HC Deb 11 July 1961 vol 644 cc32-3W
87. Mr. Hector Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is aware that British law relating to territorial fishing waters, as interpreted by the highest court in Scotland in the case of Mortensen in 1905, has ever since been wrongly enforced by his Department in the Moray Firth in favour of foreign fishermen and against British fishermen to the loss and damage of the latter; and if he will now take immediate steps to rectify this.

Mr. Maclay

My understanding of the decision of the High Court of Justiciary in the case of Mortensen v. Peters to which the hon. and learned Member refers, is that the court held, as a matter of construction, that a byelaw of the Fishery Board for Scotland, prohibiting beam or otter trawling the Moray Firth, applied to foreign nationals as well as to British subjects. The judges did not go so far as to declare categorically that the Moray Firth was within the territorial jurisdiction of the British Crown, though they held that the contrary was not proved. As the hon. and learned Member knows, the Government of the day subsequently decided that it would be contrary to international law to enforce the prohibition against foreign nationals outside the three-mile limit and it has not subsequently been so enforced. However, by the Trawling in Prohibited Areas (Prevention) Act, 1909, foreign trawlers observed fishing in areas closed to British trawlers are not permitted to land fish in the United Kingdom within two months of being so observed.

As I have said in reply to previous Questions on this subject, Her Majesty's Government are keeping United Kingdom policy on fishery limits under review in the light of all relevant factors.