HC Deb 10 May 1944 vol 399 cc1879-80
8. Mr. Muff

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that the Icelandic gunboat "Aegir," attacked and damaged by gunfire the S.T. "War Grey" on the high seas without lawful pursuit from territorial waters on 28th March, 1943; and what steps have been taken to obtain redress from the Icelandic Government and to ensure protection for British trawlers in the future.

Mr. Eden

The case referred to by my hon. Friend is a complicated one. The final pursuit and arrest of the "War Grey" took place after she had been stopped and ordered to sail to Reykjavik on a charge of fishing within Icelandic territorial waters. At the time of the arrest the "War Grey" was attempting to sail to this country having on board an Icelandic officer who had been placed there in connexion with the fishing charge and whom she had unsuccessfully tried to put ashore earlier in the day. In these circumstances I am advised that there is strong ground for the contention that the action taken by the "Aegir", drastic though it was, was not illegal.

While I am fully prepared to take energetic action to protect the interests of British trawlers when these have been unlawfully infringed, having given most careful consideration to this case, I have come to the conclusion that there is no good cause of action against the Icelandic Government and that no useful purpose would be served by taking the matter up through the diplomatic channel.

Mr. Muff

In view of the fact that the skipper was imprisoned for 23 days, was under open arrest for over 40 days, was fined a heavy sum and had his gear confiscated, will my right hon. Friend use his good offices with the Icelandic Government, on grounds of clemency, to see that a certain amount of the fine is remitted?

Mr. Eden

Clemency is another matter and I will gladly consider that, but we must be careful, for our own reputation, to make sure of our grounds before we press these matters too far.