HC Deb 19 May 1952 vol 501 cc13-5
9. Mr. Hoy

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Afftirs if he has yet received a reply from the Government of Iceland regarding the extension of Icelandic territorial waters; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

The Icelandic Government's reply was handed to Her Majesty's Minister at Reyjavik on 12th May, and the full text was received in London on 15th. I am placing a copy in the Library, together with a copy of an aide mémoire which Her Majesty's Minister received at the same time as the Note.

In this Note the Icelandic Government have declined to amend their fishery regulations as we had previously requested. Her Majesty's Government naturally regret that this is so. I should prefer not to comment further at this stage. The complex questions involved have to be fully considered in the light of the reply just received.

Mr. Hoy

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that, following on the action of Norway the action by the Icelandic Government strikes a very serious blow indeed at the British fishing industry; and could he not, even at this stage, be a little more forthcoming about what action the Government will take with Iceland over this matter, lest it may be an encouragement to other people to do the same thing?

Mr. Lloyd

I quite agree that the effect of the decision in the Norwegian fisheries case was a very serious one for this country. I equally agree that the decision of the Icelandic Government is almost equally serious. Her Majesty's Government did make very strong verbal and written representations to the Icelandic Government not to take this course, and we shall certainly seek to preserve the rights of our people in any legitimate manner. What we are now considering is the best method of achieving that object.

Mr. T. Williams

Do we take it from that reply that the Government will pursue negotiations with the Icelandic Government; and have they in mind the possibility that if the Icelanders insist upon their present-day policy they may very shortly find a complicated question at the docks where perhaps their fish will not be landed in future?

Mr. Lloyd

That matter has already been very forcibly drawn to the attention of the Icelandic authorities. This was a matter in which we sought to arrive at some arrangement by agreement. Unfortunately, the Icelandic Government have taken this unilateral attitude, and at all times we have pointed out to them the consequences of that action. However, we are examining urgently what can be done to preserve the interests of the people of this country.

Commander Maitland

Does my right hon. and learned Friend also agree that the circumstances in Iceland are quite different from what they were in Norway; and will he impress that point upon the Icelandic Government?

Mr. Lloyd

That has already been done. The decision in the Norwegian case related to the drawing of base lines, and the question of the right to extend territorial waters by extending their limit was not in doubt in that case. It is quite different from the Icelandic case, and that has been made clear to the Icelandic Government.