HC Deb 25 June 1981 vol 7 cc362-3
2. Mr. Sproat

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when next he will have a meeting with his counterparts in the European Economic Community to discuss a common fisheries policy.

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

At the next meeting of the Council of Fisheries Ministers, the date for which has not yet been fixed.

Mr. Sproat

Given the unavoidable delay arising from the election of the new French Government, can my right hon. Friend give a guarantee that the conservation measures already agreed with our partners will be neither compromised nor abandoned? Does my right hon. Friend agree that even before the common agriculture policy is settled, vital as it is, there is a desperate need for a new marketing regime? What progress does he envisage on that?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I agree with my hon. Friend that it is essential that those conservation measures already agreed, which largely comprise our national measures, should continue and be enforced while the broader negotiations are proceeding. My hon. Friend will be aware that we have taken a number of measures on marketing in certain areas. Pending the outcome of comprehensive marketing regulations, we shall continue to press the Commission to take action on such items as imports from third countries.

Mr. James Johnson

Is the Minister able, or willing, to confirm that if we do not achieve a settlement by the end of this year our sister States will be able to fish up to the high water mark? Have any contingency plans been drawn up with the industry to deal with that?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

The hon. Gentleman may inadvertently have made a mistake. The current arrangements continue until the end of next year. There is an obligation on the Commission to introduce proposals to replace the present arrangements before the end of next year. The correct thing for the Government to do is to press the Commission, in agreement with the other States, to propose arrangements that are satisfactory to the United Kingdom.

Sir Frederic Bennett

I agree with my right hon. Friend that the current arrangements come to an end at the end of next year. Is there any validity in the suggestion that when we get out of our present difficulty we might be able to obtain agreement to an extension of the present period of derogation until some other agreement is reached? Does my right hon. Friend agree that we do not want to find ourselves forced into an untenable position at the end of next year?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

If we find ourselves in circumstances where there is no agreement, we shall have to consider what to do. I hope that we shall be able to improve considerably on the present arrangements.

Mr. McNamara

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the real problem for the deep-sea fleet and the 1,000 fishermen unemployed in Hull is the question of fishing in third country waters? Does he agree that it is important that we reach an agreement within the Community to allow us to make arrangements with other countries outside it? If we cannot make an arrangement within the Community, should we not make third country agreements and tell our Community partners to "stuff it"?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I acknowledge what the hon. Gentleman says about the importance of third country agreements. The problem about concluding third country agreements that have been available so far is that they have largely been to the benefit of fishing fleets of other European countries, and not to ours. Clearly, we must stand up for the interests of our fleets. I assure the hon. Gentleman that we shall continue to do so.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. This question arises again later.