§ Mr. Ewing
May I ask the Prime Minister to reconsider that answer seriously? Is he not aware that there is a great danger of relationships between two nations that have been friendly over many years being damaged almost beyond repair unless the Heads of the two States take action and meet each other? May I further ask the Prime Minister to comment on the decision of the Foreign Ministers in Luxembourg yesterday to delay the tariff reductions on Icelandic fish products until 15th November unless Iceland settles her dispute with Britain and West Germany? Would not the right hon. Gentleman describe this as some form of blackmail?
§ The Prime Minister
The hon. Gentleman is standing the whole matter on its head. No one has deplored the strain 1318 in relations between the two countries more than this Government, the whole of the House of Commons and the British people. It is through no fault of our own. We have followed completely the proper constitutional processes. The original agreement with Iceland allowed that if there was any difference we should go to the International Court. We took the dispute to the Court and we got a decision from it. It is Iceland which has refused to carry it out. We cannot be accused of blackmailing anyone. It is understandable that the Community should not make special arrangements for Iceland at a time when this dispute continues because of the Icelandic view.
§ Mr. Laurance Reed
Is the Prime Minister aware that the intensity of life in the sea has declined by 50 per cent. in the last 20 years and that, if this overkill continues, there will be very little left for countries like Iceland and Britain to squabble about? Will he reflect upon the fact that, while the Duke of Edinburgh is supporting a campaign to prevent the destruction of the whale, the Foreign Secretary is promoting a policy which inevitably means a free-for-all plunder of marine life?
§ The Prime Minister
I cannot in any way accept that interpretation of Her Majesty's Government's policy. We as a Government have been foremost in leading meetings and making arrangements concerning conservation in the seas. The International Court, having considered this matter, put a limit on catches from the area. We have agreed to abide by that limit. Indeed we have gone further in negotiations and said that we would abide by a lower limit. I do not see that there is any reason for criticism of Her Majesty's Government.
§ Mr. James Johnson
Is the Prime Minister aware that, since the Navy went in on 19th May, not a single warp has been cut on any British vessel, be it from Hull, Fleetwood, Grimsby or anywhere else? Does he agree that it would be unnatural to expect this lull to continue until after the Santiago conference in 1973–74? Will he consider whether we should search diligently once more to get talks going? Does he agree that it is most important that we should meet Icelandic Ministers or that the respective 1319 Prime Ministers should meet to get down to talks on a proper limitation of the catches in this area?
§ The Prime Minister
I know that there has been no stronger supporter of the fishermen's case than the hon. Gentleman, and I would have thought that he would support Her Majesty's Government in the actions we have taken on the many occasions we have tried to carry through successful negotiations and failed, not because of any lack of will on the part of this Government. As for the resumption of talks, the question is not about the level at which they should be resumed but whether they should be resumed at all. We are prepared to resume but the Icelanders will do so only on the basis that the Navy is withdrawn from the area. The area is the high seas and the Navy has every right to be there. We are prepared to withdraw if the Icelandic Government will say that British fisherman will not be harassed by their gunboats. The Icelandic Government will not give that undertaking. If they would do so the Navy could be withdrawn and we could go to the negotiations straight away.