HL Deb 02 July 1969 vol 303 cc589-652

4.16 p.m.

Debate resumed.


My Lords, I think it is time that we put on our diving suits again and got back on to the sea-bed. At the outset, I should like to thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilberforce, for giving us the opportunity of discussing these matters. I have spent the last few days in a sea of documents and in that sense have indeed only just surfaced. For some time now, my noble friend Lord Jellicoe and I have felt that the resources of the ocean were an appropriate subject for your Lordships to debate, for we have never previously discussed these matters. I was very glad to give way to the noble and learned Lord in order that his Motion should go forward.

Some eight years ago, as a Back-Bencher sitting on the other side of the House I had the honour to move a Motion on space research and exploration. It was, I think, the first and only occasion on which your Lordships had a full debate on the subject, and it seemed right to my noble friend Lord Jellicoe and myself that we should at some time also have a debate on ocean space. I am very glad, therefore, to support the noble and learned Lord this afternoon, and on the whole I agree very much with his general thesis that an international regime should be established for the exploration and exploitation of the marine environment.

I also agree very much with what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont. There are no great differences between us on these international matters. But in my view our top priority in this country should be to put our own House in the best possible order first and to see that we are making a great effort in all these fields on a national basis. This done, we should be to put our own house in the play our part within the international marine community.

My Lords, my noble friend and I have keenly awaited the publication of this Report. It is a useful document even if it has taken a year to publish it. I should also like to pay tribute to Sir Zolly Zuckerman and the members of the Working Party who produced the Report and congratulate them on bringing together all these very different aspects of marine science. None the less, I have not, of course, failed to note that in some quarters the Report has been described as somewhat negative and complacent.

The Report covers a broad spectrum which includes not only fisheries but also mineral resources and, as they describe it, inshore oceanography. Whether on these Benches we can agree with the Lord President of the Council, in his introduction to the Report, that work in marine science and technology is in general well-balanced and that there are no major fields in which our efforts are significantly inadequate, is another matter, and I hope that noble Lords have been able to absorb this point. The fact that we are, I think, spending some £25 to £30 million on space activities and only £13.4 million on all projects concerning the sea-bed may make your Lordships wonder whether our oceanic effort has sufficient priority, considering that the commercial development of the sea-bed may well, as I say, be the more rewarding in the immediate future from the point of view both of the development of general equipment for the harvesting of the sea for food purposes and for the exploitation of its mineral resources.

I will not go into details of the vast mineral and nutritional wealth available. They are well known and both noble Lords have already mentioned some of them. They are also well and concisely described in the chapter entitled "Seven-tenths of the Globe" in the book of the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, Man and the Cosmos, which I read over the week-end. I am glad to see that the noble Lord is to speak this afternoon.

Certainly we on this side of the House are happy that the Government's survey, which should stimulate informed discussion, has at last come out. We are interested, too, that the new Advisory Committee will consider how marine research, undertaken for defence purposes, can he applied with economic advantage in the civil field. I hope that my noble friend Lord Jellicoe will have something to say on this.

In regard to the conclusions and the recommendations of the Working Party, I agree that in the case of fisheries increased supplies of food from the sea could be obtained in the ways indicated—that is to say, among other things, by better management of existing fisheries; greater efficiency and improved methods of detection, catching and forecasting; the development of new fisheries; the greater exploitation of shell fish; the development of industrial fishing and of the processing of fish into fishmeal and oil.

In regard to fishmeal or fish flour, I have seen the excellent research work being done, for example, in Pakistan. None the less, this research has not yet been fully applied or exploited to the extent necessary to feed the hundreds of millions on the Indian sub-continent, although the scientific problems have been solved. I agree that continuing or additional research and development will be required but, as the Report says, the extent to which economic gains can be realised depends in some cases on international conservation arrangements. This is an aspect with which both noble Lords who have spoken are particularly concerned.

In regard to mineral resources, I agree that a geological and geophysical survey of the United Kingdom Continental Shelf is imperative and that the work of the Institute of Geological Sciences should be speeded up by spending more money on deep profiling geophysical work by specialised agencies. I hope, therefore, that the Mineral Resources Consultative Committee are giving this their immediate attention. Problems concerning the protection of the coast and pollution control—the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, mentioned recent examples—are also matters of great urgency, and I hope that my noble friend Lord Jellicoe, who is Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Oil Pollution in the Sea, will deal with this subject.

I agree, too, that there would be advantages in co-ordinating on a national and, indeed, on an international basis the foreseeable needs for new marine instrumentation and equipment to enable manufacturers to estimate the potential demand, particularly as regards dredgers, submersibles, power tools, visual aids and diving equipment. This is stated in the Report. I think we must accept that the Ministry of Technology, in co-operation with other Departments, is at present the right Ministry to undertake this co- ordination and that the Natural Environment Research Council is also now the right body, through its Oceanographic and Fisheries Committee and its Geology and Geophysical Committee, to coordinate other features of this work. But at the same time, speaking personally, I wonder whether there would not be advantages in having one national ocean-space authority, in the same way as we on these Benches have advocated the establishment of a single national space administration.

The Report admits that an area not yet adequately co-ordinated is the commercial application of Government research, particularly in instrumentation and equipment. Whether the kind of Advisory Committee on Marine Technology which has been set up, consisting of representatives of the Ministry of Technology, the Navy Department and the NERC, as well as representatives from other Departments as required, will be able to achieve the best possible co-ordination, I am not certain. I think it is generally admitted that co-ordination is by no means as good as the Report implies at all levels, even perhaps in science, which is very good in this country. We lead in science in these matters. All the different aspects of marine science and the various institutes and units concerned with them seem to me to have got a little lost in the NERC, which of course is the responsibility not of the Ministry of Technology but of the Department of Education and Science. Should these units not be grouped together on their own in a separate organisation, which would coordinate both science and technology, connected with oceans? Moreover, in technology, as opposed to basic research, co-ordination seems even less effective, with the result, I am told, that certain sectors of industry despair of any real Government support for progress. Our whole effort is, I believe, too fragmented.

The question as to whether there should be industrial representation on the Advisory Committee on Marine Technology was discussed in the Subcommittee of the Select Committee in another place, and the Chairman, Mr. Charnley, gave some convincing reasons why there was no representation at present. But whether or not industry should be represented on this Committee, I feel that somehow private enterprise should be more involved and that the National Institute of Oceanography, for example, may perhaps in the past have kept industry out for too long. Although in many ways I think that this Institute is doing first-class work—I have seen it myself and I know that they manufacture and export certain equipment—this is a small amount in comparison with their total expenditure and I feel that the Institute might be more commercially minded.

I know, of course, that the Construction Industry Research and Information Association (CIRIA) has begun very useful work in identifying the research programmes that would be best suited to foreseeable developments in diving technology and underwater engineering; and from their studies the gaps and shortcomings have become quickly evident. I know, too, that as a result of the report of the Programmes Analysis Unit of the Ministry of Technology, a contract has recently been placed with Hawker-Siddeley Dynamics to do a systems analysis study of the whole British fisheries industry—and something certainly urgently requires doing to put the industry right commercially. Our own fisheries' science and technology is second to none, and the Industrial Development Unit of the White Fish Authority is in some ways unique—they are doing an excellent job—but the rest of the field in oceanology seems a long way behind in terms of commercially viable exploitation, apart from oil and gas, sea transport, sand and gravel.

Another contract has been given, I believe, to Cammell Laird to study the requirements for underwater tools which are needed in connection with their underwater crawler, the prototype of which I saw at the recent exhibition in Brighton, mentioned by the noble Lord. I also understand that the Natural Environment Research Council is shortly due to give a further contract to Wimpey for a long-term geological survey of the Northern Irish Sea. If this is placed, it will permit Wimpey, in conjunction with N.R.D.C.—the National Research and Development Corporation—to develop equipment for drilling and coring economically for geological survey processes. I shall be interested to know whether the noble Lord can tell me if this contract has yet been approved.

But there are very many gaps still to be filled, and I think the Committee on Marine Technology must be well aware of this. I feel that the time has come for more research and development contracts to be placed with industry itself; for, apart from a few firms such as those I have mentioned, industry really has not yet "got it's feet wet". The Committee on Marine Technology is, unfortunately, without any teeth, apart from persuasion, and all finance depends on the individual Ministry likely to be most concerned. This Committee needs real authority, like I believe the National Centre for the Exploitation of the Oceans has, or aims to have, in France—a Centre which I gather is likely to be established in Brest.

Incidentally, I was interested to hear that in the new French Government which recently came into office science and technology are to go together under one Ministry. This may be of interest to your Lordships, who will recall that in our debate, some two years ago, on the organisation of science and technology in this country, the majority of the speakers were in favour of such a solution, and were opposed to the division of responsibility between the Ministry of Technology and the Department of Education and Science, which looks after the Research Councils, including NERC. I think I am right in saying that French officials studied your Lordships' debate with some care and that it may well have influenced their present decision.

So far as the commercial exploitation of the sea is concerned, I believe that we do need in this country something like the French Centre. This would not mean abandoning what we already have, but only bringing as much as possible under a common and, one would hope, logical leadership. My own view is that the creation of an Authority, rather than a Co-ordinating Advisory Committee, would achieve such co-ordination more effectively and give a greater impetus to the work.

With regard to international cooperation, this has been so ably dealt with by the two noble Lords who have already spoken that I do not propose to say much about it, except that I recognise what the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea has done ever since 1902 to encourage research connected with exploration; and there are other organisations, too. I think that someone should mention the Geophysical Year, sponsored by UNESCO, in which H.M.S. "Discovery" played such an important part in the Indian Ocean, and which triggered off most valuable research. But the powers of these specialist international organisations are limited, as indeed are the Agencies of the United Nations, whose Assembly none the less adopted in 1966 a useful resolution calling on the Secretary-General to prepare a survey of what was already being done at present to harness the resources of the sea.

Surveys are all very well, my Lords—we have had international surveys, and national surveys—but what we require now is action. As is stated in the Bow Group's Report by Laurence Reed, the American effort in the field is over 20 times the size of the combined efforts of the United Kingdom, Germany and France, and unless European countries are prepared to pool their resources, one more area of advanced technology may be foreclosed. However, as I say, do let us get our own national effort in order first. Those of us who attended the Exhibition at Brighton were deeply impressed by the efforts of British industry in manufacturing equipment which is exported to a number of other countries in the world. I was particularly interested in one small firm, employing only six or seven people, which sells highly sophisticated and delicate instrumentation in which the United States, U.S.S.R. and, I think, Japan (which is very far ahead in these fields) showed considerable interest.

I am sure that with further development money, perhaps provided through the N.R.D.C. or any new authority which might be established, there is a great deal more that we could do. Of course I realise that money is not the only need, and that the availability of suitably qualified staff is the first requirement which it is often difficult to meet. I think that Dr. Deakin admitted to the Select Committee of another place that he needed some 30 to 40 more scientists to meet the necessary requirements at the moment. In general, I agree with a recent editorial in the New Scientist that the Government's Report holds little to comfort those who feel that the country has already failed to secure the benefits which should accrue to a technologically advanced maritime nation, and that this country is in fact faced with an inescapable take-over of its last great natural asset—a Continental Shelf about three times the area of the land. The current North Sea Gas advantage is undoubtedly dominated by American technology and investment, and I agree that the Report gives industry few incentives to tool up for the next likely phase of exploitation, which will be the move into the Irish Sea and other Western and Southern areas of our Continental Shelf.

In conclusion, my Lords, I should like to ask the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, who has a great interest in this subject (I read his article in the excellent volume produced by Dr. Deakin), why there has been such a long delay in producing a Report which I believe was already written in its original form over a year ago. There seems to be no recognition of the real urgency of the problem. How is it that this great maritime nation has allowed things to slide in this way? I hope that we shall press on with engineering applications, and that the Minister of Technology (for whom I have considerable admiration), ably assisted, I should hope, by the noble Lord the Leader of the House, will take an active dead in prosecuting a truly energetic programme in support of industry in order to enable it to produce commercially the kind of advanced equipment which is so urgently needed.

4.38 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to echo what has already been said and thank the noble Lord, Lord Wilberforce, for initiating this debate and the manner in which he introduced it, and not least for one particular phrase which he used in the concluding portion of his speech, in which he spoke of the "preservation of the environment as of value in itself". I hope that the House will accept my apologies for the fact that immediately after I have spoken I must leave to undertake a long-standing preaching engagement. I trust that I may have the indulgence of your Lordships for not being present, as I should otherwise be, for the remainder of the debate, and particularly to listen to the replies of the noble Lords, Lord Chalfont and Lord Wilberforce.

