HC Deb 20 December 1954 vol 535 cc2424-5
37. Mr. Page

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will take steps to invite the countries concerned to attend an international conference for consideration of the limits of territorial waters.

Mr. Turton

The International Law Commission has almost completed its report on the Régime of the Territorial Sea. I think that it would be best to await the report, which should be available for discussion at the next General Assembly, before taking further action in this matter.

As the House is already aware, fishery disputes are the cause of many of these claims to an excessive breadth of territorial waters. Hon. Members will be glad to learn that agreement was reached in committee last week at the United Nations for a conference to be held in Rome on 18th of April next to discuss the technical side of these fishery problems.

Mr. Page

While thanking my hon. Friend for that very satisfactory reply, may I ask if, when this report is available, his right hon. Friend proposes to take the initiative in calling some sort of discussion or conference to deal with this very important matter?

Mr. Turton

I think that we had better wait until we receive the report of the International Law Commission.

Mr. J. R. H. Hutchison

Can my hon. Friend say by what convention territorial waters are at present defined, if there is any such convention?

Mr. Turton

No, Sir. To the best of my knowledge and belief, there is no such convention.

Mr. E. Fletcher

Would not the Minister agree that the claim of Peru to have 200 miles of territorial waters has nothing to do with fishery rights, and is the Minister content to allow claims of that kind to be made without doing something to ensure an international agreement at a very early date?

Mr. Turton

I think that the hon. Gentleman has some justice in his case. The claim of Peru is not merely to 200 miles of continental shelf, but also to superjacent waters, and it would appear not to be confined to whaling. But I am hoping to answer a Question later on that subject.