HC Deb 22 May 1974 vol 874 cc366-8
11 . Mr. Hooley

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he can now say what proposals Her Majesty's Government will be making to the United Nations Law of the Sea Conference with a view to safeguarding the interests of developing nations.

Mr. Ennals

We have been keeping the interests of developing nations in mind in considering all aspects of Her Majesty's Government's policy at the conference.

Mr. Hooley

Does my hon. Friend agree that if the rich, powerful maritime countries such as Britain, the United States, France and Japan press their interests at the conference to the exclusion of the interests of the developing countries it could result in a dangerous confrontation with the Third World? Does my hon. Friend agree that the Third World might retaliate in these circumstances with the weapons it used recently?

Mr. Ennals

We shall seek to ensure that there is no such confrontation. The Law of the Sea Conference must proceed by consensus and any proposals which are adopted must have the broad support of all groups of State, including the developing nations. Her Majesty's Government will be seeking to promote that consensus on each of the many important issues that are to be considered.

Mr. Brewis

Would it not be better if we tried to concert our negotiating position with our EEC partners, in particular about ways in which we can help the developing world in relation to the sea bed?

Mr. Ennals

There has been a great deal of consultation with our colleagues in the EEC and with other countries which may have wide interests in various aspects of the conference. There was a wide degree of consultation internationally as well as nationally at the seminar which took place last week.

Mr. Douglas Henderson

Will the Minister confirm that the interests of the Scottish fishing community and of Scotland's oil will be properly represented at the conference? Will he give an undertaking that a White Paper will be published on the Government's proposals, for discussion and debate in this House before the conference opens?

Mr. Ennals

I repeat the assurance I gave at the seminar last week that Scot- tish interests will be strongly represented by our delegation at the conference. All aspects of the fishing industry, as well as other economic interests, will be represented. I am considering whether it would be an advantage not necessarily to publish a White Paper but in some way to make a statement outlining the Government's policies in advance of the conference itself.

Mr. Tinn

Another part of my hon. Friend's contribution to the seminar was very much to be welcomed. It was the part in which he stressed the necessity of avoiding the sort of nationalist conflict over ocean resources which has caused so much misery in the past over resources on land. Will my hon. Friend ensure that this broader, longer-term and more generous approach is not entirely submerged by the various narrow, selfish and, perhaps, short-term claims and interests which have been urged upon him?

Mr. Ennals

At the conference we must balance up the way we represent the interests of British fisheries, oil, shipping, and so on, and the ways in which we meet the natural needs of the developing countries. Certainly the Government fully accept the terms of resolution 2749 (XXV) passed at the United Nations Assembly on 17th December 1970, which, among its other recommendations, said that the exploration of the area of the sea bed beyond the limits of national jurisdiction and the exploitation of its resources should be carried out in such a way as to take into particular consideration the interests and needs of developing countries.