HC Deb 09 December 1981 vol 14 cc877-921 4.12 pm
Mr. Bruce Millan (Glasgow, Craigton)

I beg to move, That this House reaffirms its commitment to a 12-mile exclusive limit, dominant preference in the 12- to 50-mile zone, effective conservation measures, and catch quotas for the United Kingdom which fully reflect the extent of fishing stocks in United Kingdom waters and the loss of fishing opportunities for the United Kingddom in third-country waters, as the essential requirements for the United Kingdom in any acceptable common fisheries policy. I am well aware, Mr. Speaker, that this is to be a short debate. I shall try to make a short speech, although there is a good deal of ground to cover. I hope that I shall be excused if I do not deal with some of the current issues that I know concern a number of hon. Members on both sides of the House.

The debate is especially well timed. We were hoping that there would be a settlement of this difficult and longstanding problem by the end of the year. We had hoped that there would be a settlement towards the end of last year, but those hopes were disappointed. The latest position, given the uncertainty following the Danish elections, does not hold out a great deal of hope that we shall get a satisfactory meeting and make progress before the end of the year. That being so, there must now be even greater worry and apprehension in the fishing industry than hitherto.

On 1 January we shall go over to a Belgian Presidency, which will be followed by a Danish Presidency. By the end of 1982 the full rigours of the common fisheries policy will come into effect. Unless there is some agreement before then there will be literally nothing to prevent other Community members from fishing right up to the beaches of the United Kingdom. Therefore, there is considerable worry in the industry.

When the Labour Government were in office they used to be told by Conservative members that if it were not for the obstructive and rather aggressive attitude of my right hon. Friend the Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin) they could have reached an agreement much earlier. We did not get an agreement, and I am glad that my right hon. Friend took a robust view of British interests. It is ironic that nearly three years after the Conservative Government came to power we are no nearer a satisfactory agreement. In fact as I shall show, the situation has deteriorated during the past three years.

I shall not go into the wider issues of Common Market membership, but there is no way in which the common fisheries policy, as it is presently interpreted, can be anything other than prejudicial to the United Kingdom. If we were not members of the Common Market and were able to decide our fishing policy for ourselves, we would be in an extremely happy position, given 200-mile limits. We are trying to get the best deal that we can in what is a fundamentally unsatisfactory situation, and one which will become more unsatisfactory as each month passes and we get nearer to the deadline at the end of 1982.

I am rather surprised that the Government have tabled an amendment. There is nothing in our motion that is anything more than a reaffirmation of commitments that were taken on by the Labour Government and fully supported by Conservative Members. There is nothing in our motion that will divide the House. We are all agreed about the 12-mile limit, dominant preference in the 12 to 50-mile zone, effective conservation measures and satisfactory catch quotas to reflect the contribution that we make to stocks in the North Sea and elsewhere.

Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)


Mr. Millan

No, 1 shall not give way. With respect to my hon. Friend and to Conservative Members, I hope that they will not seek to intervene too frequently. I shall try to make a short speech. It will help them and others if they are able to make their own contributions.

Is the meaning of the Government's amendment basically the same as that of the Opposition's motion? If it is., the amendment is completely unnecessary, but does it mean something different? When one considers the terms of the amendment carefully, one realises that it becomes clearer and clearer that it means something different and that it represents a considerable weakening of the position that has previously been taken by all the parties in this place on these negotiations. I think that it is unlikely that the Secretary of State for Scotland and his hon. Friend the Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food will be able to give the assurances that we require. Given the terms of the Government amendment and the likelihood that we shall not be given the assurances that we seek, we shall have to divide the House at the end of the debate.

Mr. Robert Hughes

Will my right hon. Friend emphasise that the major difference between the Government's amendment and the motion is that "dominant" is left out before "preference"?

Mr. Millan

I intended to deal with that issue and a number of others in the course of my speech. If my hon. Friend will be patient, I shall turn quickly to that matter.

I am pleased that the Government's amendment represents no weakening on the commitment to a 12-mile limit. I ask the Secretary of State to tell us the Government's position on historic rights. I understand that there are difficulties. Many historic rights have suddenly appeared, and most of us were not aware that they existed. Many of them have never been exercised. We want to hear from the Government that our commitment is genuinely to an exclusive limit. If there is any question of negotiations on that issue, they must take place only on the basis that historic rights will be phased out within a measurable period. There can be no going back on that.

On the 12 to 50-mile limit—

Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Down, South)

Before the right hon. Gentleman passes from the 12-mile limit, will he note the significant difference in the wording on that limit? The Government's amendment refers to a policy that must maintain the need to secure an exclusive … limit". It does not say that the policy is to secure it. It merely refers to maintaining the need for it.

Mr. Millan

The right hon. Gentleman has a good point. He is confirming what I have said. The more we consider the wording of the amendment, the more we become suspicious. The motion refers to a commitment to a 12-mile exclusive limit as part of an acceptable agreement. The right hon. Gentleman is suggesting that there may be an agreement that provides some hope that later we shall get an exclusive 12-mile limit. I think that there is a difference between the motion and the amendment, but if there is not the Secretary of State can clear up the issue.

There is no doubt that there is a considerable difference when we come to the 12 to 50-mile zone. The terms of the motion are very different from those of the amendment. The Government amendment specifically avoids mention of the 12 to 50-mile zone. The concept of the 12 to 50-mile zone is that within that overall zone, which will go right round the United Kingdom, the first choice of fishing opportunities and control of overall fishing opportunities will go to the United Kingdom. It is as simple as that.

That does not mean that in the whole of that zone there are equally desirable fishing opportunities. In some areas there are fish, while in others there are no fish in any quantity. Control over the whole of that 50-mile zone should be in United Kingdom hands, and where there are good fishing opportunities the United Kingdom should have first bite at them. I thought that there was agreement on that between the two sides of the House.

The wording of the amendment is considerably weaker than that. We know that the Government have been thinking about the concept of fishing boxes in which some kind of preferential arrangements would apply. For example, there would be a North of Scotland box, and one that would take in the Irish Sea. I find it rather difficult to understand exactly how the boxes are intended to operate. The concept of boxes is a substantial derogation from that of a 12 to 50-mile preferential zone. How will the box system operate? Will there be limitations on the size of vessels? Will there be licensing arrangements? Will there be preferential quotas for the different boxes? If there are preferential quotas, what will be the United Kingdom's share? Most important of all, what will be the arrangements for keeping out foreign vessels, or at least allowing them in only under the strict control of the United Kingdom? Unless we have answers to those questions, even the box concept is a considerable derogation from that of the 12 to 50-mile preferential zone.

The wording of the amendment goes much further than that and will weaken the Government's negotiating position because it appears that the preference outside 12 miles—which is not defined in geographical terms—is designed to protect particularly dependent fishing communities. What does that mean? I remember the discussions that I had with fishermen from Shetland who were anxious to have preferential arrangements for their fishing.

Within a satisfactory overall common fisheries settlement there is much to be said for the United Kingdom having, and taking, the opportunity to manage its stocks in a way that pays particular regard to dependent fishing communities. There is nothing wrong with that, but it is something to which we can come only when we have a satisfactory common fisheries policy. It is not a substitute for a satisfactory overall settlement.

Paying particular regard to dependent fishing communities might be all right for Shetland, but it will not be all right for other parts of Scotland where there are disagreements over their interests and those of Shetland fishermen. For example, many people from the North-East of Scotland have traditionally fished off Shetland, just as much as the Shetlanders have done. Such a scheme would also be of no use to fishermen from the North-East of England, the east coast of England or other areas of England.

I hope that the Secretary of State will not try to persuade those of us who represent specific Scottish interests that there can be some kind of settlement that will be satisfactory to the House if its provisions are acceptable to Shetland, but are not acceptable to the rest of the United Kingdom. What we want, and must have, is an agreement that protects the interests of all fishing communities in the United Kingdom.

If, having achieved a satisfactory settlement, we wish to manage our own stocks in a way that has regard to particular local communities, that is fair enough. We can decide how to do that under our own steam, but not as a part of or as a substitute for an effective common fisheries policy settlement. The wording of the amendment is therefore extremely dangerous and represents a considerable weakening of the Government's position.

I take it that the amendment means that, although the system of enforcement is Community-wide, the actual enforcement is under national control. If the right hon. Gentleman confirms that that is the meaning, we have no disagreement with it in principle, although some of us are highly dissatisfied with the practical working of it. Nevertheless, I do not believe that there is any difference in principle between ourselves and the Government on this.

On quotas, too, there is a weakening of the Government's position. The motion states that quotas should fully reflect the extent of fishing stocks in United Kingdom waters and the loss of fishing opportunities for the United Kingdom in third-country waters". Those words do not appear in the amendment. Interestingly enough on 26 November 1980 the Minister of State moved a motion on quotas which included precisely that matter.

I understood that when we talked about adequate quotas we meant quotas that took account of the considerable contribution that we make in terms of overall fishing stocks—about 60 per cent. of the total stocks available to the Community—and the fact that, more than any other country, we have lost fishing opportunities in third-country waters. The only reasonable conclusion to be drawn from the wording of the amendment is that, again, the Government have weakened their position on this essential matter. Quotas and access go together, and we must obtain satisfactory arrangements in both respects.

I hope that the Secretary of State will not cite the 36 per cent. allocation of the seven major species as being in any way satisfactory. That allocation, which is roughly what we are working on at present, is highly unsatisfactory. The industry does not accept it. It has agreed to work to it only because there is nothing else available, but there is considerable dissatisfaction about it. It in no way reflects the fishing opportunities that we provide or the losses that we have sustained in third-country waters.

Moreover, even at this late stage, we do not know what will be the position in 1982. It is not enough to obtain satisfactory quotas for one year. We need some permanence and certainty in the arrangements. If we start from an unsatisfactory figure, it should be the Government's objective not to maintain but to increase it. The Labour Government at one time put proposals to the Commission which would have had a ratcheting-up effect. Having started from a figure which we regarded as highly unsatisfactory, the quota allocations for subsequent years would have been made according to a built-in formula which would have increased our percentage of the total allowable catches as the years went by. At present, not only are the figures on which we are working unsatisfactory, but if there is to be anything like a satisfactory settlement there must be some certainty about the future. I believe that within the settlement we need an arrangement to increase our quotas as the years pass in order to come closer to what the House would regard as satisfactory quota arrangements.

As the situation stands, although the mackerel season in the South-West of England starts next month, we do not yet know what the quota arrangements will be. Nor do we know what the quota arrangements for mackerel will be next year for the west coast of Scotland. We also well remember the chaos which resulted from the Commissions's decision in the summer to open up the west coast herring fishery in a completely uncontrolled, objectionable way. To be fair to the Government, they eventually brought that under some kind of control. I am sure that the Government will not disagree when I say that the way in which the Commission behaved in that matter was not only objectionable but—I hope that I carry the Secretary of State with me on this—illegal. Yet, even in the light of that illegal action by the Commission we have seen no real sign of the challenge to the Commission that we expected from the Government.

Once the Commission begins to arrogate to itself decisions that ought to be made by Ministers, we are in a very dangerous area indeed. This is a warning for the future, because unless we get a satisfactory overall settlement soon our own national rights will be completely abrogated and we shall be at the mercy of the Commission and another eight nations whose interests are basically hostile to the interests of the United Kingdom. Indeed, as each month goes by without a satisfactory settlement, our negotiating position gets weaker because the deadline of the end of 1982 gets nearer.

I shall not go over the whole argument about restructuring. We welcome what has been done in the way of temporary aid to the fishing industry. That was needed, because at the end of 1979 there was a collapse in prices as well as a loss of fishing opportunities. Before that, increased prices had managed to shield parts of the industry from the full effect of the loss of fishing opportunities. Therefore, temporary aid was absolutely necessary; but it was only temporary aid. We still have no idea what the Government have in mind for the restructuring of the industry.

There was a time when talk about overall structuring might have weakened our negotiating position in Brussels, because it would have looked as if we had given up the ghost about some of these major issues and were concerned only with the restructuring of the industry. We are now getting perilously close to a situation where disastrous things could happen to the fishing industry, yet there are no proposals for the necessary restructuring. That will have to happen even if we achieve an acceptable settlement because of some of the developments relating to third country waters that are now absolutely irreversible within the context of the CFP.

We shall not achieve a settlement of the CFP by continually having meetings of fishery Ministers going through the details of individual quotas and so on. A real political will to reach a settlement is lacking. That must be generated by the United Kingdom, because it will not be generated elsewhere. Indeed, if the other Eight sit back and allow this situation to continue without a settlement, they will be in the happy position that, by the end of 1982, they will be able to fish up to our beaches. That political will must come from the United Kingdom. It will not come from fishery Ministers on their own.

We must make it clear to the other members of the Community that the absence of an acceptable CFP is a breaking point for the United Kingdom. It will create a crisis in the Community. It should be understood that a process of delay and dilatoriness on the part of the Eight will not lead to a complete collapse of will by the United Kingdom Government or the United Kingdom fishing industry.

I am sorry to say that there are signs in the weasel words of the amendment that we are seeing the beginning of a collapse of political will on the part of the Government. That is why we shall vote against the amendment tonight.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bernard Weatherill)

I remind the House that Mr. Speaker has selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister.

4.34 pm
The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. George Younger)

I beg to move, to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof: this House welcomes the progress achieved by Her Majesty's Government in the search for a satisfactory revised Common Fisheries Policy, particularly in relation to conservation and marketing; confirms that such a policy must maintain the need to secure an exclusive 12 mile limit, preference outside 12 miles to protect particularly dependent fishing communities, adequate quotas for the United Kingdom, effective conservation measures and a Community-wide system of enforcement as well as improvements in the marketing arrangements hitherto in force; and urges Her Majesty's Government vigorously to continue, in consultation with the fishing industry, the search for a solution on the outstanding issues". I was looking forward to hearing the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Millan) give us his views on the state of these negotiations. I was hoping that he would reaffirm one of the most important features that has characterised these negotiations since they originally started—that every delegation that has gone to negotiate a CFP at Brussels has gone with the firm declaration of the fullest possible support from all sides of the House of Commons.

