HC Deb 05 November 1962 vol 666 cc596-7
40. Sir D. Robertson

asked the Lord Privy Seal if, in view of the over-fished state of the North Sea and other near-water grounds, he will, in conjunction with other Ministers concerned, seek to arrange an early meeting of Ministers representing nations whose fishermen traditionally use these waters, with the object of conserving the common heritage.

The Lord Privy Seal (Mr. Edward Heath)

Measures for conservation in these waters are dealt with internationally under the 1946 Convention against overfishing in the North Eastern Atlantic, to which all North Sea fishery nations adhere. The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea and the Permanent Commission set up under the terms of the 1946 Convention provide machinery for dealing with these problems and we shall continue to support their efforts. I therefore do not think that anything would be gained by convening a special meeting of Ministers.

Sir D. Robertson

Is it not a fact that the Coalition Government during the war, in spite of all their other preoccupations, took time to bring this International Council into being? That was seventeen or eighteen years ago. The North Sea now cannot produce paying voyages, and the problem is common to all the nations. Does my right hon. Friend realise that it is not good enough for the Government to sit back and go on hoping that something will turn up?

Mr. Heath

There is no doubt whatever about the importance of this matter, and, as my hon. Friend has said, it concerns all nations. My hon. Friend will be pleased to hear that, as a result of proposals made by the United Kingdom Government, the Permanent Commission, one of the organisations to which I referred in my Answer, agreed at its last meeting on further conservation measures to be introduced next year. These deal with the closer regulation of the use of small mesa nets. It is considering other measures also, and the Commission will next meet in London in May, 1963.

Mr. Hoy

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that, during the last year or two, many nations have, quite unilaterally, fixed new fishing limits which have reacted very badly against the industry in this country, with the consequence that the Scottish fishing industry is in a parlous plight today? What steps is he taking to preserve the industry? We know that it must be done internationally, but speedy action must be taken if the industry is to be saved.

Mr. Heath

I realise the importance of that also, but it is a much wider question. I was dealing with the specific matter raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir D. Robertson) in regard to conservation.

Lady Tweedsmuir

Will my right hon. Friend tell us what the Commission is doing actively to encourage steps to increase stocks of fish, quite apart from measures to restrict the size of mesh and so on? Does not my right hon. Friend realise that the fishing industries in this area ace in the Stone Age in their attitude towards the conservation of fish, compared with what is done in agriculture? More positive measures need to be taken. What is the United Kingdom doing?

Mr. Heath

If my hon. Friend puts down a Question about measures to increase fish stocks, I will give her details in a specific Answer.

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