Many of your Lordships will remember that the subject of the resources of the ocean beds was referred to in more than one speech in the debate of January of last year on a Motion moved by the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, on the subject of the United Nations and the Special Agencies. Tribute was then paid, as it has again been paid to-day, to the initiative taken by Dr. Pardo, Leader of the Maltese Delegation to the United Nations, urging that the deep ocean floor should be conserved exclusively for peaceful purposes and as a common heritage of mankind. One of the points that I wish to make particularly is to express the hope that these phrases will be kept continuously in mind as the ultimate goal.

I was glad to hear the latter of these phrases used in Lord Chalfont's speech. Dr. Pardo was responsible for alerting us to these dangers, which concern three of the major aspects which have been referred to in this debate: first, the danger of the ocean floor contributing a gratuitous bonus for the developed countries as against the underdeveloped and for States with coastlines as against the land-locked States; secondly, the danger of marine pollution, and, thirdly, the military danger. Unless the resources of the ocean deeps are safeguarded in the direction proposed by Dr. Pardo, the consequences for the future could be very serious indeed.

The situation in which we find ourselves was accurately described by U Thant, Secretary-General of the United Nations. In his speech in Central Hall, Westminster, on April 25 of this year he said: It is our dilemma that, short of some fearsome and imminent threat of disaster, a dramatic change in the attitude of Governments to international order is unlikely, especially where their own interests or sovereignty are vitally concerned. In the present state of affairs Governments tend to cite the attitude of others as a good reason for making no concessions themselves. To that extent sectional interests continue to dominate over the common good. It, is a dangerous fact, which should not be forgotten, that on the international scene we still live in a state of perpetual insecurity comparable to the condition of a country where no central authority, no police force and no enforceable code of law are yet consistently functioning". Commenting on this speech, the Foreign Secretary said: If you want to live in a peaceful world, you have to pay a fair rent for it—a sus- tained and humane and informed interest in the welfare of your neighbour. And your neighbour is mankind". My reason for participating in the debate this afternoon is that I believe ocean space offers a remarkable opportunity for breaking through the system which U Thant mentioned whereby sectional interests continue to dominate over the common good. I am not alone in this. It was a great encouragement when the Commonwealth Prime Ministers who met in London from January 7 to 15 stated that: They considered that the area of the seabed and ocean floor beyond the limits of present national jurisdiction, for which a precise definition should be sought, should be accorded a special legal status as part of the common heritage of mankind. The phrase "common heritage of man kind" was the one used by Dr. Pardo. It is a striking phrase, akin to that used by President Johnson when he described this last great area of the surface of the planet which has not yet been nationalised as a common legacy of mankind.

The problem is to achieve, as Senator Pell of Rhode Island has proposed: a reasonable legal order for the extra-national area of the ocean". It was to this problem that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilberforce, and the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, were addressing themselves. Are we likely to achieve this special legal status called for by the Commonwealth Prime Ministers, or the "reasonable legal order" of Senator Pell, if we have as its parents the Governments described by U Thant? The arguments of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilberforce, as I understand them, are that in practice advance can only be made by the recent progress of international law; and indeed one can appreciate the force of that statement. Where one feels uneasy is that over the past year the debates at the United Nations and elsewhere have all too often provided expression of national interests overruling the interests of humanity as a whole.

One major difficulty in assigning any area or any resources of the earth as "a common heritage of mankind" is, as U Thant implied, that no means have yet been devised to attach a legal meaning to this concept. There is no universally agreed instrument by which such a heritage can be protected, nor any agreed régime developed for administering such resources so that mankind as a whole will enjoy the benefits. Yet the world community is slowly becoming conscious of its existence. Nothing can stop its eventual self-realisation. The importance of ocean space is that we should use its administration and management and exploitation to encourage this process.

I would, with some diffidence and as in no way an expert in such matters, venture to suggest that the trusteeship principle might well prove the most suitable for the administration of ocean space in the next decade or so, while man's sense of world citizenship is evolving. If Governments are not yet ready to declare unequivocally that the ocean floor subsoil is the property of mankind, surely they should be able to regard it as held in trust for mankind, and that any system of registering and licensing claims so as to give exploration and exploitation rights for a given period should be firmly linked with the populations of this planet, and not solely and simply to member-Governments of the United Nations. For those Governments cannot represent those peoples whose Governments are not members of United Nations—that is to say, about one-quarter of the human race.

If it is accepted that the trusteeship principle is the one to follow for an international régime which seeks to represent the interests of mankind as a whole, the key to it is that the régime shall be open not only to Governments but to other entities, such as multi-national corporations and professional bodies representing the science and technology which will unlock the secrets and resources of ocean space. The divine right of Governments must be punctured. After all, most Governments, as with the North Sea exploration, do not in fact undertake the exploration or exploitation themselves. They farm it out to those who can. For some reason it is thought easier to control human beings through their national systems of government than if you control them direct. This in practice is not always altogether true. Nowadays corporations can wear a multitude of national hats and shift from one to the other according to need. I am far from proposing that non-governmen- tal agencies or even individuals should have exclusive representation in the proposed international régime for the area beyond the limits of national jurisdiction, but that they should be on a dual or tripartite footing with Governments in much the same way as has been achieved, to a certain extent, in the International Labour Organisation.

There is a second and fundamental point which I hope will be borne in mind, and this concerns the limits of the four various régimes in hydrospace: first, the superjacent waters; secondly, the deep ocean floor; thirdly the Continental Shelf, and fourthly, territorial waters. I believe there should be a certain hierarchy in these four régimes, with the largest taking the most important position and, in cases of dispute between them, having the prevailing voice. The reason I mention this is because superjacent water, that is to say the high seas, are already governed by that most historic of principles, the freedom of the seas.

The second régime of the deep ocean floor is the subject we are concerned with this afternoon; and a major issue is to define how far the régime of the ocean floor should be regarded as extending in a landward direction. I am sure that the limits of the Continental Shelf left open by the famous "exploitability loophole" in the Continental Shelf Convention of 1958 can best be settled if simultaneously a régime for the deep ocean floor is also agreed. The loophole afforded by the Convention defines the Continental Shelf as extending to a depth of 200 metres, or beyond that limit to where the depth of the superjacent waters admits of the exploitation of the natural resources of the said areas". That definition has now clearly become inappropriate, if not ridiculous. It could, for instance, give Pitcairn Island rights of exploitation half way to Mexico, Alaska, New Zealand, Cape Horn, and the Ross Sea.

Unhappily, there has been an indication that some of the interested nations are claiming limits of sovereignty for the ocean floor beyond the Continental Shelf, as it has previously been regarded, to the Continental Slope, and even to the Continental Rise, areas which are roughly indicated in the diagram on the last page of the Report to which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilberforce, himself referred. If the Continental Rise were included within the limits of the sovereignty of the country whose coasts were nearest, then 43 per cent. of the whole ocean floor would be subject to land-based national sovereignty. The essence of such a claim to sovereignty is based on an extremely primitive concept; namely, that of proximity. In an age when the one undoubted achievement of mankind has been to annihilate distance, the alibi of proximity for aggrandisement has become absurd. I am sure that in this century proximity is not a sound basis for extension of ownership.

The third fundamental point is that none of the treaties, conventions and agreements about ocean space, its exploitation and exploration, will be of much use if there are no sanctions. One of the reasons for the dislike by Governments of international régimes is usually that they are ineffective; but the reason for this is too often that Governments refuse to equip them with any means of enforcement. In this case, the proposal to do so has been made by Senator Pell, of Rhode Island. He has proposed in a resolution to the United States Senate, dated January 21, 1969, that there should be a seaguard to ensure the observance of the legal principles governing the activities of States in the exploration and exploitation of ocean space, principles which he would like to see incorporated in a declaration.

It has been said that the most effective sanction is "the withdrawal of right of participation" in the agency or institution concerned. That may well be the case, but in a situation as large as ocean space, with all its ramifications, the possibility of withdrawal to take part in some rival agency cannot be overlooked. The most practicable sanction and safeguard would appear to be provided by the opportunity now presenting itself by the concept of the creation of a "sea-guard", which could have the backing of public opinion. I mean the opportunity which we now have to set up much tougher anti-pollution measures. On the crest of the oil slick, as it were, the public should clamour for really effective measures of inspection and control; and even for steps to create an international code of law governing criminal activities in ocean space, and appropriate tribunals to deal with them. The present agree- ments, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilberforce, has already pointed out, are at present, I understand, inadequate. The creation of a "seaguard" may well be easier to secure than was the creation of a United Nations' Emergency Force such as was used in Sinai, the Congo and Cyprus. Its milieu will be international to start with. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will propose at the United Nations the formation of such a body, and that they will in any case state that they would permit their nationals to serve in such a body, if it was decided to create it.

I should like to end by referring briefly to future activities in this country in connection with marine science and technology—and here may I express my whole admiration for the Report to which the noble and learned Lord,]Lord Wilberforce, has called our attention. For a great maritime nation it is disturbing to think that only £13,430,000 was spent in 1967-68. The second Report of the United States Congress on Marine Resources and Engineering Development, giving figures for the comparable period in the United States, shows an expenditure of 438 million dollars, with an estimated budget for 1969 of 516 million dollars. Of course the United States is a bigger and much wealthier country, and military security claims about a third of the United States' marine science budget. Nevertheless, our own effort, although of high quality, seems very modest indeed.

I can appreciate the Government's reluctance to find more money for marine science and development when money is so short elsewhere, and where a further allocation for this purpose would need to be set against, for instance, the claims of education, of the social services or of overseas aid. But one of the difficulties in this whole field is the lack of awareness among ordinary people of the importance of the new perspective which is now unfolding, since, for the first time, the sea is going to become something more than a highway. I would suggest that, without much extra expense, the Government could do a lot to encourage the study of marine science and technology throughout the educational system. Here, par excellence, is a world theme and something which students would not complain about as being irrelevant to the times in which we live. There cannot be a shadow of doubt that the exploration and exploitation of ocean space is going to be a major concern for the 21st century. We should prepare for this now. The Oceanology International 69 Conference at Brighton last February was a pointer to what is happening. We need to encourage our young people to become interested in this field.

I am sure that this country has a significant contribution to make, and I was delighted to hear that Professor Bishop, of University College, London, is to take a party of a hundred or so sixth-formers for a fortnight's course in Malta this summer to arouse their interest in these matters. In California they estimate that some 4,000 technical job openings will develop over the next five years as a result of developments in marine science. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will consider what more they can do to encourage throughout the educational system here a greater awareness of the opportunities which will now unfold in marine science and technology. Side by side with this, one must welcome and extend the emergence of fields of study which are concerned not simply with the scientific and technical aspects of the ocean deeps, but with some understanding of the possibilities and prospects which can result from this vast proportion of the world's surface being held in trusteeship as an extra-national entity.

4.58 p.m.


My Lords. I want to thank the noble and learned Lord for giving us the opportunity to have this debate, which is one for which many of us have been looking for a very long time: and I thank him also for the excellent way in which he introduced it and set the scene for it. If I deal cursorily with the Report on Marine Science and Technology it is because I am afraid I must say, having waited for so long for it, it is an extremely disappointing document. What I mean by that is that the details, the assembly and the information it gives may be very satisfactory—in fact, I will quote from it—but the whole approach seems to me to be singularly unimaginative, singularly pre-Pardo, if I may say so, in the sense that it does not really recognise what has happened in the public debate which has gone on since then; and of course, as has been said by the right reverend Prelate, the amount of financial resources for this day and age is quite inadequate.

As the right reverend Prelate has said, £13½ million and a staff, as I will say, of 700 qualified scientists in eight different sectors, including defence, bear a reflection upon the concern of a country with a naval history of over a thousand years and which is celebrating, with proper pride I hope, the centenary of the "Challenger", the research ship which first revealed the wealth with which I presently propose to deal. I have no use for "keeping up with the Joneses" and I am not suggesting that money alone represents the contribution which we ought to be making. In fact I would support the right reverend Prelate in reinforcing what is much more a science in the popular meaning of the word. I would remind your Lordships, as he has done, that in this instance the United States of America are providing a fund for sea enterprises running at well over 500 million dollars. The National Council for Marine Resources and Engineering Development, which was established in 1966 under the chairmanship of the Vice-President, gives it a status equivalent to that of the Manhattan project which produced the atomic bomb.

