Skip to main content

Island Of Rockall Bill Lords

Volume 828: debated on Tuesday 21 December 1971

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

Again considered in Committee.

Question again proposed, That the Amendment be made.

I return to the point at which I was interrupted in my peroration. When the right hon. Gentleman becomes concerned about this play on words, it is merely an expression of sour grapes for his failure to carry out the kind of imaginative act that the present Government are doing and merely to cover up his deficiency over those long years in office.

The one thing to which I took exception was the right hon. Gentleman's reference to the Unionist principles of the party to which I belong and to my party's being so enamoured of them that it had to extend them to this Bill. He referred to the use of the words and description of people "known as" as used to apply to aliases and so on. If that is the best showing that the right hon. Gentleman can make tonight, he deserves the description of him that one so often hears in Scotland, "The ex-Secretary of State known as Weary Willie."

I came into the Committee tonight believing that we would hear some short, important speeches about a matter of some constitutional significance for Scotland. I am very disappointed that the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) chose to take so long making a speech which will be remembered and known as one of the most disappointing speeches we have heard from him. I am sorry that he did not respond to what is an important constitutional occasion.

This is the first time that that part of the United Kingdom known as Scotland has been extended since the Princess of Norway brought Orkney and Shetland as her dowry and extended the old Kingdom in that way. When I read the Bill I was delighted to see that there was a certain constitutional nobility of language. I feel that this has been muddled somewhat by the right hon. Gentleman's speech tonight. It is very good to see in a Bill the traditional ceremony with which the boundaries of our Kingdom are extended. It is a pity that the right hon. Gentleman chose to indulge in hair-splitting and nit-picking about the use of the words "known as", suggesting that "called", which had been used in a number of Acts, including the Turnpikes Act, would be more appropriate.

I remind the right hon. Gentleman of something he has evidently forgotten since he stopped teaching our children in the schools of Scotland. The language we use is living and constantly changing. The words "known as" have a larger significance than the word "called". I believe that there is a greater nobility about them in this context. The right hon. Gentleman has been called many things. He has been called "obstinate" and "obdurate" and other things that I should not wish to say for fear of being discourteous to him. He is known as the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock, as the right hon. Gentleman and as the late Secretary of State for Scotland. I should have thought that he would have been one of the first to welcome the extension of the dominion over which the Secretary of State rightly exercises jurisdiction.

Scotland is known as Scotland now. At one time it certainly was called Scotland. Its progress in history over the years now earns this added dignity. I welcome the Bill for its dignified language and the new dignity it gives the extended Kingdom, a Kingdom in which I should have thought the right hon. Gentleman would have had a greater pride and joy than he has shown tonight in his cheap and mischievous speech.

We should have welcomed the presence of the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. MacArthur) on Second Reading—

not only the hon. Gentleman's presence, then, but his words. On that occasion, as the hon. Gentleman knows, we looked at the matter in a much wider aspect, as we can still do when we come to the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill." But we are now dealing with a detailed series of Amendments. If the hon. Gentleman objects to my approach to the legal language, he had better look up the record of how the Bill was dealt with in another place, where some of his noble Friends paid the same degree of attention to the phrase, and did not regard it as having the same measure of nobility as the hon. Gentleman does. But then, he may well have a greater obsession with, and interest in, nobility than I have.

I have a great interest in the nobility of language, and I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman does not share that interest.

I share that interest, but my judgment and opinions on it may well be different from the hon. Gentleman's.

I can remember sitting on a Committee looking into the Naval Discipline Act. We could change anything in it that we liked, but the one thing people were concerned to retain was the language of Samuel Pepys in the Preamble, because of the nobility of that language. It had not very much to do with modern affairs. Indeed, to certain people it may even have been construed as offensive, but because we were concerned about nobility of language and tradition the House continued to use those words. If the hon. Gentleman is seeking nobility of phrasing, he is much more likely to find it in the traditional phrases of this Legislature than in what he justified by the changes of a living language. I doubt very much that he will find so much dignity in much of our language of today compared with the language of earlier years.

I congratulate the Under-Secretary of State on the way in which he again completely missed the point. He told us all about the use of the words "part of". Nobody is concerned about the use of that phrase; nobody took exception to those words. That must mean that the hon. Gentleman had no justification for his use of the offending phrase. So he directed his remarks towards another phrase which had nothing to do with it.

No one in this House objects to Scotland being part of the United Kingdom except possibly the hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Donald Stewart), who is not present. He accepts Rockall. In fact, he thinks that it was always part of the Western Isles, so far as I recall. But the Minister spent a lot of time talking about "part of". He told us that there was nothing novel in it. With respect, no one was arguing about it except the hon. Gentleman himself. We have always accepted that Scotland is a constituent and important part of the United Kingdom. If some of the Under-Secretary's hon. Friends had fought as hard to maintain that position in the last six or seven years I should have welcomed their support. There is a certain faction in Scotland which is desirous of ending that relationship, but I am the last person the hon. Gentleman should talk about in that respect.

