HC Deb 21 May 1981 vol 5 cc401-2
1. Mr. Strang

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he has had any discussions with the French Government on fisheries since the Presidential election; and if he will make a statement.

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

We have had no discussions with French representatives on fisheries since the French Presidential elections.

Mr. Strang

Is the Minister aware that the Opposition welcome the election of President Mitterrand? Does he accept that the robust stand that the President promised during the election campaign to take on fisheries should not lead to any scaling down of Britain's position in the negotiations? Will the Minister make it clear that a 12-mile exclusive limit means the phasing-out of French historic rights, as well as the historic rights of other countries?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

The change of President in France makes no difference to Britain's position in the negotiations. We negotiate on terms that are in the best interests of the British fishing industry. On the question of the exclusive limit, as I have made plain on several occasions, and again this week, we must have an exclusive zone, but we should consider historic rights.

Mr. Myles

Will my hon. Friend say categorically that there will he no fishing up to the beaches after 1982?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

Certainly. I do not believe that any British Government could tolerate any other situation. Although the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang) referred to the new French President's tougher line on fisheries, it is significant that in at least one interview that the President gave to a newspaper that aspect was not raised.

Mr. Robert Hughes

As nothing can be done or begun to be discussed with the French until after the elections in June, what contingency plans are the Government making as it becomes increasingly unlikely that there will be a settlement of the common fisheries policy that will be satisfactory to British fishermen?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

The negotiations must wait until we can meet the new French Government. We have that responsibility. That is a realistic and sensible way in which to proceed. As the hon. Gentleman knows, as interim measures, last year and this year we have given substantial aid to the fishing industry because the negotiations have not yet come to a conclusion.

Mr. Austin Mitchell

As there will be a prolonged period before agreement can be reached, will the Minister undertake to introduce the independent national measures that were promised in the Conservative Party manifesto in 1979 in the event of a deadlock in negotiations? Secondly, will he in the interim introduce a long-term plan of aid and development for the British industry?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman did not pay attention to what I said in the House earlier this week. He must realise that under The Hague agreement, which his Government negotiated, the unilateral measures that were introduced were proved to be illegal. The Government have made sure that those unilateral measures have been taken over in a universal Community measure so that they now have the force of Community agreement.