HC Deb 14 December 1989 vol 163 cc1196-237

[Relevant document: Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food's un-numbered explanatory memorandum of 13 December 1989 on the Fisheries Agreement between the European Community and Greenland.]

Mr. Speaker

I have selected the amendment in the name of the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) and his hon. Friends.

5.30 pm
The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. John Gummer)

I beg to move, That this House takes note of the proposals described in the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food's unnumbered Explanatory Memorandum of 12th December 1989 and Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum of 13th December 1989 on Total Allowable Catches and Quotas for 1990, its un-numbered Explanatory Memorandum of 13th December 1989 on the Reciprocal Fisheries Agreement between the Community and Norway for 1990, European Community Document No. 9888/89 on fishery guide prices, and of the Government's intention to negotiate the best possible fishing opportunities for the United Kingdom fishing industry for 1990 consistent with the requirement for conservation of the fishing stock. I must first record the fact that the late arrival of these proposals has been most inconvenient for the House and Ministers. The House as a whole must record its dissatisfaction at the fact that once again, for the purposes of their negotiations, the Norwegians have pressed the arguments nearer and nearer to Christmas so that it is difficult for this House properly to consider these important matters. I am grateful to the authorities of the House, to the Select Committee on European Legislation and to spokesmen of all parties for their understanding, but I still believe that it is more difficult for us to have a proper debate because of the way in which the negotiations are carried on.

Indeed, it is made worse when we are faced with the conclusions of those negotiations with Norway. The Commission will find it extremely difficult to explain to Ministers how, at a time when we have reduced the total allowable catches offered to the fishermen of the Community below—as far as we can find out—the recommendations of the scientists, it has found it possible to do a deal with Norway which increases the proportion of the fish available to Norwegian fishermen.

Although it is difficult to second-guess people who have been carrying out negotiations, it is also difficult to see how the Commission can substantiate the claim that this is a proper outcome to the negotiations with Norway, although in these negotiations the Norwegians have considerable cards in their hands and start from a strong position. I do not under-estimate the negotiators' difficulties, but in trying to explain to English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish fishermen that they will have to accept considerable reductions in their fishing opportunities, it will not be possible to explain why, at the same time, the Norwegians will have proportionately greater opportunities; although we know that the Norwegians have severe problems in the fisheries that they control in their northern waters.

We are discussing documents that are not complete, but which are based upon the best evidence that we have. I thank the House for its forbearance.

It is right that we should start by pointing to the fact that important communities in the United Kingdom depend upon fishing. For them, fishing is not only a matter of livelihood and support for the whole economy of their community: it is also of great emotional importance because that is why their community is there. One thing that makes this an issue on which many hon. Members of different parties can coalesce is our recognition that those communities, which are represented by hon. Members of all parties, have a particular call upon us. The real problem is that they are communities of people who hunt for a natural product and whose future depends upon its availability and their opportunity to catch. If such an industry finds that, from year to year, that availability falls, it is bound to be caused considerable worry about the future. None of us should under-estimate what that means.

It is perfectly possible to point to the fact that in most cases the income from those opportunities has increased over the past 10 years. There is no doubt that it has increased in both money and real terms. I should not wish anybody to think that I do not recognise that, apart from in the present year, in those terms the fishing industry has done better year on year. However, the psychology and the fear of a reducing opportunity are not cancelled out by the experience of receiving a higher price for the smaller amount of fish that can be caught.

None of us must under-estimate the position in those fishing communities, which has been made worse by the fact that, in 1989, for the first time for some years, the volume of catches, which has reduced by 11 per cent., has not been offset by an increase in prices, which have risen by only 9 per cent. in total. Therefore, to some extent we have a reversal of the continuing trends and an increase in the fear and concern in those communities.

Last year the fishing communities saw significant cuts in their North sea cod and haddock quotas. Now they face another year of cuts and are beginning to feel that the benefits promised are always for tomorrow, never for today. Therefore, we must consider what we can do in the context of the scientific advice with which we are presented.

We have a real problem here. This industry is not like any other, because its catching opportunities depend upon the fish that are available. What we do today will have enormous effects upon what we do tomorrow. One cannot distinguish between the demand for conservation at sea and the demand for terrestrial conservation. I should find it extremely difficult to demand that the Brazilians are restrained in their treatment of their rain forests, while insisting that our fishermen should have the right to fish as many fish as they like, irrespective of the effect on the stock —[Interruption.] The problems that we face—I know that the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) agrees with me on this—are, first, that the statements by the scientists are extremely worrying this year. Secondly, in most stocks we do not seem to have benefited from the conservation measures that we have now had for the past eight years. Thirdly, the Commission is asking us to take even lower figures than those that are strictly necessary according to scientific judgments.

We must face three matters clearly. First, the position with regard to stocks is serious, particularly in the North sea. There is no doubt about that. Even those who would like to be as flexible as possible in interpreting the scientific advice must accept that fact. Therefore, I could not countenance proposing figures at the negotiations which are outwith the scientific advice. There is no other firm base on which to stand. If I offer anecdotal evidence from the experience of Scottish, Welsh, Irish or English fishermen, I shall only be countered by similar disadvantageous anecdotal evidence from the Dutch, Germans and Danes with whom we negotiate. We must have a serious agreed base for discussion. The best scientific advice is the only base upon which anyone concerned with conservation can stand.

Secondly, why is it that, despite all the conservation measures, there has been no upturn in stocks in many areas? As Minister responsible for fishing, I have expounded the reason for that for some years in fishing negotiations. While the Community accepted a total allowable catch in line with what the scientists suggest, Community fishermen illegally overfished as much again. Only recently have we begun to bring such overfishing under control. That was done by the international police force pioneered by Britain and supported by both Conservative and Opposition Members, who felt that it was a proper area of Community competence.

Overfishing does not prove that TACs and quotas have failed. Policing is only just beginning to overcome a willingness to cheat throughout the Community. We need to make sure not only that TACs and quotas work but that they are complemented by other conservation measures to make them more effective. It is self-evident that a TAC and quota system which ensures that large numbers of immature fish are cast out in order to meet the demands of the quota is not proper conservation. That is why I honour and recognise the suggestions put forward by the Scottish Fishermen's Federation. I hope that we can encourage them to go further and to accept considerable changes.

We must face the fact that conservation measures that work mean significant changes in fishing techniques. They cannot be entirely comfortable, and hurt no one. If that was possible, we should have agreed such measures a long time ago. Hon. Members who travel around their constituencies telling fishermen that, if they accept a certain package of conservation measures, they need not worry, do considerable damage to the future of the fishing industry. Conservation is a tough thing to achieve, particularly in circumstances where stocks have fallen so low.

It is wrong to suggest that conservation measures remove the need for TACs and quotas. We need both. People who suggest otherwise are selling the next generation, indeed the fishermen of the next few years, down the drain for current political advantage. I hope that those concerned with the future of fishing will care for its future not just in this year and the next but in the next 10, 15 or 20 years.

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan)

If the emphasis on fisheries and conservation is to move towards technical measures—which some of us have supported for many years—is the Minister maintaining that TACs, which he says have failed during the past eight years, must be kept at the same low level, and not abolished? Is he saying that quotas must be held at an insupportably low level if new conservation policies are implemented?

Mr. Gummer

I am pleased with that intervention. I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has been keen on conservation measures for some years. If that is so, I am surprised that those conservation measures were not mentioned in the Scottish National party manifesto for the last election. I am pleased that he has corrected the impression that it gave. I have not only believed in them but fought for them year in, year out, without the support of many of the fishermen who are now prepared to ask for them.

When I ask for absolute straightness with fishermen, I mean that we must tell them that TACs cannot be increased merely because we hope that conservation measures will have effect. TACs can be increased only when the conservation measures will have had effect. Otherwise, we shall be in exactly the same position as when we had to stop all herring fishing, and nearly destroyed that industry. I shall not be the Minister who does that. I am determined to fight for fishermen and the future of fishing, which means being prepared now to say that conservation measures must march hand in hand with TACs and quotas. The moment that we see that the measures are working, we can increase TACs and improve quotas.

Mr. John Townend (Bridlington)


Mr. John Home Robertson (East Lothian)


Mr. Gummer

This is a short debate. I shall give way only twice more.

Mr. Townend

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the situation on the east cost is disastrous? The quota system has failed and the time for prevarication is over. For several years, my fishermen have asked for considerably larger mesh sizes, a ban on industrial fishing, larger landing sizes and the closure of breeding and spawning grounds in a large part of the area. If that action is not taken in the next 12 months, the industry will die.

Mr. Gummer

I am sympathetic with much of what my hon. Friend says and has said in the past. I was about to announce not only that we have already put to the Commission a series of proposals to improve conservation, but that I have asked for a major package of proposals to be prepared for the next stage in pressing them for conservation. One of our problems is that we constantly lead in our demands for conservation measures. So far, we have not attracted sufficient support from some sections of the industry or, more importantly in terms of voting, from our colleagues in the European Community.

There is one piece of relatively good news to announce to the House today. The case that we have pursued in the European Court of Justice on Spanish quota hoppers appears to have been decided. I say that it appears to have been decided because I have received merely the report of a judgment rather than a full judgment. It gives grounds for cautious optimism. Although we failed in our contention that fishermen who claim part of the British quota should be resident in this country, we gained almost every other point. That will enable us to do a good deal more than some had feared about non-British fishermen who have their own quota in some other country taking fish on the British quota. That was unacceptable. At a time when TACs are as tight as they are, it is an affront to British fishermen if their small quota is partly taken by people who already have a quota which has been negotiated over many years and is meant to reflect their historic fishing rights. It does not mean that they can add to their quota by pinching the quota of others. That is why we have taken such a strong line. I am sorry that we have not won everything, but we have won a sufficient amount at least to make a significant effect on that.

Mr. David Harris (St. Ives)

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Gummer

I must tell my hon. Friend that I should not give way. I said that I would give way once more, but I should reserve that for a Member of the official Opposition because then I shall have shared out interventions fairly well. That is a quota operation which I think is right.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and I shall attend the Council on Sunday night and Monday morning and the argument will probably proceed through Monday, Tuesday and perhaps Wednesday. Clearly, major issues are involved.

I am pleased to announce that the Commission has recognised the need to retain the security which comes from the common fisheries policy. That was of crucial concern to British fishermen north and south of the border. Relative stability is a crucial issue for Britain. We fought hard and won a reasonable deal from the common fisheries policy, and we have accepted the way in which it shares out fish. But we cannot have some new mechanism for sharing out any other fish stocks which are found. That would always be to our disadvantage. Therefore, we welcome the Commission's intention to deal with the Greenland fish as we believe the common fisheries policy dictates—according to relative stability—thus ensuring that we have our fair and proper share of that fish.

Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Port Glasgow)

Will the Minister assure the House that, over the weekend and on Monday, he will resist Spanish demands for a share of the west coast of Scotland cod allocation, given that Spanish fishing firms have no history whatever of fishing in those waters?

Mr. Gummer

I give the hon. Gentleman a categorical assurance that I have no intention of allowing the present sharing system of the common fisheries policy to be changed. I shall oppose resolutely any suggestion, either now or at an interim date when a review is possible, to change the way in which we treat various parts of the waters of the Community. I can give the hon. Gentleman the further assurance that we have sought allies in that and believe ourselves to be well supported by our neighbours, who also feel that this hard-fought share should not be upset by those who have no historic claim on our waters and who have sought to take from us quota which is rightly ours and certainly not theirs.

I am determined to fight for the highest possible TACs consonant with scientific advice. I hope that the whole House will support me when I say that it would be wrong for a country—I say a country, not a Government—committed to conservation to ignore the scientific advice and demand more fish than is safe for next year and the year after. I am adamant that we shall not move from that scientific advice. We should seek to give ourselves as much fish as possible, consonant with that advice.

Therefore, I shall oppose strongly the Commission's proposals which give less fish than scientists have suggested it is possible for us to take. When we are squeezed as hard as we are, it is unacceptable to suggest that we should squeeze still further. Because we have a high proportion of many of these stocks for historic reasons and because of our negotiating successes, it means that, if our allocation is pushed below what the scientists demand, our suffering is proportionately greater.

Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland)

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Gummer

I promised not to give way again because it was necessary to use up as little time as possible. I have given way once to the Government side, once to the official Opposition and once to the non-official Opposition. I shall not be driven to divide blue whiting from whiting. There is a grey problem in that. [HON. MEMBERS: "That is absurd."] It is extremely difficult to give way in the circumstances, but if no hon. Member takes it as a precedent, within the scientific advice I give way.

Mr. Wallace

I am extremely grateful to the Minister. May I assure him that we on these Benches support what he has just said about not going beyond what scientific advice allows? Can he say whether he will seek compensatory increases in precautionary TACs not dependent on scientific advice to make up for the limited TACs for haddock and cod?