The Under-Secretary went on to deal with the actual words. I remind him of what was said in another place by a Member of the Government and what he himself said on Second Reading when exception was taken to the phrase "known as". The noble Lady the Minister of State said that it was hallowed in the Act of Union. With respect, it was not. The hon. Gentleman accepted that but went further. He said that he was prepared to quote Statutes which were passed when I was Secretary of State in which that phrase was used. I am still waiting. I am prepared to bet that if he were to keep the poor civil servants in the Scottish Office searching for such a Statute, they would never find it. That phrase was not, and has not been, used. So if he wants to take refuge in tradition, if tradition matters to him, he should accept the Amendment, which is to use the word "called".

I draw attention to what happened in a Statute when the description of Scotland as "part of" the United Kingdom fell altogether. Without any dubiety the phrase "in Scotland" superseded "that part of the United Kingdom called Scotland."

The hon. Gentleman says that we are playing with words. I have always been taught that if one wants to be sure of the interpretation of words—they can be strange in Statutes—one should rely on words which have been used and have created no difficulties. The phrase which has been used hitherto—I quoted plenty of examples—is "called Scotland".

I should like to correct my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Ronald King Murray) on one point. I am sure that the Lord Advocate would have corrected him. The expression is not "known as Lord So-and-so", but "commonly called Lord So-and-so". That is the more usual phrase in that respect.

The Under-Secretary said that Scotland has been known as Scotland for a long time. Scotland was known as Scotland for a long time before 1707. If the correct phrase to which no exception was taken then was "called", and if the Government take refuge, mistakenly, in tradition and in Acts of Parliament, let them get it right and use the word "called". It is not an important point. It is not a question of dignity of language; it is a question of accuracy. On the interpretation of Statutes, it is far better to rely on a word which has been used and has not been hitherto misconstrued. If the hon. Gentleman does not prefer the nobility of the word "called" to "known as", in the view of people who have taken an interest in this matter both in another place and in this House, he is in a minority.

10.15 p.m.

Out of courtesy, I will respond to the right hon. Gentleman. He has introduced no fresh arguments. He has merely indicated again that he is really playing with words. He referred to Pepys' Diary and to the language of Pepys which is carried forward into the Naval Acts. I will remind him of a phrase often used by Pepys. The right hon. Gentleman has caused us this evening, as he has so often in the past caused the people of Scotland, to "itch mightily". I must advise the Committee to reject his Amendment.

Amendment negatived.

10.15 p.m.

I beg to move Amendment No. 5, in page 1, line 11, leave out from 'Inverness' to end of line 12.

The Amendment would leave out the words,
"… and the law of Scotland shall apply accordingly."
If we left them out, the law of Scotland would still apply. I think there would be no doubt about that. If Rockall is part of Inverness or
"… part of the District of Harris in the County of Inverness …"
or whatever we like to describe it, the law of Scotland will apply. I do not know any other part of Inverness to which the law of Scotland does not apply. Whether or not these words are there to make it absolutely clear that the law of Scotland should apply, I do not know. Perhaps many people would wonder whether there are other laws in respect of other parts of the United Kingdom which might apply to Rockall. There may be some hidden meaning in these words, and this is where we come to the importance of Rockall. It may well be, for reasons that we have not discussed, that there is a question as to whether Rockall should be called an "island". There may be some hidden reason for ennobling it or raising the status of this barren rock to the position of island. If it is raised to the position of island, then it has some relationship, I presume, to Inverness and to the coast of Scotland.

I chanced upon the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894. There are one or two of these Acts which happen to be in the Library. One picks them up and finds something of interest. Section 634(1) refers to:
"… the superintendance and management of all lighthouses, buoys, and beacons shall within the following areas be vested in the following bodies …".
I shall not refer to sub-paragraph (a) or (c) but to sub-paragraph (b), which is of interest to us tonight. It says:
"Throughout Scotland and the adjacent seas and islands …".
I presume that under this Bill the island of Rockall becomes an island of Scotland as part of
"… Scotland and the adjacent seas and islands …".
That was the application of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894, to Scotland. Presumably, that definition will still apply.

Then, of course, there are the Fisheries Acts. I remember distinctly the Herring Fishery Act, 1867. Section 11 states:
"… 'the coasts of Scotland' shall mean and include all bays, estuaries, arms of the sea, and all tidal waters within the distance of three miles from the mainland or adjacent islands."
I presume that this provision, which related to the three-mile limit, will apply to the 12-mile fisheries limit.

There will be a problem from 1982 onwards in respect of the Common Market.

There will indeed be a problem. If we are going to make these protected waters for Scottish fishermen, we will need policemen.

My right hon. Friend referred to the word "adjacent". How far off can "adjacent" be?

That is very important, and I am glad that the Lord Advocate is present. The fact that he is here is an indication of the importance of this issue, and no doubt he expected that question to be asked.

It is the next Amendment in which I am particularly interested.

