HC Deb 09 December 1992 vol 215 cc853-940
Madam Speaker

We now come to a motion on fisheries. I must inform the House that I have selected the amendment standing in the name of the Leader of the Opposition.

3.58 pm
The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Sir Hector Monro)

I beg to move, That this House takes note of European Community Document No. 9697/92, relating to guide prices for fishery products for 1993, the proposals described in the unnumbered Explanatory Memorandum submitted by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on 7th December 1992, relating to total allowable catches and quotas for 1993, and the Government's intentions to negotiate the best possible fishing opportunities for the United Kingdom fishing industry for 1993 consistent with the requirements for conservation of fishing stocks. I welcome the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Dr. Strang) to the Front Bench to talk about fishing policies.

The House is conscious of the risks and difficulties that our fishermen face. We have been reminded this year, through the publication of the marine accident inquiry report, of the Antares tragedy. Only a couple of weeks ago we had sad news of the deaths of three in-shore fishermen from Cornwall. Danger is never far away, and fishing is not an easy occupation for the fishermen or their families.

In a normal year this debate provides one of the few occasions for the House to discuss fisheries matters. This year is rather different. Consideration of the Sea Fish (Conservation) Bill, which comes before us again this evening, has allowed for a surfeit of fisheries debates.

On the other hand, this is an especially important year for the fishing industry. It is fortuitous that so many matters have come to fruition during the United Kingdom presidency of the European Community.

We have been making good progress with the mid-term review of the common fisheries policy. A new four-year multi-annual guidance programme on the capacity of fishing fleets has just been agreed. There is a new fisheries agreement with Iceland, subject to the European Economic Area coming into force, and fisheries relations with Canada have been improved. I pay tribute to the skilful chairmanship of my hon. Friend in making so much progress in recent debates in the Council of Ministers.

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan)

The Minister will be aware that feelings are running high in the fishing communities. That is evident from the action that is being taken north of the border today, which I firmly support. The Minister says that good progress has been made on the common fisheries policy. Will he confirm that a new United Kingdom Government document exists in which the British Government, as president of the Community, make new proposals for the common fisheries policy? That document has not been seen by any Member of Parliament. Does he seriously expect Members of Parliament to accept that we are having this debate on fisheries today yet next week or the week after the Minister and his colleagues will sign, seal and deliver a fisheries agreement without the House having any opportunity to debate its provisions?

Sir Hector Monro

I stand at the Dispatch Box today to make a speech about our policy. The hon. Gentleman has hardly given me a chance to start. He would not expect to see the negotiation document. But, clearly, when my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and I go to Brussels next week, we shall do our best to help the fishing industry in the United Kingdom. We are well aware of the protests in Lochinver and the Firth of Forth today; we understand the reason for them. But at the same time the fishermen must understand our difficulty and understand that we cannot concede more fish than conservation will permit. The reason for the debate is to allow opinions to be expressed which will be borne in mind by Ministers in Brussels. I shall return later to some of the issues that I have mentioned.

Agreement was reached in November on guide prices and on quantities and tariff rates for fish being imported into the Community. It is important that we have retained, against some contrary suggestions, the dual price system for herring which is particularly important to the Scottish pelagic fleet so that they can continue to sell in bulk to the klondykers. I hope that that trade will be able to take place in 1993 without the need for autonomous prices.

On tariff quotas and suspensions, the measures agreed struck a balance between the needs of fish catchers for a stable market and the needs of processors and consumers for access to a range of fish supplies. The measures were based on the assumption that tariff-free supplies would be arriving from European Free Trade Association suppliers under the agreement on the European economic area. This weekend's events in Switzerland suggest that that assumption will not now be correct. We therefore consider that the tariff quotas and suspensions for 1993 need reconsidering since the EEA is not about to come into effect. The signs are that the Commission shares that view and will propose an appropriate revision— as indeed it formally undertook to do if its underlying assumptions were not fulfilled. However, my hon. Friend the Minister of State has written to Commissioner Marin pressing him to make early proposals taking into account the new situation.

I now turn to total allowable catches and quotas. Some of our most important fisheries are managed within a fisheries agreement with Norway. I regret that thus far, after three long rounds of negotiations, it has not yet been possible to conclude an agreement between the Community and Norway for 1993. I am therefore not able to be as precise about the expected levels of quotas next year as I would like to be. However, I assure the House that officials will do their best to reopen the negotiations at their level as soon as possible.

The scientific advice on white roundfish stocks is generally not good. Haddock is in a better position and it is likely that there will be an increase in the North sea haddock total allowable catch from 60,000 tonnes this year to about 133,000 tonnes for 1993. The west coast TAC will be increased from less than 12,500 tonnes to 17,600 tonnes. Of course, that is good news, especially for the Scottish fleet, but the stock will still need to be husbanded carefully if the TAC increase is not simply to be a flash in the pan. I shall return to that point later.

Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland)

The Minister makes the important point that the stock must be husbanded carefully. Does he agree that if the Commission insists that there should be industrial catches, it is important that they should be kept to an absolute minimum?

Sir Hector Monro

I agree with the hon. Gentleman, and we stressed that last time that we were in Brussels. In the United Kingdom we have grave doubts about industrial fishing, but it is important to some Scandinavian countries. We have that matter firmly in mind. I have given the grand totals for the North sea and west coast and, as the House knows, we still have to negotiate our exact quota with Norway.

Setting aside haddock, the general picture continues to be worrying.

Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)

Will the Minister comment on the fact that—as I understand it—the Hague preference has been abandoned and, although there is to be an increase in the total allowable catch, the British quota of TAC will not remain the same but will be reduced by about 10 per cent.?

Sir Hector Monro

I was coming to the Hague preference, which is especially important for Scotland, as the hon. Gentleman knows.

The North sea cod stock remains in a dangerous state and maintaining the 1992 TAC level of 100,000 tonnes is the most that can be justified. Saithe stocks in the North sea and to the west of Scotland are also in poor shape and there is a recommended reduction in the whiting TAC. However, it is encouraging that North sea sole and plaice stocks are strong, with a significant increase in the sole TAC from 27,500 to 29,000 tonnes.

Demersal stocks in the Irish sea continue to be in a poor state generally, and the scientific advice is for reduced fishing to allow stocks to recover. It should be possible to avoid any reduction in the present TAC for cod, following improved recruitment to that stock. The position on whiting is more difficult, but we believe that there is a case for setting a TAC slightly above the 6,500 tonnes proposed by the Commission, without endangering the stock, particularly on the basis of the use of square mesh panels to release juvenile fish.

Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)

The Minister will be well aware that Northern Ireland fishermen depend on the whiting catch. Can he confirm that a 35 per cent. cut in the catch is proposed, which would mean that Northern Ireland fishermen would get only 18 per cent. of the whiting catch? That would put the Northern Ireland fishing industry in a terrible state and bring it near to catastrophe.

Sir Hector Monro

I hear what the hon. Gentleman says. Perhaps my hon. Friend the Minister of State will give the detailed figures in his winding-up speech. If the hon. Gentleman cannot be here, we shall certainly ensure that he gets the information.

In the channel, the scientific advice suggests maintaining or slightly reducing the present TAC for many stocks. Cod is the main exception, and a reduction in the TAC from 20,000 tonnes to 16,800 is proposed. Scientific information available on the cod stock is rather limited. We shall consider carefully whether a higher figure than that proposed by the Commission can be justified for cod, and for sole and plaice.

Pelagic fish stocks continue to be healthy, with little change expected in the TACs for the main herring and mackerel stocks.

Decisions on TAC levels will be taken at the next Council of Fisheries Ministers, which I and my hon. Friend will attend on 19 and 20 December. Our main objectives will be familiar to the House from previous debates.

We want to secure the highest TACs consistent with the scientific advice— that is, with ensuring the future healthy state of the stocks. We shall be anxious to secure our Hague preference rights, where those apply, but we know that they are strongly contested by other states and it is prudent to edge up our TACs—where that can possibly be justified—to avoid triggering Hague preference arrangements. As things stand, we expect the Hague preference arrangements to be triggered to our advantage for west of Scotland saithe and whiting. In the Irish sea, the arrangements will come into play against us for cod, whiting and plaice, but we hope to help the situation through swaps. Of course, we want to ensure mackerel flexibility so that the United Kingdom fleet can fish that important but migratory stock in the autumn, east of the four degree west longitude line.

The Commission's proposals for TACs and quotas include a proposal for a tie-up scheme to limit fishing effort against cod and haddock. It is similar in principle to the eight days per month tie-up that we had in 1991 and the 135-day tie-up in 1992, but the proposal is for a tie-up of 190 days, including at least 10 consecutive days per calendar month. The United Kingdom has made it clear that that proposal is not acceptable. We have agreed a multi-annual guidance programme for the next four years, which will reduce fishing effort right across the United Kingdom fleet through a combination of decommissioning, effort control and licensing measures. In that context, a measure targeted at particular group of boats, for example, a 10-day tie-up, is unnecessary and inappropriate.

Mrs. Margaret Ewing (Moray)

The Minister will recall that during an Adjournment debate last week he said that a 200-day tie-up was a rumour. He has now said that a tie-up of 190 days is unacceptable, and I agree. What will he negotiate in terms of tie-up days? What do the Government see as acceptable? There are only 365 days in a year and our men must make a living.

Sir Hector Monro

The answer is absolutely none—

Mr. Salmond

No tie-up?

Sir Hector Monro

We are not in favour of the proposal at all. We do not favour any consecutive tie-up of eight or 10 days.

Mr. Archy Kirkwood (Roxburgh and Berwickshire)

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, who is sitting beside the hon. Gentleman, has given a clear understanding that the arrangements for next year would be nothing worse than a freeze. I understand the difficulty about not revealing one's negotiating hand, but we must have a clear understanding from the Government of what is going on. If the Fisheries Council is even thinking of a freeze, it must consider temporary compensation for tie-up or some other solution to the industry's problem. Consideration must be given to establishing a system of support through social security, income support and family credit that reflects the fact that those in the fishing industry, particularly in this country, are having their opportunity for earnings statutorily restrained in the next 12 months.

Sir Hector Monro

I note what the hon. Gentleman says, and so does my hon. Friend the Minister—he may be an excellent fisheries Minister, but he is not a ventriloquist and I have not picked up all the information that he has passed on to me today.

Next week we will go to Brussels with a firm determination that the Commission should withdraw the 190-day tie-up proposal. If it does not, we will oppose it as vigorously as possible in the Council of Ministers.

Mr. Phil Gallie (Ayr)

Does my hon. Friend agree that the Government have outflanked Europe with the Sea Fish (Conservation) Bill? We are now one step ahead. Does he agree that that Bill will kill the current proposal from Europe?

Sir Hector Monro

My hon. Friend is right. If the Bill receives Royal Assent—we hope to make progress later tonight—all the arrangements for conservation can be covered by it. We think that that is a far superior way to maintain our conservation policies than that proposed by the Commission.

Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland)

Will the Minister make it clear beyond doubt that it is his intention, and that of the Government, to oppose the eight consecutive days tie-up in the next round of negotiations and to oppose any consecutive tie-up requirement of that sort?

Sir Hector Monro

I can give the hon. Gentleman the absolute firm assurance that that is our intention.

Mr. Salmond


Sir Hector Monro

I shall give way, but we must make some progress.

Mr. Salmond

It is courteous of the Minister to give way. I wish to reassure him that my fishermen think that he is a very nice man, but that he has no power. It is not just a question of the ventriloquist sitting beside him—

Mr. Menzies Campbell (Fife, North-East)

That is not what they think of you.

Mr. Salmond

They think other things of me, but at least they elect me.

In reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing), the Minister said that no tie-up was acceptable. Does he believe that a tie-up imposed by Brussels is not acceptable but that a tie-up imposed by London is acceptable?

Sir Hector Monro

The hon. Gentleman is a great chap for trying to misquote hon. Members. I made it clear that we would firmly oppose a consecutive day tie-up, whether it was eight or 10 days. The scheme contained in the Bill, which I hope will receive Royal Assent, is a superior way of helping our fishermen to conserve fish.

The fishing industry must accept that restrictions are inevitable. All hon. Members have accepted that. If we have no restrictions, in a year or two's time there will be a substantial reduction in the number of fish available.

Mr. Wallace

Before this series of interventions, the Minister referred to the multi-annual guidance programme and said that he saw it as both effort limitation—for which we can read the words "tie-up"—and reduction in capacity. When he talks about measures that the British Government wish to introduce through the legislation that we shall debate later, will he make it clear whether the purpose of that legislation is conservation or to meet our MAGP targets? What is the formula for converting effort limitation into reduction in capacity?

Sir Hector Monro

It gives us an opportunity of all forms of restrictions where they are required for conservation. We want to do the best that we can to achieve sufficient conservation with the least difficulty for the fishing industry. I know that it is not easy, but we are trying extremely hard to find the right half-way house to restrict effort. It is clear from the scientific advice that we have received that we must continue to restrict effort. We must do that in the best way possible with the least inconvenience to the fishing industry.

I shall discuss the MAGP in a moment, but I shall not give way much more because hon. Members want to contribute to the debate so that we can take their ideas to Europe next week.

Mr. George Kynoch (Kincardine and Deeside)

I know that my hon. Friend wants effort limitation and conservation without harming the industry. However, will he look seriously at the non-sector fishermen, who seem to resemble tail-end charlies who mop up the situation after quotas have been allocated elsewhere? If certain sectors have over-fished their quotas, non-sector fishermen have been cut off in their prime before fishing their complete quota. I understand that the retribution may be that the quotas allocated next year will be reduced so that they will get more; but if they cannot get it this year, they cannot make use of it next year. Will the Government look seriously at how the quota could be better managed so that smaller non-sector fishermen are not harmed and whole communities put out of business?

Sir Hector Monro

I appreciate my hon. Friend's point. As I said in an Adjournment debate last week, the producer organisations and the non-sector fishermen must keep roughly in step, otherwise what my hon. Friend outlined will happen. Fisheries might be closed because the POs have fished their quota and the non-sector fishermen have not achieved their limit. Yes, we must try to get the balance right, in the hope that the detailed quotas will be announced after next week's Council and that the POs and the non-sector fishermen will be able to balance it out over the 12 months so that we do not face the difficulty of running out of quota as we did in October and November this year.

We have firmly asked the Commission to withdraw the proposal of a 10-day tie-up because we find it unacceptable. However, the total allowable catch and quota proposals also contain several other technical conservation measures. We welcome the retention of the one-net rule in the derogation to fish for whiting in the North sea with a 90 mm net and measures to prevent that derogation from being abused.

Multi-annual guidance programmes have recently been agreed to secure reductions in the EC fishing fleets for the period 1993 to 1996—four years. The key features are that the Commission has agreed that its original proposal for a 30 per cent. reduction for white fish trawlers was not realisable and, instead, the reductions are to be 20 per cent. for white fish trawlers and 15 per cent. for beam trawlers and nothing for pelagic vessels,

After taking account of the United Kingdom's backlog from its last programme, our overall reduction is 19 per cent. over the four years, of which up to 8.5 per cent. may be achieved by reductions in fishing effort rather than capacity. Our target will be met by the combination of decommissioning, licensing changes and effort control that we announced in February, and subsequently introduced in the Bill.

It is our intention that effort control in 1993—control of a vessel's days at sea—will be exercised under the arrangements proposed in the Sea Fish (Conservation) Bill, subject to its receiving Royal Assent.

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

Surely all the measures that the Minister keeps describing are, by their nature, unselected measures. The real effort control involves the sort of effort required to ensure that good years of fish are available for the future and to provide the basis of stock. Surely the Minister should consider gear options, square mesh panels and the various devices that fishermen say are more effective in ensuring that we conserve stocks and that do not merely tie up boats without improving conservation.

Sir Hector Monro

I know that the right hon. Gentleman is extremely keen on conservation. Our fisheries department is constantly looking at gear options, which it discusses with fishermen, and particularly at panels and mesh sizes. The right hon. Gentleman is right to say that we should not miss an opportunity to improve the overall position to give advantage to our fishermen, provided we do so within the terms of conservation.

It is our intention that, by 1993, effort control will be covered by the Bill, subject to its receiving Royal Assent. I am concerned about the views being expressed to us by the fishing industry that the good news on haddock means that effort limitation is not now required when fishing for that stock. That would he irresponsible.

Mr. Wallace

The Minister has not answered the question that I asked him earlier. If meeting the targets involves a combination of effort control and decommissioning, what is the formula used for translating days at sea or tie-ups into reduction of capacity? There must be a formula, otherwise it would be impossible to say that both devices are used to reach the MAGP targets. What is the formula?

Sir Hector Monro

It is almost impossible to declare the formula as it will involve a compromise of all the options in order to find the most effective solution that is least inconvenient to fishermen. That has been the thrust of our policy. I believe—Opposition Members may think otherwise—that there is no doubt that we have done our level best to assist fishermen. I know that fishermen feel that they have had a rough ride this year and that the fact that we ran out of quota made their position even worse. However, I know from the frequent contacts that my hon. Friend the Minister of State has with the fishing industry that fishermen accept that we are doing our level best to provide the best solution to what is a Community issue which is not as straightforward as some people might like to think.

Mr. Nick Ainge (Pembroke)


Sir Hector Monro

I cannot give way as I must finish my speech, and many hon. Members want to speak.

I am dismayed that so many of those in the fishing industry feel that the large increase in the number of haddock means that they can relax. We have made a step in the right direction, but it will not provide the answer for ever.

We must recognise that, although haddock is now once again abundant, the stock is still very fragile because it depends on only two year classes. It would be only too easy to fish it out next year, with substantial discards, and with the prospect of a shortage again by 1995. Proper effort limitation arrangements next year should help to avoid that, and should also incidentally help more orderly marketing, which is important if reasonable price levels are to be achieved.

As regards the mid-term review of the common fisheries policy, I shall only say that good progress is being made. We hope that the forthcoming Fisheries Council will be in a position to agree a new basic regulation for the next 10 years of the CFP. A draft of this regulation is now under detailed discussion by officials. It relects clear decisions in principle already taken by the Council of Ministers which will preserve the existing access rules in relation to the six and 12-mile limits and the Shetland box, and relative stability in the annual distribution of TACs.

The administration of fisheries is never easy, and has been particularly difficult in the past few years; it will no doubt continue to be so. But the picture is not entirely bleak, and I am glad to have been able to report to the House this evening some improvements in the state of fish stocks, and satisfactory progress so far in securing our main objectives in the mid-term review of the common fisheries policy. My hon. Friend and I will do our best to secure a satisfactory outcome on all these matters at the forthcoming Council in Brussels.

I must explain that I have to be away later this evening, so I apologise in advance for not being here for the winding-up speeches. No doubt my hon. Friend will take the opportunity then to answer questions arising from the debate.

4.26 pm
Dr. Gavin Strang (Edinburgh, East)

I beg to move, to leave out from 'quotas for 1993, and' to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof: 'calls upon the Government to ensure at the forthcoming Fisheries Council meeting that British fishing interests are protected within the review of the Common Fisheries Policy and in particular to ensure that any structural changes or conservation measures are only applied to the United Kingdom fleet if other member states implement similar changes; and rejects the implementation of any measures that unfairly discriminate against British fishermen, interfere with the principle of relative stability and deny British fishermen equal access to the same level of EC funding utilised by other EC states.'. The fishing industry makes a significant contribution to our national well-being. It provides a valuable and healthy part of our national diet. In many coastal areas, the industry, including the catching, processing and distribution sectors, along with ancillary businesses, forms the mainstay of the local economy. But the fact is that the industry is in crisis. Prices have been low and quotas have been fished out, with the result that boats are standing idle.

This afternoon, I do not intend to argue that all the problems are the fault of the British Government, but they must accept a large share of the responsibility. For years, they have failed to accept the advice of the industry on conservation and above all on the need for a reduction in capacity, brought about by a properly managed and socially acceptable decommissioning scheme. Anyone who has taken the trouble to read our main fisheries debates over the past few years will be struck by the extent to which Members on both sides of the House who represent fishing constituencies have argued the case for an effective decommissioning scheme to reduce capacity. The Government failed to take that advice—the fundamental reason why we believe that they have failed the industry.

Mr. Gallie


Dr. Strang

I will not give way. Like the Minister, I am keen that all hon. Members who represent fishing constituencies should have a chance to speak today. I did not intervene on the Minister, and I do not intend to give way to interventions today.

The central task of Government fisheries management is to regulate the fishing effort at a level that will protect the fishing grounds from over-exploitation. We need so to organise our affairs as to provide for the balanced exploitation of fishing stocks over the long term, with a fishing industry that is able to provide decent returns and a reasonable level of job security for the men and women who derive their livelihood from it. No one could say that that is being achieved.

The control of fishing methods—increasing mesh sizes, using spare panels—has an important part to play, and catch quotas also play a significant role. There is, however, a requirement for a managed and socially acceptable reduction in the capacity of the industry.

In all our fisheries debates over the past few years, hon. Members on both sides of the House have been arguing the case that I have outlined. It is true that there were weaknesses in the decommissioning scheme in the early 1980s, which were outlined in the report of the Public Accounts Committee. The weaknesses or failures were the result of the misguided detailed rules and faulty implementation. There is no reason in principle why we cannot have an effective decommissioning scheme.

The Government's refusal to consider a decommissioning programme has been followed by a change of heart. The industry and the Labour party have been campaigning for many years for an effective scheme, and it is not as if we have been trying to persuade the Government to implement a policy that would be in conflict with EC recommendations. Almost every other EC member state has run, or is running, a decommissioning scheme. The House will know that the EC makes a financial contribution to such a scheme.

