HC Deb 17 July 1958 vol 591 cc1410-2
7. Mr. Wall

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he will now make a statement on the steps he is taking to protect trawlers fishing off the Icelandic coast outside the legal limit after 1st September this year.

Mr. Godber

Discussions have taken place with the industry on the practical arrangements that would require to be carried out on the assumption that an agreed solution cannot in the meanwhile be arrived at. I would take this opportunity of repeating that Her Majesty's Government continue to hope that a reasonable solution can be achieved.

Mr. Wall

While thanking my hon. Friend for that Answer and for the reaffirmation of the promise of protection, may I ask him to continue to urge on the Icelandic Government that the only answer is to be found at the conference table and that their unilateral action is only causing a loss of friendship and distress to their N.A.T.O. Allies?

Mr. Godber

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I entirely agree with his view, on this matter. We have repeated that we should be only too glad to go to any discussions with Iceland—bilateral or regional or in a full conference—which they would be willing to attend.

Mr. Osborne

Will my hon. Friend make a further statement about this before the House rises, since we should normally be in Recess on 1st September? Will he be able to make another statement before the House is in Recess?

Mr. Godber

If there is anything further to bring forward my right hon. Friend will wish to inform the House, but at present I have no knowledge of any further news that I could give.

Mr. Awbery

In the meantime, the skippers of trawlers are in danger of being arrested and their gear confiscated by the Icelandic people. What does the Minister intends to do if this occurs? Will he protect those men or will he allow them to be imprisoned in Iceland and their gear to be confiscated?

Mr. Godber

We must be clear on this. Nothing of this kind can arise before 1st September, which is the operative date of the Icelandic decree. We have made our position abundantly clear in our declaration of 4th June, and I ask the hon. Member to read it carefully because it exactly meets the points which he has raised. I do not wish to say anything off the cuff about it, but the declaration is abundantly clear and very straightforward.

11. Mr. Hector Hughes

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what guidance he has given to British fishermen as to the area of the sea round Iceland within which they should not fish without armed protection.

Mr. Godber

My right hon. Friend does not think that at this stage it would be in the public interest to disclose the detailed arrangements that are being made. I can assure the hon. and learned Member that Her Majesty's Government are maintaining close liaison with the British deep-sea fishing industry on this matter.

Mr. Hughes

Does the hon. Gentleman realise that it is essential that some guidance should be given to the skippers of long-distance trawlers who will shortly be putting to sea on long voyages? The new limits sought to be imposed by Iceland will come into operation in less than six weeks from now, on 1st September. Is not it, therefore, of the utmost importance that the skippers should know in which waters they are liable to arrest and in which waters they can fish freely?

Mr. Godber

I entirely agree that it is right and proper that the skippers should be fully informed. It would not be wise for me to give a detailed answer on this subject to the House at the moment. We are in close consultation with the owners and their representatives on this matter.