HC Deb 07 July 1988 vol 136 cc1176-7
4. Mr. Dunnachie

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what recent representations he has received regarding a mid-year adjustment to the North sea cod total allowable catch for 1988; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Gummer

I am aware of concern by fishermen about the allocation of the United Kingdom sea cod quota, but I have had no recent representations about a mid-year adjustment to the total allowable catch for 1988. No change to it was recommended in the most recent biannual scientific assessment at the end of May.

Mr. Dunnachie

Does the Minister agree that the industry cannot be run viably when the quotas of species such as cod fluctuate so wildly? Will he listen to the fishermen as well as the scientists?

Mr. Gummer

If one listened to the fishermen one would hear all sorts of different voices, including the voices of those who always want an increase in the number of fish that can be caught. We must listen to the scientists. If we do not, there will be no fish for fishermen to catch—not only next year, but when their children go fishing. I am in the business of conserving our fish stocks so that I can conserve the fishing industry.

Mr. John Townend

Is my right hon. Friend aware that British fishermen are demanding not more fish than last year, but a fair share of the quota? Does he accept that the quota for the Yorkshire and Anglian fish producers' organisation has been cut by significantly more than the reduction in the United Kingdom quota? If something is not done, that will result in the collapse of the producers' organisation.

Mr. Gummer

I do not accept that. My hon. Friend must agree that the quota given to the Yorkshire and Anglian fish producers' organisation is a fair share of our national quota. It has been cut, but, of course, some boats have left that producers' organisation. If I gave his producers' organisation more of the cod, I would have to take it from other producers' organisations, and they would rightly say that that was unfair. The system is operated fairly between different parts of the country, and I can see no other way of doing it.

Dr. Godman

North sea cod fishermen have a legitimate worry. May I offer my compliments to the Minister on obtaining at the recent Council meeting a reduction in the minimum landing size of nephrops? However, the disappointment about west coast mackerel is considerable. These achievements and failures fall within the framework of the common fisheries policy. Will the Minister assure the House that with the advent of the European single market we will not see the demise of the common fisheries policy, especially in relation to access agreements and historic fishing rights?

Mr. Gummer

The Government are wholly committed to the basis of the common fisheries policy. It gives our fishermen a very fair share of the fish that are available in the European Community. Any renegotiation of that would be bound to give our fishermen a smaller share. That is the reality. We are determined to see that the situation remains as it is and that the policy is applied to new resources in exactly the same way as it is applied to old resources. I give that assurance to the hon. Gentleman.