HC Deb 03 December 1976 vol 921 cc1347-431

[Commission Documents: S/353/76, R/2362/76 and R/2227/76]

Order for Second Reading read.

11.4 a.m.

The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. John Silkin)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Mr. Speaker

I have not selected the amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Torbay (Sir F. Bennett).

Mr. Silkin

Apart from the Bill, the House has before it three EEC Commission documents. The wider questions raised by these papers are, of course, relevant to any discussion on fishery limits, and I have no doubt that hon. Members will take this into consideration in the debate. Apart altogether from the relevance of Iceland to the fishery documents I have mentioned, it would be impossible in introducing the Bill to avoid mentioning the subject.

It is, I believe, a tragedy that these old fishing grounds have caused so much difficulty in the recent past. I think that the time will come when it will be opportune to discuss this question again. But I hope that the House will forgive me if I do not over-emphasise this aspect of the problem too much during today's debate. Whatever our feelings, it is self-restraint that is necessary today. Mr. Gundelach has a delicate enough task of negotiation. I know that no one will wish to make it more delicate than it need be.

The main purpose of the Bill is to enable the Government to extend British fishery limits to 200 miles or, where this is not possible, to the median line. This is an enabling Bill, a Bill to give us the power to extend our fishery limits and to manage the fisheries within these new limits. There will inevitably be a number of questions that will be raised today to which I shall not at this stage be able to give definite answers. I cannot claim, for example, that suddenly on 1st January 1977 all fishing by third countries which we may or may not decide in the end to designate will instantly have ceased or been reduced. Nor shall I be able to boast that the number of third country vessels permitted, or the extent of the catch, will already have been settled. I see a hard period of bargaining and negotiating before we have finally settled the problem. But what is certain is that we cannot get any solution unless the House is willing to grant the powers asked for in this Bill. The first priority, then, is to get the powers so that we can deal with a question which, urgently affects these islands and the fishermen who gain their living from the seas beyond.

I want to tell the House why I am bringing forward the Bill at this particular time. The Bill could not have been brought in earlier and cannot now be delayed, so I hope that the general welcome which, I believe, it will receive in all parts of the House will result in a speedy transition through its various stages to Royal Assent before Christmas.

I am afraid that I shall have to weary the House a little with some history because it is only by placing it in its historical context that one can fully understand the importance of this Bill at the present moment. Over the past 25 years or so, there has been a strong movement among all nations concerned towards developing wider fishery limits. The old three-mile limit—the original gun range—many years ago gave way to the 12-mile limit and since that time pressure for extending the limits has been growing. The United Kingdom's position during most of these years has been to resist the extension of national jurisdiction over wider areas of the high seas.

Traditionally, we advocated the freedom of fishermen of all nations to fish without geographical limitation so long as they respected the existing territorial waters. But in recent years fishing technology has advanced beyond all measure, and we have seen the coming of large fishing fleets capable of exploiting this technology to the full. But while the size and number of fishing fleets has increased, the same has not been true of the stocks of fish. Because we have a tradition of fishing and because so many of our pepole depend upon it, we have come to realise the tremendous dependence we have as a nation upon fishing conservation.

Our historic respect for the freedom of the high seas has therefore been coupled with the need to take a leading part in advocating effective scientifically based measures of conservation. Over the years, we have tried to continue this policy through the international commissions set up to advise Governments on the joint measures required. In particular, we have played a vital part as a member of the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission.

Regrettably, the work of the commissions, important as we believe them to be, simply has not yielded the right answer. What has come out of them has been not so much advice which would have led to the necessary conservation measures as compromises based upon political and economic pressures.

It is no longer practical or, indeed, desirable to resist the strong pressure for wider fishing limits. The problem of managing and conserving fish stocks remains. I have no doubt that only one sort of State has the means, the incentive and the economic interest to do so—the coastal State—which actually has its stocks around its coasts.

This, then, was why in July 1974 at the United Nations Law of the Sea Conference we declared that we were willing to agree to the adoption of 200-mile fishing limits under international law. Having ourselves agreed to this, we hoped that this major change in international law could be made with the widest possible measure of agreement. In the whole of our dispute with Iceland, we never challenged the need for conservation. What we tried to insist upon was the international agreement we believed to be necessary.

So our policy has been to seek orderly change by means of a convention at UNLOSC. Undoubtedly there is a consensus developing at UNLOSC in favour of 200-mile limits for the coastal States. We would not ourselves have wanted to begin the movement towards changing international practice in advance of the outcome of UNLOSC. But the fact that UNLOSC has been moving so slowly has meant that in the past year one nation after another has decided to act without waiting for that outcome.

So far, 20 South American States, in addition to Canada, the United States and Norway, all three of whom are to extend their fishing limits early in 1977, have adopted or are adopting the new limits. These are in addition to Iceland. We must be in a position to negotiate with those countries where our distant-water fishermen have traditionally fished, and there are primarily Iceland and Norway. I think the House will agree that we cannot negotiate effectively if we deny ourselves the means of negotiation. Nobody will be prepared to listen to us if we do not exercise the same control over the fishing resources around our coasts as they claim around theirs. But it is not a question only of being able to negotiate on stronger terms than before. The chain reaction of new limits means that much of the fishing fleet formerly concentrated in the North-West Atlantic and off Norway could easily be diverted to the waters around the United Kingdom. We must be in a position to close or otherwise control our waters so as to increase the stock and safeguard the livelihood of our own fishermen.

For this reason also, the timing as well as the content of this Bill is particuarly opportune. As I have said, we have to recognise that since other countries with whom we are concerned have moved, or are about to move, themselves we, too, must move without the final outcome of UNLOSC. It would have been wrong to move earlier; it would be folly now to wait upon events.

This is, of course, not a British problem alone; the Community as a whole is affected. But if we can move in a common direction, our negotiating position on reciprocal fishing rights and the control of fishing by other nations will be the stronger. Thus, there will be a greater chance of conserving the stocks. Fish are not notorious for their observation of territorial limits, and the North Sea fish have not been disciplined to swim solely on the United Kingdom side of the median line. Therefore, we urged our Common Market partners to move together with us and in the end we were eventually successful on 30th October. I have to say, however, that if it is to meet the date of 1st January 1977 the Community has left itself woefully little time in which to accomplish so great a task.

These, then, are the reasons why we have decided to move to the 200-mile fishery limits, why we do it now, and why we have sought to make it a Community rather than merely a national policy.

Of one thing I am certain: this Bill has come rightly in time and content. Its effect upon the whole of our fisheries industry will be far reaching. The Bill does not solve the problems arising out of the common fisheries policy, though it does, as I shall show, enable us to introduce limits on our internal waters when the time comes.

I think it would be helpful to the House if I explained the Bill itself under four headings—fishery limits, management and conservation of the fisheries, penalties and enforcement.

The effect of Clause 1 is to draw a single fishery limit around the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man at 200 miles or the median, and we intend to bring this provision into force by means of a commencement order laid as early as possible in the New Year. the same clause also enables limits to be varied at any time if this should be found necessary. I should emphasise, particularly in the light of the uncalled amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Torbay (Sir F. Bennett), that the Bill itself gives sufficient powers to limit access to any part of our fishing limits or any area within them if and when there is agreement under the common fisheries policy as it emerges from Community discussions on exclusive coastal belts. I should add that the powers sought in no way prejudice those discussions.

The effect of drawing the new limits is that, once the Bill comes into force, any foreign fishing vessel working within the new limits will be fishing illegally, unless its flag State has been designated. Designations themselves may be made under Clause 2. We shall designate EEC ships. This is because of the equal access provision of the common fisheries policy, Regulation 101/76. As regards nonmember countries, we are taking the power to designate on an interim basis those States in negotiation with the Community on reciprocal fishing limits at the time the Bill comes into operation, but this is provided that they have a traditional fishery around the United Kingdom and are not merely newcomers. Again, the designations can be varied or revoked at any time.

Mr. Hamish Watt (Banff)

Will the Minister say what he regards as historic fishing rights? Does he say that the French, who have been fishing our waters for only about five years because they have fished out their own stocks, have now established historic rights to our waters?

Mr. Silkin

I should not regard five years as being a historic period. However, as the hon. Member will be aware, there are certain other considerations which inevitably will come into it. But newcomers—the Johnnie Come Latelys in the fishing world—will not be designated.

Sir Frederic Bennett (Torbay)

Does the Minister regard the Soviet Union fleet and others which recently have appeared in the South-West as having established traditional rights?

Mr. Silkin

Certainly not traditional. However, I said that there would also have to be consideration of reciprocity. This depends on whether they have anything to give us and we have anything to give them; in other words, whether there is a mutual advantage. That would be the saving point.

The management of the fisheries within the new limits is covered mainly in Clause 3, which is in fact a new Section 4 in the Sea Fisheries Conservation Act 1967. We need to be able to operate any measure or combination of measures required to conserve fish stocks or to limit fishing effort. So, although Clause 3 is similar to the old section, the powers are very much wider. Ministers will be able to prohibit fishing, either generally or in any area, but licensing powers may be used to control the volume and type of fishing to impose detailed conditions on the operation of fishing vessels and to require the provision of the catch information needed for fisheries management.

I should mention that the European Commission has just produced proposals for an interim Community conservation regime for 1977. We have not yet seen these proposals, and therefore we do not know to what extent we may or may not agree with them. If the Commission's proposals, when we are made aware of them, are acceptable to us well and good, if on the other hand we believe they fall short of the measures we think necessary then it is our own measures that we shall impose as we are perfectly entitled to do in default of the agreement.

It is one thing to widen conservation regulations but we must see that they are observed. So under Clause 5 and Schedule 1 of the Bill we are taking powers to increase penalties for illegal fishing. Poaching by a foreign vessel or the equivalent offence by a British vessel which is fishing in a prohibited area will carry a maximum fine on summary conviction of £50,000 and there will be no limit to the fine if the conviction is on indictment. The maximum fine for other offences such as the use of under-sized nets will be £1,000 on summary conviction but again there will be no limit if a case is tried on indictment. The power of confiscation of catch and gear remains.

We must also have adequate forces to patrol the new limits. So in Clause 7 we provide for expenditure by my Ministry on fishery protection. The Scottish Department already has the legal cover. New ships are being built to reinforce the fishery protection squadron—other Royal Navy ships will be used until the new ones come into service—and four long-range reconnaissance aircraft are being made available from the beginning of the year. Preparatory work already carried out shows that a relatively small naval force is an extremely effective fishery protection service when supported by aerial reconnaissance and while the Government will keep the position under review in the light of experience we believe that the protection force will be adequate for its job.

The Bill itself is only a start. There will be much work and much difficulty ahead but in passing this Bill the House will have begun the first step in the formalisation of a modern conservation-oriented fishing policy.

I commend the Bill to the House.

11.22 a.m.

Mr. Alick Buchanan-Smith (North Angus and Mearns)

I should like from this side of the House, to welcome the Bill and the spirit in which the right hon. Gentleman moved its Second Reading this morning. I was encouraged by what he said, because he has not tried to make out that the Bill does more than it does. As he has said, of itself the Bill is only an enabling measure for further action to follow later, and what really matters is what will happen in other quarters in relation to fishing policy.

Whatever happens later in the EEC, without this Bill on the statute book nothing else can be arranged that will be of value or effect to the British fishing industry. Therefore, I give it a genuine welcome. I am glad the Government have brought it forward, and I welcome it on the basis that it is a prerequisite for a new fishing régime and policy, which we must have in order to preserve a fishing industry in the United Kingdom.

I give the right hon. Gentleman the assurance that the Opposition will do all we can to expedite the progress of the Bill. If there are any amendments in Committee, they will be helpful and constructive, because we want to see the Bill on the statute book without delay, just as the Government do.

Having said that, I must refer, as the Minister did briefly, to the Icelandic situation. This is the background against which we are debating this Bill and against which all fishing matters have been discussed over recent years. I do not intend to say much because I agree with the Minister that we are at a critical stage. I do not want to say anything which might affect the successful outcome of the very delicate negotiations now taking place. However, I want to remind the House and those outside of the consequences of an agreement with Iceland which does not in some way go towards meeting the especial position and needs of the British fishing industry.

Many of my hon. Friends and probably some hon. Members opposite will say more abount Iceland, but let us remember that the consequences are very serious in many directions, not least for a major section of the British fishing fleet. If we get the wrong result in the negotiations the deep sea fleet could end up being tied up. The employment which it gives, particularly on Humberside, where 80,000 or more are involved, could be seriously affected. The consequences could be widespread in terms of men's livelihoods both at sea and on shore.

Let us not treat these consequences lightly, and I know the Government do not do so. Let us not think only in terms of those who are directly employed in the deep sea fishing fleet. The consequences of an Icelandic agreement that does not in some sense accommodate the needs of the British fishing industry mean a massive diversion of the fishing fleet into our own waters. That situation would have serious implications and results for our industry. We cannot look at the Icelandic negotiations on their own. Their implications and repercussions are very wide.

We must not think just in terms of those directly involved—that or even other sections of the industry. We must not forget the consumer. With British fishing vessels having to withdraw from Icelandic waters, we have seen an increase in fish prices. There is some talk of cod being £1 per pound, and I hope that that is an exaggeration. But if we lose this source of fish, not only the industry but the housewife will suffer.

Like the Minister, I certainly counsel caution at present. I ask the Icelanders, too, to exercise caution. We have seen in recent days landings of fish by Icelandic vessels in British ports, taking advantage of the increased prices. In this delicate situation such action causes deep and strong feelings. So while we are counselling caution, I hope that the Icelanders will do the same among their fishermen.

Having said that, I make it clear that I have met Mr. Gundelach and I have immense confidence in his ability to get a fair solution. He understands our interests and he knows what the situation means to our fishing industry. He also understands the implications for Iceland. We wish him every possible success in the negotiations.

Mr. James Johnson (Kingston upon Hull, West)

The hon. Gentleman spoke of feelings on Humberside. I should tell him that the people of Humberside, whether they be deck hands, union officials, or vessel owners, are keeping their heads in this situation and hoping that the Government will get a settlement. We are not as pessimistic as some people outside the Humber ports.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. There can only one intervention at a time.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

There will be plenty of opportunity for speeches. I appreciate entirely what the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. Johnson) has said. I hope that his comments strengthen the hand of the Government in future negotiations and the hand of Mr. Gundelach in the present negotiations, because they show the industry's responsible attitude.

Mr. Walter Clegg (North Fylde)

Does not my hon. Friend find it strange that there is only one Labour Back Bencher present today? Some of the absentees are from Humberside, which is the hardest hit by the Icelandic problem.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

My hon. Friend has made a valid observation to which attention will no doubt be directed in the right quarter.

I repeat that the Bill is not the real crunch. The real crunch comes with the renegotiation of the common fisheries policy. The Bill will enable the Government to take certain action. What matters for British deep sea fishermen, and more particularly for British inshore fishermen, is that we get a successful renegotiation of the common fisheries policy. My views and those of my party on the CFP are very well known and I shall not repeat them.

Mr. Donald Stewart (Western Isles)

What happened at the renegotiations is well known. What is also well known and well remembered by Scottish fishermen is the way in which the Conservative Government let them down in the original negotiations.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

It is a pity that the hon. Gentleman is not more in touch with the fishing industry, particularly the industry at home, rather than using it, as the Scottish National Party is seen to be increasingly using it, simply as a tool for political ends. It is no wonder that the SNP is losing the confidence of many people who work in the industry. The hon. Gentleman's distortion of events is exemplified by his reference to the renegotiations as if they had already taken place. They are not by any means complete. The main part of the renegotiations is still to take place. We do not know what the result of the renegotiations will be. The hon. Gentleman has again shown that he does not understand what is happening.

We want not only to welcome what the Government are doing about fishing limits generally but to strengthen their position while they are renegotiating the CFP. I remind the Government of what we are contributing to the common fisheries pool and the diversion of effort for the deep sea fleet that will inevitably take place from Iceland into our waters.

The right hon. Gentleman paid respect to the need for greater conservation. We all pay respect to this. The record of the British industry in conservation is second to none in Europe. Our catch for human consumption, not for industrial consumption, must be taken as a guide in the Common Market and the Minister must stand up for the needs of our fishing industry.

I referred to the responsibility of the industry. Inshore as well, the industry is showing itself to be taking a responsible attitude to the negotiations. I mention in passing the haddock quota and the ban on haddock fishing which has been introduced, with the agreement of the industry, as from tomorrow to last for the rest of the year.