Mr. Gummer

That was a helpful and useful extension of the debate, and I am glad that I gave way to the hon. Gentleman. The answer is that that depends on the precautionary TACs. Where there is a relatively widespread view that a precautionary TAC is not unreasonable, it would be wrong to change it. Others seem to be shots in the dark without much basis, so they might be varied in either direction without any real knowledge.

Where it would be safe to do so, I shall seek the best possible deal. I am not sure whether I would want to do that in recompense for a tough TAC somewhere else. I would do so because I believed that we must provide the maximum possible fishing opportunity which is proper for a Government and an Opposition who are committed to conservation.

I have already said that the first main issue that we shall face is relative stability. It seems that the Commission is committed to that, but we shall have to fight hard to keep it. The second is the fight for TACs at the highest possible level consonant with our conservation aims. The third relates to the Hague preference. I shall seek to invoke the Hague preference because TACs have fallen so low and the quotas that depend on them will cause real hardship in several fishing communities. Hon. Members can rest assured that I shall fight for that as hard as possible, but they must know the arithmetic and that we have a limited number of friends on that. Nevertheless, I believe that we must fight and that it is right to do everything possible to gain that.

The next priority concerns western mackerel. We have a problem which it would be wrong to ignore. Our rightful insistence on relative stability means that we cannot easily explain why it is necessary to take into account the fact that shoals of fish move. Although the relative stability is based on lines drawn on a map of the sea, it may be that the lines related to movements of fish, which have since changed.

Therefore, it has always been our view that, by relative stability, we mean stability in the stocks as they were at the time. If they have moved to some extent, it is not unreasonable marginally to change the way in which those lines are drawn. That is why we put the western mackerel issue before the Council and why we successfully obtained some help last year. Whether we can obtain the same amount, or any, this time will depend on some tough negotiations.

We want to see major changes in the proposals put to us by the Commission. TACs and quotas are not enough, but we do not accept that we can do without them. Further conservation measures will be essential if we are to begin to see the day dawn in which the stocks begin to grow not just occasionally, but much more widely. There must also be major changes if the Commission's commitment to conservation is to be believed and it is not to be suspected of seeking to achieve other aims by the negotiations carried out.

Therefore, the House will wish me to be able to say to the Commission and my colleagues in the European Community during the discussions and debates of the next few days that the House recognises the difficulties placed on us by the shortage of fish, but demands that the maximum opportunities must be provided for fishermen of the Community, and therefore for the fishermen of these islands. We shall fight to do that and shall need the wholehearted support of the House if we are to have some chance of obtaining an answer which can be accepted by today's fishermen and protects the future livelihoods of tomorrow's fishermen.

6.1 pm

Dr. David Clark (South Shields)

I agree with much of what the Minister said. He seems to realise that Britain's fishing communities face a crisis. If the proposals are carried out they will cause immense hardship, mass unemployment and destroy many fishing communities. The purpose of this take note debate is for the Minister to listen to the views of right hon. and hon. Members from both sides of the House. I am sure that he will get the message that he must go and fight for the fishing communities, fishermen and fishing generally. He has our support on that.

I also share the Minister's view—I think that I speak for the House—that it is most unsatisfactory, although not of his making, that the EC has not been able even to consult the individual legislatures about quota proposals until this late date. It will not be until the middle of next week—12 days before they become operative—that the Community's fishermen know the quota for the coming year. That is unsatisfactory and I hope the Government will take the opportunity to press for it to be changed. There are difficulties with the Norwegians, but we must fight to change that unsatisfactory state of affairs.

I suspect that most of this debate will centre on the North sea because the species most at threat live in that vicinity. But other seas around us are equally affected. The quota reductions of sole and whiting in the Irish sea will have a major effect on the western part of Britain. It is essential that we retain as high a proportion as possible of the Channel cod available, and I hope that the Minister will press for that.

We must turn our eyes from our near coasts to the far seas and to the lack of access to distant waters. The north Norway quota is down this year by 47 per cent.—75 per cent. less than it was two years ago. I am advised that this means that it is only viable for two of our 15 vessels available to work that sector. That is ridiculous and unacceptable.

I heard what the Minister said about Greenland. As he knows, under the 1983 agreement, the allocation for Greenland waters was based on historic fishing. It is important for the Minister to reinforce that point, on which we have allies in the EC. I hope that he will not give way one inch on those waters.

The main and most contentious issue is the North sea. The House knows that the proposals agreed between the Norwegians and the EC led to a massive reduction in quotas of about three of the principal stocks. Haddock is down by 39 per cent.—taking into account the swaps—cod is down by 24 per cent. and saithe by 30 per cent. Those figures need examination. I agree with the Minister that we should press for the highest sustainable scientific figures. The figures that I gave were reached in negotiations with the Norwegians. The European Commissioners were not effective in those negotiations and the results have been absolutely disastrous. For whatever reason—it is beyond me—the Commissioners do not appear to have played any of their bargaining cards. I hope that the Minister will press the Commission on that.

Why have we not raised the herring issue? We have a guarantee—a zonal attachment—of 25 per cent. Why have we not received that? Why has not the Commisson played the mackerel card? What about the north Norway access linked to the Greenland shrimp? If the Minister goes to Europe and argues these points, he will have the support of the House.

We are talking about uncharted waters, but we should seriously consider asking the Commission to go back to Norway and, even at this 11th hour, start renegotiating with it, even if that means that we operate temporarily on limited quotas on a monthly basis in the early new year. I hope that the Minister will take that on board because we have wasted all our bargaining chips in the negotiations.

There is also agreement that there is a problem with declining fish stock in the North sea. We may disagree about the figures, but we all agree that the scientists have discovered this problem. I took the trouble to familiarise myself with the way in which the scientists work and I was staggered by the quality and intensity of their research. I understand that they measured that 160,000 haddock were landed at Aberdeen alone last year. They have such figures going back to 1960. They cannot explain why there is such a variation of spawning stock, but it exists and this year it is particularly critical.

The scientists say that there is a problem with the declining fish stocks. I represent a fishing constituency and my fishermen have been telling me anecdotally for a couple of years that they cannot find fish. I noticed reports in the Sunday papers about Bridlington fishermen spending a full day at sea and returning with two cases of fish. We all agree that there is a problem and a need for radical reassessment.

I agree with much of what the Minister said about conservation and I am pleased that he said it because it widens our approach. In the past, many people in Europe have adopted what is commonly known as the one-club approach—we are familiar with it from the Government's handling of the economy. However, I shall try to be less contentious. We have relied too much on TACs and quotas. Of course, they are necessary but we need other measures, too.

I talk to fishermen in my constituency and I know from my experience that there is horrific pollution in the North sea. We have been dumping far too much industrial waste there and it is having an effect on the fish. I get complaints from my fishermen about fish that are obviously suffering from the effects of pollution, and we have many reports of fishermen on the east and south coasts suffering from dermatitis.

In a recent parliamentary answer to me the Minister gave what I thought was some reassurance. He will know that at the ministerial meeting held in London on 24 and 25 November the signatories to the Oslo convention agreed that they would phase out by 31 December 1989 the dumping of industrial waste in the North sea. However, they said that an exception would be inert materials of natural origin or other materials which can be shown in the competent international organisations to cause no harm in the marine environment". In his answer the Minister said that he hoped that within two years he could phase out industrial waste licences and that we could stop dumping toxic industrial waste in the North sea. I hope that the Minister is quite specific about that and will stick to what he said. I see that he nods his assent. We must do all that we can to stop the dumping of any industrial waste except the most inert material in the North sea.

The other issue affecting the depletion of stocks is research. It is incumbent on us to maximise the use of a declining catch and we should aim to add value to our fishing industry when we can. We tend to speak about fishermen but we all know that they provide a livelihood for fish processors and many other people employed in associated industries. For the life of me I cannot understand why the Minister persists in his obsession about making massive cuts at Torry fishing research station in Aberdeen, which is probably the premier fishing research station in Europe. I hope that even at this late stage the Minister will have second thoughts about that because it is crazy to cut the budget by one third and to axe 18 vital schemes. I visited that station, accompanied by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Doran), and I have heard about schemes which seek to maximise the use of fish and add to their value. I hope that the Minister will bear in mind the fact that such work is in the public interest.

Fishermen increasingly talk to me about conservation. The vice-president of the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations, Derek Heselton, lives in my constituency and is a good friend of mine. He told me at the weekend that his ambition is to see his son follow him into the industry. He recognises that if there are no fish there will be no future for his son and the next generation of fishermen. Many people are in that position and they recognise the problem. I compliment the fishermen in the north-east of England on their voluntary ban on twin rigs for prawn trawlers. That is a step in the right direction.

Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Teeed)

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for drawing attention to the voluntary conservation efforts of fishermen in the north-east of England. He will be aware that in managing and working to their quota specifically and carefully, they were in the end penalised because fishermen in other areas had gone beyond their allocation. That meant that fishermen in the north-east of England were denied the right to fish the quota that had been allocated to them.

Dr. Clark

The hon. Gentleman will not be surprised to learn that that matter has been brought to my attention. I do not wish to trespass into area disputes at this time because I know that many hon. Members want to participate in the debate.

I urge the Minister to look more closely at prawn fishing. Does he agree that there should be TACs for prawns? Such a step would be supported by fishermen in the west of Scotland and the north-east of England. Prawn fishermen face the danger of a knock-on effect; as fishermen are driven out of other grounds, they may enter prawn grounds.

Not only fishermen in the north-east of England are affected. We have had a report from the Scottish Fishermen's Federation containing a whole package of conservation measures to which the Department recently published its response. I hope that the Minister will press our case very hard when he addresses the Fisheries Council. I think that he hinted at that, and I hope that he will take encouragement from our support.

We have to take many radical measures on conservation and must face the prospect of bigger mesh sizes and extension pieces. We may even have to face the issue of discards. We talk about difficult negotiations with the Norwegians, but they do not have our problems with discards. Discards count against quotas. It may be unpalatable, but the Norwegians and the Canadians do it and we do it north of 62 deg. latitude. There is no reason why we should not consider that as part and parcel of conservation. We should think seriously about landing round cod and round haddock because landing them is not the best way to maximise the value of our fishing industry.

Mr. Robin Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)

When the Select Committee on Trade and Industry published a report about 10 years ago on the British fishery industry, it drew attention to the disruption of quotas by discards and said that we were not getting a true record. Ten years have gone by and that warning has not been heeded.

Dr. Clark

Once again the hon. Gentleman seems to have been ahead of his time. I am glad that he agrees with me on that matter. Another issue that we might have to face is industrial fishing.

My final point relates to a fundamental disagreement between the Opposition and the Government. I talked about a one-club approach, but perhaps that was not the best analogy. We might say that we are trying to solve the problem while firing on three cylinders when we should be firing on all four. For some reason the Minister refuses to countenance one of the best weapons in his armoury and I suspect that that is because it costs money. It is the weapon of decommissioning. The Minister and the House know that by 1992 we have to reduce our capacity by 22 per cent. Yet the industry grew by 16 per cent. last year. That is the enormity of our task in the next two years. The sooner the Minister comes to the House with proposals for a proper decommissioning scheme, the better. I understand the Minister's reluctance, because he was responsible for the last scheme, and had his knuckles rapped by the Public Accounts Committee and the National Audit Office for it. But a new scheme need not have the same weaknesses.

I hope that the Minister will come to the House with such proposals, because the only way that we can reduce the number of vessels—it may have to be by up to 400 vessels—is by having a proper decommissioning scheme. I hope that when the scheme is introduced, because it will have to be introduced, payments will go to the employees working in the industry as well as to skippers and owners.

The facts are there, and we all understand the seriousness of the problem. The Minister is listening to the voice of the House, and I hope that he will hear the message that he has to fight for the British fishing industry, which is in a state of crisis. The industry knows it, and we know it. The time has come for us to take some bold steps. I suspect that the key is decommissioning. That is the one thing that the Minister has not argued for.

Several Hon. Members


Madam Deputy Speaker (Miss Betty Boothroyd)

Order. Now that we are well into the season of good will to all men and women, I urge right hon. and hon. Members to demonstrate that good will by making short speeches. Many hon. Members wish to be called in the debate.

6.21 pm
Mr. Robert Hicks (Cornwall, South-East)

As a preface to my remarks, I welcome the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Minister and the comments of the Opposition spokesman, the hon. Member for South Shields (Dr. D. Clark), about the timing of the publication of the draft proposals in relation to the Fisheries Council meeting and the commencement of the new fishing year. We face the same problem every year and, inevitably, it is raised in the House. Unfortunately, very little has been done about it in the past, but I hope that my right hon. Friend will be more successful on this occasion. I am a member of the Select Committee on European Legislation, and I know that we have only just received the European Commission's draft proposals. That makes it difficult for us to undertake our function and responsibilities to the House.

