HC Deb 06 May 1976 vol 910 cc1456-8
11. Mr. Gow

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, what organisations are available for the policing of fishing and catch quotas in the waters surrounding United Kingdom shores.

Mr. Bishop

The policing of fishing within United Kingdom fishery limits is carried out by the Fisheries Protection Squadron of the Royal Navy and off Scotland by fishery protection vessels of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland. Sea fisheries committees have a limited range of functions for inshore fishing off England and Wales. Outside our fishery limits, flag States enforce the conservation measures set by the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission in respect of their own nationals. Monitoring and enforcement of United Kingdom quotas is carried out by the fisheries departments.

Mr. Gow

Is the Minister aware that there is widespread evidence from our fishermen of both illegal tackle and unlawful fishing within our existing limits? What steps are the Government taking to make the policing arrangements more effective?

Mr. Bishop

I acknowledge the hon. Gentleman's concern about enforcement. I accept that there is general concern in many areas about its effectiveness. The hon. Gentleman may remember the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Defence when he announced that five new offshore vessels are under construction and that arrangements are being made for additional air surveillance to protect fisheries and oil rigs. We are confident that these measures, together with existing measures, will be adequate for the future.

Mr. Powell

Does the Minister recognise that all experience shows that only national control in an exclusive zone affords efficient policing of fishing methods and quotas? Will the hon. Gentleman see that this is borne in mind in future negotiations in the EEC?

Mr. Bishop

I think that the right hon. Gentleman will be aware that under the present arrangements the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission requires that national Governments carry out their obligations to manage the quotas to which they have agreed. If we have a quota system, which is very important for conservation, enforcement is important. I take on board the right hon. Gentleman's concern about the matter and we shall bear in mind his suggestion in our review of the common fisheries policy.

Mr. Buchan

Following that answer and the Question answered earlier by my right hon. Friend, how can we say that it will any longer be the responsibility of the national Government when the Conservative Party has already surrendered that to the common fisheries policy? Secondly, was my right hon. Friend correct in saying that there would be a 200-mile zone for Britain?

Mr. Peart

I said "economic zone".

Mr. Buchan

My right hon. Friend was correct in that, but with the assumption that somehow we should have greater control within that area for the benefit of our fishermen. That is not so, as I hope my hon. Friend agrees.

Mr. Bishop

I acknowledge the difficulties of reviewing the common fisheries policy in the light of the situation that we inherited. With regard to my hon. Friend's second point, as my right hon. Friend said today—he has said it on many previous occasions—it is the Gov- ernment's view that we should proceed to a 200-mile zone, by agreement. But within that area we must ensure that there is access to a catch that is sufficient to maintain a viable fishing industry.

Mr. Watt

If the dog's breakfast of a deal proposed by the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs is carried through, does the Minister realise the practical impossibility of policing a zone that varies from 12 to 50 miles around our shores?

Mr. Bishop

In any arrangements for sharing zones internationally, and for control of one's own waters, there are problems of enforcement. If he catches your eye, Mr. Speaker, the hon. Gentleman will be well advised to put some of these questions to my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, who, I understand, is to make a statement after Question Time.

Mr. Pym

Does the Minister accept that the only satisfactory form of policing will be by national countries looking after an adequately wide zone of their own waters? Does he also accept that, whether or not the Law of the Sea Conference officially decides on 200 miles, we are in a world of 200-mile limits? It is critically important, whatever the decision in New York, for the common fisheries policy to be renegotiated so that all the members of the Community know where they are.

Mr. Bishop

I appreciate the right hon. Gentleman's concern about this matter. We made clear in the common fisheries policy review that enforcement is a matter not only of Community responsibility but of national responsibility. That is very important.