Paragraph 138 of the Report on Marine Science and Technology, while rejecting, and properly rejecting, the comparison because of the disproportionate wealth, points out that within the Federal organisation, as distinct from the activities of the States which also have marine facilities, there are twenty-four bureaux in eleven Federal agencies and thirty-three sub-committees of Congress, apart from activities in the universities and now a large industrial interest. There is no question whatever that the American activities, which are large at this moment, will increase enormously. There is already abundant evidence that the great corporations—Lockheed, Boeing, Westinghouse, General Dynamics, et cetera—are going into deep sea technology in a big way. This is their entrenchment against the time when outer space will lose its glamour and its appropriations. After the "space spectacular" on July 20, when the world, very appropriately, will applaud the first man on the Moon, and when they have brought back 25 kilograms of Moon matter, people ungratefully will say, "So what? What are we getting for our 40,000 million dollars?" That will be the time when they will have to look at inner space and recognise the potentialities of their own planet. That, with a great deal of prescience, the great corporations are now doing.

I am personally concerned with two problems with which I will not deal exhaustively. One, with which I am much concerned, is the pollution of the sea as part of the destruction of our environment, and the other is the demilitarisation of the sea bed. I am not going to deal extensively with either, beyond, in the first instance, recommending your Lordships to read an impressive publication by Miss Sibthorpe, Oceanic Pollution: A Survey and Some Suggestions for Control. That publication says most of the things I should want to say.

With all deference to my noble friend the Minister, I wish to say that when we are talking about the demilitarisation of the sea-bed and the difficulties about it, we should not just look very hard at the "nit picking" of this issue—and it is very considerably "nit picking"—but realise that much of what we hear in terms of objection to demilitarisation of the sea-bed, which we presume has not yet been militarised, is fraught with the greatest dangers to international relations and also provides a pretext for delaying the possibilities of a newer régime for that five-sevenths of the world, the drowned world beneath the sea, which does not belong to anybody or rather belongs to everybody, to the whole of mankind. I say that with deference, because I listened with interest to his argument and I sympathise in the difficulties in discussions in Geneva. I ask your Lordships, however, seriously to consider that at every stage all kinds of reasons are given to us why great imaginative ideas—and this is a great imaginative idea of how in fact we can now determine the fate of five-sevenths of the world—cannot be carried out. We should not be diverted by arguments which are, if I may say so, the archaic arguments of defence.

When we had the debate on the United Nations on January 25, 1968, the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, said: This debate will be remembered as the sea-bed debate". Since then, arising out of the initiative of Ambassador Pardo of Malta, this issue has unquestionably become a major world preoccupation, which has excited the imagination of young people and which has raised all kinds of issues which they themselves are raising about the constipation of world politics. It has fired the imagination of the young and it is a matter which now has fired the imagination of the United Nations. They were queueing up to get on the committee to deal with the procedure, and their interest is unabated.

We have had in these debates what I consider to be one of the most encouraging series of arguments and elaborations in detail, without the usual position-taking or the reduction of positions, which gives to me, at least, an enormous amount of encouragement in my direct concern with the United Nations. I am glad that our Government and our delegation have contributed considerably to that thinking and to the liberation of a great deal of thought. There has been, as the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, has to-day conceded, a degree of reticence on our part which he has explained; but, on the whole, our contributions have been helpful.

There is a most interesting book—we seem to be giving a lot of "commercials" to-day, including the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, who mentioned my book—which is coming out next week, written by Tony Loftas. It is called The Last Resource. That is what we are talking about—the last resource. In a world where the population is multiplying and will be at least 7,000 million by the year 2000—double what it is to-day—the demand for food and materials will make the use of the neglected resources of the sea absolutely imperative. We could, and must, enhance our supplies of protein from the seas, and I am glad that the Report on Marine Science and Technology shows the initiative which our marine biologists and our fisheries are taking in this matter. I am particularly interested in paragraph 40 on the "modification of the environment" (in terms of marine biology) which says that fish and shell-fish represent only a fraction of the biological resources of the ocean. There are other possibilities of modifying natural processes so as to increase significantly the population of desirable species. This might be done, for example, by decreasing predators, by increasing the food supply of fish, or ameliorating environmental conditions". I was interested in the references to the way in which the heated water released by coastal power stations has advanced sufficiently during recent years to make it possible to develop an industry"— that is a fish industry— capable of substantially supplementing the supplies of prime fish, for example sole and turbot and shell-fish". Some of us have contended for a long time that we could have sea-nurseries, sea-pastures, sea-ranches and sea stud farms. Some of us have also been arguing that the siting of power stations, intelligently done, around the coasts of this country and in other parts of the world—particularly nuclear power stations—would help to achieve this by increasing the temperature. A high temperature in many cases is an embarrassment, but in this case it would be significantly useful for the increase in food supply.

I also welcome the awareness which the Report shows of the possibilities of the seaweed industry. I know that we all usually snigger when we talk about seaweed as a source of food, but even in my young days, in an enlightened part of Scotland we used to eat seaweed which we called caller dulse. I have certainly seen in Japan and elsewhere the enormous use to which seaweed can be put, and which is shown in the Report. I remember a seaweed party given by the Japanese where everything was nicely packaged and palatable—that is, if you like your crisps black, green or brown, flavoured with iodine and with salt already built in.

Your Lordships will notice the Report says that, the utilisation of seaweed is not limited by any lack of scientific knowledge". That applies to a great deal more than seaweed. As the noble Lord, Lord Blackett, has pointed out many times, if we only use the knowledge we already have we shall get on very much faster. In most instances we are not waiting for new knowledge, but just failing to apply the knowledge we have. It is not lack of knowledge, it is lack of intention. With our marine biological knowledge, husbandry of fish and sea creatures—including my own favourite, the dugong or manatee, the sea cow or mermaid, which is a very substantial hunk of protein—and by using the ingenuity of food technologists in overcoming our notorious and irrational food habits, the seas would provide a very substantial increment to the world's food supplies.

I should like, however, to direct your Lordships' attention to the question of the mineral resources of the sea. The noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, has paid me the compliment of citing my book, Man and the Cosmos, but I would warn him that in doing so he may be accused, as I have been, and Ambassador Pardo has been, of condoning exaggerations. It has been suggested, indeed with some justification, that there are exaggerations in the measurements of this matter. But he can console himself, as I always do, that whatever quantities we are talking about they are immense and cover a vast range of minerals apart from the hydrocarbons which have given us the wealth of the North Sea and which we now know also probably exist at the bottom of the deep sea.

Mention has been made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilberforce, of the manganese nodules which are to be found on the floor of the deeps. I would remind your Lordships that this is a misleading term because these are not just manganese; the manganese is responsible for attracting the ions of other minerals. These nodules were first brought to the surface in the 1870s by the research vessel "Challenger" which dredged them up from the deep parts of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. From the turn of the century, when the "Albatross" expedition found that the nodules covered an area of the Eastern Pacific larger than the United States, little deep-sea dredging for minerals was done until the International Geophysical Year. We know from studies now going on, not sufficiently in accuracy or in detail, but certainly in terms of expense, that these minerals incorporate, according to locality, iron oxides, silicon dioxide, aluminium, calcium, magnesium, nickel, copper, cobalt, zinc and molybdenum.

Since the International Geophysical Year a great deal more work has been done in the study of the ocean floors, which has disclosed more and different kinds of mineral potentials, including some very interesting discoveries in the Indian Ocean project, in which we took part, and in which Dr. Swallow discovered some very remarkable phenomena in the Red Sea which are now showing the way to great possible mineral resources.

I must say—and I say this with some desperation—that I get very impatient with those who say that deep-sea technology capable of dealing with the recovery of these resources is a long way away. It is true that such resources are economic only if they are accessible and recoverable. I would remind your Lordships how recently Continental Shelf oil, like that in the North. Sea, was regarded as inaccessible and uneconomic, and how avidly, with the development of sea-rigs, the oil interest went after them, chasing out further and further to sea. We have already had the example of Mohole, the United States project to bore through the boundary layer between the Earth's crust and the mantle. A specially designed ship was used to conduct drilling in 3,000 feet of water in Southern California to a depth of 1,000 feet into the ocean floor. This was not an unsuccessful operation; it was called off for reasons which have nothing to do with science and technology but a good deal to do with corruption. But the experiment is there on the record and there to be repeated if necessary.

If it were necessary for any reason, against the wishes of my noble friend Lord Chalfont, to put missile silos into the sea-bed, or to recover a mineral in short supply, believe me we should see a crash programme which in a very short time would make the exploitation of the sea-bed economically feasible. In any event, recovery of the mineral wealth of the sea does not necessarily imply boring a great depth. After all, the "Challenger" showed that the nodules could be dredged, and one can imagine all sorts of ways by which, under the guidance of telemetring and deep sea television, recovery could become possible.

Because I am convinced that in terms of technology the lime calibration of change has been reduced from decades to years, and to a few years at that, I am obsessed—and I urge your Lordships to share my obsession—by the urgency for establishing a new régime of the deep seas. We must have safeguards immediately against wildcat exploitation and expropriation, and against reckless pollution of the waters of the sea by misguided mining operations.

I cannot speak on the law with the authority of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilberforce, but what some of us are asking for, as the right reverend Prelate has done, is someone to get the lawyers to face up to a very simple phrase, "the common heritage of mankind". That must be given legal substance. We mean all mankind, not nations, not Governments. We need a legal spell-out of what we said in the Preamble of the Charter of the United Nations: "We, the people"—not "We, the High Contracting Parties", not the Governments, but "We, the people".

We already have the law of the sea, the right of free passage on the surface and in the supra-adjacent waters above the sea-bed. We already have the principle of territorial waters, and we already have the Convention of the Continental Shelf. But I say that in this deep sea matter we are dealing with another concept which, as the right reverend Prelate properly said, is not international, it is extra-national. It is that area in which no nation, by extension of its continental claims or its coastal claims or sovereign rights, can expropriate what belongs to everybody and to nobody. This is a property we are talking about, not a common property, I insist, in the sense of a free-for-all; it is in trust, or should be, for all mankind, and I suggest to your Lordships and to my noble friends on the Front Bench that this is where we must stand. We have to stand for the fact that we must define it as a trusteeship for all mankind.

This concept is not readily acceptable by those who want to grab or claim what is called "flag state" status, which implies that a State for itself or for its citizens can lay claim to exclusive jurisdiction over a sea-bed area. If it succeeded, this would bring the area under the laws of the flag State of the discovering expedition. This would be like the Klondykers staking their claims and getting, if necessary, military protection for their expropriation. I ask the lawyers to give their minds to the concept of extra-national law to be applied to those areas beyond national jurisdiction and not covered by the Convention of the Continental Shelf.

This concept should not he an extension of the present international law to cover contingencies further out. We have seen how, under the Continental Shelf Convention, coastal nations (and this applies to ourselves) have been able to claim as an extension of their sovereignty, an extension of their coast frontiers, submerged formations. Beyond the Shelf—that is the edge of the Continent—there is the Slope, which falls below 1½ degrees gradient from an average to between 3 degrees and 6 degrees. There is an excellent illustration of this (and another noble Lord has commended it) in the Report on Marine Science and Technology. Beyond the Shelf, there is the Slope; beyond the Slope there is the Rise.

If I may just draw your Lordships' attention to where we are getting to in this "smash-and-grab", I would point out that the Rise is a recent invention—I believe it was invented by Columbia University. The Rise is in fact the spill-away from the edge of the Slope, and it continues down deep in the ocean floor or Abyssal Plain. While there may be some justification (in fact we, as a nation, have ourselves justified it) in the idea of the Shelf and the Slope, I, for one, find the Rise—which, as I say, is only a recent invention—quite intolerable. This consists of the alluvial deposits spilling off to the Abyssal Plain, and presumably it one could prove that Placer Gold washed out of Californian land deposits could be found a thousand miles from the coast, that would justify the claim that this was part of the continental nation. My own preference is a conception of law which starts at the sea bottom, in the depths beyond international jurisdiction, and that we extend that law until it comes into conflict with the Continental Shelf claims, instead of the other way round. The effect of this would be to make us apply our minds legally to this paramount question of common property, the paramount question of trusteeship.

My Lords, I had much more to say, but I will not detain your Lordships because the right reverend Prelate has said so much with which I thoroughly agree, and can endorse to the hilt, that I feel that I can end on this note. I do ask Her Majesty's Government to realise—as indeed they have said they realise—the enormous urgency of this question; to keep this out of mischief and to see that we are not stuck with (and this has been referred to) the parallel of the grab in the 1880s at the Congress of Berlin, when the powerful nations—those who could—just carved up Africa as we are in danger of carving this up.

I ask the Government to keep one further point in mind. I am extremely uneasy at the plausible solutions that some people are working out as to how this can be divided up. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilberforce, referred to a grid system. I am not going to get into an argument about that; but if anybody is contemplating "two acres and a sea cow" at the bottom of the sea, then I say "Let us think again". You cannot in fact do this, by saying simply that the area of the sea is everybody's but also 124 nations are to have an allocation—because they are going to lose out anyhow. This would be the story of the Homesteading Act in the United States. We should have exactly the same problems multiplied at the bottom of the sea as we already have in definitions on the land.