I appreciate the fundamental problems facing United Kingdom Ministers. As my right hon. Friend said, fish stocks are declining, we have a surplus catch capacity and we have to deal with over-fishing in some areas. As a consequence, we have to have restraints if we are to maintain effective conservation measures and safeguard the viability of our fishing industry.

I wish to make three points about the effects of the draft proposals, if they are implemented, on the south-west of England because fishing is an important component of our regional economy. First, there is a proposal that the total allowable Channel cod catch should be reduced, and that will be reflected in the United Kingdom quota. I hope that my right hon. Friend will consider the background to the situation carefully, as many hon. Members believe that it is essential that we retain at least the figures that we had in 1989.

I am not trying to contradict the scientific advice that we have received, but the Commission has suggested that the cod TAC should be reduced to 21,500 tonnes. I hope that the Minister will defend our position robustly and ensure that the United Kingdom quota is upheld. Closer examination of the scientific evidence shows that it is variable and I hope that the Minister will argue in favour of the higher of the parameters rather than accept the Commission's proposals. The least that my right hon. Friend can do when he responds this evening is to give the House a commitment, at this preliminary stage, that when there is a variation in the scientific evidence we will argue for the higher parameter, although the Commission has suggested a lower figure.

We expect that there will be a reduction in the TACs in the Channel for plaice and sole. On paper they may not seem to be of major proportions, but over the years the figures have been constantly reduced, so the overall situation is becoming worse. I hope that there will not be a need for any alteration in the figures for the south-west's mackerel catch. We have enjoyed stability in that area in recent years, and I hope that that will continue.

My second point is that we need greater flexibility in the application of quotas, and I do not think that any other hon. Member has touched upon that this evening. In the south-west there was considerable evidence that the circumstances had changed compared with this time last year when the TACs and quotas were negotiated. It seems that a major renegotiation of TACs and quotas was required so that we could achieve a modest increase halfway through the last fishing year in the cod quota that the south-west is allowed, and there is ample scientific evidence and local knowledge to support that.

Due to the shortage of time, I shall not spell out the reasons why we should reconsider conservation measures as a total package, but it is no good singling out one or two specific aspects each year. We must consider increasing mesh sizes. The present situation is ludicrous, as many small fish are caught and subsequently killed. Small fish not only represent future fish stocks, and the viability of the industry, but the future livelihood of fishermen. I hope that the Minister will include that in the package of conservation measures that eventually emerges.

Time prevents me from mentioning in any detail any other equally significant subjects—for example, licensing smaller vessels and the need for fleet reductions. That requires a financially attractive and effective decommissioning scheme, as the hon. Member for South Shields suggested.

In conclusion, I emphasise that the fishing industry is of great importance to the regional economy of Devon and Cornwall. Looe is the principal fishing port in my constituency, and it now supports more than 50 fishing vessels, a significant increase since 1979. In the past two years alone, £1 million has been invested in landing facilities, introducing a fish market and a packaging scheme. Larger sums have been invested in our fishing vessels. I want that momentum to be maintained. We look to my right hon. Friend the Minister to safeguard our interests in Brussels during the forthcoming negotiations.

6.30 pm
Mr. Calum Macdonald (Western Isles)

I frequently pursue a slightly different tack from other hon. Members, and I do not apologise for doing so again today. The reason is that I have the pleasure to represent a constituency with special and distinctive problems.

There is not just one crisis in the fishing industry in the United Kingdom because there is not just one fishing industry. Fishing differs radically between England and Scotland, and within Scotland from east to west coast. There are many dimensions to the industry.

I wish to emphasise the special nature of the difficulties that confront fishermen in my constituency and on the west coast of Scotland as a whole. It is a fragile area. In social and economic terms, its communities live a fragile existence. Time does not permit me to dwell on that, but I hope that it is obvious to the House.

We are not over capacity in the Western Isles, at least as regards our main fishing effort, which is directed towards prawns. We do not have the same problems and constraints as other sectors of the Scottish industry have had for the past decade. Indeed, our fleet has diminished during the past decade. The reduction has been among larger boats.

Another example of the special nature of fishing in the Western Isles is our attitude to total allowable catches. There are many criticisms of TACs. They can be only one of the tools used for conservation and to achieve sustainable stocks. Many criticise the Government for underestimating the amount of fish in the sea, but we tend to fear that they have overestimated the amount in our area, particularly the amount of prawns in the Minch. Although we believe that there is a possibility that TACs are too high in the Minch area, I shall make no final judgment about that, but merely observe that it shows our different attitude. One fear is that so much scientific research has gone into the North sea, and latterly the sand-eel controversy, that not enough has gone into the west coast fisheries to discover the true stocks of prawns so that we might establish a sustainable yield.

I emphasise that we are dealing with a distinctive style of fishing but, despite our specialness, we are constantly caught up in the general crisis that affects the national fleet. For example, some years ago, the European Commission, recognising the fragility of the west coast area, decided to award it a higher percentage grant than was available in other parts of the United Kingdom for the construction of new fishing vessels. Hardly a penny of that theoretically high grant arrived because of overcapacity in other parts of the United Kingdom.

A fisherman in my constituency is going after crabs and lobsters and wants to build a new boat with Vivier tanks to be able better to service the markets. He presents no problem in terms of catching capacity but has been denied the funds that the EEC wants to give him because of overcapacity elsewhere.

There must be urgent and tough measures to reduce national capacity. When my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark) spoke of the need for a decommissioning scheme, he emphasised the need for a proper scheme. It must not miss the target. It must not vacuum up the small boats and small fleets and leave the large ones untouched.

There is a second way in which we are being caught up in the national crisis. We are suffering from increasing fishing pressure. Boats from the east coast, confronted with reduced quotas, come to the west coast to try to earn a living. We get caught up because of the pressure on prawns and white fish. We fear the drastic quota cuts that appear to have been agreed for cod and haddock on the east coast because we believe that one result will be a less favourable solution of the haddock quota on the west coast. We fear that boats from other areas will fish off the west coast, as they may fish against two quotas whereas we may fish against only one. Boats from the east coast could come over to the west, reduce the quota there, leaving nothing for local fishermen in the latter part of the year, and then return to the east, where we may not go, and finish their quota during the remainder of the year. That problem must be tackled. Such issues may seem rather detailed, but we must remember some of the special facets.

I realise that time is short, but I must say something about the amendment that I tabled. I understand why it was not selected, but in it I tried to convey what I have attempted to say in my speech—that we must recognise the very different nature of fishing fleets in different areas. Fish are obviously a finite resource. That is the crux of the problem. Whatever arrangement we arrive at, it obviously cannot he a laissez-faire free-for-all. There has to be controlled management. Because of my appreciation of the different types of fishing done in different areas, I believe that that management would be best organised at local level.

Some organisation of local management and local control is needed as we move into the 1990s and a new common fisheries regime. The fishermen whom I represent look to what has been achieved in the Shetland box, for example. They believe that something along those lines is needed round the Western Isles. That sort of approach will achieve the most benefit for the national interest, and that is the maximum sustainable yield of fish from the west coast area at the lowest cost to the Exchequer. Management regimes do not necessarily cost any money but they achieve the maximum benefit to the community in terms of jobs and downstream processing. That is why the fishermen in my constituency look to the Government to ensure the early introduction of some form of local managment scheme.

6.40 pm
Sir Michael Shaw (Scarborough)

I shall not take up the interesting speech of the hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Macdonald) save to say that I agree that we must remember that the fishing industry comprises many local industries, many of which have special features. I represent two fishing fleets that have individual characteristics. Whitby and Scarborough both have long traditions. They have their own communities and they have a living to earn. By tradition they have handed down their boats and knowhow from father to son, from generation to generation. The situation this year is so serious that their livelihoods are endangered unless something can be done rapidly to restore security.

I recall the debates of 1983 which led to the House agreeing to the common fisheries policy. I remember the hopes that we all had for stability and prosperity in fishing as a result of that agreement. It was a good agreement. There were advantages to the United Kingdom and its fishermen, as there were to the fishermen of other member states. Alas and alack, things have not worked out as we hoped. What went wrong? I have argued ever since I became a Member of this place, often on the basis of arguments advanced by the fishermen in my constituency, that the scientists are wrong and that the fishermen know better. Scientists may be wrong occasionally, but not always. They could not have got it wrong every year since the agreement was made.

Quotas have been agreed upon and then ignored. Inspection systems have been inadequate to achieve their purpose. Looking back, I believe that the scientists were right on the whole and that the system has not been used properly. There has been a considerable breaking of quotas by many member states. None of us is perfect, but we have tried to adhere to the rules. Now that the quota system is being more efficiently policed and inspection has improved, we face the consequences of the earlier years of the agreement when it was so often and so heavily broken. Now there is a a lack of fish.

That brings me to the negotiations which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food must enter next week. We have been fortunate ever since the agreement was reached in 1983 to have been represented by Ministers—my right hon. Friends the Members for Worcester (Mr. Walker) and for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Mr. Jopling), and now by my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer)—who have respected the fishing industry and fought hard on its behalf. They have not always been as successful as we wished because others had to be considered in the negotiations, but we must have an agreement for the North sea. If not, the future will be disastrous for anyone who wishes to make a living from it.

I know that my right hon. Friend will do his level best at the meeting next week and that he will seek some important answers from the Commission. The Commission has produced quota figures lower than those presented to us by our scientific advisers. We are faced also with a late agreement with Norway. It is unfortunate that no reasons have been given. As others have asked, do we need to ratify the Norwegian agreement straight away? That is a good question. Should we not insist that the Commission, which has made such a rotten job of it so far, returns to Norway to engage in some more arguing to some purpose? If it chooses not to do so, let us hear from it why it came to such a poor agreement with Norway.

What should my right hon. Friend be seeking? I agree that he should be looking for the maximum that can be justified by scientific advice. Without using that advice we have no foundation on which to base our arguments. There will have to be strong reasons—these have certainly not been advanced so far by the Commission—why we should not accept scientific advice. We should seek every possible way of tightening quality observance and the policing of catches.

We must continue to improve our methods of conservation. The effect of the conservation measures of today does not become apparent until several years have passed. The measures are designed to benefit those who fish in the future. Therefore, we must press again for the various measures that have been urged by right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House, including those that determine mesh sizes. As my hon. Friend the Member for Bridlington (Mr. Townend) said, various matters have been urged strongly by representatives of fishing.

If national quotas are set for any species, they should not be allocated merely to the various regions of the United Kingdom. I hope that the individual regions will fish with fixed quotas and enforceable penalties. The fishermen who are represented by the hon. Member for Berwick-up-Tweed (Mr. Beith) and I have suffered because of the failure to operate such a policy. That must not be allowed to happen again.

The fishermen in my constituency are greatly concerned about the future as a result of the proposals being made by the Commission. But I have confidence that my right hon. Friend will do his level best to try to wrest more sense out of the Commission. I wish him good luck in his endeavours in the week ahead.

6.49 pm
Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland)

I beg to move, to leave out from "prices" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof: and calls upon the Government whilst paying proper regard to the need to conserve fishing stocks, to make every effort to negotiate the best possible fishing opportunities for the British fishing industry in 1990, and to bring forward proposals both to supplement existing conservation measures and to facilitate the restructuring of the fishing fleet, and in particular, to help manage a reduction in capacity through the introduction of a decommissioning scheme. The wide geographical contributions to the debate from south-east Cornwall, the Western Isles and Scarborough make it clear that a crisis is facing the British fishing industry. The hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Macdonald) was right to remind us that that crisis affects different communities in different ways. There is clear unanimity that the Council of Ministers, which the Minister and the Secretary of State for Scotland will attend next week, is of crucial importance to the industry. Our amendment gives them every encouragement to try to achieve the best possible deal in terms of fishing opportunities for British fishermen, consistent with the necessary considerations of conservation.

Many of us thought the position bad enough last year, when the haddock total allowable catch was drastically reduced from 128,000 tonnes to 54,000 tonnes. Many of us warned of the dire consequences that could face the industry and the communities around our coast, which are so dependent on the fishing industry. We now face proposals to implement an even greater cut. Unless proper measures are introduced, many of our communities will be devastated.

The haddock total allowable catch is only one quarter of the 1988 TAC, with the cod TAC being just above half its 1988 level. Many of us believe that that is the result of the Commission's actions in recent weeks, not least in the negotiations with Norway. I share the view expressed by the Minister, the Opposition spokesman and other hon. Members that the proposals have been left until the last minute and that there has not been adequate time fully to consider them.

