HL Deb 01 December 1971 vol 326 cc296-302

4.3 p.m.


My Lords I fear that It may not be very convenient to your Lordships, but I hope that it is your Lordships' wish that I should at this moment, the most convenient time after half-past three, repeat a Statement which has been made in another place by my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. The Statement is as follows:

"With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and that of the House, I would like to make a Statement about my meeting with the European Community in Brussels on November 29.

The main purpose of this meeting, which was attended by Ministers from the other applicant countries, was to seek to settle the vital problem of fisheries. On this occasion I was accompanied by my right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture as well as my honourable friend the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland.

"We made useful progress in some respects. The Community proposed that there should be, for ten years, an interim regime based on a 6-mile limit with special areas going out to 12 miles. In addition to the Orkneys and Shetlands, they offered to consider the possibility of some other special areas for the United Kingdom.

I had to make it clear, however, that their proposals did not go far enough to safeguard the legitimate interests of the fishing industry and did not, in my view, provide a fair overall balance of advantage. In accordance with the assurances which I have given to the House I explained that an initial period of ten years by itself was not sufficient; and I was disappointed that we were not able at this meeting to reach agreement on how to deal with the situation after the ten years.

"We have agreed to meet again on December 11 when I very much hope we will settle this important and difficult problem. I believe that we have now achieved enough understanding and clarification of all the issues to make this possible.

"In the course of the Ministerial meeting I took the opportunity to raise three other matters. First, Papua and New Guinea. The House will recall that in my Statement on November 11 after the previous Ministerial meeting, I said that I had reminded the Community of the need to make arrangements for the territory. The Community proposed at the meeting of Deputies on November 24 that until January 1,1978 the trade arrangements for Papua and New Guinea imports into Britain would remain as they were on the date of British accession with a provision for review. I thanked the Community for this proposal and explained that I had communicated it to the Australian Government. I said that I was confident that the enlarged Community would make reasonable arrangements for Papua and New Guinea when the time came to review this question.

"Next, Nationality. The Community had made it clear to us that it would he helpful if we were to give a definition of a United Kingdom national, since the term 'nationals of Member States ', and like phrases, appear frequently in the Community Treaties and legislation. I accordingly gave the Community the following definition for these purposes: 'Citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies or British subjects not possessing that citizenship or the citizenship of any other Commonwealth country or territory, who, in either case, have the right of abode in the United Kingdom, and are therefore exempt from United Kingdom immigration control.' "Finally, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. I told the House on the 11th of November of the Community's proposals for them. I informed the Community that I had visited the islands in order to commend the arrangements which the Community had proposed. I promised to let the Community know the decision of the respective islands as soon as possible."

My Lords, that is the end of the Statement.

4.8 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure that I may express the thanks of the whole House to the noble Baroness for repeating the Statement made in the other place. For my part, I should like to confine such questions as I want to put to the first part of the Statement, which I understand concerns the really important part of the negotiations. First of all, may we have a little more information regarding that part of the country in which the Community agreed that we might have 95 per cent. of the coastline for ourselves? Secondly, can the noble Baroness tell us something about the proposals with regard to salmon fisheries? As the House knows, at the present time drift netting of salmon is banned to all our own people. We should like to know what the proposals are in regard to salmon fisheries, because they are of great importance to many parts of Britain.

I also wish to ask the noble Baroness about the position of Norway in this dispute, because it seems to me from reading the Press that we are rather drifting apart. If, at the end of the day, Norway is not going to sign the Treaty of Accession, Denmark is likely to follow suit. So it is important that we understand the position between ourselves and Norway. At the end of the day, of course, the noble Baroness is repeating—this I think we can take for granted—the statement that she made in your Lordships' House yesterday, when she said that unless the Government get a satisfactory agreement on fisheries there can be no signature to the Treaty of Accession. I assume that that position still stands.


My Lords, may I join in thanking the noble Baroness for repeating this Statement with regard to fishing? Would the noble Baroness agree that this is much more than just a case of safeguarding a particular sectional interest? The whole future of the fishing industry is involved, and I hope that the British case will be presented in that way. On the very different subject of the definition of "nationals", I would say that this is much too complex a matter on which to have an "off the cuff" comment. Would the noble Barones agree that it indicates the complexities of reconciling our own immigration laws with the laws of the Community? What effect, if any, will this definition have on the right of dependants to join their parents in this country?


