HC Deb 02 February 1977 vol 925 cc545-6
37. Mr. Henderson

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he expects the current negotiations on revising the common fisheries policy to be completed.

Dr. Owen

Since we intend to negotiate a substantial revision of the common fisheries policy and there is at present a clear division of opinion between member States, it is impossible to predict.

Mr. Henderson

Does the Minister realise that, although we all appreciate the efforts that he and his colleagues are making, his answer is not good enough for the fishing industry? Does he not agree that something could be done to remove the blockage by some of the EEC countries such as Denmark by allocating funds from the EEC Social Fund to help them over the necessary consequences of discontinuing the practice of destroying the herring stocks?

Dr. Owen

The hon. Member has raised a serious problem concerning the herring catch. We have made it clear that conservation measures for herring are urgently necessary and we have informed the Commission clearly of our proposals. We have said that if there is no agreement on some of the essential conservation measures we will have to take them unilaterally.

Mr. Robert Hughes

Since the review of the common fisheries policy has dragged on too long, will my right hon. Friend now set a time limit by which an agreement must be reached and state clearly that we will take action by ourselves if an agreement is not reached by that date?

Dr. Owen

We must face the fact that we are bound by the provisions of the Treaty of Accession. Of course, we can end negotiations at any time. One can act illegally and end up in the courts, but one can equally well give way in the negotiations and end up with an unsatisfactory settlement. We intend to do neither. We believe that it is possible so to revise the policy that it meets the main objectives of our fisheries industry.