There are a number of lessons to be learnt. The Norwegians have certain advantages in negotiations, but, as the hon. Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark) said, certain bargaining counters were also in the Commission's hands. None of us yet knows what in the world possessed Senor Marin to enter the negotiations with Norway at a very late stage and propose such ridiculously low TACs. It is difficult enough to try to persuade fishermen to accept TACs based on scientific advice; it is almost impossible —and no one would wish to try—to get them to accept TACs that have been put forward for some obscure negotiation purpose.

The other matter which is causing great irritation, even fury, is the increase in TACs for the industrial fisheries by-catch. Most fishermen fish for fish which end up on a consumer's plate, not in an industrial fishery. That aspect has compounded an already bad situation. We were pleased to hear the Minister say that when he goes to Brussels he will seek to activate the Hague preference. We welcome that assurance and encourage him in his negotiations to achieve that.

My hon. Friends and I who represent fishing constituencies obviously want the Government to secure the best possible deal for the industry. As all hon. Members have said, the figures on the table are not acceptable. However, we accept the important requirements of conservation. I well remember that when my hon. Friends and I met the Parliamentary Secretary last month he said graphically that he did not wish to be the Minister with responsibility for fisheries when the last haddock was taken out of the North sea. We have no desire to be the Opposition party that encouraged him to be so. That would not be a responsible position to take.

The scientists who recommend TACs are an easy target for criticism and there is some justification in the allegation that in recent years they must have got something wrong. Only two years ago, when they were setting the TAC for haddock for 1988, they recommended an increase. In today's circumstances, that recommendation appears incredible. It is worth noting that at the time the Scottish Fishermen's Federation simply did not believe it. Nevertheless, on the table are TACs for haddock and for cod which still fall short of what the scientists recommended. There is scope for an increase and I am sure that the Minister will try to obtain that. I understand that the Germans, the Danes and the Irish are not at all happy with the proposals. I hope that the Minister can put together that majority and obtain a far better deal.

I must make something clear to the Minister, but I do not do so in any hostile or partisan way. It is more a kindly word of warning. If he returns to the House next week and announces that he has successfully achieved a higher level of TAC, even that will not be a reason for rolling out the red carpet.

Mr. Gummer


Mr. Wallace

I am glad that the Minister acknowledges that. The secretary of the Shetland Fish Producers Organisation said that the proposal was a compromise between a disaster and a catastrophe. What we seek, as reflected in our amendment, is a package of measures, not simply a better set of TACs.

One matter to which the Minister did not refer but which forms part of the Commission's proposals relates to the management of the haddock TAC. There is a specific proposal about fishing vessels having to cease fishing for 10 consecutive days per month if their catch had gone above a certain level in the past 18 months. There is another proposal for ceasing to fish other stocks when the total haddock TAC has been reached. That has met with considerable opposition within the fishing industry. Having been given a TAC, we should be left to manage it.

Mr. Gummer

I very much share the industry's concern about that proposal, which clearly seeks to interfere with the management of the TACs—or at least the quotas—within individual nations. We have enough trouble trying to manage our own quotas without other people telling us how to do it. I shall have to find better ways to manage the quotas for the reasons put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough (Sir M. Shaw) and the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith). There is a real problem of over-fishing by one part of the country causing losses in another part. That must be carefully considered, but the position is not helped by other people trying to tell us how to do it. It is not an area in which I intend to follow the Commission.

Mr. Wallace

We welcome the Minister's reassurance on that matter.

I shall not dwell on another part of the package because the Minister responded satisfactorily to my earlier intervention on precautionary TACs. He gave an encouraging response on the need for a better package of conservation measures to supplement rather than substitute for TACs and quotas. Reference has been made to the proposals put forward by the Scottish Fishermen's Federation, which have been largely adopted by the Scottish Office. A number of specific measures have been mentioned, including the square mesh nets. An important measure is to try to make enforcement of conservation measures easier, with liability arising if a vessel is carrying rather than using illegal equipment. It is also important to recognise the willingness to accept the one-net rule. The Minister rightly stressed that the measures were tough. I am sure that the Scottish Fishermen's Federation and the Northumbrian fishermen did not suggest them lightly or without a great deal of debate among their members. It is to the credit of the industry that it has proposed such measures.

The Minister said that he had pressed the Commission on a number of conservation proposals and that they would be the subject of further negotiation. I hope that the Secretary of State, in his reply, will say what will be the likely timescale for any possible developments. It is widely recognised that we are dealing with an urgent situation. For it to continue into the distant future is unacceptable and a number of conservation measures should now come into play.

Hon. Members have expressed their concern about the number of discards. That is almost invariably mentioned at meetings with fishermen or those involved in the fishing industry. Despite the fact that the haddock TAC for this year has been fished out, many fishermen are still finding substantial volumes of haddock in their nets when fishing for other species.

We need measures other than the conservation measures already mentioned. The Minister singularly omitted to mention the need for decommissioning. If we have a problem, it is made even greater by having a large fleet, all the members of which are trying to get as much as they can within the legitimate bounds of the TACs.

If these measures go through, in 1990 we shall catch one quarter of the haddock allowed in 1988. Yet there has been no commensurate reduction in the capacity of the fleet. Time and again hon. Members, particularly Opposition Members, have called for a decommissioning scheme as an essential requirement.

The Minister should be grateful that the industry joins in such calls. Many Ministers would be only too pleased if they could stand at the Dispatch Box knowing that an industry for which capacity cuts had been announced was going along with those cuts and proposing ways in which they could he managed.

There will undoubtedly be some damaging effects, but we are trying to keep those to a minimum. I shall be interested to hear the views of the Secretary of State for Scotland on decommissioning when he replies. There has been some suggestion that he and the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food do not always see eye to eye.

As the hon. Member for South Shields said, I understand why the Minister, given his previous dangling with a decommissioning scheme, has so many reservations about it. But he cannot hide behind the Public Accounts Committee's report in trying to put off any further decommissioning scheme. The Public Accounts Committee, in its twenty-fourth report of April 1988, made it clear that it was criticising the way in which that scheme operated. In the summary of its recommendations and conclusions it says: For the future, we expect MAFF to determine more specific objectives for any grant schemes of this kind; and to consider fully the need for flexibility so as to ensure that they provide better value for money than was obtained from decommissioning grants. It is clear from that that the Public Accounts Committee foresaw that at some future stage there might well be other decommissioning schemes but recommended ways in which they could be better administered than the previous one. That report cannot be used as an excuse for shying away from introducing a decommissioning scheme.

The Department has proposed such things as aggregate licensing. That has a role to play but it will only scratch the surface of what is needed. We would like to see the temporary lay-up scheme followed up. I accept that the benefits to be derived from that are small, but at a time like this anything is welcome.

What we cannot accept is that things are left hanging in the air and left to the free market. We are not dealing with a free market. When the Government and the EC can so dramatically and drastically determine the catching opportunity, the Government are clearly in the marketplace and there must be other ways in which they can help the industry to restructure its effort and keep a modern and efficient fleet which matches capacity more closely to fishing opportunities.

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Secretary of State for Scotland can go to Brussels with every exhortation to get a good deal, but they must come back with a satisfactory outcome, not just on TACs, but on conservation and, in particular, a commitment to introduce measures to restructure the industry, particularly to manage a decline in the industry's capacity through decommissioning. It is on that that they will be judged.

7.4 pm

Mr. Kenneth Warren (Hastings and Rye)

The amendment moved by the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) does not appear to seek to divide the House, but rather to clarify matters and to bring extra views to the House, which all hon. Members will value. What is remarkable about fishing is that it is the one industry in Britain that unites hon. Members on both sides of the House.

The eastern part of the Channel, with its substantial fishing ports of Hastings and Rye which I represent, may not be as hard hit as our friends in the northern and eastern fleets, but it should be clearly understood in Brussels that not only does the Minister go with our good will but he is speaking on behalf of all the fishermen round the coast who are unified in their condemnation of the haphazard way in which Brussels conducts its negotiations year after year.

It is clear that Norway and Sweden have outmanoeuvred Brussels. It is as simple as that. They know that Brussels has a propensity for photo-finishes at the end of the year. Why, over the years, has not Brussels co-ordinated negotiations in such a way as to find out what trade-offs countries outside the EEC want rather than trying to do a deal on fishing?

I hope that the Minister will convey strongly our views on the Commission's ineptitude in the negotiating meeting next week. It is strange that the Commission cannot negotiate but it can produce hundreds of pages without coming to any conclusions that the House could be expected to back.

I hope that during negotiations my right hon. Friend will bear in mind the effect not only on fishermen but on the food processing and fish industries which depend on the landings round our coasts. I am anxious that the Government should be seen to be more forthcoming in supporting the British industry at a time of crisis.

Decommissioning has been mentioned, but I am particularly worried about the Government's strange reluctance to invest in research at a time when the industry is facing recognised difficulties. Why have they not put more effort into developing the possibilities of inshore sea fish farming solutions which already work well for some species?

My right hon. Friend will not mind if I draw his attention to the way in which the honourable fishermen of Hastings and Rye march in line with all the conservation measures that are proposed, only to hear the Government say that the offshore gravel beds, which are known to be the source of the young fish on which we rely for supplying you, Mr. Speaker, with your Dover sole and plaice, can be dug up.

Fishermen are respected by all in their communities, and there is no question but that, certainly along the Sussex coast, they back conservation. However, they expect more understanding and less nonsense from Brussels.

7.7 pm

Mr. Austin Mitchell (Great Grimsby)

I shall not deal with the Norwegian agreement. I agree with everything that the Minister said on that. His criticisms of it were so strong that I do not know why he does not insist that it be renegotiated. It is a bad agreement and it needs renegotiation. If his criticism is as telling as that, why does he not ask for that to take place?

However, I cannot accept the Minister's call for a bipartisan approach to the issue. In the past 10 or 11 years we have had two staples of Government policy towards the fishing industry. There has effectively been a policy, first, to let market forces restructure the fishing industry and, secondly, to get a common fisheries policy and trust to that. It is those two staples of policy over the past 10 years that have produced the crisis that the industry is now facing in a state of shock, dismay and anger.

We are paying the price for years of inadequate policing of the common fisheries policy. Onshore authorities in competitor countries have turned a blind eye to malpractice, overfishing and failure to observe quotas in a way that has not happened in Britain, and now we are paying the price for the inadequacy of resources devoted to policing by this Government as much as any. We have seen also the consequences of years of high discards—of fish being caught and then chucked back dead. That in itself is a major threat to conservation. The result of all that is also seen in today's crisis. That situation cannot be made good by panic cuts in total allowable catches and in quotas of the type proposed.

What is required is a drastic new, conservation-based approach. I was dismayed to hear that officials in the Department do not think it appropriate to put conservation back into next week's negotiations, because conservation is the central issue. We must produce new measures for dealing with conservation, which would take the weight off quotas and TACs. The fishing industry shall not live by quotas and TACs alone, although unless there is some kind of supplement it may die by TACs and quotas alone.

The key supplement seems to me—and to many in the industry, judging by some of the speeches today—to be an increase in mesh sizes. I can speak on this subject with a perfectly clear conscience because Grimsby fishermen use a mesh size of 110 mm, compared with 90 mm in the Scottish fishing industry. The use of a larger mesh size is the proper way to help conservation, because it ensures that the young, immature fish escape.

Research indicates that a larger mesh size is the best way of aiding conservation. It accounts for the fact that discards in Grimsby are much lower, at about 4 per cent., than in the Scottish industry. I shall not venture to guess the percentage of its discards. It could be as much as 50 per cent. Certainly the figure is much higher than for Grimsby.

Why do the Government not demand universal adherence to a mesh size of 110mm? Unless that happens, Scottish fishing vessels deprived of opportunities will move to the grounds used by Grimsby fishermen, for example. In that situation, Grimsby's fishing industry, having adopted a mesh size of 110mm, will be decimated. It would also prove disastrous for conservation, and would give rise to a descending spiral of competitive catching. At this juncture, it is vital to move to bigger mesh sizes.

It is vital also to insist on shortening extension pieces. Again, Scotland uses 15m extension pieces whereas Grimsby fishermen use extension pieces of only 2m as we do south of the border. The shorter the extension piece, the better for conservation, and the more the number of small and immature fish that escape. It is also essential to deal with the problem of discards. Discards should be brought back and landed with the rest of the catch, and then recorded as part of the quota. That would be the most effective way of dealing with the problem. The Minister should insist on that practice in the EEC, rather than give us a mealy-mouthed talk deploring discards but suggesting nothing to deal with them effectively. He should insist on discards being landed and properly policed. The discards are dead and are a threat to conservation, and unless they are properly dealt with there cannot be proper policing.