We agree with the conclusion of the House of Lords Select Committee on the European Communities that the Government's proposals for a decommissioning scheme announced in February are too little, too late. The Committee accept that £25 million is not even enough to prevent the fleet capacity from expanding; four or five times that amount is now needed to make up for the lack of a decommissioning scheme in the United Kingdom during the last decade. A decommissioning scheme must be tightly related to taking capacity out of the industry. We are talking about a scheme which, unlike the original one, which was completely discredited, will provide compensation for the employees of fishermen and for all the fishermen involved in the industry, and not only for those who own the boats. Furthermore, the scheme must provide properly balanced help for the communities that will be most severely affected. If we can use the EC social fund in that way for the steel and mining industries, there is no reason why we should not be able to win some EC help for the type of adjustment that will have to be made in communities that will have to accept some reduction in the numbers of people earning their livelihoods directly from the industry.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. David Curry)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Strang

I shall give way once to the Minister, but I shall not give way again.

Mr. Curry

I am deeply honoured, and most grateful to the hon. Gentleman. He has quoted a report that says that four or five times £25 million would be required for decommissioning. Is he endorsing that sort of figure from the Opposition Front Bench?

Mr. Strang

I was quoting the recommendation of the House of Lords Select Committee.

The cost of a decommissioning scheme will depend very much on benefits that are available for communities. We are not suggesting that we can have a decommissioning scheme on the cheap—far from it. If the Government had implemented a decent scheme, they might have operated it much more cheaply than any scheme that might now be introduced if we are to achieve a significant reduction in British fishing capacity in future. The scheme that the Government have put forward—they have done so belatedly, and, as I understand it, it will operate for only two or three years—will not be able to achieve what is required. I was happy to receive the Minister's question, but the fixed sum that will be available for the two or three-year period will not be adequate for the purpose.

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland spoke about the Government's objectives in relation to total allowable catches. In broad measure, I support what he said. It is necessary to remove the tie-up requirement. At the same time, we all agree that we must accept scientific advice. I know that there are times when fishing communities feel that that advice is not as reliable as it might be, but there is no way of proceeding other than on the basis of considering such advice, the Council of Ministers considering it and then the taking of a final decision.

Of course, there is scope for adjustment, and we all know that adjustments tend to be upwards. I hope that the Minister achieves some adjustment to stop the Hague preference coming into operation—not least because of the interests of the fishing communities in the south-west of England, and with respect to the Irish element in the Hague preference.

I was somewhat taken aback by the Minister's reference to the multi-annual guidance programme. He will be aware that both the industry and the Opposition are astonished that the agreement reached by the EC Fisheries Structures Committee has been put forward by the Government as some sort of triumph. The figures say it all. Incorporating the backlogs from the 1986–91 programme, the United Kingdom has a fleet reduction target of 19 per cent., while Spain must make a reduction of just 4.5 per cent. In case any hon. Member is minded to intervene, I should explain that the Spanish reduction reflects the fact that Spain has made more progress than Britain. Although there might be a paper figure of 8 per cent., I am talking about the reality—the relative impact—of the multi-annual guidance programme.

The Department's press release on 1 December announcing the agreement positively boasted about the fact that the United Kingdom had ensured that 45 per cent. of the planned reduction would be achieved by effort control. That is not what the industry or the Opposition want. I understand that the original intention was that 25 per cent. should be achieved by effort control.

Hon. Members will recall that there was a substantial debate in the European Standing Committee on the proposed review of the common fisheries policy. It is important that we take this opportunity—as I am sure many hon. Members will do—to give the Government further advice on that important matter. Fundamental decisions will be taken that will lay down the common fisheries policy for a number of years. Therefore, it is worth raising a few issues.

The first issue is policing and enforcement. The Minister will be aware that the Opposition have been keen to have European Community involvement in the enforcement of regulations. In particular, we recommend the establishment of multinational inspection teams to execute EC spot checks on the enforcement regimes of member states. Therefore, we are pleased to note that the policy review proposes the introduction of a Community monitoring system.

Some might argue that subsidiarity must be applied across the board. We take the view that the Government are using the issue of subsidiarity as a cover for their failure to put the economy on the agenda at the forthcoming EC summit. They are trying to pretend to some of their Back-Bench Members who are rather unhappy about any move towards European union that somehow subsidiarity could be a means of preventing that.

The reality is that we need effective national enforcement. We need large national enforcement teams. Britain has one, and it is certainly larger than those of other member states. We also need effective supervision and monitoring of the teams and of the action being taken in all member states to prevent overfishing. We want Commission involvement, but we also want the teams to involve inspectors from other countries.

We also want transparency. If we are to achieve acceptance of the enforcement of quotas and of the restrictive fishing methods needed for conservation, we must have the confidence of the whole industry—not just in this country, but throughout the Community—that it is real enforcement. We must achieve uniformity of penalties so that British fishermen are not, as many believe, subjected to higher penalties than fishermen elsewhere in the Community. I am not suggesting that some other countries do not also impose high penalties, but there needs to be some levelling upwards.

The second issue I wish to raise here is the fundamental one of future decisions on the management of stocks under the new common fisheries policy. We are concerned about the nature of the proposed management committee for fisheries, in which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley) noted in Standing Committee last month, there does not appear to be any role for the fishermen's organisations. Our concern is that decisions that should be taken by elected representatives in the Council of Ministers will be deferred to the committee. Yes, let us have a role for the European Parliament and consultation with its Members, but the key decisions must be taken in the Council of Ministers by Ministers answerable to their national Parliaments.

We welcome the Community's proposal for a licensing scheme for all vessels in EC waters and EC vessels outside the zone. It is our policy to require the licensing of all boats fishing for profit. We are keen to ensure, however, that an EC licensing scheme is administered by member states. I welcome the Government's decision to apply licensing to all vessels. If we are to have an effective decommissioning scheme—I certainly hope that the Government will reconsider and propose a meaningful scheme—we must ensure that we have comprehensive licensing and can extinguish the capacity and the licence—

Mr. Wallace

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Dr. Strang

No. I said that I would give way only once. The hon. Gentleman can make his speech. My hon. Friend the Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe will be happy to respond to any point that he wishes to make or to give any clarification of Labour policy.

It has been our policy for some time to introduce compulsory satellite tracking systems on all licensed boats over an agreed size. We are pleased that the Commission has proposed a 50 per cent. grant towards the costs of the required equipment, but we urge the Government to press for more generous assistance and to agree to make up the remaining cost from Government funds. As the system costs more than £1,000, it is only right that our fishermen should be offered substantial assistance in complying with the requirement.

I was interested in the Minister's comments on industrial fishing. As I am sure he knows, it has long been our policy that industrial fishing should be phased out. I would be the first to accept that that will not be achieved unilaterally, and that compensation will have to be offered to countries where a significant number of people are dependent on industrial fishing. We welcome the fact that the Government now endorse our approach, and we want the Minister to adopt a more positive approach to the issue in the Council than he implied earlier.

The issue that has hit the Scottish newspapers and some of the national media today is the blockade at Lochinver, which is a timely manifestation of the frustration that now exists in the industry. Nobody in the Labour party wants to see action of this nature, but the incident reflects the all-time low to which relations have fallen between the Government and the United Kingdom's fishing industry. Had the Government used a proper decommissioning scheme to reduce fishing capacity in recent years, the quotas allocated to Scottish fishermen for haddock and cod would not have been exhausted so early in the year, and the income from the fish would have provided a fairer return for the reduced number of fishermen in the industry.

There is no escaping the fact that the Government have failed the industry, and they must accept a substantial share of the responsibility for the turmoil in fishing communities. Fishermen's frustration will be given full expression on Friday when fishermen from all over the United Kingdom protest against the Sea Fish (Conservation) Bill at the Edinburgh summit.

The Government must face up to the crisis. They must understand that it is not acceptable for a young man who may have invested all his capital and borrowed a substantial sum of money to put a modern fishing boat to sea to be forced into bankruptcy by the Government's tie-up policy. There is no way in which the industry will accept that policy. If the Government depend on it—the Minister's comments did not suggest otherwise—it will have to be enforced with a rigour that will mean bankruptcies. It follows from that, no matter how much selectivity is built into the licensing system, that the youngest fishermen and those who have borrowed the most will be the most vulnerable.

It is unacceptable that we should impose this condition on our industry. The idea that boats should be tied up for substantial periods is indefensible. It will increase pressure on men when they are allowed to fish, and they will take more risks with the weather and will work excessive hours. Given the effect that it will have on the industry and on the people who earn their livelihoods from it, the policy is indefensible.

The Government failed to implement a decommissioning scheme and to take the industry's advice on effective conservation methods. They belatedly introduced square mesh panels and increased mesh sizes, but we are now paying the price for their failure to achieve a significant reduction in the capacity of the industry. A decommissioning scheme is not a panacea or a policy that can work on its own, but it takes the pressure off the use of quotas and means that they are not likely to be exhausted so quickly.

It also removes the temptation to cheat on controls on fishing gear, for example, by using more than one net when it is banned. We are all against black fish and the breaking of the rules by fishermen in this and other countries, but we have reached this position because too much pressure has been put on existing systems of control. The tie-up policy is not on. We must carry the industry with us if we are to achieve progress and to balance the needs of the industry with those of conservation.

The Government must use the Christmas recess to have a fundamental rethink of their policy on the fishing industry. Relations between the Government and the industry have never been worse. Quotas and fishing method restrictions for conservation purposes cannot be imposed effectively without the co-operation of the industry. At this month's Fisheries Council, the Government must stand up for Britain and defend the industry on fair quotas and fishing effort limitation.

But, above all, they must carry out an urgent, fundamental review of their policy on the industry. Their present policy has failed. They are on course for confrontation with the industry next year on the compulsory tying up of fishing vessels in our ports. That is no way to run an industry. The Government must think again.

4.49 pm
Mr. Raymond S. Robertson (Aberdeen, South)

During a similar debate this time last year my predecessor, a Labour Member of Parliament, concluded his speech with the following words: His actions"— meaning the Minister— have affected the election results. Before the 1983 election the Conservative party held five out of six seats in Grampian. The most recent by-election has resulted in the Conservative party holding no seats in the Grampian region."—[Official Report, 11 December 1991; Vol. 200, c. 941.] True to form, the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson) could not resist rising to the bait. He said: Unless someone in the Scottish Tory Party can quickly devise a credible, vote-winning policy for Scottish fisheries during the coming months, their total elimination at the poll in all Scottish fishing constituencies is certain."—[Official Report, 11 December 1991; Vol. 200, c. 960.] Therefore, the Government must now have a credible, if still misunderstood, fishing policy because it was the Labour party which lost votes and representation in the north-east of Scotland and our party which won more votes and gained two seats.

The fishing industry is crucial to Aberdeen and to the north-east of Scotland. However, as I said in my maiden speech—

Mr. Salmond


Mr. Robertson

No, I shall not give way. I want the hon. Gentleman to use his ears, not his mouth, in this debate.

The fishing industry is crucial to Aberdeen and to the north-east of Scotland. However, as I said in my maiden speech, Aberdeen's relationship with the fishing industry has changed. The balance has moved from the catchers to the processors. Now, after Humberside, Aberdeen has the highest concentration of fish processing in the United Kingdom—most of it in my constituency, the rest being in the constituency of Aberdeen, North. In Aberdeen, South there are almost 3,000 direct jobs from fish processing, covering almost 150 businesses.

It might seem obvious but it is worth repeating that the processors require and depend on a constant, regular and dependable supply of fish at the right price. It is fair to say that in Humberside much more use is made of imported fish, especially from Iceland, but that in Aberdeen we are much more dependent on United Kingdom landings, especially those from the North sea. It is worth noting that in the league table of United Kingdom landings by value, three out of four are in Scotland—Peterhead, Aberdeen and Fraserburgh.

It is the long-term fish stocks which cause the processors, the House, the fishermen and me the most concern.

Mr. Salmond

Has the hon. Gentleman yet summoned the courage to give way?

Mr. Robertson

The Government have come in for much criticism for their stated policy of limiting days at sea. As I said before, would the hon. Gentleman for once please use his ears, not his mouth?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Morris)

Order. It is clear that the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Robertson) is not going to give way.

Mr. Robertson

The Government have come in for much criticism of their stated policy of limiting days at sea. However, the idea—despite its press—is not unique to the Government. The Scottish Fishermen's Organisation, Scotland's largest producer organisation, produced a much more draconian proposal earlier in the summer. It wanted to tie up all boats for one month each year for a while. Although the sentiment is understandable, its practice would have serious implications for the processors. If there were no fresh fish for an entire month, markets would be lost, the consumer would go elsewhere and the market share would be damaged, perhaps permanently. By contract, the Government's plan for staggered days in port throughout the year is a preferable option.

The central problem from which we cannot escape is that fish stocks in the North sea—especially cod and haddock—are under tremendous pressure, despite the recent and welcome quota announcement. I am concerned that the announcement could be premature.

Mr. George Foulkes (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley)

The hon. Gentleman is making a reasoned speech, although there are arguments on both sides of the question. Does not he think that he was unwise to refuse the invitation of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation to attend the rally on Friday? As the Minister knows—I am glad that he has tempered his views in the past year—an all-party approach to the matter has paid dividends in the past. Sir Albert MacQuarrie, who used to represent Banff and Buchan very well, was a doughty fighter on behalf of the fishing industry. Will the hon. Gentleman reconsider his decision and join representatives of all parties on Friday, not necessarily to attack the Government but to fight to protect the fishing industry? That is all that we ask.

Mr. Robertson

I do not regret my decision, and I shall explain why. As a Scot, I am proud that our capital city of Edinburgh has been privileged by the Prime Minister to hold the European Community summit. I do not think that Scotland's international reputation will be enhanced if every group that has a grievance—regardless of how deeply or widely held— uses the summit, the centrepiece of the presidency, to parade through the streets of Edinburgh. As a Scot, I want Edinburgh to be seen in the best possible light. I want the world to regard Edinburgh positively, and I do not think that such a rally is the way forward.

Before the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) made a speech rather than intervened, I was saying that I was concerned that the announcement on the cod and haddock quota was premature. Many of the fish which could be landed next year will barely be larger than the minimum landing size.

David Maclennan, one of the top scientists in this subject and deputy director of the Scottish fishing department's marine laboratory in my constituency, wrote in this week's issue of Fishing News the following warning: If the exploitation continues at the same high rate in 1993, it is inevitable that the welcome increase in the spawning stock will not last long—two or three years at most—before being fished out. Thereafter we must expect that the stock will hit rock bottom once again. David Maclennan is not unique in holding that view.Speaking in Aberdeen on Friday, the much respected chairman of the Sea Fish Industry Authority, my noble Friend Lord MacKay of Ardbrecknish, said: It would be a disaster if the suggested doubling of the haddock quota led people to believe those concerns of the autumn can now be ignored … far from it. What kind of haddock are we going to see next year? Are they the kind that the merchants want, are they the kind the processors want? Will all the fish landed be through the market and not through the back door?

As the Under-Secretary of State said, cod is still a matter of grave concern. I hope that all sectors of the industry—the catchers, the processors and the producer organizations—will talk to each other, away from the crisis atmosphere at the Peterhead summit held in September. There is no point in landing fish for it to be used merely as fish-meal. The fish which is landed must be wanted. All parties in the fishing industry must get together to maximise the economic value of the increased numbers of haddock. No sector of the industry will be forgiven if the fish which is landed in the first part of the year is used for fish-meal while the fishery is still closing early this lime next year.

The lack of the right fish cannot be blamed on the Government or the European Community. We cannot promise imaginary fish. The hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) is wholly irresponsible and reckless. He stomps around the north-east of Scotland, promising fish which are not there. He raises hopes and expectations, safe in the knowledge that he will never have to deliver his promises and boasts.

Mr. Salmond


Mr. Robertson

Before I give way, the hon. Gentleman should remember—although it may be hard for him to accept—that it was someone far greater than him who was the last man to perform miracles with fish.

Mr. Salmond

I have not heard that comparison for a while. If the hon. Gentleman can dispense with the insults, he seems to be saying that he is supported by a substantial section of the fishing community in Scotland. Will he name three people in the fishing community who support his current position?

Mr. Robertson

The hon. Gentleman merely proves that, although we represent seats in the same part of the country, we live in different worlds.

It is perfectly clear that there is too much catching capacity—too many fishermen chasing too few fish. I welcome the Government's conversion to a decommissioning scheme, long championed by the Under-Secretary of State. I accept that it is a limited scheme, but it is a start and it will help. Any scheme which limits catching capacity is a step in the right direction. I regret the time that it has taken for the Government to get this far, especially in the light of the help given to other industries to help them to retract and to face the market—I am thinking in particular of farmers and set-aside.

However, any scheme is better late than never. The fishing industry must realise that if there is too much capacity it is not enough merely to cut that capacity; one also has to control the catching capacity of that which is left. I fear, and regret, that the only way to do that is to limit the number of days the catchers are at sea.

Another central problem that the Government and the industry must tackle is the fact that, with the overall increase in the number of fish, the number of fish just below the minimum landing size will increase. More will be discarded and wasted. The more that I talk to people involved, the clearer it becomes that, with increased engine power and bigger net configurations, whatever the size of the diamond mesh, it closes under pressure and the cod end becomes an impenetrable sheath for undersized fish. I urge my hon. Friend to consider, as a matter of urgency, making square mesh panels mandatory. The industry would welcome that, and I say to fishermen that if, for whatever reason, the Government will not take the step, the industry itself should take it and make square mesh compulsory. That would be in everyone's interests; it would reduce the number of discards and let small fish escape to be caught again another day when they are of a size to be landed.

As always, the industry faces great challenges and uncertainties, with the different sectors looking for different solutions to the same basic common problems. Despite all the criticism, I genuinely and earnestly believe that the Government should be supported. Decommissioning will reduce the catching capacity, and limiting the days at sea will limit the time during which the remaining capacity is in the water. If limitations in the days at sea still allow fishermen to catch their quota—that is the crucial factor—they must accept it as a sensible and appropriate way forward. Preservation of fish stocks is necessary not merely to get us through next week, next month or next year, but for generations to come.

5.1 pm

Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)

I welcome my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Dr. Strang) to the Dispatch Box as the Labour party's principal spokesman on agriculture, fisheries and food. He has a background in the subject, and some experience—if my memory serves me correctly, he has ministerial experience—and we welcome him back. As his speech tonight has shown, he has the heart of the industry in mind.

I am happy that the Under-Secretary's opening speech was delivered calmly and rationally, because sometimes we have heard hectoring and hostile opening speeches. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Robertson) did not follow his hon. Friend's example.

We are discussing mid-term review of the common fisheries policy, and it is worth recalling the CFP's original general aims. The CFP was designed to achieve stability for all sectors of the industry, and for the consumer. The consumer is often left out of our discussions, yet in some senses the consumer is the most important factor. The industry exists to serve the consumer and to provide a good-quality high-protein food at reasonable prices. We want stability for the processors, who are a vital link in the food chain, and for the catching side of the industry. As the catchers are the primary source of supply, at the start of the chain, it could be argued that they are the most important part of the industry.

Encompassing everything was the need to conserve stocks, based on scientific evidence. We have seen the stocks becoming depleted, the decreasing age profile of the fish and their decreasing quality. Had the CFP come anywhere near achieving any, let alone all, of those objectives, we could have considered it a success; instead, we have had crisis management from year to year. The industry has run into disastrous problems, which have multiplied as each year has passed. We do not seem to reach anything like a long-term solution.

Many people in the industry now question the quality and accuracy of the scientific advice on which the total allowable catch is based. To the layman, the annual numbers game seems based more on ad hoccery than on logical examination. How can the scientists account for the large differences in the total allowable catches from one year to the next? The Minister has confirmed that the TAC proposed for haddock in the North sea is 130,000 tonnes, compared with 60,000 tonnes last year. That is twice as much for next year as for this year—and that is not the first time that there have been such wild fluctuations. The TAC was doubled one year, then halved the year after. I cannot understand how the numbers can change so much from year to year.

Furthermore, we are concerned with more than a simple matter of numbers. The quality of fish has much improved. The hon. Member for Aberdeen, South referred to the puny size of the fish. Sadly, like him, I have been worried over the past few months by the size of some of the haddock on the quayside. They must have been stretched to the limit to bring them above the minimum size. I discussed that question this morning not only with representatives of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation but with people who go to sea. Not only are there more fish of higher quality, but the haddock has been described as bonnie fish. For the benefit of Hansard,I shall spell that out—I mean "bonnie", not "bony" fish. There is clear evidence that the number and quality of the stocks are increasing. That is to be welcomed.

That brings me to the difficulties now facing the North sea fishermen. We all know that the quota for North sea haddock was extinguished at the end of October. Although it may be too late, we must remember that the industry asked to borrow 15 per cent. of next year's quota, to allow fishing to continue until the end of the year. That would help the catching side and the processors, who depend on supply to remain in business.

I have said outside the House, and have no hesitation in repeating, that normally I would not countenance such a proposition. If there were no increase in the quota for next year, the problems would simply be compounded in 1993. The crisis would be reached in July and August instead of in October. Such an arrangement could not be regarded as a quick fix, or an easy response to the problems. The Government have refused even to consider the claim, and they gave the impression that they did not even try to secure an increase in the quota—although the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, the hon. Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro), sought to suggest otherwise a few days ago.

The Government excused themselves for not trying to increase the quota by saying that there was no scientific advice available. They took refuge in saying that all the talk about there being more fish in the sea was purely anecdotal. It is no consolation to fishermen to tell them that the haddock that they have thrown back over the side is anecdotal. That haddock is real fish. Throwing hundreds of tonnes of dead fish back into the sea—one does not know exactly how many— does nothing for the cause of conservation. Once the fish are caught and are dead, that is it— nothing can be done with them. There must be a better way of managing fishing and conservation.

The TAC for haddock is to be doubled—although the proposals that I have seen will mean that we shall not get as big a proportion of the increase as we might have expected. Nevertheless, the scientific evidence is clear. That evidence must have been available to Ministers in October, as it is now. If it was not, Ministers should have asked the scientists.

