HC Deb 27 March 1974 vol 871 cc441-3
17. Mr. McNamara

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will publish a White Paper outlining the Government's proposals for discussion at the Law of the Sea Conference.

Mr. Ennals

I am not sure that a White Paper is appropriate, but I am considering how best hon. Members can be informed and consulted about the issues that will arise at the conference.

Mr. McNamara

I am obliged to my right hon. Friend for that reply. Will he bear in mind that there is a great deal of confusion about what will be the policy of Her Majesty's Government on the extension of limits, ownership of the seabed, fishing and all the other matters? It would be most helpful not only to hon. Members but to the community as a whole if all the options, objections, discussions and possibilities were included in one document and fully discussed so that there was an informed public opinion before the conference.

Mr. Ennals

I shall consider the point made by my hon. Friend. I agree that there are some extremely important issues to be taken up at the Law of the Sea Conference. I welcome and appreciate any representations that are made by organisations with a particular interest, and I shall seek to find a way in which we can have an informed discussion before the conference.

Mr. Douglas Henderson

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the United Kingdom is almost alone among the approximately 130 States represented at the conference in not announcing its position in advance? Is he aware that there have not been proper consultations with the fishing industry about the evidence put forward? Will he also take into account that Scottish inshore fishermen will not be satisfied with a United Kingdom delegation that does not represent their interests separately?

Mr. Ennals

I do not for a moment accept that the United Kingdom delegation will not both represent and take into consideration the interests and the needs of all parts of the United Kingdom, including that part represented by the hon. Member. I assure him that there will be consultations and that any representations, from whatever part of the country and from whatever interests, will be taken very seriously indeed.

Mr. James Johnson

This important conference, opening in Caracas on 20th June, will be discussing the total affairs of 72 per cent. of the globe's surface—conservation, pollution, wealth of the seabed and the like. May I ask one question on the limited subject of fishing? Is my right hon. Friend aware that, unlike the unhappy days of the Icelandic dispute, when the House was divided about our policy, we come to this conference with everybody—vessel owners, unions, deck hands—wishing to make our fishing limits, like those of Iceland perhaps, 50 miles or even 200 miles? Will he bear in mind that it is a united team that wishes Her Majesty's Government to have our limits extended?

Mr. Ennals

I shall not comment on every part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question. I am aware that there has been an encouraging change of opinion and that there is much more unity than previously. I shall be delighted to discuss these matters with my hon. Friend, who knows so much about them, before the conference takes place.

Mr. Wall

Can the Minister confirm that discussions are taking place with our partners in the EEC about whether an EEC policy can be advanced at the Law of the Sea Conference?

Mr. Ennals

I can confirm that wide consultations are taking place with the other members of the European Economic Community. Obviously some of them have different interests. Our task at the conference will be to represent the interests of the whole of the United Kingdom and we do not want to seek a watered-down approach which would mean that the interests of particular parts of the United Kingdom were not taken fully into consideration.

Mrs. Winifred Ewing

The right hon. Gentleman has not answered the Question.

Mr. Ennals

I did not hear the hon. Lady's intervention from her seated position.