HC Deb 09 November 1977 vol 938 cc664-6
37. Mrs. Winifred Ewing

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what initiatives he will take to ensure that Her Majesty's Government will secure reform of the common fisheries policy, in terms of policies and timing.

Mr. Judd

The Government are continuing to press energetically for an early and satisfactory revision of the common fisheries policy. We have made it clear that this is one of our major objectives in the Community.

Mrs. Ewing

I thank the Minister for agreeing that the matter is of extreme urgency. Will he tell the House what legal room he considers he has, under present arrangements, to declare a 50-mile unilateral limit for conservation purposes? Our fishermen hunt for fish for human consumption, not—as many do in the other member States—for industrial consumption, and are, therefore, better conservationists. Will not the hon. Gentleman also realise that these fishermen, who were pawns in terms of EEC entry, are now—and this is a very serious matter —pawns in the common fisheries negotiations with third countries, and that the 65 per cent—.

Mr. Speaker

Order. Question Time is a time not for argument but for questions.

Mr. Judd

I entirely agree with the hon. Lady that conservation must be a priority in any future policy. If agreement is not soon reached, stocks of fish may be damaged beyond repair.

Mr. James Johnson

Is my hon. Friend the Minister of State aware that in this Chamber a few days ago his colleague, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, stated that at the last Ministers' meeting he had been so incensed that he had stated that he might go it alone if he were forced to do so. Is that Her Majesty's Government's policy? Would my hon. Friend care to comment?

Mr. Judd

The Government's policy is to work for a sensible common fisheries policy. However, to be sensible and effective that policy must take account of the fact that approximately 60 per cent. of the stocks of fish available to the Community are in British waters. Furthermore, our fellow members of the Community must recognise the contribution that is being made by Britain towards the Community's needs. That is something that we are determined to see reflected in the outcome of the discussions about a policy.

Mr. Powell

Can we be sure of securing our objectives on this, or any other, vital matter if we have bound our hands in advance by declaring our membership of the Community to be permanent and unalterable?

Mr. Judd

The right hon. Gentleman knows better than most that no Parliament can bind any successor, but what we have repeatedly said is that we are now determined to work as hard and as effectively as we can, together with our colleagues in the Community, to make the best of the Community in the interests of our own people, as well as those of the people of the Community as a whole. The interests of Britain will be better served by getting on with that than by continuing to argue whether the decision in the referendum was right or wrong.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

Will the ban on herring fishing in most of the waters around our coast continue into 1978–79?

Mr. Judd

We are determined to take wheatever measures are necessary for conservation. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will be pursuing this point with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.