Mr. Curry

I do not intervene in a polemic way, because I know that the hon. Gentleman takes the matter seriously. I want to make a serious comment. I am sure that he will remember that I said in the House a year ago that there was a good year class of small haddock, and that we did not want to hammer the young stock so that it would be destroyed. Three quarters of the haddock in the North sea at the beginning of the year are killed, mainly by fishing, by the end of the year. The hon. Gentleman himself described the very small haddock which he thought must have been stretched to reach the minimum landing size. There is more haddock, and there will be an increase in the TAC. The relative increase will come from the non-application of the Hague preference. That addresses the apparent inconsistency in the shares.

Had we obtained the authorisation to bring forward quota, it would have been in small—in some cases, very small—fish, and the danger would have been that we should have been catching precisely the stock on which we depend to go into the spawning stock biomass to furnish the more marketable, better-quality fish for next year and provide longer-term, better opportunities for fishing.

I know that the hon. Gentleman and I subscribe to the same objectives. I have made that point simply to try to explain the position.

Mr. Hughes

I take the Minister's intervention in the spirit in which it was intended. It is not an easy argument. I find it difficult to believe, however, that fish that are mature enough to be caught on 1 January are so immature six or eight weeks beforehand that they cannot be caught. The issue as I see it is that the measurement of fish stocks—in terms of how much there is, the assessment of quality and the forecasting of what might be caught after 1 January—is not done on the basis of random sampling over a day or a week. The size of the TAC that is permissible based on stock size is arrived at on the basis of information that is accumulated and calculated over a longer period. Surely an estimate could have been made in October or at the beginning of November to allow us to reach a conclusion and so consider seriously the request to borrow forward.

As I said, I accept that the matter should not be taken lightly. We should not say, "The easiest thing to do to get the fishermen off their backs is to give them the 15 per cent., and the devil take the consequences." Of course it should not be done like that, but—I hope that the Minister will take my remarks in the best of spirits—there is no doubt that, among fishermen in the north-east of Scotland and elsewhere, there is a feeling that the hon. Gentleman did not really care enough to take their claim seriously. That has led to a tremendous loss of confidence in the Government and has dealt a damaging blow to the CFP.

I have seen a document—I do not claim to have read every word of it—entitled "A Better Way Forward", which was presented to the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food by fishermen from the south-west. Such is the similarity between that document and the representations and information that I have received from the Scottish Fishermen's Federation that I would not have known—apart from the geographical locations—that someone else had written it. There is a remarkable consistency of view throughout the United Kingdom.

The problem is one of confidence. Whatever CFP regime comes into force in 1993 and subsequent years, no part of it will work or hang together unless the industry is confident that it will bring justice. Without that confidence, everything will fail. I am not advancing an abstract argument or engaging in an academic exercise here: that lack of confidence has practical damaging results. I cite as an example the illegal landing of fish, I do not know what the extent of it is. I am relying on press reports and— lest someone should wish to throw my remarks back at me—anecdotal evidence. The reports vary. Some say that the illegal landings are small and of no consequence and that we should not worry about them, while others say that masses of fish are being landed illegally.

Wherever the truth lies, I unreservedly condemn all those involved in the handling of illegal fish—whether the fishermen, the buyers or the processors who knowingly take part in the practice. They do nothing but harm to the industry. They make it more difficult for us to represent the fishermen and put their case and, I believe, they damage our negotiating position in the EC.

Some seek to justify such practices on the ground that there is a lack of policing by other member states. They say that only British fishermen are sticking to the rules, that people are compelled into illegal practices only by economic necessity—the need to avoid bankruptcy—and that that frustration and anger lead to episodes such as that at Lochinver. The hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) said that he supported that. I do not want to break the all-party consensus, but I must say that I do not think that it is responsible to encourage fishermen to take the law into their own hands. That does no good, and certainly does not help our relations with the French. But these things happen.

United Kingdom haddock quotas have increased tremendously, but the real issue is that our share last year was such that less than 10 per cent. was left for other EC fishing countries. Fishermen are asking this stark and simple question: how, with such a small quota, can the French and whoever else still be catching at a time of year when we have exhausted a much bigger quota? They firmly believe that policing methods are not sufficient to deal with the problem. It is certainly indisputable that no other EC member state has anything like as many inspectors as us. I complain not about the number of inspectors that we have but about the fact that the number of inspectors elsewhere is deficient.

I believe in enforcement. My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East said that we must ensure that enforcement is carried out with the same vigour throughout the Community. What plans does the Minister have to ensure that the number of inspectors is increased, both by individual member states and by the Commission? My hon. Friend and others have advanced the proposition that we ought seriously to consider mutual inspection, with inspectors from one nation's fisheries working alongside those from another nation in their inspection. That would do much to inspire confidence and put paid to the oft-expressed feeling that everyone cheats on quotas. Such cynicism is extremely dangerous.

We all know that the problems of the industry are deep-seated. They have been with us for too many years. Although I am optimistic by nature, I feel that those problems will persist for some time. It has been said before: too many vessels are chasing too few fish. The halcyon days of free-for-all fishing are gone for ever. There has to be management, regulation and the reduction of fishing effort and capacity. I know that that is unpalatable to many fishermen. It is hard to say to people that their livelihood will be affected, but fishermen understand the reality and they want a sensible system for the future.

The tie-up days may be part of the answer but they are not the whole answer—whether what is proposed is a period of 135 days or 190 days, which we have been assured will not be accepted. Whatever the figures, that will not help the industry in the absence of any compensation for the days tied up. Without compensation, we shall be getting nothing more and nothing less than decommissioning by bankruptcy. In farming circles we have a set-aside scheme whereby compensation is paid. I do not see the difference in principle between compensating farmers for setting aside their land and paying compensation in respect of fishing boats that are tied up. It is the same principle, and it ought to be considered.

Apparently the Government have set themselves entirely against any tie-up compensation scheme. At least there is some movement on a decommissioning scheme, however. They are beginning to set aside—no pun intended—the hang-ups of the past. Their earlier decommissioning scheme was a disaster. They were ripped off and had their fingers burnt. At least they now have a commitment to a decommissioning scheme, even if it is nothing like good enough. They should sit down with the industry yet again, draw from its knowledge and expertise and then find the necessary money. I cannot quantify what will be required.

The Minister intervened in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East to ask whether he endorsed the figure in the House of Commons Select Committee report of three, four or five times the money that the Government have set aside. I would not set a figure on it, but that money ought not to be the hurdle over which the Government cannot leap. We should consider the matter and find the money.

We must be sure that British fishermen are not targeted or adversely affected compared with other EC fishermen. There must be comparability of treatment. It is essential that we achieve a common fisheries policy that will stand the test of time. That is what we are all looking for. If the Minister can achieve that, he will have our support and we wish him well in his endeavours to do the best for the industry. If he comes back with a satisfactory deal, he will not find us lacking in praise for him.

If the Minister fails, he must understand that that failure will reverberate throughout the industry, and a valuable resource and whole communities that depend on fishing will be devastated. I am sure that the Minister does not want that to happen. Indeed, no hon. Member would want that to happen. We therefore hope that the Minister tries seriously to find a system that will work which is beneficial and in which there is justice for all.

In conclusion, I apologise to the Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food who is to reply to the debate. Like his colleague, I must be out of the House when the winding-up speeches are made. Therefore, I shall not be here to listen to him. However, I hope that he accepts that I do not in any way mean to be discourteous to him.

5.20 pm
Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)

We hear much criticism about Britain's commitment to Europe. However, the European nations should be reminded that, if Britain had not been prepared to give her territorial fishing waters to this common policy, these nations would have been bereft of any fishing waters. That point should be repeated on every occasion. As a Member of the European Parliament, I am sick of listening to Frenchmen and people from Germany saying that Britain does not give proper commitment to the fishing policy, the common agricultural policy and so on. We have made a vital contribution, without which the common fishing policy would not exist.

I know that the Minister of State was a Member of the European Parliament for many years. He knows how the European Parliament, the Commission and the Council of Ministers work. He has a very solemn and heavy responsibility in respect of the issues that he will discuss in the very near future.

As the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr.Hughes) said, the same message is coming from fishermen all over the United Kingdom. There is no difference in the message of the fishermen from Northern Ireland, England, Wales and Scotland. I am concerned about three main issues: the quota levels for 1993; the position about sea fish conservation; and the general review of the CAP operations.

As I understand it, on 23 November 1992, EC officials in Brussels agreed three things: fishing for cod, haddock and other white fish will, from 1 January 1993, be reduced by 20 per cent. over four years; the quota system already operating will be determined by the amount of stock, or projected amount of stock, available; fishing for plaice and sole will be cut by 15 per cent. over the next four years.

Mr. Curry

I think that the figures to which the hon. Gentleman is referring are the targets for cutting the capacity of vessels. They are not the figures that relate to stocks. There would be a 20 per cent. cut over four years in the fleet targets for demersal vessels—that is, for white fish. There will be a 15 per cent. cut over four years for the beamers—that is, for plaice and sole. That does not refer to the stocks. I thought that it might be helpful if I made that clear at this stage.

Rev. Ian Paisley

If the Minister had listened to me, he would have noticed that I said that the quota system already operating would be determined by the amount of stock and projected amount of stock available. The Minister should have kept that in mind.

I understand that those cuts, no matter how the Minister argues them, are less than those first proposed. However, they they are more than the industry in Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom can sustain. That is the point that the Minister should take on board.

There are already shortages of fish, and that pushes up prices for the consumer and puts Britain's fishermen on the dole. The quota system has restricted United Kingdom vessels from landing sufficient catch to meet national demands. Fishermen who transgress the quota face heavy fines.

Once again, Britain is at a serious disadvantage. While we are imposing the single market rules, regulations and policies strictly and with extreme efficiency, we are being penalised by other nations which are not policing the regulations. There is no doubt about that. The suggestion of the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North that the policing operations should be mixed among the nations of Europe so that we can see what they are doing would mean that we would have some confidence in a fair and level playing field. We hear calls for a level playing field in the Community in industry and commerce. We need a level tidal mark for the British fishing industry. I should like the Minister of State to consider the point about the Irish sea, as the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland said that he would deal with it.

It seems that the quota level for whiting catch in the Irish sea is proposed to be cut by 35 per cent. Northern Ireland will get 14 per cent. of the catch. In effect, that reduces the tonnage available to the United Kingdom from the Irish sea stock to 1,400 tonnes. If those figures are correct, that is an all-time low. Those figures are unviable they will wreck Northern Ireland's fishing industry.

Who is defending Northern Ireland's position in Europe? Will a Minister from the Northern Ireland Office accompany the Minister of State to Europe to remind him that Northern Ireland fishermen have great difficulties? It is strange that the Minister of State's boss refuses to meet a deputation from the Northern Ireland fishing industry. No wonder there is great concern in Northern Ireland when the industry's voice cannot be heard.

The Northern Ireland sea fishing industry is largely dependent on the Irish sea. The Northern Ireland fleet is concentrated at the three main ports of Ardglass, Kilkeel and Portavogie. The representatives of those areas are in the House, and no doubt they will be pressing home some of the points that have been put to me.

I have been told that the fleet comprises more than 260 vessels over 10 m overall length. During 1991, the value of landing of sea fish at Northern Ireland ports was down by £1.4 million. That is a terrible loss for the fishing industry in Northern Ireland. More than 2,400 people are employed in the sea fishing industry, including people employed in the fishing fleet and related ancillary sectors such as processing, wholesaling, boat building and harbour duties.

As Northern Ireland has the worst level of unemployment in the United Kingdom, the Minister must be concerned that those jobs are protected. When we talk to fishermen about sea fish conservation, they say that we are talking more about the destruction of their jobs than about conserving them.

British legislation gives officials the power to tie up British vessels when they believe that stocks are low. The legislation is applied according to the strictest possible interpretation of the European Community's conservation policy. That application is extremely invidious and oppressive to Northern Ireland when proper consideration is given to the low quota and projected quota given to Northern Ireland.

After the meeting in Brussels, the Irish Fisheries Minister, Dr. Michael Woods, said that he had won special dispensation which would avoid cuts in the Irish fishing fleet. So the southern Ireland Minister can come out of a Brussels meeting and boast that he has won a special dispensation which would avoid cuts in the Irish fishing fleet. That breakthrough for the Republic of Ireland came about after years of pressure by the Republic's Government. What pressure are Her Majesty's Government putting on the European Community to protect the jobs of Northern Ireland fishermen?

Small communities in Northern Ireland such as Portavogie, Kilkeel and Ardglass depend on fishing to survive. On 20 November, Lord Arran met councillors and fishermen from Newtownards and Portagovie to listen to their complaints. Was that meeting reported to the Minister? Was he given a list of those complaints? Was he told that Portagovie is a major fishing port with 97 boats and a turnover of £7 million last year? Was he told that, in Portavogie, employment in the fishing industry provides about 800 jobs in the village, 400 on the boats and a further 400 in associated factories? Was he told that much capital funding has been invested in the harbour over the years—£750,000 in 1955 and a further £5 million in 1985?

The right hon.Member for Strangford (Mr. Taylor) was a Member of the European Parliament with me at the time when representations were made and money was provided for Europe to help. Money has been invested in the fishing industry. Will that investment now be lost?

The EC regulations allow foreign boats from Spain, France and Belgium to fish the Irish sea, although there is not enough fish to sustain the local fleet. Already, 10 to 12 boats are tied up because their owners cannot achieve enough catch to sustain them. The hon. Member for Aberdeen, North said that the fishermen rightly say that their quota is larger than that for the ships from the other countries, but if their men have to tie up, why can the other countries continue fishing? The Minister must come clean and tell us the reason for that, because it goes to the very heart of this debacle.

The problem is exacerbated because some countries do not enforce the regulations—allowing, as in the case of some Spanish boats operating on a British licence, the taking of small fish, thus further reducing the available adult population. Many of the remaining boats face dire circumstances. They have made heavy capital investment, and they do not earn enough to pay for the borrowing—never mind make a living. That is the fact of the matter. The fishermen have their backs against the wall.

The Government must take effective action, riot oppressive action. They must listen to the fears of the fishermen, and produce an effective management regime which offers the opportunity to fish and preserve stock. To make the industry viable once again, the fleet at Portavogie would need to be reduced by 30 per cent. That is the figure that the fishermen have given me.

I am pleased to tell the Minister that I will not be absent when he responds; I will be here to listen to his answers. I understand that hon. Members have other duties, and I am not passing any judgment on them. Many a time I have had to apologise for being absent, but I will be in the House tonight to listen. I will be using the ears which my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Robertson) told another hon. Member to use. I will be using my ears, and I may have to use my mouth as well if the Minister does not give me satisfactory answers.

Many owners are prepared to opt out of the industry. I agree entirely with the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North that, if compensation is given to farmers through set-aside, and if the fishing boats cannot earn enough to make them viable because of regulations over which they have no control whatever, the Government must start a scheme to take out of commission those boats that cannot be managed on a viable basis. The time has come for the Government to provide the money. I call on the Government to make the necessary funds available to finance a proper decommissioning scheme.

Can the Minister explain what happened to the amendment that was to be made to the conservation Bill? My papers show that, during discussion of the Sea Fish (Conservation) Bill, the Minister said that, if the hon. Member for Tynemouth (Mr. Trotter) would withdraw his new clause, the Government will table an amendment in another place to insert those provisions in the Bill."—[Official Report, 14 July 1992; Vol. 211, c. 1027.] I understand that the proposed new clause was not moved, but Lord Howe explained how that would be covered without having an amendment.

Mr. Curry

If the hon. Member can stay even longer tonight, he will have the opportunity to vote for that amendment which fulfils the Government's pledge. The fact is that we tabled an amendment in the other place which fulfilled that pledge. The amendment is complex in form. I am willing to let the hon. Gentleman have the long dissertation which my lawyers produced to explain why it had to be in such a form. I assure the hon. Gentleman that the practical effect of the amendment is precisely as I promised to the House.

Rev. Ian Paisley

I am glad of that. I will be in the House for as long is it sits, for one reason—I cannot get home, because there is no aircraft to take me after the House rises. I will be here, and I should be grateful if the Minister could give me what he has promised, because the matter has been raised with me by people who are worried about it. As the Minister knows, I do not put this in a critical way. I want an explanation that I can give those people.

Mr. Curry

I think that the hon. Gentleman is asking me to write to him with a detailed explanation. The matter is complicated for debate. I undertake that I will write to the hon. Gentleman.

Rev Ian Paisley

I will weigh up what the hon. Gentleman says when we come to the amendment.

I want to ask the Minister about the Hague preference and how it affects the fishing quota regime, especially for the Northern Ireland fishermen. According to the fishermen who have lobbied me, Northern Ireland is suffering because our so-called EC partner, the Republic of Ireland, applied the Hague preference against our fishing rights to cod, plaice and white fish.

There is no intergovernmental co-operation, although we are told that we have wonderful co-operation with the Irish Republic. We have an Anglo-Irish agreement. Now we are told that, despite that agreement, the Irish Government are unable to fulfil their fishing quota, yet we are not permitted to obtain that quota, which we could very well do with. I ask the Minister to apply himself to that difficulty tonight.

This is an important debate. We are all worried about the matter. It goes to the heart of the well-being of the fishing communities. Everyone knows that no community around our coasts is as tightly knit as the fishing communities. There is a peculiarity about fishing communities: they deserve the Minister's best. I warn him that, if he does not give them his best when he goes to the negotiations in Europe—if he comes home and tells us that he could not get what we know he must get to allow the industry to continue to be viable—he will be in serious trouble.

5.40 pm
Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland)

In both his opening and concluding remarks the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) referred to the unity of interest of the fishing industry throughout the United Kingdom. The names of the ports may be different but his descriptions of an industry with its back to the wall and of the anger of fishermen who, while their boats are tied up, see continental fishermen fishing in close waters apply to fishermen throughout the United Kingdom.

I also share the hon. Gentleman's frustration that there is no aeroplane which will take me back home after the hour at which the House rises. So there is common feeling in the debate on many matters.

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, the hon. Member for Dumfries (Sir Hector Monro), reminded the House of the tragedies with which the fishing communities have become all too well acquainted. The number of occasions on which the House expresses sympathy with communities who have lost people at sea reminds us of the price paid for the supply of an important commodity.

For generations, fishermen have been acquainted with the ups and downs of the fortunes of the industry. But few would quibble with the claim that today the industry faces a dire crisis in terms of morale, its current fortunes and its prospects. The hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Robertson) queried whether some Opposition Members, and especially the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond), lived in the same world as he did. I wonder what world he lives in if he has not caught the mood in the fishing industry.

Today a flotilla of fishing vessels is accompanying the royal yacht Britannia to make their protests known. We have also seen the blockade of Lochinver today and on Friday fishermen from ports throughout the United Kingdom, including 54 from my constituency in a chartered plane, will come to Edinburgh to demonstrate their fury and justifiable anger with a Government who impose unreasonable restrictions on the way in which fishermen can prosecute their livelihood.

The protests show the sense of need, anger and crisis in the industry. So the debate comes at a critical time, against the background not only of the protests but of the mid-term review of the common fisheries policy and yet again the annual review of our total allowable catches. There was an exhaustive discussion of the mid-term review in one of the European Standing Committees recently. I do not wish to go over that ground again, but since that time there has been a meeting of the Council of Ministers. While relative stability was affirmed, some weasel words were attached to it in the original draft, which seemed to qualify it in several respects. I know that the Minister was worried about that. Perhaps he could tell us what progress has been made in taking those words out.

I believe that the north of Scotland box has been established for a continuing period. The Minister knows my views on that. We should have liked further measures to be taken in that respect, but undoubtedly that is an argument to which we shall return on future occasions.

Mr. Curry

I thought that I would give the hon. Gentleman an appetiser. He is right. We have safeguarded the Shetland box.

Mr. Wallace

If the Minister thinks that because of that I shall let him off lightly later, he has another think coming.

We also wish to know what progress has been made on the multi-annual basis for total allowable catches. This evening we are also debating the TACs for 1993. They are a little like a shopping list. I hope that the Minister will be well informed about the views of the House before he goes to the critical negotiations. We may say things which will strengthen his arm in the negotiations.

We welcome the increase in the North sea haddock TAC. However, as I said to the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, we urge the Government to keep down the volume allocated to an industrial fishery. The more fish that is taken for the industrial fishery, the less there will be for fishing for human consumption. The Minister must also take into account that it may yet be necessary to obtain some haddock from Norway in the negotiations which have still to be completed.

Why does the TAC for Clyde herring appear to be so low? There is a strong argument for maintaining the status quo.

The west coast fishery seems to be a hardy annual. There is only a precautionary TAC for hake, monkfish and megrim, and there is insufficient scientific evidence that the TAC should not be increased to provide fishing opportunities for the many fishing communities who want to fish those species.

It has already been accepted in the debate that saithe is in poor shape. However, there is some evidence that it is a clean fishery and that large fish are being caught. That begs the question whether the scientific evidence justifies the severe reductions in saithe fishing. I would appreciate the Minister' comments on that.

As the hon. Member for Antrim, North said, it would be helpful if the TAC agreed for Irish sea whiting was such that it was not necessary to invoke the Hague preference rules, which would disadvantage United Kingdom fishermen.

We await the outcome of the negotiations with Norway on mackerel and herring. Last year the Minister achieved a satisfactory arrangement. Until last year there appeared to be a creeping increase in the additional amount that Norway sought each year. I hope that that will be resisted again this year. If the Minister succeeds in doing that, he can expect plaudits and congratulations.

Mr. Curry

I intervene in the constructive spirit of the debate. The hon. Gentleman will know that the Norwegian negotiations will be particularly difficult this year because of the European Economic Area agreement. The Swiss vote means that the agreement will not proceed on 1 January. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary has already said that we have asked the Commission to adjust its proposals on imports and tariffs, because they are clearly affected. The Norwegians are fairly twitchy on the matter as a result of agreement and the negotiations will be difficult. I am sure that the objectives which he is about to outline are those which we shall undertake to fulfil.