The question of the haddock quota leaves much to be desired. As long ago as July the fishing industry had warned of the problems that conservation of haddock would raise. On 22nd November, in answer to a Question, the Secretary of State for Scotland told us not to worry, that the Government knew that it would be difficult, but that they still hoped that we should be able to go on fishing for a little longer. On 25th November, the industry was told at a meeting that it was curtains and that fishing would finish on 4th December.

I do not say that the decision is not right, but the indecision caused by the answer to the Question on 22nd November and the knowledge that there would have to be control caused many fishermen to fish against the clock. There was an increase of fishing effort in a short period which need not have occurred if the Government had shown greater leadership earlier when the industry itself warned about the quota running out. The moral is that the industry looks to the Government to give a stronger lead in the renegotiation of the common fisheries policy than they did in their handling of the ban on haddock fishing.

By contrast, the response of the industry could not have been more responsible. The comments on this ban at the end of last week by individual fishermen and certain sections of the industry were rather restrained, whereas one might have expected a near revolt on behalf of the industry. The representatives of the industry met at Banff Springs Hotel to discuss the ban. The outcome of the meeting was an acceptance of the ban. That is proof of the desire of the industry to support effective policies on conservation. I make no apology for mentioning this matter at some length.

I mentioned the responsibility of the Humberside fishermen. On the question of haddock quotas, which were grossly mishandled by the Government, the responsibility of inshore fishermen was demonstrated. Where conservation is genuinely needed, they are prepared to support it. They have shown that by the way they fish. I beg the Government, in the renegotiation of the CFP, to capitalise on the knowledge that they have the support of the industry in telling our Common Market partners of our genuine desire to achieve conservation of fish stocks.

I have said repeatedly that, whatever the Government may have done, they must continue to use a 50-mile fishing zone for our fishermen as a negotiating objective. They must follow that up as firmly as possible for some of the reasons I have adduced.

As the negotiations progress, I become increasingly concerned. One reads Press reports to the effect that the Government are substituting for effective exclusive zones for British fishermen within the 200 miles what they believe will be effective conservation policies for the EEC as a whole. They do this by saying that, under such international commissions as the North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission and ICNAFC, efforts at effective conservation policies have not worked. Because of political pressure we always go to the highest common denominator and never to the best scientific answer.

The Government have told the industry that the important thing is not necessarily agreement on zones exclusive to British fishermen within a 200-mile limit, but the formulation of effective conservation policies for EEC countries as a whole. That looks and sounds good and if it works it will be good. But I beg the Government to consider whether we can be confident that negotiations for an effective fisheries policy inside the Community will be based on anything other than political considerations, as happened under earlier commissions outside the Community.

Scientific advice will be available to the EEC, as it has been to the other commissions, but can we put our hands on our hearts and say that this advice will be given any greater importance inside the Community than it has outside? We have to consider that some countries, such as Denmark, do not have a very happy record on industrial fishing. I fear that political considerations will apply while scientific and conservation considerations will apply no more within the Community than they have outside. I hope that I am wrong and that policies based on scientific principles and advice will prevail.

I beg the Government not to put their faith in more effective conservation policies within the EEC as a substitute for proper zones exclusive to British fishermen within a 200-mile limit. That is no substitute for looking after the interests of our industry more effectively through exclusive zones.

What will happen on 1st January 1977? The Minister touched on this briefly and I hope that the Secretary of State will say more on the subject later. We must have a date in a Bill such as this, but the Common Market has not yet formulated its policy and that makes it difficult to achieve the sort of reciprocal arrangements to which the Minister referred.

We welcome the Bill as an enabling measure, but after the magic hour of midnight on 31st December practical difficulties and confusion will arise for our fishermen and foreign fishermen in our waters. There may be problems for our fishermen in knowing where they can fish and about who will be fishing our waters.

The Soviet Union does not recognise the EEC in these matters. In recent years it has massively increased its fishing effort in the North Sea and off the South-West Coast. It has entered into agreements with Canada and Norway about its efforts in their waters. If the Soviet Union does not recognise what we and the EEC are doing, we shall find an even greater diversion of its effort into the North Sea and our waters. This is a factor which the EEC must take into account.

There is another matter which affects the outcome of the renegotiation of the CFP. What will be the position on 1st January of Scottish fishermen from the North-East—who are technically inshore fishermen—who fish in the Norwegian fishing banks 10 to 15 miles off the Norwegian coast? Some of these vessels are among the most commercially successful in the Scottish fleet. We know, of course, that their future position depends on the renegotiation of the CFP.

I welcome the licensing provisions in the Bill and the power to license foreign vessels, but I should like the Secretary of State to say more about how he expects licensing to be applied. Will it be by quotas, which have been abused and which are no longer considered effective, as earlier agreements have shown? Alternatively, is he proposing to follow the example of America, Canada and Iceland and to relate licences to individual vessels and the time they spend in our fishing grounds? In some ways, this course is more arbitrary, but if it is more effective and easier to police, we should explore it.

I know that many of my hon. Friends will wish to speak about fishery protection. Our protection fleet comes in for a lot of stick. Like the police, it is easy to criticise.

I often went on patrol with fishery protection vessels when I was at the Scottish Office and I have nothing but respect for the way in which the Scottish vessels and the Royal Navy do a very difficult job. When things go wrong, it is not usually the fault of the men of the Navy or the Scottish vessels; it is often the fault of Governments and this House in not giving them the means to carry out more effective patrolling.

It is important to use skilled personnel on fishing patrols. With the utmost respect to the Navy, this is a second function for its ships. I do not denigrate its efforts, but the Scottish protection fleet has men and vessels doing this job every day. They know fishery laws, how to measure nets and the technicalities of the industry. Those who are skilled in doing that as a permanent job are much more effective than anyone else could be. We should look at fishery protection as a full-time job for skilled people with specialised craft for the task.

The rôle of aircraft has been mentioned and I do not think that we necessarily need to look to long-range expensive planes such as the Nimrods. A lot of good work is done by fixed-wing, twin-engined four or six-seater aircraft. They are less expensive to operate and can work from remote airstrips rather than from bases with full flying facilities. I do not think that air patrols need be as expensive or difficult as some people have made out.

I welcome the Bill as it is a vital prerequisite to the renegotiation of the common fisheries policy and the protection and conservation of one of our major national resources. I emphasise again that it is a renewable national resource if we conserve and husband it properly. We are dealing not only with a major national resource but with a major industry on which men's livelihoods and family livelihoods depend. We are also dealing with the lives of men whose hard work and enterprise are a shining example to the rest of the country in the difficult economic days that it faces.

I welcome the Bill and hope that it gets on the statute book quickly. My final word of caution is that it is no substitute for a renegotiation of the common fisheries policy.

11.51 a.m.

Mr. James Johnson (Kingston upon Hull, West)

I wholeheartedly welcome the Bill as the first instalment of other measures to come, but before dealing with it I take up the ill-timed intervention of the hon. Member for North Fylde (Mr. Clegg) about my missing colleagues.

I cannot speak for anyone north of the Tweed, but the hon. Gentleman specifically mentioned Humberside. I must tell him that my two Hull colleagues are in Europe working on behalf of the Government and our people. My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) is taking part in a meeting of the EEC Agricultural Fisheries Committee at this moment in Brussels. My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara) is at the Western European Union in Paris. It is all very well making what are sometimes legitimate party points, but the hon. Gentleman's was a little ill-timed. Perhaps they would not be made if one were aware of what was happening behind the scenes.

I thank my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food for a clear and lucid exposition of the Bill, which will give us a vast extension of our powers over fishing in British waters. The first question is what are British waters. It is so important to define them. We are to have a licensing system for alien fishermen. That will give the Government control over the conservation of our stocks, but are they our stocks that we are talking about? We must define them as we go along.

Thirdly, the Bill allows the Government, along with our partners in the EEC, to extend our limits to 200 miles. Inshore fishermen undoubtedly persist in their fears that EEC boats may be allowed within 12 miles of our shores unless there is enforcement. We always return to enforcement. There is apparently some doubt in some quarters of the House about the efficacy of the forces at our command, whether Navy or otherwise, to enforce. At the heart of everything lies the need for conservation. That is what is behind the Bill and behind all our fears, whether they are the fears of inshore men, middle-water men or deep-sea men.

As a coastal State and a territorial State, for us it is vital that we manage our own sea fishing operations. All but a few of the most important species—I find it difficult to name only a few—about our shores have been overfished for the past 20 years. That applies to the whole of the North Sea and many parts of the North-East Atlantic. Our fleets have been much too effective.

I am told constantly by fishermen on Humberside and elsewhere that it is a myth to imagine that more fishing automatically means increased catches. Despite the fantastic money being made by Icelanders, and lately by one of our own Hull boats, which return with £85,000-worth, £88,000-worth and £90,000-worth of fish on board, it is a myth that lies behind all the headline figures, that more fishing activity means increased catches. All experience is against that proposition. If more is being caught by a larger number of fishermen, that means less income. Sole and herring have been badly hit.

I echo a nearlier comment about Denmark's behaviour in the North Sea. I think that the Danes have been villains, although they are members of a sister State in our Community.

Mr. Anthony Fell (Yarmouth)

I emphasise the hon. Gentleman's argument by reminding him that when I first went to Yarmouth there were about 400 drifters coming in every year, including a number of Yarmouth boats. We now have not one drifter, and we are lucky if any of the Scots boats appear.

Mr. Johnson

I welcome that intervention. My fears are that mackerel, cod and plaice will follow the events that have taken place with herring. Our Scottish colleagues will remember all the Scottish lassies who came down to English ports at the beginning of the herring seasons, to almost below the hon. Gentleman's port in East Anglia.

The explanation is simpy over-fishing. There has been much too much competition among fishermen, including some in our own community. For example, some Humber boats have been down to the South-West and have caught 1,000 tons or more of mackerel, to the displeasure of our kinsmen in the South-West peninsula.

We have referred to Denmark. Other nations have been going willy-nilly into the waters of the North Sea, the North-East Atlantic, the Mediterranean and elsewhere. Different States have been involved. Criticism is levelled at the Danes because of their industrial fishing off Northumberland and Cleveland. That activity has been impossible to control. The International Fisheries Commission, despite all its pious recommendations, has no powers to enforce. There has been no adequate system of supervision.

I welcome the Bill as it means that we are taking steps to get more supervision, some enforcement and a coherent policy. However, I sometimes wonder how we can get a coherent policy when fishermen, especially skippers, behave somewhat like buccaneers. It is difficult to get them acting in harness. A conservation policy is effective only if we have management. It is important that, following the Bill, we begin to delimit and demarcate those areas off our shores that shall be closed at certain times and to which there shall be no access, not merely to other States but to our own people who cannot behave themselves.

Off Iceland our fishermen have to fish in certain boxes and are denied access to others. Why is that? It is done because of the need to maintain stocks. I find it slightly ironic in the light of what was said about the Icelandic dispute that Iceland is now saying that biologists and scientists claim that the total allowable catch is 265,000 tons. We spent weeks arguing about this during cod wars. We said that the total allowable catch was about 280,000 tons, and that we would stake our claims on that. They said 235,000 tons or less and we were bogged down in the discussions concerning the last 50,000 tons.

There is today no adequate supervision system, and no coherent policy, and I believe that the Bill will help in this connection. We must limit catches by fixing the total allowable catch. It follows from that—and we heard earlier about the unpopularity of quotas—that we must have quotas. This will mean a short-term sacrifice for some States, particularly our partners in the Community.

Mr. Watt

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the only way in which quotas will work is if members of the British Fishery Protection Service go to foreign countries that have been granted licences and see the catches landed? In that way we can be sure that the amount of fish claimed to be caught is the right tonnage.

Mr. Johnson

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will permit me not to answer that for the moment, but to deal with it later, because I want to quote Charles Meek of the White Fish Authority on the matter of quotas and to deal with what was said by the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith).

Quotas will mean a short-term sacrifice for some States including our partners in the Community, and we must monitor what they have been catching. I think for the moment of Luxembourg when I speak about fishing in the future. I hope that Luxembourg has no intention of having a catching fleet financed by Cuba or Panamania. It would be ludicrous if Luxembourg were to have vessels catching fish off the Humber, but perhaps that is a flight of fancy.

Like Charles Meek of the White Fish Authority, I believe that the quota system has fallen into disrepute. When giving evidence to the Select Committee he said: The quotas agreed in international negotiations are always far in excess of the catch levels recommended by the scientists. What is more he, like the hon. Member for Banff (Mr. Watt), queried the accuracy of catch reporting. We cannot depend on the accuracy of the amounts that are alleged to be caught. Therefore, I come down to the view that there should be a system of licensing, specifying the name of the vessel and the skipper and in addition times allowed for fishing should be laid down.

Clause 3 deals with the licensing of boats. I think that this is the most dependable way of safeguarding our stocks. The vessels are known, the skippers are known, and they can easily be spotted by helicopters or other planes. Vessels fishing illegally would be identified.

Enforcement of the law is vital. It has been said that the EEC may wish to have a unit doing that, but I throw that idea out of the window. It is not feasible, certainly not in the near or middle-term future. The legislation that we pass in this Chamber must be enforceable. There is nothing worse than the law falling into disrepute. It must be enforceable, and I am glad that the Government are being ruthless in the matter of penalties.

It is not a blind bit of good passing a law if it is not enforced, and I quote Sir Robert Mark, who I wish was in charge of some of these operations in the North Sea. He said: The greatest deterrent for criminals is, first, to be caught"— and I am not referring only to soccer hooligans— and, secondly, if they are found guilty give them a deterrent which will make them think twice of even attempting it again. There must be no mistake about it, but there are difficulties. I estimate that the new territorial waters could cover 360,000 square miles. I hope that I am somewhere near the figure. That is more than double what it was before, and the territorial national concerned must police its own shores. History has taught us that only those whose interests are at stake will do the job properly.

Clause 2 deals with access to British fisheries. Some people not far from me seem to be living in an artificial world. To me, the basic fallacy underlying all our assumptions is that fish are the common possession of all member States. I find that difficult to follow. That arguement does not apply to the sea bed or to oil, or has certainly not done so so far.

What, for example, is Luxembourg's position in this matter? Like the Chairman of the White Fish Authority, I see no more justification for other EEC Members being allowed free access to British fishing grounds than to our farming land. I put that argument in logic and on the basis of history.

What is happening about banding? The Government have nailed our colours to the mast in this matter not merely in connection with the 12-mile limit, but for other bands that may be below or inside the 50-mile limit that is being asked for by the Opposition. As the EEC has apparently turned down a 50-mile limit, what is being done inside that limit or between the 12- and 50-mile limits? I hope that there will be extensive banding and that in addition to areas of conservation a 12-mile limit will be exclusive to our fishermen. That applies particularly to the North and South-West peninsulas. Perhaps my right hon. Friend, who in the past at Luxembourg and elsewhere has talked about banding, can give us an explanation of what is intended.

I return now to the issue of access to our waters. The Minister mentioned reciprocity. What can other countries offer us? I accept that if someone has something to give us we can return something to that person. This is an old system of exchange, and we have arrangements with many nations that have in the past fished with us. I have figures which show that the Soviet Union and other countries have been fishing our waters for only a short time. Who are the people who will be able to offer us something in exchange for what we can give them?

Italy has no access to sea fishing and has not been fishing in the North Sea and the North Atlantic. Denmark, Holland, Belgium and Germany have the thinnest of coastal strips in the North Sea, and only France has access to the Atlantic. With which non-EEC countries do we want agreements? Norway must come into that category. I have here a cutting from a Norwegian newspaper in which the Fisheries Minister, Mr. Evensen, says that his country is willing to consider the matter and to enter into negotiations. This is important to Hull with its deep-sea fleet. If we do not get access to Norwegian, Atlantic and Greenland waters, we shall be finished.

Mr. Patrick Wall (Haltemprice)

The hon. Gentleman will realise that his remarks are borne out by the corresponding legislation introduced by the American Congress which recognises limits of 200 miles imposed by others only if they in turn recognise the American lines, and only if both countries have reciprocity of entry.

Mr. Johnson

I am delighted to have that confirmation, but I also want some answers from the Minister.

We must be looking for some places to fish after New Year's morning in 1977. Around Norway we can take 50,000 tons. As for Iceland, I am not so gloomy as other people. I have attacked hon. Members for what I would term selling ourselves short. Some people gave a fantastic performance on ITV last Thursday, behaving disgracefully to an Icelandic guest, Mr. Jonas Arnasson, an MP, who was there to be shot at. On our behalf, Mr. Gundelach may get something for us there—perhaps 35,000 or 45,000 tons. There are waters around the Soviet Union in which we fish. At the moment some Hull boats are sailing north-east to the White Sea and Spitzbergen to eke out the meagre remaining parts of our quotas before the end of the year.

