HC Deb 16 April 1981 vol 3 cc421-2
9. Mr. Strang

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will list the local fishing plans which are being considered by the Government; and if he will make a statement on his general policy on such plans.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

In the view of Her Majesty's Government a revised common fisheries policy should include fishing plans involving access restrictions outside the 12-mile limit at North Scotland and in the Irish Sea.

Mr. Strang

Does the Minister accept that local plans and real positive help for communities that depend on the fishing industry are vital to the settlement of a common fisheries policy? Harking back to earlier replies and answers given to my hon. Friend the Member for Waltham Forest (Mr. Deakins), will the Minister confirm that the Government intend to stand by their commitment to secure dominant preference for British fishermen in the 12 to 50-mile band round our shores?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I have made it clear that I believe that preference beyond 12 miles, to which the Government are committed, can be taken care of in our proposals for boxes. That approach has the support of the fishing industry.

Mr. Beith

Does the Minister realise that recent and planned conservation measures, which do not take sufficient account of the situation off the North-East coast, make any fishing ban impossible to operate? I refer in particular to the mesh sizes for whiting and shrimps and the lobster restrictions. The restrictions make it almost impossible to catch any fish at all.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

The hon. Gentleman is exaggerating. Fishermen become anxious when mesh sizes are increased, but the increases have taken place on the best scientific advice in order to conserve our fish stocks. If we are prepared to look to the future and not merely live in the present, we must adopt more effective conservation measures, and I believe that the majority of responsible fishermen accept that.

Mr. Mason

Is the Minister aware that on 23 March in The Times, in an interview with Hugh Clayton, he said that the Government's stance was very flexible and that it ruled out the desire of British fishermen for dominant preference in waters from 12 to 50 miles off the British coast? He shows one side of his face to fishermen, and the other side to the House. Is the hon. Gentleman misleading the House?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

Not in the least. I have been completely open with the House and with the fishing industry about the Government's objectives on fishing policy. The right hon. Gentleman's statement is simply sour grapes because the Government's approach is supported by the industry.

Forward to