That may be so, but we are interested in the right hon. and learned Gentleman's opinion of this Amendment. He is our legal guide to the interpretation of Statutes. We are dealing with the phrase

"and the law of Scotland shall apply accordingly."
I want to know what the effect would be if those words were omitted. In my innocence, in the interests of simplicity, and preferring the dignity of language, I should prefer those words to be omitted.

No. There is more attraction in simplicity than in complexity and the use of unnecessary words. My hon. Friend the Member for Renfrew, West (Mr. Buchan), who is keen on the flow of language, will no doubt agree with me about that.

I want to know, in relation to the definition of islands and adjacent seas, what implications the law of Scotland will have for Rockall. What implications will it have in relation to the three-mile limit, and the twelve-mile limit when it is changed to six miles?

It seems improbable that this island could be considered as adjacent to Scotland, because if that were the correct interpretation of its position it would not be necessary to have this legislation. The territorial waters Order in Council would have drawn the base lines from Cape Wrath to Rockall and then back to the Mull of Kintyre. That would have been a dramatic development. This rather undermines the right hon. Gentleman's point.

After the Bill is passed Rockall will become part of Scotland. It will become part of the District of Harris in the County of Inverness. From that point of view there may be a dilemma about the distance, but I should have thought that "adjacent seas and islands" were something on which we could get guidance from the Lord Advocate. I should have thought that they were adjacent to this part of the coast of Scotland.

I want to know how the Convention of the Law of the Sea will apply to this new island when it is part of Scotland. The Continental Shelf Act could be of tremendous importance. Have we proclaimed our rights over this island within the meaning of that Statute? The hon. Gentleman may say that that is not the law of Scotland, but to the extent that we are part of the United Kingdom it follows that that Act is part of the law of Scotland. The phrase "the law of Scotland" may be confusing. It depends upon what it comprehends. I ask the hon. Gentleman to tell us how the law of the sea will apply to the waters around Rockall.

Reference was made in another place to the provision of a new fisheries protection vessel, as though it was directly related to Rockall. I am sure that it was authorised while I was Secretary of State. It seems to have entered some body's mind that the waters round the island might have to be protected. The law of Scotland will not apply to anyone who lives in Rockall; there is nobody there, and there is not likely to be anybody there. There is no landing spot as yet. But we never know. There may be considerable developments in contemplation, and if there are we should like to know. I sincerely hope that the Lord Advocate will be able to provide us with answers.

The right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) has spoken at great length about the merit of simplicity and the merit of few words. The Committee would have more respect for him if he would set an example by uttering just a few words instead of all these rambling thoughts. Had the right hon. Gentleman either listened to or read my speech in the Second Reading debate on the Bill he would know that I said:

"Once the island is incorporated in the United Kingdom, it will become subject to the provisions of the Fishery Limits Act, 1964. It will also be possible for an Order in Council to be made under the Continental Shelf Act, 1964 …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th December, 1971; Vol. 828, c. 190.]
It is there clearly spelt out, but the right hon. Gentleman's intention is not to seek elucidation but merely to speak, and we appreciate why he does it.

The only merit in the right hon. Gentleman's remarks was in the first two sentences when he argued, perfectly fairly, that it may be unnecessary to have in the Bill the words which he suggests should be left out. But it is my view and the view of my right hon. and learned Friend that it is desirable to include in the Bill express provision to make it absolutely clear that both the civil and criminal law of Scotland are to apply to the island and to the territorial sea surrounding it.

As I said on Second Reading, the purpose of the Bill is to fill what has been described as a legal and administrative vacuum. The Bill affirms beyond peradventure that the law of Scotland shall in future apply to the island of Rockall. Technically, there is some merit in the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion to leave out these words but, on the other hand, this is a short Bill and, for the sake of clarity, we have the space to do this which is not always available in other Bills. This is a practical argument.

Had the words been left out, I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman would have been on his feet asking for clarity and saying that it should be spelt out that the law of Scotland shall apply. Whatever we had put into the Bill, the right hon. Gentleman in his usual way would have sought a stick with which to beat the Government. On this occasion, in view of the shortness of the Bill, the Government felt that it was worth while to spell it out in detail so that everyone could be clear that the law of Scotland applies accordingly. There is merit in having these words in the Bill, and for these reasons I ask the Committee to reject the Amendment.

10.30 p.m.

There is one question I wish to ask. I am curious to know why this legislation is being rushed through at this moment of time.

Indeed. It can never be argued in this House that the time taken on any matter is determined by the number of lines contained in legislation. The Scottish Office should have enough experience to know that that is not the case. I am concerned that this is being rushed through at this time a month before we sign the Treaty of Accession and at the same time as we have had announcements about Common Market agreement on fisheries—

Order. I hope the hon. Gentleman will address himself to the Amendment.

Yes, I am doing so, because the Amendment is connected with the law of Scotland. The law of Scotland will become closely involved with the laws and regulations of the Common Market once we go in. Particularly relevant to an island, of course, is the matter of fishing limits. What will be the position around the waters of Rockall when the derogation ends in 1982? We have tried to get an answer on this matter on earlier occasions from the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and I hope the Under-Secretary of State will now tell us. Will we have a veto which will allow—

Order. The hon. Gentleman must relate his remarks to the Amendment.