I give the lie to anyone who thinks that Hull is finished as a fishing port. Some say that Icelanders will be sailing into Hull in the near future as they now sail into Grimsby. These people then wonder why we are worried about unemployment, when the only people who would then lose their jobs are deckhands. They say that we may perhaps lose the catching fleet but the fish will still be coming in, brought by the Germans and the Russians, never mind Norway and Iceland.

The Hull people want a catching fleet. Men in my constituency want to go to sea. Skippers in Haltemprice also want this to continue. They want to fetch back fish for our merchants, filleters and cold store companies. So I do not like this gloom mongering and I hope that we shall hear less of it.

Like the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns, I have been out to sea with our fishery protection fleet in the company of my neighbour the hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall). I have as much faith as the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns in our people in those vessels. I know how the Navy defended my constituents off Iceland: I sometimes wish that it had stayed longer, but that is a different story.

If we need more vessels—whether Island class or not—we should get more. But would the Minister consider the possibility suggested by the Commons Select Committee, of converting fishing trawlers and giving them guns for fishery protection in the vastly increased area of water that we shall have to patrol? The hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns is smiling, but I accept what he said about these men, who know a lot about the sea.

We are looking through a glass darkly. We do not know what will happen in 1977, but some of us are more optimistic than others. I can only support the Government and wish them luck with the Bill in the hope that other legislation is on the way to stiffen and strengthen the fishing industry.

12.14 p.m.

Mr. Hugh Fraser (Stafford and Stone)

This is a major debate, and it is typical of the present Government to have arranged it for a Friday morning, when many hon. Members cannot attend.

It is major because it extends British sovereignty by 200 miles around our coastal areas. It is major because it raises the whole issue of this country's relationship with the EEC. I would say to some hon. Gentlemen on both Front Benches that on the Back Benches there is far more disquiet about that relationship than may be evinced by some of our leaders. What is more, it raises the whole question of whether we are building another series of illusions by claiming, as we have so often before, responsibility without power.

I hope that in the negotiations which will be continued with the EEC and at which the various limits will be drawn it will be made clear that this country will have to bear the main burden of policing this huge area and that accordingly we should be properly rewarded. I hope that our negotiators will make that absolutely clear.

The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. Johnson) mentioned the enforcement of areas—the control not just of the fishing but of the areas where it is not to be permitted. When Ireland extends its limits by 200 miles, no doubt the burden of policing that area will also fall on us. One hon. Member has said that he hopes that the EEC or Commission can do some of this work for us. The Commission has fewer ships under its control than the Swiss Navy. I am told that the latter does have two armed rowboats and a patrol vessel on Lake Geneva.

The burden will fall on this country and it is far greater than the Government have conceived. That is why I am so pleased to see the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Navy here today. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) will catch your eye later, Mr. Deputy Speaker, since he is far more informed about these matters than I.

The introductory paragraph in the explanatory memorandum describes the number of vessels and aircraft which are to be available. This area of sea has to be protected. It is no good acting like the Pope who drew an imaginary line around the circumference of the world in the sixteenth century, saying that all on one side was Spanish and all on the other was British territory—

Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Down, South)


Mr. Fraser

Yes of course—Portuguese. Was it Alexander VI or was it Julius? I cannot remember which Pope it was. Anyway, I do not want the Minister to be as powerless as that Pope by drawing imaginery lines which cannot be enforced.

According to the introductory paragraph, naval vessels will be available of a class which I do not think is adequate. There will also be four Nimrod aircraft. How will the position of Japanese, Cuban and Russian vessels fishing in our waters be regulated? How are these fines of £50,000 and more to be exacted?

As an old Secretary of State for Air, I know that if four aircraft are available, that means that only one will be airborne at any one time. That one aircraft will have to patrol 600,000 square miles of water. There will be between 3,000 and 4,000 vessels at sea in that area at any one time. Not all are fishing vessels, but this still makes on wonder how these complicated regulations will be enforced by three Ministry of Agriculture vessels and five naval vessels which do not even have helicopters and whose maximum speed is about 16 knots.

Both Front Benches should give this matter much more serious attention. There is nothing worse than the promulgation of laws that cannot be enforced. It is necessary to enforce the most complicated fishery laws because of the depletion of the world's fishing stocks. I therefore hope that the Minister and the Opposition Front Bench will press far harder for a proper enforcement of the regulations.

It is not just a question of extending our sovereignty. Our sovereignty must be protected against EEC members and against others who are invading our fishing grounds. There is also the question of the money involved, which will concern the citizens of this country.

According to the paragraph to which I previously referred, the protection aircraft are to perform two functions. They have to protect fishing areas and our oil installations in the North Sea. To use a fashionable word, a dangerously "hybrid" function is being asked of the Navy. The total take of the fishing industry last year was about £900 million. The possible flow from North Sea oil installations runs into thousands of millions of pounds. Surely it is worth while for the Government to make a proper investment for the defence of these vital British interests.

The proposals put forward are desperately niggardly and the forces involved are incapable of fulfilling the commitments which the Government have made. If the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Navy does not reply to the debate, I hope that he will ensure in Cabinet that further steps are taken by the Government within this wide Bill to provide the capability of properly enforcing both the protection of our North Sea installations and our fishing interests over more than 400,000 square miles of ocean.

If we can ensure a sufficiency of force to make these regulations function, we shall have a case to put to our partners in the EEC for getting the lion's share of the advantage of the fishing rights around our island.

12.23 p.m.

Sir Frederic Bennett (Torbay)

The closing remarks made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Fraser) about protection make it possible for me to speak even more briefly than I had intended.

The Minister referred to an amendment in my name on the Order Paper which Mr. Speaker, in his absolute discretion, did not call. I have no more wish to delay the Bill than has any other hon. Member, but there is only the one procedure for putting down an amendment to draw attention to a particular facet of a Bill on Second Reading. I therefore make no apology for emphasising an aspect of fishery protection which is of more concern to the people than is the 200-mile limit, and that is the exclusive British rights around our coast. That is where the interest lies.

I hope that further information will be given to us in the Minister's winding-up speech about when the serious nego- tiations on the 50-mile exclusive limit—or whatever figure is agreed—will be started and when it is hoped they will be finished. That is what the fishermen in my constituency are asking. To many of them the 200-mile limit is a wide hope from which they do not envisage benefiting in their lifetime. They are more interested in the possibility of earning a living in the traditional waters in which they have been fishing for so long.

On the same general subject, will the Minister express more fully his view on how he sees the observance prospects? I mention specifically the Soviet Union and satellite fleets, not for political reasons but because they represent the chief menace in the South-West, for several reasons. These are the size of the ships, their number, their equipment and their capacity to avoid the checking of quotas. What happens is that larger ships come to collect the catch and take it directly back. It never goes into a port where the quantities can be checked. That is doing very serious damage in the South-West, as I am sure the Minister knows.

When the Bill becomes law, I understand that we shall start negotiating with the USSR and its satellites which have no traditional fishing rights, on what they have to offer instead. Supposing what they offer instead is inadequate, or they wish to make no agreement, what are the prospects for observance? Supposing the fleets of countries outside the EEC take no notice of our legislation today or of any orders made under it. What ideas have we in mind to make them do so?

I do not think that five fishery protection vessels, three smaller vessels and four aircraft will cause any headaches to them. They will not make much impact on fishermen from the USSR and its satellites who are fishing in the South-West. I endorse what my right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone said. If we are serious, and not just passing legislation for the sake of appearances, we shall have to think in terms of a far larger and more powerful fishery protection fleet. We shall have to think not in terms of two or three more vessels but of many more.

Let us suppose that we reach an agreement with the EEC on a 50-mile limit. From then on, subject to whatever licensing may be arranged, if any, the EEC countries will no longer fish within that 50-mile limit. It would be ridiculous if we managed to make an arrangement with the EEC on those lines, while the Soviet Union and its satellites continued to fish freely within our 50-mile limit. If that happened, we would be giving a better deal to countries which are not members of the EEC than to those which are. I should like the Minister to comment on that.

I cannot seriously believe that the Minister thinks that we have adequate forces—or will have adequate forces by 1978—to look after the 1 million square miles which will have to be policed eventually when Ireland comes into the picture. It is almost a joke to think in terms of five vessels looking after 1 million square miles.

It is said that the EEC will not make any contribution to that policing. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone that the Commission has no ships with which to do so, but the nation States of the EEC have fleets, and we shall have to look to them if we are to secure effective control over the 200-mile limit.

Mr. Donald Stewart

The hon. Gentleman seems to be implying that the EEC would share in the policing. Does not he agree that that implies that the EEC would have an equal share in these waters?

Sir F. Bennett

I am talking about the difference between the first 50 miles and the 200 miles—not within the 50 miles. Within the 50 miles we shall have enough of a job to look after the situation with the vessels we have in mind, even if we double or treble the programme. But if we are to think of making a serious contribution in relation to the 200 miles—the Commission as a whole having made the agreement with us to limit our own 50 or 40 miles—we shall have to look to the nation States of the EEC in regard to helping in enforcing the 200-mile limit or it will become a complete farce.

I agree with what has been said about licensing by quota, for a variety of reasons, including one that I have already mentioned, concerning the large factory ships which do not land quotas but take the catch much further afield. It is almost impossible to think in terms of any effective quota control there.

I therefore favour far more the idea of licensing the number of ships and the duration of time spent by them in any have the vessels or the means to control particular waters. Whether we shall have the vessels or the means to control this is another matter, but if we do not start on that basis we shall not be able to exercise any effective control at all.

I apologise to the Government Front Bench for the fact that I shall have to leave the debate before the end, but I am shortly to be on my way to talk to some of my own Brixham fishermen, who are extremely interested in the outcome of the Bill.

12.32 p.m.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Down, South)

This is essential legislation which is before the House this morning, and certainly my hon. Friends and I will wish to see it, as soon as may be practicable after due consideration, upon the statute book. Nevertheless, it is a melancholy occasion that this Bill obliges this House to contemplate some of the earlier consequences of our having rejected the status of a nation in order to accept that of a province.

It must often have occurred to the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Agriculture—though he was too kind and tactful to refer to it in his speech—how right he had been in his stalwart opposition from the beginning to British membership of the EEC.

I was grimly amused to read, in the brief of the British Trawling Industry, the statement that Norway did not join the EEC because she disagreed with the Community's Common Fisheries Policy, and then—these are the words that matter— Now, when they see the problems this Policy has brought to Europe, even those Norwegians who were pro-EEC publicly proclaim their thankfulness that they did not join. Before I resume my seat, I intend to suggest ways in which we might eventually join in that Norwegian rejoicing; but for the moment we are contemplating the consequences—what is happening now and is to happen to us in the immediate future—of our having relinquished our independence.

By this Bill we shall belatedly place ourselves not in the same position but in a similar position in some respects to that which has been taken by Iceland foremost, but also by the countries of the American Continent and the North-West Atlantic, and above all by Norway. Thereby we should—we ought to—have been able to make good the grave defeat which was inflicted upon this country by the Icelanders. I say this without any feelings of hostility, which none of us entertain, towards Iceland. We ought to have been able to do this, because we ought to be able, with our own 200 mile fishery limits, to say to other nations "What sort of a deal can be done? What fair terms can we agree between ourselves?"—not only for actual fishing, but also for the acceptance of their catch in our own ports, for the consumption of part of their catch by the teeming industrial population of this island, which was largely responsible for the growth of our own fishing industry, of our own trawler industry, seeing that it was to serve the great industrial cities of England that Hull and certainly Grimsby came into existence at all as great world centres of fishing.

But we are not able to do that. References have been made in the debate to Her Majesty's Government negotiating. But Her Majesty's Government will not be doing the negotiating. It will be done by Mr. Gundy-Latch. It is Mr. Gundy-Latch who is negotiating, not for us—

Mr. Douglas Hurd (Mid-Oxon)


Mr. Powell

Perhaps I might go on a little and then the hon. Gentleman will have more to answer for. Mr. Gundylatch—I know very well that he pronounces it Gundelach—will not be negotiating for this country, but for the EEC, including Luxembourg. The major interests behind Mr. Gundy-latch are not the interests of this country, the people in whose fishery limits the main fish resources of the North-East Atlantic will lie. In the EEC it is the interests of others equally or more which Mr. Gundy-latch will have in mind. They are his paymasters; they are his employers; and among them are two nations, the German Federal Republic and Belgium, which are sitting pretty already—privately pretty—in relation to fishing in Icelandic waters.

Mr. Hurd

The right hon. Member is making a powerful case for national negotiations and procedures. There is a little history in this. These are precisely the ways and procedures which have been used in this country's dealings with Iceland over the years. Does the right hon. Gentleman think that they have proved satisfactory?

Mr. Powell

It has been impossible for us, until we had the power to extend our fishery limits—the power to control our waters—to negotiate successfully with other countries which claim similar limits. That was what made the whole Icelandic episode tragic and wasteful, namely, the knowledge that our circumstances inside the EEC, and the trend in the world towards 200 mile fishery limits, would speedily render obsolete the position we were seeking to maintain against Iceland.

We ought, therefore, to be under no delusions that we, unlike other countries, are providing ourselves with protection and a bargaining position. The word "protection" reminds me of another context of that concept. By the Orders made under this Bill we shall be assuming responsibility for the seas up to 200 miles or the median line all the way round the United Kingdom. These are the seas, as I have said, which contain the greater part of the fish resources of the EEC. There will now fall upon us the duty of protecting against third parties the fishing régime in these waters; for I take it that there is no question—and I am not sure that we would wish it—of the Common Market, although I should have thought it ought to share some of the cost, imagining that it can replace our effort by its effort.

It will be Britain's responsibility to police those waters. Unless we police them effectively, as has been said several times, we shall reduce our legislation to a mockery and the last state will be worse than the first. But as we do this, we shall have the bitterness of knowing that we are keeping Cuba, the Soviet Union and other external countries out of these waters—at least I hope we shall—or of forcing them to comply with whatever agreements may be made with them, so that the other members of the Community may join in fishing up to the 12-mile line according to arrangements which will not be fixed by us, but will be fixed inside the EEC in the circumstances which the right hon. Gentleman has described all too well—on a basis which does not correspond to the scientific interest of fishing and conservation of fish stocks but is a matter of political bargaining.

Among those who will be interested in the Soviet-free waters which we shall maintain for them are such countries as Italy. Those who take an interest in these matters have specially noted the fact that Italy is at present building by far the largest trawler in the whole of the North-East Atlantic, a trawler nearly three times as large as the largest British trawler. It is being built at Viareggio by the Società Esercizio Cantieri Spa. They are not building that trawler at Viareggio to catch sardines off Sicily. They are building that trawler for big business in deep-sea fishing, and not primarily, I would venture to say, with a view to the market for fresh fish in the cities, and for the consumers, of their own country. That is a specimen of the counter-claims, under the law of the EEC, to the British waters between 12 miles and 200 miles, for which we shall be asked to hold the ring against all interlopers—and there will be some powerful ones.

There is an added drop of acid in our cup. Reference has frequently been made to the fact that there is no bargaining power behind our elbow, or at least none that is restricted to the matter at issue. We are attempting to secure, before the derogation ends at the end of 1982, and if possible as soon as may be, some larger exclusive fishing zone for our own fishermen. I believe that it should be everywhere up to at least 50 miles. Yet from 1st January of next year we are to protect the operations, in the very zone we want to claim as exclusive to ourselves, of the other member fleets of the EEC.

What an excellent accompaniment to the right hon. Gentleman's attempt to get the best bargain he can for this country. What an excellent accompaniment, that fishing is actually taking place by our Community partners, under our protection, in our British fishery limits, while those negotiations are going on. We shall not be in a position to say "Until you agree, we will keep you out of these waters. If you do not give us a 50-mile limit there will be no fishing for you. These are British waters. Haven't you seen the Act we passed in the House of Commons?" It is not like that. We are paving the way, if we proceed to treat this as a matter by itself, for our own discomfiture.

This Bill is not important for fishing alone. Although my right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Fraser) rightly said how important it was generally, even he did not estimate to the full what lies behind this legislation. The title of this Bill is Fishery Limits Bill; but the 200-mile zone, although we may be debating it today in the context of fishing, it not a 200-mile fishery zone.

Mr. Douglas Jay (Battersea, North)

Will the right hon. Gentleman permit me, before he leaves fisheries, to recall one other fact in what the hon. Member for Mid-Oxon (Mr. Hurd) described as the history of this affair? When the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) signed the Treaty of Accession and accepted the common fisheries policy in January 1972, the Minister representing the Government in the Lords, Lady Tweedsmuir, said positively that it did not matter because we had a bargaining weapon and we could veto the common fisheries policy. When I commented on that in this House and said that we could not veto the common fisheries policy, that this was wholly false, I was contradicted from the then Government Front Bench. Who was right on that occasion?

