HC Deb 12 November 1952 vol 507 cc932-4
21. Mr. Hector Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the nature and result of his discussions last week with the Icelandic Minister in London on problems relating to the fishing industry.

23. Air Commodore Harvey

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on his recent discussion with the Icelandic representative over the fishing dispute.

28. Commander Maitland

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what progress he has made in his talks with the Icelandic Government towards a satisfactory settlement of the dispute between British and Icelandic fishing interests; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Nutting

The discussions referred to in the reply given by my right hon. Friend on 15th October have continued. In the course of these, Her Majesty's Government maintained the views expressed in the Notes exchanged with the Icelandic Government on this matter. For their part, the Icelandic Government insisted that the regulations which they have introduced were fully justified and necessary to conserve the fertility of the Icelandic fishing grounds. They were therefore not prepared to modify them nor to arrange for direct discussions between representatives of the United Kingdom and Icelandic fishing interests with a view to some practical solution being found.

The Icelandic Government have now agreed that discussions, based on the need for conservation, shall take place in the Permanent Commission to be set up under the Overfishing Convention which is expected to come into force next year. Meanwhile, they have agreed to send experts to this country to explain to the United Kingdom interests concerned the scientific grounds on which their conservation measures are based.

Mr. Hughes

Is the Minister aware that this matter is vital to the producers and consumers of fish in this country, and can he therefore say when the projected discussions will take place, what will be the scope of those discussions and how they will relate to the needs of the producers and consumers of fish?

Mr. Nutting

As regards the explanations on scientific grounds of conservation measures taken by the Icelandic Government, these discussions will, I hope, take place in the immediate future. As to discussions in the Permanent Commission, they cannot take place until the Permanent Commission has been set up under the Overfishing Convention.

Air Commodore Harvey

Is my hon. Friend aware that there is an impression in this country that the limits laid down by the Icelandic Government are not being adhered to by the Icelandic vessels? Would it not be more appropriate for us to send observers to Iceland to investigate that matter?

Mr. Nutting

I have been assured by the Icelandic Government that that is not the case, and that their trawlers are equally excluded from these waters. In view of the scientific discussions which are shortly taking place, I hope that that point might be brought up and a satisfactory explanation given.

Commander Maitland

In view of the urgency of this matter, will the hon. Gentleman continue to press the Icelandic Government to come to some arrangement in the meantime? Is he aware that this matter is causing considerable unemployment in the fishing ports, as well as great difficulty as far as consumers are concerned'? This is a very important matter.

Mr. Nutting

I think we have done our utmost to get the Icelandic Government to come to an agreement in this matter. I cannot undertake to say that we shall be able to get anything better than this in the immediate future, but we hope that some modifications might be made when the discussions eventually take place in the Permanent Commission.