HC Deb 13 November 1991 vol 198 cc1064-5
4. Mrs. Margaret Ewing

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when he next expects to meet representatives of the Scottish fishing industry to discuss the conservation of fishing stocks.

The Minister of State, Scottish Office (Mr. Michael Forsyth)

My noble Friend the Scottish Fisheries Minister will meet the Scottish Fishermen's Federation on 18 November.

Mrs. Ewing

At the meeting on 18 November, will there be a clear discussion about the eight-day tie-up regulations which, one year on, are now seen as the most hated and despised aspect of the conservation policy, bringing financial hardship, fear and life-threatening situations to our coastal communities? If the Government are not prepared to abolish that most ineffective policy, will they at least consider flexibility in the application of the rules, taking particular account of men who are kept on shore because of bad weather or boat maintenance?

Mr. Forsyth

There will be a discussion at the December Fisheries Council about the best means of reducing fishing effort in 1992. The eight-day tie-up has been an agreed method within the Community during the current year. If the hon. Lady has any proposals, I am sure that my noble Friend would be interested to hear them. We are not absolutely committed to the eight-day tie-up rule and would be prepared to discuss other means of reducing fishing effort, but they would have to be agreed with our European Community partners.

Sir Hector Monro

I am glad that we are concentrating on conservation. Will my hon. Friend consider, in the light of our efforts on set-aside in agriculture, that the principle of decommissioning is very similar? I thank my hon. Friend for the Government's efforts to reduce the pressure on drift netting in the North sea, which will have a good impact on salmon fishing in Scotland. That will help our tourist industry and many other rural economies in Scotland.

Mr. Forsyth

I am grateful to my hon. Friend and agree that the measures taken in respect of drift netting will boost salmon interests in Scotland. We remain open to suggestions on decommissioning. It need not necessarily reduce fishing effort, but it is about making people in the fishing industry unemployed. Our objectives are to secure the long-term interests of the fishing industry by ensuring effective measures to secure stocks.

Mr. Macdonald

A radical conservation measure which would enjoy the full support of the fishermen affected would be a weekend ban on prawn fisheries on the west coast. It would not cost the Government money, would have the support of fishermen and would be extremely effective in terms of conservation.

Mr. Forsyth

I shall ensure that my noble Friend the Scottish Fisheries Minister is aware of the hon. Gentleman's suggestion. I am sure that he will consider the hon. Gentleman's representations, which are always carefully put and taken seriously.