Mr. Powell

I am well aware of the matter to which the right hon. Gentleman refers. It is a good thing that he has put it again upon the record. If we have a veto, and I believe we have, it is not the veto which the noble Lady mistakenly thought and which others have mistakenly thought we possessed in this narrow context of the common fisheries policy.

I was referring to the fact that this 200-mile zone which we are talking about in the context of this Second Reading debate as a fishery zone is not merely a fishery zone. I read once again from the same background brief of the British Trawling Industry, one sentence of which says: In 1977 the world's major coastal states will unilaterally declare economic zones extending to 200 miles or the edge of the Continental Shelf. After a sentence or two, where it speaks of the North Atlantic countries, it says: She"— that is, the United States— was followed by Canada … then France and Norway … All these countries have already armed themselves with the legislation required. That legislation is legislation which refers to a 200-mile economic zone. In case the hon. Member for Mid-Oxon (Mr. Hurd) might wish to interrupt me again and say that I am under a misapprehension and that it is nonsense to be talking about an economic zone instead of a mere fishing zone having nothing to do with the sea bed, nothing to do with the, as yet, unexplored, unimagined resources which lie between our coasts and the Continental Shelf, I have, as the occupant of the Chair sometimes says, "obtained a copy" of the Conservative Central Office brief on the fishing industry and the EEC.

I do not know whether Central Office briefs are still used by occupants of the Opposition Front Bench. Perhaps they learned their lesson when they discovered how they had been misled by Central Office briefs in the late 1960s on the subject of Commonwealth immigration; but let that pass. What I was fascinated to observe was that over and over again in discussing what we are talking about, this brief refers to the "200-mile EEZ"—the European economic zone.

Mr. Hurd

The exclusive economic zone.

Mr. Powell

I am much obliged. At any rate the middle "E" stands for "economic". So it is conceded that although we are debating in the context of fisheries, we are debating a much larger issue of sovereignty, a much larger claim against us by the rest of the European Economic Community for what we are now declaring or implying to be our own resources.

I do not believe that this is tolerable. I do not believe that we must let ourselves be told "Oh, you are in the trap. You are caught. You are helpless. You must put up with the implications of what has been done." On the contrary, I say that we have the whip hand in the EEC. We have the whip hand not only because within this new national patrimony which we are claiming under the Bill there lie the major fishery resources of the EEC. We are the people in possession; and we are asserting the power of possession, if we will use it, by the Bill.

But, if people say "But you dare not do that because they might even take reprisals against us in other aspects of EEC policy", I should be interested to be told where these disadvantages might lie. Are we to be told that if we do not come to heel in this matter they will not maintain their insistence, linked with the green pound, that we buy their dear food instead of the cheaper food of the external world? Will they threaten us that they will force us to use the markets of the world instead of the high price resources of Western Europe? No. It is they who are on a hiding to nothing, not we.

Are the EEC, with their vast trading surplus in their favour against us, going to tell us that they will not trade with us? Will they damage their own industries and economies? No. The fact is that we have the whip hand.

We are not discussing the technicality of whether we do or do not remain in some form or other members of the Community. The fact is that we have the power to remain members, if we do so, upon our own terms. In all the vital sectors the whip hand is ours. I am not expecting the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State—although his heart throbs as one with mine—nor am I expecting the Secretary of State for Scotland to say "ditto" to my observations. I do not expect that, despite certain signs and portents fleeting across the countenances of those on the Treasury Bench. We understand that the manner in which in real life power is exercised is a matter of infinite patience, skill, time and determination. But it is one of the functions of this House to declare from time to time where the true national interests lie, what the requirements of our own people are, and to remind ourselves that it is within our capabilities, within our power, as it is certainly within our national right, to secure them.

12.52 p.m.

Mr. Michael Brotherton (Louth)

I welcome the Bill. It is particularly appropriate that it should be introduced in the week when British fishing fleets have withdrawn for the first time in hundreds of years from Icelandic waters. I was reminded of the humiliating signal sent to the German High Seas Fleet at Rosyth in 1919: The German flag will be hauled down at sunset and will not be re-hoisted. On Tuesday morning a record catch of £89,000 was landed from an Icelandic ship in Hull and four hours later that record was broken by a £98,500 catch landed at Grimsby. I hope that the Government will explain to Mr. Gundelach that we cannot allow these enormous amounts of fish to continue being landed if there are no reciprocal arrangements.

One of the problems that I found during talks with the industry's representatives during the Summer Recess was that each section talks with a different voice. One can go to the deep-water boys and they say that the important thing is to get agreement with Iceland. The middle water boys say that that is not true. They say that all that matters is an agreement with the Faroes. Grimsby ships go to the Faroes and a reciprocal agreement is important. The Seinens say the most important thing is the North Sea and excluding the Russians and Bulgarians from that area. The inshore industry says that the problem is the Transport and General Workers Union and that lumpers should not be allowed to unload vessels.

The extension of limits to 200 miles means that we shall be able to deal with the Russians and the Comecon countries. They have little to offer us but we have a great deal to offer them. It is vital that the Bill becomes law so that not only do we have a legal right to exclude Russia and Bulgaria and others but that we take the necessary action to do so.

How are we to do that? About 23 years ago I joined the Fishery Protection Squadron as sub-lieutenant under the distinguished sailor now known as Black Rod. That fleet consisted of "Algerine" class minesweepers, "Squirrel" and "Watchful". The maximum speed of the "Algerine" was 16 knots and the maximum speed of vessels now being proposed to carry out fishery protection is still only 16 knots. We require a force of small, fast, cheap manoeuverable vessels that will perform not only fishery protection duties but oil rig protection duties. About 10 designs are available and they are being considered by the Ministry of Defence. I hope that the Committee which is considering them will decide to choose one of those vessels. I hope that they will be ordered in sufficient numbers and that the Government will make sufficient money available so that we can exercise our rights under the Bill.

At the weekend "Diomede", one of the heroes of the cod war which was damaged in collision, was in Grimsby. I am sorry that the Foreign Secretary is not here because the captain of the "Diomede" was particularly grateful for the tremendous hospitality of his constituents. He told me over dinner on Sunday night that the people of Grimsby were gradually wearing his ship's company to their knees.

The problem of the Nimrod has been raised in debate. We are told that four Nimrod aircraft are to be allocated, and, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Fraser) said, that means that not more than one of those aircraft will be airborne at any one time. How many hours a week will the aircraft be on task? I have been told that it will not be more than 45 hours. Operating for only two-sevenths of a week is not good enough.

The Nimrod is a sophisticated weapon of war and suitable to the task of maintaining airborne surveillance of vessels round the British Isles provided that it is in sufficient numbers. People say that it is an expensive aircraft and that it would be an expensive way of carrying out this surveillance. But such surveillance is an effective way of training personnel in surface warfare. I urge the Minister to tell the House what plans the Government have for a decent sized fishery protection fleet that will be able to enforce the law. He must tell us how many hours the Nimrod aircraft are expected to be on task.

This is an excellent Bill but its excellence will fail if we do not have the means to enforce it.

1.0 p.m.

Mr. Alexander Fletcher (Edinburgh, North)

Taken at its face value, this Bill must give considerable encouragement to the British fishing industry, not just because it extends our fishing limits to 200 miles but because it allows for the conservation of fish stocks, which is of interest both to the industry and to the consumer. The industry will be particularly pleased to see that the Bill attempts to deal with the rights of foreign fishing vessels within the British 200-mile zone and introduce licensing as a main means of regulating fishing. It does not mention quotas, but all in all the Bill seems just what the doctor ordered.

But life is not so simple for fishermen or politicians. It is what the Bill does not say about the powers that we may be giving to Ministers to give away British fishing interests which makes us realise that perhaps it presents some kind of dream world in which it is impossible to assess the practical implications of what the Bill is really about. If that is the case, neither the fishermen nor the consumers can be any more hopeful for the future of the industry than they were before the Bill was presented. It says nothing about the two items which matter most to British fishermen—the EEC and the common fisheries policy. The Bill reads as though neither of these items existed, but in the real world we are very much aware of their presence.

I was particularly interested in the speech of the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell). I assume that he knows that many people in Ulster regret the fact that no Member of Parliament from Ulster attends the European Parliament. I am not in a position to offer him a place in the Conservative group, and in any case I do not know what his views are on that group and whether they differ from his view of the Conservative Party generally. But I have had a few deputations of councillors and others from Northern Ireland at the European Parliament regretting that they are not represented there.

Mr. Powell

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to put on record, first, the fact, which is not disputed, that the delegation from this House represents all parts of the United Kingdom and that individual members of it do not in any way represent individual parts; and, secondly, that no offer of representation on the delegation has at any time been formally made to the United Ulster Unionist Coalition. The third factor, which is also important, is that, as long as Northern Ireland is grossly and unjustly under-represented in this House, it is very difficult for Northern Ireland Members to take additional work of any kind.

Mr. Fletcher

I understood that approaches had been made, but, frankly, there are so many Northern Ireland parties that I am not sure to which party an approach about representation in the European Parliament was made. But I think that the right hon. Gentleman would make powerful contributions to the political debates there, and not least help us in our pronouncements against the Commission.

Presumably, the Bill is in part framework legislation within which the common fisheries policy will be revised. But it seems odd that a Bill should be presented every line of which is haunted by the Commission and the Community and over which looms the rather dreaded shadow of the common fisheries policy, yet be rather silent on both these matters.

I can understand some of the reasons for this, but I think that we might have had a little more recognition of the fact that the common fisheries policy does exist. In reading through the Bill, therefore, one cannot ignore those parts of it which have been written very much with the negotiations with the EEC in mind, and particularly the renegotiation of the common fisheries policy.

We have little guidance as to what powers will reside with British Ministers and what, at the end of the day—perhaps in a matter of a few months after the Bill is enacted—will be transferred to the Commission. It would be helpful if the Secretary of State for Scotland would make reference to that distinction. What matters in this respect is that the House should not write a blank cheque in the Bill, drawn on the British fishing industry for the benefit of the Commission and the other member States of the Community.

Clause 1 extends the British fishing limits to 200 miles, stating clearly that these are British limits and not Community or, for example, Scottish limits, but British. That is fine. There will be no Community zone in any case because it is understood that the entire area will be composed of national zones of member States. It is worth remembering that renegotiating the common fisheries policy, about which there is so much historical argument, really means that we are in a new ball game inasmuch as we are trying to do a deal with the other member States as far as British fishing limits and rights are concerned.

Clause 2 is of particular importance. It deals with the access to British fishing areas, and it allows Ministers to designate other countries which might fish within the United Kingdom's 200-mile zone. Does this mean that the negotiations with third countries—taking the Bill, as we have to take it, at face value—will be on a bilateral basis and conducted by British Ministers independently of the Community? Or is the clause a vehicle whereby the Commission will carry out the negotiations, while British Ministers will acquiesce? Whichever it is, it might be helpful if I quoted from a reply I received in the European Parliament from Mr. Lardinois. I may add that we debate fishing every time we have a meeting there, but wo do not get very far. He said something on the last occasion which might be worth repeating. It was in reply to something I had asked about the control of fishing. He said: May I point out, first of all, that no such Community policy exists? In other words, the present policy on the control of fishing is a purely national matter in which the Community or the Community institutions have so far played absolutely no part. I must say that I regard this point as one of extreme importance, particularly because it means that the Community can make a fresh start instead of having first of all to explain to the fishing industry why the present control policy is completely inadequate. I think that, in the context of the fears and, perhaps, hopes for the future of the common fisheries policy, that is an important statement from the Commissioner responsible.

The same sort of questions arise on Clause 3 about the rights of Ministers vis-à-vis the rights for which we may be legislating here but which are rights which may be more for the Commissioners than for our Ministers. Clause 3 deals with conservation of fish stocks, allowing Ministers to specify areas in which British and foreign boats may not fish. The question is whether these areas will be under the wing of the British Government or that of the Commission.

Clause 3 also deals with licences, a method of control which is sensible. Will the licensing authority be British? When we talk of Ministers granting licences, are we talking about a British licensing authority? This is bearing in mind, presumably, that, in renegotiating the common fisheries policy and adopting licensing, there will be some harmonisation.

Although there is no mention of quotas in the Bill, they are very much part of the Commission's proposals, and in any case I think that they are necessary even though I favour a licensing system. I assume that, before one can work out the number of licences to be allocated to a given number of boats, one must start with national quotas which will then be divided up for licensing purposes.

Several of my right hon. and hon. Friends, not least my right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Fraser), have spoken about fishery protection. This is extremely important and, although one would not wish to be in any way alarmist, it seems that the proposals in the Bill are totally inadequate in relation to the sheer size of the task which we are to attempt, and not least in relation to third country vessels. It is possible that some of the bitterest disputes will be between member States of the Community, but the large Russian and East European fleets give great cause for concern, and I wonder how much this whole issue was taken into account by the Government when making their numerous cuts in Britain's defence expenditure.

In this connection, it is worth noting the report in today's Financial Times by Robin Reeves, with reference to the latest Commission proposals on fishing. He says: Elsewhere in Brussels, NATO officials are increasingly concerned that the Soviet Union, whose catch in the Community 'pool' to be created on January 1 totals some 500,000 tonnes, will continue to refuse to recognise the EEC's 200-mile limit. Clearly, the potential for disputes between the EEC and the Russians is large and dangerous and is a factor which Ministers must take into account when considering the total contribution which Britain will make to fishery protection.

It is impossible to assess from the Bill precisely what the impact will be on the British fishing industry because, as I have said, taken at its face value the Bill is marvellous—it is the best news which the industry has had—but we all know that it is not even half the story and that really tough negotiations have still to take place. I agree, however, with the closing remarks of the right hon. Member for Down, South. He is absolutely right to say that we have the rights and the powers to set our stamp on the new common fisheries policy. The whole industry must hope that Ministers have the will to do just that.

1.12 p.m.

Mr. Hamish Watt (Banff)

As one who has long championed the legitimate claims of Scottish fishermen, I welcome the Bill, and I must add that I am somewhat amused by the petulance of the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith), who in some way begrudges the Scottish National Party the closeness which it has always had with the fishing community.

I have always regarded it as a tragedy that Britain did not push harder at successive law of the sea conferences for an extension of national limits to 200 miles. The Canute-like attitude of successive Governments has now been seen to be wrong, and we have had to wait and follow the lead of some underdeveloped countries and the Latin-American countries, as well as, more recently, Iceland, Canada and Norway. So here we are again—in RAF parlance—the "Tail-end Charlies".

I am particularly annoyed by the lack of foresight of Government advisers who failed to see how much fishing potential we were giving away for nothing when Britain joined the Common Market. As the Minister admitted this morning, England was so blinded by its determination to continue to fish in Icelandic waters that we continued to neglect our home waters. But it has always been in those home waters that the Scottish fisherman has had to make his living, and it has, therefore, been anxiety about the near waters that has occupied the minds of my party and of Scottish fishermen.

Scottish fishermen have long been annoyed by the way in which foreign boats come into what they have regarded as their waters, and they have looked with continuing and growing admiration at the way Iceland has sought to guard her stocks.

Clause 3, which is designed to regulate sea fishing, is of special interest. I am well aware how complicated this matter will be, and I should like to know how it is proposed to license—or, if need be, not license—EEC boats. Although it is plainly desirable to keep out boats of third countries such as Poland, Russia, Cuba and so on, it is equally essential that boats from Denmark, Belgium and our other EEC partners be strictly licensed. They must be strictly licensed and ruthlessly policed, as they will be fiercely protected by their own national Governments, just as they have been in the past.

As the Minister knows, the history of detection by members of the North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission inspectorate and of prosecution of boats by individual member States makes interesting reading. In some cases the difference has been a factor of six, with international NEAFC policing providing six cases of illegal fishing but national States themselves finding only one.

The Government must not delude themselves into thinking that a system of licensing or quotas will work. We shall need a whole permutation of factors if we are to have any hope of securing reasable conservation within 200 miles. Quotas have not worked in the past 10 years. The only NEAFC country which has even tried to abide by its quota arrangement is Britain. As a result, we have the present ridiculous state of affairs in which Scottish boats are tied up because our haddock quota of 95,000 tons has been taken, while the boats of all other nations continue fishing in the North Sea amidst plentiful stocks of haddock.

