HC Deb 02 July 1958 vol 590 cc1304-5
9. Mr. Wall

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what progress has been made in preparing for a conference of those nations interested in fishing in the North Atlantic, Arctic and North Sea areas.

11. Mr. Awbery

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he is aware of the confusion created by several nations taking unilateral action to change the three-mile limit for fishing purposes, in total disregard of the long-established rights of the fishing nations; and if he will make a further attempt to seek to bring about agreement by international machinery more comprehensive than a regional conference rather than wait until a trawler is arrested and the skipper prosecuted by one of these nations.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

No progress has been made in preparing for a regional conference. I am aware of the confusion caused by unilateral actions to extend exclusive fishing zones; Her Majesty's Government strongly disapprove of such actions. The recent Geneva Conference on the Law of the Sea adopted a Resolution which requested the United Nations General Assembly to study, at this year's Session, the advisability of convening a second international conference. If this were agreed, Her Majesty's Government would make every effort to obtain international agreement on the breadth of the territorial seas and on limits for fishing purposes.

Mr. Wall

Will my right hon. and learned Friend make it clear that Her Majesty's Government do not recognise the recent action of the Icelandic Government? Will he agree that the only alternative is a conference, and would it not be better to pursue the idea of a regional conference rather than one embracing the whole of the United Nations?

Mr. Lloyd

We have made it absolutely clear that we will not accept unilateral declarations in this matter and that any changes must be arrived at by negotiation. There are three ways of negotiation, an international conference covering all the countries of the world, a regional conference, or bi-lateral negotiations. I am very anxious to arrive at a solution by any of those three methods.

Mr. Awbery

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that only last week the Icelandic Government issued regulations widening the limit to 12 miles? Does that apply to 12 miles in the air as well as on the sea? What instructions is he giving to our trawlers—or does he intend to wait until a trawler is arrested and its gear confiscated before something definite is done?

Mr. Lloyd

The regulations apply to fishing. Her Majesty's Government made their attitude perfectly clear in their declaration published some time ago when they first received intimation of the Icelandic intention. The regulations do not come into force until September and our hope is that in the intervening time we shall arrive at a mutually acceptable settlement by negotiation.