Mr. Millan

Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will give way. I shall not interrupt him again. I agree with what he has said, but why did the Government table an amendment?

Mr. Younger

I am sorry that I gave way, because I shall deal with that point. The right hon. Gentleman has conspicuously not reaffirmed that support this time. Bearing in mind that we must advance the strongest possible case for British fishing industry interests in these negotiations, I hope that whoever replies for the Opposition will make it perfectly clear that they warmly support the Government in their efforts to negotiate a successful and acceptable deal, because anything less than that will be something with which we have not dealt before.

The right hon. Gentleman spent much time talking about the amendment. He was quite unnecessarily defensive about the motion. The fact that we have tabled an amendment means only that we have referred to a number of important issues vital to an acceptable fishing agreement for the British fishing industry that are not covered in the motion.

Mr. Robert Hughes


Mr. Younger

I am sorry. I must proceed with my speech because many hon. Members wish to take part in the debate.

The right hon. Gentleman would have been much better advised to have addressed himself to the issues rather than creating quite imaginary differences between the two sides. Our negotiating position remains the same as it has been all along.

The right hon. Gentleman made a great deal of play about the alleged difference in wording in respect of the 12-mile limit. I am sure that the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang) will back me up when I say that this is the same wording as that used by the hon. Gentleman when he said: and in particular, maintains the need to secure exclusive access within 12 miles".—[Official Report, 7 August 1980; Vol. 990, c. 889.] The right hon. Gentleman's point is therefore torpedoed by the fact that his hon. Friend used precisely the same words, and he did not accuse his hon. Friend of being any less committed to our aims as a result.

Sir Frederic Bennett (Torbay)

I do not see any sense in trying to settle completely the negotiating position of any Government. I took the same view when the Opposition were in office and supported their fishing policy. However, I seek an assurance that a 12-mile exclusive fishing zone for our fishermen is as sacrosanct to us as it is to Labour Members.

Mr. Younger

I entirely appreciate what my hon. Friend has said. I confirm that. I shall go into it in greater detail later in my speech.

The right hon. Member for Craigton also made a great deal of fuss about the absence of the words "dominant preference" in the amendment. That does not appear in the motion tabled by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East to which I have referred. Here again, I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman would accuse his hon. Friend of being any less committed to this matter. I really believe that the right hon. Gentleman has tried to make bricks without straw. There is really no difference between us.

The motion says nothing about enforcement or marketing, which is important. It is all very well for the right hon. Gentleman to talk about inserts or excerpts in or from the motion and the amendment. He went on at great length about permanency in these arrangements, but there is no mention of that in the motion. He talked a great deal about restructuring but there is nothing about that in his motion. Both the Government and the Opposition can table motions if they so wish and it is not profitable to nitpick over each of the motions to find differences that do not exist. The reason for the Government's amendment is clear—the Opposition's motion does not include the various important matters that are in the Government's amendment. For instance, there is no mention of consultation with the fishing industry, which we consider to be very important.

Mr. David Myles (Banff)

Consultations are most important. The fishing industry representatives are the ones who can decide and who know whether any agreement is acceptable.

Mr. Younger

My hon. Friend is right.

I do not see any legitimate way that the Opposition can vote against the Government's amendment. I hope that they will think hard before doing so because it is most important that the negotiations should proceed with the full backing of the House for the British negotiating position. If the Opposition were to vote against the Government's amendment, it would add nothing to the proceedings

Mr. Norman Buchan (Renfrewshire, West)

Is the right hon. Member saying that his amendment in relation to the limits is the same as our motion? If so, why is he not accepting the words of our motion? He can still do so by withdrawing his own amendment.

Mr. Younger

I shall not waste the time of the House by repeating what I have already said. I know that other hon. Members will wish to speak.

I welcome the opportunity given by the Opposition for reaffirming to the House the Government's determination to achieve a satisfactory settlement of the common fisheries policy that will meet the requirements of our fishing industry. We have made clear in previous debates that we attach great importance to the need for a settled fisheries policy that will enable the industry to plan properly for the future.

We have maintained the closest possible contact with the fishing industry's leaders at all times throughout the negotiations and have kept them fully informed of developments. I pay tribute to the helpful attitude that has been adopted throughout by the leaders of the industry. They could easily have been forgiven for losing their patience with these long drawn-out—and at times frustrating—negotiations. They have resisted any such temptation. My right hon. Friends and I have been grateful for their wise counsel and for the responsible way they have conducted themselves throughout a long and difficult period.

I should now like to review the progress in the negotiations, which are due to resume on Monday in Brussels. Even if progress generally has been disappointingly slow, some useful progress towards an agreed common fisheries policy has been made within the Community during the past two or three years.

It was fantastic to have to listen to the right hon. Member for Craigton saying that a political will was needed to achieve such a settlement. We took over negotiations in which no progress had been made for three or four years. What is more, of the entire Community, which was at that time nine nations, eight were ranged against the British. No agreement had been made—not even tentative agreements on any one of the headings before us. For the right hon. Gentleman, who was party to those negotiations, to tell me that the Conservative Government lack political will is to stretch credibility to its limits.

Towards the end of last year, agreement was reached on a comprehensive conservation regulation. This is largely based on the United Kingdom's own earlier measures and, although we have naturally continued to work to improve on it, it provides the basis for a lasting regime that will do much to preserve and improve the stocks that are vital for the future well-being of our industry. That was an aspect on which there had been no progress whatever when we took over.

Equally important are the steps that have been taken to enforce the conservation and other measures. Here, too, useful progress has been made. The Council of Ministers agreed, in October last year, on the text of a regulation to provide for a uniform control regime in the Community. All this is particularly welcome to us and to the British industry. As the House knows, United Kingdom Governments have repeatedly stressed the need for strong and effective conservation and enforcement measures. Our consistent advocacy of the case for this has been instrumental in persuading our Community partners to agree to it.

The regulation provides in particular for the maintaining of a log book and landings declarations to record catches. It is also proposed that the implementation of these and other measures by member States should be monitored by a small Commission inspectorate. The setting up of such an inspectorate is a matter in which the United Kingdom has taken a lead. I hope that this will ensure the more uniform application of such measures to the fishermen of all member States and allay the suspicions that some countries apply the rules less rigorously than others. This is essential if we are to create an atmosphere of trust. Discussions on the details of the proposals are continuing, and I hope that there will be an early conclusion on the remaining points. This is a second subject on which there had been no progress whatever and on which there is now virtually an agreement.

With regard to marketing, the Council of Ministers agreed in principle at its September meeting to a new basic marketing regulation to take the place of the present one, which dates from 1976. The United Kingdom played a major part in the prolonged and complex discussions that led to the revised regulation. Every hon. Member who was present at those meetings will agree at least on one thing, if nothing else, and that is the outstanding and skilful contribution made by my right hon. Friend as President. It was an outstanding example of successful working in the Community and was widely admired by everyone. My right hon. Friend was very much instrumental in having this important regulation agreed in principle by the Council.

The marketing document is a lengthy and complex one and it would be inappropriate for me to enumerate all the changes, but I should like to highlight one or two of the more notable differences, since the regulation contains several useful improvements in regard to our own industry.

Of great importance to us—following the impact of low priced imports on our markets in the early months of the year—is the new obligation placed on the Commission to react speedily to complaints from member States about imports from third countries coming into the Community below the reference price and disturbing the market. We welcome this as a significant tightening up of present procedures and, once the regulation is in force, we shall be prepared to use the new machinery wherever it seems to us that the third country imports are having a significantly adverse effect on our markets.

Mr. Austin Mitchell (Grimsby)

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Younger

I am sorry, but no one else will have the chance to speak if I go on for too long.

Other improvements include the addition of two species of importance to us—dogfish and ling—to the list of species covered by the withdrawal price system, and the addition of nephrops and crabs to the list of species eligible for private storage aid. There is also to be a deficiency payment scheme for salmon and lobsters and a carry-over premium to subsidise a limited amount of storage of fish when landings are heavy.

The next step is to prepare the detailed regulations required to implement the new regime. We are pressing the Commission to proceed with all speed on this work. That is a third issue on which there had been no sign of progress and on which we are now virtually at an agreement, apart from a few small details. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will at least acquit us of the charge of having gone through the negotiations without making progress, because it does not lie within his power to say that with any credibility.

Hon. Members will agree that the negotiations so far have made some progress. However, much remains to be done, and there are very difficult negotiations to be concluded on the major outstanding issues of quotas, access and structure.

The Commission's current proposals on the quotas and on total allowable catches are contained in documents 8695/81 and 8696/81 respectively. Any quota settlement will be a vital component of a satisfactory overall settlement of the common fisheries policy. It must reflect the special needs of our fishing fleet and its historic performance in the fisheries as well as its loss of opportunities in distant waters.

The suspicions of the right hon. Member for Craigton are wrong and the need for such provisions is included clearly in our negotiating position. The Government are at one with the fishing industry on that aspect and we shall not settle for less. It is important that the mix of species is right so that we are not getting an inadequate share of a species that is important to us and more than enough of a species of less importance.

We also want to make sure that we do not have to go through these complex negotiations each year. There must, therefore, be some acceptable form of staying power for quota shares so that our industry can plan ahead properly. That is in answer to another point raised by the right hon. Gentleman and on which I agree with him.

On access, we have made clear our need for a 12-mile exclusive zone and we shall continue working towards that end. However, as my right hon. Friends and I made clear on previous occasions in the House and to the industry, we may have to take account in the negotiations of some limited historic rights within 12 miles that are of importance to other member States.

In relation to preference beyond the exclusive zone, we are seeking arrangements that would be of benefit particularly to those coastal communities that are heavily dependent on fishing. That was particularly mentioned in the Hague agreement to which the previous Labour Government were a party.

The House will realise that that is a particularly difficult area of the negotiations since other member States regard our objectives as encroaching on their rights under the treaties. Nevertheless, we have consistently made it clear in the discussions that these are essential objectives and that unless satisfactory arrangements can be agreed, we could not regard any settlement as satisfactory.

A permanent structure policy is, of course, also a vital element in any CFP settlement. It is clearly essential that the future United Kingdom fleet should be able to exploit effectively and economically the share of the stocks that will be available to it. The question of structure is, therefore, linked with those of access and, in particular, quotas. For that reason it would be wrong to decide on a structural policy in advance of a satisfactory allocation of quotas agreed by everyone.

There has, however, been much detailed discussion on the broad principles of a Community structure policy. The Commission proposal now under consideration envisages substantial expenditure on this over a period of three to four years. Rather more than half of that would be devoted to providing assistance for the construction and modernisation of vessels. Another important element is the provision of assistance for the permanent scrapping of older vessels. We attach great importance to those two essential prongs of our strategy to ensure that our fleet will in future comprise modern and efficient vessels and that the Community fleet as a whole should be restructured to a size consistent with the fishing opportunites available to it.

Important as the negotiations on the common fisheries policy are, there are, nevertheless, other important issues affecting the industry. The right hon. Gentleman spoke in passing of the economic difficulties that it has gone through and I should like to refer to them. I should have thought that both sides of the House would agree that the Government have given ample proof of their awareness of the difficulties that have been, and still are, facing the industry. Last year, at a time of extraordinary financial difficulty for all sorts of expenditure in Britain—I do not need to remind the House of that now—special aid of more than £17 million was made available and this year we have pumped a further £25 million of aid into the fishing fleet under the fishing vessel temporary support scheme.

By any standard, that is a significant level of assistance, particularly when compared with the total value of the catch of United Kingdom fishing vessels of about £222 million in 1980. I am certain that the leaders of the industry appreciate the support that it has had from the Government over the past two years. I am glad that we were able to do that at a time of great difficulty for the fishing industry.

As the House is aware, negotiations have been taking place in recent weeks on the Commission's proposals for guide prices for fish which were originally set out in document 10710/81. I am well aware of the importance that the industry attaches to the outcome of the negotiations. I am grateful for an opportunity to hear the House's views and to make the Government's position clear. We have consistently said that the Community's institutional prices are too low and should be increased to more realistic levels. The Commission's proposals are, therefore, very disappointing and we have been pressing vigorously for larger increases. I must tell the House, however, that there has been strong opposition from the Commission and most other member States to going further than the Commission has so far proposed. Nevertheless, we have been pressing for the largest increases that we can secure for the species that are important to us.

Changes in the Community's institutional prices alone are not, of course, the whole answer. Of equal importance is an orderly and efficient distribution and marketing system. It is vital that improvements are made in this area in order to make the industry more competitive, in relation not only to foreign supplies, but to producers of other protein foods. I have been particularly encouraged by the positive response to the report on the marketing of fish that was drawn up recently by the three advisers appointed by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. The industry can do a great deal to help itself in that regard and the marketing advisers have pointed the way.

Indeed, from my own frequent contacts with the industry, it is clear that the necessary goodwill exists among the various sectors of the industry to co-operate in seeking a larger share of the market. The recently appointed Sea Fish Industry Authority, which I welcome and wish well, has an important catalytic role to play and is well placed to take it on, given the breadth of experience of its members.

Finally, if I may return to the main theme of the debate, the House can be assured that the Government will continue with all vigour to seek an early settlement of the outstanding issues in the negotiations, but while an early settlement is important to the industry in many ways it would not want us to settle at any cost. We will, therefore, accept a settlement only if it is fair and reflects its legitimate needs. The negotiations will continue to be very difficult, I am sure, but I believe that the measure of agreement already achieved has created a new impetus within the Community to reach a final settlement. I do not think that recent delays have affected the basic impetus and will to conclude the negotiations and I am hopeful that there will be further useful progress at the next Council or soon thereafter.

Meanwhile, my colleagues and I have taken the opportunity in bilateral discussions with the Commission and other member States to reiterate the United Kingdom's position and I am confident that that has helped towards a better understanding of the equity of our case.

The Government attach great importance to the fishing industry on which so many communities round our coast depend. We have stood resolutely by the industry during the most difficult time it has faced over the past few years. We shall fight for it in the negotiations with a determination to get the fair settlement that it feels that it can accept. We have no intention of letting the industry down.

