HC Deb 13 October 1976 vol 917 cc403-5
2. Sir John Gilmour

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he is satisfied that progress has been made in renegotiation of the EEC fisheries policy which is satisfactory to the Scottish inshore fishing fleet.

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

It is premature to talk of satisfactory progress. The Commission's latest proposals have only recently been tabled, and substantive discussion on them with our EEC partners begins next week.

Sir J. Gilmour

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that, in view of the present economic situation and the need to produce as much food as we can ourselves, it is absolutely essential to have the widest possible fishing limits to preserve the Scottish inshore fishing industry?

Mr. Millan

I certainly agree that it is important that we should have an economic, effective and viable fishing industry in Scotland. That is what I intend to achieve.

Mr. Robert Hughes

For the avoidance of all doubt, will my right hon. Friend make it absolutely clear that the proposals being made by the Commission are totally unacceptable to the Government? Does he appreciate that as long as he pursues a policy of getting the maximum limits and catch potential for the British fishing fleet he will have our wholehearted support?

Mr. Millan

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his closing remarks. I have already made it clear that the Commission's proposals regarding limits are wholly unacceptable to the Government.

Mr. Grimond

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that if, as is sometimes alleged, the Government feel that they are in a weak bargaining position over fishing policy alone, they might broaden the negotiations to include trade and agriculture, where we have considerable bargaining power? Will the Secretary of State confirm that the Government are going into the negotiations with the firm intention that we must have a 50-mile limit?

Mr. Millan

The Government's position on limits was made clear on 4th May. I have nothing further to add to what was said then. We are aware that discussions about fishing must be related to the general context of EEC discussions and negotiations as a whole.

Mr. Henderson

Is the Secretary of State aware that since 4th May his Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Glasgow, Provan (Mr. Brown), said in Aberdeen on 3rd September that the United Kingdom had not a hope in hell of getting a 50-mile limit, and that this has caused considerable distress throughout the industry? Will he take this opportunity of publicly reprimanding his Under-Secretary of State for that absurd remark?

Mr. Millan

Certainly not. I have every confidence in my hon. Friend. The statement on 4th May did not call for a 50-mile limit all round the United Kingdom. It talked abouts limits up to 50 miles. That remains the position.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I welcome the Secretary of State's firmer line this afternoon in contrast to what was said in Aberdeen last month. I assure him of support as long as he takes a firm line on this important issue for Scotland. In view of the importance of this issue to Scotland, will he be taking part in the EEC negotiations next week on behalf of the Scottish fishing industry?

Mr. Millan

On the last point, yes. On the first point, I should listen rather more attentively to the hon. Gentleman if I did not have in mind the miserable record of the Conservative Government in the original negotiations.

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