HC Deb 01 March 1984 vol 55 cc380-1
11. Mrs. Roe

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what progress has been made in completing the recruitment of fisheries inspectors as agreed in the Council of Ministers on 25 January 1983.

Mr. MacGregor

Nine of the 13 Community inspectors are now in post. The remaining four inspectors have been nominated and are expected to take up post within the next few months.

Mrs. Roe

Is my hon. Friend confident that these inspectors will be competent to manage the conservation measures for the Community, with particular reference to our stocks of herring and mackerel?

Mr. MacGregor

As my hon. Friend knows, the primary responsibility lies with the national inspectorate, in which I have confidence. I hope and believe that the Community inspectorate will add to that. Indeed, some of them are British inspectors. The fishing industry has been pressing us strongly to get on with this. If it is necessary to develop further, we shall be prepared to argue for that.

Mr. Harris

Does my hon. Friend accept that if we need an example of the urgent need to get the additional inspectorate into post we need look no further than the south west mackerel fishery, where, despite the conservation measures in the so-called box, a number of EC boats are fishing beyond our limits for mackerel, in addition to the dodge perpetuated by Scottish fisherman inside the limit of so-called bottom trawling? When will he do something about that?

Mr. MacGregor

My hon. Friend knows, because he and I have been in constant touch on the matter, that we closed the box to mackerel fishing at the beginning of last month. We are continuing to watch the situation outside the box, and if it is felt necessary to take steps for conservation reasons, we shall argue for them.

Mr. Robert Hughes

Will the Minister give an undertaking that he will consider seriously the economic necessity for Scottish fishermen to fish for mackerel in the south west box? Will he give a guarantee that when the box is reopened it will be on the same basis and with the same fishing capabilities as formerly? In regard to the inspectors, while it is true that the logbooks and so on have to be checked by national inspectors, what can the Minister do to ensure that other countries in the EEC, which have a particularly bad record of reporting timeously the true amounts, report properly?

Mr. MacGregor

On the first point, I am aware of the Scottish fishing interests and I have constantly stressed that the decision on the closure of the mackerel box was taken only on conservation grounds and for no other reason. The hon. Gentleman will know that Scottish fishermen are still able to fish for mackerel outside the box.

As to working on the same basis in the future when the box reopens, the hon. Gentleman will know that this is a matter for discussion within the Community, the Council of Ministers and the Commission, but there is likely to be a proposal from the scientific and technical committee about bottom trawling, which we shall have to consider.

I assure the hon. Gentleman that once the Community inspectors are in place they can make their reports to the Commission, which can inform members of any irregularities and call upon them to conduct an administrative inquiry in which the Commission may participate. We shall have to see how this goes, but I think it will be considered acceptable.

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