HC Deb 16 May 1960 vol 623 cc893-4
8. Mr. Jeger

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will now open direct discussions with the Icelandic Government for a bilateral agreement on fishing rights.

Mr. Profumo

Her Majesty's Government have repeatedly made clear their willingness to enter into discussions in order to solve outstanding disputes on fishing rights. In view of the failure to reach agreement on such rights at the Conference on the Law of the Sea, we have been considering with other Governments what course of action would be best calculated to help in the present situation. We are also exploring through diplomatic channels possible procedures by which we might enter into early discussions with those countries most closely affected from the point of view of fishing rights, including, of course, Iceland.

Mr. Jeger

In view of the failure of the Conference on the Law of the Sea, which is very unfortunate and is deplored by all our fishing interests, would it not be better now to institute direct negotiations with the Icelandic Government, disregarding the interests of other countries, some of which have a very remote interest in fishing off the shores of Iceland?

Mr. Profumo

Her Majesty's Ambassador in Reykjavik has naturally been discussing our mutual problems with Icelandic Ministers.

Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas

Is it correct that British fishermen are not now going within the 12-mile limit? Can the Minister of State give us the explanation for that? If this report is correct, it is extraordinary that we should give up our legal right to go within the 12-mile limit. Has pressure been brought to bear on the fishermen by the Government, and on the Government by the United States Government?

Mr. Profumo

With regard to the last part of the question, "No, no". No pressure has been exercised by the United States Government over Her Majesty's Government and, as I think the hon. and learned Gentleman knows very well, we are not in a position, even if we wanted to, to give the fishermen orders and instructions. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture explained most carefully what the position is in an interchange with the hon. and learned Gentleman the other day.

As an earnest of our good faith, we have said that at present we will patrol with Her Majesty's ships only outside the 12-mile limit. The trawlers have been asked not to go inside the 12-mile limit for the time being. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] They have only been asked, because as a result of the discussions which took place at Geneva, the Icelandic Government have shown their desire to come closer to us. In the circumstances, it would be wise in everybody's interests for us to try to give a period, in conjunction with the fishermen, who have been immensely helpful all the way through the Conference, to see if we can do what the hon. Gentleman asking the Question wants, namely, to come to some agreement.

Back to