HC Deb 26 April 1923 vol 163 cc662-4

I beg to ask the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs two inter-related questions of which I have given him private notice. First, whether there is any international law in force limiting territoral waters to a three-mile limit; whether other nations have reserved more than a three-mile limit in regard to fishing rights; whether the Tsarist Government of Russia reserved a 12-mile zone off the Northern Coast of Russia for fishing rights; whether on 22nd March, 1911, the then British Foreign Minister had a conversation with Count Beckendorff on the subject; whether, on any occasion, the Russian Government suggested that the matter should be discussed at The Hague Conference; whether Sir Edward Grey informed Sir George Buchanan—


I think the hon. Member received a communication from me this morning in regard to this question, which I thought was too detailed, considering the time for research allowed by the notice that has been given.


No, Sir. I received no communication.


I am sorry. I understood that a communication had been sent to the hon. Member, stating that the second question appeared to be within the proper limits of a private notice question, but that the first question was with regard to matters of such detail that it should be put down on the Paper.


I received no such notice.


Perhaps the hon. Member will put his second question?


My second question is, whether a dispute between the Russian and Norwegian Governments, respecting the width of territorial waters off the coast of North Russia, was recently settled amicably by negotiation; if inquiries have been made as to the willingness of the Russian Government to negotiate with His Majesty's Government on the dispute and whether, on their part, His Majesty's Government are equally prepared to enter into negotiations with the Russian Government?


I had intended to answer those two questions together, not knowing that Mr. Speaker had disallowed one of them. I was going to say that I very much regretted not being in a position to answer them to-day, because the time at my disposal since the hon. Member gave me notice had not been sufficient to enable me to make the necessary investigation. I, therefore, must ask the hon. Member to accept my apologies. If he will be good enough to put the questions on the Paper for Monday, I will endeavour to give him a full answer.

Viscount CURZON

On a point of Order. What is the ground of urgency upon which the second question has been put, in view of the fact that I desired on Monday last to ask a similar question by private notice, and it was disallowed by you, Sir?


On a further point of Order. May I point out that hon. Members in this part of the House have been asking questions on that subject for weeks past, and may I ask my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs if, when he reviews the whole position with regard to the Territorial Waters Act, he will consider once again the question of trawling?


In answer to the Noble Lord the Member for South Battersea (Viscount Curzon), the reason why I considered this question was entitled to be put to-day was the announcement made yesterday by the Minister, in reply to the Noble Lord that he was intending to send—I think he used the word "immediately" or the words "without delay"—a despatch to the Government of Russia, and it appears to me that this question had relation to what might be contained in that despatch, and for that reason was urgent.


May I ask whether this question has any possible relation to the interests of the workers of Dundee who returned the hon. Member?


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the campaign on the subject of the trawlers is widely regarded as merely designed to prepare the public mind for the denunciation of our Agreement with Russia?