HC Deb 10 November 1976 vol 919 cc393-6
5. Mr. Sproat

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the latest situation in the fishing industry.

8. Mr. Alexander Fletcher

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will now make a statement regarding the prospects for the Scottish fishing industry.

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

The market has continued to improve with the value of land- ings for the Scottish industry as a whole for the first nine months of 1976, at £60.4 million, some 43 per cent, above the comparable figure for 1975. Progress has been made in external aspects of the common fisheries policy, but there are still difficult and important issues in fisheries limits and conservation matters to be resolved.

Mr. Sproat

Is the Secretary of State aware of the great and growing concern, particularly in Aberdeen, regarding access to the Faroese ground after 1st January? What provision for negotiation with the Faroese through the EEC has he made or is he in process of making?

Mr. Millan

The first step is to get Community confidence established by the establishment of the 200-mile limit and then agreement by the members of the Community that the Community will carry out those negotiations.

The Faroese problem is being tackled by the Community now. In the programme of discussions and consultations that the Community hopes to put into operation before the end of the year, it hopes to have at least preliminary consultations on that as well as many other problems.

Mr. Grimond

Have the British Government obtained any undertaking, such as I understand the Irish Government have got, that if they agreed to 200 miles their special need for a 50-mile limit would be given every consideration by the Community?

Mr. Millan

The Irish Government's demands are for a limit up to 50 miles. In that respect the Irish Government are on the same footing as the British Government. There were references in the recent communique not only to the special problems of the Irish fishing industry, but, as the right hon. Gentleman will see if he looks at the complete text, to the special needs and interests of the northern regions of the United Kingdom, which include Scotland.

Mr. Buchan

Has my right hon. Friend noticed that the support given by the spokesman for the Scottish National Party, the hon. Member for Banff (Mr. Watt), to the proposition of broad bands of up to 50 miles contradicts the claim for a 100-mile limit made at the weekend?

Secondly, has my right hon. Friend any comment to make on the anger expressed by Scottish fishermen and their official spokesman regarding the attempt by the spokesman for the SNP to involve them in provocative and illegal actions?

Mr. Millan

I know that the hon. Member for Banff (Mr. Watt), who is the fisheries spokesman for the SNP, has made a lot of very silly statements recently which have been repudiated by the fishermen. I also know that, despite the fact that the SNP has been pretending to be in favour of a 100-mile limit, the hon. Member for Banff has within the last few days signed an appeal for limits of up to 50 miles, which is the objective of the British Government.

Mr. Fletcher

Will the Secretary of State give a clear undertaking that he is able to represent the Scottish fishing industry in the renegotiation of the common fisheries policy as effectively and energetically as the Irish fishing industry has been represented by its Government? Is he aware that these renegotiations are a critical test of the argument put forward by those of us who supported Britain in Europe in the referendum that Scotland's interests are better represented through Britain than through a separate Scottish representation?

Mr. Millan

The answer to both questions is an unequivocal " Yes ".

Mr. Watt

Does the House recognise that the Scottish National Party accepts a 50-mile limit under protest but that it reserves the right for an independent Scotland to seek to extend it to 100 miles? Regarding the outcome of the discussions on haddock quotas this week, does the right hon. Gentleman recognise that Scottish fishermen deeply resent the fact that they have to stop fishing for haddock while the boats of other nations are allowed to go on fishing for that species in our waters?

Mr. Millan

I think that the more the hon. Gentleman says about fishing, the better, because he contradicts himself with every successive statement. I am glad that the SNP is now in favour of a 50-mile limit. That is another instant change of policy.

We have had discussions with the industry within the last couple of days regarding haddock. I hope to be able to make an announcement soon. The House will know that the quotas were agreed with the industry and that we are under legal obligations on this matter. It is in our long-term interests to have conservation policies which stick and are effective. There is room for flexibility on the haddock and whiting quotas, for example. We intend to use that flexibility. We are also looking at other possibilities. I hope to make a statement with the next two to three days.

Forward to