HC Deb 04 November 1954 vol 532 cc587-8
29. Mr. Edward Evans

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware that, between 22nd July and 19th August, seven Belgian trawlers put into the port of Lowestoft having on board nets with a mesh much less than that agreed to by the signatories to the International Overfishing Convention, 1946; that, as the British trawlers have conformed to the Convention, at considerable expense, this action on the part of foreign trawlers has aroused resentment; and what steps he is taking, or proposes to take, to ensure that the provisions of the Convention shall be strictly implemented by all vessels trawling in the waters covered by the terms of the Convention.

The Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries (Mr. Heathcoat Amory)

I have received reports to this effect and have brought them to the notice of the Belgian fishery authorities. Under the International Fisheries Convention of 1946, each contracting Government is responsible for ensuring the observance by its fishing fleets of the mesh regulations introduced last April, and I have been assured that the Belgian authorities have given effect to the regulations under a Royal Decree and will be dealing with any infringements by their fishermen.

Mr. Evans

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that these infringements have continued since I drew these cases to his notice and that resentment among local fishermen is mounting? Can he not ask for powers of search and confiscation in order to act on a parity with the outrageous punishments that are inflicted on British ships when they infringe foreign regulations?

Mr. Amory

Under the international agreement so far reached, it has been agreed that it should be the responsibility of each country to enforce compliance with the regulations on its own nationals. Each country is being asked for its views whether there should be any international action. If the hon. Gentleman has any further cases of alleged contravention of these regulations, I shall be grateful if he will let me know of them.

Mr. T. Williams

Do I understand the right hon. Gentleman to say that a complaint has been submitted to the Belgian Government and that they propose to act upon it?

Mr. Amory

That is so.

Mr. Duthie

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that unless our fishery cruisers have the right of search in their own territorial waters of the gear of fishing vessels engaged in fishing operations, the provisions of that Convention are practically valueless?

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