The Amendment relates to the law of Scotland and, as I have explained, the law of Scotland will become involved with the various regulations passed by the Common Market countries and will be subject to certain measures of the Common Market.

My hon. Friend is anxious to know what will be the law of Scotland on fishery limits around Rockall in the year 1982 if this legislation goes on the Statute Book.

The Under-Secretary of State referred on the previous occasion to the fishery limits legislation as well as to the Continental Shelf Act. Therefore, this matter becomes highly relevant, and the question to which I seek an answer is: Will we have a veto to allow the derogation of the 12-mile limit to continue after 1982? I should like an answer "Yes" or "No".

Order. I do not wish to draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to the Amendment again, but I would point out that he is stretching it a little.

I am stretching it, but it is relevant to the law of Scotland once we enter the Common Market. Our law will be greatly affected. This is an island—surrounded by water, surrounded by fish—and this is where the fishing regulations of the Common Market will apply, and this must affect the 12-mile limit I want to know whether the arrangements are to be contined after 1982. I require a simple answer, "Yes" or "No".

The Minister will appreciate the importance of even an exploratory Amendment which enables an hon. Member to raise a matter as important as that raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Renfrew, West (Mr. Buchan). Many people wonder why, following annexation of Rockall in 1955, the Government are now seeking in 1971 to incorporate it into a part of the United Kingdom—or, to put the matter as in the Bill, as

"… part of the United Kingdom known as Scotland and shall form part of the District of Harris in the County of Inverness …"
and to give it legal status. I think it is relevant to know why this is being introduced at this time.

We were told on Second Reading that this was an anomaly which the Government were seeking to put right. I have my own ideas as to how and why this arose. One can understand our concern when we are dealing with how fishery limits will affect the fishing industry in 10 years' time.

The hon. Gentleman suggested that it was not enough to have heard his speech, but that I should have read it too. That is inflicting too great a burden, even upon me. I can rely on myself for the answers. What has not been clearly spelled out is whether the Government are to lay an order in respect of the Continental Shelf Act. The hon. Gentleman has made it clearer tonight that the fisheries limits around the coasts of Scotland will apply in relation to the island, as he calls it, of Rockall, so we will have a 12-mile fishery limit. The question arises whether that places obligations upon us and whether we are able to enforce the law of Scotland upon the island of Rockall. He mentioned civil and criminal law. I do not think there will be much trouble about the mainland—if one can misuse that word in talking of the mainland of the island which is just barren rock which cannot sustain human life. I presume that the application of the law of Scotland to Rockall will be to do with fishing and probably mineral exploration.

We have no sovereignty over the sea bed—not until we use whatever powers there may be under the Continental Shelf Act which still gives no sovereignty on the surface at a particular point beyond our territorial limits. It becomes all the more important to know how the Government will protect whatever rights we have there with the passing of this Measure and the passing of the Order in Council under the Continental Shelf Act. Can we have answers to these points and will the hon. Gentleman make clear to my hon. Friend that whatever happens to our fishery limits in Scotland will also happen to whatever fishing limits we take unto ourselves in respect of Rockall?

Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that if exploration licences for oil and gas are given around the rock, and derricks are installed, then fishing will be excluded because under present law all fishing vessels are not allowed within 500 metres of derricks and the limits are about to be widened under current negotiations? If there are enough derricks round the area then what will happen in the future will be irrelevant because fishing vessels will be excluded.

It may be that what the hon. Gentleman says is true and the question of the rights of other people comes into this because he knows that the fishermen of Britain have been fishing around this area. They too will be concerned. What will happen to them and their rights under other legislation? How will we enforce these new rights? My hon. Friend talked about the definition of "adjacent seas". Fishing vessels which may be adequate for the protection of our fishing rights may be far from adequate for the protection of these new responsibilities. I am surprised that a Money Resolution has not been presented along with the Bill—

Order. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman does not include that in this Amendment.

I am not including it. I am simply pointing out the dilemma in which we may find ourselves, in that, as a result of the Bill and these new responsibilities, we may have to spend money. But there is no Money Resolution, and the Government may find difficulties here.

I have been tempted to speak only by the flippant attitude of the Under-Secretary. He gave us no reason for writing in these words, except to fill the page, which is not a good reason. I thought that the fact that the island was being incorporated in the United Kingdom automatically meant that all the United Kingdom laws would apply. We have not spelled out all the other laws which would apply—the Immigration Bill, for example. But we should not write in these words without very good reason.

Some hon. Members opposite laughed when it was suggested that the Bill was being rushed through. We would get on much faster if we had a clear answer on this. I am at a loss to understand what it is about the law of Scotland which makes it necessary to be so explicit about the island of Rockall. It seems to make the matter more complicated.

