HC Deb 11 February 1976 vol 905 cc426-7
5. Sir John Gilmour

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what has been the effect on landings of fish in Scottish ports as a result of the dispute with Iceland about fisheries limits.

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Hugh D. Brown)

The current dispute with Iceland has not had any significant effect upon fish landings at Scottish ports. Direct landings at Scottish ports from Iceland are relatively small, and changes in total landings are mainly due to seasonal factors.

Sir J. Gilmour

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that although the implications in the short term may not be great, the closing of Icelandic waters could have a catastrophic long-term effect on the Scottish fishing industry? Will the hon. Gentleman or his right hon. Friend convene a meeting with the Scottish fishing interests before the Law of the Sea Conference?

Mr. Brown

The use of the word "catastrophic" is an exaggeration. It is true that if any of the deep sea trawlers are forced out of their fishing areas there will be increasing pressure on inshore waters. It is our responsibility to look after the interests of the Scottish inshore fleet, and we shall do that. The Secretary of State is due to reply to a Question which appears later on the Order Paper and which deals with the other points raised by the hon. Member.

Mr. Watt

Can the Minister tell the the House how many Icelandic boats are operating within 50 miles of Shetland at the moment? Can he say how many thousands of tons of herring they are taking away, and at which ports that herring is being landed?

Mr. Brown

Not without notice. If the hon. Gentleman wants that information, he must table a Question.

Mr. Corrie

Who is likely to be in New York on 10th March to look after Scotland's fishing interests at the Law of the Sea Conference and to try to persuade people there that it is time that this country had a 200-mile limit to look after our fast diminishing stocks?

Mr. Brown

I agree that this is an important conference. The subject of representation is being discussed. It is a matter of keen interest to the Scottish industry. We shall be taking that fact into account in deciding the representation.

Mr. Welsh

Does the Minister accept that the Icelandic dispute is a relatively minor element among the problems presently facing the Scottish industry? Does he belive in the renegotiation of the common fisheries policy? If so, what steps is he taking to help bring about such a renegotiation?

Mr. Brown

This is a relatively minor problem in terms of catch. I wish that the SNP would give us backing for the general principle of adhering to international agreements. Our fleet is fishing in international waters. I wish that the SNP—purporting to speak for the people of Scotland—would back that line, which is the line we have been taking.