Mr. Wallace

I am grateful for that explanation. There is a feeling that concessions have already been ma de to Norway on the EEA arrangements and that there should be no duplication. People sometimes use the term "trading paper fish", but real fish should not be added to the paper fish. I am sure that the Minister will seek to achieve that objective.

It is useful to recall that after the December meeting of the Council of Ministers last year it was acknowledged that the deal secured by Ministers was a reasonable one. I recall urging Ministers to grasp the opportunity to sit down with leaders of the fishing industry and co-operate on future policy. Twelve months ago, we see that that opportunity was tossed away, with the resulting appalling consequences for fishermen, their families and their communities.

Only a few weeks after Ministers managed to get that deal, we at long last had the decommissioning package unveiled. But, as has already been said, it was too little, too late. One did not have to be a cynic to note its timing just a few weeks before the general election. One did not need more than a fleeting acquaintance with the industry to recognise that the amount on offer was too little. One did not need to read the fine print too closely to note the strings which the Government attached to the offer. I am sure that many hon. Members who represent fishing communities will agree that the Government's insistence on effort limitation, or tie-up days, was one of the most contentious strings.

The Government will prohibit people from pursuing their livelihoods on certain days and, if one takes stock of what they are doing in this Session, that takes a fair bit of brass neck. The other day, the Home Secretary told us that the Government will introduce legislation in this Parliament to allow shopowners to trade on Sundays, but they have introduced legislation in the same Session to stop fishermen from fishing on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. We should be under no illusions about what their legislation will do—it will stop people from earning their livelihood, and that is what has built up such resentment in the fishing industry.

Mr. Curry

The hon. Gentleman is normally extremely sensible, but the comparison between shopping and fishing was the daftest that I have heard him make for a long time. No natural resources are at stake in shopping—we are not short of customers or of the real estate to put shops on. Fishermen are fishing for a natural resource—that is the problem.

As I have made clear throughout the passage of the Sea Fish (Conservation) Bill, we are not depriving fishermen of their livelihoods. We intend them to catch the quota, the whole quota, and nothing but the quota. There is nothing in the Bill to stop them from catching their legitimate entitlement, and I can categorically give that pledge.

Mr. Wallace

Clearly, I have touched a raw nerve. The Minister's answer begs the question: why does one need a tie-up? If they fish the quota, the whole quota and nothing but the quota, fishermen could fish 365 days of the year and it would be up to them to manage their quota over the 12 months. By that answer, the Minister has shot a hole through his tie-up proposals.

There is a connection between fishing and shopping. My argument was about the opportunity to pursue one's livelihood and it is right to put it in a context that people will understand. One sector of the community will be allowed greater opportunities to trade, while another vital part of our community will be denied that opportunity.

We were relieved to hear that the Government intend to resist the Commission's tie-up proposals. I wondered how they would square the circle if they did not intend to resist the proposals, given the Minister's undertaking on 14 July that there would be no increase in restrictions in 1993. We should not be carried away by the fact that the Government have given us that understanding. While they say that they will not accept the proposals, and that they will argue against the Community tie-up scheme, we are left with the home-made scheme established by the Sea Fish (Conservation) Bill.

What has angered fishermen more than anything else is the fact that there are restrictions on British fishermen, but their European counterparts will not be subject to similar restrictions. There are enough let-out clauses in the Community proposals to mean that, even if the scheme were carried through, it would mainly affect British fisherman, and particularly Scottish fishermen. We should not lose sight of the fact that European fishermen will be able to carry on fishing when British fishermen will not.

Tie-up rules were first introduced because of a shortage of cod and haddock. No one is claiming that the cod TAC has increased significantly—there is still a problem there. The haddock TAC has increased enormously, but the Government are still applying the tie-up rules. Will there be sufficient opportunity for British fishermen to catch their quota, their whole quota and nothing but the quota? If anyone can do the figures before 9.30 pm, it would be interesting to find out what proportion of the value of the total catch is contributed by haddock, for those fishermen to whom the haddock catch is significant. I suspect that fishermen derive their living from many other species, which they also ought to have time to fish. It is not merely a question of the increase in haddock; there are other stocks.

Is the tie-up scheme intended as a conservation measure —as the Minister says, and as Earl Howe said in another place last week—or is it part and parcel of the Government trying to get their multi-annual guidance programme targets? We should not overlook the fact that, while 20 per cent. has been negotiated, which is less than was originally proposed, the backlog from the existing five year target also has to be met. That means that United Kingdom fishermen will have to bear a larger burden of the reduction in capacity than those in almost every other EC country.

Mr. Austin Mitchell (Great Grimsby)

Except Greece.

Mr. Wallace

Yes, apart from Greece. The Government have not said how they will balance effort limitation or tie-up days with decommissioning. If they say that both will contribute to meeting that target, we ought to know how many days tie-up equals how many hundred horsepower of capacity. Otherwise we shall be led a merry dance and there will be no way to quantify or to make an objective assessment of the Government proposals. The Under-Secretary of State omitted to answer that question, and I hope that the Minister of State will come up with a convincing answer.

As my right hon Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) said in an intervention, the Government are hooked on tie-up and have become blind to every other option. We do not hear much about square mesh panels or gear options these days. The Government even managed to apply the one-net rule insensitively. The Under-Secretary at the Scottish Office suggested to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell) that his fishermen could return to port to change nets before they went back out to sea. That. observation received the proper reaction in fishing circles.

Does the Minister honestly believe that his policies will achieve conservation? The hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) said that in many cases there will be decommissioning through bankruptcy. Apart from the fact that the scheme is an ad hoc way to bring about decommissioning—it is likely to bankrupt those who are most heavily indebted, which could lead to an aging fleet—those who administer the bankruptcies are unlikely to surrender licences. The chances are that they will be passed on to be aggregated with someone else's licence. That is how fishermen from other countries obtain British licences. At the conference on the common fisheries policy in Shetland earlier this year, someone asked why France does not have that problem. Why do British fishermen not buy up French licences? One of the Commission's representatives answered that question. Even though there is nothing in French statute to prevent it, the French do not give their licences away.

The only reason why we have Spanish vessels fishing under flags of convenience is that someone has sold them a licence. One cannot blame fishermen for doing so if they are under tremendous financial pressure and Government policies are putting them under that pressure. The fact that the Government do not propose to tackle the running sore of foreign vessels buying up British licences is the most glaring omission in their proposals for reform of the common fisheries policy. The whole purpose of that policy and the principle of relative stability is undermined by such practices.

Mr. Curry

I am as sensitive as anyone else to that extremely sensitive issue. Is the hon. Gentleman saying that he wants me to take measures to prevent fishermen from selling their licences to foreign owners? That is the key of the argument. How would that square with European Community rules, to which his party is particularly attached?

Mr. Wallace

The underlying principle of the common fisheries policy and of the principle of relative stability is the allocation of national quotas. In many respects it could be said to be the converse of what the Community has sought in almost every other area in which we are pursuing the single market. The Community has reached an agreement that there will be national quotas. I understand that a recent court decision affirmed that one can distribute quotas on a national basis. One cannot allow leakages to continue if the integrity of that quota system is to be maintained. It is the responsibility of the Community to sort that out, but we have had no lead from the British Government, who hold the presidency, in proposing any constructive ideas as to how the Community might do that.

Mr. Salmond

Given the concern that is shared in all parts of the House, is it not rather disturbing that the action on flags of convenience proposed in the original Commission document a year ago seems to have disappeared from the most recent document that we have seen, which was produced during the United Kingdom's presidency of the Council of Ministers?

Mr. Wallace

That is very disturbing. I have debated the problem of flags of convenience often enough with the Minister to know that he is concerned about it. However, the real matter of concern to the House is that if we do not raise the issue, as the country most aggrieved by it, who will? It has not been raised under the British presidency and we have had no satisfactory explanation why.

It is self-evident that the industry is confused and angered by Government policy. I assure the Minister that if he returns with a sensible package on next year's TACs which meets many of our concerns, he will be given due credit for it. However, he should be under no illusion that that alone will be enough.

The abandonment, even tonight, of the Sea Fish (Conservation) Bill—perhaps a forlorn hope—would be the most sensible thing that the Minister could do to help the fishing industry. So long as the Minister refuses to do that, he will be left with an industry which has every right to feel angry about a Government who, so far as it can judge, and in reality, have basically sold out its interests.

6.1 pm

Mr. David Harris (St. Ives)

As has already been said tonight, too often we must start speeches about fishing by marking a tragedy in our respective constituencies. I know that the House would wish to convey its sympathy to the families of the five Cornishmen from the constituency of the hon. Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Tyler) who were lost at sea last week. I know that the hon. Gentleman has had to leave the Chamber, but I know that we would like to convey our sympathies, through him, to the families in the Padstow area who lost men in two tragedies within the space of a single week. One can hardly think of anything worse that could happen to such a tight-knit fishing community than to suffer two tragedies in such a short time.

It is always a tradition in such debates to consider the problems from a constituency point of view. That is natural, and it is right and proper that we speak up for our fishermen. Perhaps I could start, however, by speaking up for a fishery that is a long way from us, although I believe that I am the Member nearest to it—the Falklands fishery.

I am sure that various hon. Members have received representations from the Falkland Islands Government about the threat that that fishery could face because of an agreement between the European Commission and the Argentine, which has been initialled by a Commissioner without the backing of our Government.

I have had the privilege to visit the Falklands and to study that fishery, which is managed well. It is perhaps significant that £6 million a year is spent on research on and management of that important resource. Therefore, the Falkland Islands Government are disturbed, to put it mildly, that, apparently, under the new agreement a number of boats from the Community, particularly from Spain and Portugal—which is no surprise to anyone—are likely to go down to the Argentine waters that abut the Falklands waters and fish without restriction. That would have serious implications for the neighbouring Falklands fishery, because squid pay no respect to lines on maps, any more than cod, haddock or any other species do. I. hope that my hon. Friend will take up this issue with the Commission; perhaps he will reply to my concerns tonight.

At home, it is important to consider some of the issues that are, to put it mildly, worrying Cornish fishermen. In the past two weeks, we have witnessed the premature closure of the hake fishery. Suddenly, without warning, that fishery was closed. The Cornish Fish Producers Organisation, which is responsible for managing the sectoral quota, estimates that fishermen still have about 16 tonnes of hake to catch. To the uninitiated, that may not seem a big deal, but it is equivalent to fish worth £100,000. Cornish fishermen could well do with that money, particularly in the current economic climate.

The fishery has been closed because others have overshot. My hon. Friend the Member for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Kynoch) was right to draw attention to the fact that there has been considerable overshooting in the non-sector. I suspect that that is due, in part, to the Spanish boats and the belated returns from Spain for hake caught.

Mike Townsend, the chief executive of the Cornish Fish Producers Organisation, believes that his fishermen are being penalised for their good management of the sectoral quota. They have tried to maintain that fishery right through the year, but, because others have managed it badly, they are being penalised and the fishery has been closed. Its closure will not just affect Cornwall.

When I raised this issue with my hon. Friend the Minister at Question Time last week, he said that, if there was a single fish to be caught, the fishery could be reopened. I should like my hon. Friend to check the figures, because I understand that there are still fish to be caught. We seem to be heading towards an overshoot of the hake allocation, but I believe that the closure of the fishery was not only precautionary but premature.

Cornish fishermen have managed their own fishery superbly in accordance with all the guidance laid down by the Ministry, and it is unfair on them, and no doubt on others, for that fishery to be closed suddenly. I demand of the Minister that he confirms that that penalisation will not carry forward to next year. I hope that the fishermen will be allowed to catch extra fish to compensate for the fish they have lost. I hope that the sectoral quota for next year will not be cut as a result of my hon. Friend's decision, or that of his officials, to close the fishery.

Mr. Curry

My hon. Friend knows that I sent him a brief note about this. It is true that the hake sector was approaching the point at which we had to close the fishery, because it was clear that it would be exhausted. I have a list of all the closures around the coast, which I do not wish to go into. However, it shows that a decision to close is reached when it is near certain that, by the time the results come in, a sector is at, or in some cases over, quota. The United Kingdom has got quite a strong record of going over quota.

On the latest figures for hake that date from Monday—there is a gap of two to three weeks before all the figures come in—the sector was taking 98 per cent. of the quota and the non-sector was taking 93 per cent. Therefore, the landings at that point—the whole quota allocation—had reached 6,797 tonnes against an allocation of 7,140 tonnes. Given the necessary time lag, it is certain that the quota would be met.

I accept that, in some cases, it is the non-sector that catches the fish, and that the producer organisations suffer, but in some cases the POs appear to go over the top of the allocation. We try to organise the guidelines on catches sensibly, but no one can tell how much fish a man will catch on a particular trip.

I have two points to make about the compensatory mechanism. First, nobody's track record suffers because he has been obliged to take less than he might otherwise have taken. Secondly, those who have gone over the quota must pay back in the subsequent year to those who were forced to stop fishing under the quota.

Mr. Harris

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making that clear. As he said, he did so in a note earlier today.

The hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) mentioned Ireland and the Hague preference. There is no doubt that Ireland got a good deal from the agreement on the multi-annual guidance programme in its targets for reducing the effort of the member states' fleets. O that we could have had the same deal. However, my concern is not confined to that aspect. I am worried about how Ireland is building up its fleet and pressing, on the basis of the Hague preference, its need for extra quota. This worries not only hon. Members who represent Northern Ireland but fishing interests in the south-west.

We have discussed the Hague preference many times in the House, and it featured largely in the debate in Standing Committee A when we discussed the mid-term review. I know that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, are thoroughly familiar with the Hague preference, but I remind you that it was a political deal—there is no other way to describe it—struck before we entered the common fisheries policy. It was a trade-off, as most such issues are.

Some parts of the Community were given a special status because it was said that they were particularly dependent on fishing, and other regions were denied it. It is a continuing matter not just of controversy but of discontent, particularly in the south-west and other parts of England—

Mr. Austin Mitchell

Including Humberside.

Mr. Harris

Certainly. We can all name our own areas which were denied that status and look to other parts of the United Kingdom with envy. Scotland has special status, and good luck to it. But it cannot be said that Cornwall is any less dependent on fishing than many parts of Scotland. It was simply a crude political deal.

I have never been corrected in the past when I have said that, surprisingly, that deal was signed by the present Lord Owen, who was at the time the Member of Parliament for Plymouth and a Foreign Office Minister. He signed it in the latter capacity because fishing was then negotiated by the Foreign Office. Responsibility for fisheries was rightly taken away from the Foreign Office and given to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

Lord Owen dealt an awful blow to the fishing industry in the south-west, because the consequences of our being denied the Hague preference did not lead simply to a six-mile limit, compared to the 12-mile limit in force in many parts of the country: it goes through to the present day. Grants were paid to our detriment, and it is now being operated in the form of the preferential deal that Ireland is trying to negotiate on the basis that it has Hague agreement status. That is terribly wrong.

The problem should have been dealt with in the mid-term review. I know that the Minister would argue that, overall, it is in the United Kingdom's interest that we should maintain Hague agreement preference for certain parts of the country. I have heard that argument before. That is all right, but it is doubly unfair to areas such as Cornwall, which have been denied that assistance. In. considering new mechanisms proposed by the European Community, I urge my hon. Friend to redress the balance so that areas dependent on fishing, which have been denied the advantages of Hague agreement status for all these years, are given what they are entitled to.

On the mid-term review of the common fisheries policy, I agree with the sentiments expressed by the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) about flag of convenience vessels or quota hoppers—call them what you will. We regard it as a missed opportunity of our presidency, as the Government should have taken a political lead on the issue to get a resolution—

Sir Teddy Taylor (Southend, East)

To suggest what?

Mr. Harris

To suggest, during the presidency, that we should at least try to reach an agreement with the other member states to outlaw the terrible practice of countries transferring their boats to our register.

My hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) and I make common cause on that issue, because the ruling of the European Court of Justice torpedoed the Government's laudable but belated attempts to deal with the issue on the basis of British legislation through section 2 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1988, which got rid of quota hoppers. But when we lost that central part of the case before the European Court, some of those quota hoppers returned to our register, with all the consequences we know about.

That brings me to the vexed question of the Sea Fish (Conservation) Bill.

Sir Teddy Taylor

Does my hon. Friend agree that the only thing that we have in common on that issue is our belief that the 630 Members of Parliament can do absolutely nothing about it? Although we all scream, complain and moan, the plain fact is that the European Court overturned a law that was passed through this Parliament, and we are utterly powerless.

Mr. Harris

My hon. Friend's assessment of the position is right, but I do not accept that Members of Parliament and the Government can do nothing about it. The Government should have done something about it when they held the presidency. [Interruption.] If my hon. Friend will contain himself for a second, I shall tell him that our job is to press the Government to take action, through the presidency, to try to achieve a political arrangement within the Council of Ministers to deal, once and for all, with the pernicious practice of quota hopping. That is what I have been urging the Minister to do. I would have welcomed some support from my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East. That is the only way forward.

The Minister will confirm that our European partners have had a change in attitude. I have been fighting the battle for nearly 13 years. Whereas, at the beginning, they did not want to know about it, at least a number of other member states have now woken up to the dangers of that practice to their own fishing interests. We should have capitalised on that during the mid-term review.

I know that it was not done simply because the Government were afraid of opening up, during their presidency, a huge Pandora's box of fishing issues to the United Kingdom's detriment. I do not think that I am misstating the case. They wanted a fairly limited mid-term review, and I disagree with them on that point. I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland that we have missed an opportunity at least to try to get a resolution to a problem that has bedeviled the fishing industry.

It is not simply a question of boats coming on our register, fishing against our quotas and fishing in our waters, as my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East would put it. We have a problem with the multi-annual guidance programme, because some of those boats have returned to our register. I am sure that Her Majesty's Government could have told the Commission, "We have reduced our fees," and then whispered, "because we have got rid of 100 wretched Spanish boats so that the number in the fleet has been reduced." That argument has been denied us, so the Government have had to consider other ways to meet the multi-annual guidance programme. As we all know, they have failed to do so until now. Therefore, they have been forced, wrongly, to adopt the tying-up policy.

To answer the question posed by the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland, I believe that tying-up has more to do with meeting our MAGP than true conservation. I have a common cause with the hon. Gentleman in that I have opposed the Sea Fish (Conservation) Bill, and will continue to do so. It does not meet this country's true conservation needs. I shall not repeat all the arguments, but I believe that the tying-up policy is unfair and unworkable.

I quarrel with some of my good friends in the fishing industry when they say that the answer lies almost completely in a decommissioning scheme. I do not buy that argument. The Government are correct to argue that, if one places total reliance on decommissioning, those left in the industry will intensify their efforts and fish, if not in all the space created, in much of it. I accept that other methods are needed. I agree that the figure of £25 million is too low, but that is not the fault of the Minister. We should take up that matter with the Treasury, where the constraint lies, not with the Ministry of Agriculture.

What are the answers to the central issue of how to conserve fish and obtain a better balance between increasing catching capacity and declining fish stocks? Decommissioning should play a greater role in achieving that balance. I also agree with Opposition Members who said that gearing, net sizes and the technical measures could undoubtedly make a greater contribution.

However, we should consider another factor. I have been advancing this argument to the industry ever since the impressive rally in Westminster hall. I said then that the Bill would be passed even though neither I nor those at the rally would want it to be—I suspect that it will pass through its final stages tonight. However, even at this late hour, the industry should produce measures that it considers preferable to tying up—I know that many people are doing so. It should consider the designation of closed areas, particularly during spawning time, so that boats do not fish there then. That would be a positive conservation measure, in tune with the wishes of many fishermen. When I discussed the subject with them, they said that they used to do so on a voluntary basis years ago.

I plead with the Minister, even at this late hour—the Bill will no doubt be enacted, but I do not want the Act to be implemented—to begin meaningful discussions with the industry, as sections within it want to do so. My hon. Friend should make his experts available so that there can be sensible discussions about policies other than tying up. I am afraid that he will not do so and may, in the new year, introduce orders to implement the tying—up policy below the 1991 levels of effort. If he does introduce those orders, I shall, with sadness, vote against them.

6.24 pm
Mr. Austin Mitchell (Great Grimsby)

I generally agree with the hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. Harris), but I emphasise that we faced the EC Factortame judgment largely because of the slow and clumsy way in which the Government framed the legislation. Their crucial failure was to allow the Spanish vessels to get a foothold and then use that fact to appeal to the European Court. That was a mistake made by no other European country, so Spain does not have a base anywhere else from which to launch its appeal. That has been the problem in the past, and the Government must take responsibility for that failure.

The debate is being held while the fishing industry is in an atmosphere of gloom. I do not think that the debate will add much good cheer before Christmas to an industry that is in crisis. In various parts of the country the industry still has quota to catch—for example, the Grimsby cod quota—but the fishing has been abruptly stopped by Government intervention.

An increasing number of vessels are already being tied up even before the Sea Fish (Conservation) Bill is enacted and implemented. According to the documents that we are discussing, the Commission wants to increase its role and powers; it wants to take more responsibility for regulation away from national Government in defiance of the principle of subsidiarity. Increasingly, Europe is giving us mechanistic, rigid structures. Barmy measures that are not suited to local circumstances will become more common if the Commission is allowed to do what it wants.

The United Kingdom Government are desperately trying to rectify the mistake that they made in delaying the introduction of a proper decommissioning scheme so that our industry could be restructured in a managed way. That delay means that the Government are now required to try to catch up, using the desperate measure of imposing on the industry the authoritarian regime set out in the Sea Fish (Conservation) Bill. They are attempting to restructure the industry through bankruptcy. Their policy is to stop fishermen fishing by driving them to bankruptcy as they are unable to make an adequate living.

To add to those follies and problems, we have what the Minister calls "successful" negotiations on capacity. If he considers the negotiations successful, he must be using Euro-speak. I do not know why he did not use the phrase "game, set and match" on his return from the Brussels negotiations. If that is what he considers to be success, I should like to hear his definition of failure.

