5. Mr. R. C. Mitchell
asked the Minister of State for Defence whether he is satisfied that the speed and capability of the fishery patrol vessels operating along the South Coast are adequate to deal with foreign trawlers fishing within the 12-mile limit.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Navy (Mr. Antony Buck)
Yes, Sir. The vessels most commonly used are coastal minesweepers and minehunters which have a good all-weather seagoing capacity, remarkable manoeuvrability and an operational speed of about 15 knots. I actually spent two days on one, HMS "Brinton", during the Christmas Recess.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that many of the inshore fishermen on the South Coast are concerned about the increasing number of foreign trawlers fishing within the 12-mile limit? Is he aware that many of them view with scepticism the efficiency and capability of the vessels he has mentioned?
§ Mr. Buck
I met some of my constituents at sea and they did not share the doubts expressed by the hon. Gentleman. These are extremely seaworthy craft and we will do everything to see that the high morale among the fishery protection people is continued and that a high degree of coverage is maintained and, if possible, increased.
§ Mr. Costain
Does my hon. Friend appreciate that this is a serious matter for fishermen in the Straits of Dover and in Folkestone and Hythe? Is there any means by which they can notify these fishery patrol vessels when intruders come into their area?
§ Mr. Buck
I realise the seriousness of this matter. This is one of the reasons why I was so keen early in my ministerial life to see this type of work going on. The main means of communication between the fishing vessels and the Navy 625 protection vessels seem to be very good. There is the closest liaison, as I saw when I went to sea with these craft.