If the Under-Secretary is totally incapable of giving us a direct answer, perhaps, even yet, the Lord Advocate might be induced to reply. We have always been told how blessed we are to a Lord Advocate who actually sits in the House, and have been taunted about the years of the Labour Government—and even before—when the Lord Advocate was not a Member.

10.45 p.m.

The hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Robert Hughes) is not only almost as deaf as his right hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) but he is nearly as loquacious. I explained earlier that, as we are doing something of a constitutional nature, it helps to spell out our action. This provision adds clarity to the Bill and spells out the legal position beyond peradventure.

The answer to the hon. Member for Renfrew, West (Mr. Buchan) is that the law which applies to fishing matters concerning Rockall will apply in just the same way as it applies to the rest of Scotland. What we are doing here will make no difference whatever in that respect.

I assure the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock that the same means of protection are open to us in relation to the Island of Rockall as are open to us in relation to any part of the other islands off the coast of Scotland.

It does not help the Committee or advance the debate if the Minister simply rises to his feet, repeats what he said previously and claims that that makes the matter clear beyond peradventure. I am still far from satisfied about the inclusion of these words.

The Minister must learn to reply to our questions properly. I have never known of a Bill being improved by the insertion of unnecessary words. The hon. Gentleman claimed that these words could be added because there was ample room in the Bill. That sort of light-hearted approach will not do. If the availability of space is to be the criterion, then I can think of many new Clauses that could be added, including one to—

Order. The right hon. Member must address his remarks to the Amendment under discussion.

The Minister said that one reason for including these words in the Measure was that there was room for them in the Bill. If that is the reason for their presence, then I can think of other words that should be added.

Is the Minister aware that the implications of this provision for the Continental Shelf Act, fishery limits and other legislation might not have arisen if he had given a proper reply? If, as he says, the Bill will not be altered by the presence or absence of these words, why include them? I assure the hon. Gentleman that if he is ever in charge of a Bill in the Scottish Standing Committee—and I see from the expression on the face of one of his hon. Friends—

Order. The question of the Scottish Standing Committee does not arise on this Amendment.

I am glad that it does not, because we could say plenty about that at present.

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will make another effort at saying exactly how this makes it simpler and how it is that an island can, by statute, be incorporated into Scotland and the law of Scotland not apply to it. We are incorporating the island into Scotland. Anyone would have thought that automatically the law of Scotland would apply to it. But no, the Government must say:
"and the law of Scotland shall apply accordingly."
The hon. Gentleman knows that it is unnecessary. It is an indication either of his weakness or of his stubbornness that, having accepted that the Amendment is right, he does not say that the Government will accept the Amendment.

This is one of our troubles. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman is empowered to accept any Amendment. If he is not, it is rather unfair to the House, he having accepted that the Amendment is correct and that nothing disastrous would follow from its acceptance—except that the Bill would be shorter. Let us think of the money we should have on the printing of the Bill. The hon. Gentleman should say that he is prepared to accept the Amendment.

Amendment negatived.

I beg to move Amendment No. 6, in page 1, line 12, at end add:

'except that Rockall shall not be regarded as part of Scotland or the United Kingdom for purposes connected with the erection and maintenance of any navigational light there'.
The object of the Amendment is simply to probe. On Second Reading I asked the Government under what specific legal umbrella they proposed to proceed to erect and maintain a navigational light on Rockall. The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland replied to the effect that the provisions of the Merchant Shipping Act do not preclude the Crown from establishing and maintaining a light in these waters. That was a singularly uninformative reply. Had it been informative, perhaps this probing Amendment would have been unnecessary.

The object of the Amendment is to point to and underline the fact that the obvious legal umbrella under which to establish a navigational light on Rockall—which we all accept as desirable—is Section 634 of the Merchant Shipping Act, to which reference has already been made, which set up three general lighthouse authorities, the general lighthouse authority for Scotland being the Commissioners of Northern Lighthouses, of which the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Advocate is one of the brightest beacons, as a member of that Commission.

Do the Government intent to proceed under this particular umbrella of the law of Scotland? Reference has been made in the previous Amendment to the importance of the words "the law of Scotland" for the purpose of clarity. I pursue that and say that for the purpose of clarity may we have it elucidated whether the Government intend to go under Section 634 of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894? If not, under what specific legal authority do they intend to proceed?

Closely associated with that is another question with which obviously the Committee is very much concerned, that is, under what legal provision the necessary finance will be forthcoming. Clearly again, if Section 634 of the 1894 Act is the legal umbrella covering the exercise, there is no problem, because there is ample provision in that Act for financing a necessary light.

To complete this part of my argument, I do not doubt that had Rockall been a colony of the United Kingdom—that would have been one way of dealing with it—there would have been provision which might just have been stretched to cover the erection of a navigational light on Rockall under the appropriate Sections which deal with colonies. There are difficulties about that, because it is necessary to get the consent of the colonial legislature, and Rockall does not have a legislature.