I have said on previous occasions in the House—I make no apology for saying it again—that our fishermen are the laughing stock of the North-East Atlantic because of the sheer stupidity of successive British Governments. We are the nation in the North-East Atlantic with the best fishing grounds and the greatest catch potential, yet the industry and its men are frustrated at every turn. Our fishing fleets and our men have the will and ability to make Britain totally self-supporting in fish and fish products, and they have the potential to build up a healthy export trade which would help the balance of payments, yet they are constantly prevented from so doing.

The fact that right hon. and hon. Members on both sides know little and care less about the fishing industry is clearly shown by the poor attendance here today. If the House of Commons and the British Parliament are determined to continue to neglect the industry, that is their affair. But Scotland is not prepared to stand idly by and see its half-share of the British fishing industry thrown to the dogs.

The decision that responsibility for fishing is not to be devolved to the Scottish Assembly has not gone unnoticed in Scotland. The fact that the Scottish fishing industry is equal in size to that of England but is almost entirely different from that of England seems to have been wholly overlooked by the devolution team, which is once again indicative of the ignorance and indifference to which I have referred.

As I have said, quotas have not worked, and neither will licensing unless national Governments want them to work. I turn here to the provisions in the Bill for policing. I am proud to have been a member of the Select Committee looking into the problems of the fishing industry. We have heard evidence about how the Royal Air Force proposes to use four Nimrod aircraft and the Royal Navy proposes to use five—or perhaps seven—ships to do the job. In each case we have had a clear indication of attitude.

When we ask representatives of the Royal Air Force whether they believe that they can adequately cover the area with Nimrods, they say "We are only the back-up force to the Navy". Then, when we ask the Navy whether it has sufficient forces to do the job, back comes the reply "But we are only the supplement to the Air Force." So, between the two of them, it is obvious that they will grossly under-police and under-man the kind of service which is required to do the job properly.

I believe earnestly that the only way we can get reasonable quotas and reasonable licensing and policing is if we can persuade British fishermen to be their own policemen. In my view, we should try to persuade British fishing boats to report foreigners who are fishing in areas illegally or who are using the wrong size of mesh. After all, who knows better what a fisherman is doing than his neighbour who is fishing alongside him?

Unless and until the Government can get the confidence of the entire British fishing industry, we shall not get proper policing. When the Minister is evolving a system of licensing, not only should he license the boats allowed to fish in our waters but, equally, he should control the areas in which they are allowed to fish, so that our men can know, if they come across Belgians fishing in an area, whether they are allowed there, and, if they come across Danish boats in another area, they will know whether they are allowed to be there. In that way, I believe, we shall really be able to police.

I return to the point that I made earlier. Only if Britain gets the power to survey the landings in the ports of our EEC partners shall we be able to ensure that they are abiding by their quotas. I hope that the Minister intends to see that his licensing system is adhered to closely. It is obvious that Britain is to be the sole policeman on the British beat, and that is only right. But what is the point of policing the property and paying for that policing if the citizens are in no position to enjoy the total benefits of the effort?

The proposed position laid out in the Bill reminds me of that of a farmer who is obliged to fence in a field of potatoes but is unable to stop his neighbours helping themselves to the crop. He can stop his neighbours from two streets away—from third countries—taking his potatoes, but he has no way of stopping his close neighbours—his pals in the EEC—helping themselves. What kind of law is that? If, concurrent with this Bill, we had been considering one to extend our exclusive limits to 50 miles, I should have come here today with more enthusiasm.

Like other hon. Members, I deprecate the fact that this Bill is being taken on a Friday. Many times over the post year I have asked the Leader of the House to provide Government time for the subject to be discussed. It is only at this late stage, as we near the end of the year, when the Bill must be through for the limits to take effect on 1st January, that we have time to discuss the matter.

When the fisheries policy of the Scottish National Party was first drawn up, we intended holding out for a 100-mile zone, and we still believe that to be desirable. But, in deference to the views of the Scottish fishermen who are, after all, the people involved, we fell into line with the demand for 50 miles. The fishermen genuinely believe that in the first 50 miles from our coasts there is sufficient fish to sustain a viable industry and that with sensible conservation arrangements such as time-scale limitations and the total closing of spawning areas they can themselves, as an industry, properly control the various stocks and prevent over-fishing.

They believe that a 50-mile zone is realistic in that it can be policed properly by the methods that I have mentioned and can achieve the aim of conservation. They do not believe that a 200-mile zone can be policed adequately. It will be very interesting in the months and years to come to see how effective the measures proposed in the Bill turn out to be.

My party welcomes the Bill, but we urge the Government and their advisers to get down immediately to the desperate need to work out a 50-mile zone for the exclusive use of our own fishermen and not to put too much time and effort into policing the outer 150 miles. This is a clear case of a bird in the hand being worth four or more in the bush, depending on how the formula is used.

I commend to the House especially the stowage of gear orders contained in the Bill. As much of the policing of the vast area of water contained in the 200-mile zone will of necessity be carried out by aircraft, it will obviously be very difficult for air crews. Here I take issue with the hon. Member who said that this would be an excellent way of training air crews. I hope that on each of the patrol aircraft there will be a man who is well qualified in fishing and fishery surveillance. It will be difficult for anyone in an aircraft to prove that someone is fishing and not just cleaning nets. But, if the failure to stow gear properly is itself an offence, the chances of detection and prosecution are greatly enhanced.

I hope that as a result of the passing of this Bill the Government will come to a fresh realisation of the difficulties involved in fishing. I warn the Minister that, if he does not procure a 50-mile exclusive zone for our fishermen, they will not abide by his decision. I know that the Minister has been left with very little muscle or, as the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) said, very little whip hand because of the failure of the Tories to secure reasonable terms for Britain in the common fisheries policy, which was cobbled up quickly just prior to our entry into the EEC.

The passage of this Bill creates a completely new situation and the EEC must be left in no doubt about our intentions. Just as farmers cannot go over the Channel with a team of combines to harvest French wheat on some of their wonderful plains, why should French fishermen be allowed freely to come into our 200-mile zone and help themselves to our fish?

There is no difference. The establishment of this zone gives Britain the herding rights to those fish which are contained in the zone. Although I recognise that fish cross median lines and wander about in the sea, nevertheless there is a clear pattern of the movement of fish stocks and there are times in the movement of stocks that we can legitimately claim them as our own.

It is important that the EEC should bear in mind also that an independent Scotland will refuse to recognise any limits which are less than 50 miles. That in itself should give the Secretary of State, some muscle. The EEC might as well concede the point now, otherwise we shall have long and difficult negotiations in days to come.

There is no issue on which the Scottish people are more united. We shall grudge other people our oil. We shall refuse to negotiate about our fish.

1.29 p.m.

Mr. Patrick Wall (Haltemprice)

Like other hon. Members on both sides of the House, I welcome the Bill. But, in common with my hon. Friend the Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith), I say that it is only one step and the first of many which are essential if the British fishing industry is to be saved.

The Bill illustrates the fact that it is the coastal State which has to enact and carry out legislation for a 200-mile economic zone. I presume that that is to some extent common between EEC members and to some extent agreed with them. But it raises grave difficulties in my mind about who is to be responsible, for example, for fixing the total allowable catch.

This is the key to the solution of this problem. Until we know the amount of fish which can be taken out of the sea, we cannot allocate it. Who decides on the allowable catch? Is it the EEC, or is it our own country? That is fundamental, and I shall return to it later.

I understand that there are within the 200-mile exclusive zone 5.3 million tons of fish to be caught each year. I also understand that Ireland and Holland catch nearly all their fish in this zone. France catches 80 per cent. of its fish in this zone, and Denmark and Belgium about 75 to 80 per cent. These are quite frightening figures. They were matched by the amount of fish which British trawlermen caught up to today in Icelandic waters and in Norwegian and Russian waters. Certain EEC members have claims on us, but we have lost equivalent fisheries for which we should be compensated.

I shall speak briefly on three main topics. These are the exclusive zone and whether it should be 12 or 50 miles, or between the two; the third party licensing; and the question of protection, to which a number of hon. Members have already referred.

What exclusive zone will British fishermen have within the 200-mile limit referred to in the Bill? Will it be 12 miles? I ask the Minister whether, under existing legislation and ideas the common fisheries policy is prepared to allow a completely exclusive 12-mile zone. Does that mean that the historic rights of certain EEC members in a six- to 12-mile zone will be phased out, and if so, will they be phased out now or in 1982 when the original exemption allowed by the EEC expires?

A larger exclusive zone is demanded by the fishing industry. Ministers will know that the industry has asked for a 100-mile exclusive zone and that the Government have said that this is nonsense and have concentrated on 50 miles. They then abandoned 50 miles and had a zig-zag line varying from 12 to 50 miles around our coast, which is almost impossible to police.

Because of these changes and the failure of the Government to back up the maximum exclusive zone demanded, which would have given them a negotiating position and some flexibility, their starting point is now 50 miles. That means that they have abandoned 50 per cent. of their flexibility. This is important because it means that the case for an exclusive zone beyond 12 miles is much more difficult to substantiate.

A number of hon. Members have said that this was the fault of the previous Conservative Government for taking us into the EEC. However, I would point out that at that time we were talking not about 200 miles but about 12 miles. The 200 miles came much later. Many hon. Members pressed the Labour Government before the referendum to ensure that the common fisheries policy was negotiated before we confirmed our entry into the Common Market. That was not done. I recognise that it was not easy, because there was not much time, but I believe that that is where the major fault lies. This is substantiated by a leading article in The Guardian today which says: Britain's position in Brussels has always been weak. In the first place, fishing limits were not among the items for renegotiation under the Wilson régime. It goes on to say: It remains true that the fishing industry was entitled to expect better from the country's negotiators and still is. I recognise that when the right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland) took over his brief at the Foreign Office he took over a difficult position. But he has not improved things in his short tenure of his post. I appreciate the wish of the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. Johnson) not to exacerbate the situation when Mr. Gundelach is negotiating with Iceland, but I must say that there has been a disastrous lack of Government policy.

Over the years, the effect of this lack of policy on our distant water fleet has been disastrous, and it may lead to demands for stopping any Icelandic fish imports into this country, and perhaps other even more serious actions. It is right that the House should know how strongly the fishing industry feels, and that, rightly or wrongly, the fishermen blame the Government. The trawlermen made this clear only yesterday.

Mr. James Johnson

I confirm that I used the word "exacerbate", but the hon. Member must not continue to exaggerate.

Mr. Wall

I disagree. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West should know the situation because the fishing docks are in his constituency. If he has not talked to trawler skippers and deck hands, he should do so, and then he will find how very angry they are. It is right that the House should know that the distant water fleet feels angry and that, rightly or wrongly, the trawlermen blame the Government for the present state of affairs.

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Anthony Crosland)

I speak constantly, as do the hon. Gentleman and my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. Johnson), to the representatives of the distant water fleet. I speak not only to trawler owners and skippers, but to representatives of the trawlermen. I hate to say this, but what they tell the hon. Member in private differs markedly from what they say in public on television.

Mr. Wall

What they tell me in private is pretty explosive, too. The Foreign Secretary still has the chance to do something, though. He has negotiations on 13th and 14th December and this will be his last chance to see that we have a proper exclusive zone. Unless he does that, it will be assumed and accepted in the EEC that we shall carry on the present position of a 12-mile limit, and this will be utterly disastrous to our industry.

Mr. John Silkin

I agree that that is highly desirable, but the hon. Member should understand that we are in the position of a demandeur in the Common Market and that it was his Government, after all, who gave us the position from which we are now attempting to move back. We have to get another eight countries to agree with us. Although the objective is desirable, the strength of Samson is not necessarily with us.

Mr. Wall

I agree with the leading article in The Guardian which says that the Government are in a weak position. However, I blame the Labour Government for that situation, as I have said already.

It has been said that the only effective action the Foreign Secretary can take is to use the vetoing powers. He cannot veto negatively in this particular exercise, but he can make himself so objectionable by vetoing other matters that he may get some leverage on this issue. That has been done by the French on many occasions with great success.

Mr. John Silkin

Can we keep to the point which the hon. Member made about timing? This question is a bit difficult.

Mr. Wall

I take the right hon. Gentleman's point but I hope that he will accept that if nothing is done and the present position is carried over into 1977, this country's situation will get worse.

I turn now to licensing and go back to the point I made earlier—that the total allowable catch within the new 200-mile limit must be defined. Will it be our country which defines it, or will it be the EEC as a whole? I understand that the United Nations Law of the Sea Conference took the line that a coastal State should define the catch, say how much its own ships could catch, and then subtract one total from the other in order to get the amount available for allocation to third parties.

This is the essence of what we are arguing about and nobody knows the answer. It is fundamental because one cannot start negotiations with third parties until one knows the amount that can be allocated to them. This underlines the importance of maintaining United Kingdom capacity, which has already decreased by 25 per cent. and will probably decrease even more rapidly over the next few months. Once we have decided upon the amount that can be allocated to third parties, presumably EEC countries —that would be acceptable—the remainder can be allocated to other countries such as the Soviet Union.

I understand that the Soviet Union is not prepared to deal with the EEC or recognise its legislation and that that is why we have this Bill. The Soviet Union will deal only with national legislation. This applies to licensing quotas to production as well as to limits.

I agree with what has already been said about licensing and quotas, from these Benches. The fishing industry is sick of catch quotas. It does not believe that such quotas work or will ever work and nor do I. One has only to look at the amount of fish marketed in Dieppe and Boulogne to see what I mean. The only effective quotas system is the one which has been adopted by the Icelandic Government against our vessels, which names a number of vessels permitted to fish an area. There should also be legislation to insist that vessels carry a recognition signal so that they can be recognised by patrolling aircraft and fishery protection vessels. That would save time and trouble and make policing more effective.

I suggest that two types of protection are needed. First, we need to protect the 200-mile limit, also the exclusive limit whatever it may be, and the conservation zone where—I hope—no vessels will be allowed to fish. That will require many protection vessels and aircraft.

Secondly, this must be a national responsibility. The Soviet Union would not recognise an EEC protection fleet, although perhaps the EEC might be able to give some financial help. We would need a White or Blue Ensign fleet. Our present protection force comprises four Nimrods, which are fine for aerial protection; five specially designed vessels, which are mentioned in the Bill; and four others, which are available for oil rig defence.

I do not want to labour the point, but these specially designed vessels cost more than £35 million, but are capable of only 16 knots and cannot carry helicopters. I do not say that they were a waste of money, but we have certainly not got the best for the money we have spent. These vessels are the policemen on the beat, but we shall also require faster, 25-knot vessels for a quick-reaction force. They must also be able to carry helicopters. Such vessels are essential, and I understand that the Secretary of State is considering the matter.

One continues as one begins. Therefore, if it is seen on 1st January that we are capable of policing the 200-mile zone introduced by the Bill, people will begin to respect it. If they find we cannot police it, things will go wrong and get worse.

A suggestion has arisen out of the meetings of an organisation called Greenwich Forum, which held a meeting in another place earlier this week. This country's maritime requirements range from oil rig and fishery protection to air-sea rescue and anti-pollution. There are no fewer than 11 Government Departments involved in controlling about 83 reasonably sized vessels—in addition to small river craft or police boats. We are wasting money and energy by dispersing these services in penny packets which are controlled by different Ministries. I know that this point is slightly wide of the Bill, but I hope that the Government will consider setting up some form of maritime authority to take over all these responsibilities and to use the 83 vessels and others under a central control. This is the only sensible answer.

It might take the form of an extended coastguard service or be under some other authority, but it must be manned by civilians, presumably flying the Blue Ensign, as does the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, and not come within the Ministry of Defence Vote. The cost of the American coastguard service is borne directly by the Treasury vote and not by the Defense Department.

Such a service would do a lot of good to improve the Government's present bad name in the fishing industry. The service would need more vessels and skilled personnel and some of the trawlermen who will be on the beach because of our dispute with Iceland, this Bill, and the failure to get a fully exclusive limit could be given jobs in this service. Such a service would serve the nation well.

1.47 p.m.

Mr. James Kilfedder (Down, North)

I hope that the other members of the EEC do not think that we are falling over ourselves to thank them for their decision to create a 200-mile fishery zone. I like to think that our Government would have created such a zone anyway. The EEC was doing only what it had to do.

The decision will not renew hope for our fishermen who have seen their industry contract while foreign vessels have, like sharks, scooped fish from the rich fishing grounds around our coast.

Some of our EEC partners and, I fear, some hon. Members seem to believe that a 12-mile zone is adequate for this country. I do not accept that. Our Common Market partners believe that if they clear Russia and the other marauders out of the British fishing zones, they can come in and get a bigger share of the spoils.