In the press release on the agreed fishing fleet reductions the Minister states that they will ensure that the burden adjustment is equitably shared. Yet other states have come away from those negotiations with lower and much more achievable targets than have the Government and this nation. The reduction in gross tonnage faced by the United Kingdom fleet will be 19 per cent. I do not think that many people have noticed that the figure will be more than 19 per cent.—28 per cent.—if we include the penalty for the reductions that we have not achieved in the multi-annual guidance programme. That is the second largest reduction requirement; only that of Greece is higher.

Mr. Curry

The hon. Gentleman has mixed up the figures. The figure of 19 per cent. refers to the cuts with the backlog—without the backlog, the figure is 10 per cent. The 28 per cent. is mythical.

Mr. Mitchell

Even if I accept that point—I shall think about it and may argue with the Minister later—the estimates for percentage changes in gross registered tonnage give us a 19 per cent. reduction, France an 8 per cent. reduction, Denmark 6 per cent., Italy 7 per cent. and Spain 4 per cent. Spain has a huge, marauding armada—the biggest fleet in the Community—which is largely unpoliced. Many of its vessels have secret fish rooms in which to conceal the catches. The vessels land in Spain where the catches are not properly controlled—a sort of British privateering of the 16th century in reverse.The Spanish fleet is the main threat and has been the cause of the greatest pressure on our agreements with Norway. It was the main problem and the main cause of the breakdown in the relationship with Canada. Yet this fleet is to be reduced in size by only 4 per cent.

Mr. Rupert Allason (Torbay)

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the problem is actually much worse than he thinks? Not only are the Spanish responsible for the quota hopping, but the catch that they take back to Spain would certainly be regarded as illegal by our fishery inspectors. English fishermen who visit the Spanish markets are astonished by the size of the fish on sale there—they would clearly be illegal here.


The hon. Gentleman has access to secret service reports about what is going on in Spain. I have heard similar reports, and he is of course correct. The fact that the Spanish fleet has managed to achieve its MAGPs in the past was partly due to the number of Spanish vessels transferred from their register to ours.

Even worse, there has been a massive crisis in southern hake stocks, which has prompted the suggestion that there should be a 90 per cent. reduction in catch. Where will the Spanish vessels do their fishing?

Ireland's fleet has been granted an increase of 1 per cent. Ireland gets a higher quota at the expense of British fishermen by means of the Hague preference. Our fishermen in the Irish sea are having their numbers cut by 20 per cent., while the Irish numbers are to be cut by only 11 per cent., with corresponding gains for them on the west coast of Ireland. That is an inequitable deal for Britain—despite the Minister's description of it as successful. I can see no element of success in it. It will cause a disproportionately large reduction in this country's fishing effort.

The Minister will know that I am no friend to regionalism because it works against the interests of Grimsby's vessels. I therefore regard the Shetland box as a load of blah. It is totally unnecessary; it was designed to build up Shetland's industry to the exclusion of vessels from Humberside. It has no biological justification. It is interesting that the Commission's own scientific and technical committee, looking into biological boxes, decided that Shetland was unworthy of consideration because it was not a biological box.

Mr. Wallace

The hon. Gentleman will know that the box operates so as to restrict the number of vessels from member states that can be in it at any one time. Can he tell me of any vessels from Humberside in the past 10 years that have been unable to enter the box because of the restrictions?

Mr. Mitchell

If I had the statistics to hand, the hon. Gentleman would need a biological box to protect himself from them. I cannot quote any such examples, but the box is still a restriction on the overall opportunities available to the Humberside fleet, and it is wholly unnecessary.

As other speakers have said, we should have taken this opportunity to deal with the problem of the Hague preference, which discriminates against not only Grimsby but other areas to the south. The definition of north Britain is ludicrous, reaching as far down as Flamborough Head but not including Grimsby and other communities that depend on fishing. Grimsby is, par excellence, such a community, but it is not included in the Hague preference. Hence we are redistributing catches to Ireland, and our fishermen are suffering as a result. The preference is unfair and we should have taken the opportunity to get rid of it. It penalises large areas of England—

Mr. Ainger

And Wales—

Mr. Mitchell

—and Wales which should not be thus treated.

The Minister should tell us now that he will resist any reductions and keep the North sea cod TACs above Hague preference levels, so that we will avoid futher problems in that area.

Mr. Curry

My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State said earlier that we would seek to edge up that quota without triggering the Hague preference. We can only do that if we are convinced that we can do so within sensible conservation limits. I certainly hope that that will be possible in this case.

Mr. Mitchell

I thank the Minister for that: I hope that it materialises.

I do not know why we are not making more of subsidiarity when it comes to fishing. In fishing matters it is crucial that we defend and expand the power to use national conservation measures, including gear options and exclusion from grounds at certain seasons of the year. We need to employ real conservation measures of that sort, not the phoney conservation measures that we will discuss later tonight under the Sea Fish (Conservation) Bill. We must protect smaller, younger fish, and protect our grounds at certain times of the year.

As for relative stability, given the losses sustained from the 1983 agreement on quota shares we must prevent further incursions by the Spanish fleet into the North sea and north European waters. The Minister said in Committee that he thought he had successfully fought to keep the six and 12-mile limits.

I dread the Commission's proposals for even further cuts in days at sea. Such cuts, coming on top of the Bill, will mean that the industry is tied up for much of the year. That is monstrous. European measures are compounding British measures to restrict the sort of fishing that our men go in for and their ability to put to sea. We should counter such ideas with arguments for selectivity and for gear measures, and for the sort of conservation-conscious passive fishing that Grimsby boats go in for. As for tie-up days and restrictions on effort, there should be a bonus for ports such as Grimsby that use conservation-effective measures. We should concentrate on alternatives to tie-ups, including technical mesh options and closed areas.

We should have taken the opportunity of our presidency to deal with the problem of industrial fishing. It is monstrous that the political influence of the Danes has been used to resist any change in industrial fishing. We cannot allow mass industrial fishing to continue while stocks are so low. The Commission document whitewashes industrial fishing, saying only that there is a need for more research. That is what people always say when they want to do nothing. Banning industrial fishing from the North sea will improve cod and haddock stocks by 20 per cent. or more. Why, then, must MAFF and the Commission prevaricate on an issue on which there has been prevarication for far too long already? We desperately need urgent action to ban the crime of industrial fishing on the scale that is permitted.

Mr. Curry

The hon. Gentleman said that the Commission report is a whitewash. We have just received it; we will analyse it closely. We have to be able to prove our case. All my instincts are the same as the hon. Gentleman's on this matter. Even Fishing News, a newspaper which the hon. Gentleman is likely to find more sympathetic than I would, carries an article about industrial fishing in which one of our leading scientists says that the case is not yet proven. We have not yet been able to sustain a categorical case, even though I should like to be able to do so because, as I have said, my instincts are the same as those of other Members who have spoken on the subject. I must point out, though, that the subject is a little more complicated than we sometimes portray it to be.

Mr. Mitchell

I accept that. I accept that we think alike on the issue. None the less, any argument is difficult to prove in scientific terms. It is difficult to know what is taking place biologically in the North sea. We do not know, for example, why the haddock stock is improving. We do not know why the consequences of colder water that have hit Canada and Iceland are not being experienced in the North sea. Scientific proof will be an onerous burden but, a priori, rational observation must show the need to give preference to fishing for human consumption rather than for industrial purposes. By-catches must have a long-term effect on stocks. I accept the Minister's support or agreement in that context, but the onus should not be placed on scientific argument; if it is, the argument will be difficult to establish.

I shall conclude with a problem that will face us and that will arise following the enactment of the Sea Fish (Conservation) Bill, which we shall debate later tonight. I assume that it will be enacted because it is more than likely that the payroll vote will be trundled in. One of the results will be horrendous. It is untenable that large sections of the British fleet should be tied up—they will be prevented from fishing for a substantial, and perhaps increasing, number of days a year—when at the same time an increasing European effort is rippling across the North sea. It is a fishing activity that has been displaced from grounds to the east. It is moving over into our waters and into our limits and displacing the British effort, which is tied up.

What will our fishermen feel when they are tied up, as it were, and unable to fish as a result of Government measures? They know that the European effort in the waters in which they have always fished will increase for ever. That is not tenable and it is a problem that the Minister must tackle. He can do so by envisaging a rapprochement—a compromise or arrangement—with the industry by mobilising it for a purpose that seems to be paramount in the title of the Bill which we are to consider later tonight, that of sea fish conservation. He must work with the industry to achieve that.

The Minister must introduce some measures to control the European effort that is fishing in our waters so that it does not increase. We must establish a track record such as a days-at-sea limitation on fishing in British waters and restrict the European effort to it, so as to satisfy our fishermen that when they are prevented from fishing the stocks will not be taken by an increasing European effort. If that is not done, the industry will face a nightmare. Indeed, something must be done along those lines.

The Commission proposes that we should go ahead with satellite surveillance. There has been talk of 50 per cent. funding by the Commission. The EC-Argentina agreement, which is designed largely to help Spanish development, establishes the precedent of the Commission paying 100 per cent. of the costs. Why should it not pay 100 per cent. of the costs of the satellite scheme, if it is to be established? If vessels are to be observed by satellite and must carry equipment to enable their position to be established by satellite, why should we not have access to the system for national purposes? We could then establish how many days vessels fish in British waters. Why should we not be able to inspect their log books to establish what their effort is in British waters and to restrict the growth of their activities? That is probably the only concomitant or quid pro quo that the British industry would accept as reasonable if it were to be limited in its efforts.

There must be some measure to police and control the landings of other vessels fishing in British waters, whether they are operating under flags of convenience or are registered in the country of origin; I am talking of vessels fishing in British waters and landing at ports in other parts of Europe. My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) suggested that British inspectors could be attached to those European ports. Indeed, we could have any system. There could be designated ports at which British inspectors would be present. There could be designated ports for members of a European inspection force charged with policing vessels coming in from British waters. We must know what has been caught. Catches must be accurately recorded. Other European vessels must be treated in the same way and made subject to the same inspection and enforcement procedures as our vessels when they return to our ports from our waters. The same terms should apply to the European effort in our waters so that we can be satisfied that it is not increasingly taking up the catches that our vessels are precluded from taking.

The Minister must co-operate with the industry, and that brings me to the problem of discards. The European document deals with it in a somewhat meandering and hand-wringing fashion without producing any proposals. I think that the Minister will agree that the system of total allowable catches—TACs—is an inherently bad one. We are using it because it is a faute de mieux. The total allowable catch becomes the catch to aim at. It becomes not the total allowable catch but the total catch that hits the market; in other words, it is the total marketable catch. If that catch is exceeded, fish are dumped overboard. That is disastrous. With certain species, we are dumping almost as much overboard in discards as we are landing. None the less, stocks are decimated. Something must be done.

Can we think of a way in which we increase the allowable catch by estimating the current level of discards and then requiring vessels to land everything at their home ports? That could be coupled with a limitation on landing and possession size to stop the catching of smaller fish. The French are especially adept at catching smaller fish. I see increasingly small fish at the Grimsby market, and there are large quantities of small fish in Scotland. Earlier this year, there were large quantities of small haddock which could not be dealt with, and accordingly they were dumped. It is ludicrous that so many small fish are being caught when we could increase the permissible landing size.

Mr. Curry

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me for interrupting his conclusion, which has been going on for some time now.

None of us is possessed of absolute truth on discards. It is a problem that all of us must face. The hon. Gentleman suggests that we should compel fishermen to land all their discards and to make discards a special part of the quota. He says also that small fish should not be landed.

All of us, including Opposition Front-Bench spokesmen, recognise that we are faced with a major problem. The same can be said of the diagnosis of the problem. If a fisherman must land his catch, and if discards and small fish must be part of the quota, there will be a temptation to ensure that his quota is made up of the best quality and most marketable fish. That means that there will be discarding. If we say that such fish must be landed but they will not count against the quota, the incentive for conservation fishing will be removed and a secondary market will be created in discarded fish. That will hang over the marketplace and depress the value of the fish that have been landed.

I am open to all suggestions. I have said previously that TACs and quotas constitute the best hole that we can find for the moment. I wish that we could find a better one. We shall carefully consider all suggestions in this context. We would like to find a more effective system. In the long term, conservation fishing and mesh sizes may be part of the answer. We must be cautious in thinking that there is one formula that offers a complete answer. I recognise and share the hon. Gentleman's concern.

Mr. Mitchell

I accept the difficulties.

The procedure that I have outlined, coupled with an increase in minimum landing sizes, would force fishermen to use better or more conservation-effective gear and larger mesh sizes. That would be better for fish stocks than having them caught and dumped. The minimum landing size of sole, for example is 24 cm. I am no scientist, but I understand that if the size were increased to 26 cm, that would allow all the male sole, and most of the female, to mature. The sole would then have the most enjoyable part of their lives. They would mature and breed and we would get more fish—[Interruption.] Why not give the sole all that happiness? It is ludicrous to keep the minimum landing size so small.

The Minister rightly remarked on the length of my concluding remarks, which have run to about three pages. He will get his Bill passed later tonight, but I shall oppose it, as I think it is monstrous. I hope that he will use the opportunity provided by the Bill to talk to the industry and rebuild the bridges that have been so badly burned over the past few months. He must work to have the Bill accepted rather than impose it by brute majority, as he did in this House and, from what I have read of the proceedings, in the other place.

The Minister must give as well as take and he must make some concessions. He must get together with the industry throughout the country, and in particular with the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations, to discuss how the Bill can be implemented without causing war between the industry and himself.

Mr. Curry

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman knows that we cannot use brute force to get a Bill passed in the other place, where not a single amendment that went to the fabric of the Bill was pressed to the vote. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman should talk to his noble Friends.

Mr. Mitchell

I accept that using brute force in the other place is like using straitjackets in a geriatric ward. I am glad that the Minister is enjoying my speech so much that he wants to prolong it.

The point that I make is important. There is open conflict between the Government and the industry, which does not want the Bill. Contrary to what the hon. Member for St. Ives said, the industry has offered alternatives and made a whole series of proposals, but the Minister rejected them in favour of his restrictive Bill. The opportunity must now be taken to get together with the industry, and especially with the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations, to discuss proposals for compromise.

Why not take into account in-built conservation measures and give a bonus of more days at sea in return for bigger mesh sizes? Why not take into account the type of gear used by vessels and, again, give bonuses to those who bind themselves to a one-net rule? Why not give bonuses to vessels that land their catches in British ports? We could count the days spent steaming to and from foreign ports as days at sea.

Why do not the Government come up with effective proposals for restricting the European effort in our waters? Why does not the Minister put forward proposals for financial compensation for an industry that is being held back from its work, in the same way as farmers are held back when agricultural land is laid up? The difference is that the farmers are compensated, but the fishermen are not. They always get the worst of the deal. The Minister should discuss that matter.

Let us make no mistake—the Minister is forcing a reconstruction of the fishing industry through bankruptcy. Restricting the time that our fishermen can go to sea will bankrupt them. It will not help conservation, because they will still try to catch as much as they can while at sea. To impose the Bill without further negotiations, further compromises or further agreements with the industry, especially at a time when the increasing European effort in our waters is unrestrained, is a formula for a civil war and for a sulky industry.

The Minister is trying to undermine and cheat the industry. He has both bridges and nets to mend and I hope that he gets on with it.

6.54 pm
Mr. Phil Gallie (Ayr)

My speech will be a great deal shorter than the conclusion of the speech of the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell). I made my maiden speech on Second Reading of the Sea Fish (Conservation) Bill, and on that occasion the hon. Gentleman followed me. He is indeed the life and "sole" of the House of Commons.

I had not intended to speak in the debate, but the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Dr. Strang) stirred me to do so. He said he would not take any interventions. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland imposed no such block during his speech; indeed, he was generous in giving way. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East was over-defensive, and I wonder why.

The hon. Gentleman criticised the Government for failing, over a number of years, to introduce a decommissioning scheme. The one reason why I shall support the Bill tonight is that, finally, they are introducing one. Labour Members say that the £25 million set aside for that is not enough, but it is a start. Many Scottish Conservative Members have pressed for such a scheme for some time, at the insistence of the 'various fishing organisations.

I understand that my hon. Friend the Minister will accept the amendment passed in the other place—

Mrs. Ewing

That is a different debate.

Mr. Gallie

I am talking about the Bill and about the amendment passed in the other place—[Interruption.]

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes)

Order. We are not yet discussing the Lords amendments to the Sea Fish (Conservation) Bill. We are debating another matter, which, although related, is not the same.

Mr. Gallie

I accept that point, Madam Deputy Speaker, and I shall come closer to home and discuss the interests of the west coast and the implications of the Bill for that area.

We are discussing European proposals for quotas, but this year's quotas have been an absolute shambles because they were set early in the year and then changed. I ask my hon. Friend the Minister to ensure that that does not happen again.

The Bill will impose a limitation on days at sea, something that has proved controversial on previous occasions. It is certainly controversial now. The proposal is rejected by the fishing organisations, and I accept that they have genuine anxieties. Even if the Bill is passed tonight and goes on to receive Royal Assent, it is not necessary to impose that limitation. There will be time for further discussion between the industry and my hon. Friend the Minister. I hope that good advantage will be taken of that time.

I want to raise a point about the current proposal for hake quotas for the west of Scotland. The quotas are still being reduced, so there is still a job to be done by Ministers. I want them to re-examine the figures.

The tie-up rules must be clear when the days at sea are allocated. If a skipper were allocated 240 days at sea a year, to take an arithmetical example only, that would amount to 20 days a month. If he did not use his 20 days a month, his annual figure should not be reduced accordingly.

That brings me to the means of equating days at sea from track records, the base reference year being 1991. I should like to draw hon. Members' attention to a letter from my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro) dated 16 October: We realise that some vessels had to undergo major repair works (other than annual services) during 1991. It would clearly be iniquitous if these days were disallowed from their days at sea allocation. Fishermen will therefore be able to bring forward evidence of time that vessels were laid up for major overhaul or other such repairs. I ask my hon. Friend the Minister to take that point on board, and say that it will be honoured.

Many hon. Members have mentioned the policing of the regulations. The United Kingdom's officers take pride in enforcing the regulations enthusiastically and efficiently. What is the situation elsewhere? I suggest, as many hon. Members have, that there is a problem in Europe. We tend to implement agreements; others simply agree. The enforcement of fishing regulations is a joke. We have talked about the excessive number of small fish landed in Spanish and French ports that do not count against allocations. We have seen these things on television programmes, and for once those programmes have got it right. There are excessive landings of under-size fish.

I draw the House's attention to a report by Fishing Business International on the policing efforts of other nations. In the United Kingdom, 21 fishing vessels, 180 inspectors and three aircraft enforce the regulations. France has eight vessels, and understaffed and undertrained inspectors, catch data arrive far too late from Brussels and there are almost no effective sanctions against offenders. Ireland has five vessels and the service is understaffed, undertrained and underequipped. False declarations are the rule rather than the exception. In Portugal, landings are not controlled, there are few inspectors at ports and regulations on minimum mesh sizes are ignored. The Spanish fleet fishes extensively off the shores of the west of Scotland. Seventeen inspectors monitor landings—all of them in Madrid. It is a joke, but it is a sick joke for our fishermen.

The hon. Members for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) and for Great Grimsby referred to the inspection of European ports. I suggest that there might be some advantage in our negotiating to ensure that catches made in quota blocks are landed at quota-block ports. That would meet many of the concerns that the hon. Member for Great Grimsby expressed.

The hon. Member for Aberdeen, North mentioned throwing fish back into the sea. Small percentage catches can be consequential catches. I can think of nothing worse than the waste of throwing dead fish back into the sea. That must be wrong. I wrote to the Minister recently asking that fishery officers consider the situation with some compassion and common sense. Small catches of, for example, hake should be regarded as consequential catches and ignored.

Fishermen deserve the utmost encouragement; they certainly have my fullest respect. My hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives (Mr. Harris) said that he had been fighting their corner for 30 years.

Mr. Harris

Thirteen years.

Mr. Gallie

I thought that my hon. Friend looked younger than that. It is still a long time compared with the six months during which I have been dealing with the problem.

I see fishermen as small business men who have invested their all in their capital project. They need to use that cash to earn their living. They must have fish to catch, but I recognise the Government's concern about conservation methods. The Government feel so strongly about achieving the conservation objectives in the Sea Fish (Conservation) Bill that they are stretching the faith of some Conservative Members. However, the proposals that have appeared from Europe recently go way beyond the Government's proposals. I suggest that the Government have second-guessed the Europeans.

What is happening to fishermen goes against my natural instincts. We are cutting across market forces, in which I have believed for many years, but we must recognise the reality that we are now part of the EC's rules and that there is only limited room for Ministers to move in.

May I, finally, draw attention to the comments of the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes)? He chastised my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Robertson) for not attending the fishermen's rally in Edinburgh on Friday. I do not want to attend the rally and block up the streets of Edinburgh, but I should like to attend a meeting at Tynecastle. Having listened to pleas from the Opposition for an all-party approach, if any hon. Members can get me from Ayr at 2.30 pm to Tynecastle by 3.30 pm, I shall be delighted to attend.

7.9 pm

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan)

There is an offer! Perhaps one of the hon. Gentleman's colleagues will lay on a ministerial car to take him there—

Mr. Austin Mitchell

Or a helicopter.

Mr. Salmond

—or even a helicopter.

We hold this debate in an atmosphere of crisis in the fishing industry. The hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) almost suggested that I had instigated the demonstration at Lochinver, but that was not so. It was very spontaneous and I am happy to support it. I may have at least helped to instigate the demonstration in the Forth today when a flotilla of Scottish fishing boats will provide an escort for the royal yacht Britannia. I was very pleased to participate in the march and rally in Aberdeen a few weeks ago and shall be delighted to participate in the march and rally in Edinburgh on Friday.

