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Norway (British Trawler, Arrest)

Volume 465: debated on Wednesday 1 June 1949

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will inquire into the incident which occurred on 5th May when the Hull steam trawler "Lord Nuffield," while fishing outside Norwegian territorial waters, was arrested by the Norwegian gunboat "Soroy" and forced to proceed to Vardo; if he will cause a protest to be made to the Norwegian Government; and what steps he proposes to take to provide adequate protection for British trawlers in future, so that there is no repetition of such incidents.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a statement about the recent encounter between the British deep-sea trawler "Lord Nuffield," and a Norwegian gunboat.

The "Lord Nuffield was arrested by a Norwegian fishery protection vessel for trawling in waters reserved by Norway to Norwegian fishermen. She was taken into Vardö and there released on payment of a deposit pending proceedings in a Norwegian court. His Majesty's Ambassador at Oslo has been instructed to lodge a protest with the Norwegian Government and to reserve the full rights of His Majesty's Government including the right to claim financial compensation for the losses which have been incurred.

This and a few similar incidents which have taken place in recent months are the outcome of Norwegian claims to exercise exclusive fishing rights in certain areas off the Norwegian Coast which His Majesty's Government regard as high seas. Negotiations held in London last January led to a modus vivendi being provisionally recommended to both Governments. His Majesty's Government have expressed willingness to accept this, but the Norwegian Government have not yet done so.

Meanwhile incidents are clearly liable to occur in the areas under dispute. My right hon. Friend discussed the situation fully with the Norwegian Minister for Foreign Affairs when he was in London and His Majesty's Government earnestly hope that an early decision will be reached.

Will the hon. Gentleman bring to the attention of his right hon. Friend the fact that it would appear to be the intention of the Norwegian Government to prevent our trawlers from fishing anywhere in the vicinity of Norway? Will he see that proper protection is given to our trawlers when they are fishing outside Norwegian territorial waters?

I can only say, as my reply shows, that we are concerned about this problem and we are doing our best in a neighbourly spirit to get it settled.

Is the hon. Gentleman going to answer the question as to adequate protection being afforded while these negotiations are pending?

I think in times like these our attitude should be one of forebearance and a friendly spirit.

In view of the fact that the forebearance of His Majesty's Government has produced no result except these very unfortunate incidents with a friendly nation, will he now say that he intends to bring this whole series of incidents to an end by giving protection and pursuing with much more vigour his attempts to end the impasse?

The hon. Member must distinguish between being friendly and firm, on the one hand, and being rather provocative on the other.

Why is it provocative for a vessel of ours to be on the high seas, and not provocative for a Norwegian vessel on the high seas to arrest it?

I think it is understandable that in the circumstances of these fishery disputes there is a special sensibility on the Norwegians' side which we should take into account.

As the basis of this whole matter is a dispute as to what are high seas and what are territorial waters, will my hon. Friend resist provocative suggestions from the other side of the House and continue his efforts to achieve an amicable settlement?

Is it not our right to protect our fishing fleet operating outside territorial waters? There is no question of provocation attached to that. It is our right to protect them and we should do so.

I am not sure that this matter has yet reached a stage where it is a question for admirals.

On a point of Order. Surely it is understood in this House that the position of a Member of Parliament overrides whatever private position he may hold.

May I ask whether, as a Member of Parliament, quite apart from whether I may be an admiral or a gentleman or anything else, I am permitted to ask the question which I asked?

Mr. Speaker, I recognise that I have made a slip in this matter. I was unaware of the point of Order, and I unreservedly withdraw what I said.