It is also essential that the Government spend more money on policing. The North sea is inadequately policed due to Government spending cuts and the Department's failure to live up to its responsibilities. As almost every hon. Member who spoke has said, there must also be a proper decommissioning scheme. I know that the Government got their fingers burnt with the last scheme, but it is wrong to blame the industry for the fact that the Department made such a mess of it. The industry should not be asked to pay the price for the incompetent administration of the last decommissioning scheme.

I would like to see such a scheme geared to taking out the largest and most efficient vessels, because they are responsible for creating conservation problems. Grimsby vessels, of which I am very proud, are good vessels from a conservation point of view, but in the main they are old. I would prefer to see Government support to help keep those vessels fishing for reduced catches rather than see them taken out of service. On that I disagree with the National Federaton of Fishermen's Organisations, which is based in Grimsby. Nevertheless, a decommissioning scheme must be established if catching capacity is to be kept in balance with conservation.

As to quotas and TACs, it is all very well the Minister saying that he will resist any reduction of the size that Commissioner Marin seems to have picked out of the hat in respect of the Norwegian negotiations, but the Minister must draw a balance between the industry's catching capacity, the desire for an orderly run-down, and scientific advice. It is not enough to use the scientific advice as a shield in defence of all criticisms. A balance must be achieved between the industry's viability, its managed run-down, and scientific advice. If that is not done, we shall witness a descending spiral of intense competition.

For Grimsby, cod quotas are the central issue. I may say in passing that I am unhappy at the behaviour of the Scottish fishing industry, which forced the haddock ban on us. The Scottish industry's irresponsible behaviour was justified and even defended by DAFS, which seems to do a better job of making deals for the Scottish fishing industry than MAFF does for the English industry. In support of that contention, I quote from the Eurofish report of 23 November: The UK's largest body, the Scottish Fishermen's Organisation, and the North East Scottish FBO are considered to he chiefly to blame for forcing that closure"—of the haddock fisheries.

Mr. Gummer

Perhaps I may reassure the hon. Gentleman that north of the border Scottish fishermen take exactly the opposite view and feel that the deal done for English fishermen by myself and MAFF is better than that done by DAFS. That is part of those fishermen's view of other fishermen. As to the hon. Gentleman's comments about cuts in policing, I checked up on that aspect particularly because I should not want to mislead the House. There has been no cut in policing. In fact, we have forced an increase at a European level, and we have kept our own policing up. The hon. Gentleman must not talk about cuts when they have not taken place and will not take place.

Mr. Mitchell

The Minister exaggerates the case. Policing is inadequate. The demonstrable consequence of that is the situation in which we now find ourselves. The European effort, which the Minister praises himself for having secured, is totally inadequate. There must be a much more effective common policing system, rather than relying on shore authorities, which are often in collusion with their own country's fishing industry.

As to whether MAFF does a better job for the English industry than DAFS does for Scotland, my experience is that the Scots get a much better deal from DAFS. The industry's growth over the past few years certainly indicates that that is the case. If I were a fisherman, I would rather be defended by DAFS than by MAFF, which pays a great deal of attention to the demands of farmers but little to those of fishermen.

I return to the central issue of the cod quota. The Minister said that he would invoke the Hague preference. I hope that he will promise to resist any fall in the quota below the level at which the Hague preference must be invoked. I understand from a parliamentary answer of 13 November that the limit is 43,179 tonnes of cod. Why does not the Minister pledge himself to resist any reduction in the cod quota below that level so that the Hague preference will not have to be invoked, which would not benefit Grimsby, dependent though it is on fishing?

The scientific advice in respect of the saithe and coley quotas is somewhat doubtful. A cut is being recommended because there has been a certain use of paper fish in that particular fishery. All the evidence suggests that recruitment is increasing, and that we do not need a cut. A cut would affect the British industry disproportionately because, unlike the Community, it catches its saithe quota.

I hope that the Minister will resist the proposal by his colleague in the Department of Transport to end the Decca navigation system, which has involved huge investment in charts and personal information banks arid the scrapping of which would impose a considerable cost on an industry not at present equipped to bear such costs.

The real problem is the Government's attitude. The Minister keeps returning to his fishing responsibilities. He is, in a sense, a reconstituted fishing Minister—a kind of departmental crabstick. He tells us that market forces will decide the shape of the industry and that the common fisheries policy is working well, but both claims are manifestly wrong. We need firm action to resist the proposals, but we also need a Ministry willing to help the industry financially, as the hill farmers were helped in the disastrous rain-sodden summer of four or five years ago.

The fishing industry has been asked to take a huge cut in its catching capacity and its earning power, and it needs financial help, not just a decommissioning scheme that will work. The Government must live up to their responsibilities, as well as preaching the forces of dire necessity.

7.20 pm
Mr. David Harris (St. Ives)

I will not follow the remarks of the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell), especially his unfair attack on my right hon. Friend the Minister. I am sure that the overwhelming feeling of hon. Members on both sides of the House is delight at his return, as he has brought back to the Ministry his tremendous knowledge of the fishing industry and his determination to fight for it.

Sadly, only a few weeks ago a Cornish fishing boat—the Flamingo—was lost off my constituency, with the death of two Cornish fishermen. That is a tragic reminder of the risk that our fishermen take every time they go to sea, for conditions were pretty good that day: there were no storms or rough seas. Today's debate is largely preoccupied with the economic state of the industry, but we should also remember the human aspect.

A natural feature of the economic approach, however, is our habit of concentrating on the respects in which things are going badly. Although I do not wish to minimise the problems, I feel that we should remind ourselves from time to time of some of the success stories. I was pleased to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Cornwall, South-East (Mr. Hicks) mention how Looe, a port in his constituency, has been developed: we all rejoice in its success, and in the news that a market has been built there. Newlyn, a port in my constituency, now has a £20 million-a-year trade in fish, and in Devon, the neighbouring county, Brixham's trade amounts to £15 million a year. That is big business, and we should also consider the employment that such developments create.

My hon. Friend the Member for Cornwall, South-East mentioned the increase in boats in Looe. That increase, which applies to many coastal areas, has added to the pressure on stocks; but the problem relates not only to the boats themselves but to their catching capacity. I may anticipate the remarks of the spokesman of a certain party north of the border when I express the hope that we all recognise that the tremendous increase in capacity is a major contributor to the present difficulties.

Coming as I do from the other end of the country, I appreciate the difficulties of Scottish and North sea fishermen—which they will continue to face, I suspect, in the years ahead. Perhaps the cuts with which we in the south-west are threatened are not so deep, but we must not be smug. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Cornwall, South-East about the need to maintain the Channel quota for cod, and I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Minister will bear that in mind when he goes to Brussels next week.

An issue that has exercised the mind of every hon. Member—although no one except my right hon. Friend mentioned it this evening—is quota-hopping, the disgraceful practice whereby Spanish boats in particular have moved into our waters and literally stolen our quotas. I am sorry to note the absence of one or two of my colleagues who were present at 3 am a few weeks ago when we debated an amendment to the Merchant Shipping Act 1984. I have a nasty suspicion—which I shall banish immediately from my mind—that they were more interested in bashing a European institution, in this case the European Court of Justice, than in showing an interest in the fishing industry.

My right hon. Friend was perhaps wise not to give way to me when he touched on the decision by the European Court. I warmly welcome that decision and know that it will also be welcomed in the south-west, which as the part of England nearest to Spain has borne the brunt of the pernicious practice of quota-hopping. I was going to ask my right hon. Friend—although presumably my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland will give the answer—what the ruling of the European Court will mean in practical terms. How many Spanish boats will be left on the register? At the time of the setback a few weeks ago it was said that, of a total of between 100 and 150 boats, perhaps a dozen might have to stay on the new register of fishing vessels. Whatever the figure, however, we welcome the court's decision: we seem to have won most of the case that we were making not only in the courts of this land, but in the European Court. If an end has been put to quota-hopping, it may be the best news that has come from today's debate.

Many other topics could be discussed, but I shal revert to the issue that has dominated the debate: the serious cuts in quotas for the North sea and Scotland. The hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Macdonald) was right. When we consider the fishing industry, we naturally tend to do so from the constituency point of view and from the point of view of our own fishermen and ports. The whole industry is, in fact, related and what affects the Scottish and North sea fishermen can have a repercussive effect on fishermen in the west of Cornwall. If fishermen elsewhere are in difficulties and suffer a cut in fishing opportunities, as happened in the mackerel fishery, they will come down to the south-west of England and catch what we sometimes think of as "our" fish. The crisis in the North sea and Scotland is casting a long shadow which stretches right down to the south-west of England.

Uncertainty hangs over the whole industry. I do not for a moment blame Opposition Members for returning to the problem of how on earth we are going to restructure the fishing fleet. We all agree that there is overcapacity in the fleet. The problem that my right hon. and hon. Friends must address is how to resolve that overcapacity. I do not know whether my right hon. Friends will go down the route of a decommissioning scheme, and I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland will throw some light on Government thinking tonight. I am pleased to see my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food nodding his head in agreement and I await the winding-up speech with some eagerness.

If my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland can hold out some hope on that front, this debate will have been worth while. It will also have been worth while if we reinforce Ministers' determination, when they go to Brussels next week, to pursue the line that was set out at the beginning of the debate by my right hon. Friend. I am sure that that line is correct and that he will have the backing of the House in pursuing it next week in Brussels.

7.31 pm
Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan)

The House will understand my anxiety and that of my hon. Friends to speak in this debate in defence of the fishing industry. It is a cause that we inherit because of the constituencies that we represent. The Minister asked today for a consensus. I can tell him that unless the winding-up speech is substantially stronger than the opening speech, he will not receive support from my party. In no circumstances could my party—or, I suspect, many other hon. Members—subscribe to a policy which could bring about the ruination of our fishing industry.

Furthermore, we must consider the complacency, confusion and disarray of the Government's fishing policy in the past two years. First, there has been complacency. The Minister apologised for the circumstances of the debate and for the deluge of late information available to hon. Members. Perhaps he could do nothing about that —the circumstances may have been beyond his control —but it is most certainly in the Minister's control that, disgracefully, this is the only major parliamentary opportunity in the whole year for a wide-scale debate on the fortunes of this vital industry. It is remarkable that Members of the minority parties, including myself, my hon. Friends and the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood), have managed to force three debates on the fishing industry in the past few months but there has been no general debate on the fishing industry in Government time in the past year. One annual debate on the fishing industry is an insult to the importance of that industry and to the Scottish and United Kingdom economies.

Only last year, the Minister's predecessor made what was billed as a major speech in Europe on the common fisheries policy, which he said was bringing "stability and prosperity" to fishing communities. We see not stability and prosperity in our fishing communities but volatility and penury as the immediate prospect.

Secondly, there has been confusion in the Government's fisheries policy. That is best represented by the impasse on the decommissioning scheme. In the past six months, it has been well reported and understood in Scotland that there is a conflict between the Scottish Office and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. The Scottish Office favoured a decommissioning scheme while the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food was ensuring that such a scheme would not be implemented. When I raised that suggestion in the press, the Minister of State, Scottish Office, the noble Lord Sanderson, loyally wrote to me on 11 October and said that I had no basis for making such an allegation.

Unfortunately for the noble Lord, on that very day, under the heading, "Gummer sinks fishers' hopes", the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food was quoted in a Scottish newspaper as speaking at the Conservative conference in hostile terms about the decommissioning scheme. So unpopular was the Minister's opposition to the decommissioning scheme and so unpopular was his tendency to blame the industry for the problems that it faces, rather than to accept any policy responsibility, that even a journal such as the Scottish edition of The Sunday Times, which is not noted for its trenchant criticisms of Government policy, was moved to say on 22 October in a column by Allan Massie: The attempt made by John Selwyn Gummer, minister of agriculture, fisheries and food, to throw responsibility for the crisis back on the Scottish fishermen was a characteristically silly and shabby effort to evade Whitehall's responsibility. I hope that in the winding-up speech tonight the Scottish Office view and not the view of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food will prevail on decommissioning.

Thirdly, there has been disarray in the Government's fisheries policy over the past two years. For the past two years, there has been no licensing scheme, there has been a stalemate on decommissioning and at the heart of today's debate has been the fact that the Government's conservation policy is contradictory. Once again, the Minister seeks to hide behind scientific advice from the Commission. That is dangerous because scientific advice is not all on one side. Senor Marin himself, arguing for his version of the cod and haddock quotas, will also be able to claim that he is acting on scientific advice on the bottom range of scientific advice as opposed to the top range.

We know that over the past seven years the procedure of following scientific advice with TACs and then quotas which have not been overfished still has failed to bring about any recovery in the main fisheries stocks and especially the haddock stock. There is a simple reason for that when the quotas are forced down to low levels. As that happens, the number and weight of discards automatically rises. It is a major problem and was even recognised in the voluminous documentation that we received today on the negotiations between the Commission and Norway.