The events of the past two weeks or so have been very successful. We have had more publicity and attention drawn to the industry's problems in the past two weeks than in the past two years or more. We shall have to do without the presence of the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Robertson) at the rally on Friday. He seems to be frightened that Scotland will in some way embarrass the Government. The issue at the European summit is not Scotland embarrassing the Government but the Government embarrassing Scotland by its treatment of the fishing industry.

Mr. Raymond S. Robertson

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Salmond

Before the hon. Gentleman gets back on his feet, I shall extend to him a courtesy which he would do well to follow—I shall give way to him.

Mr. Robertson

I remind the House that I gave way to the hon. Gentleman. I am not worried that Scotland will embarrass the Government. Unlike the hon. Gentleman, I want the world to see Scotland in the very best light—I want the best for Scotland. I am proud and chuffed that the European Community summit is to be held in our capital city. It is a chance for us to show off to the world rather than to bring Scotland down.

Mr. Salmond

I hear the hon. Gentleman's excuses for his non-attendance on Friday, just as I have heard them for his non-attendance at recent fishing rallies. They carry no conviction, but I shall be fairly gentle with him. It is possible to be a Conservative and to represent the fishing industry. That was demonstrated by the late Alick Buchanan-Smith who did so with distinction for many years. It is also possible to be a Conservative and to be hostile and antagonistic to the fishing industry. The test of the hon. Gentleman's approach is not getting elected for the first time in a fishing constituency but getting elected a second time when his constituents have got his measure and have assessed his contribution to the industry.

The Government are wholly out of touch with feelings in the fishing community. I caution Ministers not to believe that all they have to do to reach calm water is to get through this debate and pass the Sea Fish (Conservation) Bill which, I remind the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Gallie), we shall debate later this evening. The demonstration on Friday will not be the end of the fishing industry's campaign against the Government; it is the beginning of a campaign which will continue into the new year.

There is no doubt that fishing Ministers have lost the confidence of the fishing industry. If they were paid by results, their salary would not only be nil—they would be giving us money back. If their political futures depended on the fishing industry, the two Ministers whom we have heard this evening would be spending more time in their constituencies.

I offer three reasons why the industry is incensed. The first concerns discards. A few minutes ago, the Minister tried to tell us that we face a difficult problem which cannot be solved even though everyone is trying to do so. Especially in recent weeks, the issue has been the unnecessary discard of perhaps thousands of tonnes of haddock into the North sea.

I shall read to the House some remarks made by two constituents, Peter and Stephen Bruce, the skipper and mate of the Buddy Rose. Peter Bruce, the skipper, explains his predicament in the following terms: I've been tied up for the past 18 days hoping that we would be given a small amount of haddock to see us through to the end of the year. That's a personal decision I made because I didn't want to do something that is totally alien to all fishermen. Some of the stories I've heard about lads having to throw fish back are heartbreaking. Even in the whiting grounds, they're pulling in loads of haddock. But now I have no choice. I have a young crew who haven't had a wage for three weeks. They have bills to pay the same as everybody else and Christmas is coming up. His brother Stephen, the mate on the same boat, says that fishermen would rather give fish to charity than have to discard them—dead—into the North sea. He states: With the threat of a £50,000 fine, it's just too much of a risk to take. That could finish some boats off. But with so many people starving in the world, it's an absolute tragedy that this fish is being wasted. This Government has done nothing for the industry and they're doing nothing to create jobs anywhere else. If we had fishing Ministers who were prepared to fight for their fleets the way the Spaniards do for theirs we might have a chance. Fishermen aren't asking for the earth. Just the chance to go out and make a living. That is the genuine view of the fishing industry at the moment.

If Ministers are so out of touch that they believe the nonsense spoken by colleagues in the north-east of Scotland, they should know that the industry is incensed. It is on the march; it will demonstrate and command public support until the Government change their disastrous course.

An hon. Member said earlier that I could not conjure up fish that were not there, but that has not been the position in the past few months—there are huge quantities of fish in the North sea, although thousands of tonnes of them have perhaps ended up dead and been discarded in the sea.

The second reason involves the tie-up scheme. There is perhaps a place for effort limitation as a mechanism in a fisheries policy. If, in the short term, capacity was clearly out of tune with available stocks, there would of course be an opportunity to employ effort limitation, perhaps a compensated lay-up scheme as applied in other Community countries. However, that is not what is being suggested in the so-called Sea Fish (Conservation) Bill. What is being suggested is making tie-up a permanent feature of the fishing industry.

When the Bill was introduced, it was argued that we needed tie-up because haddock and other fish stocks were scarce and could not possibly be fished. There has now been a virtual doubling of the haddock quota, but it is still being argued that we need tie-up. It is suggested that if fishermen are allowed to fish, they will catch too much. If there is a tie-up scheme when haddock is scarce and when it is plentiful, the inference is that such a scheme is not a short-term solution but a permanent feature of the Government's fisheries policy.

Mr. Curry

The hon. Gentleman is employing his usual technique of extrapolating to the point of nonsense. There are more haddock, but they are small—on the margin of the minimum landing size. It would be different if they were large, mature fish in the spawning stock biomass and were able to deliver a stable catch for years ahead. As our scientists predicted, we have had two good year classes. It is essential to ensure that the fish grow and supply stock for future years. If they are pounded now, they will not and we shall shortly find ourselves back where we were two or three years ago.

Mr. Salmond

The Minister has defeated his own argument. Earlier, he said that nothing in the lay-up scheme would impede the catching of the very high haddock quota for next year. If it were a question of the amount of fish available to be caught, the haddock quota would be sufficient. However, he is now saying that we need a lay-up scheme in addition, not to decrease the number of haddock caught but because he accepts that the quota will be fully utilised. The Under-Secretary appeared to suggest earlier to my hon. Friend the Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing) that a tie-up scheme from Brussels was not acceptable but that a home-grown tie-up scheme would be more acceptable to fishermen, but that is nonsense. Any scheme that introduces as a feature of fisheries policy the permanent limitation of effort, with no compensation, is bound to be regarded throughout the fishing communities as a grievous injustice.

The third factor causing despair to the fishing communities is discrimination—not positive discrimination for the fishermen of this country but the Government's apparent discrimination against their interests.

The Minister was asked earlier about the commitments that were or were not given during the earlier stages of the Sea Fish (Conservation) Bill. Those of us who remember the debate have no doubt that the burden of the amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Tynemouth (Mr. Trotter) was the argument that it would be unfair if restrictions were imposed on fishermen in this country without the same restrictions being imposed on fishermen in other Community countries.

I see that at least one of the Conservative rebels from that evening is in the Chamber. Many of us thought that those rebels were rather foolish to be bought off by what we considered an inexact ministerial guarantee. I am sure that the Minister can stand on the words that he deployed that evening and say, "I am sticking to the words." But those who attended the debate have no doubt that the spirit in which the amendment was moved was clear: discriminatory measures would not be introduced for fishermen in this country until there were effective guarantees that such measures would apply equally and properly across the Community.

Mr. Curry

indicated dissent.

Mr. Salmond

I see that the Minister is shaking his head, but there is no doubt that that was the burden of the argument on the amendment. The Minister may get around the words of the amendment; he may manage to dance round what the hon. Member for Tynemouth said—but he must not underestimate the resentment caused in the fishing communities by the fact that with that parliamentary technique he has deliberately defeated the argument advanced, which was resoundingly supported in those communities.

There is a similar attitude to the successful Lords amendment on decommissioning. Of course it is correct to say that a literal interpretation of the amendment can mean that the Minister has only to give proper consideration to decommissioning and then, having done so, he can continue with his existing policy as if nothing had happened. But the purpose of the amendment was to accelerate decommissioning, to advance it in ministerial priorities and to persuade the Government that it should be introduced on its own merits, rather than its being contingent on the acceptance of an otherwise unacceptable Bill.

Last Thursday, the Department said that the amendment would not cause it any inconvenience and that it would not be reversed in the House of Commons because the Department could effectively ignore it when the legislation was implemented. That is to treat the amendment and the sentiments behind it with something like contempt. The fishing industry is up in arms because in policy after policy, and measure after measure, that is the only interpretation of the conduct of the Minister of State responsible for fisheries.

There are other questions which we should be debating but which have been mentioned only in passing. The first is the common fisheries policy review. Why do Members of Parliament have to depend on the Minister to give us helpful insights—a little nugget here and a little nugget there—into the current position? The review is fundamental for the next 10 years of fisheries policy, yet we do not have the current documents, nor the right to know what the policy will be. It is deplorable that hon. Members representing fishing communities are debating fisheries without knowing what the most up-to-date proposals are. The first time that we shall be allowed to debate those proposals will be when they are a fait accompli, when the Minister and his colleagues have signed, sealed and delivered the new CFP in Brussels during the next 10 days.

I shall ask the Minister several questions. First, has the question of flags of convenience been reintroduced into the new CFP revision? Is it in or out? Secondly, is the Hague preference in or out? Has the Minister defended that preference, which many people from fishing communities think is a useful, indeed essential, measure?

Has relative stability been protected in the new proposals, or has it been allowed to be downgraded, as many of us suspected had happened with the previous proposals? With regard to the Spanish accession and Spanish access to Community fishing waters, has anything in the new proposals allowed Spain to get around the accession agreement which would take matters forward into the mid-1990s? Have the loopholes been effectively closed? We have the right to know now.

Has additional action been taken against industrial fishing? Several hon. Members have asked whether the Minister, as president of the Fisheries Council, has made any proposals to bring the issue to the top of the CFP review. Multi-annual quotas appeared in the document which we saw, but I understand that they have subsequently been removed from the new proposals. Is the multi-annual quota proposals still in the current document?

Those questions illustrate the fact that the House is debating blind. We do not know the current state of the fundamental policy which will dictate the livelihoods of our constituents over the next 10 years. It is disgraceful that the Minister has not even revealed his current proposals and has not given us the chance to debate them on a level footing with him.

Real resentment against the Minister and the CFP is running through the fishing communities. I believe that it is possible to get a much better deal out of the CFP. Neither the CFP nor Europe made the choice that the Minister would not fight for decommissioning, which has been available in every other European country over the past few years. Other European countries did not choose that the Minister and his Scottish colleague should refuse at the Fisheries Council even to table the proposals for the roll-up of the haddock quota for which we had asked.

I ask the Minister to tell us during the debate what exactly he meant when, in Standing Committee, he claimed that opinion in the industry was divided on the policy. It was not the policy of other European countries that introduced discriminatory legislation against our own fishing industry, which the Minister will reintroduce later today, when we discuss the Sea Fish (Conservation) Bill. All those initiatives were taken by the Government against the interests of our fishing communities. The Minister caused considerable offence among Scottish fishermen and fish processors when he argued in the Standing Committee that the industry had not shut up shop as a result of the starvation of the haddock quota over the past few weeks and months. I tell him in all seriousness that, unless he understands the mood of anger sweeping through the fishing communities as their livelihood and their future are sacrificed and jeopardised, it will not be the fishing communities that shut up shop but the Minister and his colleagues who are called to account.

7.27 pm
Sir Teddy Taylor (Southend, East)

I try not to interfere too much with Scottish affairs, although I formerly represented a Scottish seat, but I must tell the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) that, although I have not the slightest doubt that he will have a great demonstration, and will shout a great deal with the fishermen, saying "scandalous", "shocking", and "appalling", nothing could be worse for Scottish fishermen than for the hon. Gentleman and his Scottish National party friends to lead them up the garden path, pretending that there is some easy solution which a Scottish National party Administration could provide. We should not listen to such twaddle, which we hear from time to time from hon. Members on both sides of the House.

We must face the sad fact that there has been an embarrassing nightmare of devastation for the fishing industry, and that there is precious little that we can do about it. Unless we get that simple point across to the fishing industry, unless we are prepared to tell people about things as they are, they will lose faith not only in politicians but in democracy.

Although he is on the other side of the House, I must say that the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) is a great fighter for fishermen; but to hear him speak as he did tonight makes us realise how desperate the situation is. The hon. Gentleman said that we should treat fishermen like farmers. Quite honestly, I can think of no more monstrous protectionist racket than our present system for protecting farmers. He wanted EC funding of a satellite, which I am sure would do some good, but he also wanted British police or Euro-policemen at every European port to ensure that fishermen were not landing British fish without our knowledge.

I am sure that that could be done at big ports with big flashy offices—the operation would no doubt be funded with EC money, which would not exactly help matters —but I remind the hon. Gentleman that fish seem also to be landed without anyone knowing about it at the Portpatricks—the little ports of Europe. The fact that the hon. Gentleman, who is a great battler for fishermen, should have to advance such arguments shows us how serious the position is.

The hon. Member for Banff and Buchan told us that we should march and demonstrate. He will not remember—he was probably at primary school at the time—our great march on Friday 17 September 1971. On that great day, plenty of fishermen came to London from Southend-on-Sea, Leigh-on-Sea and all over the south-east of England to demonstrate. They appealed to the Government, saying, "Please watch out. Our industry is in danger. The 12-mile limit is at risk. The fishing fleet could be wiped out. We shall have foreign vessels coming from everywhere. The industry will be devastated." They said that clearly and precisely. We have seen for ourselves what has happened since that great march.

I should not like to give the impression that those fishermen were not misled. Only today, fishermen handed me letters that they had received from the Foreign Secretary of the time and other Ministers, saying, "Don't worry; it will be all right. You will be safeguarded." Unless we are prepared to face the fact that things have gone appallingly wrong since then, we shall never get things right for fishermen—in Scotland or in Southend-on-Sea. We saw what happened shortly afterwards—in a separate context involving EC interpretation—to the deep sea fleet at Grimsby, where the hon. Member for Great Grimsby has fought so hard. We saw a fleet of 500 vessels suddenly reduced to a fleet of 18 and 100,000 fishery-related jobs disappear.

We thought that we had 60 per cent. of the offshore waters and 80 per cent. of the available fish, but somehow our share of the value, at least, seems to have diminished from 80 per cent. to 12 per cent., although it is said that we have a greater percentage of the weight. Our share of the quota has diminished and we now have an appalling problem with the Spanish: because they were given the power not by the British Government but by the European Court, foreign vessels now control a huge part of our quota.

The Minister cannot escape the fact—he will discover from the Court of Auditors report that the same is happening in agriculture—that, in some areas of Europe, supervision is simply a joke. How can anyone justify the fact that we have 200 inspectors for the British fleet, such as it is, whereas the Spanish fleet, which is eight times the size of ours, has only 17 or 18 inspectors? I repeat that inspection is a joke, but the concept of Euro-policemen flying around would solve nothing at all.

What really worries me is that the only effective action that the Government now appear able to take is to propose decommissioning and a reduction in days at sea. I hope that the Government accept the simple basic point that, once they have introduced the concept of selling days at sea—selling licences—we shall move towards the disappearance, step by step, of the British fishing industry. Licences for days at sea will be bought up by foreigners, who have already taken over a great deal of our fishing.

We must not seek to mislead fishermen into thinking that there is something we can do. We cannot have British policemen going around every European port. We cannot suddenly say that we want to extend our fishing limits. It would be infinitely better, more sensible and more honourable if, instead of debating daft ideas—which could not work, and which would in any case be illegal in European terms—suggested by a few Members in a Chamber that is virtually empty because the great majority of hon. Members are embarrassed at what we have done to fishing, we simply told people things as they are.

Hon. Members should be in no doubt that I have a fishing industry in my constituency—in Southend-on-Sea and Leigh-on-Sea—which has a great little fleet, operated by people who do not go out in the North sea or to all kinds of strange places but who simply fish locally. I find it most embarrassing having to meet the fishermen of Southend-on-Sea, because they constantly hand me assurances that they have received not only from this Government but from previous Governments.

They fish for sprats, among other things, and, only today, they handed me a letter that they had received from the Foreign Office dated 6 January 1972. It stated, in relation to the agreement of the time, that it was terribly important. to understand that under this agreement we have, as a result of maintaining full jurisdiction over the whole twelve miles. complete control of our conservation measures. But I received a letter from the Minister—who is one of the most courteous in the Government—dated 1 December stating: the Commission issued a Regulation closing the fishery to all EC vessels, as they had information to suggest that the EC quota had been taken. Such Regulations have direct force in the United Kingdom, and so Fisheries Departments had no choice but to suspend fishermen's licences. There is a world of difference between our being in charge and a Commission official—not the Council of Ministers saying—stop, and Southend stopping, with all that that entails.

We must also bear in mind the many special problems that face Southend. We are stuck at the end of the cod fishery year, so that when all the cod come down our way, we often have no quota left to fish. The Minister will know that the industry has effectively been shut down for a few weeks, and will remain shut down until mid-January. I have a little suggestion to make to him. It may be unlawful and may not be acceptable to Mr. Delors—indeed, it may be a waste of time my mentioning it—but would it not be possible to have a system whereby, if people are fishing locally off a local port—not going way out to sea with big nets—he could say, "That is for them."? It would make a huge difference to Southend-on-Sea if we could say that the Thames estuary was for Thames estuary fishermen.

I do not expect the Minister to be able to do anything at all about controlling the abuse of quotas by foreigners. I do not seek in any way to give the impression that we can do anything about the big problems or save the British industry. I think that the decision has been made; it is sad, but it is irreversible, and we must not kid ourselves about it. But might it not be possible in the negotiations to find some way to safeguard our little fishing industry—a terrific, long-standing industry which has great successes and innovations to its name and which is made up of hard-working, decent, honourable people? If the Minister could give us such an assurance, it would be a great step forward.

The Minister is a decent, honourable person. I say that without any lack of conviction or sincerity. I know hint to be a straight, honourable politician, and there is a shortage of those on both sides of the House. I hope that he will therefore agree that the best way to deal with fishermen is not to ask them to march or to suggest putting British police at every European port, but to tell things as they are.

I hope, too, that he will bear in mind my suggestion that there might be some little procedure that we could introduce to help local fishing in Britain. If we can do that, and so save something of the fishing industry instead of trying to mislead fishermen and tell them to protest, march and make fools of themselves and us, we shall have done something.

7.38 pm
Mr. Eddie McGrady (South Down)

I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in tonight's debate coming, as I do, from Northern Ireland and from a constituency within the boundary of which is to be found 60 per cent. of the Northern Ireland fishing industry. The constituency also has a unique geographical position because it is contiguous with the Republic of Ireland and that will impinge on my later comments.

All of us who represent fishing ports and industries are experiencing depression because the industry is depressed. The industry has served all our nations greatly over many centuries. It is unique because it has not been criticised, as other industries are, for the quality of its product or for lack of efficiency. The industry is being cut back solely because of the run-down of natural resources. We should not try to attribute that to the industry itself.

As a nation, we must share responsibility for that. That is why I see no contradiction in seeking special assistance for the fishing industry. I seek not self-centred aid, but assistance that will benefit the entire fishing community of this generation and of generations to come. That is why we are addressing a unique and very special problem of our times.

Like many other hon. Members, I can say that for the fishing towns and villages of my constituency, the fishing industry comprises the whole economic and social fabric of the community. If it breaks up and disappears, I do not doubt that a similar catastrophe will befall the communities themselves. The fishing communities in my constituency do not have the capacity to industrialise in any other way. Their whole ethos is of the sea and fishing—the landing, selling, processing and exportation of the harvest of the sea. It has been that way throughout man's memory.

After our last debate on the issue, a fisherman told me that fishermen have had the right to fish in the Irish sea since long before the Magna Carta was signed. I thought at first that that was an exaggeration, but when we think about it, it is probably quite true. The right to fish for a livelihood is almost a civic right in terms of the people who have plied the seas for centuries. In that context, I hope that the Minister will take on board some of the suggestions that have been made today.

The fishing organisations and fishermen to whom I have spoken have not been anti-conservationist. Without exception, they are deeply conscious of the need to preserve the stocks of the sea which, in turn, will preserve their way of life for themselves and for their families who come after them.

There seems to be a lack of consultation between the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the fishing organisations. I cannot speak with authority about what is happening here, but there is certainly a lack of consultation between the fishing industry in Northern Ireland and the Ministry responsible for it. I hope that that will not be reflected here. Although I accept that the Minister responsible for fisheries in Northern Ireland cannot take part in the debate because he is a Member of the other place. I am disappointed that there are no civil servants from the Ministry in attendance tonight to listen to what Northern Ireland Members wish to say.

It is a matter of grave concern to us that that voice has not been heard. That voice, united in consultation with the Government, is capable of producing solutions which I, as a layman, cannot suggest in this debate. That voice is the forum through which the future of the industry can be worked out properly in terms of restrictions, quotas, decommissioning and all the other negative impositions that have been and will be placed on the fishing industry.

The fishermen in my constituency are annoyed about the operation of the national quota allocation for the Republic of Ireland and about the Hague preference intervention. It is particularly galling for my fishermen because the fishermen in the Republic of Ireland do not fish the entire quota to which they are entitled. On one or two occasions in recent years there has been a transfer of surplus quota from the Republic to the fishermen in Northern Ireland. I urge the Minister in his next round to extrapolate that generosity of earlier years. That practice occurred in respect of nephrops last year.

When the fishermen of Kilkeel and Ardglass are tied up in harbour, they can look out across a couple of miles of water and see fishermen from the Republic plying the same waters, catching fish to their hearts' content and not fulfilling their quota. That will be even more alarming because the fishing fleet of the Republic of Ireland is increasing, however slight that increase may be. That is occurring against a backcloth in my constituency of a fishing industry which has, over the past two years, opted for a reinvestment programme in terms of the number of boats, harbour and processing facilities. It is therefore all the more galling that they will probably now be forced out of business.

The consequences of the many restrictions and of the Sea Fish (Conservation) Bill will be, as many hon. Members have said, the strangulation of parts of the industry as boats will be put out of commission due to financial hardship because they cannot maintain an economic and viable fishing unit. That is no way to repay the fishing industry in terms of its future. If at all possible, the Minister must ensure that a proper decommissioning scheme is introduced. It cannot he beyond the bounds of human endeavour for a proper, fair and comprehensive European-wide decommissioning scheme to be put into practice.

