HC Deb 19 February 1935 vol 298 cc184-6

asked the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs whether he is aware that the Irish Free State, in its Sea Fisheries Protection Act, 1933, claims, as territorial waters of the Irish Free State, that portion of the seas within which citizens of the Saorstat Eireann have, by international law, the exclusive right of fishing; whether the British Government accepts the proposition that international law gives Irish Free State citizens any fishing rights to the exclusion of British subjects of any other member of the British Commonwealth; and whether he has invited, or will invite, the Irish Free State Government to reconsider their attitude on this question in view of the injury to both British and Irish fishing interests?


As I have explained to the hon. and gallant Member in reply to a question put by him on 5th February, the view of the Government is that the control of fishing within the territorial waters of the Irish Free State is a matter within the jurisdiction of the Irish Free State. This position was recognised in the British Commonwealth Merchant Shipping Agreement of 1931, Article 12 of which provides that nothing in the present agreement shall be deemed …to restrict the right of the Government of each part of the Commonwealth…to regulate the sea fisheries of that part. In the circumstances, I am not aware of any ground on which I could usefully make representations to the Irish Free State Government in the sense suggested in the last part of the hon. and gallant Member's question.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is not a question here of regulation, but of the power to prevent Scottish or English fishermen from fishing in a proper manner within the three-mile limit, while subjects of the Irish Free State have free access to our territorial waters?


Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to be able to make representations for any English, Scottish or Welsh citizen of this country to the Irish Free State, but I am not going to make representation unless I am absolutely sure of my ground. In this case I have grave doubts.

Lieut.-Commander AGNEW

Are all the right hon. Gentleman's actions in these matters guided by considerations of the most strict reciprocity?


No, they are guided by common sense.


Will the right hon. Gentleman consider entering into negotiations on his simple point whether the line of the three-mile limit is drawn accurately and reasonably or not, in view of the evidence which one has to the effect that it is unreasonably drawn on many parts of the coast?


I would ask my hon. Friend to remember that in all the negotiations between ourselves and the Irish Free State I have never had experience of any simple point.


Is it any use relying upon common sense alone in any dealings with the Irish Free State; and will the right hon. Gentleman consider the common sense of denying to their nationals the right to fish in our territorial waters so long as they deny the corresponding right to our people?