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Island Of Matacong

Volume 32: debated on Tuesday 9 April 1895

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I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the Island of Matacong (West Coast of Africa) was ceded by Great Britain to France under a Convention made in 1882 and ratified in 1889; whether private proprietary rights over the island were at the time of cession, and had for a long time been, owned by an English trading firm, to whom no notice was given of the cession, and whose representative on the island in September, 1891, was taken prisoner and taken from the island by an armed force; whether the French Government expressed their willingness to make full inquiry, and whether they have now communicated their decision as to the validity of the title of the said English firm (the proofs of which were demanded and handed in in June 1893); and, if so, what is their decision; and, whether Her Majesty's Government will indemnify the said English proprietors for the serious damage to their property and business resulting from many years' forced suspension of private proprietary rights?

By the Convention of 1882 Great Britain recognised the Island of Matacong as belonging to France. That Convention was never ratified, but has been treated by both parties as binding. Private proprietary rights over the island dating prior to 1882 are claimed by an English firm. Their representative claimed rights which were considered inconsistent with the French sovereign rights, and was removed from the island by the French Authorities. The question has been repeatedly brought before the French Government, who have stated that the validity of the titles must be proved before the local tribunals, as titles of an anterior date are said to exist, or that the question should go to arbitration. The latter alternative has been refused by the British firm. The case is not one in which an indemnity should be paid by Her Majesty's Government.

Before the cession of the island was any reservation of the then existing proprietary rights made by this country?

The cession was made 20 years ago; but I will inquire into the point.