HC Deb 06 February 1986 vol 91 cc415-7
1. Dr. Godman

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he will make a statement on the current level of United Kingdom fishery protection resources, in the light of the recent accession to the European Economic Community of Spain and Portugal.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. John Gummer)

I am confident that the resources currently devoted to fisheries protection, which are deployed flexibly in response to enforcement needs, are adequate to meet the demands of the present situation following the accession of Spain and Portugal to the European Community.

Dr. Godman

The operations of the fisheries protection service are to some extent determined or shaped by EEC regulations. When does the Minister expect the proposed expansion of the EEC inspectorate from 10 to 21 to take effect?

Mr. Gummer

That is a matter for the Commission, but people are being recruited for the posts. I am particularly pleased not only that that is going ahead under Britain's pressure, but, with the association between France, Britain and the Republic of Ireland, which together have been dealing most effectively with policing in the south-western approaches.

Mr. Harris

I am the hon. Member whose constituency is nearest to Spain. Will my right hon. Friend give my fishermen an absolute assurance that policing arrangements will be tightened with regard to Spanish fishing so that we can deal with the massive illegal fishing by Spain in the western approaches?

Mr. Gummer

We have already done a great deal to meet my hon. Friend's request. I was in the west country seeing how effective the arrangements were. I think he will agree that what we are doing has been effective. We arrested a boat in the first week, and that resulted in a heavy fine. I have no doubt that we shall make sure that the Spanish fishermen fish legally. I ask my hon. Friend to tell his fishermen that not only are we doing that, but that we have been surprised and pleased by the way in which the Spanish Government have sought to do that work.

Mr. Austin Mitchell

Does the Minister acccept that there can be no faith in the common fisheries policy unless; it is properly policed, and that the key responsibility falls; on our Government in their fishery protection effort? Is there not a case for increasing that effort with the advent of a power whose fleet is as large as its reputation for observing the rules is small?

Mr. Gummer

I have made that point a number of times. The great and remarkable success of the common fisheries policy is largely because increasingly it is being enforced, and people know that to be so. When the hon. Gentleman sees the measures that we have taken on the south-western approaches, I feel that, on this occasion at least, he will be able to support the Government.

Mr. Hicks

Does my right hon. Friend agree that in order to allay the anxieties that are being expressed by south-western fishermen, it is necessary for them to see action being taken and convictions being obtained?

Mr. Gummer

I agree with my hon. Friend. That is why I went to see the way in which the policing is being carried out, and why I welcome the action being taken and the conviction that was obtained in the first week. I shall keep a close personal eye on seeing that this continues.

Mr. Wallace

There is now an added burden upon the fishery protection resources because of the accession of Spain and Portugal. Does the Minister believe that sufficient resources are still available to maintain the former level of fishery protection in northern waters, particularly because of the phasing out of the the RAF Nimrod spotter plane?

Mr. Gummer

The purpose of phasing out the RAF Nimrod spotter plane is to replace it with a plane that will do the job much better. We wish to do it for no other reason. I am, therefore, satisfied. if I were not, I should be pressing for additional resources.

Mr. Randall

Is the Minister aware that many of the people in the industry are still not confident that the common fisheries policy is operating fairly? Will he put pressure on the Commission to provide feedback for the industry on how well enforcement is working?

Mr. Gummer

This country initiated the pressure. We are continuing to apply pressure and it is increasingly bearing fruit. If the hon. Gentleman wants proof, he must look at the very strong representations that have been made to other Fisheries Ministers by their fishermen now that we are being so very much tougher.

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