HL Deb 12 May 1942 vol 122 cc947-8

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, I rise to move the Second Reading of this Bill, which is both short and simple. It is concerned with two Treaties recently made by His Majesty's Government with the United States of Venezuela. The first of the two Treaties, which will be laid before Parliament as a White Paper, provides for the division between Trinidad and Venezuela of the sea bed of the Gulf of Paria. This is important to Trinidad on account of the potential oil-bearing areas involved. This Treaty will be laid before the House in the form of a White Paper. The Venezuelan Government have also made it clear that they have no claim on the Soldado Rock, which lies five miles from the shore of Trinidad in the southern half of the Gulf. The second of the Treaties provides for the cession of the tiny island of Patos, which lies in the Northern entrance to the Gulf of Paria and within Venezuelan territorial waters. The Gulf of Paria is a comparatively shallow arm of the sea lying between Trinidad and the Venezuelan coast. The island has for some time been claimed by Venezuela. It is about a mile long and a quarter of a mile wide, and has no inhabitants beyond the necessary police and customs officials and there is, of course, no question of any Trinidadians losing their British nationality as a result of the transfer.

Although there are precedents for dealing by legislation with cases of cession of territory, such legislation, as your Lordships are aware, is not constitutionally necessary, but although only a cession of a very small area of British territory is involved, it was thought desirable to obtain Parliamentary approval of the Treaty before it is ratified. Finally I wish to make it clear that the actual cession is only part of a general agreement which is to the interests both of ourselves and of the United States of Venezuela. These Treaties are, in fact, a happy and all too rare example of an international question of which a solution has been found satisfactory to all concerned. The Bill is entirely non-controversial and I recommend it with confidence to your Lordships. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Viscount Cranborne.)

On Question, Bill read 2a: Committee negatived.

Then, Standing Order No. XXXIX having been dispensed with, Bill read 3a, and passed, and sent to the Commons.