HC Deb 20 July 1955 vol 544 cc347-8
1. Mr. Hector Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he is aware that Chile, Peru and Ecuador claim sovereignty over waters extending 200 miles from their coasts; that the Government of the United States of America have proposed that this claim and other conflicting claims over territorial waters should be submitted to the International Court at The Hague that Chile, Peru and Ecuador have refused to submit these issues to that Court; and if he will state the policy of Her Majesty's Government in relation to these claims and disputes.

The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Anthony Nutting)

Her Majesty's Government have taken up the question of these claims by the three South American Governments in Notes delivered on various occasions since 1948. The most recent of these were delivered in August, 1954, after the conclusion of the Santiago Convention.

Proposals submitted by the United States to the three Governments are shortly to be discussed between them and it would therefore be premature for me to comment on them at this stage.

The view of Her Majesty's Government remains that the three-mile limit of territorial waters is the only limit recognised by international law, apart from certain limits based on special historical reasons. Her Majesty's Government therefore remain unable to admit the claims of the Governments of Chile, Peru and Ecuador.

Mr. Hughes

While thanking the Minister for that reply, may I ask him whether he realises that this chaotic discord is bad for British shipping, bad for British shipbuilding and fisheries, and bad for the International Court of Justice, whose jurisdiction is repudiated? Cannot he take more energetic steps to resolve the difficulties which are outstanding?

Mr. Nutting

I would certainly not dispute the hon. and learned Gentleman's conclusion about the chaotic state of this problem in international affairs. The Government have taken, in every case where we have had a dispute, the most energetic steps open to us to get that dispute settled. Of course, it has not lain entirely with us to get the dispute settled. It has also lain, to some extent at least, with the other Governments. We have not been able to persuade them to settle it.