HC Deb 13 July 1959 vol 609 cc30-1
44. Mr. Hector Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will now make a further statement on the dispute between Great Britain and Iceland about territorial fishing grounds, indicating what steps he has taken to resolve it during the last three months; and with what success.

Mr. Profumo

There have been no new developments in the fishery dispute with Iceland during the last three months. The policy of Her Majesty's Government remains as stated in their declaration of 4th June, 1958, and their statement of 1st September, 1958. The hon. and learned Member will know that since those declarations were made Her Majesty's Government have on a number of occasions made suggestions for the negotiation of a temporary settlement of the dispute pending the results of the next United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea. These suggestions were mentioned in my right hon. Friend's reply to the hon. Member for Bristol, Central (Mr. Awbery) on 11th May. The Icelandic Government are aware that these offers remain open, but I regret to say that they continue to be unwilling to negotiate direct or to submit the dispute to the International Court.

Mr. Hughes

I thank the Minister for that long reply, but does he not realise that it misses the point? Is he aware that this long continued dispute is expensive to both sides? Can he say why Britain, a great and rich nation, does not end this dispute by offering some quid pro quo to Iceland, a small and poor nation? Surely there is an opportunity there.

Mr. Profumo

I do not know what pro quo the hon. and learned Gentleman has in mind, but Her Majesty's Government would certainly welcome an interim arrangement. I think that the hon. and learned Gentleman knows as well as anyone in the House the energy with which Her Majesty's Government have pursued this matter and that they will continue to do the same.

Mr. Hoy

As this dispute affects not only Great Britain and Iceland but many other countries, can the hon. Gentleman say what consultations Her Majesty's Government have had with countries interested in this question?

Mr. Profumo

We have had consultations with all the countries who are interested in this matter. Unfortunately, we have still failed to reach agreement, but if we cannot find an interim arrangement we shall probably have to wait until the next International Conference on the Law of the Sea.