Please let us think right through: this is a great opportunity, as the right reverend Prelate has said, to break out of the restrictions of our thinking, both in terms of what is possible in the way of development, which I do not want to discourage, except under proper safeguards against destruction of the environment; but let us think through to something which is now an opportunity for us, and for another generation, to break out of the straitjacket of our national thinking.

5.25 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to join with other noble Lords in paying tribute to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilberforce, for introducing this debate, and also in the tributes that have been paid to Sir Solly Zuckerman and his colleagues for their work and industry in producing such an informative Report, though I must agree with the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, that it is disappointing in the attitude of mind disclosed.

The Motion for the subject under discussion has been widely drawn, and rightly so; but it is such a vast subject, and one on which so much can be said, that I find it difficult to decide where best to try to make a contribution. As the international situation has been well covered by earlier speakers, possibly the best I can do is to give support to the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, in what he said about concentrating on putting our own house in order, and draw attention to areas where I feel there is a serious deficiency in our national underwater efforts; namely, in the narrow but important field of developing and producing hardware and equipment for use on the sea-bed and in the marine environment.

Before I do this, however, I should tell your Lordships that I am a director of a diving company, and I am also President of the British Sub Aqua Club, which is the national body recognised by the Government as responsible for amateur and recreational under-water diving activities. The growth of the British Sub Aqua Club has been very rapid, and it now has over 10,000 active dieing members. The Club's training syllabus is recognised as being the finest in the world and is officially recommended by the Royal Navy. The syllabus is followed and extensively copied by countries all over the world.

Among our divers in membership of the Club there are some highly qualified people, with an extensive knowledge of such subjects as engineering, chemistry, biology, and many other sciences. They are full of enthusiasm and energy, and they are, moreover, highly skilled. I feel that, somehow or other, far more could be done than has been done or is being done by the Government and industry to give these people greater opportunity to use their scientific knowledge and diving skill to the national advantage. If we in the United Kingdom do not do it quite soon, I am quite sure that other countries will make great efforts to entice them away. Also, through the British Sub Aqua Club projects could be provided for examination and report. By giving members of the Club a specific job to do, with a worthwhile purpose, we should undoubtedly make their recreational diving more enjoyable and at the same time add to our knowledge of the sea-bed. I greatly hope that the Government will look further into this suggestion.

I should also like to suggest that the Ministry of Defence include underwater diving in the approved syllabus of training for the Combined Cadet Force. Increasingly the question is asked as to whether, with so many other things to do in school, Cadet Force training is really worth while. I cannot think of anything more worth while for discipline and team work, and for interesting the young in marine science and technology, than to include in the Cadet Force syllabus training in underwater diving. It is in this connection, of course, that the British Sub Aqua Club could give invaluable assistance. I hope that the Ministry of Defence will pursue this suggestion with vigour, because I firmly believe that if they do it will considerably assist in increasing interest in Cadet Force work in schools, as well as in making the young aware of the huge undeveloped potential of the sea-bed.

In his foreword to the Report on Marine Science and Technology the Lord President of the Council says: There are no major fields in which our efforts are significantly inadequate. This statement, I much regret to say, is not in accordance with the facts. While paying well deserved tribute to the outstanding work of the Royal Navy in the development of diving technique and to the work of our scientists in oceanography and marine biology, and to such organisations as the White Fish Authority, there is undoubtedly a feeling of frustration around and about because we are not making use of the knowledge available and are steadily falling behind America in the development and production of hardware and equipment which could be so valuable to us in two ways. On the one hand, it would save us buying this equipment from overseas and, on the other, a substantial export trade could be built up.

What then is wrong, and what can be done to put matters right? We have the inventors, the engineers and the skills needed to produce the tools and equipment required, but there is, I fear, a lamentable lack of progress. I think the reason is a failure by Government to place the necessary development contracts for the hardware and equipment it is known will be needed. I think that the reason for this sorry state of affairs is that our British underwater effort is so heavily fragmented—as indeed the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, has already said—among some 15 to 20 Government Departments and agencies that nobody seems able and willing to make up their minds to place the necessary contracts.

The White Paper recognises this shortcoming and to meet it a new inter-Departmental committee has been set up. But while this committee deliberates America forges ahead; and the reason why America forges ahead is because in 1966 Congress passed the Marine Resources and Development Act, which, if I understand the position correctly, does exactly what is needed in the United Kingdom by giving an organisational framework to provide a strong policy which gives unity and momentum to their programmes and enables the necessary development contracts to be placed with industry. If the United States of America can do this why cannot we in the United Kingdom do it? The answer is given to us by the Lord President of the Council in his foreword in the White Paper, where he says: Because of the diversity of interests in marine science and technology, it would be impracticable to make the whole of this field the responsibility of one Minister and one Department. If it is practicable in America (and quite recently in France) where results are produced for all to see, why is it impracticable here where results are so badly needed? Why cannot a much more determined effort be made to develop and produce manned submersibles; fixed and mobile bottom structures; propulsion devices; instruments and tools for underwater working; vision systems with remote control; life support systems and long endurance power systems, to name but some of the underwater hardware and equipment that is now so badly needed and in such short supply? This is the kind of engineering activity in which this country excels and where there are rich dividends to be reaped, particularly in the export field, quite quickly if only the Government will set about the task with energy and enthusiasm and place the appropriate contracts, as they do in America and in France.

As I see the position, there must be a basic reorganisation so that responsibility can be pinpointed for the placing of development contracts for this much needed equipment and hardware, otherwise we shall continue to fall further behind our overseas competitors in the race for the supply of the tools needed to exploit the huge potential of the sea-bed and marine environment.

I conclude by quoting from a recent editorial in Hydrospace about what is happening in the United States of America: The 'Glomer Challenger' is a good example of the way in which these activities can be gelled, and serves to emphasise, again, the huge technology gap which Britain must attempt to bridge. 'Glomer Challenger' is a drilling ship (none yet built in Britain) for research (none used for research in Britain) employing satellite navigation (not developed in Britain) and dynamic positioning based on sea floor beacons (not developed in Britain), using a new type of drill pipe (not available in Britain) and automatic pipe racking equipment (not made in Britain) to drill and take cores several hundred feet below the sea floor in up to 20,000 feet of water (not contemplated in Britain). Do the Government now really seriously suggest—and I now again quote the Lord President of the Council in his statement—that: There are no major fields in which our efforts are significantly inadequate."? Is it not now abundantly clear that this statement is quite misleading and indeed untrue? If the Government are now prepared to admit this fact and that immediate and urgent action is in hand or about to be put in hand to remedy the present unsatisfactory state of affairs, then this debate will not have been in vain.

5.37 p.m.


My Lords, I must apologise for adopting the unusual course of intervening halfway through a debate which has been so ably opened by the noble Lord, Lord Wilberforce, and my noble friend Lord Chalfont, but it became apparent to me—as I think it did to the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough—that we were in certain difficulties. This seems to happen with so many of our debates: however narrow one makes them, they always seem to get wider and wider, and I think it is desirable to take two branches of the same subject together—the international aspects of it and the scientific and technical aspects.

As the debate got nearer I found it almost impossible to refrain from taking part in it since, as with the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, and the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, this is a subject in which I have been deeply interested and, indeed, to some extent I "have been here already". My noble friend Lord Moyle has just reminded me that I asked him to put down a Question in the Commons back in 1947, about oceanography. I must correct the noble Earl, Lord Bess-borough, at least in general if not in detail, by reminding him that the first debate on space in your Lordships' House was, I think, conducted by the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, and myself in the course of a debate on the Air Estimates. I cannot remember who was answering it—probably it was the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, who did not like it a bit.

But we of course have been discussing oceanography, and it is a subject in which I have been deeply interested for a long while. Unfortunately nobody is likely to mention any book I wrote, in the way that my noble friend Lord Ritchie-Calder gets his books mentioned, but I did write a biography of Nansen, who was above all one of the fathers of oceanography. It is not insignificant that Nansen was one of the greatest internationalists of his age, and this is a subject which peculiarly lends itself to international co-operation and raises fundamental questions of international law.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich, as a former Director of the Scott Polar Research Institute and a geologist of great distinction, is well aware of the efforts which some of us have made in the past to bring international institutions into the Antarctic, and certainly into the sea. Speaking as one who has also participated in some of the work of the David Davies Foundation, I believe that this, above all, is an area of activity which has international implications at every point, whether it is in preserving the environment, in exploiting the resources of the sea, or in avoiding the use of this medium for military purposes. The international aspect comes up at every point. Therefore it was unavoidable and right that we should discuss the whole question of the use of marine science and technology in an international context.

None the less, I propose this afternoon, in the few remarks which I intend to make, to concentrate rather more on the area in which the noble Earl, Lord Bess- borough, and the noble Lord, Lord Wakefield of Kendal, were interested, rather than on the international field which has been brilliantly covered by the noble Lord, Lord Wilberforce, and my noble friend Lord Chalfont. Perhaps it is easier for me to say this than it is for my noble friend Lord Chalfont, but I have a feeling that when my noble friend Lord Ritchie-Calder reads what Lord Chalfont said he will be a little more hopeful. There is a great unwillingness among many of us to recognise that things ever improve. There tends to be an assumption, which I detected a little in the speech of my noble friend Lord Ritchie-Calder, that the worst is happening and will go on happening. I take a slightly more optimistic view, and I think that striking advances have been made recently. It is a pity they were not made earlier, and it may well be that in this area, as in others, it is possible to say that they were too little and too late. But I do not believe that they really are too little or too late. And, speaking as one who has observed, rather than as one who has taken part in, this aspect of Government activity I think that Her Majesty's Government have given a very good lead in the international field.

Let me now turn to the Report. I think that noble Lords expected something more than the Report set out to be. Practically any Government Report is called smug or inadequate or wrong, or something or other. But I must stress—and I should especially like to put this to my noble friend Lord Ritchie-Calder—that this is essentially a Report within Government. In effect, it is part of the consideration given to the subject by a Working Party. It is an example of the type of thinking within Government, rather than externally, which this Government have been particularly good at fostering and we decided to publish it. The reason why it took so long is that a great deal of re-writing had to be done, not to cover up errors, but to put the Report into a more readable and suitably arranged form. I now see that the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, my space friend, is here. Not only is this Report very good but it is the first of its kind.

When I was in Opposition I used to ask Questions on this subject, but nobody ever suggested producing such a comprehensive document as this. I agree that in certain respects the Report is already out of date; but events are marching on. However, it is a satisfactory account of a great deal more progress than many people realised was going on. I hope noble Lords will agree with me that, although this may be only a modest description, we should be gratified to find how much is going on, notwithstanding the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Wakefield of Kendal, with which I shall deal in a moment. But I would stress that the Government were under no obligation to publish this Report. It could have been brought out in more of a hurry, but this would have required more civil servants, and one of my jobs, as Minister responsible for the Civil Service, is to keep down the numbers of civil servants; and the more that is published the more people are required to produce it.

Let me now deal with the question of the right co-ordination for programmes of research and development. This is dealt with very fully in the Report in paragraphs 138 onwards, together with the reasons why it is considered that the Government's preferred solution is the best one. Here, again, there is a frequent unwillingness to recognise that very real advances have been made since the setting up of the Natural Environment Research Council. When it took over a number of institutions with different disciplines, and responsibility for financing the Marine Biological Associations, many of the laboratories had been unable, for various reasons, to achieve significant growth in comparison with other sectors of civil science.

NERC created for the first time an opportunity for one body to promote a co-ordinated programme of research into all aspects of oceanography, including the sea-bed and its resources and to make good the deficiencies which resulted in the past from the absence of co-ordinating machinery. In creating the Natural Environment Research Council, one object of the Government was to give to this area of research the advantages of being supported by a council similar to those long established ones, such as the Medical Research Council and the Agricultural Research Council. I believe that the achievements of the NERC in promoting research already demonstrate that research councils are responsible in their approach, and are responsible in their reactions to national need.

I should like to take up the argument about the unity between science and technology. Where oceanography is concerned, there is probably a unity between science and research technology, but the technology of exploitation is an entirely different matter. I ask the noble Lord, Lord Wakefield of Kendal, in particular, to consider this. It is simply no good trying to put everything together into one basket. These are totally different areas, and it is difficult to see how there can be unity between science which is progressing—and I include research technology in this—and technology which has so far been very little involved in the oceans, except in the exploitation of oil and gas.