My Lords, I thank both noble Lords who have spoken and I will begin by answering the last question of the noble Lord, Lord Hoy. As I said on a previous occasion, and, indeed, yesterday, we must try to get satisfactory arrangements on fisheries before signing the Treaty of Accession. As regards salmon fishing, my right honourable friend felt that it was an advance that the Six acknowledge the concern that has been felt both in the United Kingdom and in the Irish Republic about what was called the "beach doctrine", and what effect it might have on salmon. I am not in a position this afternoon to give a detailed account of this. So far as Norway is concerned, what matters is that there should be a fair overall balance of advantage between all the applicant countries, and we keep in constant touch with them. The noble Lord, Lord Wade, asked me whether we were trying to keep a fair balance between all the fishing interests. I can assure him that that is the whole object of my right honourable friend's endeavours. The noble Lord also asked whether one could say who was included in the definition of a United Kingdom national, which I have just given to the House. The definition comprises all those citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies who are patrial under Section 2 of the Immigration Act.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Baroness to make clear what she means when she says that Her Majesty's Government will "try" to get agreement on this matter before there is any question of signing the Treaty? Can she give an undertaking that there will be no signature unless there is an agreement in this matter? Can she go further and give an undertaking that there will be no question of further steps being taken after this House rises, and during the Christmas Recess, which would lead to a signature without the House being aware of what is held to constitute an agreement on this matter? May I also raise a point with regard to nationals? Can the noble Baroness say what the position will be regarding citizens of Eire if (a), Eire accedes to the Community, and (b), if they do not accede to the Community?


My Lords, I thought I made it perfectly clear that we would not sign the Treaty of Accession unless we had reached agreement, but it is also perfectly true that we must try to reach agreement. We are negotiating, the position is a difficult one, and that is why I used the word "try". As regards any further steps during the Christmas Recess, I may say that we are still aiming to sign the Treaty of Accession before Christmas; the next meeting on fisheries is on December 11. Regarding citizens of Eire, as opposed to Ulster—citizens of Ulster will come in under the definition of United Kingdom nationals—I would point out that all countries have their own definition of "national".


My Lords, may I ask the noble Baroness whether she will bear in mind that no satisfactory arrangement can come out of these fishery regulations which includes a time limit of any kind—either five years or ten years. That is the most important point at issue. In the meantime, will Her Majesty's Government before December 11 bring all pressure to bear upon the Governments of the Six, and particularly the French Government, to make it clear that they have no right to ask us to join the Common Market at the cost of ruining our inshore fishing industry, which the present proposals would undoubtedly do.


My Lords, so far as the first question is concerned, it was on this matter of the time limit that my right honourable friend said that he did not feel that the arrangements so far were satisfactory. On the second question, that of bringing pressure to bear, I am sure that noble Lords in all parts of the House have seen accounts in the Press. My right honourable friend did his best to try to persuade the Six countries that we must not let this agreement founder on fisheries.


My Lords, following on the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, may I ask the noble Baroness this question? Surely the test of the good faith of the Six in their desire to have us in the Community rests on this agreement about fishing rights. If they do not agree, then it means that they do not want us in the Common Market.


My Lords, I am afraid that I cannot accept that. These are difficult negotiations between the Six and ourselves. We have overcome many difficulties in other spheres, as indeed this House knows, having debated this matter on six whole days. The matter of fisheries is very difficult and I am sure that it is the wish of all concerned—all the appli cant countries and the Six—that we should reach a happy and satisfactory agreement.


My Lords, may I ask my noble friend whether the difficulties at the moment are over our rights, that is, our territorial limits, or the checks and powers which we should be able to use to prevent entry into areas in which we had established our rights?


My Lords, I think I must say in answer to that question that both points are under discussion. I said in my Statement that the Community have proposed that we should have this exclusive fishing right up to six miles, and those countries of the Common Market which have to fish between six and 12 miles should continue to do so. One of the main problems is what is to happen after the ten years. It is on this question that my right honourable friend is hoping, and I believe will succeed when everyone has had time for further thought, to achieve a settlement on December 11.