HC Deb 06 March 1972 vol 832 cc1006-8
6. Mr. Wall

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what further proposals he has received from the Icelandic Government regarding their decision to extend their fishing limits in September, 1972.

41. Mr. Scott-Hopkins

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Icelandic Government regarding their declaration of an extension to 50 miles of their territorial waters; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Anthony Royle

As I told the House on 29th February, we received an aide-memoire from the Icelandic Government on 24th February confirming their decision to extend limits on 1st September. We have now decided to refer this dispute to the International Court as provided for in the 1961 Agreement, and have so informed the Icelandic Government.—[Vol. 832, c. 99–100.]

Mr. Wall

I welcome that reply, but will my hon. Friend confirm that British ships proceeding on their lawful occasions on the high seas will, if necessary, receive the protection of the Royal Navy?

Mr. Royle

We hope that it will be possible to agree with the Icelandic Government on arrangements for British fishing to continue in the waters around Iceland. I cannot say that we would in no circumstances resort to naval protection for our fishing vessels, but I hope that protection will not prove necessary.

Mr. James Johnson

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that all sections of the deep sea fishing fleet in Hull—pand I speak of vessel owners, skippers, bosuns, deckhands and fish gutters—have conveyed to me 100 per cent. opposition to the Icelandic proposals and are adamant in their wish and future intent after 1st September if need be to fish inside the 50-mile limit? I ask the Minister to take note of this and to safeguard the interests of our own people.

Mr. Royle

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his support. Reference to the court will not necessarily inhibit us from continuing informal discussions outside the court in the hope of achieving an agreed solution. We hope to conclude interim arrangements to safeguard our fishing while the case is before the court.

Mr. Donald Stewart

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the demand from the Icelandic Government for an extension came at the time of the Government's negotiations to enter the Common Market, and that is no accident? Since the Icelandic Government foresaw grave over-fishing in their waters when British waters were fished out, is it not understandable that the Icelandic Government should take action to give better protection to their fishermen than the British Government have given to British fishermen?

Mr. Royle

I do not think that what has been happening in Icelandic waters, or the decision of the Icelandic Government, has anything to do with the application by this Government to join the European Economic Community. We have been keeping in close touch with the Federal German Government, which has similar interests in the fisheries around Iceland and has also undertaken to keep the Community informed of developments. As the discussions with Iceland hitherto have been on the basis of bilateral Anglo-Icelandic and German-Icelandic agreements, joint Community action has not been appropriate.