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Rockall

Volume 884: debated on Wednesday 22 January 1975

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43.

That is sad news. I thought that the right hon. and learned Gentleman might have undertaken a hang-gliding course when he got there. But, seriously, will he publish a document setting out our precise legal rights around Rockall in relation to fishing and oil exploration? It would seem that friction is building up, possibly with Denmark, and it might be far better to clarify the position at the earliest opportunity.

I note what the hon. Gentleman says, but I can give no undertaking, for my part, to publish any such document. The general law relating to fishing, as the hon. Gentleman is aware, is governed by the present international law, and our own limits are set out in the Fishery Limits Act 1964. Rockall generates its own fishing limits, like any other part of United Kingdom territory.

As regards exploitation of the Continental Shelf, as the hon. Gentleman will again be aware, this matter was canvassed, albeit inconclusively, at the Law of the Sea Conference at Caracas, and that conference has only been adjourned. Nevertheless, under the present international law, in the Government's view, the island of Rockall generates its own Continental Shelf, and we are content to rely on that basis for the exploitation of oil and other purposes.

Will the Lord Advocate reconsider his decision not to visit Rockall? It would be very advantageous if he were to do so and take the opportunity, on going there and coming back, to count the number of foreign boats which are fishing in those waters and taking away all the herring which should be going to our own fishermen.

Perhaps I gave an unnecessarily categorical assurance that I had no intention to visit Rockall. It may well be that as a comissioner of the Northern Lighthouses Board, which I am, I shall have a chance to be in the near vicinity of Rockall. If I am in that situation, I shall certainly undertake the exercise which the hon. Gentleman invites me to undertake.