HC Deb 29 May 1963 vol 678 cc1308-9
24. Mr. E. L. Mallalieu

asked the Lord Privy Seal how much of the North Sea bed comes within the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom under the Continental Shelf provisions of the 1958 Geneva conventions on the Law of the Sea; whether the sea-bed frontiers have been agreed with other North Sea riparian States; and what arrangements for royalties are being made in the event of oil deposits being found in the North Sea.

Mr. Heath

Demarcation of areas of the bed of the North Sea is governed by the provisions of Articles 1 and 6 of the 1958 Geneva Convention on the Continental Shelf, which has not yet entered into force. It is not possible at this stage to say how much of the bed of the North Sea would be regarded as appertaining to the United Kingdom. There has been no argeement with other North Sea riparian States on these matters. The answer to the last part of the Question is: None, Sir; arrangements will be made as and when necessary.

Mr. Mallalieu

Can the Lord Privy Seal say on what basis an American company which is supposed to be searching for oil in the North Sea is likely to be able to exploit its findings, and if an American company can exploit findings of oil on the Continental Shelf in the North Sea, will not the Soviet Union equally be able to go into the Irish Sea and do the same? Would it not be a good thing if the United Nations were made the trustees for all these rights of exploitation by way of bringing in revenue to the United Nations and also in order to minimise the likelihood of disputes?

Mr. Heath

As I said, arrangements will have to be made as and when necessary. At the moment, however, we are awaiting ratification by the necessary number of countries—22—of the Geneva Convention. Eighteen countries have so far ratified it. When the requisite number is reached, the Convention will come into force and govern these maters.

Mr. Grimond

As a prominent European and, indeed, a Charlemagne Prizewinner, the right hon. Gentleman will be familiar with the system of udal law, and he will no doubt be aware that this system has an important bearing on rights over the bed of the sea and was guaranteed to Orkney and Shetland when they became part of Scotland. Can he explain how this matter will be affected by udal law?

Mr. Heath

No doubt it will be replaced by the 1958 Geneva Convention when it is fully ratified.