4.58 pm
Mr. Donald Stewart (Western Isles)

The House should not be unduly influenced by the claim of the Secretary of State for Scotland that what the Government have achieved so far has the enthusiastic backing of the fishing industry leaders, because some fishermen are keeping pressure on their leaders not to agree with anything that might be a sell-out of their interests.

We have heard suggestions that there have been advances behind the scenes, but to most hon. Members the situation appears to be exactly the same as it was in 1971. There have been assurances that we are getting somewhere, but now time is beginning to run out. The terms of the motion before the House are the absolute minimum that will be acceptable to the Scottish fishing industry. The present situation is totally unacceptable. If any further delay occurs in the negotiations, the Government should fall back—they should have done so before now—on the treaty terms that allow countries to opt out on the basis of overriding national interest. There has been ample justification for the Government to take such a course, on the basis that they were taking up their legal option of the 200-mile limit.

I was sorry to hear the reference of the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Millan) to the Shetland plan and his view that the arrangements that would provide a good settlement in this respect might not benefit United Kingdom fishing as a whole. I was relieved that the Secretary of State for Scotland, in an interview some months ago, indicated that the Government had no objection to separate plans for the Orkneys, the Shetlands, the Western Isles and Clyde fishing, and that he believed that the Common Market had no objection in principle to those plans. I hope that those plans will be borne in mind for the benefit of fishermen in these areas that are principally composed of fishing communities.

Mr. Millan

Does not the right hon. Gentleman understand that the Commission has no objection because it is seen as a sell-out of the British position, with everything being abandoned for something that would be suitable for the Shetlands but nowhere else?

Mr. Stewart

I take that point and I hope that the negotiators on behalf of the British fishing industry will bear it in mind. There should be, and I think that there can be, a settlement that takes into account the necessities of the areas that I have mentioned which are largely dependent on the fishing industry.

Legislation should have been introduced to deal with the appalling scandal of pollution of large areas of the Minch and Cornwall by the dumping of fish. The protection fleet should ensure that this does not happen. I do not know the ill effects on prawns and other sea-bottom feeders when the bottom over a large area of the Minches is fouled. It is, however, affecting fresh fish catches, which have been contaminated by the rotten fish lying on the bottom.

The Secretary of State made an ominous remark about rationalising the size of the fleet. It seemed to me to indicate a rundown in the size of the fleet.

I should like to refer to conservation. The Government should be working with the Common Market to ensure that something is done about the method of fishing by purse-seining. In a world of shrinking stocks, it is high time that Governments, not only our own, examined this method of fishing and ensured that fishing was confined to people earning a living and not to those who have become wealthy by the method of purse-seining.

The need for an early solution to the problem is shown by the case of the two German trawlers which were fishing illegally in the Minches in July with the connivance or at least approval of the West German Government. The fine imposed does not augur well for the chances of a fair deal in the negotiations. There has been gross over-fishing of the quotas. This is known. The Government may say that they would like to receive evidence. The fact is well known. There have been films on television. This has happened not only in our waters but in Norwegian waters. It has reached the stage where Norway may demand that the EEC countries should not be allocated a quota in 1982—an example that the Government should follow. Even allowing for quotas, the question arises of how they will be enforced. What has happened in the past gives no confidence that quotas will be adhered to.

The Government amendment shows a weakening of the basic requirements for anything that would be considered even remotely satisfactory. On the occasion of the Prime Minister's clawing-back of a section of the contribution that we make to the Common Market, a communiquéwas issued which implied that fishing had been abandoned as a separate issue on which the Government were dealing with the EEC. I have been convinced all along that no policy acceptable—

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

Has not the right hon. Gentleman heard the Prime Minister and other Ministers make it clear on a number of occasions that the question of fishing is to be settled on its own merits? Will he once and for all recognise that and not simply act on his own suppositions?

Mr. Stewart

The statement to which I refer has never been repudiated by the Government. I am, however, willing to accept the right hon. Gentleman's assurance. I shall bear it in mind.

I have been convinced all along that no policy acceptable to the EEC countries, our so-called partners, will give our fishermen the deal that they deserve. Our position appears to be one of scaling down our demands. The Government may hope that the long negotiations will make everyone fed up and that they will settle for anything to finish them. The other countries of the EEC can afford to wait. We are close to 1982. Fishing was not taken into account when we entered the Common Market. The other countries needed only to keep their powder dry for 10 years and the issue would fall into their laps. That would appear to be the outcome of the negotiations.

I am pessimistic about the Government's ability to do anything about this situation. There is no reason, however why the motion should not have been accepted. This leads me to believe that the rights of the fishing industry are being scaled down in the negotiations.

5.7 pm

Sir Patrick Wall (Haltemprice)

The right hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart) will appreciate that the Government amendment is expressed in wider terms than the Opposition motion, and is, therefore, better suited to the industry. Hon. Members will agree that access and quotas are linked. The industry initially asked for a 50-mile exclusive zone and a 200-mile preferential limit. When proper negotiations began the demand was for a 12-mile exclusive zone and a 50-mile preferential limit. The previous Labour Government produced a zig-zag scheme. No one really knew how it would work. Now, however, there is broad agreement that we want, if possible, a 12-mile exclusive zone and a good preference in the 50-mile zone.

Why, therefore, is the debate taking place? I suggest that the answer can he found in the editorial of Fishing News of 27 November, which says: The warning issued by the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations to the Government, emphasising the need to stand firm on a 12-mile exclusive limit as part of a Common Fisheries Policy is more than just a protest. It is the first sign that the industry is breaking away from a pact it made with fisheries minister Peter Walker in Brussels, last December. I believe that the Opposition have seized on this to try to divert attention from their own political difficulties. I agree that the inshore fishermen should have an exclusive 12-mile limit. Our historic rights have been removed from Iceland and Norway and many other parts of the world. Why should we be the only sufferers? I should, however, like to refer to an apt quotation from "Fish Trader" of 5 December. Mr. Leadley, chairman of the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations, is quoted as saying: UK vessels have been forced out of other countries' waters, and now our inshore grounds are threatened—there is nowhere else left to go except the beaches! That is the whole point. If we do not get a settlement by the end of 1982, we do go to the beaches. Time is not on our side. We have, therefore, to compromise. Although we should go 100 per cent. for our exclusive fishing limit, it may be the case that a certain latitude must be left for some of the foreigners in the EEC if we are to get agreement. The choice may be clear—an exclusive limit with a small number of historical limits or no settlement at all. The industry will have to make the choice.

I wish to turn to the question of total allowable catches. Last year's proposals set before the council gave us about 36 per cent. of the seven species and 30 per cent. of all fish. I agree that that is not enough, but I understand that even that amount has been held up by the Danes. Obviously, their general election created difficulties for the negotiating team.

I want to quote the EEC TAC for 1981 in percentages. For the seven species, it was proposed that the United Kingdom should be given 36 per cent. and Denmark 24.1 per cent. For the other species, the United Kingdom was to have 8.6 per cent. and Denmark 31.5 per cent. Of herring, the figure for the United Kingdom was 30.4 per cent. and for Denmark 27.7 per cent. For industrial fishing, the figure for the United Kingdom was 11–7 per cent. and for Denmark 71.9 per cent. All those figures are in cod equivalents.

I accept that it is not true arithmetic to add up all the percentages and compare one with the other, but it would give us some comparison. If one does that, this country gets 86.7 and the Danes get 155–2, yet the Danes are holding up agreement because they are not getting enough cod equivalent. I hope that the Minister will deal firmly with the Danes. I assume that the problem now is that they will take some time in forming a Government because the proportional representation system makes it difficult to form Governments. I hope that the Minister will be as firm as he can, because we must have a greater cod equivalent quota than has been suggested.

There is no mention of marketing in the Opposition motion. Considerable progress has been made, largely due to the efforts of the United Kingdom—for example, in seeing that quicker methods for reference prices are observed by third countries, in revision of tariff arrangements for herring, the encouragement of producer organisations, and extension to other species of fish for producer support. All those improvements have taken place since this Government came to power, and in my opinion they are largely due to the efforts of this Government.

However, I understand that the EEC proposals for guide prices for 1982 are likely to increase them by only up to 6 per cent. My right hon. Friend will know that this affects both withdrawal prices and reference prices. The industry made it quite clear that it needs an increase of 20 per cent. to 50 per cent. The British Fishing Federation was firm on an increase of 50 per cent. I realise that it is not in the Minister's power to effect these matters, but I hope that he will do everything possible to ensure that withdrawal prices are considerably increased. That would stimulate the rise in first-hand prices, which are essential for the future of the industry. However, they are needed early in the year. The British fishing industry wants increased prices in January and February. Most of the European countries do no need them until the summer, and might try to delay the whole procedure. Moreover, too much fish has come into this market below the official withdrawal prices. The Minister set up an inquiry into this matter, but as he mentioned that in his speech, I shall not dwell on it.

The new Seafish Industry Authority is increasing its levy by about 50 per cent. It is difficult to swallow that increase in our present economic circumstances, but I accept that it is right. It is double the levy that the White Fish Authority imposed in the past. The WFA has gone, but I want to pay tribute to its late chairman, Mr. Meek, who did a great deal for the fishing industry. I think it will be agreed that the WFA's research, training and overseas consultancies were particularly successful.

Conservation regulations and control have been greatly improved—again, thanks to the work of this Government. Great progress has been made. However, licensing and identification of ships at sea are vital, and progress is necessary is this connection. It is vital to be able to distinguish trawlers from the air, and their numbers should be painted so that they are visible from the air.

Inspection at ports is even more important. The EEC has agreed to a certain number of inspectors, but I doubt whether there are enough of them.

Finally, I want to say a word about the distant water fleet. In Hull, it is now down to single numbers, and it has almost disappeared. It is kept going by mackerel fisheries, and as I am sure my right hon. Friend will realise, it is the only thing that is keeping the remains of the distant water fleet going. I understand that my right hon. Friend's powers to license offshore factory ships—Klondikers—has not yet been used, and I hope that he will tell us whether he intends to use those powers.

I remind the House that time is not on our side. December 1982 is not far away. I doubt whether we shall get 100 per cent. of what we want. Industry must make up its mind for or against. I am sure that the Government have already made considerable progress, having already increased the total allowable catch on two or possibly three occasions. I am sure that they will get the best possible result, with a near-exclusive 12-mile limit, and with the best possible preference up to 50 miles. I have every confidence that they will obtain the best possible results for the industry.

5.16 pm
Mr. James Johnson (Kingston upon Hull, West)

I begin by expressing my amazement at the Minister's outburst when he rose to speak. I wonder what skippers and deckhands who are at sea catching fish think about a Minister who indulges in such semantic squabbles.

I see little difference between the motion and the amendment to it. However, there is one significant omission from the amendment about third party agreements. I ask Conservative Members to scan the amendment. Those hon. Members who represent Humberside, Fleetwood, Peterhead, Aberdeen and Lowestoft will say that there is nothing in the amendment for them. Ten years ago Hull landed 224,000 tonnes of fish. Now it is not landing any fish, and the amendment envisages no possibility of the Government negotiating third party agreements for a share of fish similar to the quantity we caught in the past.

Sir Patrick Wall

Does the hon. Member agree that the main reason for that is the high prices charged by the docks board in Hull compared with other ports?

Mr. Johnson

The hon. Gentleman's interjection is trivial and beside the point. We are to be sacrificed, and I want to say a few words about that.

Whether our motion is a minuet and the amendment is a waltz is of little importance, because there is not much difference between them. Basically they are the same. Conservative Members want a settlement, because they work and speak on behalf of fishermen in their own constituencies, particularly north of the Tweed, just as we on these Benches speak for miners in England. Of course, there are also miners in Scotland and Lanark. I cannot believe that Conservative Members wish to sell out the inshore men. Hence the 12-mile limit—or, indeed, up to 50 miles.

For years, Ministers and Back Benchers from both parties have almost boasted that we are elected to be the salvation of those in the fishing industry. That has been true ever since the Fleck committee in the early 1960s. What has upset the apple barrel, or rather the fish barrel, is this. Since joining the EEC we have been waiting for Godot. However, no Godot has turned up, and now it is too late. There is little more than 12 months left before the inevitable.

I have listened to fishermen in my constituency and I believe that the industry is facing disaster. The cash outflow is cruel to those fishermen who have incurred bank loans. The industry is bleeding and has a major haemorrhage. Yet the Secretary of State spoke blandly and the word "compromise" was used. Our job is not to compromise, but to fight and to do the best that we can for our people. I do not wish to cry wolf too often, but I say that all boats longer than 80 ft. will disappear from the ports that I have mentioned unless the Government do something immediately.

The outlook is grim, but the industry is not at fault. Indeed, it is the innocent victim of events. We are a member of the EEC, yet the Community has been unable to devise an enforceable policy. That is the top and bottom of it. Hull skippers tell me that we may well see the demise of our ports by Easter. The Government claim that they are doing the best that they can in the Fisheries Council and that they are seizing every chance of reaching an agreement. What are our chances? I understand that on 2 January there will be a Belgian chairman to succeed the British chairman. After that the Danes will take over the chair on 1 July. Neither the Danes nor the Belgians are enthusiastic about giving us what we want. It is an even bet whether the French are better or worse under Mitterrand. Fishermen in the French fishing ports vote Socialist, but are determined to safeguard their corner. Therefore, Mitterrand will pay attention to those votes. It would seem that we have less chance as a result of the French elections.

We must take unilateral action about 12-mile limits and the 12 to 50-mile limit. If we are taken to the court at The Hague, we must fight. With some temerity, I suggest that the Minister must ensure that if we are taken to The Hague we have the Commission behind us. However, the Commission's blessing will take some getting. Our partners, whether Belgian, Danish or French, sit tight while time flies past. Can the Government stave off the seemingly inevitable? Is the Minister at fault? I do not think so. He is a helpless victim of events.

The deplorable state of earnings on the quayside is evident to all. The men are losing money. They have loans and mortgages that they must pay for. I forecast that when there is a check on the balance sheet—perhaps on 2 January—their agents will tell them just how much they owe the bank. They will then be in an awful financial mess. The Government must think now—never mind boasting about the £27 million or £47 million that they have given—about giving those men as much help as possible in the new year.