Under what legal umbrella do the Government propose to carry out the necessary occupation of Rockall by way of establishing a navigational light there? There is no doubt that the Bill is part of an exercise of occupying Rockall under international law. It is not enough simply to claim a territory; one must also take effective occupation, and one of the ways to do that is to erect and maintain a navigational light. That would be very useful to our fishing boats and other vessels.

There has been reference to a proposed Order in Council dealing with the continental shelf. I hope that the Government also have in mind an Order in Council to set out the territorial waters and fishing limits around the island. That would be of immediate importance to fishermen in the area. Fishermen from my constituency fish off Rockall, and their experience in recent years has been that large numbers of French trawlers have been fishing those waters. This is a very important matter for the fishing fleets of this country.

Effective occupation of a territory previously unoccupied can be claimed under international law not merely by erecting and maintaining a navigational light but also, for example by erecting a relay radio station. There are powers, if the Bill is enacted, for the Government to carry out that necessary task under appropriate Statutes dealing with marine telegraphy. There is a need for an automatic relay station in the area. I am told by fishermen from my constituency that there is a radio blank between the Flannan Islands and Rockall under the present marine radio service from Oban and Wick.

I hope that we shall have clear answers to my three questions: under what legal umbrella are the Government proposing to erect the light on Rockall; under what Vote is the necessary finance to be provided; are the Government proposing an early Order in Council to outline the fishery limits in the area and the limits of the territorial seas?

The hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Ronald King Murray) has predictably raised a number of interesting points, and particularly an interesting legal point. I am obliged to him for giving me some notice of it.

The hon. and learned Gentleman's argument, which he adumbrated with his customary clarity, comes to this: the Crown, having divested itself of its prerogative powers under the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894, does not have any prerogative powers left to bring about the facilities it is intended to bring about under the Bill, and accordingly the Amendment is necessary to exclude Rockall and the proposed light from the general statutory provisions.

I do not wish to get deeply involved in a detailed exposition of the nature of prerogative rights or the circumstances under which they can be narrowed or curtailed, but I think that the hon. and learned Gentleman will agree with my general proposition. It is a fundamental proposition in considering a legal problem of this nature. The prerogative rights of the Crown are not affected by statute unless the intention of Parliament to bind the Crown is clear and unmistakable. In other words, if prerogative rights are to be cut by Statute, the Statute must either say so expressly or that must follow as a necessary implication from the wording of the Statute.

11.0 p.m.

The hon. and learned Gentleman is concerned with, first, the erection and, secondly, the maintenance of any navigational light. There is nothing in the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894, which expressly excludes the prerogative right of the Crown to erect a navigational aid if so advised. Equally, there is nothing in the Statute which, by necessary implication, excludes the right of the Crown to construct a navigational aid, least of all in its own territory.

The Commissioners of Northern Lighthouses have statutory powers in this connection under Section 638 of the Act, inter alia, to erect or place any lighthouse wherever they consider appropriate.

Yes, in Scotland. The jurisdiction of the Commissioners of Northern Lighthouses is restricted, broadly speaking, to Scottish territorial waters, with the exception of the Isle of Man. Although the Commissioners have statutory powers to do this kind of thing, they could exercise them, in 1894, only with the consent and approval of the Board of Trade—now of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. The restrictions are to be found in Section 640 of the Act. Likewise, they can be directed under Section 641 to carry out work of this nature, but there is nothing in the legislation which derogates from the prerogative right of the Crown to erect a lighthouse if it deems it advisable.

Having preserved the right of the Crown to do that, it follows that if the Crown has the right to erect a light it equally has the prerogative right to maintain it. In other words, Section 634—which, on the face of it, confers absolutely on the Commissioners of Northern Lighthouses the duty and obligation of superintendence and management of all lighthouses in Scottish territorial waters with the exception I have mentioned—does not apply to a lighthouse or a navigational aid which has been erected by the Crown.

That is my primary submission. There is nothing in the 1894 Act which derogates from the prerogative right of the Crown to construct a lighthouse, and it follows that there is nothing which derogates from the primary right of the Crown to maintain and supervise or manage any such lighthouse. I readily accept that, in the last resort, this is a matter which could be determined only by a court and I therefore propose to put forward an alternative submission in the event of my primary submission being proved to be wrong.

My alternative submission, briefly, is that if we proceed on the basis that the Crown has been deprived of its prerogative rights regarding superintendence and management of lighthouses by virtue of the wide provisions of Section 634, the Commissioners of Northern Lighthouses can fulfil that statutory obligation in a variety of ways. They could do it themselves, they could do it by engaging independent contractors or, as in fact has been arranged, they can do it by arrangement between themselves and the Department of Trade and Industry.

The Commissioners of Northern Lighthouses cannot cope with this exercise themselves, because they do not have the equipment and financial resources. A light, even to be maintained, let alone constructed, on Rockall is beyond the resources of the Commissioners of Northern Lighthouses at the moment. Accordingly, in the knowledge of their limited resources, they have readily accepted that they are not able to comply with a statutory obligation of that kind. Therefore, an arrangement has been reached, as was said by my right hon. Friend in reply to the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond), between the Commissioners of Northern Lighthouses and the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry that a light will be maintained by the Government until such time, should it arise, that the jurisdiction for maintenance could be transferred to the Commissioners of Northern Lighthouses.

