asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what international conventions are now in force affecting fishing rights in the seas around Great Britain and the seas customarily used by British fishing vessels; and how many prosecutions by Her Majesty's Government for infringement of these conventions have taken place during the years 1958 and 1959 to the present date.
The North Sea Convention of 1882 includes a clause confirming the adherence of the parties to a three-mile fishery limit. The parties to this Convention were Belgium, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Germany and the United Kingdom. Since the beginning of 1958 there have been eight prosecutions for infringements of United Kingdom exclusive fishery limits by foreign fishing vessels.
Does the Minister agree that these conventions now form a very complex code? In view of the failure of the relevant Ministers and the Government to solve international disputes in the fishing industry, does not the hon. Member think that he should be relieved of his cares in connection with agriculture and allowed to devote his attention entirely to the complexities of the fishing industry? Will he make that suggestion to the Prime Minister, who is sitting beside him?
I am sure that my right hon. Friend will have heard that suggestion, and that he will give it all the consideration it deserves. I would remind the hon. and learned Gentleman that the second United Nations Law of the Sea Conference will take place next year. I hope that we shall achieve success in that.
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the effect of the recent international disputes about territorial fishing limits in which Great Britain and other nations have been involved, upon over-fishing and the conservation of fish in the seas round Great Britain and in the other seas customarily used by British fishing vessels.
The breadth of fishery limits and the conservation of the fish stocks are distinct matters and there is no evidence that recent extensions of fishery limits have affected conservation one way or the other.
Is the Minister satisfied, on the figures available, that the interests of the fishing industry and the consumers are being properly protected, maintained and developed? If not, will he invite the Prime Minister to give him an assistant, or ask him to allow the hon. Member to give his whole time and attention to the fishing industry?
That supplementary question seems to bear a marked similarity to the last one. We are facing serious problems here, but there is nothing further that I can usefully say on this wide issue until the further conference to which I have referred has taken place.