5.24 pm
Sir Walter Clegg (North Fylde)

It is always interesting to speak after the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. Johnson). This time, he began by complaining about semantics. I hope that I shall not indulge in semantics, because, like the hon. Gentleman, I believe that they are profitless.

My right hon. Friend knows the situation in Fleetwood well, because last week, at the drop of a hat, he received a delegation from Fleetwood. My right hon. Friend has consulted the industry to an extent that I have not seen reflected in any of the other industries in my constituency. Ministers are available at all times. Most importantly, representatives of the industry were able to accompany Ministers to Brussels and to stand alongside them as they tried to reach an agreement. I know that that consultation will continue.

The pattern of Government policy has been to reach a satisfactory agreement for the industry. If the industry is satisfied, the House will be satisfied, but if the industry is dissatisfied, the House will be equally dissatisfied. Long may that policy continue. The situation in Fleetwood reflects many of the problems mentioned in the motion and the amendment.

The pattern on the fleet has changed. Restructuring has already begun. Since being turfed out of Icelandic waters, the size of our inshore fleet has grown substantially and it now lands about 50 per cent. of the total catch landed at Fleetwood. However, we still have an efficient and modern middle-sea fleet. Its size has diminished, but it is still an effective fishing force.

We want the negotiations to produce a 12-mile limit to protect the inshore men. At the same time, it must protect other waters that our middle-sea fleet can fish. Fleetwood cannot survive without both categories of fishermen, particularly in winter when the weather is rough and inshore men cannot go out. Therefore, we need the middle-sea fleet and the catch that it can land. I am worried that some United Kingdom fisherman may wish to keep out the bigger vessels. That would unbalance the nation's fishing effort. That is what worries me about a box, particularly one to the north of Scotland. Some inshore waters may need protection. For example, my inshore fishermen would like a restriction on the size of vessel fishing the northern part of the Irish sea. They would like beamers banned. In addition, purse seiners are devastating fish-catching methods.

The Government must try to achieve a settlement that fulfils the ambitions of the inshore and middle-water fishermen. I can speak only for Fleetwood, although my points may apply to other ports. In the past three years there has been a struggle to maintain the port's landing facilities and infrastructure. We welcome the money that the Government have injected into the fishing industry. Without such money, we clearly would not have survived. Today, the port is capable of handling fish efficiently.

I think that my right hon. Friend got the message from the delegation that he saw last week. However, in the near future help may have to be given directly not to the catching side of the industry but to the fleets' bases. I hope that the Minister will not close his mind to that aspect.

The debate is short, but I have tried to explain the problems that face Fleetwood. When the Government go to Brussels, they will do their best to achieve a settlement. However, I agree with the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West. I do not know what will happen when the Danes and the Belgians are in the chair. It is now 11.30 pm and midnight falls at the end of next year. In the coming year there must be a settlement. We must make clear to the Common Market that, if we do not get a fair settlement, we shall bring the Community to a screeching halt.

5.30 pm
Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)

I came to the debate with the intention not of criticising or attacking the Government, but of strengthening their resolve to stand firm on the issues raised by their own amendment and the Labour Party's motion. However, I must tell the Secretary of State and the Minister that I was quite amazed that they saw any necessity to table an amendment to the offical Opposition motion. The motion covers points that the Government have hitherto accepted.

The Secretary of State said that he believed that some points should be added. There are very few. Had he felt strongly, he needed only to table an amendment adding the items to it. He did not need to table an amendment to leave out everything in the motion and to replace it with a lengthier formula which, by its very length, gives rise to suspicion. If it takes almost twice as long to say the same thing, one inevitably suspects that there is a weakening in the position.

Several hon. Members, including the right hon. Members for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Millan), and the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) in an intervention, pointed to specific differences between the amendment and the motion. I ask the Minister, and the Secretary of State who is now with us, on what grounds can they possibly vote against the words of the original motion? When we vote it will be to decide whether the original words stand part of the question—in other words, whether the official Opposition's motion becomes part of the record of the House. I ask the Minister to search his heart and to tell the House how he or any of his right hon. and hon. Friends can possibly vote against those words, especially as he argued in his speech—and I accept the sincerity with which he argued—that his amendment was not intended to detract in any way from the Government's commitment to those principles?

Mr. James Johnson

Unless, perish the thought, having missed out on third party agreement, the Government are happy to see the death of Hull, Fleetwood, Peterhead and Aberdeen. Without the access to those waters that they once had, those towns will no longer be able to sustain their fleets.

Mr. Beith

I want to be brief, but, before turning to my main point, I reiterate my question to the Minister: can he, in all conscience, argue that his right hon. and hon. Friends should vote against the words in the motion? It would be to the disadvantage of the united front that we have genuinely tried to maintain in all fishing debates if Ministers found any necessity to do so. Unless they make some extensive disclaimer, a vote against the motion could reasonably be taken outside the House to be a sign that the Government disagree with the words of the motion.

It is not too late for the Minister to decide that he need not vote against the motion at all. I invite Ministers in all seriousness to consider that course of action, because, from what they have said from the Dispatch Box, they do not disagree with the content of the motion. Let them demonstrate that agreement by not voting against it. The future of the fishing industry is at stake. If Ministers show a determination to abide by conditions that they have accepted in the past and say that they do not wish to vote against the motion, they will do a service to the House.

If Ministers do not relent, I invite their right hon. and hon. Friends to read the Opposition motion and ask themselves how they can possibly vote against a single word of it.

I turn to the issue to which I wish to devote my speech. Many other issues have been raised. I agree that they are important, but I wish to concentrate on one aspect which needs emphasis at this stage of the negotiations. I refer to the 12-mile limit. It is the essential home ground of our inshore fishermen. They are worried for obvious reasons. They are worried because of the danger to the limited stocks within the 12 miles. They are worried because it is within the 12 miles that fixed gear men operate. Fishermen using lobster and crab pots will be severely affected if there is a major incursion of foreign vessels manned by crews who are not familiar with where the gear is situated.

The inshore fishing industry sees the 12-mile limit, in the words of secretary of the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations as "our bottom line". It is not the bottom line; it is the sea wall. The 12-mile limit is the barest minimum demand which could be made, and it has been made again and again. I plead with the Government to be firm with that demand in negotiations.

I have put the key question about historic rights to the Government on many occasions. Historic rights claims are being made by other countries, but many of the claims are spurious. I ask Ministers not to accept such claims at face value. I have been worried about the issue since I questioned the Minister about the Government's attempts to assess the validity of historic rights claims. I asked the Minister: whether he has any evidence that fishing vessels from any European Economic Community country have ever fished for herring within 12 miles of the Northumberland coast."—[Official Report, 20 March 1981; Vol. 1, c. 203.] The right hon. Gentleman said that under the 1964 London convention vessels from the Netherlands and the Federal Republic of Germany were entitled to fish for herring off north-east England and had fished there between January 1953 and December 1962. All the evidence that I have is that the fishing that took place between 1953 and 1962 was 16 or 17 miles off the coast. The Department has not yet found any evidence to the contrary.

In the reply the Minister also referred to the treaty of accession and the six-mile to 12-mile area that was given away at the time that the treaty was made. I hope that the Minister stands by the assumption that the six to 12-mile give-away was one of the unacceptable features of the treaty which it is the object of the negotiations to change. It is as unacceptable as the prospect of fishing up to the beaches in 1982 which was also part of that treaty.

I challenge the Minister to use his Department's resources to assess the validity of claims to historic rights. What historic rights were exercised by beam trawlers, stern trawlers and purse seiners? If he looks at the records he will discover that fishing for herring off the north-east of England, for example, was by drift nets. Will he really allow the Dutch and the Germans to come within 12 miles, where they did not normally fish before, with new fishing methods which could cause immense damage to stocks? Will he really invite the Dutch and the Germans to fish for other species which they have not sought to catch before?

The Minister must not be taken for a ride by claims of historic rights, the basis for which is dubious. Few of the claims can be substantiated. The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, in a reply to me on another occasion, said that every unreasonable claim anyone could think of had been made at a recent Council of Ministers meeting. I hope that the Minister will take his cue from that robustly sceptical attitude on the part of his right hon. Friend and not assume, as some of his answers imply, that there is evidence to support every claim that every country lays on the table.

There are great dangers to all sections of our fishing industry in proposals by other member countries. I rest my case on the dangers to our inshore industry of any departure from the 12-mile limit and any failure to recover that part of the 12-mile limit which was wrongly lost in negotiations at the time of the treaty of accession. I ask all hon. Members to recognise that the best outcome of today's discussions would be to let the Opposition motion go through, because its words serve to strengthen that resolve.

5.40 pm
Mr. Albert McQuarrie (Aberdeenshire, East)

I welcome the fact that the Opposition have decided to use their sixth allotted Supply day for a debate on the common fisheries policy. It is one of the most important subjects requiring the House's attention. I need not delay the House with the history of the many abortive attempts by successive Governments to secure a satisfactory common fisheries policy, because I wish to devote my remarks to the urgency of its finalisation.

I cannot accept the wording of the motion in the name of the Leader of the Opposition and his right and hon. Friends. I much prefer the amendment in the name of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and her right hon. and hon. Friends, which I believe is better described and shows a greater Government commitment. I need not remind the House that the common fisheries policy is one of the most emotive issues in Britain and raises similar emotions in the European Community.

Emotion is generated in Britain, especially in Scotland and in constituencies such as mine—which is one of the largest fishing constituencies in Europe—because it has become a matter of life or death. Entire communities have been driven out of existence during the past 10 years because of the need for conservation and the loss of fishing grounds. That loss was accepted reluctantly by the fishermen on the basis that, in the long term, their earnings would return and that life would go on as before. They believed that there were prospects of even greater earnings and a long-term future for the industry that would maintain the employment of those who have resided in such small communities for centuries. Generation after generation has gone to sea to catch fish and similar generations have remained ashore working in the allied industries to process the fish as it comes ashore.

Very little has come from those hopes, but it is fair to say that the Government have given more cash aid to the industry than any previous Government. The fishing industry now wishes to see an end to the seemingly impossible position, which is deteriorating rapidly. Soon the industry will again present itself to the Government and ask for financial aid, unless the common fisheries policy is finally agreed by the member States to the entire satisfaction of the British fishing industry.

The amendment of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is right to draw attention to the progress that has been made by the Government in Brussels. It can be argued that the previous Labour Administration failed to secure the finalisation of the common fisheries policy during their term of office. Much of the blame must lie at the door of the right hon. Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin), who had its finalisation in his grasp during his final months as Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. His failure made it all the more difficult for the incoming Conservative Government to go to Brussels with a strong hand in order to get a quick decision.

I am prepared to admit that the blame cannot be attributed only to the right hon. Gentleman who, with his well-known anti-Market stance, did nothing to instil confidence that Britain would be influential in the negotiations. When the Labour Government renegotiated the terms of Britain's entry into the Common Market, they, too, failed to take positive and satisfactory action to gain the completion of the common fisheries policy. The hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan), who is now the Opposition spokesman on agriculture and fisheries and who was for some time a Minister in that Department, said in the House some time ago that he could not understand why the Labour Government had failed to renegotiate the common fisheries policy when they renegotiated the terms of Britain's entry to the Common Market. However, that is all history, regrettable though it may be. The only thing that it has proved is that successive Governments—[Interruption.] I am not unaware of the remarks being made from a sedentary position by the hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell), but I take no notice of such remarks.

The only thing that history has proved is that successive Governments have failed to gain what is essential for the salvation of the fishing industry both onshore and offshore.

The Government are trying to finalise the policy. I wish to pay tribute to Opposition Members for all the support that they have rendered to the Government during the past two and a half years. They know that the crisis in the fishing industry has not been a one-party matter, but is a problem that has been accepted by all hon. Members in the face of opposition from the member States of the Community. In that connection I wish to pay a particular tribute to the right hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason), my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas Hamilton) and the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. Johnson), who have consistently assured Ministers that they are totally behind their efforts to secure the completion of the common fisheries policy.

Mr. James Johnson

We all know the hon. Gentleman for his deep sincerity and passion in defending his constituents. He belongs to East Scotland, quite near to Peterhead and Aberdeen. What does he think about the omission in the amendment of anything to do with third country agreements for ports such as Kingston upon Hull and those in Scotland?

Mr. McQuarrie

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that comment. The question of third countries is not on the original motion.

Mr. Austin Mitchell


Mr. McQuarrie

I shall not give way to the hon. Member for Grimsby in any circumstances.

Although I am grateful to the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West for mentioning the matter, fortunately Peterhead has not suffered much. Of course, I am concerned about other ports that have suffered. However, Peterhead has grown to become one of the largest ports in the United Kingdom.

I congratulated Opposition Members. I cannot say the same about the hon. Member for Grimsby, whose speeches in the House about fishing have done more damage than any other hon. Member's speech. He has a non-constructive approach to the position, despite the problems that abound in the fishing industry in his constituency.

The Opposition motion asks the Government to reaffirm their commitment to a 12-mile exclusive limit, dominant preference in the 12- to 50-mile zone, effective conservation measures, and catch quotas for the United Kingdom which fully reflect the extent of fishing stocks in United Kingdom waters and the loss of fishing opportunities for the United Kingdom in third-country waters".

Mr. Robert Hughes

Is the hon. gentleman voting for the motion?

Mr. McQuarrie

It may be boring to you, but it is not boring to the fishing industry. I am sure that the Leader of the Opposition—

Mr. Robert Hughes

I did not say that the hon. Gentleman's speech was boring. I asked whether he was voting for the motion.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I thought I heard the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. McQuarrie) referring to me, but I was reading a note at the time. Perhaps he will not do that again.

Mr. McQuarrie

I took it that the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North made that comment. If he did not, I apologise.

I am sure that the Leader of the Opposition and all Opposition Members will be pleased to know that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, and all Conservative Members, confirm that a 12-mile exclusive zone is essential. I must make it clear, with my large constituency interest, that nothing short of that will be acceptable to British fishermen.

