HC Deb 08 November 1954 vol 532 cc844-5
16. Mr. Hoy

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what has been the result of his recent talks with the Icelandic Government over the fishing dispute; and what progress is being made.

Sir Anthony Eden

No formal discussions have taken place. The Icelandic Government have made no response to Her Majesty's Government's offer, to which my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of Supply referred in his statement on 20th May, 1953, to consider at any time any constructive proposals which might be put forward by the Icelandic Government. I am sorry to say that when my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs discussed the dispute with the Icelandic Prime Minister in August, he was informed that the attitude of the Icelandic Government was unchanged. However, Her Majesty's Government will continue in their efforts to reach a settlement of the dispute, which would take account of the interests of both countries.

Mr. Hoy

Can the Foreign Secretary say what consideration was given to the memorandum submitted jointly by my hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Edward Evans) and the hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. G. R. Howard) following their visit to Iceland? Did not that memorandum provide a basis for some further discussion?

Sir A. Eden

I should like to give further study to that myself.

Mr. Edward Evans

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that public opinion is becoming very restive about this matter? Not only public opinion outside the fishing industry, but some elements inside it are becoming more and more concerned at their lack of full trading facilities; the fact that there is no reciprocal trade between Iceland and ourselves, and the fact that we are losing traditional markets to Germany and Russia. Surely it is possible to arrive at some basis for reciprocal discussions between the two interests concerned?

Sir A. Eden

We have offered to consider at any time any constructive proposals put forward by the Icelandic Government, and have offered to take certain aspects of this dispute to the International Court. It is hard to see what more we can do. In respect of some other countries negotiations are going forward and, on this subject of fishing, we are at the moment hoping to conclude an agreement with the Danish Government upon fishery limits around the Faroes. I do not think blame can be laid upon Her Majesty's Government.

Mr. R. Bell

Is not the basic difficulty in this dispute the fact that the Icelandic Government, unlike ourselves, have not subscribed to the compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court?

Sir A. Eden

That is certainly one complication, but there are quite a few more.

Mr. Younger

Is the Foreign Secretary aware that in recent weeks supplies of fish to this country have become very inadequate for the first time since the ban on Icelandic landings? The matter is therefore more urgent now than it has been at any time during the last few years. Does not the Foreign Secretary agree that this is essentially the sort of international matter which should be settled upon the responsibility of the Government, and should not be left to be decided, as it has been, purely by one section of one industry?

Sir A. Eden

I have already given the assurance that the Government are perfectly ready to examine any constructive proposals made by the Icelandic Government. No action has been taken in this country which in any way conflicts with the laws of the United Kingdom.