This is a field where science must lead on the research side, and the other problems which noble Lords have raised are not going to be solved by setting up a sort of super-agency. Indeed, I would go so far as to say—this is a personal opinion, but with my other responsibilities I have to look a great deal at the machinery of government—that this is, in fact, a better organisation than that in the United States, and on the whole it is yielding better results. One may say that the results are too modest—this is governed by the amount of resources which the Government devote to them—but I believe that we now have the right machinery. It is yielding results and I am impressed—I think the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, will support what I am saying, because he put his suggestion forward in a moderate way—by the fact that there is so much enthusiasm. Whether the basic organisation is right—and the noble Earl questions that—things are happening, and there is a great deal of energy and devotion going into this field. I really do not think we do justice to ourselves in attacking our structure.

Here, I should also like to draw attention to the fact that there has been a quite significant increase—a much more significant increase than we have had in previous years—in spending in the marine science field, particularly on marine science and research technology. Indeed, if one looks at sea-bed geology one sees that over a period of two years expenditure has doubled; and one finds this in a number of areas. In total, there is likely to be an increase between 1967–68 and the Estimates for 1969–70 of over 50 per cent. The expenditure will have gone up—and this is in the areas within the responsibility of the Natural Environment Research Council—from under £2 million to something approaching £3½ million. That is just one indication of the Natural Environment Research Council's efforts.

My Lords, there is a great deal of very interesting material from a scientific point of view that one could talk about. There are some quite encouraging and exciting developments in the work in this field and I agree with noble Lords that one has the feeling that we are still really only scratching at the surface—the upper surface, rather—of the sea-bed. But the reputation of British scientists in this field, especially of the marine biologists, is very high indeed. I hesitate to talk about Britain's leading the world, because I think that somehow this is an inappropriate phrase in scientific matters; and I think my noble friend would agree. But I should be very sorry to think that we were falling behind the rest of the world. I would only say again on this how much energy is being devoted to the effort; and it is interesting to see the extent to which bodies like the National Institute of Oceanography are extending their contacts into other areas. In fact, the National Institute of Oceanography is always ready to help and give advice to any commercial organisation trying to develop hardware for use in the ocean. I find it difficult to see how being commercially minded, in the sense that some noble Lords have used that phrase, would improve the quality of the research, which is of world-wide repute.

It is interesting, if I may say so to the noble Lord, whose interest in Sub Aqua I have known for long and strongly approve of, that the Institute of Geological Scientists have used skin divers, both members of their own staff and in collaboration with the British Sub Aqua Club, for some very detailed geological mapping off the Scottish coast—although, of course, the technique is not applicable to other than very small areas. I think this is the sort of development we wish to see, and, of course, the Government have supported a number of under-water expeditions. The Services, too, have provided help. I remember, as Air Force Minister, helping to authorise the flying out of equipment to Malta to help with such activities. So I hope that the noble Lord, who speaks with great vigour—and we appreciate it—will accept that there is a great deal of active sympathy, support and action. The Mineral Resources Consultative Committee have recently expressed satisfaction with the programme of the Institute of Geological Science for the Continental Shelf, including the deep seismic profiling.

My Lords, let me say just one thing on the Committee on Marine Technology, which is an important development and which has helped to close a gap. We have the two basic NERC Committees, and now this new Committee which has been set up. These three bodies cover the whole area and they are co-ordinated by Sir Solly Zuckerman's Council. This Committee is closely involved with industry, both directly and through the N.R.D.C. A representative of the National Research Development Corporation attends all meetings of the Committee, and representatives of industry also attend when appropriate. The National Research Development Corporation have placed a considerable number of contracts for marine projects with industry. Of the 19 contracts they have placed, 14 have been with industry. The Committee has set up a number of working parties and has authorised surveys to explore particular branches of marine technology, and industry is helping with these. The Ministry of Technology has placed contracts on behalf of the Committee for various studies of problems in marine technology, and some have been with industry, notably a contract (and I think it was the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, who referred to this), for the study of underwater tools for use with sea-bed vehicles and other submersibles, which has been placed with Cammell Laird.

The noble Lord, Lord Wakefield of Kendal, gave us a very gloomy picture by taking one particular type of development and using it to suggest that we were totally failing across the board. The particular point to which he was referring is concerned with the American commitment to deep oilfield drilling. We recognise that this is an advanced technology, but there are other areas where we are at least as ahead, if not further ahead. In such fields as advance high-powered sites, scan sonar, such as the National Institute of Oceanography's geological long-range inclined Asdic, we are probably second to none. We have technological tools which are relevant to our problems and programmes.

There was also a question about drilling in the Irish Sea. A short pilot programme of drilling by Wimpey was completed last week. This was designed to determine the contractor's capability to drill through superficial deposits—clay, silt, sand—into the underlying rock. The results are now being studied by the I.G.S. Continental Shelf Unit in relation to a proposal for a considerably expanded programme.

I should have liked to go on further in this area, because there is a great deal that I could say. We were told about French developments. We are well aware of the French Oceanographic Centre at Brest, and we are of course working closely with French scientists there, because this is an international field and when the Centre becomes operational we shall no doubt arrange joint scientific programmes. We have been examining the possibility. But there is no evidence that marine science being developed by the French is any more effective than our own. It may be—I do not know. But I find this sort of assertion, or imputation, that we are always slipping behind compared with everybody else—


My Lords, will the noble Lord permit me to interrupt him for one moment? repeated, I think more than twice, that I thought our science was the best in the world. I think that, individually, what we are doing with specific projects is as good as anyone is doing. But I was critical of the co-ordination, and of a certain sliding away in some cases.


I think the noble Earl is being unduly pessimistic. I do not think he has produced the evidence for this, and I certainly have not heard any. There will always be certain people who will grumble and there will always be points of this kind made. This is a good thing: it keeps us up to the mark. It persuades the Government not to sit back; and they will need, indeed, to think very carefully and thoroughly on these matters.

My Lords, I do not think that I can leave this debate without referring to the desperate problem and threat of pollution. I may have misinterpreted the noble Lord, Lord Wilberforce, but I think he was perhaps a little unfair in suggesting that preserving the environment was relegated to the latter part of the Report. I am not sure whether this is what he meant to say. He will see what this Report was intended for. I find it difficult to think of it in terms of being divided up; because large parts of the Report are concerned directly (according to the appropriate subjects they are discussing) with the question of preserving the environment. The fact that the Working Party on Marine Technology has no specific mandate to deal with the problem of marine environment seems to me really to have nothing to do with it. It does not mean that there is not machinery. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Wilberforce, that the need exists. Those of us who have been active in this field. like my noble friends Lord Ritchie-Calder and Lady Wootton (who is at present sitting on the Woolsack) feel deeply that protection of the environment is of crucial importance. It is interesting how often we come back in debates to the protection of the environment. At least, we are doing so much more often in the House of Lords than was the case ten or twenty years ago.

One of the organisations to which I should like to pay tribute is the one of which the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, is Chairman. That is the Advisory Committee on Oil Pollution. If noble Lords can bear to read this weighty tome, the product of the meeting in Rome last October over which he presided, they will find a great deal of very valuable information. At this conference there were experts, both governmental and non-governmental, including the chief scientific adviser to the British Government, and the conference went through the matter in great detail. I believe that this is an invaluable document for all Governments—but all Governments must read it; and individuals must read it. I should not like to claim that Her Majesty's Government had read this as closely as they should; but I can assure noble Lords that one thing this debate will have achieved is that it will be studied, even more carefully. I can certainly tell the House that it is being studied by the Natural Environment Research Council.

But this Advisory Committee—and perhaps at this point, since I am praising it, I should declare my interest and say that I was the noble Earl's predecessor—is a very striking example of voluntary activity. It started originally from almost ornithological interests and the admirable Miss Berkeley Smith created so much of this institution. It has become a very powerful body. It is worth noting, for those who think that matters do not improve, the statement at the end of the Report where they say that as a result of the clean seas code which this Advisory Committee played a large part in bringing about, the discharge of oil in tanker washings has been diminished by some 80 per cent.; that is, the quantity of persistent oil. So I think we can feel that in this area also progress is being made. Whether it is being made fast enough depends on the vigilance and energy of ordinary citizens, and particularly those of us in a position to bring influence to bear.

I must again apologise for breaking further away from the international side; but I hope that the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, will feel that I have answered some of his points. I only hope that if by any chance he gets into Government, his Government will do as well as this one in this field.

6.5 p.m.


My Lords, I think that Lord Wilberforce's Motion has given us an important opportunity of discussing a matter which is going to be of major significance to the nation in terms of growth and future prosperity, and I am grateful to him for having introduced it. I cannot speak with the same authority as he on international law, but I should like to say some words about it. I am conscious that a degree of emotion is being exhibited about the ownership of the sea bottom and that this is providing a seed bed for international controversy which could become hotter as the years go by. I am encouraged by what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilberforce, said about progress at the United Nations. I do not think anyone can at the moment predict what the final pattern of agreement will be about the rights to be exercised by nations under the deep-sea waters, but stances are already being assumed and traditional rights publicised so that people will not miss any trick whatsoever. The 1958 law on the Continental Shelf, ratified in 1964, is, I think, a step towards legalising the national rights; but the pace of development is increasing and the denizens of the newly-found deeps, although not actually planting flags of possession on every ocean ridge they reach, are laying down marker buoys and other devices and generally making themselves at home.

They are steadily going deeper. Oil companies are not expecting to be operating off-shore production facilities below 600 metres until after 1980; but the Royal Navy experimental target is 1,200 feet and the working depth will be 600 to 800 feet by 1972. So we go on, down the Continental Slope, down the rise (if I may use such a phrase) to the abyssal plain of the ocean depth. The more security they give themselves, commercially and morally, the harder they will resist outside encroachment on their activities in which they have invested money, lives and materials. Hence, there is, I believe, some urgency in getting to grips with the problem of ocean rights and of keeping ahead of technological developments which will quicken their pace as the years go by. That point was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Wilberforce; but the point I want to make is that I do not think we should delay technological development while the matter of international law is discussed at the United Nations over a very much longer period. The maritime nations of the world have had great experience in formulating international law and I hope that our national interests can be internationally extended in a way that is related to the importance that we have always attached to maritime affairs.

An oceanic régime is evolving and the pattern will not necessarily be set by the technologically advanced or the maritime countries with large resources. As has been said by one well-known oil company legal adviser, "Even if we lack technologists, the smaller and developing countries usually have no shortage of politicians and legal brains, and coming to terms will mean coming to terms on legal grounds as much as on anything else". Quasi-sovereign rights are, I understand, at present exercised, and these will almost certainly be extended to the so-called geological boundaries of the Continental Shelf. Beyond that, rights need to be defined and our own national interests must be protected within the international framework of a working convention.

The point is that scientific research is probing to much greater depths than those at present being commercially exploited. I can see a sort of scientific gesticulation calling us down to the sea-bed. You might compare it to the second half of a perfect military salute. After the scientists have taken us the long way up into space in the last decade, they are now calling us to go the short way down to the sea-bed for the next, where they are convinced that the rewards are likely to be better and nearer to hand.

My Lords, this is where I come to the White Paper which endeavours to describe developments in this country in the marine field. The Minister hopes that the Report will stimulate informed discussion of future activities and policy. This I am sure it will do, as I find it impossible to identify from it a clear-cut programme or a list of national priorities. Yet, basically, the 16 or so Government organisations, including seven Ministries, can point to work of some merit, very often based on years, and in some cases generations and centuries of experience and tradition. This, so far as it goes, is typical of the high standard set by establishments and institutes which we have come to expect, and in oceanology most of these have been there a long time. One cannot point to the new disciplines, as in space, and all the "-ics" and "-ologies" and "-ographies" are pretty well known and established.

I think the main points contained in the Report are that marine science is progressing satisfactorily, and I believe that everybody would largely agree with this view. But there is a need to evolve better working arrangements with industry to exploit the situation. The Report sees the Ministry of Technology as the leading Ministry with its Advisory Committee on Marine Technology—C.M.T.—being used as a sort of Development Council. As with space, my Lords, the Government view still appears to be that it is impossible to give responsibility to one Ministry or organisation. Yet if one looks at the way oceanology is organised in other maritime countries, one sees how they are coming to grips with the situation and how they are instituting national programmes which define objectives.

Take, for example, France and the United States. In France, as my noble friend Lord Bessborough said, there is the top-level body known as C.N.E.X.O., responsible to the Prime Minister, with power to co-ordinate and programme the work of Ministries. It can also place contracts with industry where necessary; and as the noble Lord, Lord Wakefield said, in the United States there is a similar body, chaired by the Vice-President, known as the National Council on Marine Resources and Engineering Development. The Report of the complementary body, the Commission of Marine Science and Engineering Resources, has now recommended that a Federal agency be formed, similar to NASA, which might be known as the National Ocean and Atmospheric Agency, with broad goals as follows: the development of necessary technology to make possible productive work for sustained periods at depths to 2,000 feet, and the development of a technical capability sufficient to allow useful access to depths to 20,000 feet—which comprises more than 98 per cent. of the world's ocean floor space.

