HC Deb 22 March 1922 vol 152 cc429-31
1. Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the 12-mile limit for territorial waters was claimed by the Russian Government before the War; whether attempts were made then to interfere with British vessels fishing in those waters; whether His Majesty's Government then made any protest; if so, with what result; whether any protest is being made now against the same claim and interference; whether some nine or 12 months ago the Russian Government proposed a conference with His Majesty's Government on this subject of territorial waters and other matters; and what was the response of His Majesty's Government?


The Russian Government in December, 1909, passed a law claiming to regulate the movements of all vessels within 12 nautical miles of the shores of the Russian Empire; His Majesty's Ambassador at Petrograd was immediately instructed to reserve the rights of British subjects. In July, 1910, the British trawler "Onward Ho" was arrested by Russian authorities while outside the 3-mile limit. In consequence of the representations of His Majesty's representative, the ship was shortly afterwards, released. In June last the Russian Trade Delegation in this country communicated to His Majesty's Government a recent Soviet decree for the protection of fisheries, claiming to exclude foreign vessels from Russian waters up to 12 nautical miles from the shore. His Majesty's Government immediately protested, but have expressed their willingness, whilst maintaining their objection to the 12-mile limit, to consider any draft of a convention for the protection of sea fisheries which the Soviet Government might put forward. No such draft has so far been submitted.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

Are the negotiations continuing or commenced about this matter? Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the limit is not put forward as a territorial limit, but because of the breeding grounds, and can this matter be cleared up?


Have the Government any naval vessels near this spot which could put a check on these piratical operations?


I think the Government have no naval vessels in those waters. I am not quite sure what matter my hon. and gallant Friend refers to as the subject of negotiations. As he knows these fisheries have been the subject of very strong representations which continue to be made to the Soviet Government.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

When this took place in June last year were the Boards of Agriculture of England and Scotland informed so that they could warn our fishermen of the danger?


I have no doubt that the Board of Fisheries in Scotland were aware of what was taking place.

Lieut.-Colonel ASHLEY

Why did the Government in the case of the Czarist Government take strong steps to secure the release of our fishermen, while in the case of the Soviet Government they only made representations?


Would it not be a better policy to agree with the other Powers for a 12-mile limit?


That is an exceedingly debatable question.


Does the hon. Member think it is any use holding any conference whatever with the Soviet Government, because they never keep any of their promises?

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