It is sad to think that there is less than a month to 1st January when the 200-mile EEC limit comes into effect. That does not allow much time to settle the common fisheries policy. I believe that we shall not get a policy which is acceptable to most fishermen and most hon. Members —particularly those representing Scotland —for some time. We should not accept anything less than a 50-mile exclusive zone. We need that if our fishing industry is to survive. It must be remembered that the men have been fishing in Icelandic water will be coming back to fish inshore.

More than any other EEC Member State, except Eire, the United Kingdom depends on its fishing industry not only for direct employment but for jobs in ancillary industries and, most important, for the provision of food for our people.

The Government must make it known that they will flatly reject equal access by other Community countries in a United Kingdom 50-mile zone. Unless we take a tough line, our fishing industry, which is already in an alarming state of decline, will contract further and the fishermen will be even more demoralised. They expect more from the Government. As I do.

It is no use saying that the Common Market will provide a policy of management and conservation. We cannot rely on the Common Market conserving our fish because it will be anxious to remove fish from our shores to take back to Common Market countries to turn into fish meal, or to sell in our ports at high prices to our housewives while our fishermen become unemployed in the harbours. We should not surrender our fishing grounds to EEC fishermen and the big industrial fishing corporations in the Common Market.

The Government have been in retreat in most negotiations with the Common Market ever since the Labour Party turned a somersault on joining the Common Market. The Government seem to be undecided about the future of the fishing industry. I may be wrong, but that is the impression I get. It is also the impression of some of the people engaged in the industry. As the fishing industry continues to contract, the housewife has to pay higher prices for her fish landed at our ports by foreign vessels fishing in traditional British fishing grounds.

The position of the Eire Government is in startling contrast with the attitude adopted and the bargaining position taken up by the British Government. I think that we should learn from them. It is rarely that I say in the House or anywhere else that we should learn anything from the Irish Republic, but in this instance it has shown some muscle. We shall not get anywhere with the Common Market unless we show muscle, unless we demonstrate that we are not afraid of it and that we are prepared to defy it.

It has appeared in the local Press that Eire intends to double its inshore fishing catch to more than 150,000 tons by the end of 1979 as well as substantially increasing employment in fishery undertakings. That is in contrast with the British position. The Government appear to be accepting a reduction in the number of those employed in the industry and in the amount of fish that is landed at the ports by British fishing vessels. We should adopt the attitude of the Eire Government in their negotiations with the Common Market.

I represent a fishing constituency with a fishing tradition that goes back for centuries. The fishermen from Portavogie and elsewhere battle to bring home fish for domestic use. They battle against the dangers of the sea, against rising costs and unsatisfactory prices that they obtain for their fish at the quayside. What do the Government intend to do to offer some comfort to these fishermen? Will they act decisively for an upsurge in the fishing industry in Northern Ireland, including North Down and the constituency of the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell)? Will they go for an upsurge that would substantially increase employment in that part of the country, which has the highest rate of unemployment in the country? I want a firm commitment from the Government that they will initiate a programme that will ensure a tremendous increase in the activities of the Ulster fishing industry within the next 15 years.

The fear has been expressed locally—I hope it is entirely without foundation —that the Isle of Man might close its coastal fishing ground, which has been the traditional ground for some Ulster fishermen. That is possible under Clause 11. Perhaps the Minister will give some reassurance that such action will not be taken by the Isle of Man and approved by the Government.

Northern Ireland fares very badly from the Common Market, worse than the rest of the United Kingdom. We were promised—I still keep the letter from Mr. George Thomson, the Commissioner for Regional Affairs—that the EEC would open a regional office in Belfast. The Common Market has reneged on that promise, despite the fact that other regions in the United Kingdom have an office. This is a matter of great annoyance to people in Northern Ireland. I ask the Government to protest about the lack of an office and to ascertain even now what can be done about opening an EEC office in Belfast. This attitude on the part of the EEC is consistent with its failure properly to help Northern Ireland, but that is going on to ground that I cannot cover in this debate.

I hold the Government partly to blame for the fact that at present Northern Ireland has no Member of this Parliament at the Strasbourg Parliament to push Northern Ireland's case. The result is that Northern Ireland has suffered in every possible way.

Mr. Michael Shaw (Scarborough)

I must make it clear that this matter was raised at the last meeting of the European Parliament. The leader of the Conservative delegation put on record, as did one of the members of the Labour Party delegation, that behind the scenes invitations had been made to Northern Ireland Members to take a place in the delegation. It was said that they would only have to say that they wanted a place and someone would be offered a place. However, for reasons that I do not know, the offer was not taken up. This all arose because an Irish Member of Parliament had claimed that Northern Ireland had been disenfranchised. It was made clear that that was not the case and that no fault could be directed towards the official Opposition or the Government.

Mr. Kilfedder

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I adopt his expression about Northern Ireland being disenfranchised, because that is the present position. The hon. Gentleman talks about statements that have been put on the record. It is not worth twopence putting a statement on the record in Common Market discussions if an offer is not made directly and publicly to Northern Ireland Members. I for one was not consulted. I was never told about such an offer. No matter what the Conservative or Labour Parties say at Strasbourg, Northern Ireland still does not have a Member of Parliament at Strasbourg to fight for his own part of the United Kingdom, and the remedy lies with the Government and the official Opposition. I say to the Labour and Conservative Parties that it is time for them to stop talking about what they would like to offer or have offered. It is up to them to take action forthwith.

The Eire Government have power in the Common Market. They have their own Members of Parliament at Strasbourg. They have been given a promise by the EEC that it will provide aid in policing the new Community fishing limits after 1st January. Has any such promise been made to the British Government? Have the Government managed to obtain a promise from the EEC that it will assist in policing the 200-mile zone, or our own exclusive zone? I hope that they will get some aid, bearing in mind that the British Isles will have around its coast three-quarters of the entire Common Market fishery zone. It is vital that proper protection measures be taken. That means that there should be an adequate number of protection vessels and a certain number of aircraft. I should like to think that the Common Market will provide financial aid so that British ships can be used.

I hope that the Government will place orders for fishery protection vessels with the Belfast shipyards and that orders will be placed for some aircraft with Short Brothers. Those firms are in an area that desperately needs help, and it will get help even if it is necessary for me to fight from here the whole way to Strasbourg.

2.0 p.m.

Mr. Walter Clegg (North Fylde)

1 assure the hon. Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder) that the solution to his problem of getting Northern Ireland representation at Strasbourg lies in the direct elections that are to come.

I join my hon. Friend the Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) in welcoming the Minister to our fisheries debates. Ever since I came into the House, every time I have risen to speak on Second Reading the Minister has been at the Dispatch Box. When I go to Committee upstairs I find the Minister there—"wheresoever he goest thither also do I go" apparently. We have had many battles in the past, and I dare say we shall have many more in the future, but the subject of fisheries is very much a bipartisan matter.

In an earlier intervention I criticised the absence of hon. Members from the Government Benches. If I did some injustice to those hon. Members for Humberside constituencies who are engaged on fisheries business elsewhere I withdraw my remarks, but what I cannot withdraw is my conviction that the attendance of Labour Back Benchers this morning is quite scandalous, because this issue must affect many people in their constituencies, from the consumer side if no other.

I shall for a few moments unashamedly make constituency points. The port of Fleetwood, as Christmas approaches, is seeing its trawlers come back from Icelandic grounds. People are apprehensive about whether these trawlers will put to sea again. There are about a dozen trawlers in Fleetwood employing about 18 men on each vessel, but for every 18 fishermen there are five jobs on shore at stake. That is the measure of our apprehension. That is the measure of the seriousness of the situation, and I shall heed the pleas of the right hon. Gentleman and my hon. Friend the Member for North Angus and Mearns not to say anything that will exacerbate the Icelandic situation, although I have almost to bite my tongue not to do so because of the deep feeling in this matter.

We are, rather uniquely, discussing documents from the EEC as well as the Bill during this debate, and I am not sure that it is well known outside what Mr. Gundelach's remit is in these renegotiations. I should like to quote it because it may be of some comfort to those in the industry. He said: Conversely, the Community expects other coastal States to take a similar co-operative attitude towards itself. If some of them accord the Community treatment which is less favourable than that accorded to other partners, or which implies too abrupt a change in the pattern of Community activities in the sector, such as would jeopardise the necessary tructural adjustments, the Community would be forced to reconsider its general relations, of an economic or commercial nature, with those countries. As 54 per cent. of Iceland's exports are to the Community, that is something that has to be borne in mind.

There has been much criticism of the Community, but it is my view that we stand much more chance of reaching a settlement on Iceland by using the Common Market to negotiate for us than we would on our own, particularly because of the bitterness that has arisen as a result of the three cod wars. Therefore, this is a useful role for the Common Market to play.

The question of Iceland has to be resolved as quickly as possible, as has the question of the 50-mile limit, because one of the problems that faces the whole industry in Fleetwood and elsewhere is knowing what sort of vessels will be required in future. The owners do not know what keels to lay down, and the fishermen do not know what sort of fish they will catch and in which areas they will catch them, and therefore the sooner these matters are resolved the better for everybody. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. Johnston) said that we should not over-exaggerate the situation. The situation is serious in Fleetwood, but I echo what he said. The port of Fleetwood has a future, and a fishing future at that, provided that the right measures are taken.

I now come to the question of the renegotiation of the CFP. I do not believe that it does any good to indulge in charge and countercharge of who was responsible for getting us into this situation. We are in the situation, and we have to make the best of it. I ask the Government to use every negotiating skill that they have to try to solve the problems.

The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) said that we had many cards to play, that there were more cards than perhaps the Government suspected, and he has a most unusual ally in this because The Guardian, which is not known to be friendly to my party, and certainly evinces little sympathy for the right hon. Gentleman, said: When the next controversial business comes up in which Britain"— this is an item about the fishing industry, headed "A patch of cruel sea"— and Ireland are solicited for votes the two countries should be quite as brazen as the French in defending a national interest", and there is no doubt that the fishing industry is a national interest.

I draw to the attention of the Government—although I should not have to do this because it is in their own document —Explanatory Memorandum on European Community Document R/2227/76. The Commission bases its proposal for an internal fisheries regime on three sets of proposals, two of which are the need for conservation, development and management of resources, and in particular the need to maintain the level of employment and income in coastal regions which are economically disadvantaged or largely dependent upon fishing. That could apply to many ports within the United Kingdom, certainly in Scotland, and I hope, too, in northern England, because later in the document at paragraph 7 the Commission says: They propose further that a Community reserve stock be established for each of the main species, the amount of which would be fixed annually on the basis of the vital needs of fishermen in the northern region of the United Kingdom and in Ireland and of the extent to which catches were reduced below their previous level. In the premises which the Commission is using it is possible to maintain an argument that we should have an exclusive zone, particularly for those ports whose livelihood is threatened, and that is what the Government should do.

There is another point which has not been touched on this morning but which comes out in the Commission's document. It is that the whole structure of fishing will change, and it will change whether or not there is a CFP. For example, the fish in our 200-mile zone are much more pelagic—this is, they cannot be used for fish and chips—rather than white fish, which are found in the areas of Iceland, Norway and others. We are going into a new situation, and it will mean a restructuring of our industry, and would have meant that anyway.

There is a reference in the Commission document to economic help being available to those ports that suffer because of the restructuring. We must bear that in mind and press the Government to press the EEC to get a policy going now. The impact may be immediate in some ports. It is not just long-term help but short-term help which is needed.

This matter will be a crucial test for the EEC, especially in the negotiations with Iceland. For the first time, the Community as a whole is negotiating for this country, for British fishermen. Its concern for British fishermen must be as great as the concern of the British Government because they are part and parcel of the Community. It will be a test of the Common Market's ability to act as one to maintain the rights of Community members.

Anything that we can do to make Mr. Gundelach's task easier and to support him in the negotiations could form a pattern for the future, proving that the Community can get a better deal for its constituent members than individual States negotiating individually.

2.11 p.m.

Mr. Michael Shaw (Scarborough)

I am glad to be able to follow the thoughtful and constructive speech of my hon. Friend the Member for North Fylde (Mr. Clegg). He touched on some fundamental problems and solutions.

Like everyone else, I welcomed the Bill and want to examine it in a wide context. The general feeling—I do not blame anyone for it—is that as a country we have been slow in moving in this direction. We naturally abide by the law as we see it, knowing that we should await the outcome of the Law of the Sea Conference. In the meantime, we have sought to sustain the law successfully, but we have not seen it universally followed.

It is now high time that we took firm decisions on our own, both as a member of the Community and as its most active fishing nation. As my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, North (Mr. Fletcher) said, there have been several recent debates on this subject in the European Parliament. Two of us from our delegation to the Parliament are here especially for this debate. We have done our best to see that this matter is taken seriously and kept before the Parliament. Our delegation has played a leading part in the discussions.

My one criticism of the attitude in the European Parliament—I do my best to counter-balance it—is that we too often make out that the Parliament is the body that makes decisions. It is not. The decision at the end of the day is made by the Council. It is just not realistic and could be harmful therefore to seek to be too judicial there. One has to espouse a cause. While taking as wide a picture as possible, one must remember that one is speaking for individual sections for whom one has responsibility, affection and care.

Therefore, in the European Parliament and in this House I should not seek to find the final answer. It is clear that a final answer suggested by others would fall somewhere between my own suggestion and an extreme that I did not like. That would be far from what I wanted. It is my task, like that of other hon. Members, to put forward the view of the fishing industry, to stress its needs and to fortify the Minister in his negotiations so that he can find no excuse for forgetting the industry's vital needs.

In other words, we must do our best to stiffen him. I hope that he does not need it, but if he does it is up to us to provide the stiffening mixture. That is where I fully agree with the hon. Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder) and my hon. Friend the Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith). We must insist that the Minister maintains his negotiating position on the 50-mile exclusive limit. This is a very important psychological factor. The Bill gives him the opportunity to do so.

Mr. Lardinois argued in the European Parliament that a 50-mile limit was not necessary since 50 per cent. of our fish came from within the 12-mile zone. In fact, probably 90 per cent. of our molluse and crustacean catch comes from within the 12-mile limit, but only about 20 per cent. of our haddock, cod, plaice and whiting. Therefore, the wider coastal belt is important to our industry. So he cannot say that we have virtually all we want in the belt that we have already.

From debates in the European Parliament one gets a feeling of how the debate is going within the Commission and the Council. Mr. Lardinois made another point about the difficulty of justifying extending our limit to 50 miles. At the last meeting of the European Parliament he said: As I said this afternoon, if you are pressing on this 50-mile concept, a situation could arise where third countries were following the United Nations' concept that they have the right to fish between 12 and 50 miles, while we in the Community are telling other Member States they cannot do it. That is an extreme interpretation of the view held by the United Nations.

Mr. Lardinois is taking up an extreme negotiating position and we should show our muscle and take up a position that fully maintains the interests of our inshore fishing fleets. I believe that we can find an arrangement whereby exclusive control can be extended and the difficulties envisaged by Mr. Lardinois avoided. He does not say that that situation would arise, only that it could arise. We must take care to avoid that situation, but I still believe that we can get an extension.

That is important also in another direction. We have shown that we are broadly in favour of trying out the licensing system as being the system most likely to be successful, possibly linked with a quota system. It is true that it offers the best way for the future but, whatever system is established, it must be able to secure the confidence and trust of the industry.

We cannot hoodwink the inshore fisherman. He knows the waters he fishes in like the back of his hand. He knows all about his fellow fishermen, whether from the United Kingdom or from countries bordering on the North Sea. There is nothing he does not know about all these matters. He knows how much fish is caught and what happens to it. Therefore, the protection of the implementation of the policy is vital and has to be seen to be effective.

Questions have been asked today about who would carry out this protection, and we know that the resources available to carry it out are inadequate. Mr. Lardinois said on that matter: The essential thing will be for the member countries to do it". He was referring to protection— not only for the first 50 miles but also for the 200 miles. If this policy is adopted, the protection we have to provide is not just for the 50-mile limit we claim but for the 200-mile limit.

In talking over the Irish position, Mr. Lardinois acknowledged that the Commission would try to help the Irish as much as it could. He said: This can be done also under a quota system, provided that there is very good policing of the whole of the sea. He refers there to the whole of the sea round Western Ireland. He went on to say: We know Ireland cannot do that, the United Kingdom can. I should like to know the Government's reaction to that suggestion. Incidentally, I should also like to know the Eirean Government's reaction to the suggestion that we should do the policing for them.

It is clear that the Commission envisages that we have to accept responsibility for policing our exclusive coastal zone, and the full 200-mile limit off our coast and also off the Irish coast. That is utterly unrealistic when we consider the resources at our disposal. If it means that the EEC will pay us considerable sums to build up fleets, man them and use them for protection, that will have to be spelt out much more clearly.