The way forward for the fisheries lies in technical changes such as restrictions on fisheries gear and movement to the one-net rule.

Mr. Donald Dewar (Glasgow, Garscadden)

I intervene only to ask the hon. Gentleman to clarify this point. I have sympathy with many of his points, but I am not clear about his party's policy on the TACs for the coming year. Does he argue that we should disregard the scientific advice and try to force a higher level of TACs than is advocated by our own scientists, or is he prepared to live with that and to pin his hopes on the structural changes to which he now refers? That is important.

Mr. Salmond

It is indeed important, and I am coming to that point now. Our argument is that in fisheries policy the emphasis should move towards allowing the immature fish to escape alive and not discarding them dead in the North sea. The Minister made two points that puzzled me. First, he seemed to suggest that it was a policy which might work, and there is substantial scientific advice, especially from the marine laboratory in Aberdeen, that the policy would indeed work. The Minister of State, Scottish Office was confident in the Adjournment debate on 21 November that there would be real benefits in a relatively short time"—[Official Report, 21 November 1989; Vol. 162, c. 110.] Secondly, the Minister seemed to doubt my credentials in arguing for such a policy. I do not know whether the Minister reads the report of Scottish Estimates debates in the Scottish Grand Committee. On 13 July 1989, I went into a new conservation policy in some detail.

If we are moving to a policy which stands a substantial chance of being successful, we must acknowledge the difficulties that it will create for the fishing industry and the sacrifices that it is accepting. It will be extremely difficult to attempt to impose such a policy—and it must be imposed—if we do so against the background of insupportably low quotas. That is why my party believes that the bottom line for quotas should be the Hague preference total of 60,000 tonnes for haddock and 43,000 tonnes for cod, which may be met within the negotiations. That should be the bottom line for quotas. Policy emphasis should move to new conservation measures.

Mr. Gummer

I ask the hon. Gentleman a direct question. Is he saying that before any of his conservation measures could take effect this year the British Government should seek quotas higher than those which scientists say are safe and thereby endanger the future of the fishing industry?

Mr. Salmond

I ask the Minister to take on board the fact that observance of TACs has not protected the status of the fishing industry. [Interruption.] I am coming to the Minister's question. Conservation measures should be discussed at the Fisheries Council meeting, and they should be implemented in the coming year. That matter should be debated in Brussels now, not the arid, sterile subject of TACs. As has been said, we do not even have the assurance that those will be the major issues to be discussed next week. We should discuss conservation measures next week and implement this year.

Mr. Gummer

If the hon. Gentleman does not answer the direct question, he will face the accusation of dishonesty. He must answer the question. Does he recommend that, when I go to Brussels with my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, for the first time in British history I should argue that we should ignore scientific advice and opt for a figure which scientists tell us would endanger the future of the fishing industry? Does he say that or does he not?

Mr. Salmond

I have already pointed out to the right hon. Gentleman that the bottom line should be the quotas of 60,000 tonnes and 43,000 tonnes in the Hague preference. Of course that is above the top range of scientific advice, but, as the right hon. Gentleman has admitted, there is substantial evidence that scientific advice in the past seven years has been deeply flawed. The scientific advice in 1976 suggested a sharp increase in the haddock quota and has caused many problems. Was that also correct? I want a pledge from the Government that the focus of debate will move to conservation policies which might work and move away from TACs, which have failed in the past few years.

I make four points to the Government. First, we want the Marin proposals, as amended by the Commission, wiped off the table. Nor do we want a patch-up between the Commission proposals and scientific advice. It will not be acceptable to massage the figures up by a few thousand tonnes and claim victory after the Council's meetings next week.

I want an answer from the Minister and from the Secretary of State for Scotland: will the Luxembourg veto be used to block the settlement if it is not considered acceptable? Are the Government going to the EEC negotiations armed with the Luxembourg veto? The Prime Minister argues that the Luxembourg veto still exists within the Community for matters of vital national interest. From a Scottish perspective, there is no doubt that this is a matter of vital national interest. Will the Government go to the negotiations able and prepared to use that veto if the deal on the table is unsatisfactory? I do not want to unscramble the common fisheries policy, but if it comes to the crunch, I would rather unscramble the common fisheries policy than see it scramble the Scottish fishing industry.

Secondly, I should like an assurance that the new conservation agenda, which seems to have a good deal of all-party support, will feature in the Council's deliberations next week. Will it be debated? Will the Government make sure that other EEC countries acknowledge its force? Will there be rapid implementation of the conservation proposals? I should also like an assurance about industrial fishing. We are talking tonight about a total allowable catch for haddock in the North sea of about 32,000 tonnes for human consumption. In contrast, 1 million tonnes of pout and sand-eels have been taken by industrial fishing in the North sea over the past year. Will the Government acknowledge and explain the discrepancy between the huge tonnage for industrial fishing and the limited tonnage for human consumption? Can the Government explain why there is a 50,000 tonnes increase in the whiting by-catch for industrial fishing? Is that acceptable? When will we consider industrial fishing as a major cause of the industry's problems?

Thirdly, I am happy to say that the bottom line for the United Kingdom fisheries negotiation should be the Hague preference figures as agreed by the Council in 1976. I should like to see a wider application of the Hague preference. The Hague preference acknowledged that some areas of the Community—Ireland, northern Britain and, at that time, Greenland—had a special right to preference in the application of the common fisheries policy. That can be acknowledged in respect of quotas, so why can it not be acknowledged for decommissioning schemes and lay-up schemes, and why can it not help the processing sector through the FEOGA grant system? Is the Secretary of State for Scotland prepared to argue for the Hague preference across the range of fisheries policy?

Fourthly and finally, hon. Members hope and expect to hear the Secretary of State for Scotland say how capacity is to be reduced both temporarily and permanently. Will the Government apply access to the lay-up schemes that currently exist in Community regulation 4028/86? Will that be part of the Government's policy next year?

Mr. Brian Wilson (Cunninghame, North)

The hon. Gentleman has given notice that this is his last point. He is perfectly properly pushing a constituency interest rather than the Scottish fishing industry as a whole. Does he have any sympathy with the points made on behalf of the west coast fishing industry, the interests of which have not historically been compatible with those of some of his own constituents? I should like clear guidance as to whether he supports my hon. Friend the Member for Western Isles (Mr. Macdonald) in saying that there should not be a knock-on effect from the troubles of fishermen in the North sea to those whose home waters are on the west coast, particularly in the Minch.

Mr. Salmond

Unlike the hon. Gentleman, I have never sought to divide and rule the Scottish fishing industry. I have never launched attacks on west coast fishermen, as he has consistently done on fishermen from the north-east of Scotland. In contrast to hon. Members who represent English fishing constituencies, I have made no attack on fishermen in Hull, Grimsby or elsewhere. The hon. Gentleman should take on board the fact that, unless a satisfactory deal can be made for the North sea, there is bound to be a scramble for stocks not only on the west coast but around the United Kingdom generally. That is why, just for a change, my party would like the hon. Gentleman's support in defending the whole Scottish fishing industry and not just the interests that he wants to represent.

Mr. Wilson


Mr. Salmond

I will not take any more information from the hon. Gentleman. I have already allowed him to intervene. My party represents the whole Scottish fishing industry. We are not launching an attack on any part of it.

We need an assurance that the fishing industry will be given the priority that it deserves. The most tangible assurance would be for the Minister to make it clear that, if no satisfactory deal is on offer next week, the United Kingdom veto will be available to block any deal that will cause the ruination of our fishing industry and fishing communities.

7.49 pm
Mr. Barry Field (Isle of Wight)

The sense of unreality about our debate this evening is highlighted by the fact that one of the documents that we are considering deals with the price of tuna. When I was in the Bay of Biscay three years ago, the tuna ships there were laid up because tuna had been fished to such an extent that no stocks were left. It is a sign of the responsibility that falls upon the shoulders of my right hon. Friend the Minister if I say that over 60 per cent. of the total EEC fish stock in the EEC pond is found within the 200-mile limit around the United Kingdom.

I believe that I am correct in saying—perhaps my right hon. Friend will confirm this—that no other member of the EEC has such a sophisticated inspectorate. I first tabled a question on this subject in November 1987 and did so again in March 1988. My right hon. Friend met fishermen in Portsmouth in May 1988 to discuss conservation. I welcome him back, not only to the Front Bench, but to fielding on fish.

The hon. Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark) said that the North sea would predominate in this debate. He illustrated my point for me because I do not wish to talk about distant water quotas or about the North-West Atlantic Fisheries Association. Although most people's perception is that all fishing takes place north of Watford or west of Portland Bill, literally hundreds of inshore fishermen earn their living from the North Foreland to Land's End.

My right hon. Friend said that he takes note of the scientific advice that he receives. I draw his attention to the report by Messrs Pawson and Pickett on bass fishing stocks in the Channel. They state in paragraph 38 that the bass regularly move out of the six-mile zone. In paragraph 39 they draw attention to the fact that in unseasonably warm weather the bass move north earlier and there is an increase in the influx of international bass. Paragraph 51 states: We now know that bass spend more time offshore as they grow older and become progressively less accessible to the British fishery". In fact, the French regularly fish the adult spawning stock, which starts off Land's End and moves mid-Channel between January and May. The French pair fish, taking up to 40 tonnes at a time. We are not living in the real world if we believe that mummy bass says to daddy bass, "I suppose we'll swim up the English side of the Channel today to avoid all those naughty French fishermen who tend to overfish the stocks on that side of the Channel." My real fear is that when—I emphasise "when"—quotas are eventually introduced for bass fishing, which I believe will happen, they will be based on historic catches. My right hon. Friend has introduced nursery stocks that will restrict the amount of bass that we can take from the Channel.

When my right hon. Friend goes back to the EEC about such matters, I hope that he will negotiate a complete EEC ban on the taking of bass from January to May. We want a minimum fine of £1,000 per fish for each undersized fish taken. For second offences, we want the automatic confiscation of the boat and all its gear. Magistrates must be encouraged to fine the maximum penalty. This evening the Southern Seas Fisheries Committee visited the House and informed us that it had recently found a Solent oyster boat illegally fishing a catch of oysters worth £800, yet the maximum fine for that is £400.

I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Hastings and Rye (Mr. Warren) about the problems of aggregate dredging. If we are serious about conservation—I believe that we are—we must consider the effects of aggregate dredging on the fishing stock and the fish breeding grounds. I have written to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer pointing out that the total fees earned by the Crown Estates from aggregate dredging in the Solent waters last year was £100,000. I have been to see the Crown Estates Commissioners, who informed me that they wish to continue to license aggregate dredging in the Solent waters because they provide a sheltered water environment that allows aggregate dredging to continue in rough weather. In the words of local fishermen, that argument is all cockles and rock because one often sees aggregate dredgers in a flat calm in the Solent during August. For £100,000 in licences, we should ask our right hon. Friends at the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to join us in requiring a ban on aggregate dredging in the Solent.

I join the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) in asking my right hon. Friends to make representations about the phasing out of Decca—that is a most important point.

The Liberal Democrat amendment endeavours to show that this problem has been caused by the Government. Therein lies the dichotomy within that party—it can see no wrong with the European Community, whereas all h on. Members who represent Channel constituencies and who know of the difficulties that our inshore fishermen face know that the true problem is the French, who are not playing the game and who catch bass of a different size.

We wish my right hon. Friend well as he goes to negotiate on our behalf. I hope that we shall have either a proper system of enforcement, especially in relation to the bass fisheries, or a complete ban and controlled areas.

7.56 pm
Mr. Frank Doran (Aberdeen, South)

I represent a constituency with a tremendous investment in the fishing industry. That investment includes not only catching, but processing and scientific work. Indeed, a great deal of the scientific evidence that has been discussed tonight: is gathered in my constituency at the marine laboratory of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland. On behalf of the scientists involved, I took exception to some of the comments that have been made, especially those from the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond), who said that the Government seemed to be hiding behind the scientific advice and suggested that the advice was not altogether accurate or could certainly be devalued.

I have taken the trouble today to try to find out exactly what is involved in gathering that scientific advice and making it available to the European Commission. I discovered that 165,000 fish were measured at commercial landing points, but that the 20,000 fish that were to be discarded were measured on board ship. On top of that, there were over 450 trawls from the marine laboratory's own vessels and from other international vessels with an interest in the North sea.

Mr. Salmond

The hon. Gentleman misunderstands the point. The problem with the scientific advice is that various factors affecting the industry mean that even if the stock assessment is correct, low quotas—because of discards—cannot solve the problems of the industry. Does the hon. Gentleman acknowledge that, although TACs have followed scientific advice over the past seven years and there has been no overfishing, the stocks have continued to decline? He will have noted my glowing reference to the marine laboratory in connection with its research into the new conservation measures.

