§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to review their policy in preparation for the International Conference on the Law of the Sea and the Seabed to be held in 1973.]
THE LORD PRIVY SEAL (EARL JELLICOE)
My Lords, Her Majesty's Government are keeping constantly under review their policy on the matters to be discussed at the Conference proposed for 1973. The enlarged United Nations Seabed Committee, whose terms of reference now include the preparation of all aspects of the proposed Conference, including those relating to the Law of the Sea, held its first session in Geneva in March. Although the Committee did not at this stage embark on the drafting of articles for conventions on the Seabed or the Law of the Sea, important decisions were taken on the organisation of the Committee's work over the next two years, and there was a general debate in which a large number of countries, especially the new members of the Committee, took part. Her Majesty's Government hope that at its next session in July and August the Committee will be able to make further progress on the substance of its agenda. Between now and July we shall be in close touch with other Governments, and also, as appropriate, with British commercial interests, in preparation for that session.
§ LORD KENNET
My Lords, I thank the noble Earl for that very full and helpful Answer. May I ask whether, during the meetings of this international body, 776 the Government will seek to work out a new concept of international territorial waters, bearing in mind the powers recently taken by the Oil in Navigable Waters Bill, under which there could be an international régime exerting over what used to be the high seas in narrow areas the same powers as were exerted by nations within their own territorial waters; and also certain new controls over the communications and navigation gear of tankers, the training of their officers, and their routing?
My Lords, I think I may say with a degree of assurance that the Conference proposed for 1973 will give an opportunity for discussion of all the matters in this area which require further consideration, and quite specifically the matters which the noble Lord has just ventilated. But I should add that we do not think it either necessary or possible to set up a single agency to deal with all the problems connected with the marine environment.
§ LORD DAVIES OF LEEK
My Lords, while thanking the noble Earl for that useful answer, may I ask this question for information? Because of the new approach to the Chinese People's Republic and their membership of the "thermonuclear club", is there a possibility of some rapprochement and détente about including this troika of power in the discussions?
My Lords, answering "off the cuff"—this is not an area for which I specifically have a Departmental responsibility, and therefore it is "off the cuff"—I should have thought that that would depend upon a resolution of the problem of Chinese membership of the United Nations.
§ LORD WYNNE-JONES
My Lords, are the Government, in their review of the policy, proposing to review also the problem of dividing up the sea into areas for exploitation?
My Lords, this is of course one of the matters which are under consideration, along with a whole host of others, as the noble Lord well knows.
§ LORD WYNNE-JONES
My Lords, are the Government going to move in this matter with more than their normal speed?