The fishermen and their organisations who have made representations to me are convinced that such a scheme is a viable way forward. There is no antagonism towards it. There is realism and an acceptance that the fishing fleet must be reduced if the quantities of fish are also reducing. There seems no other practical way of taking out the fishing capacity without taking out the boats allied to those catches, however that may be defined and wherever it may be allocated.

I hope that the Minister will reappraise the Government's inadequate attitude to the decommissioning scheme. Although I do not want to transgress into our debate on the Sea Fish (Conservation) Bill, all the fishing organisations in Northern Ireland accept that that Bill deals with everything except conservation. It will not lead to better conservation practices or activities.

I echo the sentiments of the hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. Harris), who said earlier that if the Bill is passed, as it probably will be, the best thing to do with it would be —as one does with constitutions—to put it in the bottom drawer and forget about it altogether.

Mr. John D. Taylor (Strangford)

Reference was made to our large rally during the summer in opposition to the Sea Fish (Conservation) Bill. If the 20 Conservative Members who on that occasion sympathised with and supported the fishermen would also vote against the Bill, it would not automatically be passed.

Mr. McGrady

I am afraid that I do not share that optimism. I am sure that, one way or another, a sufficient majority will be found for the Bill to receive its Third Reading today.

Most people see the decommissioning scheme as the logical way forward, allied to other measures which can be agreed with the fishing industry. The fundamental factor is that the fishing industry is depressed and confused. The industry has directives, restrictions and licences thrown at it monthly. It simply does not know where it is or where it is going. Any other industry would have collapsed long ago due to lack of forward planning. The only way out of that malaise is for Government Departments and the Minister to initiate a proper round table conference so that all the vested interests can thrash out a meaningful, practical fishing policy which will take us into the next century. I believe that that can be done, even at this late hour, and that it can be promoted and piloted through the appropriate channels of Europe—if it is desired.

Will the Minister—in league, as it were, with his opposite number at the Northern Ireland Office—make some provision for the adequate training of fishermen in Northern Ireland, especially in those areas where training is not available? It is ludicrous that fishermen in Northern Ireland have to travel abroad to complete their training when there is an adequate possibility of providing that training within Northern Ireland, either on its own or in conjunction with the school at Greencastle across the border.

Having made many representations on the matter, I ask the Minister once again to take cognisance of the dangers to fishermen in the Irish sea from the non-compliance with the regulations established for submarines. Submarines endanger fishermen—their lives, vessels and gear. That has happened again in the past six weeks, despite assurances to the contrary. I should like the Minister to re-examine the matter in terms of normal safety provisions.

I understand that the Minister will be visiting Brussels within the next couple of weeks. The fishermen of Northern Ireland have asked me to ask the Minister to barter for the largest possible quota consistent with scientific conservation measures. Fishermen are conservationists at heart. Will the Minister negotiate with the Republic of Ireland the transfer of surplus quotas—especially those for cod, whiting and plaice—to its neighbours across the border? I do not say this in jest, but perhaps the Minister could take one of his ministerial colleagues from the Northern Ireland Office with him so that we can at least feel that he will have better knowledge of the problems pertaining to the Irish sea and the Northern Ireland fishing organisations at his elbow rather than at a distance.

I feel strongly that the answer to all of the problems that we are debating and the difficulties that we have is one of partnership. There must be a partnership based on proper, adequate and on-going consultation between the fishing industry, the various national organisations and the departments involved. I have no doubt that a partnership is the real way forward for a viable fishing industry, consistent with the stocks of fish that will be available to it.

7.53 pm
Mr. Michael Brown (Brigg and Cleethorpes)

I have had the privilege of listening to every speech since the debate started about four hours ago. One of the great privileges of attending such a debate is that one is able to conclude that there is consensus in the House, with the exception of the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond). He stormed in here, whipped the fishing industry into a great lather, declared that he would march on Edinburgh, then walked out to have his supper. He is not here any more. As a result of the excellent speech of the hon. Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady), the debate has returned to the calm, sensible way in which it was proceeding before the hon. Gentleman's speech.

If one has attended the debate since the beginning, one is able to assess that throughout the House there is a strong sense of feeling towards the fishing industry. I do not represent the same number of fishermen as the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell), whose constituency backs mine. In the old days, many fishermen lived in my constituency. It was a convention that the skippers came ashore in Grimsby. In those days, the trips were fairly profitable and the skippers lived a good life. Traditionally, they lived in Cleethorpes. Sadly, as the years of decline have passed, fewer fishermen live in my constituency. Inevitably, if one's constituency wholly surrounds the town of Grimsby, one cannot help but become involved and be subject to the pressures and lobbies of the fishermen.

I do not claim to be the expert on the fishing industry that the hon. Member for Great Grimsby is—or, indeed, the hon. Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley), my neighbour on the other side. It looks as though south Humberside will score a double 20. It is the first time that I can remember that all three hon. Members will have sought to catch the eye of the Chair. The Opposition spokesman and the hon. Member for Great Grimsby bring a wealth of experience which I fully recognise. It is always a privilege to attend the meetings of the local branch of the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations which they attend regularly. They have certainly taught me a great deal over the years about the problems of the fishshing industry.

My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Robertson) summarised the basic problem. We have a finite natural resource. We have a duty to conserve that resource, although we have a duty to provide an income and a living to a group of brave people who do one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. That has been the eternal difficulty of successive Governments in the past 25 years. It would not be right to blame every problem of the fishing industry either on this Government or on the Labour Government. The problems in the fishing industry started in the early 1970s, and successive Governments have fought with great difficulty to overcome them.

We must face the reality to which my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) referred a few moments ago: the fishing industry is in decline. However much we seek to create circumstances such as those outlined by the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan, we mislead fishermen if we hold out that some great march or rally or great quick fix, resulting from either a change in the European Community or a change of policy by my hon. Friends on the Front Bench, will somehow solve the problems. There is a basic dilemma—a dichotomy—which can be resolved, sadly, only by a decline in the fishing industry. It is not a decline that I want to see.

Mrs. Ewing

The hon. Gentleman has referred twice to my hon. Friend the Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond). If he had listened carefully to my hon. Friend's arguments, he would know that we are clearly saying that we seek equal treatment in the common fisheries policy. The difficulty that fishermen face, especially those in the north-east and north of Scotland, is that the common fisheries policy is not applied equally across the Community. All that we are asking for is that equality of treatment.

Mr. Brown

I know what the hon. Lady has said—I have heard every word of the debate. Unfortunately, the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan will not be able to say that because he is not here. [Interruption.] I have simply made the point that I have been here since the debate started and have heard every word of it.

Every part of the fishing industry in the United Kingdom—indeed, in the whole European Community —faces problems. I urge the hon. Lady to recognise that Humberside Members—I am sure that the hon. Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe will agree—feel that we are unfairly treated by the common fisheries policy and by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. We feel at a disadvantage because of the political clout that the Agriculture and Fisheries Department in Scotland seems to have.

If the hon. Member for Moray attended some of the meetings in Humberside that the hon. Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe and I regularly attend, she would realise that Humberside fishermen feel that they are more harshly treated than others.

Mrs. Ewing

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Brown

I give way for a second time.

Mrs. Ewing

I have not yet been invited to a meeting in Humberside. I reciprocate by inviting the hon. Gentleman to come to a meeting of fishermen in the north-east and north of Scotland and listen to the arguments made there. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that one aspect of the Government's fisheries policy that has militated against fishermen throughout the United Kingdom is the Government's failure to adopt the same attitude to decommissioning as other countries? Decommissioning would reduce capacity in the fleet and resolve some of the problems that we face, but the Government have consistently refused to introduce a decommissioning policy such as that adopted by other EC countries.

Mr. Brown

An invitation from the hon. Lady is always an attractive proposition. She is right to say that there are problems in the fishing industry, whether in Humberside or Scotland. However, we do the debate a grave disservice if we simply say that all the problems are caused by the Government's policies. The Government have a great dilemma: they would have to face an angry House in two, three or five years if they ignored actions which should at least be considered but which, in their view, must be taken to conserve fish stocks.

Fishermen fully expect to be able to go out and fish today, tonight and tomorrow; the Government must take a longer view. There is nothing right or wrong about either approach. It is entirely understandable that the fisherman expects to have the freedom to go out on his next trip. Equally, fishermen in four or five years would blame the Administration if they had failed to take the necessary conservation measures. I am sure that the hon. Member for Moray and other hon. Members who represent fishing constituencies would be the first to lay the blame at the door of the Government.

Mrs. Ewing

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Brown

I have been generous in giving way. As you know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I always give way to every intervention when I have the Floor. I shall develop my argument a little further before I give way to the hon. Lady.

We may disagree with the method that the Government introduce to reconcile the dilemma to which I have referred. I have my own concerns. The hon. Member for Moray is right to mention the decommissioning scheme. I am glad that the Government have embraced the idea of a decommissioning scheme, which they previously resisted. That shows that they are very much a listening Government and that they have changed their mind.

I should like the Government to reconsider the opportunities for expanding the decommissioning scheme. I am attracted to the argument that we are dishing out hundreds of millions of pounds to pay the farmer to set aside his land, yet we do not do anything similar for fishermen. It is not fair to blame the Government or their immediate predecessors for that. Historically, fishermen have always had a raw deal on unemployment benefit, decommissioning and redundancy.

I could tell the hon. Member for Moray about the battles that we have fought in Grimsby and Cleethorpes in the past 15 years to obtain some justice on redundancy payments for all the fishermen who were laid off by the fishing companies in the mid to late 1970s and the early 1980s—the hon. Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe will concur with me on that point. Now, the Grimsby Evening Telegraph is running a campaign. It has invited all local people to sign a letter to the Prime Minister asking him 15 years on to consider the case for redundancy payments for fishermen who were badly treated in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

I am the first to acknowledge that historically fishermen have been badly treated on redundancy and compensation. Decommissioning might be one way of redressing the balance.

Mrs. Ewing

Undoubtedly, the hon. Gentleman and I could keep the House up all night talking about the problems faced by crewmen and skippers alike, particularly the way in which social security legislation applies to them. I think not least of the problems created in my constituency last year during the period of the eight-day tie-up as a result of the mechanisms in the social security system.

The hon. Gentleman began by referring to conservation measures and the importance which is attached to them. All fishermen in my constituency recognise the importance of conservation measures. The hon. Gentleman went on to say that the Government were a listening Government. Yet our Scottish Fishermen's Federation made effective proposals for conservation, which lay on the table for two years. Then the Government came up with the scheme of the eight-day compulsory tie-up per month. That is not listening. Why cannot the Government listen to the professional advice of the fishermen on the most effective methods of conservation?

Mr. Brown

I said at the beginning of my speech that I was not as expert on fishing matters as other hon. Members. In Humberside I flow in the slipstream of the hon. Members for Great Grimsby and for Glanford and Scunthorpe. I do not profess to be an expert on the answers for the Scottish fishing industry. It looks as if the hon. Lady may yet seek to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and educate me and the House a little further.

I am not prepared to accept the general proposition that fishermen have had a raw deal not only this year and last year but in the past two decades. It is easy to blame Ministers. As the Conservative Member who represents the constituency next door to that of the hon. Member for Great Grimsby, I shall not forget his predecessor, Mr. Anthony Crosland. As Foreign Secretary, he negotiated in 1976 and 1977. If I wanted to make a cheap political point—which I do not—I might argue that it was thanks to Mr. Crosland selling the deep sea fishing fleets down the river to Iceland in the late 1970s that we were in the present position. But that would not get us anywhere in 1992. We must look forward and consider some of the measures which hon. Members have suggested today, many of which have merit which the Government should consider.

We must certainly do something about enforcement. There is a case for increasing the number of inspectors inside the member states of the European Community. There is also a good case for European Commission inspectors. My hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East pooh-poohed the idea of inspectors from one country inspecting practices in another country. However, that idea should be considered. He suggested that it would be illegal, but some work should be done by Ministers to explore that idea with their colleagues in the Council of Ministers.

The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Dr. Strang) was right to make it clear to Ministers that ultimately fishing policy should be resolved by the Council of Ministers and not by the European Commission. That is the only way in which there can be any accountability to the House. He was right to make that fundamental point.

Mrs. Ewing

The Council of Ministers is the most secretive organisation in western democracy. We do not even know the agenda when fisheries policy is discussed and we do not get a full statement afterwards to tell us what happened.

Mr. Brown

That is as may be, but I know that I should rather have my hon. Friend the Minister representing my interests and those of my constituents—

Mrs. Ewing

It is not the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland who will go.

Mr. Brown

I am referring to my hon. Friend the Member for Skipton and Ripon (Mr. Curry), the Minister of State, who will be handling the Fisheries Council meeting in a week or so.

When those negotiations take place, whether in public or private, I should rather that he was negotiating on behalf of this country and my constituents and those of the hon. Member for Great Grimsby than any other Commissioner, even though they were nominated by member states. My hon. Friend the Minister of State is a tough negotiator and he will report to the House and submit to questioning.

The basic principle outlined by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East, who opened for the Opposition, is right, but that principle appears to be under threat.

I agree with all hon. Members who have mentioned the need to phase out industrial fishing. That must be pursued with the European Community. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister of State will use every opportunity at his disposal to do so.

Fishermen face a grim time. Sadly, there will be further contraction of the industry, but I hope that it will not result from bankruptcies. If it has to happen, I hope that it will he supported and sustained by an increased decommissioning scheme.

8.11 pm
Mr. John D. Taylor (Strangford)

I have spoken in many fishery debates during the past ten years. So often we seem to cover the same ground—total allowable catches, quotas and recently the multi-annual guidance programme; and now we have more problems with the Sea Fish (Conservation) Bill.

I have found our fisheries debates repetitive and somewhat depressing. It is no wonder that fishermen feel depressed and that they are staging demonstrations—there was one in Lochinver yesterday and one in the Forth today. That is symptomatic of the atmosphere in the fishing industry throughout the United Kingdom, and it is proof that the common fisheries policy is not working in Europe, or in the interests of the United Kingdom fishing industry.

The nation has to reconsider its position in relation to the common fisheries policy. Is it the way forward? I believe that it is not. I cannot see how Greek fishermen have anything in common with fishermen from Northern Ireland or Scotland. I cannot understand why Luxembourg is involved with the common fisheries policy when it is in the middle of Europe.

Fishing policy should be more localised in Scotland and in Northern Ireland; that is why the common fisheries policy is not good for our fishermen. The people will not think that it is good when they watch the film of the events at Lochinver last night, and see good fish being discarded into the sea. The common fisheries policy gives the ordinary man in the street in the United Kingdom the message that the policy is a disaster for the industry, and it is a disaster for people to throw away good food.

I am closely associated with the fishing industry in Portavogie, County Down—with both the fishermen and with processing plants. I shall be brief this evening, as I have spoken so often in debates on fishing.

Reference has been made to the fact that more than 2,000 people are involved in the fishing industry in Northern Ireland and that we have more than 200 boats over 10 m in length in the industry. However, the fact that more than 10 per cent. of them are now tied up in our ports, in Kilkeel and in Portavogie, on a long-term basis, was not mentioned. They are not just tied up for a few days —they are out of work. More than 10 per cent. of our fleet is inactive due to the present decline in the fishing industry.

The comments of the hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. Harris)—who has had to leave the Chamber—were music to my ears. He spoke at some length about the Hague preference, which has worked to the great disadvantage of Northern Ireland and of many other parts of the United Kingdom. I know that Scotland has a different point of view on that issue.

Dr. Garret FitzGerald skilfully negotiated the Hague preference on behalf of the Republic of Ireland. He pulled a fast one for southern Irish fishermen. All power to him, but the trouble is that it is damaging the fishing industry in many parts of the United Kingdom, especially fishermen in Portavogie, because it is damaging Irish Sea cod and whiting stocks.

The Minister suggested that one could ameliorate the cuts in quotas by arranging swaps. That is all very nice, but it will require skilful negotiation, and one can only swap if there is something left to swap. In the winding-up speech, I want to hear whether certain swaps are likely to be available in the coming year.

We do not yet know who will be the Republic of Ireland's Fisheries Minister. They spent more than a week counting votes in the Republic. They have finally finished counting and will now spend a few weeks forming a Government. Then a Commissioner may be appointed from Dublin to Brussels, and we shall know whom to speak to about fisheries.

When we reach that stage, I hope that the new Fisheries Minister will not be as brutal in his application of the Hague preference to Irish sea cod and whiting. If he is, it will be disastrous for the Northern Ireland fishing industry.

If the Government fail to raise the issue of the Hague preference in the present talks on the reform of the common fisheries policy, we in Northern Ireland will be very upset. I hope that, when the Minister meets his Dublin counterpart, he will make a strong case for the Hague preference not being used to damage the Northern Ireland fishing industry. That hope has been expressed by several other hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley).

Unlike the hon. Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady), I do not believe that the Minister should be accompanied by a Northern Ireland Minister who might know more about the Irish sea. I think that the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland knows far more about the Irish sea. Hon. Members must remember that Northern Ireland Ministers know very little about the Irish sea, because they are Members from England who come to Northern Ireland once a week.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture was a colleague of mine at the European Parliament, and served with me on the fishing sub-committee in Strasbourg. At my invitation, he came to Portavogie many years ago. He had the foresight to see that he was going to be a Minister for fisheries. He knows Portavogie harbour and was well received by the fishermen. I am not sure that he would get the same reception now, but he is always welcome in Northern Ireland.

If the Minister fails to ensure that the Hague preference is not used against the interests of the Northern Ireland fishermen when he discusses the matter with the Dublin Government, I shall get involved personally. I got involved in communications with the Dublin Fisheries Minister last year, and we managed to arrange a swap for nephrops. I shall get involved again if I feel that the Government are letting us down. I have no hesitation about making direct contact with the Dublin Government on that issue.

I shall run quickly through some of the quotas. There has been little reference to the quota proposals for 1993, which I thought that we would debate in greater detail this evening.

I understand that it is proposed to increase the cod tonnage next year from 10,000 to 10,200. That is not dramatic, but at least it is an increase. That proposal is important to Northern Ireland, because we take 62 per cent. of the United Kingdom quota. However, we are already aware that the Hague preference would operate in a way that would result in Northern Ireland losing 873 tonnes of the cod quota.

Irish sea whiting, which is of great importance to Northern Ireland, has already been mentioned in the debate. There appears to be a definite proposal to reduce the whiting catch by 35 per cent., which means that the tonnage would be reduced from 10,000 to 6,500.

Mr. Salmond

An important detail should be flushed out. In last year's debate, we talked about directed whiting fisheries. The argument was that whiting was a predatory fish and that fewer whiting would be good for the rest of the fishery. A year later, we find that the whiting quota has been reduced, but for the life of me I cannot understand how those two arguments are consistent. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman can enlighten me.

Mr. Taylor

I cannot, because I do not recall any such argument in last year's debate.

Irish sea whiting is extremely important to the fishing industry of County Down. We take up about 75 per cent. of the United Kingdom quota. The tonnage reduction from 10,000 to 6,500 is a large one, but, once again, the Hague preference comes into play and, eventually, the catch could be reduced to 2,000 tonnes. I hope that the Minister will take up my points about Irish sea cod and whiting when he attends the Council of Ministers meeting to decide on the 1993 quotas.

Northern Ireland also has an interest in the quotas for Irish sea plaice and sole. Although those fish account for a small proportion of our total catch, they are important to our fishing industry, which is small in relation to that of the rest of the United Kingdom.

The Minister has already spoken about swaps. It is true that we had a swapping arrangement with the Dutch on sole in the North sea. The Dutch took our plaice in the North sea, and gave us the sole that had been allocated to them in the Irish sea. Does the Minister envisage such swap arrangements continuing in the coming year? It has been suggested that all the plaice will be allocated in the North sea and that the Dutch will therefore be unable to make a swap with Northern Ireland for sole in the Irish sea. If we lost that Dutch sole quota, major damage would be inflicted on the Northern Ireland fishing industry.

The main part of the fishing industry in Northern Ireland is devoted to nephrops. Some 45 per cent. of the earnings of our fishing industry come from prawns. I hope that the Minister will remember that some 90 per cent. of the United Kingdom quota for prawns in area 7 of the Irish sea is allocated to Northern Ireland. I hope that he will continue to ensure that we receive a large quota for prawns in the Irish sea.

On the multi-annual guidance programme, there seems to be an argument between the Minister and other hon. Members as to what cuts are proposed. The figures have not been agreed, but there must be some clarification about that. My advice from the fishermen of Portavogie is that 24 per cent. of the Northern Irish trawler fleet will be lost over the next four years. That is serious in itself, but, at the same time, the Republic of Ireland's fleet will be allowed to increase.

The Northern Ireland fishing fleet has been hit by the Hague preference, which favours the south of Ireland, and now we find that our industry will be hit by the proposal to reduce the size of our fleet while that of the Republic will be allowed to increase. Relatively speaking, we in Northern Ireland are losing in both respects.

In the discussions on proposed cuts in the size of fleets, the Minister failed to take into consideration the special problems faced by County Down. The Hague preference was designed to deal with socio-economic problems. We suffer from such problems in County Down, which has a high rate of unemployment and few alternative means of employment. However, 2,000 good people employed in Portavogie, Ardglass and Kilkeel will find it even more difficult in the future to compete with other fleets. The Hague preference should be reformed to take into account the special problems that beset the east and south coasts of County Down.

When our Government negotiated and agreed the reductions in the size of the United Kingdom fishing fleet, they should have recognised the special problems that exist in rural County Down. The Republic of Ireland did very well out of those negotiations. It was the only country in the EC that managed to get the Council to agree to an increase in the size of its fleet. I am amazed that it was allowed to do that, but I congratulate its negotiators on that success.

The special position of the Northern Ireland fleet, which is only a few miles from the southern Irish fleet and fishes in the same sea, should have been taken into account. The British Government should have ensured that the size of the fishing fleet in County Down was likewise increased.

I look forward to the Minister's reply.