The second recommendation of the Commission to which I wish to draw attention has perhaps been somewhat overlooked, but is considered now to be more important immediately. It is the formation of a National Advisory Committee on Oceans which would help to shape national goals and objectives in respect of commitments, capabilities and long-range interests of both the private and public sectors as well as ensuring an effective flow of information between the two. It is interesting to note that the 15 proposed members of NACO (as it is called) would be selected from both Government and industry, with particular reference to the fact that the great majority of members should be thoroughly experienced in industrial programmes for the exploitation of the sea. Big words, my Lords, and big money, because in United States eyes oceanology is in the realm of big science. National projects have also been enumerated, but I think it still remains to be seen how much of the Commission's recommendations are implemented, and when.

It seems to me, my Lords, that in this respect the White Paper Report does not go far enough. It refers to the roles of the various Government establishments involved, with particular reference to the part played by the Natural Environment Research Council. It seems to me that the Committee for Marine Technology will have only the power to review and advise, without being able to implement any particular schemes which are seen to be necessary towards achieving economic goals. I am sorry to see that there is no recommendation to co-opt on to the C.M.T. people from industry, though I think, in view of what the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has just said, there may he a possibility that people from industry will after all, be co-opted on to this Committee.


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord? I am not sure that this would be the right solution. It is very important, of course, that the Committee should have direct links with industry, but I am not even sure whether all of industry would like it, especially when one comes into the contracting fields. But I heartily agree with the noble Lord that there must be the closest relation, whatever the machinery should be.


Well, my Lords, I think that the co-opting of people from industry is important. It would be sensible especially in view of the fact that the C.M.T., as I read it, would be involved in the carrying out of detailed technical and economic assessments, and that further work is needed in conjunction with industry to establish what the Government can do to promote the development of equipment for sea-bed operations. This, I think, comes fairly close to the recommendations of the American Commission when they talk about NACO, the National Advisory Committee for Oceans.


My Lords, if I may interrupt the noble Lord once more, again to try to be helpful, I think it might be rather a good thing—though I cannot promise it—if at some stage we have a report on the work of this Committee and how long it will take to process. This will enable us to judge better how it functions.


My Lords, I am obliged to the noble Lord. The development of tools of the trade in all respects which are needed for man to work at depth is where British industry is most concerned. And here I must declare an interest, as I am concerned with a company which has received a development contract for developing equipment for use under the sea. Without the tools of the trade we shall not be in the best position to exploit the underwater environment of the sea-bed. Dredgers, submersibles, power tools, visual aids and diving equipment—some of the things mentioned by my noble friend, Lord Bessborough—in addition to all the support facilities, are all things which would be needed, and markets for these pieces of equipment are undoubtedly developing.

I was glad to have had the opportunity of visiting the Oceanology 1969 Exhibition at Brighton and to have seen the extent of world-wide industrial interest in oceanology. I particularly noted there the large number of United States firms taking part and the extent to which clearly the United States Government is involved in supporting its own industry. If any of your Lordships travelled to Brighton during the week of the Exhibition (which was February 18 to 21) you would probably not have failed to notice the pretty female assistants handing out United States Government publicity material on every fast train. My impression was that the range of industrial goods being offered was largely based on land adaptations, and I felt that British marine expertise could be mobilised in the development of products and facilities which would fully meet the future needs of marine operators. Oceanology 1969 followed the successful Greenwich seminar of October, 1968, and the Harwell Conference of 1967, and I think that all of these should now have brought home to us just what is at stake in oceanology.

My Lords, I am glad to see that the Ministry of Technology have placed a contract with the Construction Industry Research and Information Association to outline what development work needs to be carried out for firms to be able to compete in the expanding industrial markets of underwater engineering. When this study report is available, at the end of 1969, I hope that the Government will give it wide circulation in industry and will act without delay on those parts of it which concern their own Departments—for example, the Royal Navy, in particular, which holds the key to so much of the technology associated with the marine environment.

As the White Paper says, the Ministry of Defence Navy Department is preeminent in its experience of practical operations at sea, and this would not be so if it were not backed by extensive research and development facilities for such things as hull design, propulsion, underwater detection, hydrography and diving. Diving is now, of course, one of the most important factors in the advance of underwater engineering, and the Royal Navy has progressed in saturation diving using oxygen/helium mixtures which allow diving engineers and technicians to go to 600 feet. This is a depth which covers the Continental Shelf in the main. Diving probably offers the best prospects at present of getting to grips with underwater engineering and exploitation of the sea-bed; and, without going into detail, let me draw attention to the words in the White Paper about diving. They are not taken out of context, but are part of the paragraph which draws attention to what is needed in the way of diving development. It says: The need for rapid progress is so great. Because defence and commercial needs overlap, they could be satisfied more quickly and economically by a joint programme of research and development. No research and development seems to be cheap, but the present outlay of £100,000 per annum, plus the cost of running H.M.S. "Reclaim" and experimental trials at £150,000, seem small in relation to the benefits to be obtained. A further contribution of about £l00,000 per annum is the least considered necessary to provide a significant boost to diving developments, subject to the availability of staff and diving volunteers.

It would appear that progress in this field can be predicted now some way ahead but is only to be made by increasing the efforts substantially above a critical threshold, and I hope that the Government will do all they can to promote activity in this particular field. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, could say what plans the Government have for continuing with deep diving developments after the seven-year extension of H.M.S. "Reclaim" is complete. However, as some attention has been drawn to whether suitable staff and diving volunteers are available, may I also ask the noble Lord what in fact the situation is in respect of divers in the United Kingdom at the present moment? I am not referring to the divers mentioned by my noble friend Lord Wakefield of Kendal, when he said that there are 10,000 shallow water divers, but to the divers who have completed long, specialised courses and are experts in the field. I should also like to ask the noble Lord whether there is any indication of a "diving-drain". Clearly diving expertise is needed in the United States and the wage rates must be very high for this sort of expertise. Diving volunteers are trained at great expense by the Royal Navy and they are obviously of great value to industry, and one would hope that their services can be of value to the country when they leave the Navy.

At this point, I should like to mention a proposal which is being advanced in one quarter for a nautical professional body. Many anomalies are to be found to-day in marine training and qualifications, when compared with other professions. With the development of oceanology, which involves a wide range of operations at sea, I think that this is an appropriate moment to draw attention to the proposal. The Marine Society has suggested that there would be advantages for the whole of the shipping industry if the marine vocation was to be organised along professional lines in the future. They suggest also that existing training and qualifications need to be brought up to date, if the marine vocation is to flourish in a technological age, and that only an authoritative professional body can accomplish this.

I do not want to go into details, but the desire for such a body must come from within nautical circles and there is evidence that this is occurring now. The Navy League, I am told, are extremely interested and so is the Company of Master Mariners. Other professional bodies are already involved, as assessors, for example, which suggests that there is a need for a responsible standard-setting nautical body to be established. Many aspects are involved, all directed towards achieving high standards of competence and safety at sea and now, for that matter, under the sea as well. Most professions have been encouraged by the Government to set acceptable standards and are governed to a degree by Acts of Parliament. It seems to me that the standards for diving operations and practices are not governed other than in the Royal Navy and, from what we have heard from my noble friend Lord Wakefield of Kendal, in the British Sub Aqua Club as well. The Royal Navy sets a supreme example in this respect. If the Government can give encouragement at this stage for a professional body, provided the statutory requirements for safety at sea are not in any way prejudiced, I am sure that it will be welcome and I hope that we shall observe progress.

Lastly, I should like to emphasise that there is a wide range of ocean-based industries. I cannot mention them all, but there are those which exploit the resources and those which supply the capital equipment needs. British firms are in an excellent position to provide goods, services and consultancy. The main areas of interest are detailed in the White Paper. Marine technology, I think, will be a rewarding field and we must not neglect it.

6.26 p.m.


My Lords, I can promise at least to be short. May I begin by warmly and sincerely thanking the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilberforce, for what respectfully think was a brilliant speech. Though in one sense the lawyers have done their job, they have not quite completed it. There are, if I remember rightly, three South American countries which still claim that their territorial waters extend for 200 miles, and they can make out a sort of case. We stick to the three-mile limit, and that is because a Dutchman called Binkerhock in about 1700 thought that that was as far as one could fire a gun. Guns are a bit out of date, Binkerhock is a bit out of date, and possibly the whole question of territorial waters must be looked at in another light.

When people look back to this age we are living in now—if we are not all blown to bits by that lime—I think they will say that there were two outstanding world problems: first, the problem of the rich nations and the poor nations, of the gap that widens every day; and the second, closely connected with the first, the simple problem of feeding the world.

Towards these two problems, the subject we are talking about to-day seems to me to be the kind of thing that can make the most suitable contribution, and therefore I hope that those who read the records of this debate will feel that not only British lawyers and scientists but British citizens as a whole ought to feel that the Government and all who work in this field have done a great deal in a comparatively short space of time for the benefit of mankind. I hope that we are going to keep to this.

It seems to me nonsense, if I may respectfully say so, to expect to solve the problems of the ocean on any other than an international basis, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich said in the course of his speech and as did my noble friend Lord Ritchie-Calder. I think that any other method is bound to break on the rocks sooner or later. It has to be solved on an international basis, and I mean an international basis covering questions of sovereignty, of ownership and of control.

From that, it seems to me to follow that we have to have a national agency of some sort—a national corporation, call it what you will—to deal with the economics of the matter as well as to control operations. I hope that private industry will not be used for any other purpose than doing work for which it is properly paid and which will be as well done as it has been done, for instance, in the North Sea, and that the result will come to the Government of the day for the benefit ultimately not just of the people of this country but also of the rest of the world.

Dr. Pardo, who was mentioned to-day by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wiberforce—he will be amused to hear that he has made me read a lot of papers—has said that this would be the best contribution we could make towards the problem of the rich nations and the poor nations, and that when we get to the stage of dealing with that it will have to be done through the United Nations and by the Governments of the world. I very much doubt whether there is much room for other organisations trying to do it. I am not saying or suggesting that Government Departments or Government agencies should do drilling in the North Sea; I am suggesting that they should control the economics of the matter, just as they will have to control the final disposal of the financial resources for the benefit of mankind.

I agree that, as my noble friend the Leader of the House said, this is primarily an international matter; I think it is bound to be. But there is one thing that has struck me very much, listening as I have all through this debate, and it is that the Prime Minister was quite right when at Scarborough (not the last time, but the time before) he foreshadowed distinctly a Ministry of Science. He did not say so in so many words—nobody can accuse him of having broken his word about it—but the impression that I had from his speech was that there was going to be a Ministry of Science. I think this is most necessary, and I agree with noble Lords who have said so. I do not intend for a moment to minimise the extremely competent efforts of my noble friend Lord Chalfont and of the other Ministers who serve the Foreign Office, but this is not really the kind of matter which can be dealt with properly through the Foreign Office.

There are suggestions—some by the Working Party, and some by the Lord President of the Council in the White Paper—that there should be methods of co-ordinating existing bodies. What we want is Occam's Razor here. Occam did not believe in multiplying entities unnecessarily. There is a staggering list of bodies trying to deal with this subject and it has reached a stage where it certainly needs a responsible Cabinet Minister in this country to deal not only with this aspect of science, but, I hope, with other aspects, too. It is the kind of thing which the Foreign Office, which has existed for many, many years—it is the oldest Department of State—is nowadays wholly unable to deal with. I say that bluntly, frankly and sincerely, and I hope that my noble friend Lord Chalfont will not think for a minute that I am minimising the competence or importance of the Foreign Office as such. I am merely suggesting a consti- tutional change, remembering that at the moment we have a Commission studying the Constitution and we have a long Report about the Civil Service which is also being put into operation. I hope that out of all this effort we shall get a proper Ministry of Science.

6.33 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to join with those noble Lords who have congratulated the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilberforce, on introducing this Motion this afternoon. I am glad he has done so, because it has given those of us who, like me, are personally interested in this topic an opportunity of expressing our views. I am glad, too, because, as has been underlined by many speakers in this debate, this is clearly a matter of much international importance. I should like to touch on just one aspect of this question. I think it is true to say that our civilisation to-day is running a race with famine, and the better exploitation of what the seas can provide in the way of food is one of the ways in which that race can be won.

