§ The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. John Hare)
The Government have been considering the most appropriate action to take following the failure of the Second Geneva Conference on the Law of the Sea, and are already in touch with Canada and the U.S.A. about the general problem. As the House knows, I am fully aware of the need for speedy action to try and stabilise our fishery relations with those countries off whose shores we mainly fish, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs is considering how best to bring this about. As far as conservation is concerned, powers are already available in the two existing Conventions covering the North Atlantic area.
§ Mr. Willey
The right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that the Geneva Conference was a very severe disappointment to us. Will he have a word with 591 his right hon. Friend the Leader of the House to see whether we could debate the matter in the House, because that might be helpful? At the same time, will the right hon. Gentleman recognise that the British Trawlers' Federation has been most statesmanlike in its conduct throughout these very difficult circumstances and that, for that very reason, it is important to endeavour to get an expeditious agreement?
§ Mr. Hare
I think the House will be aware that I have already paid my deep tribute, not only to the British Trawlers' Federation, but also to the workers' side of the industry, which throughout these difficult times has been most helpful. On the other question which the hon. Gentleman has put forward, doubtless my right hon. Friend will note what he has said.
§ Mr. John Hare
It is too early yet to say what effect the result of the Law of the Sea Conference will have on the catches of fish by the British fishing industry.
§ Mr. Jeger
The right hon. Gentleman is no doubt aware that trawler owners and fishermen are very concerned about this matter, as large stocks of fish are being landed in Britain, not only from Iceland but from Scandinavia. Will he do something to reassure the fishing industry that its interests will be protected by action which he will take—I hope soon—in bilateral talks between ourselves and Iceland?
§ Mr. Hare
As the hon. Gentleman knows, I am in close touch with the fishing industry and, as I said earlier, I had a further meeting with its representatives this morning. It is my intention to keep in the closest possible touch with them and to explain what is happening and to work out our problems together and to try to deal with them in the spirit of partnership.