HC Deb 21 October 1982 vol 29 cc491-2
7. Mr. Strang

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he will now bring forward a contingency plan for the development of the British fishing industry in the event of failure to agree on a common fisheries policy.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

Not at this stage. Negotiations on a revised common fisheries policy are still continuing.

Mr. Strang

As there are only two months to run of the 10-year derogation negotiated by the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon), is it not high time that the Government faced the fact that the industry now needs action, not words? Is it not clear that any settlement cobbled up before the end of the year will involve a sell-out of a fundamental British national interest? In the circumstances, will the Minister serve notice on other EEC Governments that the British Government intend to introduce a national plan to protect our waters from foreign vessels and to develop an onshore industry which will provide thousands of jobs in areas of greatest need?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

Had the hon. Gentleman listened to my reply to question No. 1, he would have realised that Nine of the Ten are prepared to negotiate on a realistic basis. If he wishes to do a service to the industry, he will realise that we should not reveal our negotiating position in advance.

Mr. McQuarrie

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his statement regarding the three-mile limit up to the beaches. Like other hon. Members, he knows perfectly well that there was no fishing up to the beaches in 1973 prior to our entry into the Market. If, during the time that he is preparing his contingency plans, there is no common fisheries policy by 31 December, will he consider the restructuring of the fleet, as that will be necessary if we have to go it alone? I also hope that—

Mr. Speaker

Order. We have had the question. The hopes can wait.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I assure my hon. Friend that in any contingency plan we shall make sure that the interests of the British fishing industry are looked after, and we shall also consult the industry closely.

Mr. McNamara

What will be the legal position after 31 December? When will the right hon. Gentleman announce the Government's aid to the fishing industry? We were expecting it in July, but, according to a reply this week, the Minister said that he hoped to make the announcement shortly. How short is "shortly", because originally it meant last July?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I said "soon", and I stand by that. As the hon. Gentleman knows, under the articles of the Treaty of Accession, the Commission and Council have to come forward with proposals on access by 1 January 1983. There is, therefore, a responsibility on both the Commission and Council to reach a decision, and that is recognised in the Treaty of Accession.

Mr. Mark Hughes

If they fail to do that, when will the Minister present to the House and the industry the necessary contingency plans? Is he aware that their legislative enactment, if required, will have the support of both sides of the House? The industry and the public at large need reassurance now, not soon.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

If special contingency measures are necessary, I assure the hon. Gentleman and the House that we shall bring them forward at the most appropriate time for the best interests of the British fishing industry.

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