This matter is also one of great national importance. I recently received the interesting Report of the Stratton Commission—the Report of the United States Commission on marine science engineering and resources—to which my noble friend, Lord Ironside, referred in his well-informed speech. That Report starts with words that I should like to quote. It says, right at the introduction: How fully and wisely United States uses the sea in the decades ahead will affect profoundly its security, its economy, its ability to meet the increasing demands for food and raw materials, its position of influence in the world's community and the quality of the environment in which its people live. I entirely agree with those words: and what goes for the United States in this respect goes too for us. But, that having been said, I would agree with the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, that this is a difficult debate, because it is really two debates wrapped up in one: it is a debate partly about our own national effort in this sphere and partly about the scope of international action.

I should like first to turn to our national effort in this field (Cmnd. Paper 3992), and straight away I wish to give credit where credit is due and congratulate the Government on setting up this Working Party. It was very much needed, because there is an enormous dispersion of activity in this whole field. As I see it, two schools of thought have emerged in our debate this afternoon. There are those who have been restrainedly enthusiastic about this Report; and there are others (the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder was one) who belong to a rather less enthusiastic school of thought. I must say that I am with the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, in that respect. Despite the excuse which the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, offered, and which I accept, it is a pity that this Report was so long delayed. It is a pity, also, that it was anonymous. It would be useful to know who contributed to this Report. In most Reports of this nature we know the members of the Working Party, and it is odd that we do not know them in this case.

It is also a pity that the tone here is basically so complacent. I should like to take one example (perhaps an unfair one) of that. Your Lordships will find in paragraph 50 of the Report of the Working Party the sentence: The scope for industry to develop new techniques of off-shore oil and gas exploration and production appears to be limited. That may well be so. But I well remember reading four or five years ago a remarkable lecture given by the then senior director of Shell, Mr. Loudon. Shell, of course, are quite a well-informed company in this particular field, and Mr. Loudon was a reasonably senior and well-informed representative of the oil industry at the time. He said that he foresaw within a decade or so complete underwater oilfields, with everything to gather, separate, measure and store the oil located on the ocean floor itself. That hardly squares with this sentence in the Report of the Working Party.

In sum, my Lords, I think the Working Party have done a very conscientious piece of work, and we are all indebted to them for bringing together this material, but I personally feel that it is fair to say that, although they have rifled through very conscientiously a great deal of straw and stacked it in a reasonably convenient form for all of us, they have not really produced a coherent brick, or told us how that coherent brick could be produced. As my noble friend Lord Ironside said, from this Report of the Working Party we do not get any coherent national plan, or even the glimmering of one, and no real sense of national priorities in this whole field. But perhaps one should not be too unkind about what is, after all, only a first effort. I was glad to hear the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, half promise that we should soon get a Report from the Committee on Marine Technology. I think we should all welcome that very much: and I should welcome, too, a more up-to-date review of the whole field within measurable time, which we could then perhaps debate again.

That said, so far as priorities are concerned I would agree with what is said in the introduction of the Report: that so far as our national effort is concerned it is probably right to give priority at the present time to three fields; namely, fisheries, mineral resources and in-shore oceanography. I would ask the noble Lord who is to reply one question—I apologise for not having given him previous notice of it—about our mineral resources. The Report draws attention to the urgent need for a geological and geophysical survey of the whole of the United Kingdom's share of the Continental Shelf. What is being done about that and when will that report be available?

This debate has not, I think, been a Party political one. A number of themes seem to have emerged on the national effort and a common strand has been the need for greater involvement in this whole business of ocean science, of industry, of our Defence Departments and of the universities. So far as industry is concerned, I agree with what my noble friends Lord Bessborough and Lord Wakefield have said. I think that there is a clear need for greater involvement.

I am concerned at the evidence of the backwardness of our industrial approach to these matters. Let me give examples: the fact that so much of our North Sea gas effort has been dependent upon alien technologies, or at least their application; the fact that so many of the rigs have not been built in the United Kingdom and so much of the diving effort., in which in many ways we are pre-eminent, in a purely scientific way has not been United Kingdom effort; the fact that the great pipe-laying activities are being conducted by American firms. I was also concerned—without, I hope, being unduly nationalistic—to see that the licences to work alluvial tin (this is alluvial tin on the Shelf at St. Ives Bay) have been granted to a South African company and that an American company has recently prospected the whole coast of Cornwall for submarine tin alluvials out to the 100 ft. line. It is distressing that this sort of effort is not being made by British companies.

How can this greater involvement of British industry in this exciting new frontier area of science be achieved? I have nothing very novel to offer, but it seems to me that it can be best achieved by "the mixture as before," but a good deal more of it. More development contracts should be placed with industry. I am glad to hear that 14 contracts have now been placed with industry. So far as the closer association of industry with the work of the Committee on Marine Technology is concerned, I should like to reserve judgment on the Government's apparent feeling that there is no place for permanent representation of industry on that Committee. I should have thought that permanent representation was probably desirable.

Another aspect of our industrial effort on which I should like briefly to touch, is the need for greater concentration. Here I must declare an interest, as I am connected with a company involved in the marine equipment field. One reads in paragraph 126 of the Working Party's Report the sentence: Because of the limited market for marine instruments, however, there may be a need to concentrate our efforts in a relatively few centres". I am inclined to agree. It seems to me that our effort industrially is unduly dispersed here. We need a less dispersed ant: stronger industrial base, and I hope that this can come through the efforts of industry itself.

With regard to the greater involvement of the Ministry of Defence and the Defence Department, I would entirely endorse what my noble friends have said about the pioneering work which the Royal Navy are doing in this sphere. I would ask the Government a question on one point. In the short time which I served with the Admiralty I became very conscious of the enormous importance of oceanography to the national defence effort and, indeed, of its civilian applications. I was glad to see that during my year there the Admiralty Board estab- lished a special committee to concern itself at a high level with the defence applications of oceanography. I hope that the noble Lord will be able to confirm that that committee of the Admiralty Board, which was a very senior one, is functioning and functioning with energy; and the point I would press the Government on is the need for the release of information from the Navy Department to industry. A good deal is said about the advantages of this in the Working Party's Report. I very much hope that in this sphere, where it is so easy to wrap things up in a security blanket, the Ministry of Defence and the Service Departments are being as free as they can be with the release of information which can be of very real value to industry.

Next, my Lords, the involvement of the universities with the ocean sciences. In the Report which my noble friend Lord Ironside mentioned, the Report of the Stratton Commission on Marine Science, heavy emphasis is laid on the need to secure a wide, academic base for marine science in the United States. I am very surprised that so little emphasis is placed on this in the Report of the Working Party. There is only one short paragraph on it. I am surprised, since I believe that our academic base is inadequate. So far as I know, in British universities at the present time there are only four courses on oceanography. That compares with 65 courses in the United States universities and colleges on science and marine engineering. This is one of the areas where the brain-drain is telling on our already limited resources. I am sure that more attention needs to be paid to this matter, and I hope that a very conscious effort will be made by the Department concerned, and by the Government to involve our universities, and similar institutions as deeply as possible in the ocean sciences. There are many ways in which that can be done.

Finally, the question of organisation. As has been said by my noble friends, our effort here is dispersed over 14 Government Departments, and Government institutions of various kinds. There is a committee structure of almost Byzantine complexity. The Working Party seemed to believe that, despite this, the structure was adequate. The Government, too, seem to believe that the present structure is the best of all possible structures in the best of all possible worlds. On these questions of Governmental organisation, outsiders should never be too dogmatic, but I doubt whether this present extraordinarily complicated structure is the right one. Clearly our national effort in the ocean sciences needs to be adequately financed. But for the very reason that our resources here are limited it is all the more important that our effort should be adequately focused. I doubt myself whether this is the case at the present time.

My instinct in this respect is buttressed by what one knows about the organisation of these matters abroad. In the United States there is a National Council of Marine Sciences directly under the Vice-President. Alongside this there is the very high-level Commission of Marine Science and Engineering Resources under the President of the Ford Foundation. And that Commission has proposed in a report to the President that there should be established in the United States a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency. Given that, and given the French experience, I question whether our own highly complicated organisation is in fact the right one. I accept that this is above all an interdisciplinary field, and that therefore there is need for bringing in many departments and to have some form of interdepartmental structure. But I myself see no reason at all (and I think this is the point which the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison. was making) why all this should not he brought together under one responsible Minister. And, so long as this Government lasts, I hope very much that that Minister could be the noble Lord. Lord Shackleton, given his great interest in these matters.

I turn now, briefly and in conclusion, having dealt summarily with our national effort, to one or two aspects on the international plane. First, given the emphasis which the Government have placed on European technology, I was surprised to find little or no mention in the Working Party's Report about how co-operation on the ocean sciences with our neighbours in Western Europe could be developed. There is the barest mention of this. I should have thought that there were areas here which would lend themselves to co-operation on a European basis.

In any event, there is clearly in the ocean sciences scope for the widest possible international collaboration. In this respect, I should like to say straight away that I found myself in very considerable agreement with everything that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilberforce, said, and with a great deal that fell from the lips of the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont. I would agree that we need as soon as possible to establish a realistic international régime for the oceans; and I hope that the restrained optimism which the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, expressed about the progress of the Eighteen-Nations Disarmament Committee will in fact be justified. But this is an urgent flatter, and it really is urgent that international action should be effective to avoid what I think the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, said was the imminent danger of a "free-for-all" in ocean space.

There are two particular matters on which I should like just to touch. The first concerns pollution. I readily acknowledge here the help which I received as the Chairman of the British Committee on the Pollution of the Seas by Oil from the Government and from a great range of Government Departments in the preparation of the non-Governmental Conference which was held in Rome last October. I very much hope that there will be a very active follow-up to the recommendations of that Conference by Her Majesty's Government and by the other Governments concerned. Because, so far as oil pollution is concerned, it really is urgent to get international action to prevent the wilful dumping of the oil, which is still being dumped around the oceans of the world—one million tons at least—quite unnecessarily. It is equally urgent to get effective international action to reduce the incidence of accidents involving oil discharge and, when they do occur, to mitigate their effects.

But there are two other areas of international action about which I should like to ask. The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, referred to the North Sea Convention governing oil pollution. I was very glad to see that that Convention has been signed. It will, however, become fully effective only if the French Government adhere to it: and I hope the noble Lord may be able to tell us, in winding up, that the adherence of the French Government to that Convention has been secured.

Secondly, while I am dealing with the question of pollution, I should like to voice the personal opinion that behind the problem of oil lies an even greater danger of pollution of the oceans; that is, pollution by agents other than oil. I am thinking above all here of the increasing tendency for dangerous cargoes to be carried around the oceans of the world, and the probability, unless international rules governing those cargoes are established and enforced, that there may well be within a matter of a few years an international catastrophe at sea which would make the "Torrey Canyon" incident a very small matter indeed. I know that this is already engaging Her Majesty's Government's attention. I hope that the work they are doing in this sphere will be the prelude to a further international convention covering dangerous cargoes of this kind.

My Lords, so much for the international sphere, which I think is one of extreme importance here. May I say just this, in conclusion? The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, referred in his remarks to the interest of myself and other noble Lords in space. Granted, But may I also recall the words which that wise man, Sir Frederick Brundrett, used the other day—namely: It does not seem very sensible that man will have landed on the Moon before he has done more with the sea on his own planet than ruffle the surface. Very true. But other nations are now beginning to do more than ruffle the surface of the waters on this planet: they are making very great national efforts. I hope that we shall, as a maritime nation—and we are very little, my Lords, if we do not remain a maritime nation—be among the non-rufflers, and that we shall remain very much in the forefront among the nations of the world in the exploration and the exploitation of the oceans of this world. I hope too that we shall remain, not in a parochial, not in a chauvinistic or unduly nationalistic way, a leading nation in the search for a proper international organisation in this very important new frontier of science.

6.58 p.m.


My Lords, I want to be as brief as possible in asking your leave to speak again in this debate. I shall be so brief that I shall not in fact have time to take up all the very interesting points that have been made in this debate. I hope noble Lords will accept that these points will be taken account of, and that in any initiatives or any negotiations that we may take part in, especially in the international fields although also on questions of national organisation, those points will be very carefully borne in mind.

Perhaps I may begin by mentioning a point made by my noble friend Lord Ritchie-Calder in the course of his interesting speech. He mentioned, as indeed did the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, the question of the possibility of a sea grab the new form of colonialism in dealing with the sea-bed. Perhaps this danger has been over-emphasised. As I hope I made clear in my earlier remarks, we are, with other countries which are members of the United Nations, doing all that we can to ensure that the question of the sea-bed is dealt with in a civilised international way. Although my noble friend Lord Shackleton took issue with the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, in one respect I feel that I must take a few seconds to take issue with him in another respect. That was when he said that in regard to the question of the demilitarisation of the sea-bed we should not be put off by considerations of defence, which, if I understood him aright, he thought were rather tiresome.