At the end of the debate, I hope that the Government will feel that it is expected of them to show a complete determination to protect the vital interests of fishing in this country.

2.26 p.m.

Sir John Gilmour (Fife, East)

We are all grateful for the contributions made by my hon. Friends the Members for Scarborough (Mr. Shaw) and Torbay (Sir F. Bennett), who both attend the European Parliament.

The Bill provides a vehicle by which we can do a great deal of good to the fishing industry. I differ slightly from the approach of some of my hon. Friends in wondering whether, in seeking to ensure that we achieve the 50-mile limit we require round our coast as an exclusive economic zone, it would be possible to achieve it between now and 1982 and not necessarily by 1st January 1978. It is possible that grounds which have been overfished in the past and are not being fished now can recover and, in the long run, be refished and provide resources for our Continental neighbours.

I particularly welcome the wording of Clause 3, which provides that licensing conditions may be imposed for the general purpose of regulating sea fishing and not only, as hitherto, to prevent overfishing. I hope that it will be possible under that clause to take action to restrict industrial fishing. The speedy restriction of industrial fishing in certain areas of the North Sea would do more to secure the livelihood of the inshore fishing industry than almost anything else.

If the Minister asks where the fish meal to feed pigs and so on is to come from, I suggest that he speaks to his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, and reads the section dealing with fisheries in the report of the Shackleton Committee on the Falkland Islands. On page 145 of that report and onwards it is stated that in the waters round the Falklands Islands there is a sustainable yield of blue whiting amounting to 1 million tons a year. We also have stocks of blue whiting off the Hebridean coast in our own Atlantic waters.

According to that report, USSR boats in the South Atlantic are catching 350,000 tons of industrial fish in six months. Krill can be caught there, and USSR boats have achieved a catching rate of 40 tons an hour. If we want to make sure that industrial fishing is available from other sources so as to liberate resources in the North Sea for human consumption, that would surely be a good thing to do.

I am pleased to see that anadromous species are included in Clause 8. If we are successful in achieving a 50-mile exclusive limit, I should like an assurance from the Minister that this would in no way inhibit us from insisting on complete control over the full 200 miles of the anadromous species. We should also negotiate arrangements about the fish which spawn in our rivers and go elsewhere so as to ensure their protection within the 200-mile limits of our neighbouring States. Without such protection, salmon stocks in our country could be endangered.

I should like further information about the licensing of fishing vessels. Has this any relevance to a suggestion made earlier this year that a Dutch interest would come into this country, build fishing boats and operate them out of ports on the West Coast of Scotland, build a fish meal factory and have foreign vessels operating into our ports? This, I hope, will not take place under the licensing of fishing vessels as indicated.

I do not think it necessary to repeat the pleas from every speaker in the debate about the necessity to ensure that there is a successful outcome to our Common Market fishery renegotiations. A successful outcome will bring back confidence to the industry, and this is essential, particularly to all the fishing ports in Scotland.

2.30 p.m.

Mr. Donald Stewart (Western Isles)

The proposal about the Dutch consortium mentioned by the hon. Member for Fife, East (Sir J. Gilmour) would have been objectionable to the fisher- men in my part of the world. Ostensibly the consortium was to fish for blue whiting, the vessels having been built in Dutch yards and crewed by Continental nationals. The fishermen in the Western Isles foresaw that, since the blue whiting harvest apparently lasts for only five months, it would then be said that the fishermen must be kept occupied and the reduction factories kept going, and that therefore these Dutch vessels must be allowed to go in for the ordinary commercial fishing enjoyed by all the other vessels.

I welcome the Bill. Naturally, all the coastal States were obliged to go to the 200-mile limit. I am glad that on this occasion, tardy though they have been, the Government have acted a lot faster than they did in the 1960s, when it was obvious that a 12-mile limit was to become common.

The extinction of the herring—which might not be very far off according to scientists—would be a loss that would never be replaced. All the oilfields that may be discovered could never make up for the loss of this food reserve, of the livelihoods of the people concerned, and so on. Unless all the nations involved do something about it, the herring may well disappear.

It was rather ominous that in his very far and succinct speech, the Secretary of State concentrated so much on conservation. We are all in favour of conservation. I know that Scottish fishermen are. In saying this I do not in any way imply that English fishermen are not. But Scottish fishermen have always been very strong on conservation, purely from self-interest. They have regarded fishing as an ongoing industry for themselves, their sons and future generations.

Although we are all in favour of conservation, it seems to me that this provision is laying the ground for the Government to come along at the end of the negotiations and say "We are very sorry, but we have not been able to get the 50-mile exclusive limit; however, we have come to some agreements on conservation". While any such agreements would be important, they would not take the place of proper fixed limits, and our fishermen are demanding a 50-mile limit.

I agree with hon. Members who said that quotas do not work. It is extremely difficult to ensure that they work. We are moving into the ridiculous situation in which it is suggested that, in the case of certain fish, 10 per cent. of next year's quota should now be taken. But who knows what the available stocks will be next year so that a 10 per cent. slice can be taken off the quota now?

The Government some day will have to create conservation areas which will be out of bounds for a number of years to all vessels, including our own, to allow the stocks to recover. I was told a few weeks ago about an area in Canada which had almost been fished out. The Canadian Government put a moratorium on all fishing for four years. Although fishing there is now closely controlled, by the end of that period the stocks had come back dramatically. I saw this on a small scale in part of my constituency in 1945.

We must have the 50-mile limit. I accept that the Government's hands are tied because of past events in the Common Market, so that no bargain at all was struck for our fishing, and I fully appreciate that it is very difficult now for the Government to negotiate on this. But there are two cards in the hands of the Government. First, the others have nothing to put into the pool. That should give the British Government a very strong stance Secondly, the French and Italian Governments in particular have often said that they are under no obligation, even in the EEC, to sell out their vital industries.

The Government, I suggest—they may very well be doing so—should take their stance on these two points. Otherwise we shall have a ridiculous situation in our fishing grounds, as envisaged by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell). Others will be clearing out our fishing grounds and all we shall be doing will be to pay the bill for keeping out other interlopers who might reduce EEC catches within our grounds.

We must have the 50-mile exclusive limit, and anything less than that will be regarded by our fishermen—I make this point in common with Members on the Government side—as a catastrophe and a betrayal.

2.37 p.m.

Mr. Douglas Hurd (Mid-Oxon)

We have had a useful debate in which many important points have been made. It is obviously difficult sometimes as has been pointed out by several speakers, for hon. Members to attend on a Friday, particularly when they have made engagements in their own constituencies or elsewhere.

It has been sad during long stretches of the morning and afternoon to see the Minister and the Whip sitting alone and disconsolate on the Government Front Bench. But on the Opposition side at least the practical difficulties have been overcome, and the contributions to the debate show once again that this is a subject of vital interest in this country. The recognition of this vital interest is important when we are dealing with a matter which also concerns our relationship with the EEC.

The discussions on the Bill fall under three main headings, and the Bill provides a framework for them all. The first is the importance to British fishermen of their traditional rights to fish in the waters of other countries. The second is the fishing within what, under the Bill will be British waters by countries which are not members of the EEC, but which either recently or historically have been fishing within 200 miles. Thirdly, there is the common fisheries policy itself and our negotiating objective of a 50-mile exclusive zone.

There has been much discussion about British deep-sea fishermen fishing off Ice-land, Norway or the Soviet Union. It has been a remarkably even-tempered debate, considering the intensity of the emotions and the importance of the interests involved.

There is general agreement that we have handed over to Commissioner Gundelach the debris of our own British policy on this subject—I am not making a party point, because it goes back over many years—and we have asked him to build a house out of that debris. No one has been disposed in the debate to criticise him for not having built that house as yet. We have all respected the plea of the Minister to exercise restraint.

There has been a difference of opinion about whether our interests are now in stronger hands and whether our bargaining position is stronger when the negotiations are conducted on behalf of the Community as a whole, or whether we should now be in a stronger position negotiating on a national basis.

There has been a conflict of opinion on this between the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), with his nostalgia for national negotiation, and my hon. Friend the Member for North Fylde (Mr. Clegg), who gave very practical evidence to the effect that the skippers and fishermen in his constituency are fairly clear that their interests are more likely to be better protected, in so far as that is possible, when negotiations are undertaken by the Commission on behalf of all members of the Community. I should have thought that it was the likely decision of practical people, whether they were interested in fishing in Icelandic waters, Norwegian waters or Soviet waters, that our prospects would be better if an agreement were negotiated on a European basis, for the simple reason that the Community as a whole has more chips on its side than any other country at the negotiating table.

Mr. Donald Stewart

But not more fish.

Mr. Hurd

This is precisely because the bargaining has to extend beyond and outside the central fishing areas into, for example, the trading advantages which Iceland expects from the Community as a whole. It is more probable that a negotiator on behalf of the Community as a whole would bring in more fish.

With the exception of the right hon. Member for Down, South, who made some comments which I did not understand about the pronunciation of Mr. Gundelach's name, there has been a general appreciation of what the Minister has been trying to do to see that an agreement goes through. The Commission goes through the usual musical chairs operation at the end of the month. Is there not a case for our suggesting to the new President of the Commission, the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Stechford (Mr. Jenkins), that it would be a mistake to take from Mr. Gundelach the responsibility for negotiations on fisheries with other countries, and to hand it to somebody untried?

I put this view forward tentatively because there may be other considerations. Trawlermen who have been discussing these matters with Commissioner Gundelach have been impressed by his grasp of the issues. It would perhaps be a mistake if we shifted him into some other responsibility just as the negotiations are coming to a head.

With the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Torbay (Sir F. Bennett) we moved into the second area, that is to say, the position of countries that are not members of the EEC but either recently or traditionally have been fishing within the 200 miles off our coasts. My hon. Friend made the point about the Soviet Union fishing off the South-West Coast. There is a slight question mark over how the Soviet Union will be dealt with here and I ask the Minister to explain. I raised this with the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs during his statement last week. However, the matter was not entirely cleared up.

The Soviet Union does not in general appear to recognise the Community as a valid negotiating partner in matters of this kind. Is the Commission negotiating with the Soviet Union, the other East European States and Cuba? I know that a mandate has been issued, but are discussions taking place? I do not think so. Will they take place or will it be the responsibility of the Government to negotiate on behalf of British interests vis-à-vis the Soviet Union and the other East European States? What kind of time limit do the Government foresee for these discussions?

That leads to the problems of enforcement and protection, which were raised by several of my hon. Friends and emphasised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Fraser), who has a well-known scepticism about the EEC. He made a valid European point, that if there is an agreed European policy on these matters there is a good European case for cost sharing in the enforcement of that policy.

Considering the pressures on our public spending at present, there is a strong case for saying that any agreement to take on such a big responsibility as to police the large areas involved—since we do not have the necessary resources under our control at present—should include a Community decision on the cost of enforcing that policy.

Mr. John Prescott (Kingston upon Hull, East)

I have just returned from Brussels where I have had an opportunity of discussing Community fishing proposals in the Agriculture and Fisheries Committee this morning. We dealt with the point of a policing agreement and there was talk about the equitable sharing of costs. Nearly 60 per cent. of EEC fishing is concentrated in the waters around Britain. There is an argument on grounds of equity for the rest of the Community countries to take a higher share of the cost than the one-ninth which might be expected from any proportionate formula.

Mr. Hurd

We would have been glad to hear more from the hon. Member in view of his experience in this area. He has made a valid point which his colleagues on the Front Bench should take up and process in the Council of Ministers.

Several of my hon. Friends have pointed out the inadequacy of the resources available, as spelt out in the memorandum to the Bill, for protection and policing. My hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) made a suggestion about the need for a unified or central control, and I hope that the Government will comment on this and perhaps follow it up. We need some assurances that there is an effective central control and understanding about where the resources are to be deployed to produce the best effect.

I leave the speech of the hon. Member for Banff (Mr. Watt) to the Secretary of State. That is probably the right course. I was in Scotland last weekend and people told me that the Scottish National Party was beginning to lose strength in the fishing ports. I did not quite understand why that should be so until I heard the speech of the hon. Member. The explanation began to appear. On this and, I suspect, on other matters the SNP is far too political for its own good. We are dealing with the interests and livelihoods of practical people who know a good deal about the subject and simple political coming and going does not impress them, whether they live in Banff, Moray and Nairn or any of the other fishing ports of Scotland.

The hon. Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder) complained with particular force about the lack of representation of Northern Ireland in the Euro- pean Parliament. He made a clear exposition of the case, which we have been deploying from these Benches for some time, for the influence of the European Parliament and the need for each part of the United Kingdom to be represented directly at the heart of the Community where that influence can be felt. This is the case for direct elections to the European Parliament. I merely rehearse that part of the hon. Gentleman's speech so that the right hon. Member for Down, South, who was not present to hear it, can take on board this support for direct elections for Northern Ireland.

The main impetus and thrust of the debate has been about the vital importance of the discussions now going on about the revision of the common fisheries policy and the 50-mile objective which the Government and we have accepted. My hon. Friends the Members for Fife, East (Sir J. Gilmour), Edinburgh, North (Mr. Fletcher), Scarborough (Mr. Shaw) and the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. Johnson) all in their different ways, with different practical illustrations, concentrated on this point. We can reasonably press the Secretary of State to be a little more specific in one or two aspects in connection with this. There is to be another meeting which may be attended by both the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Minister for Agriculture on 14th and 15th December.

What progress has been made so far on the point rightly emphasised by my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice—the agreement on the total allowable catch? It is hard to see how we start dividing something when we have not established the correct total. That is a cogent consideration. We all hope that decisive agreement can be reduced in principle at this meeting. As the Minister said earlier, there is a lot to clear up in the month that remains.

What will be the position within the 50 miles after 1st January 1977? The Minister made a cryptic but important remark about what would happen. There are two schools of thought and the arguments have been made in the House for a long time. There is the legalistic school of thought exemplified by the right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) who fleetingly appeared in the Chamber to make the same point today. That is tenable if one views the Community through all the legal documents and regulations related to it. But if it came to the point, the situation would not be like that.

The common fisheries policy was put together in circumstances which are different from those of today. It was foreseen that circumstances would change, which is why a revision was laid down for 1982. One could argue fairly that it should have been foreseen that circumstances would change faster than that and that the 1982 date was wrong. We are now at the end of 1976 and in a completely different situation from that which was envisaged when we entered the Community, or even from when the present Government decided not to renegotiate the common fisheries policy.

The way in which the Community works in practice makes it reasonable for the Government—and we would support them—to say that it would be wrong and impossible for them to accept temporary or permanent arrangements which would be damaging to our vital interests. How does the Secretary of State envisage the situation after 1st January if there is no major agreement in principle reached at the next meeting? That is not a debating point. Many people are waiting to hear an answer to that practical question.

We must proceed to work by agreement. That is essential if practical arrangements are to work. That is why I sympathised with the peroration of the right hon. Member for Down, South. As usual, he went to the heart of the question of our position in the Community. There was much truth in what he said about our bargaining strength, but it was in contradiction to what he said about our being a province of Europe. Provinces do not negotiate in that way. A province of France, for instance, does not bargain with Paris about policies. Precisely because there is no centralised Governernment in the Community, the Community works by bargaining among its partners. We have not spent enough time discussing our bargaining strength, what it consists of and how it can best be used.

I am worried about the revision of the common fisheries policy because in practice the Government have run down bargaining strength over the years. People must understand where we stand in Europe or false hopes can arise.

The Government have drained away our negotiating strength in two ways. The first is by using it for political purposes connected with the renegotiation. That opinion is often expressed by Europeans. Now we are confronted with the vital interest of an important industry and we find that the strength to defend that industry has gone to win votes and cheers in the House.

Secondly, we do not make the most of our bargaining strength within the EEC by shouting at it in hostile and bitter terms. France believes that the best way of protecting her national interests in this Community of bargaining partners is by standing up strongly for her national interests while also sympathising with, using the language of and working for the interests of the Community as a whole. That is not an easy balance to achieve. That is how one protects the national interest. It cannot be done by making harsh and hostile speeches such as those made by Ministers.

Mr. Prescott

Surely France adopted a similar posture when she got her own way in negotiations.

Mr. Hurd

Perhaps. But, in almost every one of those cases the French closed their bargaining in European terms. They might not have been logical, but they used a more subtle and effective means of achieving success than that used by some Ministers—not the present Minister. The present Prime Minister made a mistake when he was Foreign Secretary in talking about a separate seat at the energy conference. That rubbed off and affected the efforts of other Ministers in other spheres.

As the Opposition it is our job to support the Government's bargaining strength and to do our best to buttress and increase it. The speeches of my hon. Friends today have tended to help strengthen the Minister's arm when he is bargaining in Brussels.

