HC Deb 10 May 1950 vol 475 cc390-1
Mr. Ernest Davies

With permission, I will make a statement about the detention of the trawler "Etruria" by the Soviet authorities.

A Note has now been received from the Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs in reply to the inquiries which, I informed the House on the 5th May, His Majesty's Ambassador had addressed to to the Soviet authorities. The Soviet Note states that the vessel had been engaged on illegal fishing at a distance of one and a half miles from the Soviet coast and claims that the master of the vessel had admitted this to be the case. He was ordered to pay a fine of 300 roubles, which is slightly less than £30 at the present rate of exchange, and his catch was ordered to be confiscated. The Note states that the trawler will be released immediately after payment of the fine.

The same day as the Note was received, that is, yesterday, His Majesty's Ambassador in Moscow was instructed, with the agreement of the owners of the vessel, to pay the fine on their behalf, and I have every reason to hope that the trawler will be released at a very early date.

Mr. Osborne

Was the skipper given all the legal aid that he wanted and required before he made the admission which is alleged?

Mr. Davies

I think that the hon. Member will realise from the statement I have made that the Moscow Embassy was acting on our behalf. There is nothing more to add.

Mr. C. S. Taylor

Can the hon. Gentleman say why there has been so much delay? If it was a question of a fine and the confiscation of the catch, why could not the Russian authorities let us know that long ago?

Mr. Davies

I think that this matter has been settled—and we hope that it is finally settled—with commendable promptitude.