It must also be the continued aim of the Government to secure a dominant preference for a 12 to 50-mile limit. Access to our waters for other nations must be severely restricted. If necessary, a strict licensing system should be introduced. Licences should be granted only where there is some reciprocal agreement with the other member State.

The question of quotas must be looked at together with conservation, and we must not allow what is happening in the South-West of England to continue. British fishermen are being denied the right to fish for mackerel, while the vessels of other member States continue to fish and to take the catch away to freezer trawlers, which go to foreign ports. The practice denies our fish processing factories the stocks to keep their people employed. Will our fishermen be allowed to fish for mackerel in the South-West? With the devastating cost of fuel, that information should be available before the boats leave my constituency and other parts of the North-East in the hope of making a living during the remainder of December and in January.

I am pleased that there is to be another meeting of fisheries Ministers in Brussels on 14 December. We all sincerely hope that there will be a final breakthrough, but if there is not we must not waver. We must put our vital fishing interests first and foremost. The welfare of our fishing communities must be paramount. An agreed policy must be based on the fact that 68 per cent. of the fish caught in Community waters is caught around our shores. An agreement must also take account of the fact that the 200-mile limit has deprived many of our fishermen of access to traditional grounds.

We must insist on access, quotas, preference limits and enforcement as the bases of agreement to new policy. We must also strongly protect the onshore fishing industry and the fishermen who use the static gear that has been used for centuries.

The Opposition should accept the amendment. The Government are determined to get a fair deal for the fishing industry. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has always said that there will be no sell-out in the renegotiation, and she is totally supported in that by her Ministers and all hon. Members with fishing interests. No one should make the mistake of thinking that, because the majority of Conservative Members believe in the European Community, we would be ready to accept a settlement totally unacceptable to the industry or to the nation as a whole. Over the years our stocks have been looted. We are now in a position to take a measure of control. We have the whip hand and we must use it.

The fishing industry looks to the Government and to Parliament to get the policy settled once and for all. My right hon. Friend and her Ministers are to be congratulated on the progress so far made, which has in the main received the wholehearted support of the fishing industry. The House—although perhaps the Scottish nationalists will not agree—should accept the amendment without a Division, and show the industry, our people and the European Community that we are at one in our determination to get agreement on a common fisheries policy that will last and that will restore the industry's faith in Parliament's ability to see that justice is done. I commend the amendment to the House and congratulate my right hon. Friend and her Ministers on bringing it forward.

5.53 pm
Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, Central)

I listened with amazement when the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. McQuarrie) said that we have "the whip hand". We have been here before, perhaps in December 1971, when I sought to move the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9, for the purposes of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely, the failure of Her Majesty's Government to obtain satisfactory arrangements for the British fishing industry in near, middle and distant waters before the signing of the Treaty of Accession to the Treaty of Rome."—[Official Report, 13 December 1971; Vol. 828, c. 73.] Ten years have passed, and we have only one year to go before the other fishermen can fish up to our beaches.

I should like to believe that a solution will be reached satisfactory to the interests of our fishing industry, but I know that we shall take what we are given and be grateful if we are able to keep the 12-mile limit with historic rights. The reason goes back 10 years, when the Tory Government accepted an agreement cobbled together by the then members of the Community. At the time of the referendum I and my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) asked the industry where the British lake was and whether it was satisfied with the arrangements for renegotiation. It now finds itself with no lake and no fleet sailing from our major deep-sea ports.

I am brazenly making a constituency speech. In my constituency 831 registered fishermen are unemployed. Let us use the accepted multiple of five to six shore workers—process workers, workers engaged in shipbuilding, riggers and boilermen—for each fisherman. Of the 27,000 unemployed in my constituency nearly 5,000 are connected directly with the fishing industry. That is a measure of the effect of the common fisheries policy on the port of Hull.

It may be argued that the harm has been done because we have been pushed out of Icelandic, Norwegian, Canadian, Greenland and the Faroes waters, but we have 200 miles of sea around our shores in which the fishermen from those countries wish to fish, yet we are not able to bargain directly with third country fishing interests. People are unemployed, many of whom are members of my trade union, because we cannot negotiate third party agreements. That fact does not appear in the Government's amendment.

The Secretary of State complacently tried to measure the Government's success. He mentioned quotas and the registering and recording of catches, but there are no tachographs on fishing vessels and we do not have adequate policing. Catches are under-recorded and the regulations on the size of fish caught are ignored by our Community partners.

We talk about the 12-mile exclusive zone and the 50-mile dominant preference, but what happened to the other 150 miles, from which a great part of the quotas comes? We have gleefully surrendered them. Is not that a sufficient contribution to Community fishing?

Then there are the problems affecting the former deep sea ports, in particular Peterhead, Fleetwood and Hull. We once had over 100 trawlers of 80 ft and upwards sailing out of Hull. We now have fewer than 10. We once had busy quaysides and secondary and tertiary industries based on the fleet; we now have unemployment.

I have continually sought promises from the Government. I doubt whether the Government will get their common fisheries policy, but, if they do, how will they compensate the port of Hull—and Grimsby to a lesser extent, because it has a good inshore fleet? How will they bring jobs back? The deep sea fleet has gone and it will not reappear. We shall not see vessels stacking up one against the other in the William Wright and Albert docks in Hull as we have in the past. What will the Government do? What proposals do they have for jobs, for retraining, and for bringing industry to our areas? We are entitled to claim that our problem arises, not from the recession, but directly as a result of matters over which the people of Hull have no control—a common fisheries policy, for which their heritage was sold by the Heath Government, and the 200- mile limit that they cannot even negotiate in their own interests.

Mr. Myles

Does the hon. Gentleman believe that if we had had a fisheries policy that allowed all the vessels from Hull, Grimsby and all the other ports to fish we could have had a market for all the fish?

Mr. McNamara

We were landing thousands of tonnes of fish in those ports and selling it. We had a prosperous industy. The foundations of the houses in Swanland and Kirk Ella in the constituency of the hon. Member for Haltemprice (Sir P. Wall) were built upon cod bones. Of course, we would have had a market for the fish. We would have had a good, strong industry and one that may have had a little decency and equity for the fishermen. That has gone from my city. Instead, we have unemployment. Young people who would have had jobs and apprenticeships are walking the streets. All their opportunities have gone.

Mr. Myles

Over the last two years?

Mr. McNamara

No, not over the last two years, but over the whole period of this policy. That is why I went back to 1971, when I tried to get an emergency debate on the matter. We are selling our past. There are no safeguards for the fishing industry. That has been proved right by debate after debate over the last 10 years.

Within a year other countries will be allowed to fish up to our beaches, yet the Government are still trying to claim that they have had some success. They have sold all our interests down the river.

If there is one major justification in my area for the Labour Party's policy of seeking to leave the European Community, of seeking to regain control of our economy, of seeking to be made capable of making decisions that are relevant to the people who live in our area and to our constituents, it is the fishing industry. We have seen what has happened as a direct result of entering the EEC. The people who are the ambassadors and prophets of the Community have done nothing to bring solace, jobs or employment to our area, or to Hull generally.

6.3 pm

Mr. Kenneth Warren (Hastings)

I am flattered to have caught your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because I was beginning to believe that this was a debate on fishing in Scottish and northern waters, particularly when my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench and the Opposition Front Bench spokesmen all represent elegant Scottish constituencies. I was concerned about whether we would talk about the other half of the fishing industry—the inshore fishing fleets around the coasts of this country that are too rarely mentioned in the House.

I wish to comment on three points relating to the Government amendment, which I hope to be able to support. First, what is meant by a satisfactory revised Common Fisheries Policy"? The word "satisfactory" needs much explanation, not just qualification. Secondly, I should like to explore a little further the exclusive 12-mile limit, which I thought was clear in the minds of all hon. Members. However, there was some qualification in the Secretary of State's comments. Thirdly, I should like to comment on our ability to enforce the policy if we actually achieve it.

First, we must get an acceptance in the Common Market that we are the premier fisherfolk of the EEC. We must realise that the EEC member States are looking to us for a lead. They are expecting us to give a lead, and they are waiting for us to give a lead. We do not go in as equal members, we go in in a strong position.

In my area of Hastings we have the largest fishing fleet in the South-East—about 44 boats—and we have been conscious of the invasion from Europe ever since 1066. Nowadays trawlers come in overnight to poach in our grounds. The problem is not simply the detail of what is happening night by night in the South-East, but the fact that in their motion the Opposition have introduced a note of dissension in what has always been a common attitude to fisheries policy in the House. During the last 10 years hon. Members on both sides of the House have always tried to reach a common approach to the fisheries policy.

Mr. Millan


Mr. Warren

No, I shall not give way because many of my hon. Friends wish to speak in the debate.

I ask the Opposition to consider the fact that they have introduced a note of dissension, which is unfortunate.

If we get the agreements that I believe both sides of the House want, can they be enforced? We have problems these days on net sizes, catch quotas, the times of fishing, and beam trawling. At present, the people on the other side of the Channel cannot enforce their own restrictions. What hope have we that they will do anything just because we have signed a common fisheries agreement?

On the last day of office of the Conservative Government in 1974, my right hon. Friend the present Leader of the House declared to the House that beam trawling would be banned. We have moved far too slowly in trying to get to grips with the way in which we would enforce a common fisheries policy.

On the issue of the 12-mile limit, I understood my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to say earlier, in answer to an intervention from my hon. Friend the Member for Torbay (Sir F. Bennett), that there would be no qualification and that 12 miles was sacrosanct. I understood him to say later that there could be certain places where, for historical reasons, the 12-mile limit could be invaded. I hope that in his reply he will return to a clear declaration that the 12—mile limit is sacrosanct all around our coasts. If it is not, the inshore fishing fleet has nowhere else to go. I counsel my right hon. Friend to realise that what the other Europeans want from our fishing grounds is our fish and then to say goodbye. They have taken, whenever they have had the chance, whatever fish they could grab from us because we do not have the ability even now to enforce control over our grounds.

The inshore fishermen have nowhere else to go. They have small ships operating over limited areas—traditional and historic fishing grounds. The death of their fishing grounds will be the death of their jobs. I am afraid of the strengh of the advocacy of the people across the Channel. The Government have still not realised that the French and the Belgians, having destroyed their own grounds, are now seeking the legalisation of their invasion of our grounds through a common fisheries policy.

We must realise that the inshore fishermen have only these jobs and these livelihoods—and they are seeking to catch our fish. Why should we say that they are our fish? We do not have any disagreements in the House or in the EEC about whether we should share out German or French iron or coal deposits. We do not have arguments about whether we should share out Danish, Dutch or Belgian butter. Why should they be allowed to catch our fish? Why do we not have arguments about their ability to take our North Sea oil? Why should we even consider allowing them to take our fish from us? It is nonsense that our partners in the Community have any rights greater than ours.

The Government must listen to their advisers in the House, rather than to the advisers outside, who do not show the courage on land that our fishermen display each day at sea. The common fisheries policy must be the maintenance of our present rights, jobs and industry.

6.20 pm
Mr. Austin Mitchell (Grimsby)

It is curious to hear the hon. Member for Hastings (Mr. Warren) criticise the Opposition for striking a discordant note in the motion, which simply reaffirms the basic principles that the House has confirmed in the past which are the basis of our negotiating position.

Will the Minister say why the words quotas … which fully reflect … the loss of fishing opportunities for the United Kingdom in third-country waters, as the essential requirement have been omitted from the Government's amendment? For ports such as Grimsby, Hull and Fleetwood, those quotas are essential not only for the local argument but for the national argument.

Britain has a stronger case than any other country for preferential treatment because of the losses that it sustained in distant waters during the mid-1970s. It is an important issue for Grimsby and Hull. Why have the words to which I referred been omitted? Our fear is that it is to prepare the ground for dropping that requirement as part of the negotiations. The quotas that we have been given do not reflect our losses in distant waters. I hope that the debate will serve as a warning to the Government that the concessions that have been made in the continuous process of negotiating against ourselves have gone far enough.

At the outset of the negotiations the House clearly confirmed that it wanted conservation measures in waters up to 200 miles, dominant preference in waters up to 50 miles, and a 12-mile exclusive limit. We have been retreating in the negotiations. We appear to be negotiating away even the exclusive 12-mile limit. The National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations has made it clear that it wants an exclusive 12-mile limit, or nothing. That does not include historic rights.

Once we concede the principle of historic rights, how do we police them? What is to stop vessels coming into our waters and taking what they want on the ground that they are exercising historic rights? I know that that is an important issue on the south and south-west coasts because of the activities of French fishermen. It is also important on the Yorkshire coast where German fishermen catching herring are exercising their historic right. That is potentially disastrous for our industry. I am delighted that, at last, a battered, bemused and betrayed industry is standing up for itself and saying "Thus far and no further". An exclusive 12-mile limit means no erosion of that principle.

There has been a series of negotiations against ourselves. We have exchanged national conservation measures—which the Conservative Party manifesto said would be used to bring pressure in the negotiations—for unsatisfactory Common Market agreements. We have given up dominant preference in waters up to 50 miles. That has been reduced simply to surveillance zones, even though the Conservative Party manifesto talked about preference zones. All that is left is the exclusive 12-mile limit. That, also, was included in the Conservative Party manifesto. I am worried about its future, because the other items in the manifesto have been sold.

The negotiations are becoming a piecemeal series of sell-outs, with disastrous consequences for the industry. The Government are bringing in not a Trojan horse, but a Trojan horse kit form—bit by bit. There have been concessions on marketing, quotas and conservation. When, eventually, the Trojan horse is fully assembled and the Government say to the industry "Take it or leave it", the industry will be in a difficult position. I hope that, even then, it will leave the Trojan horse. It will probably be a Trojan camel—a horse designed by an EEC committee.

There has been great trumpeting about the basic marketing agreement. The guide price has been increased by between zero and 6 per cent., which is wholly inadequate. It bears no relationship to costs, market sales or the state of the industry. All we have achieved from the agreement is a marginal improvement in the system. Next January, as last January, we shall be faced with a flood of imports. They will decimate the price in the market. People will ask the Government to do something about it. The Government were asked to do something last January. A decision on action was taken in June and brought into effect in August. That will be the pattern again. Even if the marketing framework is in force in January, it will be too slow. The Commission has no need to act. It can rule against the complaint. It must consult the fishing management group. By the time the machinery is invoked, the threat will have passed because the market disruption will be over in four months from the first incursion.

