HC Deb 22 October 1987 vol 120 cc912-3
11. Mr. David

Porter asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the implications for the British fishing industry on his announcement about freezer trawlers.

Mr. Gummer

The choice between the many deserving applicants for the new licences for their freezer trawlers which I announced in January was not an easy one, but the Fisheries Ministers concluded that it would best serve the United Kingdom interest, including that of the fishing industry, to allocate licences in respect of one vessel each to Boyd Line Management Services, Associated Fisheries and Lunar Fishing.

Mr. Porter

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that reply. Given the increasing prosperity of the Scottish fishing industry, would it not have been more appropriate to grant a greater proportion of the licences to the English fishing industry, which needs all the support that it can get?

Mr. Gummer

That was not the view that I received when I went to Peterhead and Aberdeen recently. On that occasion it was suggested to me that we had got things the wrong way round. [Interruption.] If any Opposition Member thinks that it is a junket to go to Peterhead or Aberdeen, it is clear that he has not been to either place at 7 o'clock in the morning.

My hon. Friend is right when he suggests that it is not easy to make distinctions when it comes to deciding how we should offer out the licences. There is no doubt that many parts of the English fishing industry have suffered disproportionately as a result of the loss of distant water fishing, and it seems right that two of the three licences should go to the English fishing industry.

Dr. Godman

Is the Minister confident that the granting of these freezer trawler licences does not disrupt the growing reconciliation between fishing effort and available stocks?

Mr. Gummer

The hon. Gentleman is right to raise this matter. We have granted the licences because we are concerned that in some areas we do not fully fish the quota that is provided for us. Unless we are able to provide the means to do that, other countries will be able to refer to our quotas in some areas and say, "As you have not fished them, perhaps you should relinquish them." As the common fisheries policy is of great help to us, as a part of the Community, and individually as the United Kingdom, I am concerned that there should be no opening for that sort of assertion. It is for that reason that these proposals were put forward. They are designed to make us more able to match fishing effort to fishing opportunity. They are based upon the principle that if in future we find that the gap widens, we shall be able to make further allocations of licences if that seems appropriate.