HC Deb 20 November 1972 vol 846 cc894-5
12. Mr. Laurance Reed

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what policy he will adopt at the International Law of the Sea Conference over the width of the territorial sea.

Mr. Kershaw

Her Majesty's Government have said that we are prepared to support extensions of territorial seas to a maximum of 12 miles, on condition that a satisfactory solution is reached to certain other related problems, such as passage through straits.

Mr. Reed

Would not my hon. Friend agree that it would be advantageous, in terms of controlling, protecting and developing our own continental shelf, if we were to exercise wider limits beyond the 12 miles in relation to waters overlying this area?

Mr. Kershaw

That is one of the questions that we shall be considering in the various forthcoming conferences. These will deal with questions connected with fisheries and the continental shelf, and seabed jurisdiction. These are complicated questions and we have not yet decided whether it would be to our advantage to alter the present rules.

Mr. Robert Hughes

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the Government of Norway have said that at the International Law of the Sea Conference they will be proposing an extension of the fishing limits to 15 miles? In view of the importance of the Norwegian fishing grounds to British boats, will the Minister undertake to have early and continuing discussions with the Norwegian Government so that a common policy may be adopted?

Mr. Kershaw

Yes, Sir. The hon. Gentleman will know that we cannot accept extensive fisheries jurisdiction by a coastal State outside the 12-mile limit, although we are prepared to consider a provision for some degree of coastal State preference in certain areas of the high seas.

Mr. Goronwy Roberts

Will the hon. Gentleman give an assurance that the subject of the jurisdiction of the seabed will be considered together with the subject of the width of the territorial sea?

Mr. Kershaw

Yes, Sir. That is one of the problems that the conference will be considering.