Ministers threw away the Canadian negotiating coin which would have brought pressure on the Germans, whose views on price were crucial. Their position had to be eroded, yet we threw away the means to bring pressure on them. We did so for the price of 20,000 tonnes of cod fillet, most of which will come back to the British market through the displacement factor. It will displace fish that would otherwise be sold on the Continent.

We have entered the negotiations in the spirit of boy scouts with tied hands. Britain enforces the rules, not the other countries. We have made concessions and played fair. We should be following the example of the French and the pressure that they brought to bear in the lamb war. That worked and gave them the deal that they wanted. They are using exactly the same tactics on molluscs. There is now a total ban on the importation of molluscs.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

Is the hon. Gentleman saying that the agreement on lamb was not a good deal for United Kingdom farmers, consumers and New Zealand?

Mr. Mitchell

The essential question in the lamb war was how to get Britain's lamb into France. How much goes to France now? I suspect that it is very little. It is a good deal for French farmers, because their prices have risen. The French have achieved what they wanted. Britain wants a good deal from the common fisheries policy. We should use similar tactics.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the exporters of lamb to France. He should check his facts before he comes to the House.

Mr. Speaker

Order. There will be a chance later for the Minister to reply to the debate. I am hoping to call other hon. Members to speak.

Mr. Mitchell

The Minister cannot deny that the French achieved exactly what they wanted. They achieved a good arrangement for themselves at the price that they wanted. That was the essential requirement. We have tied our hands in the negotiations. We have failed to use the legitimate negotiating pressures—which are part of the tactics of negotiations in the Common Market—to save the vital interests of our industry. If we do not use those pressures, why do we not seek to remove the pistol that is pointed at our heads in the argument about fishing up to the beaches in January 1983? Why are the Government not negotiating with the Commission for a statement that its understanding is that the present arrangement continues after 1983? The industry believes that the Government want that negotiating pressure to bring pressure on the industry. There is fear that the Continentals will fish up to the beaches. Why are the Government not negotiating with the Commission to remove that pistol that is pointed at our heads?

The negotiations appear to be a process of concession after concession. That fills us with fear about the final agreement. The industry is slowly, painfully and agonisingly sinking into debt. The aid is inadequate. The Minister should increase the aid package. The new French Government have increased their aid to their industry. The Grimsby industry during the past year has been kept going only by the marginal aid that the Government have conceded.

We also face continuous pressure from the British Transport Docks Board which is taking back the aid that the Government are providing and increasing levies on a diminishing base of productive capacity in exactly the same way as the Government's economic policy has been applied to the ports.

There is a need for an increase in aid and a commitment that aid will continue to be made available to keep the industry going. It is essential that the Government pledge themselves to the fundamental principle—it is the only part of the package that has not been sold—of an exclusive 12-mile limit with no concessions.

6.21 pm
Mr. Robert Hicks (Bodmin)

I shall direct my remarks primarily to the requirements of West Country inshore fishermen. I wish to focus attention on two specific aspects: first, the need to secure an exclusive 12-mile limit as part of any future common fisheries policy, and secondly, the need for conservation.

Before mentioning each aspect in turn, I shall make a general observation about CFP negotiations. The 10-year derogation comes to an end at the end of December 1982. We all know the unsavoury background that led to the derogation being necessary. Should difficulties arise during the final 12 months of the derogation, the United Kingdom Government must not fall into the trap of agreeing to something that falls short of their legitimate requirements and rights. We must get the terms of a revised common fisheries policy correct, however long it takes.

I turn to conservation and the related need for effective measures. As an example, I refer to the experiences with mackerel that have taken place in the coastal waters off Devon and Cornwall this autumn. The Minister of State was obliged to suspend the fishing in the area ahead of schedule last weekend. I wholeheartedly support my right hon. Friend in his action. The mackerel season in the South-West opened later and there were smaller quotas. The total catch was soon in excess of the notional figure used by the Ministry and the size of the fish caught seemed to get progressively smaller week by week.

I appreciate that my right hon. Friend's decision created difficulties, not least for the larger trawlers, which, since the dramatic reduction in distant water fishing grounds, have been obliged to come to the South-West's mackerel fishing area in recent years. The processors were adversely affected as their consistency of supply has been threatened. But to those who may, for whatever reason, be critical of the decision, I remind them of the experience of the old Looe fishermen, who repeatedly tell us that in their younger days herring was the dominant fish and that it came and it went. Later the same applied to the pilchard. Since the mid to late 1960s the dominant fish has been the mackerel. It is the practical judgment of the Looe fishermen that there is a danger of their mackerel going. That illustrates the need for effective conservation measures, which, in turn, mean realistic quotas that are sensitive to changing circumstances and adequate policing and monitoring. The United Kingdom Government must not surrender any sovereignty in respect of their responsibility for administering and implementing conservation measures.

Finally, I turn to the important issue of the exclusive 12-mile coastal band and the associated question of historic rights. The House will know that the French have considerable historic rights off the coast of Devon and Cornwall, the Belgians less so. I advise my right hon. Friend that local fishermen and local public opinion feel strongly that historic rights should be eliminated as part of any fishing settlement.

As my right hon. Friend knows from his visit to Looe in my constituency, West Country fishermen feel extremely vulnerable. The French have exhausted their coastal fishing waters and no doubt they look eagerly at the prospect of being allowed to continue fishing in our coastal waters, including off the coast of Devon and Cornwall.

The importance of fishing to the economy of the South-West, especially to rural coastal settlements is significant. Only the combination of effective conservation and the maintenance of an exclusive 12-mile coastal zone will ensure that fishing continues to contribute in a positive way to regional and local economies.

Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland)


Mr. Buchan


Mr. Speaker

Order. I understood that the Front Bench replies were to begin at 20 minutes to seven o'clock. That is the information that came to me.

Mr. Buchan

Thank you very much for that information, Mr. Speaker. I regret to say that it is new information to me. May I ask when the debate will finish if the Front Bench replies commence at 20 minutes to seven o'clock?

Mr. Speaker

That depends on how long the two Front Bench spokesmen take. If they go on too long, they will take time out of the next debate.

6.27 pm
Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland)

I assure the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan) that I shall not detain the House too long. I know that hon. Members are anxious to proceed to the next business.

I support much that has been said by the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Hicks). Social Democrats generally are extremely sympathetic to the hon. Member in these matters as in others.

The Government have behaved in a somewhat puzzling fashion in seeking to divide the House on an issue which previously has been dealt with by the House on a united front. Why have they adopted this approach to what we hope will be the final negotiations to relieve the industry of its legitimate anxieties? Why have they chosen to depart from the form of words chosen by the official Opposition, which reflects precisely the views that have been expressed by successive Governments and the targets for negotiation with the Community? It will not do for the Minister to say that his amendment encapsulates the essence of the Opposition's motion. That is simply not the case because his proposal is different in two important respects. The Government amendment refers to: preference outside 12 miles to protect particularly dependent fishing communities". That is a clear watering down of the language in the Opposition's motion, which refers to a dominant preference in the 12 to 50-mile zone". What do the Government mean by the phrase "particularly dependent fishing communities"? Does it mean those communities where there is no alternative industry to fishing? If that is so, there must be a poor lookout for the town of Peterhead, for example. As we all know, Peterhead is enjoying a boom from the oil and gas industries. Is Peterhead's fishing to be sacrificed by the Government?

It is also a watering down of the Opposition's motion to speak of adequate quotas for the United Kingdom". What are adequate quotas? The Secretary of State for Scotland in opening the debate, gave no clue as to what the Government regarded as "adequate", whereas the Opposition motion makes clear the basis on which the adequacy or otherwise of the quotas is to be tested.

I make it plain that for the Social Democrats as, I believe for the Scottish Fishermen's Federation, the adequacy of the quotas at least will depend on their being substantially greater than those in the European Commission's current proposals. In a letter sent to hon. Members on both sides by the President of the Federation, Mr. Gilbert Buchan, it was made plain that the proposals would allow the United Kingdom only 36 per cent. of the seven principal species, which would be less than our historic share. Indeed, the Federation's own proposal of 36.07 per cent. cod equivalent is also less than our historic share, without taking into account the preference that we should receive under the Hague agreement and the compensation for loss of long-distance fishing. Mr. Buchan concluded that there is no way that the United Kingdom must accept less". In replying to this short but extremely important debate, will the Minister of State assure the House that he is not prepared to go beyond what the Scottish Fishermen's Federation stated to be its bottom line on quotas?

Will the Minister of State also say what is the Government's position on the zone between 12 and 50 miles? Here again, the Government amendment contains weasel words which seem to mark a considerable departure from the negotiating posture previously adopted. I endorse what has been said by the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Hicks) about historic rights and need not repeat it.

On guide prices, we heard rather chilling remarks from the Secretary of State for Scotland, who warned that the Government had already encountered nothing but opposition to their proposals. Here again, let it be placed on record precisely what at least the Scottish Fishermen's Federation is asking for, that is, increases in official withdrawal prices of the order of 25 per cent. for 1982 and also in reference prices. Given the collapse in prices experienced by the industry in the past year, that is the absolute minimum and the House cannot regard anything less as acceptable.

Finally, on structure, the Secretary of State referred to the need for marketing and promotion. Will the Minister of State tell us why, in bringing forward their proposals for the Sea Fish Industry Authority, the Government deprived it of the £380,000 available for promotion to its predecessor, the White Fish Authority? For the Government to make statements about the importance of marketing and then to deprive the authority of finance for promotion is inexplicable and inexcusable.

6.33 pm
Mr. Alex Pollock (Moray and Nairn)

I accept the Government's argument that we may have to hasten slowly in trying to achieve a common fisheries policy because of problems with other member States. Nevertheless, I wish to suggest two important interim commitments that the Government should reaffirm today.

First, pending any settlement, we must make clear our determination to maintain a viable inshore industry that will be able to take advantage of any settlement when it comes. If that involves further temporary financial aid, the Government should make clear today their preparedness to listen sympathetically to any requests for such further aid. The fishermen in my constituency do not enjoy going cap in hand to the Government. It is not their style, but I fear that at present they have little choice.

Secondly, in speaking to the amendment, the Government have argued that they have the political will necessary to achieve a settlement adequate to protect our national interests. I trust that they will also retain the political will to take any other national measures that may be deemed necessary—for example, on quotas and access—to protect our home fleet, pending any settlement. I stress particularly in that regard that in the absence of an agreement the Government must not allow political initiatives that properly lie with us to be taken over by the European Commission. That is a highly dubious activity that should be firmly resisted.

If the Government can give assurances on those two preconditions, I believe that the industry will recognise that as tangible evidence of the Government's determination to support it in the difficult times which lie ahead.

6.36 pm
Mr. David Myles (Banff)

I am grateful to have five minutes in which to speak, although I may take even fewer. The arguments made in today's debate have been repeated on many occasions.

The Government amendment encapsulates almost everything—I stress the word "almost"—contained in the Opposition motion and makes some very necessary additions that will secure the "seven Cs" that I once said were required for the fishing industry. By that, I do not mean that it must fish over the seven seas, but that it requires seven conditions. I shall repeat them again today.

The industry requires catches, and it requires waters with adequate stocks of fish for it to catch. It requires cash for that fish through the marketing initiatives set up by the Government. It requires control. This applies to our own as well as to European fishermen. I sincerely hope that control will be a top priority in any agreement.

The industry also requires co-operation in the different sectors of the industry and in the regions and the districts. It is no use playing one against another, as the right hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart) is wont to try to do, and destroying the purse seiners when that is the most efficient way of catching pelagic fish.

Construction is also an important requirement. The boatbuilding yards in the North-East of Scotland must be kept in business so that vessels coming into port can be adequately repaired.


Mr. Maclennan

There are two more.

Mr. Myles

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would allow me to finish. The last and most important requirement is confidence. The fishing industry desperately needs confidence to look ahead and to go on into the future. I do not believe that it would obtain that confidence from a split, mixed-up Opposition who do not know whether to stay in the Common Market or come out of it. It is impossible to know what kind of fishing policy might then obtain. I therefore plead with the Minister to go ahead and to achieve a policy that will give the fishermen of Scotland and of Britain as a whole confidence in the future.

6.38 pm
Mr. Norman Buchan (Renfrewshire, West)

I am told by my colleagues on the Opposition Front Bench that the hon. Member for Banff (Mr. Myles) has already missed one "C". Perhaps he has given that one up for lost. He says that he approves of the Government amendment because it includes things that are missing from the Opposition motion. There is a simple solution to that. Why did not the Government make those additions but retain all the proposals in our motion? That is not what the Government have done.

I hope that we shall agree on two matters today. The first follows from the speech of the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan). Whatever else may be said about the Common Market, it has been a disaster for the development of British fishing. Secondly, in tabling their amendment, the Government have done a gross disservice to the fishing industry. I believe that those two points are acceptable to the entire House, and I hope that the Government are not so foolish or harmful to the British fishing industries as to suggest that Conservative Members should vote against our motion.

I agree entirely with the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) that if they did so, it would sow doubts in the industry and confirm to the people with whom we are to negotiate in Brussels that the Government are a soft mark. Both things would be disastrous.

The firm view seems to be that the problem we now face has been posed by the tabling of the Government's amendment. I would have liked to refer to other aspects of the fishing industry because I have been involved with it for a long time, but, because of the Government's action, we must try to clarify the situation. The best way to do that would be for the Government to support the motion.

For example, the Secretary of State went to great lengths to pretend that where it mattered the amendment said the same as the motion. That was quite nonsensical. He said that similar amendments had been tabled in the past, and cited the amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang). He pointed out that it referred to preferential access within 12 to 50 miles and, more important, to losses incurred in third country waters.

I remind the right hon. Gentleman that that amendment was tabled by my hon. Friend to strengthen a weak motion that had been tabled by the Government. All they had to say was that they wanted support for their objective of a satisfactory overall settlement of the CFP. Indeed, that attempt to strengthen that motion was accepted by the Government. To attempt to portray it as a weakening of the position pushes the rules and laws of debate a little far.