Mr. Doran

What I acknowledge is that the hon. Gentleman made a glowing reference to the marine laboratory, but then sought to devalue the evidence and refused properly to answer the question put to him. He tried to hide behind a smokescreen when pressed on whether his party would follow that scientific advice and ask the Government to follow it.

It is important to recognise that that work has been going on since 1960 and that it has produced detailed and precise figures—as precise as resources will allow.

My constituency also contains the Torry research laboratory. As my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark) reported, there has been a considerable cut in that laboratory's facilities which has taken away its opportunity to give assistance and advice to the fish-catching industries.

Mr. David Porter (Waveney)


Mr. Doran

I shall not give way because we are short of time. It is regrettable that that cut has been made at a time when the industry is clearly in crisis.

In the north-east of Scotland 4,000 people are employed in the fish processing industry, many in my constituency. Again, I checked on the consequences of the reported catches. I was told that in Aberdeen there are 500 expert haddock filleters. Filleting is an art form in my constituency. That is the number of people employed to meet this year's quotas. Next year's quota will reduce the number of jobs to 120, and there will be a knock-on effect on every other aspect of processing. A quarter of the jobs will be left when the quota comes into effect.

There are serious anxieties in the processing industry. I join the hon. Member for Hastings and Rye (Mr. Warren) in pleading with Ministers—if, as they should, they consider a decommissioning scheme for the catching side —to consider assistance for the processing side of the industry. Processing is in a state of flux, not only because of the reduction in catches that it has to process but because it is making itself ready for the implementation of EEC regulations on food handling, which will have a profound impact. The industry is vulnerable but crucial and it should not be ignored.

The position of the processing industry is not simply a local interest. Almost all the fish that ends up in British supermarkets, or at least a substantial proportion of it, is processed in my constituency. My plea is not simply a constituency matter but one in which everyone who eats fish has an interest.

The hon. Member for Banff and Buchan raised the veto of the Hague preference. It is difficult to understand the Hague preference because it is hard to find written evidence. I understand that it was agreed under the Hague preference that, for example, the United Kingdom quota would be 60,000 tonnes of haddock from the North sea. Last year, the former Secretary of State invoked the preference as part of the negotiations and achieved a compromise between what the EEC Commissioners wanted and what the Hague preference said. I do not know whether the same attitude will be taken this time, but the figure of 60,000 tonnes exceeds the scientific recommendations.

I should be interested to know what the Hague preference said. I want to know what it involves. I ask the Minister and the Secretary of State for Scotland to consider publishing the annexes to it, which none of us has seen. It is not good enough for information to filter out in bits and pieces during debates. We need to know precisely the basis on which the Government negotiate.

The Scottish press has responded to Scottish National party press releases about the veto or, more accurately, the Luxembourg compromise. Again, there is some uncertainty about the status of that compromise. I paid close attention to what the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan said. To quote him as closely as possible, he said that the SNP would not subscribe to a policy that would lead to the destruction of the fishing industry. He went on to call for the veto. I do not wish to put the Minister on the spot. The Government need to go into the negotiations with the strongest possible hand, so I do not expect them to declare their hand publicly in the House. I should like the Minister to confirm that there is a veto. If the veto is implemented or invoked, there will be several consequences. Will there be a free-for-all in the North sea?

An essential part of the negotiations will be an agreement with Norway. If the Council of Ministers cannot reach an agreement with Norway, will our fishermen be denied access to the Norwegian sector? Will they be allowed to catch as much as they like in our own sector, to which they have access? Will there be a complete freeze on catching in our sector? That seems a logical outcome. If the entire common fisheries policy operates on the basis of agreed annual quotas and an agreement is not reached, no catching will be allowed. From 1 January, will fishing vessels from my constituency and those of other hon. Members be prevented from operating? If the Luxembourg compromise is invoked, will the Commission be entitled to impose quotas that are far worse than the present ones? We need an interim settlement until agreement is reached. Perhaps the Minister could answer that point.

If any of the options mentioned were realised, the point made by the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan would be simply laughable. The SNP's call for a veto would cause serious harm to our fishermen.

Mr. Salmond

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Doran

No. The hon. Gentleman took far more time than any other hon. Member who has spoken.

An imposed quota would cause more harm to the Scottish fishing industry and could lead to its destruction, which the hon. Gentleman said the SNP would not be part of. That is an important point.

It is important to recognise a further political point, and I make no apology for making it. Earlier this week, Scottish Members and other hon. Members interested in the steel industry tried to put together an all-party approach to persuade British Steel to take steps to help the Scottish steel industry, particularly in view of the problems at Ravenscraig and Clydesdale. The SNP decided to boycott that meeting. It decided that it wanted to go it alone. As always, it was looking for an easy headline, just as it did by calling for a veto.

Last night, I attended a meeting called by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food presided over by him and attended by all Conservative Members with a constituency interest in fishing. The SNP, one of whose members has a vital constituency interest in fishing—a boat-building industry—attended that meeting. Its representatives did not walk out because Tory Members were involved. Their attitude is hypocritical and their approach is that of easy headlines. The SNP's remedy for the fishing industry would cause great damage to fishing and the House should reject it.

8.7 pm

Mr. Keith Mans (Wyre)

I am grateful to have the chance to make a few remarks towards the end of this short debate. My right hon. Friend the Minister has dealt effectively with some of the comments made by the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond). I find it difficult to understand how the hon. Gentleman can say that he wishes to increase quotas above the scientifically acceptable limits already laid down while at the same time calling for conservation. We have to stay within the scientific limits for at least the next year. Alongside quotas I sincerely hope that we can carry out at least some of the conservation measures suggested by various hon. Members today.

I represent the port of Fleetwood on the west coast of England, which has suffered greatly for many years as a result of the reduction in the British fishing industry. It has not enjoyed the recent prosperity north of the border. Nevertheless, the fishermen in my port recognise the need to rely on scientific evidence to decide the levels of fish catches. If a port which has suffered as much as mine has in the past can see that need, I hope that others, particularly those in the constituency of the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan, can also recognise it.

I fully support the remarks made by the hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Macdonald) about the knock-on effect. It would be unfortunate if, as a result of what went on in the past, we saw the fish stocks off the west coast of Scotland and England being fished by people coming from the North sea.

It is important to look closely at how we shall achieve stability in our fishing industry. If possible, we must ensure that year on year we do not have continual reductions or increases in the amount of fish that our fishermen are allowed to catch. The long-term viability of our industry depends on stability. We need to do all that we can to refine and increase the accuracy of the scientific evidence on which our fish quotas are based. That is the main way forward.

In addition, we need conservation measures. In particular, will my right hon. Friend the Minister emphasise that we on the western side of England at least believe that industrial fishing should not have the priority that some member states want to give it? As the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) said, it cuts across the right policy, which is to increase the amount of fish caught for human consumption.

I wish my right hon. Friend the Minister well when he goes to Brussels. I am certain that he will fight our case as strongly as possible, and I sincerely hope that he wilt return with a reasonable deal for all our fishermen throughout the British Isles.

8.11 pm
Mr. Donald Dewar (Glasgow, Garscadden)

We have had several knowledgeable speeches, and there can be no doubt about the anxiety expressed from all sides and every sector of the industry. It is common ground between us that the industry is not all of a piece and that many interests are involved.

My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Doran) was right to mention the processing side. Inevitably, this evening the spotlight has been on the catching side of the industry. My hon. Friend the Member for Western Isles (Mr. Macdonald) made an important point about the pressure on the prawn fisheries in the Minch and the dangers of a knock-on effect. I have sympathy with the feeling that those particular grounds should be seen as a precious stock area and that consideration should be given to limiting the size and capacity of the fleet operating there.

We have concentrated, understandably, on the North sea. That is justified by the figures, the announcements from Brussels and the evidence of a cruel pressure which will inevitably grow within the industry over the next year or two. I share the doubts about the present operation of TACs. I accept entirely that there is justified criticism of the deal done with the Norwegians. I take the Minister's point that there is room to get something better, even within the present limits of scientific advice. Figures abound. It seems that scientific advice puts the figure for haddock at about 50,000 tonnes and the present TAC at about 43,000 tonnes. The gap for cod is between 113,000 tonnes and 97,000 tonnes for the EEC as a whole.

I am running rather quickly through the matters on which I can agree with the Government. I was pleased to hear the assurance on article 10, which is that, once quotas are exhausted, automatically other species cannot be fished. I was also pleased with footnote 51, which will enforce tie-up provisions of so many days a month on the fleet. I know that the Secretary of State for Scotland is not noted for robust language, but his remark that this was not an area in which he could follow the Commission was a little perjinct. I should have liked something a little more encouraging from him in terms of going into battle.

I shall read carefully what the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) said. We cannot have a debate on it now, but I am not clear about the SNP position. I am not clear whether he is prepared to live with the logic of what he said—perhaps that is a fairer way of putting it. He seemed to advocate going well beyond what the scientific evidence suggests would be safe.

Mr. Salmond

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Dewar

No, I am sorry. We can conduct this in another way. I shall just make my point.

The hon. Gentleman seemed to say that TACs had not been as effective as he would have liked. He drew from that the message that TACs could safely be ignored, as could scientific evidence. A rather more prudent man would have said that there were great difficulties with the TACs, that we must see how we can make them effective and ensure that they have the desired effect, and then gone on legitimately to talk about restructuring the fleet.

Mr. Salmond

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Dewar

No. The hon. Gentleman has been up and down like the proverbial yo-yo and he spoke for almost 20 minutes, so he has had his quota. His TAC has been well and truly exceeded. [Interruption.] I can think of several scientific suggestions for the hon. Gentleman, but I shall not go into that. This is a serious debate and I take the hon. Gentleman's view seriously.

I do not intend in a speech that has only five minutes more to run to get into an academic and constitutional argument on the Luxembourg compromise. The hon. Gentleman is in the land of make-believe if he believes that the Luxembourg compromise could be effectively played on this occasion. He may have noted that there has been a slight local difficulty in European politics about monetary union, for example. Clearly, the Luxembourg compromise was not available. I accept that Ministers can be tough in the negotiations. Indeed, all Opposition Members expect that.

I have some sympathy with many of the other points made by the Minister and the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan. The Minister told us in trenchant terms that TACs and quotas were not enough. That is right. There is the problem of the discards, the whiting by-catch, industrial fishing and the increase in the tonnages there, to which several hon. Members referred. The Minister, having declared his own discontent with TACs and quotas as a solution in themselves, said that conservation was essential. He referred to the Scottish Fishermen's Federation's views, which I endorse, and to the suggestion that there might be a one-net size on a boat. He suggested that possession of gear rather than proof of use might be an offence in itself and that enforcement rules should be changed. I hope that all that will be looked at sympathetically, as well as some of the other suggestions.

The trouble is that even that, together with TACs and quotas, is not enough. The Minister's speech was strangely incomplete. He tiptoed away from the whole question of a decommissioning policy. Attempts have been made to do something about capacity. In November, the Scottish Office produced a scheme for the consolidation of licences. If boats were to be replaced by new tonnage, the licence would be for only 90 per cent. of the total of the older boats going out of commission. That is a small step towards alleviating the problem.

The multi-annual guidance programme presents substantial reductions by 1992. We know that the market has not been working in that area. Despite all the industry's worries, capacity has been increasing while all these storm clouds have been gathering.

We must consider the decommissioning scheme seriously. I understand that there is already one in operation in Brussels. I do not know to what extent other nations use it. I think that the Danes and the Dutch have used it to some extent. As one person said to me today on the phone from Brussels, we are not "plugged in". I do not care whether we are plugged in. I am not even prepared to judge whether it is the right scheme.

Some scheme seems to be essential. If we do not have one, we shall have an illogical and painful process of change, as distinct from the planned, sensible and to some extent cushioned one which the industry deserves and which would come if we were to combine the attack, including the decommissioning scheme, on a wider scale than the Minister apparently envisages.

This is important. I do not make accusations of disunity in the Government, because I am not in a position to do so. However, I hope that there is at least a genuine debate taking place and I hope that the Secretary of State can say that the Government have not closed their mind to this possibility.

Debates in this Chamber are often heated. I accept that there are important interests—not merely constituency interests but much wider ones—at risk when we consider the future of the fishing industry. That is certainly true for Scotland. I do not want dramatics or bombast during this debate, but we are entitled to ask for determination when our negotitators go to Brussels on Monday. They should be determined to try to get the best possible deal to close the gap which certainly exists between the present TACs and the scientifically allowable levels. We also want a seriousness of intent and a willingness to move on conservation, and we want the Government to look actively and encouragingly at an adequate and flexible decommissioning scheme.

I entirely accept what was said at the start of the debate. The present crisis will generate pain for the industry, but it can be handled more sensibly than it has been in the past. The Government have a heavy responsibility to ensure that we make a much better fist of it over the next year or two.