The hon. and learned Member for Leith asked about finance. I am advised that this matter falls within the Vote of the Department of Trade and Industry and that it can competently meet this expense. This is an outlay which is justified.

I am sure that the Commissioners of Northern Lighthouses would not want an Amendment to the Bill along the lines of that proposed by the hon. and learned Gentleman. I am sure that he readily accepts that, because he knows that it would mean that the jurisdiction of the Commissioners of Northern Lighthouses would be excluded until such time as a statutory Amendment were made. The Commissioners would not like to be precluded indefinitely in this way.

The hon. and learned Gentleman asked about fishery limits. They would automatically apply. An order under the Continental Shelf Act will be considered in due course, although no immediate order is contemplated.

The right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross), at an earlier stage—

Before the right hon. and learned Gentleman goes on to a new point. He mentioned that the fishery limits would apply automatically. I do not think that quite answers my question. I want to know the limit of the territorial seas round Rockall. That determines fishery limits. I want to know, for example, whether it will be a six or 12-mile limit. I -want to know the base lines from which the fishery limits are to be set.

I am not sure that I entirely follow what the hon. and learned Gentleman is getting at. The fishing limits will apply in the ordinary way. This is an island off Scotland and the normal fishery jurisdiction limits will apply until such time as they may be altered in future. I will not venture any views on what may happen in 1982, which somebody mentioned. I am not dealing with that point at the moment. The fishing limits will apply in the ordinary way.

The right hon. Member for Kilmarnock asked about the definition of the Continental Shelf. He will be aware that the Continental Shelf is not defined in the 1964 Act, but that Act implemented the United Nations Convention on that matter. As the right hon. Gentleman showed an interest in the matter, I will give him the details. It is defined as (a) the seabed and subsoil of the submarine areas adjacent to the coast but outside the area of the territorial sea, to a depth of 200 metres or, beyond that limit, to where the depth of the superjacent waters admits of the exploitation of the natural resources of the area and (b) as the seabed and subsoil of similar submarine areas adjacent to the coast of islands. That is the definition by which the international agreement would apply to Rockall under the Continental Shelf Act.

I am grateful to the hon. and learned Gentleman for having raised the point, and I hope I have given a reasonably clear answer. There are other arguments one could adduce on this matter about the nature of prerogative rights, circumstances in which they are curtailed and circumstances in which they are asserted. I do not want to go into that. It seems to me that under the standing statutory provisions with which we are concerned there can be no curtailment of the prerogative right to erect a lighthouse, and it therefore follows that there is no curtailment of the prerogative right to maintain it. If I were wrong on that, the statutory duty imposed by Section 634 on the Commissioners of Northern Lighthouse could be fulfilled by an arrangement such as that we have entered into. This arrangement has been welcomed by the Commissioners and, as the hon. and learned Gentleman appreciates, I am sure that the Amendment would not be welcomed by them. I accept it is a probing Amendment. I hope, in the light of these explanations, that he may be disposed to withdraw it.

May I press the Lord Advocate on the point about territorial waters which he has not dealt with to my satisfaction? A problem was raised during the Second Reading debate as to where exactly the line will be drawn round the island of Rockall. I did not press this in detail because I took it for granted that the Government would deal with it fully. Hasselwood Rock lies 1½ cables from the island of Rockall proper and one or two other rocks dry to some extent with some tides. Where will the baselines for territorial waters be drawn? Will they be confined to the complete circumference of the rock itself or will they extend a little further, as would appear reasonable and possible under the terms of the international law of the sea?

Only this afternoon I read an interesting book on Rockall and my attention was drawn to these little rocks. I understand the rock to which the hon. and learned Gentleman referred is very close—two cables is a very short distance indeed. I am willing to look into that point and let the hon. and learned Gentleman have a considered and careful answer. I should not like to give an off-the-cuff reply. I should have thought its materiality is rather limited becaue we are dealing with a rock which is defined as an island with one or two other rocks round about. I should not have thought it of earth shattering importance whether the baselines were drawn from the island of Rockall or from one of the minor islands round about.

I asked a parliamentary Question as to whether Hassel-wood Rock and St. Helens Reef were included in our claim for sovereignty over the area. The reply I received from the Secretary of State for Scotland was that these two rocks were included inside the territorial waters of Rockall. If they are, they are not within the internal waters of Rockall and therefore they are not taken into account for the purposes of the baseline.

This is imperialism by stealth. This is news to me. I had hoped for a much clearer indication of any imperialist intention on the part of the Government Front Bench. On the point of the prerogative of the Government, I find to my astonishment that there is subsumed within the province of the Commissioners a responsibility for either the Lord Advocate or the Solicitor-General to carry out an annual inspection on a round trip of the various lights. Will the trip include the island of Rockall and associated colonial territories? Or, perhaps, in view of the Government's intention to cut down on public expenditure, is that particular privilege to be forgone?

