HC Deb 30 July 1975 vol 896 cc1805-7
12. Sir John Gilmour

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what estimate he has made of the changed fishing pattern round the Scottish coast which is likely to emerge as a result of Iceland's decision to operate a 200-miles' fishing limit.

Mr. Hugh D. Brown

The recent announcement by the Icelandic Government made it clear that they wish to hold discussions with interested States on the consequences of their claim to a 200-miles' fishing limit. It woud not, meantime, be helpful to speculate on the outcome to these talks, or on any effect this might have on the pattern of fishing around the Scottish coast.

Sir J. Gilmour

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that whatever may be the outcome of the discussions that we may have with Iceland, that country is obviously determined to limit the amount of fish caught round its coasts, and that as a result this will put a greater pressure on other waters around the Scottish coasts? Would it not be a good idea to have an early conference of the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission to consider how to meet the new situation which Iceland's attitude has caused?

Mr. Brown

I am not aware of any statement made by the Icelandic Government that their intention is to reduce catches. Certainly they are concerned about conservation, as we are. However, at this stage it would be wrong to enter into a wider discussion, given the fact that we have already sought and agreed to have talks with the Icelandic Government.

Mr. Sillars

Is it not the case that if Iceland's policy is successfully pursued it will become all the more difficult for us to persuade our Common Market partners to alter the common fisheries policy? Does this circumstance not make it imperative that before the next 12 months are up we should reach some concrete decision on the common fisheries policy?

Mr. Brown

I am afraid that I do not regard the situation in that light. The EEC has a powerful influence as a market for Iceland. It would be wrong to convey the impression that we want to threaten Iceland, because that is not the atmosphere in which to proceed with talks that have been freely offered and accepted.

Mr. Corrie

Is there any chance of getting trawler-free zones off the west coast of Scotland to try to protect the herrings that are left? Perhaps fishing, including fishing by British boats, in that area could be prohibited during certain times of the year, so that the fish stocks can build up.

Mr. Brown

To talk about trawler-free zones which would include British trawlers, as the hon. Gentleman has said, is certainly a little far reaching. I am sure that he knows that we have already reached some kind of agreement about and improvement in the reduction of industrialised fishing, and we shall continue to do everything possible to secure the livelihood of our fishermen.

Mr. Henderson

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that most hon. Members will welcome his statement that there is to be no browbeating of Iceland, which has taken this measure to protect her national interests? Is it not disgraceful that we should wait for a small country such as Iceland to take these steps before we take them ourselves?

Mr. Brown

The economies of our countries are entirely different. I appreciate the reasons lying behind the decision of Iceland, but at present we have a licensing system which operates generously for the United Kingdom fleet. We have no reason to assume that that harmonious arrangement will not continue in some form. I am confident that we shall have constructive talks with Iceland, which will be to the advantage of our industry.