamen. He was not, therefore, without hopes that some progress would be made in a question of considerable importance both to foreign countries and to ourselves. He might add that it was absolutely necessary that something should be done, for an Article in the Treaty of Commerce with France, concluded last month, provided that this was one of the subjects which would form part of a Supplemental Convention.