HC Deb 20 March 1963 vol 674 cc385-6
45. Mr. Short

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what reports he has had of foreign fishing vessels arriving at the North Sea fishing grounds and refusing to give way to British vessels already fishing there, as required by Article XV of the International Convention; and whether Her Majesty's Government will now declare a 12-mile exclusive fishery limit around the coasts of the British Isles.

42. Mr. Owen

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he is now able to make a statement of Her Majesty's Government's policy on the introduction of a 12 mile exclusive fishery limit around the coasts of the British Isles.

55. Mr. Hayman

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether, in order to preserve and develop British inshore fisheries, he will take immediate action to secure an extension of British fishery limits to a distance of 12 miles from the coastline.

Mr. Soarer

I know of the complaints which have been made by inshore fishermen of interference by foreign trawlers. Fishery protection vessels patrol areas where incidents are liable to occur to help in avoiding them; but some damage may be inevitable and this is one of many factors that must be taken into account is considering the question of our fishing limits.

Mr. Short

Is the Minister aware that in 1962 upwards of 250 foreign vessels fished off the coast of Northumberland alone and did a great deal of damage to nets, lobster pots, crab pots, and gear generally as well as to the stock of fish because of the use of very small mesh nets? Since Iceland, Norway and Denmark have extended their exclusive fishing limits, is it not time that we did something more positive than to send a fishing vessel to patrol the area?

Mr. Soames

I am aware of five cases this season in which specific claims for damages have been made against foreign owners, amounting to about £100 in all. That is the information which I have on claims made for damages. As I have said often in the House, we must balance the extension of our limits against the national interest. We must balance the extent to which we fish off the coasts of other countries with our inshore interests. We are keeping this matter very much in mind.

Mr. Hayman

Is the Minister aware that the Association of Sea Fisheries Committees and the Cornwall Sea Fisheries Committee urge him to extend this fishing limit because of the harm done to the inshore fisheries of Great Britain, and particularly around the coast of Cornwall? Is it not about time that the right hon. Gentleman looked after the interest of our own people? After all, the fishermen do a good job in peace and war.

Mr. Soames

Nobody would decry the good job done by our inshore fishermen, and the hon. Member is right in saying that inshore fishermen in this country, like those in a lot of other countries, would like to see their limits extended. Of that there is no doubt. The hon. Member asked whether it is not time that we looked after our interests. This is a question of the interests of fishermen and of the fishing fleets as a whole. It must be remembered that it is the long-distance trawler fleets which provide 90 per cent. of the fish in our markets.

Mr. Wall

While supporting the extension of the limit to six miles, may I ask my right hon. Friend to approach his noble Friend to get more vessels of the Fishery Protection Squadron operating around our coast in view of the great success of the vessel operating off the Yorkshire coast?

Mr. Soames

I believe that the fishery protection vessel which has lately been at Bridlington has been of great help in this regard. The part of the Fleet which is available for fishery protection does its best to ensure that there are the minimum of incidents.

Mr. Hayman

As the Minister's reply is so unsatisfactory, I give notice that I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment at the first opportunity.