We support the Bill just as we support the Government in their negotiating in Brussels. We hope that they will negotiate with an improved understanding of how to get the best out of the Community. I hope that the Secretary of State will now answer some of the practical questions that have been asked.

2.58 p.m.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Bruce Millan)

The Bill has been generally welcomed and I am grateful for that. It is important for the interests of the United Kingdom that we get this legislation on the statute book before Christmas so that we can operate the new limits from 1st January 1977.

I shall try to pick out as many of the points raised during the debate as I can. Rather less attention has been paid to the significance of the 200-mile limit than is justified by the Bill. Although that issue is not the whole story and many other important matters follow from the Bill, the 200-mile limit by itself is not enough. Most of the things that hon. Members asked the Government to do become possible only once we have the Bill and the legal status to exert our rights within the extended limit.

I think, therefore, that we should in no way write down the importance of the Bill, because it is of major importance in terms of fishing policy as a whole. In a situation where other countries, some of them with very important fishing resources, were extending their limits unilaterally in the absence of complete international agreement, it would have been derogatory to British interests if we had not done the same. But in doing so, we were also very anxious that we should take our Community partners along with us.

In getting the agreement of the Community as a whole, as we did on 30th October, to the taking of this step forward, British Ministers played a significant rôle in the negotiations within the Community. Our partners in the Community are to take similar action to get the new limits in operation. I am not able to guarantee that all of them will be able to do it by 1st January, but that is the general intention, and it is very important that we should do this from the point of view of British fishing interests.

I am grateful that we have not, in the debate, had a detailed discussion of the Icelandic position. It has been debated in the House on many occasions and perhaps we can return to it at some time in the future. It is important that we should say only a limited amount now about the Icelandic position. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary brought the House and the country up to date with his statement of 26th November, and yesterday, in answer to the hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall), he informed the House that Mr. Gundelach had agreed with the Icelandic Government that negotiations on the long-term fisheries agreement with the Community would begin in mid-December.

The Community, because of the way in which the decision was taken, and because what happened at the Luxembourg meeting, was left with very little time to get a satisfactory settlement of the Icelandic position before the temporary agreement ran out at the end of November. I confirm the view, widely expressed in the House, that Mr. Gundelach has acted with very considerable diligence and determination in the matter. He has, as hon. Members have said, great grasp of the issues and their importance not only to the Icelandic Government but to the British Government.

I repeat what my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said yesterday. Although we regret this interruption to fishing off Iceland, we hope that it will be brief and that we shall soon have a satisfactory and fair agreement with the Icelandic Government—fair both to our interests and to the interests of Iceland.

The aspect concerning third-country agreements has featured largely in the debate. First, I should clear up a point which I had thought had been made reasonably clear already. The negotiations going on now are negotiations by the Commission on behalf of the whole Community. They are not negotiations by individual national Governments. We see that process continuing. It was also part of the negotiating objective of the British Government at the meetings in, Luxembourg and The Hague to allow the Commission the mandates to carry out the negotiations with third countries.

Mr. Hurd

I understand that, but has the Soviet Union agreed to negotiate with the Commission on the matter?

Mr. Milan

If the hon. Gentleman will contain himself for a moment, I shall be referring to particular countries in that respect. First, however, I wish to make another general point which applies both to these negotiations and to the negotiations within the Community itself regarding the common fisheries policy. I refer to the question of enforcement. Several hon. Members have said that they are sceptical about the possibility of enforcement, founding that scepticism on our experience under the North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission, for example.

It is worth making the general point here that, when we come to an agreement about quotas, licensing and the rest within the Community, in relation to our Community partners, our position will be entirely different from our experience under the NEAFC or the other voluntary agreements. They were voluntary agreements, and in the last analysis one could not compel any country to enter into them or, for that matter, ensure that the agreements were properly enforced.

Once we have the common fisheries policy, however, along with the legal powers which we shall take under the Bill for the 200-mile limit, we shall be in an entirely different situation because both in our relationships with our Community partners and in our relationships with third countries we shall be dealing with legally enforceable agreements. I think that the significance of that may not have been entirely understood. There are several questions regarding practical implementation and so forth—I shall come to those later—but we shall be operating in an entirely different context.

There is a further general point to be made on the question of quotas and licensing, although this will apply also in relation to the common fisheries policy. In determining what the regime is to be, one must take a view about total allowable catches. I hope that, as hon. Members have asked, this will be done on a scientific basis and not merely on the basis of political negotiation, as has sometimes tended to happen hitherto. Then, within the total allowable catch, or the total effort which we believe the Community pond will bear, it will be necessary for individual quotas to be settled within the Community itself, and it will be necessary also for the Community to take a view regarding third countries in relation to the total fishing effort. That is the first part of the pro- cess, as it were, to take a view about total allowable catches—

Mr. Wall

I want this absolutely clear. Do I understand from the Secretary of State that it is the responsibility of the EEC to ascertain the total allowable catch and not that of the nation concerned?

Mr. Millan

In the common fisheries policy context, we shall be dealing with a policy under which we shall determine these totals within the EEC, with all the countries participating. There is no question of the Commission simply laying down figures which countries must accept.

To continue the general point I was making, I come to the next question. Having fixed figures, how does one determine whether those figures are adhered to, even if the agreement is reached?

Mr. Watt

Will the Secretary of State assure us that historic catches will not be taken into consideration when he is deciding what quotas will be given to each country, and that we shall not see the Danes given the highest quota because of the way they have been fishing industrially in the past and building up a huge tonnage for themselves?

Mr. Millan

Obviously, representing the British interest we shall be mindful of what we consider to have been excessive and irresponsible fishing in the past by a number of our Common Market partners. We shall certainly take that into account in the views we put in the negotiation of the CFP.

Having fixed what one thinks the quotas ought to be, doing it on the basis I have described, or at least taking a view of what the total effort might be, one then has to see that they can be effectively enforced. I agree with the general feeling of the House today that that is done most effectively by licensing individual vessels rather than by laying down tonnages and hoping that somehow the tonnages caught will correspond to the tonnages which have been agreed. So that, whether or not we start with quotas, it seems to me that both in terms of the common fisheries policy—the regime within the Community—and in terms of the agreements that we reach with third countries we ought to be placing emphasis on the licensing agreements if we are to be able to get satisfactory conclusions. So I do not rule out quotas and I do not rule out licensing. There may be a combination of both. But the intention at the end of the day is to ensure that whatever the agreement is, it will be enforced by a variety of means and that, in our view must include licensing.

Mr. Alexander Fletcher

Does the Secretary of State envisage that the licensing authority will be the member State itself and not the Commission?

Mr. Millan

In the case of third country agreements we shall do this in terms of the Community as a whole. But enforcement is a different matter. I shall be dealing with the number of vessels and so on in a moment, but enforcement will still be a national effort. Again if I sense the mood of the House, that is what the House wishes us to retain. We believe that these should be matters of national enforcement.

That raises the problem of the equitable sharing of costs. So far, we have been more concerned to maintain that this should be a national responsibility than to be involved in premature arguments about the sharing of the cost. But I take note of what hon. Members have said, and obviously this is a matter which can be taken up in the course of the negotiations.

Mr. Prescott

It is the same point that I raised before about the equitable sharing. Even if we got an exclusive limit, which seems extremely doubtful, and we got some other compromise up to, say, 50 miles with varying bands, there are areas between that and up to the 200 miles, bearing in mind the median line between two countries, in which we would still have to offer some kind of conservation measures and control. That still would not run counter to the argument about whether it is a compromise to get involved in the cost of conserving something against that of national control. There will be areas where we shall be doing that, as well as national control.

Mr. Millan

The national control about which I was talking extends to the whole 200 miles and not simply to the exclusive zones which ultimately are negotiated. My hon. Friend made the point earlier that if we were looking for the equitable sharing of costs, which is hypothetical at the moment, we would not necessarily look for the normal EEC budget contributions, because we are contributing more and intend to take more fish out of the EEC pond than would proportionally come to us on the basis of population or any other parameters on which Community contributions are fixed.

Our attitude in the third country negotiations and the attitude of the Commission will depend on the nations with which we are negotiating. With some of them we shall be looking for reciprocal arrangements because, although they can fish in our waters, we also have an interest in fishing in theirs. Obviously in such a case we are looking for reciprocal arrangements. There will be other cases, however, where nations are fishing in our waters at the moment and have nothing to offer by way of reciprocity. In those cases the attitude of the British Government is that we shall be talking about the phasing out of fishing within Community waters. I am talking, of course, about third countries at the moment. The kind of agreement that we shall reach with those countries will depend on whether we are talking about genuine reciprocal arrangements or simply about the phasing out of fishing.

I was asked about Norway and the Faroes. There have already been two rounds of talks between the EEC Commission and the Norwegians. Progress has been made and a further round of talks is planned for 16th and 17th December. Talks have been arranged with the Faroes for 10th December, and we are encouraging the Commission to give priority in these negotiations to the countries with which we are most anxious to get agreement quickly. I am confident that in most, perhaps all, these cases we shall get satisfactory agreements. However, these are unlikely to be permanent arrangements after 1st January 1977. There is no time for that. We are talking in terms of framework agreements which will provide the basic framework for more detailed negotiations about quotas, licensing and so on. On 1st January, if no interim arrangement or framework agreement is reached, we shall carry on as we are at the moment with those countries with which we intend to reach reciprocal arrangements, and with which there are negotiations in train.

There are other countries with which we intend to reach reciprocal arrangements but which are not able to afford us equivalent catches in their waters to those they are taking from ours. The Soviet Union is a conspicuous example of this. It is too early for me to give a precise answer on what agreements may be reached eventually on tonnages, but we are looking for significant reductions in effort by the Soviet Union in the Community pond. We hope that these reductions will occur as soon as possible after 1st January.

Of course, I cannot say that come 1st January the Russian trawlers will disappear and that their effort will immediately be reduced significantly to a level which will satisfy our fishermen. But the British Government's attitude on this is that we should like to see a significant reduction in effort as soon as possible after 1st January. This is the viewpoint which we have put to our Community partners.

I was asked whether the Russians had agreed to negotiate. Approaches have been made, but negotiations have not yet started. It is not for me to say what the attitude of the Soviet Union will be to the 200 mile limit, and whether it will recognise its legality. However, it has made arrangements with both the United States and Canada on the basis of a 200-mile limit, and I would hope and expect that we should be able to reach agreement with it as well.

I was asked what would happen if there were no agreement. That is a hypothetical question and I think it better that we should take this matter one stage at a time. Our experience in dealing with the Russian fishing fleet has been that it is quite co-operative. Normally it has observed limits and there have been no serious difficulties in the past. I hope that that kind of attitude will prevail in the future. The difficulty about the Russians at present is that we do not have a 200-mile limit; therefore they are not fishing illegally. They are legally entitled to fish in waters which we wish to retain as our national resource. When we have the legal power to enforce this, I hope that we shall have amicable discussions with the Russians.

The Bill provides for vastly increased fines. This is a considerable deterrent. If there is a derisory penalty in comparison with the gains to be secured from illegal fishing, human nature being what it is, fishermen in most countries will take a chance, but with significantly increased fines there is a considerable deterrent element involved.

However, the protection fleet must be able to do its job. We are entering into a new situation. No one should be dogmatic about the number of vessels required in the new situation. We have thought deeply about the number of vessels available now and those which are coming into operation and which are now on order. Taking the existing vessels and the new vessels together, with the assistance that we shall have from the Nimrod aircraft, we believe that we shall have an adequate fleet available to perform the protection task.

The figures in the Financial and Explanatory Memorandum do not cover the Royal Navy Fishery Protection Squadron, and to that extent they may be a little misleading. The figures in the Financial and Explanatory Memorandum deal with the extended limits. The present Fishery Protection Squadron, which is based on Rosyth, has an allocation of 11 ships at present which are directed towards the inland waters—specifically, the 12-mile zone. There are eight mine counter-measure vessels, one fast patrol boat, and two patrol craft. The experience of the inshore fleet is that the Fishery Protection Squadron does a good job of protection. The squadron is to be maintained.

As we gain more experience of policing the 200-mile limit we shall be looking at the amount of naval protection fleet and DAF and MAFF fleet that we devote to the work.

There are always other naval vessels available for particular situations. In a sense, any suitable naval vessel is available at any time for fishery protection work. So we are not complacent. The House should not assume that we have not considered this matter carefully. It was following that consideration that the additional orders for vessels were made and we believe that we have now a satisfactory fleet available or becoming available to us to do this essential protection work.

Finally, at the end of the day the internal régime in the Community is the most important issue. The decisions reached at Community level on the 200-mile limit and the agreement to which the Government of the United Kingdom subscribed at The Hague in common with other Community States do not in any way prejudice the United Kingdom Government's view on exclusive coastal zones. When we were discussing the 200-mile limit it was made clear, and accepted, that our views and those of other Community States were not in the least prejudiced by the agreement on the 200-mile limit.

On the zones themselves, our position is and has remained exactly the same as that which was made clear by the then Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs to the EEC Council of Foreign Ministers on 4th May, when we said that the United Kingdom requirement included a coastal belt nowhere less than 12 miles and out to 50 miles in areas of special fishery importance. We have not detracted in one particular from that statement.

We are entering these discussions with considerable determination because we accept and have proclaimed that what we are dealing with is of vital interest to the United Kingdom and especially to some regions. That is understood at Community level and the agreement reached at The Hague on 30th October stated The Council furthermore recognises that there are other regions in the Community, inter alia". There follows a reference to Greenland and the northern parts of the United Kingdom and Ireland. That takes in Scotland and enables us to include other parts of the United Kingdom, including the South-West— … where the local communities are particularly dependent upon fishing and the industries allied thereto. The Council therefore agrees that in applying the common fisheries policy, account should also be taken of the vital needs of these fishing communities. That paragraph was inserted after hard negotiations by British Ministers. We intend to see that our national needs are fully protected in the renegotiation of the CFP.

I have said that we are concerned with enforcement and a conservation régime. We shall be pressing for conservation and genuine and effective enforcement of conservation régimes. There is no difference in principle on this between us and the rest of the Community.

I understand the view of the industry that this is an important matter and that there is a precision about exclusive coastal zones. They are more definite than general conservation and enforcement measures. We have therefore made clear that we shall take a determined line on coastal zones.

The point has been made, at least in Scotland, that the Government are more interested in the deep-sea fishing industry—and that that was why we were more anxious about the Icelandic agreement—than in the inshore fishermen. That is absolutely untrue. The industry is not a single homogeneous industry. It is made up of different parts, and we have been determined to protect equally the interests of every part, whether deep sea, in relation to third country agreements, or inshore.

To whichever part of the industry a fisherman may belong, he is interested in the whole industry because, as a number of hon. Members have said, a diversion in the deep-sea fishing effort would bring about an increase in inshore fishing. The industry has to be regarded as a whole and we are determined to protect every part of it.

Mr. Kilfedder

Before the Minister sits down, will he give an assurance that the Government will make an announcement about the direct representation of Northern Ireland at Strasbourg next week? The hon. Member for Scarborough (Mr. Shaw) said that a fortnight ago Labour and Conservative Party delegates to the European Parliament said that Northern Ireland did not wish to be represented at Strasbourg. That is incorrect. I was not aware of these statements, nor were other hon. Members. Will the Government arrange for Northern Ireland to be democratically represented?

Mr. Millan

That is an argument that does not particularly concern me. I have taken note of what the hon. Gentleman says.

I was about to say—

Mr. Donald Stewart


Mr. Millan

The hon. Gentleman does not want to go as well, does he?

Mr. Donald Stewart

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman, who has given way to interventions on a number of occasions. The right hon. Gentleman was saying that the closing of certain distant water fisheries might bring the deep-sea men into the inshore grounds. I agree that that is possible, but in practice is he not aware that the size of the crews of the deep-sea vessels, especially from the Humber and Fleetwood, means that in a short time they would not get an economic return?

Mr. Millan

In my discussions with the inshore fishermen they were apprehensive about the effect that there would be on inshore fishing if there were a diversion of effort from deep-sea fishing. I know of some of the practical difficulties, such as the one that the hon. Gentleman has mentioned, but some can be overcome.

We are viewing the industry as a whole. In some senses there are different interests for the inshore fishermen and the deep-sea fishermen, but there is also a common interest within the industry in seeing that the Government protect the industry as a whole.

That is what the Bill is about, and I am glad that it has received a widespread welcome. I hope that in Committee there will be continuing support for the Bill. I hope that we shall get it through in time to produce a 200-mile limit by the beginning of next year.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Mr. Bates.]

Committee upon Monday next.