I assure the hon. Member for Renfrew, West (Mr. Buchan) that the present Lord Advocate has been too busy to take part in any of these cruises, although I hope that it may be possible for me to do so during the coming year. If the duty of surveillance is being taken over by Her Majesty's Government in this case because the Commissioners of Northern Lighthouses do not have the resources to do it, the Northern Lighthouse vessels will not go to Rockall. The surveillance will be done by ships of Her Majesty's Fleet.

11.15 p.m.

This is all rather unsatisfactory. The Lord Advocate has said that much of the interpretation depends not upon his opinion but upon the courts. We were told that this was all terribly simple and now it transpires that it is not. We have incorporated into Scotland, and therefore into the remit of the Commissioners of Northern Lighthouses, the island of Rockall. It has been put within the remit of the Commissioners because, quite gratuitously, we were told in another place, and it has been repeated here, it is proposed to put some kind of light on Rockall. Rockall will be in Scotland once the Bill is passed.

But the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894, is equally clear. Section 634 says:
"… the superintendence and management of all lighthouses, buoys, and beacons shall within the following areas be vested in the following bodies:"
Then comes subsection 1(a), which refers to the position of England and the Channel and so on. Subparagraph (b) says:
"Through Scotland"—
which in future will include Rockall—
"and the adjacent seas and islands, and the Isle of Man, in the Commissioners of Northern Lighthouses;"
Subsection (1) goes on to say that these various Commissioners shall be
"… referred to as the general lighthouse authorities …"
The right hon. and learned Gentleman rightly says that the Crown has still got the prerogative right to erect a lighthouse. Surely it is equally clear that the Crown has, in the terms of the 1894 Statute, divested itself of
"… the superintendence and management of all lighthouses …"
within Scotland to the Northern Commissioners. It is all very well for the right hon. and learned Gentleman to say that the Commissioners have not got the resources. It would have been as well to make the situation perfectly clear either in this or some other Bill as to how this matter is to be dealt with. This is a practical as well as a legal problem. The right hon. and learned Gentleman says that it might well be done on the basis of an agency and allowing the Department of Trade and Industry to do the job directly. But the superintendence and management will still rest with the Commissioners. I doubt whether he is going to get away from the fact that as Lord Advocate he has a direct responsibility as a Commissioner. He cannot divest himself of the surveillance, because the responsibility is his under Statute. I think the Lord Advocate has got himself into a difficulty and it might have been advisable for him to have looked more closely into the matter and to have accepted the Amendment in case there is a difficulty. We are concerned about this not just for the present. Rockall is just a rock. We refer to it as an island, but it is way out in the Atlantic about 160 miles west of St. Kilda. It covers an area about equal to that of this House, and is 70 feet high. There is no landing place on it. Nobody lives there. No one could live on the island.

We welcome what the Lord Advocate said about the Continental Shelf. No one asked for it, although the matter was raised on Second Reading, but we are glad to receive that information. This may be of considerable importance in the future, and the law set down in the Bill, and other laws, too, may be more important than they seem now. I had hoped that the Government would do something better than merely say, "This is it, and we hope that it will be all right, but we shall not know until it is challenged in the courts." Nobody has complained about what we have done in relation to territorial waters and fishing limits, but that does not mean that nobody will complain in future. If we accept this responsibility, we shall have to accept the legal consequences of doing so and carry out certain works to make these waters safe for shipping.

I hope that everyone has read the book which I am glad the hon. Gentleman has returned to the Library so that if anyone has not read it he will be able to do so. It is entitled, "Rockall", by James Fisher, and it is on the topmost shelf in the second room, under "Natural History".

My copy comes from the National Central Library in London. I did not want to deprive the right hon. Gentleman of the copy in the Library. Knowing the difficulty that he has in moving away from the House of Commons, I thought it only fair that I should borrow a copy from somewhere else.

The hon. Gentleman does not really know where I got my copy from. If he examines the records of the Library, he will see that I did not get it from there. The hon. Gentleman should not try to be too clever. He had the House of Commons copy when we debated this matter on Second Reading.

The Lord Advocate spoke of the difficulties of defining territorial waters around Helens Reef and Hasselwood Rock, but the Government have made up their mind about the point from which they will determine these territorial waters. However, that is beside the point.

My hon. and learned Friend has raised an important point, and it arises from the very nature of the geographical situation of Rockall. The Government have decided to incorporate it within Scotland and to apply the law of Scotland to it. I hope that they will not be challenged in the courts, but I think the Lord Advocate appreciates the difficulties which arise from the way in which this is being done.

I thank the Lord Advocate for his interesting arguments in justification of the Government's proposed course of action. I want to reserve judgment on that, but it is obvious from what the right hon. and learned Gentleman said that my proposal would not help matters, and I therefore beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Bill reported, without Amendment.

Motion made, and Question, That the Bill be now read a Third time, put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 56 (Third Reading), and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed, without Amendment.