There was some support for the Government. The hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. McQuarrie) supported them in a strange way. He said that they had the whip hand. He could have fooled me. The hon. Member for North Fylde (Sir W. Clegg) pointed to the truth when he said that there was half an hour left to midnight.

My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara) said that a Standing Order No. 9 application in December 1971 dealt with the same issue. That debate was about the 10- year derogation, which is what we are now facing. Far from the Government having a whip hand, with each day that passes they are in a weaker position to obtain the aims of our motion which, up to now, we believed were firmly believed in by both sides of the House.

The hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East said that the Government had the whip hand and should use it. He said that we should congratulate the Government on what they had achieved. The hon. Gentleman said that the Prime Minister and her colleagues had to be congratulated on what they had achieved, but went on to say that the situation was deteriorating rapidly. That is an astonishing form of compliment, but the hon. Gentleman is extremely good at such compliments. For example, he was also in a complimentary mood when, with the same justification, he said: I congratulate my three hon. Friends on their brilliant performance in Brussels yesterday. … Even though they were unsuccessful, it was a brilliant performance."—[Official Report, 28 July 1981; Vol. 9, c. 990.] That is the best that the Government can get in the way of support both for their amendment and the speech defending it today. With friends like that, they do not need many enemies.

The hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East and others, including the Government Front Bench, suggested that all of this was due to the intransigence of my right hon. Friend the Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin), on the grounds that he could have finalised the issue. Of course, anyone could have finalised the issue. The question is "At what cost?". As the Government have failed to stand up to their European partners on access and limits—in fact, sometimes it resembles a cockpit rather than a Common Market—so it becomes more difficult to achieve a settlement with each day that passes.

Although the hon. Gentleman was unable to find the quotation, he reminded me that I had said that I could not understand why the Labour Government did not renegotiate the terms. I remind the hon. Gentleman of the context in which that was said. That was said in 1974–75, when I had left the Government, during the preparation of the renegotiations for the referendum discussion. That was the context and it was right.

The hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland said he agreed with the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Hicks), who referred to the rather unsavoury circumstances of the derogation. They were indeed unsavoury. Ten years were given, and the veto was placed firmly in the other camp. We had no means of exercising our veto to protect our interests. It could only be exercised to destroy our interests.

It was even more unsavoury than the hon. Gentleman thinks, because the Government succeeded in hoodwinking many of their own supporters, including the old pike himself, Bob Boothby of Aberdeenshire. It was indeed unsavoury, and we are now paying the penalty. We must understand that on this issue at least our entry to the EEC has meant that we have given away one of our major assets—the possibility of a 50 or 100-mile fishing limit for Britain—[HON. MEMBERS: "A 200-mile limit."] I am trying to be helpful. I am looking for a compromise. I remember Nye Bevan saying that only an idiot could ruin this country when it was built upon coal and surrounded by fish. The Government are now the idiots, because they are fiddling while the situation is deteriorating.

I should like to examine the specifics of the Government amendment, which it is said adds to the motion. They have certainly included qualifications. Has that added to the motion? They say that such a policy must maintain the need to secure an exclusive 12 mile limit". Commenting on what we say about a 12 to 50-mile zone, they refer to preference outside 12 miles to protect particularly dependent fishing communities". What in heaven's name do they mean by that, and what in heaven's name is the purpose of saying that it adds to the motion? They have weakened the case disastrously. They say that we can exercise this interest only in the interests of a particular fishing community. Which community is that? Is it Grimsby? Is it Merseyside? That has had a hammering. Is it the Shetland Islands? If so, what happens to the rest of the British fishing industry? As was pointed out, it may be thought that Aberdeen does not need such help because of the presence of oil. That is a disastrous addition, which the Government claim strengthens the motion.

Something might have been achieved out of the wreckage had the Government amendment referred only to "dependent fishing communities", but to add the word "particularly" underlines the extent of their sell-out. My hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) described it as a piecemeal sell-out. It is more like a fishmeal sell-out.

The amendment also refers to "adequate quotas", and the Government argue that that is also an addition to the motion. What are adequate quotas? The Government might have reminded our Common Market partners that two-thirds of the waters and fish are ours Because of that, 66⅔ per cent. would be a reasonable quota on which to start arguing, rather than speaking of "adequate quotas".

The Government have missed out two salient factors. They are in the business of adding to our motion but the 50-mile limit is missing from their amendment. The Minister said that the question of the third country loss and the effect of the loss of our Icelandic waters was missing. That is true but the motion refers to the loss of fishing opportunities for the United Kingdom in third-country waters as the essential requirements. Therefore the Secretary of State was wrong.

However, even if the Secretary of State had not been wrong, he overlooked the one overriding factor of the approach of 1982 and an end to the derogation. The fishermen are clearer than that. The Secretary of State advised us to consult the fishermen. We did—I met them a week ago. It was because we consulted the fishermen that we worded our motion as precisely as we did. We want commitment to a 12-mile exclusive limit". That is not a 12-mile limit hedged around with historic rights of one kind or another. The Government did not even put in their amendment that historic rights must be phased out. However, we put it in our motion clearly and precisely, and for the Government to oppose our motion will be a signal to Europe that it can push them over even more. The fishermen have said that the 12-mile limit was their bottom line. They said: Alarum bells on the access question began ringing around the industry when it became known that a document invoking the Hague agreement and preference areas would be on the negotiating table at … the talks set for Brussels on December 14th. Is the preference area to be on the negotiating table? Is that what the talks are to be about next week, and not about a fight for the 12-mile exclusive zone and the 50-mile dominant preference, which it should be?

The Hague preference areas, where 12-mile limits apply, take in most of the Scottish west coast, the Northumberland coast, and the Yorkshire coast down to Flamborough Head. The Opposition are not only concerned with the Scottish waters and the waters down to Flamborough Head. The fishermen of both sides of the border are saying that they want and need—and that the industry requires—the 12-mile exclusive limit. That is what the Opposition motion says, that is what the House has hitherto agreed, and the Government would put that at risk if they were foolish enough to recommend Conservative Members to vote against our motion tonight.

I point out to the hon. Member for Hastings (Mr. Warren) that it was not the Opposition who introduced dissension. We have tabled a motion setting out a policy that has been understood by the House for years. The Government have chosen to move against it. It is the Government who have lost the opportunity of having a united House of Commons behind them when they go to Brussels. They have thrown away one of their biggest weapons. No amount of semantics from the Secretary of State for Scotland can compensate for that stupidity.

The hon. Member for North Fylde said that there was half an hour to midnight. I plead with the Government even at this late stage to support the Opposition motion, to go to Brussels armed, to listen to the industry, to fight for the 12-mile exclusive limit and for the proper dominant preference over the 50 miles, and to save something out of the wreckage even now.

7.5 pm

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

I start by welcoming the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan) to the Front Bench. This is the first time he has spoken since he took over his responsibility. I also pay respect to him personally. I know of his great interest in the fishing industry, which stems from his family connections and experience over the years. However, I cannot be certain that his service on the Front Bench on this occasion will be any longer than it was when he was last on the Front Bench speaking on these matters. Over a relatively short period he found it difficult to agree with the policy of his Front Bench colleagues. Only time will tell whether he will disagree with the Labour Party's policies, although they are even more uncertain now than they were when he was last on the Opposition Front Bench.

I have been asked several specific questions on important matters affecting the fishing industry. A number of hon. Members on both sides of the House mentioned the mackerel fishery, particularly in South-West England. I assure my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. McQuarrie) that I was aware that when I closed that fishery, problems would be faced not only by his fishermen but by the processors. However, the stocks of mackerel in the South-West were being put at risk, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin (Mr. Hicks) reminded me.

At the start of the fishery we made plain that it was liable to be a much shorter one this year than in previous years. All the evidence showed that the catch that should have been taken would be exceeded and the quality of fish was low. In those circumstances, in spite of the difficulties this year, it was necessary, if we were to be able to continue fishing in future years, that the fishery should be closed. I have taken note of what was said about the fishery early next year. I hope that my hon. Friend, and my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Sir P. Wall), will be reassured by my remarks. We shall be having discussions with the industry on Friday this week on the arrangements for next year. We shall not delay in letting the fishermen know what the arrangements are. I appreciate that they have to know in order to plan their activities.

I can tell my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice that we have been watching closely this year the mackerel fishery and the activities of the Klondikers. We have powers in relation to licensing and once we have assessed our experience of this year's fishery we shall look not at the fishery in the early part of the year, but at the main fishery which starts in the summer.

My hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice also referred to the matter of guide prices for 1982, as did other hon. Members. This is a vital matter for the fishing industry and affects its economic viability. In the negotiations in Brussels the Government will fight as strongly as they can for the best possible deal, although if other countries and their industries are supporting us in this the message is not getting through. The negotiations for guide prices are proving a hard struggle, but I shall bear in mind the hon. Member's remarks.

The hon. Members for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. Johnson) and for Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara) and my hon. Friend the Member for North Fylde (Sir W. Clegg) raised the problems of the deep-sea fleet or the middle-distance fleet. This matter was put to me by the delegation that I met last week, and I can assure hon. Members that I am aware of the problem, and of the anxieties of that part of the industry. However, to blame the problems of that industry on the common fisheries policy is flying in the face of the facts. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central cannot get away with that.

When speaking of the Opposition motion, which, referred to a preference in the 12 to 50 mile zone, the hon. Member asked "What about the other 150 miles?" When the United Kingdom negotiated entry to the European Community it did not have a 200-mile limit. However, when the Labour Government renegotiated terms of membership the 200-mile limit was coming up. As far as our outer limits were concerned, we had already passed this through the House of Commons at the time of the Hague agreement in 1976. If it was such an important matter then, that is when it should have been raised, and the objections should be addressed to those Labour Members who were involved at the time. [Interruption.] It is typical of Labour Members to say "But it is not our fault". The hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West this evening tried to make the same excuse—that he was not responsible at the time when these matters were negotiated; he had resigned. It shows the total irresponsibility of the Labour Party's approach.

Labour Members like to say the things which appear to be politically popular and which are easy to say, but when the Labour Party was in power it did not try to ensure that those policies were carried out. It could not be better exemplified than by the speech of the hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell). He said that the arrangements for lamb were a disaster and that no United Kingdom lamb was going into France. That is demonstrably untrue. He showed no more knowledge when he spoke of fish.

Mr. Buchan

The Minister makes allegations about Labour Members saying one thing when they are in power and another when they are not in power. Will he recall the circumstances in which we were bound to the present limits? The Common Market put through its own fisheries policy within days of the vote in favour of our joining the Common Market, and the matter was disguised by Conservative Ministers. From that point on we were faced with that policy decision.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

The matter was not disguised at any time by Conservative Ministers, whatever the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West may say.

The hon. Member for Grimsby—[HON. MEMBERS: "Where is he?"] The hon. Member's interest is shown by the fact that he is not present to hear the answers to his points. The hon. Member completely misunderstands the realities. Although the matter was not mentioned by the Opposition spokesman, the hon. Member for Grimsby said that the Government should be introducing national conservation measures up to 200 miles. He completely ignored the fact that our right to introduce and enforce national measures was given away in the Hague agreement of 1976 by the Labour Government.

I remind the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) that it was the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen), who now graces the SDP Benches, who had responsibility at the time in question. It is easy to pass on responsibility to other people without having to worry about dealing with the problem oneself.

The right hon. Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Millan) tried yet again to criticise the reopening of the herring fishery and completely ignored the fact that the Labour Government of which he was a member gave away our right of enforcement.

The debate has centred on the question of the exclusive zone. The hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) mentioned historic rights. These are, however, historic rights as defined in international agreements. If we could have a word together, I could perhaps explain precisely to him the meaning of historic rights.

As my right hon. Friend said, it is our objective in the negotiations—as it always has been—to secure a 12-mile exclusive zone, but equally, as my right hon. Friend and I have said before in this House, within that objective we may in the negotiations have to consider the historic rights of other countries. I give the hon. Member the absolute assurance that there will be no question of our considering rights that are spurious or unexercised. We are not as silly as to think of anything such as that. I have made the position absolutely clear to the House. I did so in the debate in May last year. I have constantly made the position clear to the industry. It has been made public and is well known.

The right hon. Member for Craigton referred to an exclusive zone and also mentioned historic rights. To be fair, he said that those historic rights should be phased out, but the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West missed out that part. He said that there would have to be an exclusive zone and nothing else. It is clear that the right hon. Member for Craigton agrees that the matter of historic rights has to be considered in negotiations.

Mr. Millan

There is nothing between us on this. When will the Minister tell the House why he is advising his hon. Friends to vote against our motion, which represents the agreed position, up to the present, not only of the offfical Opposition but of the whole House, including the Government?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

Nothing said in the debate has persuaded me that the Government were not correct in tabling their amendment. The Opposition have used the debate simply as an occasion for attacking the EC as a whole and for making political capital for their own advantage.

The right hon. Member for Craigton was totally unprepared to give any recognition to what has been achieved in the negotiations. He spoke of a lack of political will, but Conservative Ministers have fought harder than anyone on these issues. He spoke as though there had been no progress whatever, yet when the Labour Party left office the United Kingdom Government stood against eight other Governments. That position has been completely turned round, so that the majority of EC countries now believe in the correctness of our approach. The position has been turned from one of disadvantage to one of advantage for Britain and the fishing industry. The right hon. Gentleman in his typically grudging manner, was not prepared to admit that conservation measures now apply on a European-wide scale and protect the livelihood of our fishermen. Similarly, the marketing regulations protect our markets and give our fishermen more protection. None of that is mentioned in the Oppositions's motion. For those reasons, it is right that we should mention them in our amendment.

On the crucial matter of the exclusive zone, I ask the Opposition why they have changed their wording. My right hon. Friend, at the beginning of the debate, explained that the words in the Government amendment are similar to those used by the Opposition when the matter was last debated.