My Lords, I said "pretext".


My Lords, I take the noble Lord's point that it was the pretext of defence, but of course considerations of defence are not simply pretexts. We have to consider the security of this country in any international negotiations or discussions in which we take part. Of course, we should like to see an effective system of arms control to cover the sea-bed, but this can only be by international agreement, like most agreements on armaments and arms control; and while we are negotiating those agreements I believe it right that we, like other countries, should take proper account of the security and the defence of these Islands. I can assure my noble friend that we shall not use these matters as excuses or pretexts, but I can assure him and the whole House that in this kind of international negotiation we shall quite definitely keep in the front of our minds the need for international agreement and the need for national security.

My Lords, I shall deal briefly, and perhaps not in any kind of logical order, with some of the major points that were made. Perhaps I may first mention again the point made by my noble friend Lord Mitchison and also by the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, when he made his interesting and constructive speech. I refer to the idea that one Minister might be responsible for all aspects of the subject that we have been discussing this afternoon. Of course we have considered this possibility carefully, and noble Lords will have noted that Part IV of the Report which we are debating deals with the question of co-ordination. I think it is enough to say, as the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, has accepted, that this matter covers such a wide range of subjects and disciplines, and is dealt with by so many Departments, that it is unlikely that any one Minister could do any more in this field than spend most of his time and most of the time of his officials getting briefed by other Government Departments.

We have looked at this, and the noble Earl will know that in some respects we have tried to achieve this co-ordination by means of advisory committees and instruments of co-ordination. Up to now it is our conviction (although if experience shows it to be inadequate we shall look at the question again) that that kind of instrument is a more refined and effective instrument for dealing with coordination than the simple and perhaps superficially attractive idea of putting a Minister in charge of the whole operation. I quite agree with the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, that if we were to have such a Minister, I can think of no better than the noble Lord the Leader of the House. But it is our conviction at the moment that even his unique services are not required in this particular field.


My Lords, if I may interrupt the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, for a second, I think he was rather putting words into my mouth. I accepted the fact that this was an inter-disciplinary subject if ever there was one, and therefore I agreed with him that it necessarily embraced the work of many Depart- ments; but I do not think that means that one Minister is incapable of grasping it and giving a focus to the national effort. Indeed, just because it does embrace so many Departments I think there is a great deal to be said for one person trying to bring the whole thing together. Even in this Government I think a Minister worth his salt—and I am quite prepared to admit that there are many Ministers worth their salt in the present Government—would be capable of doing this.


My Lords, I take the noble Lord's point, and I hope that I was not guilty of putting words into his mouth—certainly it is not necessary. I will of course take note of what he said, and I am quite sure that my noble friend the Leader of the House will bear it in mind in the particular work that he is doing at the moment.

Perhaps I may refer briefly to the questions raised by the noble Lord, Lord Ironside, who was kind enough to give me notice of some of the questions he would ask. I am afraid that despite his courtesy in that respect I cannot give him a very satisfactory answer, especially in regard to the training of divers in the Royal Navy. Again, I shall take careful note of what he said about the importance of this particular expertise in the Royal Navy. I know he will agree from his own experience that the Royal Navy is recognised as one of the leading authorities in the world on the training of divers and in experimental diving. I cannot give him any detailed figures about this; I can only say that the Royal Navy trains a substantial number of divers every year, and I hope they will continue to play an important part and take the lead in this important branch of Naval skills.


My Lords, if I may interrupt the noble Lord for one moment I should like to ask whether he has any indication of a "diving-drain" or anything of that nature. When these people are trained in the Royal Navy they are trained to a high degree, and after they leave the Service there does not seem to be any sort of record showing where they go, what they do or whether they ever keep in touch with diving circles.


My Lords, I am sure that this is a problem, and. of course, it is a problem that covers other trades and other forms of expertise in the Services. Once a man has left the Service, trained as comprehensively as he may be in any skill, it is difficult to keep track of him. I am afraid I cannot give the noble Lord a clear answer about that. I certainly have no information about what he calls a "divers-drain", which sounds rather peculiar, but I think I can see exactly what he means in this particular context. I cannot give him any definite information about that, but if I should be able to get any I will certainly let him have it.

The noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, asked about reports from the Committee on Marine Technology. There is indeed to be an Annual Report from this Committee and we are expecting the first Report shortly. I cannot give any precise date, but it should appear quite soon.


My Lords, does that mean that the Report will be published?


My Lords, I understand that the Report will be published, and that it will be published soon. With regard to the noble Earl's question about prospecting and surveying for mineral resources, I can assure him that this work is being carried out, but again I can give no date as to the appearance of any results. Before dealing with his main point, perhaps I may jump to his comment about the question of pollution by substances other than oil. As he says, we are taking an active part in the international investigations which are going on into that problem, which we recognise as being one of great importance.

Perhaps it might here be appropriate to mention and to pay a tribute to the work of the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, in that international conference of which we have heard a certain amount this afternoon—the one held in Rome last October, of which the noble Earl was Chairman. The Conference studied, as he will know better than any of us, the whole matter of pollution in great detail, and as my noble friend the Leader of the House has said, that Report is an invaluable document for all Governments. Perhaps I might take the opportunity here to pay a tribute not only to the noble Earl's work as Chairman of this Committee but also to the work of his distinguished predecessor.

My Lords, I should have liked to deal at greater length with the subject of pollution. We have not really had time, even in this quite long and interesting debate, to cover it fully, but as the noble Earl has said, there is now an Agreement that was signed on June 9 as a result of the impetus given to the consideration of this matter by the "Torrey Canyon" affair. The Agreement was signed by the United Kingdom, the Federal Republic of Germany, France, Belgium, Norway, Sweden and Denmark. The Netherlands also took part in these negotiations and we hope that they will become party to the Agreement in the near future.

It might be of interest for noble Lords to know (although this will be no news to the noble Earl opposite) that this Agreement requires the contracting States to request their aircraft and shipping to report all major oil slicks. States which receive these reports are obliged to circulate details to all other contracting States. They will also keep the oil slick under surveillance and continue to report its size, speed and direction of movement. If a country whose coasts are threatened finds its own resources inadequate and asks for assistance, its neighbours will use their best endeavours to help. Finally, the contracting parties have also undertaken to exchange information about new ways in which oil pollution may be avoided and new and effective measures to deal with this great problem. I hope, therefore, noble Lords will agree that this kind of international agreement represents a useful step forward in what we recognise as being the extremely urgent and important problem of dealing with pollution of the marine environment by oil.

As I hinted earlier in my opening remarks, I hope your Lordships will recognise that this, for us, is a very delicate and difficult problem. We are a country with a coastline highly vulnerable to this kind of pollution. We have a major shipping industry, and we are—and this is particularly relevant to this kind of problem—a centre of the marine insurance market. Therefore our attitude on these issues requires very careful consideration, and I hope noble Lords will not expect attitudes and decisions to be taken more quickly than they can be taken as a result of careful examination of all these issues. I can assure your Lordships that our aim at any international conference or any international discussions about this matter will be to obtain agreement on a broad international basis, but agreement that will lead to some effective way of dealing with this menace.

May I now deal quickly with a few other points.


My Lords, if the noble Lord is turning from pollution, may I ask him this question? My attention was distracted, or I allowed my attention to be distracted for a moment. I do not know if he mentioned whether it had been possible to receive French adherence to the North Seas Convention?


My Lords, if by the North Seas Convention—the noble Earl knows I am not a great expert on this—he means the agreement signed in June, the one to which I referred and of which I gave an outline, I can say that France is a signatory of that Convention and therefore one might expect that she will adhere to its provisions.

Mention was made by the right reverend Prelate (who seems to have deserted us, but he said he would have to) that there had been a report by Senator Clayborn Pell of the United States on the question of ocean space. I might say, for the Official Record, that we have indeed read these proposals with great interest. But of course this is a proposal of an independent private citizen, however distinguished, and clearly we cannot enter into bilateral discussions with him at a time when we are carrying on a study of this problem in a United Nations Committee. However, I can say that we have looked at Senator Pell's proposals with great interest.

Perhaps this leads logically to certain other proposals which have been put forward and which were mentioned, although by implication only, both by the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, and the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe. It is this idea that in some way the question of what is called ocean space or the sea-bed might become a European matter. It may well be that their attention to this particular problem was seized, as indeed mine was, by an extremely interesting Bow Group pamphlet on the subject, produced by Mr. Lawrence Reid and called Ocean Space, Europe's New Frontier. I think we must welcome publications such as this, from whatever source, because the points that he raises in it are new and far-reaching. It is an excellent thing that people should now be considering seriously and asking questions about the sort of problems he has brought up. But I think that some of the ideas may not be entirely practicable. Some of them indeed are already being pursued or are in being. But when he suggests that European sea space should have one European boundary, and not several national boundaries, I think that is not at the moment in the field of practical politics. I agree that we should certainly co-operate with other European countries in this matter, as in all other matters of technology, and so far as that goes, in economy, politics and defence.

I think I may suitably end by saying that, not for the first time, I have been struck in this debate by the wide range of experience and interest that has been shown. We have covered a very wide field, and there have emerged, as I said earlier, three points on which there has been a remarkable degree of unanimity. It is on those that I should like to place emphasis in closing. First, there is the very real need for progress towards international agreement on what Lord Wilberforce and others have called an international régime, especially a régime to govern the exploration and exploitation of sea-bed resources beyond the limits of national jurisdiction. We need, I think, to give open and precise definition of where those limits should be. Secondly, there is the need to progress towards international agreement on arms control measures of the sea-bed, and to agree once more on the limits at which they should apply. And, third, there is the need to progress towards international action to prevent and control pollution of the sea. Whatever may be our differences of emphasis and differences of opinion about the organisation of our national effort, I believe that we can at least reach consensus on those points.

So far as the last point, our own national effort, is concerned, I take the point that there are those who believe that we are not going far enough or fast enough. My own view is that, both m organising our national resources and in helping to organise international discussions and negotiations about these things, we are taking a robust and active and leading part. My noble friend the Leader of the House has already produced a spirited enough defence of the record of this Government and there is no need for me to embroider it. I would simply say that while supporting him fully in that defence I realise that this debate has provided the Government with some very valuable pointers to those areas to which we need to pay still more attention—matters such as research, where we must press even harder for international cooperation and where the rapid advances of marine technology are creating new challenges which we must meet; to our society and our opportunities. But I believe we are doing this. As I say, it may be that some noble Lords think we are not doing it fast enough.

Perhaps we might take as our inspiration for the future the words of Oliver Wendell Holmes, which seem particularly appropriate to this particular debate: We must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it, but we must sail and not drift or lie at anchor. I believe that that is what we are doing. The sea-bed, the whole marine environment to which Lord Wilberforce introduced us in his fascinating and brilliant opening speech this afternoon, presents us with a challenge, in terms of promoting our knowledge, our techniques of international co-operation, our economic prospects and, as I have said with some emphasis, our safety and national security. Over the centuries the sea has been good to this country. We have lived by it; we have come to understand it; we have come to respect its ways and to recognise how much more we have to learn about it.

I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Wilberforce, for having given us the opportunity to have this short rebate. I am most grateful to other noble Lords who have spoken in the debate for the way in which they have treated this whole subject as a new dimension—the whole question of the sea in its modern context. I believe that if we explore and develop it wisely, certainly as we in the Government intend to do, this area holds great promise for the future, not only of this country but the whole of mankind.

7.21 p.m.


My Lords, I described myself as a "curtain raiser", and after the responsible and authoritative speeches which have been made I do not propose to treat the House even to an epilogue. The message which has emerged on the importance of setting up an international régime can be summed up in three words, as to which I think there is general agreement—urgency, universality and idealism. Urgency has been underlined by a number of speakers, and nobody has dissented from it. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich, the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, and the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, in his final speech, have accepted the urgency of reaching agreement.

Universality has been stressed by everybody; and the valuable point was made, added to what I said in opening, that any régime must be open to everybody, member of the United Nations or not. I think that is an important point. As to idealism, as the right reverend Prelate said, the unique character of this problem gives an opportunity to the world and the common good for a breakthrough from sectional interests, and it gives us some chance to eliminate the rich-poor gap. Lawyers often tend to underestimate—I quite accept that—the constructive force of idealism; and if the argument is that the immediate rather prosaic steps which I advocated should be taken, should be guided by that spirit, then I can only say that I entirely agree with the thought.

My Lords, in conclusion I should like to thank those noble Lords on both Front Benches for the kind encouragement they gave me in moving this Motion and introducing this debate, which for me has been a great privilege. Finally, I formally ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.