8.22 pm
The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Malcolm Rifkind)

I am happy to reply to this debate. In view of the remarks of the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) I should point out that I reply on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, not for the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland or the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. I should emphasise that over the years both Departments have done extremely well in the interests of British fishermen and no doubt they will continue to do so.

A great number of hon. Members on both sides of the House have spoken in the debate. That illustrates the fact that so many parts of the country have an interest in fishing policy. However, even in the debate, the views of those from important parts of the United Kingdom such as East Anglia, about which my hon. Friend the Member for Waveney (Mr. Porter) was hoping to speak, have not been heard. It also illustrates, as the hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Macdonald) emphasised, the diversity of the fishing industry in Scotland, England and throughout the United Kingdom. It also emphasises that, at present, there is remarkable unanimity on the unacceptable nature of the European Commission's current proposals which have arisen particularly over the past week or so.

We thank the hon. Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark) who has helped us in the tasks that we face in Brussels by emphasising that Her Majesty's Opposition share many of the beliefs of Her Majesty's Government. He has shown that we believe the proposals to be, in certain vital respects, unattractive and indefensible.

It was extraordinary that, without giving any good reason, the Commission has departed from the scientific advice that it received and put forward proposals—particularly relating to haddock and cod quotas in which there will inevitably be major reductions—which were substantially less than the scientific evidence would have permitted.

As my right hon. Friend the Minister emphasised, it is difficult to see the justification in such difficult and unfortunate circumstances for the Commission putting forward proposals to Norway that would enhance its quota while the rest of the Community, for which the Commission is responsible, was expected to accept a severe reduction.

Quota management has also been mentioned. It is crucial to ensure that the Commission realises that its competence does not extend to the way in which national quotas are administered. That is, and must continue to be, a matter for national Governments.

In the short time available, I shall respond to some specific points made during the debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Cornwall, South-East (Mr. Hicks) asked for an assurance that the Government will always press for scientifically based total allowable catches, even when these are higher than those proposed by the Commission. I am happy to give such an assurance. My hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough (Sir M. Shaw) said that the Commission must produce convincing reasons for not accepting scientific advice. As yet, no such reasons have been forthcoming and we are entitled to expect them at the earliest opportunity.

My hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives (Mr. Harris) referred to the European Court's judgment and asked about its implications with regard to quota hopping. We have not yet had an opportunity to examine the text of the judgment, which was made only this morning. It appears that the court has found in favour of our basic proposition that there must be a substantial connection with the United Kingdom before vessels are entitled to benefit from our quota arrangements.

I share the astonishment of many hon. Members at the attitude of the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond). If I understood him correctly, he proposed that the United Kingdom's quota for haddock must be not less than 60,000 tonnes. The TAC for the Community must be substantially in excess of that, perhaps more than 70,000 tonnes, on the basis of the formula which he appears to identify. When we know that the scientists—not merely the Commission's scientists but our own scientists in the DAFS and the MAFF and elsewhere—agree that 50,000 is the largest safe figure consistent with the maintenance of stocks for the industry's future in Scotland and elsewhere in the Community, it becomes clear that the hon. Gentleman is behaving in a grossly irresponsible fashion.

Mr. Salmond

Does not the Secretary of State understand that if a new conservation policy is introduced, it should put a bottom line on the total allowable catch and the quota to avoid the perverse effects of low quotas, with fishermen flinging dead fish back into the North sea? Does he not appreciate that reasonably simple point?

Mr. Rifkind

The hon. Gentleman should appreciate that he is not speaking to a gullible audience in this House or when addressing the fishing industry. He knows perfectly well that conservation measures such as he suggests, even if they were desirable, could not be brought into effect in time to affect the quota for the next 12 months. I shall not waste the time of the House by pointing out what should be obvious to the hon. Gentleman and is certainly obvious to the fishing industry.

A number of hon. Members asked me for my views and the Government's views on the decommissioning scheme. I remind the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) that he asked me the same question on 15 November during Question Time. Then, I referred to the severe criticism of a decommissioning scheme that was in effect in this country some years ago and the report on that of the National Audit Office and the Public Accounts Committee.

In paragraph 6 of its report the Public Accounts Committee concluded: We consider that decommissioning grants, licences and construction grants represented a series of interventions that conflicted with and distracted from market forces with unintended and unfortunate consequences. We also know that, due to the various Community financial arrangements on United Kingdom distributions, the costs of such a scheme when we had one meant that of the total cost of £17.5 million, the United Kingdom provided £15 million, despite the nominal 50 per cent. contribution by the Community. Those are serious and damaging criticisms which we must take into account.

We must also ask to what extent the decommissioning scheme would address the serious problems facing the fishing industry. It would channel money to some fishermen who wanted to get out of the industry and would be attractive to those individuals. However, would it reduce the amount of fishing effort? In its 1987 report, the National Audit Office questioned whether the removal of vessels under the earlier scheme did anything to relieve the difficulties of the fishing quotas that were most under pressure. It would be difficult to target a scheme properly, as it is difficult in such circumstances for the Government to intervene effectively and precisely in an industry with so many active participants.

Mr. Wallace


Mr. Rifkind

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I continue because I have only a couple of minutes left.

There are strong arguments against a new decommissioning scheme.

Mr. Wallace


Mr. Rifkind

I am sorry. I have only a couple of minutes.

I shall comment briefly on the conservation points that have been made. I am grateful to the hon. Gentlemen who spoke strongly in favour of more effective conservation measures. The House is aware that the industry has moved in a constructive way towards recognising the need for conservation measures and, earlier this year, the Scottish Fishermen's Federation put forward important proposals designed to improve the conservation of stocks. They have three ingredients—the prohibition of attachments to fishing gear which have the effect of constricting meshes and thus retaining juvenile fish in the net, the banning of the carriage of nets of more than one mesh size on any one fishing trip and greater emphasis on enforcement, and the prohibition of the carriage of potentially illegal gear.

I was asked about a likely time scale for the implementation of new conservation measures. The consultation period in our proposals ends very soon and we will be able to put the proposals to the Commission early in the new year. The pace of progress will then be in the hands of the Commission. We shall press the Commission hard for quick action. It is crucial that in putting forward these proposals we can point to the support that the industry has given to the need for enhanced conservation measures, and that enhances the prospect for early progress in that direction.

I endorse the comment by the hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Macdonald) that we must take into account the interests of the industry in all parts of the country, including Scotland. That is crucial.

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) said that he was looking for determination by the Government at the negotiations in Brussels. I assure him that such determination will be forthcoming. In putting forward our case not only to the Commission but to other Community countries, we will be strengthened by the strong support given by all hon. Members who pointed to the inadequacies in the current proposals and who emphasised the serious consequences for the British fishing industry if major improvements are not made. The House and the fishing industry can assume that we stand four square behind the need to give a fair deal to our industry. We intend to do that.

It being three hours after commencement of proceedings on the motion, MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER proceeded, pursuant to Order [8 December], to put the Questions necessary to dispose of them.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 39, Noes 119.

Division No. 20] [8.30 pm
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) McFall, John
Battle, John McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)
Beith, A. J. Maclennan, Robert
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Mahon, Mrs Alice
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g) Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Moonie, Dr Lewis
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Morley, Elliot
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Quin, Ms Joyce
Dewar, Donald Robertson, George
Dixon, Don Rooker, Jeff
Doran, Frank Salmond, Alex
Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray) Skinner, Dennis
Golding, Mrs Llin Spearing, Nigel
Gordon, Mildred Taylor, Rt Hon J. D. (S'ford)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Wareing, Robert N.
Haynes, Frank Welsh, Andrew (Angus E)
Henderson, Doug Wilson, Brian
Home Robertson, John
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Tellers for the Ayes:
Johnston, Sir Russell Mr. James Wallace and
Kennedy, Charles Mr. Malcolm Bruce.
Macdonald, Calum A.
Alexander, Richard Bright, Graham
Amess, David Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)
Amos, Alan Buck, Sir Antony
Arbuthnot, James Burns, Simon
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Burt, Alistair
Atkinson, David Butler, Chris
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Butterfill, John
Bendall, Vivian Carlisle, John, (Luton N)
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Bevan, David Gilroy Carttiss, Michael
Boscawen, Hon Robert Chapman, Sydney
Boswell, Tim Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Bowis, John Cormack, Patrick
Couchman, James Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Cran, James Moate, Roger
Currie, Mrs Edwina Monro, Sir Hector
Davis, David (Boothferry) Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Day, Stephen Neale, Gerrard
Dover, Den Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Durant, Tony Norris, Steve
Emery, Sir Peter Oppenheim, Phillip
Evennett, David Page, Richard
Fallon, Michael Paice, James
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) Porter, David (Waveney)
Fishburn, John Dudley Raison, Rt Hon Timothy
Fookes, Dame Janet Redwood, John
Forth, Eric Renton, Rt Hon Tim
Freeman, Roger Rhodes James, Robert
French, Douglas Riddick, Graham
Gale, Roger Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Gardiner, George Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm
Garel-Jones, Tristan Sackville, Hon Tom
Goodlad, Alastair Shaw, David (Dover)
Gow, Ian Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) Shelton, Sir William
Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Hague, William Sims, Roger
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Hannam, John Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)
Harris, David Stern, Michael
Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney Stevens, Lewis
Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE) Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd) Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W) Stradling Thomas, Sir John
Hunter, Andrew Sumberg, David
Irvine, Michael Summerson, Hugo
Jack, Michael Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Jessel, Toby Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Knight, Greg (Derby North) Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Knowles, Michael Thorne, Neil
Lawrence, Ivan Walden, George
Lightbown, David Watts, John
Lord, Michael Wells, Bowen
Lyell, Sir Nicholas Widdecombe, Ann
Maclean, David Wiggin, Jerry
McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael Wilshire, David
Mans, Keith Wood, Timothy
Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Maude, Hon Francis Tellers for the Noes:
Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick Mr. Irvine Patnick and
Miller, Sir Hal Mr. John M. Taylor.
Mills, Iain

Question accordingly negatived.

Main Question put:

The House divided: Ayes 111, Noes 2.

Division No. 21] [8.45 pm
Alexander, Richard Cran, James
Amess, David Currie, Mrs Edwina
Amos, Alan Davis, David (Boothferry)
Arbuthnot, James Day, Stephen
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Dover, Den
Atkinson, David Durant, Tony
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Evennett, David
Bendall, Vivian Fallon, Michael
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Bevan, David Gilroy Fishburn, John Dudley
Boswell, Tim Fookes, Dame Janet
Bowis, John Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Bright, Graham Forth, Eric
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Freeman, Roger
Buck, Sir Antony French, Douglas
Burns, Simon Gale, Roger
Burt, Alistair Gardiner, George
Carlisle, John, (Luton N) Garel-Jones, Tristan
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Goodlad, Alastair
Chapman, Sydney Gow, Ian
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Couchman, James Hague, William
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Rhodes James, Robert
Harris, David Riddick, Graham
Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE) Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm
Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd) Sackville, Hon Tom
Hunter, Andrew Shaw, David (Dover)
Irvine, Michael Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Jack, Michael Shelton, Sir William
Jessel, Toby Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Knight, Greg (Derby North) Sims, Roger
Knowles, Michael Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Lawrence, Ivan Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Lightbown, David Stern, Michael
Lord, Michael Stevens, Lewis
Lyell, Sir Nicholas Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Maclean, David Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael Stradling Thomas, Sir John
Mans, Keith Sumberg, David
Marshall, John (Hendon S) Summerson, Hugo
Maude, Hon Francis Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Miller, Sir Hal Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Mills, Iain Thorne, Neil
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Walden, George
Moate, Roger Watts, John
Monro, Sir Hector Wells, Bowen
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Widdecombe, Ann
Neale, Gerrard Wiggin, Jerry
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Wilshire, David
Norris, Steve Wood, Timothy
Page, Richard
Paice, James Tellers for the Ayes:
Porter, David (Waveney) Mr. John M. Taylor and
Redwood, John Mr. Irvine Patnick.
Renton, Rt Hon Tim
Salmond, Alex Tellers for the Noes:
Skinner, Dennis Mr. Andrew Welsh and
Mrs. Margaret Ewing.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved, That this House takes note of the proposals described in the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food's un-numbered Explanatory Memorandum of 12th December 1989 and Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum of 13th December 1989 on Total Allowable Catches and Quotas for 1990, its un-numbered Explanatory Memorandum of 13th December 1989 on the Reciprocal Fisheries Agreement between the Community and Norway for 1990, European Community Document No. 9888/89 on fishery guide prices, and of the Government's intention to negotiate the best possible fishing opportunities for the United Kingdom fishing industry for 1990 consistent with the requirement for conservation of the fishing stock.