HC Deb 13 March 1980 vol 980 cc1531-3
2. Mr. Torney

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many foreign trawlers have been arrested and their captains brought before British courts for infringing British fisheries regulations in 1979, as compared with British trawlers.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Alick Buchanan-Smith)

A total of eighteen skippers of foreign fishing vessels and 59 skippers of United Kingdom vessels have been prosecuted by United Kingdom Government Departments for infringements of United Kingdom fisheries regulations during 1979.

Mr. Torney

Will the hon. Gentleman inform me whether the arrest of French fishermen will be regarded as a provocative act by the French Government?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I sincerely hope that the French Government will not do so. The House must remember that the majority of French fishermen observe United Kingdom fishery regulations. Those fishermen who have not observed them have been prosecuted, and their cases are going through the courts of law.

Mr. John MacKay

Does the hon. Gentleman realise that the only way in which we shall stop blatant illegal fishing is by ensuring that the fines are substantially greater than the profits that arise from breaching the regulations?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

The question of fines is, of course, a matter for the courts. However, as the hon. Gentleman must have noticed, even in his constituency, some of those fines have been substantial.

Mr. Donald Stewart

Will the Minister state what monitoring is carried out by his Department or by, the Scottish Office regarding landings in foreign ports? Is there any check?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

Officers of our Departments do not physically check on what goes on in foreign ports, but we hold discussions, and have good arrangements, with the fisheries departments of other countries to make sure that the regulations are observed as well as possible throughout the Community.

Mr. Strang

Will the Minister accept that, before any disparities are pointed out and comparisons are drawn between foreign and British vessels, the nature of the offences should be taken into account, and also the fact that these are British waters, and, therefore, many more British vessels operate in them? Will the Minister of State accept that some of the fish that has been illegally caught by our EEC partners and not registered in EEC ports—there is documentary evidence of that—is being brought in as cheap fish, and that that is one of the reasons why his right hon. Friend is making a welcome statement this afternoon?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

What the hon. Gentleman says is based on allegations. It is an issue that we are discussing with Ministers in other EEC countries. As for the policing of regulations generally, it is significant that behind the number of convictions, about 1,800 boardings were made by United Kingdom fishery protection vessels in the course of the past year. That demonstrates great activity, to which I pay tribute.

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