HC Deb 24 October 1979 vol 972 cc407-9
10. Mr. Donald Stewart

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he expects next to be present at a meeting of the EEC Council of Ministers.

Mr. Younger

My noble Friend the Minister of State attended the last Council of Agriculture Ministers on 15 and 16 October and I intend to be present at the next Council of Fisheries Ministers which will take place on 29 October.

Mr. Stewart

When the right hon. Gentleman meets the Council, will he draw its attention to the reports of landings of herring in Denmark and France, about which we heard in answer to an earlier question? Bearing in mind the permission for a 5 per cent. by-catch—even mackerel fishers can land 5 per cent. of herring—will he reconsider his decision to refuse permission for the one drift net fishing vessel still on the West coast of Scotland to proceed to catch a small quota by drift net fishing?

Mr. Younger

I have no doubt that some of the matters to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred are bound to be covered in formal or informal discussions which we shall have at the Council meeting.

As regards by-catches, we are watching the situation very carefully but there is no evidence of any excessive by-catches at present.

Mr. David Steel

How soon will the Secretary of State be able to pursue the question of seeking a change in the rules of the EEC regional fund to enable assistance to be given to those areas of Scotland which have been down-graded from development area status and which are as a consequence losing the aid which at present they are able to receive?

Mr. Younger

I appreciate the right hon. Gentleman's point. We are proceeding to discuss this matter with all concerned, but we have considerable time in which to do so. The changes in regional policy do not become fully effective for three years, and there will be a further review of the areas before that time. Therefore, there is time to get this matter straightened out.

Mr. Lang

Before my right hon. Friend attends the meeting to which he referred, will he and his colleagues undertake to lodge the strongest possible protest about the behaviour of the French Government in defying the order of the European Court regarding the import of foreign lamb? Will he also comment on the behaviour of British Socialist Members of the European Parliament who yesterday prevented a motion by a Conservative Member criticising the French Government from proceeding?

Mr. Younger

My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and I have lost no opportunity of making clear our views on how the French have been dealing with sheepmeat, and we shall no doubt take another opportunity to do so next week.

Mr. Maclennan

Will the Secretary of State seek to persuade the Commission to widen the ambit of its proposed £10 million special integrated development plan so that it is not purely for the benefit of the Western Isles but is of benefit to other parts of the mainland of Scotland which suffer from similar problems of distance from markets and sparsity of population?

Mr. Younger

This is one of a number of measures put forward by the Commission to improve agricultural structures. We are still considering the implications of the package as a whole for the United Kingdom, and that is one of the matters that we are bearing in mind.