One of the most important aspects is whether we have a satisfactory relationship with the fishing industry. It is the fishing industry and the fishermen's livelihoods that matter. Throughout all the negotiations we have taken the industry with us, and we shall continue to discuss matters with them. For that reason, more than any other, I urge my hon. Friends to reject the motion and to vote for the amendment.

Question put, That the original words stand part of the motion:—

The House divided: Ayes 241, Noes 300.

Division No. 20] [7.09 pm
Abse, Leo Anderson, Donald
Allaun, Frank Archer, Rt Hon Peter
Alton, David Ashton, Joe
Atkinson, N.(H'gey,) Golding, John
Bagier, Gordon A.T. Graham, Ted
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Grant, George(Morpeth)
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (H'wd) Grant, John(Islington C)
Beith, A.J. Hamilton, James (Bothwell)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Hamilton, W. W. (C'tral Fife)
Bennett, Andrew (St'Kp't N) Hardy, Peter
Bidwell, Sydney Harrison, Rt Hon Walter
Booth, Rt Hon Albert Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Healey, Rt Hon Denis
Bottomley, Rt HonA. (M'b'ro) Heffer, Eric S.
Bray, Dr Jeremy Hogg, N. (E Dunb't'nshire)
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Home Robertson, John
Brown, Ronald W. (H'ckn'yS) Homewood, William
Brown, Ron(E'burgh, Leith) Hooley, Frank
Buchan, Norman Howell, Rt Hon D.
Callaghan, Rt Hon J. Huckfield, Les
Callaghan, Jim(Midd't'n & P) Hudson Davies, Gwilym E.
Campbell-Savours, Dale Hughes, Mark(Durham)
Canavan, Dennis Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Carmichael, Neil Hughes, Roy (Newport)
Cartwright, John Janner, Hon Greville
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Jay, Rt Hon Douglas
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (B'stol S) John, Brynmor
Coleman, Donald Johnson, James (Hull West)
Concannon, Rt Hon J. D. Johnson, Walter (Derby S)
Cook, Robin F. Jones, Rt Hon Alec (Rh'dda)
Cowans, Harry Jones, Barry (East Flint)
Cox, T. (W'dsw'th, Toot'g) Jones, Dan (Burnley)
Craigen, J. M. (G'gow, M'hill) Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Crawshaw, Richard Kilfedder, James A.
Crowther, Stan Kilroy-Silk, Robert
Cryer, Bob Kinnock, Neil
Cunliffe, Lawrence Lamborn, Harry
Cunningham, G. (Islington S) Leadbitter, Ted
Cunningham, Dr J. (W'h'n) Leighton, Ronald
Dalyell, Tam Lestor, Miss Joan
Davidson, Arthur Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli) Litherland, Robert
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Davis, Clinton (Hackney C) Lyon, Alexander (York)
Davis, T. (B'ham, Stechf'd) Lyons, Edward (Bradf'd W)
Deakins, Eric Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. Dickson
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) McCusker, H.
Dempsey, James McDonald, DrOonagh
Dewar, Donald McElhone, Frank
Dixon, Donald McGuire'Michael(Ince)
Dobson, Frank McKay, Allen (Penistone)
Dormand, Jack McKelvey, William
Douglas, Dick MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor
Douglas-Mann, Bruce Maclennan, Robert
Dubs, Alfred McMahon, Andrew
Dunlop, John McNally, Thomas
Dunn, James A. McNamara, Kevin
Dunnett, Jack McTaggart, Robert
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G. McWilliam, John
Eadie, Alex Magee, Bryan
Eastham, Ken Marks, Kenneth
Edwards, R. (W'hampt'n S E) Marshall, D (G'gowS'ton)
Ellis, R. (NE D'bysh're) Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)
Ellis, Tom (Wrexham) Mason, Rt Hon Roy
English, Michael Maxton, John
Ennals, Rt Hon David Maynard, Miss Joan
Evans, loan (Aberdare) Meacher, Michael
Evans, John (Newton) Mellish, Rt Hon Robert
Ewing, Harry Mikardo, Ian
Flannery, Martin Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Miller, Dr M.S. (E Kilbride)
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Mitchell, Austin(Grimsby)
Ford, Ben Mitchell, R. C. (Soton Itchen)
Forrester, John Molyneaux, James
Foster, Derek Morris, Rt Hon A. (W' shawe)
Foulkes, George Morris, Rt Hon C. (O'shaw)
Fraser, J. (Lamb'th, N'w'd) Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald Morton, George
Freud, Clement Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick
Garrert, John (NorwichS) Newens, Stanley
Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend) Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
George, Bruce O'Halloran, Michael
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John O' Neill, Martin
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Steel, Rt Hon David
Palmer, Arthur Stewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)
Park, George Stoddart, David
Parker, John Stott, Roger
Pavitt, Laurie Strang, Gavin
Penhaligon, David Straw, Jack
Powell, Rt Hon J.E. (S Down) Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
Powell, Raymond (Ogmore) Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
Prescott, John Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Price, C. (Lewisham W) Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)
Race, Reg Tilley, John
Radice, Giles Tinn, James
Rees, Rt Hon M (Leeds S) Torney, Tom
Richardson, Jo Urwin, Rt Hon Tom
Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Roberts, Allan (Bootle) Wainwright, Rt (Colne V)
Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N) Walker, Rt Hon H.(D'caster)
Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock) Watkins, David
Robinson, G. (Coventry NW) Weetch, Ken
Rooker, J.W. Welsh, Michael
Roper, John White, Frank R.
Ross, Ernest (Dundee West) White, J. (G'gow Pollok)
Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight) Whitehead, Phillip
Ross, Wm. (Londonderry) Wigley, Dafydd
Rowlands, Ted Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Ryman, John Williams, Rt Hon A.(S'sea W)
Sever, John Williams, Rt Hon Mrs (Crosby)
Sheerman, Barry Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)
Sheldon, Rt Hon R. Wilson, Rt Hon Sir H. (H'ton)
Shore, Rt Hon Peter Wilson, William (C' try SE)
Silkin, Rt Hon J. (Deptford) Winnick, David
Silverman, Julius Woodall, Alec
Skinner, Dennis Woolmer, Kenneth
Smith, Rt Hon J. (N Lanark) Wright, Sheila
Snape, Peter Young, David (Bolton E)
Soley, Clive
Spearing, Nigel Tellers for the Ayes:
Spriggs, Leslie Mr. Hugh McCartney and Mr. Frank Haynes.
Stallard, A.W.
Adley, Robert Bulmer, Esmond
Aitken, Jonathan Burden, Sir Frederick
Alexander, Richard Butcher, John
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Cadbury, Jocelyn
Ancram, Michael Carlisle, John (Luton West)
Arnold, Tom Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Aspinwall, Jack Chalker, Mrs.Lynda
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (S'thorne) Churchill, W.S.
Atkins, Robert (Preston) Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th, S'n)
Atkinson, David (B'm'th, E) Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)
Baker, Kenneth (St. M'bone) Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Clegg, Sir Walter
Banks, Robert Cockeram, Eric
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Colvin, Michael
Bell, Sir Ronald Cope, John
Bendall, Vivian Cormack, Patrick
Bennett, Sir Frederic (T' bay) Corrie, John
Benyon, Thomas (A'don) Costain, Sir Albert
Benyon, W. (Buckingham) Cranborne, Viscount
Best, Keith Crouch, David
Bevan, David Gilroy Dean, Paul (North Somerset)
Biffen, Rt Hon John Dickens, Geoffrey
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Dorrell, Stephen
Blackburn, John Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.
Blaker, Peter Dover, Denshore
Bottomley, Peter (W'wich W) du Cann, Rt Hon Edward
Bowden, Andrew Dunn, Robert (Dartford)
Braine, Sir Bernard Durant, Tony
Bright, Graham Dykes, Hugh
Brinton, Tim Eden, Rt Hon Sir John
Brittan, Rt. Hon. Leon Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke)
Brooke, Hon Peter Elliott, Sir William
Brotherton, Michael Emery, Peter
Brown, Michael (Brigg&Sc'n) Eyre, Reginald
Bruce-Gardyne, John Fairbairn, Nicholas
Bryan, Sir Paul Fairgrieve, Sir Russell
Buchanan-Smith, Rt. Hon. A. Faith, Mrs Sheila
Buck, Antony Farr, John
Budgen, Nick Fell, Anthony
Fenner, Mrs Peggy Luce, Richard
Finsberg, Geoffrey Lyell, Nicholas
Fisher, Sir Nigel Mc Crindle, Robert
Fletcher, A. (Ed' nb' gh N) Macfarlane, Neil
Fletcher-Cooke, Sir Charles MacGregor, John
Fookes, Miss Janet MacKay, John (Argyll)
Forman, Nigel Macmillan, Rt Hon M.
Fowler, Rt Hon Norman McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury)
Fox, Marcus McNair-Wilson, P. (New F' st)
Fraser, Rt Hon Sir Hugh McQuarrie, Albert
Fraser, Peter (South Angus) Madel, David
Fry, Peter Major, John
Gardiner, George (Reigate) Marland, Paul
Gardner, Edward (S Fylde) Marlow, Antony
Garel-Jones, Tristan Marshall Michael (Arundel)
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian Marten, Rt Hon Neil
Glyn, Dr Alan Mates, Michael
Goodhart, Sir Philip Maude, Rt Hon Sir Angus
Goodhew, Victor Mawby, Ray
Goodlad, Alastair Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Gorst, John Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Gow, Ian Mayhew, Patrick
Gower, Sir Raymond Mellor, David
Grant, Anthony (Harrow C) Meyer, Sir Anthony
Gray, Hamish Miller, Hal (B'grove)
Greenway, Harry Mills, Iain (Meriden)
Grieve, Percy Mills, Peter (West Devon)
Griffiths, E. (B' y St. E dm' ds) Mitchell David(Basingstoke)
Griffiths, Peter Portsm'th N) Moate, Roger
Grist, Ian Monro, Sir Hector
Grylls, Michael Montgomery, Fergus
Gummer, John Selwyn Moore, John
Hamilton, Hon A. Morgan, Geraint
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)
Hampson, Dr Keith Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)
Hannam, John Mudd, David
Haselhurst, Alan Murphy, Christopher
Hastings, Stephen Myles, David
Hawkins, Paul Neale, Gerrard
Hawksley, Warren Needham, Richard
Hayhoe, Barney Nelson, Anthony
Heath, Rt Hon Edward Neubert, Michael
Henderson, Barry Newton, Tony
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Nott, Rt Hon John
Hicks, Robert Onslow, Cranley
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr' th 'm) Osborn, John
Holland, Philip (Carlton) Page, John (Harrow, West)
Hooson, Tom Page, Richard (SW Herts)
Hordern, Peter Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil
Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Parris, Matthew
Howell, Rt Hon D (G'ldf'd) Patten, Christopher (Bath)
Howell, Ralph (N Norfolk) Pattie, Geoffrey
Hunt, David (Wirral) Pawsey, James
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne) Percival, Sir Ian
Hurd, Hon Douglas Peyton, Rt Hon John
Irving, Charles (Cheltenham) Pink, R. Bonner
Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick Pollock, Alexander
Jessel, Toby Porter, Barry
Johnson Smith, Geoffrey Prentice, Rt Hon Reg
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Price, Sir David (Eastleigh)
Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith Pym, Rt Hon Francis
Kaberry, Sir Donald Raison, Timothy
Kershaw, Sir Anthony Rathbone, Tim
King, Rt Hon Tom Rees-Davies, W. R.
Knight, Mrs Jill Renton, Tim
Knox, David Rhodes James, Robert
Lamont, Norman Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Lang, Ian Ridley, Hon Nicholas
Langford-Holt, Sir John Ridsdale, Sir Julian
Latham, Michael Rifkind, Malcolm
Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Lee, John Roberts, M. (Cardiff N W)
Le Marchant, Spencer Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Rossi, Hugh
Lester, Jim (Beeston) Rost, Peter
Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Royle, Sir Anthony
Lloyd, Ian (Havant & W'loo) Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.
Loveridge, John Scott, Nicholas
Shaw, Giles (Pudsey) Townend, John (Bridlington)
Shaw, Michael(Scarborough) Townsend, Cyril D, (B' heath)
Shelton, William (Streatham) van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Shepherd, Colin(Hereford) Vaughan, Dr Gerard
Shersby, Michael Viggers, Peter
Silvester, Fred Waddington, David
Sims, Roger Wakeham, John
Skeet, T. H. H. Waldegrave, Hon William
Smith, Dudley Walker, Rt Hon P.(W'cester)
Speed, Keith Walker, B. (Perth)
Speller, Tony Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir D.
Spence, John Wall, Sir Patrick
Spicer, Jim (West Dorset) Waller, Gary
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs) Walters, Dennis
Sproat, Iain Ward, John
Squire, Robin Warren, Kenneth
Stainton, Keith Watson, John
Stanbrook, Ivor Wells, Bowen
Stanley, John Wheeler, John
Steen, Anthony Whitelaw, Rt Hon William
Stevens, Martin Whitney, Raymond
Stewart, A. (E Renfrewshire) Wickenden, Keith
Stewart, Ian (Hitchin) Wiggin, Jerry
Stokes, John Wilkinson, John
Stradling Thomas, J. Williams, D.(Montgomery)
Tapsell, Peter Winterton, Nicholas
Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman Wolfson, Mark
Temple-Morris, Peter Young, Sir George (Acton)
Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M. Younger, Rt Hon George
Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Thompson, Donald Tellers for the Noes:
Thorne, Neil (Ilford South) Mr. Anthony Berry and Mr. Robert Boscawen.
Thornton, Malcolm

Question accordingly negatived.

Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 32 (Questions on amendments), and agreed to.

MR. SPEAKER forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.

Resolved, That this House welcomes the progress achieved by Her Majesty's Government in the search for a satisfactory revised Common Fisheries Policy, particularly in relation to conservation and marketing; confirms that such a policy must maintain the need to secure an exclusive 12 mile limit, preference outside 12 miles to protect particularly dependent fishing communities, adequate quotas for the United Kingdom, effective conservation measures and a Community-wide system of enforcement as well as improvements in the marketing arrangements hitherto in force; and urges Her Majesty's Government vigorously to continue, in consultation with the fishing industry, the search for a solution on the outstanding issues.

Back to