8.26 pm
Mr. Sebastian Coe (Falmouth and Camborne)

I add nothing new to the debate when I say that there are deep-seated problems throughout the United Kingdom fishing industry. If I did not appreciate fully the complexities of commercial fishing inside and outside my constituency before, I certainly do now after six months in which I have represented a fishing constituency.

Neither do I make fresh comments when I say that fishing in the North sea and the Scottish waters is very different from that in the Western approaches and the Irish sea. In fact, so great are those differences that many argue that they may as well be viewed as two separate countries. It is those geographic and oceanographic differences which make finding the right balance for the United Kingdom fishing industry as a whole so difficult.

These differences also demand a regional breadth of solution. I do not believe that that solution lies in he Sea Fish (Conservation) Bill. For many fishermen in my constituency, that Bill sounds the death knell of their livelihoods. In Cornwall, it will sound the death knell not only for those fishermen but for many shore-based companies. One must recognise that the catching sector of the United Kingdom fishing industry is but the top of a large pyramid of associated industries, often located in areas where employment prospects are at best extremely limited.

The Bill is an escape clause which will not work as envisaged, for the many reasons which have been rehearsed today and on other occasions—the extra pressures, the risk of fishing in dangerous waters at dangerous times of the year, and the difficulty of policing regulations here and in Europe.

The key issue in my constituency is the fact that it is almost impossible to calculate accurately a days-at-sea entitlement because the majority of the local fleet is under 12 m in length and do not carry log books. Their landing tallies, which the Ministry has requested, may refer to several days at sea previously, especially for those boats fishing for shellfish. Even those who carry log books in boats over 12 m have not put in all their yearly landing data because much of the year is spent fishing for non-pressure stock species. The Ministry does not require such declarations. The paperwork will be a mess and it will be an administrative nightmare to an undermanned Ministry in which many are already uncomfortable with the rules that they are attempting to uphold at the quayside.

Juggling figures is not conserving stocks. Fishermen agree that the seas are being overfished and a valuable resource wiped out. They desperately want a conservation package to be brought in, but to do so with the proposed measures and tie-ups will take to the very edge of existence their fishing livelihoods. Nor will it selectively reduce the tonnage, as scientific advice now recommends.

8.29 pm
Mr. Calum Macdonald (Western Isles)

More than one hon. Member has said today that the fishing industry has its back to the wall. That is certainly true, but it is true in different ways in different parts of the United Kingdom. Clearly, it is true for fishermen in the Falmouth area, the Western Isles and Northern Ireland, but the problems faced by fishermen differ according to the community. I have tried time and again in debates in the House to tell the Government that they cannot simply impose one solution which will work effectively throughout the United Kingdom. There is diversity in Europe's fishing industry, but an equal diversity within the United Kingdom.

Although communities in many areas rely on fishing for their livelihoods, that dependency is even more pronounced in some areas because people have no prospect of alternative employment, should the bottom fall out of the fishing industry. The Government must take that factor into account when proposing measures aimed at conservation.

I was pleased to find that point reflected in a document issued by the Commission in its review of the common fisheries policy. One of the disappointing aspects of the Minister's opening speech was his failure to take up the document's many interesting leads to issues other than the allocation of quotas. For example, throughout the document numerous references are made to social and economic implications of policies affecting the fishing industry. It showed an appreciation that the policies affect the fishing industry differently according to area.

On page 50, the Commission says that traditional coastal fishing differs throughout the Community. In some areas, for example, fishing is often done part-time to supplement other traditional activities such as agriculture". That is true for the west coast of Scotland. The Commission goes on to say that in such areas It is above all an exploitation of a resource close at hand in poorly developed regions offering little or no other employment or income. Its disappearance, even partial, would destroy the delicate equilibrium of the regions concerned. I have tried to make that point time and again to the Government. In considering how to handle the fishing industry, they must appreciate that to undermine it in certain areas, notably on the west coast of Scotland and the north-west of Scotland, is to take away from those areas one of their few means of livelihood. There is then simply no alternative for the fishermen who live there. They cannot try to find a job in a different line of business in the future and their children have no hope of finding an alternative occupation because alternatives simply do not exist.

The Commission make that point emphatically in its report to the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament. It distinguishes between two zones in fishing policy: firstly, there are the developed and industrialized zones, with diversified activities where fishermen, at least in theory, have the potential of alternative activities. It describes the second type of zone as less-developed, often rural zones, where the problem is a social one, quite possibly determining the survival or otherwise of the communities concerned, since fishing is the only activity possible for a large part of the workforce. The document, which was drawn up by supposedly remote bureaucrats from Brussels, shows a greater awareness and perception of fishing communities' special needs in the north-west of Scotland than I have heard from any Minister in any debate in this House. Such a perception has specific consequences. Several hon. Members have already said that the multi-annual guidance programme is proving to be ineffective in its task of reducing the capacity of the fishing fleet throughout Europe. Once one appreciates the different nature of the fleet throughout the Community, one understands that it is not good enough simply to set targets on a nation state basis. One must fine-tune one's policies to a greater extent and target specifically those areas of the fishing fleet which are genuinely over capacity. It must be realised that all areas of the fleet are not equally over capacity. There is certainly over-capacity on the east coast, but not on the west coast of Scotland.

In drawing up policies to tackle the problem of over-capacity, it is essential to distinguish between those different circumstances. The Commission has recognised that. The same document, in a section called "Structure of fishing fleets", says that the Commission has recognised that the policy to date has not succeeded in restructuring fishing fleets and reducing overall capacity. It indicated the possibility of a new approach and talked about the need to identify fleets defined separately and linked to specific stocks and specific areas. It discusses segmenting and differentiating between national fleets so that it will be possible to differentiate fishing effort reductions according to types of vessels, gear, areas, the state of stocks in the different fisheries". The document was presented to the Council of Ministers last December and it is a great disappointment that the Government, despite the fact that they chaired the Committee of Ministers dealing with the problem, have failed to take up the Commission's initiative.

Another issue of relevance to the common fisheries policy is that of the north of Scotland box—the Shetland box. Various changes were proposed to the Shetland box by the fishermen of the Shetland district. I should have liked that box to be further extended—I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) does not agree with me. There is a great need to extend that box to cover much more of the west coast fishing grounds. I fear that, as a consequence of current trends in British and Community fishing fleets towards capacity aggregation and flagships operating in British waters, more and more large vessels of more than 26 m will be operating in British waters west of the Hebrides and on the west coast of Scotland. We must establish some control and safeguards to prevent that.

The mid-term review also presented us with an opportunity to tackle the problem. The Commission recognised that. Page 77 of its commission to the Council of Ministers states: the present arrangements for the Shetland area must be maintained and the concept could be extended to other regions under the conditions of Article 7 … Indeed, the box system offers a way of regulating access to resources which has not been fully utilised up to now. The Commission was absolutely right. In that passage, it extended an invitation to the Government to push for a wider box, but unfortunately the Government have failed to take up that invitation.

We have recently been told that, for some reason, access to the shellfish stocks around the region of St. Kilda and the Flannan isles, and off the north-west of the Butt of Lewis, within the six to 12-mile band has been given to French fishermen. The French have not yet used that access. It is not clear why they were ever given it—they are generally excluded from taking advantage of shellfish stocks within the six to 12-mile band. To prevent the possibility of the French using that access in future, will the Government ask the Council of Ministers to remove that right of access on the basis that the French fishermen have not used it? That would prevent the matter from becoming a problem in future. I should be grateful if the Minister could comment on that in his wind-up speech.

Mention has also been made today of the recent blockade at Lochinver. There are two lessons to be drawn from that episode. The first has already been mentioned: the need for better monitoring of French landings in France. There is a suspicion within the fishing community that the reason why the French boats still have some quota left is simply that they have been able to evade the existing quota restrictions by landing their fish in France. I fully support the suggestion made by the Labour Front Bench team that a European Community monitoring force should be set up to regulate restrictions throughout the Community.

The second lesson to be learnt from the episode has not yet been mentioned today, although I raised it in Committee on the Sea Fish (Conservation) Bill: the need to assist and promote British participation in the potential fisheries of the far west waters of Scotland—the deep waters out to the west of the Hebrides. It is those fisheries that the French fishermen have mainly been exploiting. There is now an opportunity for Britsih fishermen to do so as well. However, if they are to be able to do so, they will need assistance from the Government to promote voyages of exploration to test the potential in those regions. European Community money exists to assist with such voyages. In Committee I suggested that the Government should urgently consider the possibility of providing such assistance to British fishermen. The Minister had an open mind and said that he would explore the subject, but I have heard nothing from him. Will he comment on that in his wind-up speech?

A small but profoundly important issue relates to the support from Highlands and Islands Enterprise for new boats to be built in the highlands of Scotland. I would appreciate it if the Minister would consult with his colleague from the Scottish Office on that subject. I understand that support for the construction of new boats in the highlands and islands—made available through Highlands and Islands Enterprise—has been withdrawn. Those new boats would not add to the capacity of the fleet, as they would be financed only if they resulted in reduced capacity through capacity aggregation.

The withdrawal of that support for new Scottish boats does not mean that there will be no new boats or capacity aggregation. However, it means that the new boats are likely to be not Scottish but Spanish flagships taking advantage of the opportunities which arise as older skippers want to sell licences. Unless the Scottish skippers can be assisted in buying licences, Spanish skippers will move in.

Mrs. Ray Michie (Argyll and Bute)

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the withdrawal of support means that some of the new boats to which he referred might not now be built at Campbeltown shipyard, which is on the verge of closure? That will be a singular blow to that region. If such yards do not have the opportunity to build those boats, it will be a double blow for the whole Highlands region.

Mr. Macdonald

I absolutely agree with the hon. Lady. It is absurd for the Government to tolerate a situation in which Scottish boats do not come on to the scene in the highlands and islands, thus providing employment for Scottish fishermen and boatbuilders, but instead flagships come from Panama and elsewhere to exploit the Scottish fisheries. I ask the Minister to refer to that in the wind-up speech. Although it is a small and localised issue, primarily affecting the highlands and islands, it is also an important matter which reflects on the way the Government approach these problems.

8.49 pm
Mr. Ronnie Campbell (Blyth Valley)

I speak for the small fishing industry in my constituency—for the men in the cobble boats of 12 m or less. At least 40 of them fish out of the harbour in my constituency. Yesterday morning they went to my constituency office. Unfortunately, I was in London, but my secretary took the message about their great fears for their livelihoods and their families. I was faxed their message, which I was asked to relay to the Minister in this debate.

Fishing has never been one of my strongest subjects —I have been a miner all my life. It might be said. That fishermen work on top of the North sea whereas I work under it, but I knew many fishermen when they were still at school and I shall try tonight to deliver their message to the Minister.

My local fishermen are worried about the allocation of white fish quotas; they say that it is unfair. That has been said already many times in this debate. These small inshore 12 m boats fish for other species for part of the year and can catch cod only at the end of the year, but the quotas are all eaten up now and the men of Blyth harbour cannot go fishing. What is more, we are approaching Christmas.

The larger vessels that fish for white fish all the year round have already used up their allocation of the quota, thereby preventing small fishing boats from fishing for white fish, so their crews have to sign on the dole, just before Christmas. They feel strongly that this bad conservation management is causing unnecessary hardship for good crews, and that this activity threatens the very existence of the small-boat, inshore fishing industry. That industry is honourable, and it has existed off the north-east coast for many years.

My constituents are worried because, they say, they are the ones being put out of business even though they do not catch much fish. A few months ago I asked them how much they caught in these little cobble boats of 10 or 12 m. The answer was, only a couple of boxes of cod a day—an amount bringing in between £40 and £50 a day. Generally, there are two crewmen to a vessel.

Inshore fishermen have always recognised the need for conservation; they understand that their future depends on it. I like that attitude. These men know that conservation must be practised, and they say so. These are seasonal fishermen, fishing for certain species at certain times of the year. They would argue that the best time for this fishing is the winter—that people should not fish in April, in the spring, when the fish are spawning. Of course, at the end of the year, in the winter months, the quotas have been exhausted, so the men cannot go fishing just when they reckon the best time to fish has arrived.

These men have only been in the industry all their lives, so I suppose that, like the miners, they know nothing! Some civil servant or Minister in Whitehall, on the other hand, knows it all, and forces measures on them.

Do the Government intend to turn the management of quotas over to the producer organisations? If so, surely the POs should be duty bound to accept all fishing boats into membership. Some of these small boats have applied for membership and been turned down; the POs seem to be becoming a closed shop. Why cannot boats of 12 m or less become members of the POs? I need an answer to that question to be able to reply to the inshore fishermen of my constituency.

The POs have stressed that they do not feel that joining would be a satisfactory solution to the problems experienced by the owners of small boats. I do not know what that means, but I think that it means that small boat owners are being made scapegoats for the fishing industry. They will be put out to work and will have to sell their boats and sign on the dole, while the big boats continue to fish. I do not like that idea. There is room enough in the North sea for all. Conservation is rightly on the minds of inshore fishermen.

I have heard stories about black fish and paper fish and about fiddles that have gone on in the North sea, so the Minister should take a close look at what is happening. I do not want fishermen to be divided by these measures. I hope that all the fishermen of Scotland and elsewhere will work together, but I have a funny feeling that policies are being followed to divide the fishermen so as to get rid of some of them from the North sea.

The inshore fishermen believe that they are the ones who will be sacrificed. I hope that the Minister has some answers for them this evening.

8.57 pm
Mr. Bill Walker (Tayside, North)

The Minister and his colleagues do a splendid job in Europe. The problems that we face with fishing are not the fault of my hon. Friend or his colleagues in their negotiations. The problem lies with the structures under which they have to negotiate. They are another example of the failures of the Community. It is probably timely that we should be debating this subject today, since the Edinburgh meeting takes place this week.

Scotland's fishermen quite properly feel that they were led up the garden path when they entered the Community. Things have not turned out as they would have hoped or wished.

The drift netting of salmon off the north-east coast of England has an effect on my constituency. Indeed, it has a substantial impact on its economic well-being. Scotland banned the practice many years ago and my constituents look to the Government to do exactly the same in the north-east of England and to take whatever measures are necessary to ensure that that comes about. If that is not done, we run the risk of closing down some of the most profitable tourist-related activity that we enjoy throughout the central belt and the north of Scotland.

8.58 pm
Mr. Nick Ainger (Pembroke)

I shall speak for six minutes and no more because I know that others wish to contribute to the debate.

I received a letter and press release from the Minister on 2 December. In talking about the multi-annual guidance programme targets, he said: These are fair targets which strike a realistic balance between what is needed to conserve fish stocks and what can be achieved through the Government's decommissioning and effort controlled policies. Corresponding programmes for other Member states will ensure that the burden of adjustment is equitably shared. I refer the Minister to what is proposed for other member states. The United Kingdom is expected to take a 19 per cent. cut in gross registered tonnage but it is proposed that the French take only an 8 per cent. cut. For the Spanish it will be 4 per cent. while the Irish will enjoy an increase of 1 per cent. If that is an equitable distribution, I am sitting on a massive majority and not one of 755.

I shall talk about two issues that directly affect my constituency. The first is quota hoppers. My constituency office is in Milford Haven, which used to be the hake capital of the world. It was possible to walk across the port on the decks of trawlers. At present, there are only three such vessels working out of Milford that are owned and controlled by Welshmen. The others are controlled by Spanish interests. The 20 per cent. of the people of Milford who are unemployed are naturally angry when every day they see tonnes of fish—British quota fish—being landed from supposedly British-registered vessels that are owned by Spanish interests. They see them loaded by the Spanish crews of the "British" ships into Spanish lorries driven by Spanish lorry drivers. No jobs are created on the dockside by the loss, as I see it, of the British quota, yet still no action has been taken by the Government.

The hon. Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) said that the British Government can do nothing because of the European Community. The European Court has made a decision on European law. We need to change that law and the accompanying regulations so that the court can make a ruling on quota hoppers. Everyone accepts that. It is generally agreed that the practices that are taking place are unacceptable. The situation is becoming worse and worse. My colleagues in Scotland fear that what is happening in the waters of south-west England, Wales and the Irish sea will happen in their waters.

In the Minister's press release, and in his letter to virtually every hon. Member who is interested in fishing, he states that the MAGP cut for the United Kingdom of 19 per cent. will be achieved by a 10.5 per cent. cut in tonnage and engine power as a result of decommissioning, and that the remaining 8.5 per cent. will be achieved by a reduction in effort.

I assume that the Minister has read the report of the House of Lords Select Committee on the common fisheries policy, which responds to the Government's proposal to invest a paltry £25 million in a three-year decommissioning programme. The report states: The Committee accept that £25 million is not even enough to prevent the fleet from expanding; four or five times that amount is now needed to make up for the lack of a decommissioning scheme in the UK during the last decade. The scheme which was announced must regretfully be described as too little too late. If the Select Committee's opinion is correct and the British fleet will continue to expand even though we have a £25 million decommissioning programme, how will the Minister achieve his MAGP cut of 19 per cent.? Will there be more and more tie-up time? Will there be more and more effort control measures? As the hon. Gentleman knows, in their present form they are entirely unacceptable to the industry.

In my final minute I shall talk about the proposed total allowable catches in the Irish sea, the Bristol channel and off the south-east of Ireland. They are entirely unacceptable. If the Minister thinks that they represent an equitable distribution that takes account of the problems that the industry faces throughout Europe, I must tell him that that view is not shared in Milford.

A 12 per cent. cut is proposed for whiting and 22 per cent. for plaice in the Irish sea. There is to be a 6 per cent. cut for plaice in the Bristol channel and south-east Ireland areas. For sole, there is to be a 32 per cent. cut in the Irish sea and 15 per cent. in the Bristol channel and south-east Ireland areas. There is to be a 53 per cent. cut for anglerfish in the whole of sector 7.

At the same time as those cuts are implemented, Irish capacity is to be increased. Because of the Hague preference agreement, presumably Irish quotas will remain the same or even increase. Welsh fishermen fish in the same waters as Irish fishermen and they cannot accept the Minister's agreement to allow Irish quotas to remain the same or to increase while they and English fishermen have to make massive cuts.

The Minister will be negotiating again in Europe next week. I hope that he will come back with a better package.

9.5 pm

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke (Mr. Ainger) for truncating his speech to allow me a few minutes in the debate. I fully realise the importance of the fishing industry to his community.

I want to say something about whales—who does not today? I tabled an amendment, which was not selected, which called on the Government to withhold its consent to a new EC fish prices agreement until such time as the Community draws up a comprehensive policy for the protection of whales, dolphins and other cetaceans in EC waters and makes adherence to such a policy a pre-requisite for enlargement of the Community. I realise that the EC fisheries policy recognises the needs of the ecosystem within the marine environment and I welcome that. I also welcome the Government's strong support for the International Whaling Commission ban on commercial whaling. However, that worldwide ban is now under threat from a number of countries—regrettably and specifically Norway. Norway is seeking greater access to EC fishing waters and also entry to the European Community. In no circumstances should either application be given even passing consideration while Norway expresses the intention to recommence commercial whaling in 1993.

The Norwegians are aiming for the minke whales in the north Atlantic. They say that the stocks have now reached a level at which they can be safely harvested. Of course, "harvested" is a euphemism for slaughter because the Norwegians—and, indeed, any other nation—have had nothing to do with husbanding stocks. If the stock of minke whales in the north Atlantic has increased, it is because all other nations have adhered to the IWC moratorium on commercial whaling. Why should Norway alone benefit from the self-denying ordinance of other countries? If they took the same attitude as Norway, the stock of minke whales would again be imperilled.

A Greenpeace petition with 500,000 signatures has been presented to the Prime Minister at No. 10 Downing street. It was delivered by Members of Parliament representing the three main parties in the House. That coincided with the visit of the Norwegian Prime Minister, Mrs. Brundtland, who was in this country specifically to discuss a possible application by Norway to join the EC.

I draw the attention of the House to early-day motion 536, which has been signed by more than 160 hon. Members from both sides of the House. It effectively expresses not only how I and the majority of—perhaps all—Members of Parliament feel, but how vast numbers of our citizens feel about commercial whaling and, specifically, Norway's attitude.

I have sent a letter to Mrs. Brundtland on behalf of Members of Parliament, especially those who delivered the petition to No. 10, in which I make it quite clear that we find her Government's proposal wholly unacceptable. Norway has never fully respected the IWC ban; indeed, it has killed more than 900 whales since the ban was introduced in 1986. This summer alone, despite the IWC's request not to do so, Norwegian whalers killed 95 minke whales for so-called scientific research. Where does the meat of whales that are slaughtered in the so-called interests of science go? It goes to Tokyo, because whale meat is purchased at great expense for some of the best restaurants and diners in Japan. The Japanese are involved in commercial whaling.

Mr. Harris

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is the debate about fish or mammals?

Mr. Banks

The hon. Gentleman makes a good point that is fairly obvious to us all—whales are not fish but mammals. However, whales are regarded in the same way as fish stocks. We talk about whaling fishing, and that is the whole point. Of course we know the difference. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will join me in saying that it is unacceptable.

I support the Government's attitude to the IWC ban. Norway hopes to join the Community yet is intent on taking up commercial whaling in defiance of public opinion throughout the world. I hope that when the Minister meets his Norwegian counterparts he will make the feelings of the House very clear.

9.10 pm
Mr. Elliot Morley (Glanford and Scunthorpe)

This has been a good debate, in which more than 20 hon. Members have spoken with some knowledge and depth of feeling about the crisis facing the fishing industy which, sadly, it has been facing for some years. It is depressing that many of the arguments advanced tonight were reruns of previous debates, and the industry faces many problems that it has faced for a number of years. In many cases, the problems are getting worse rather than better.

The Minister will have heard that there is to be a national demonstration in Edinburgh on Friday. I intend to be there, on behalf of the Opposition, to join with the Scottish Fishermen's Federation and the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations, which are organising the rally and speaking on behalf of the fishing industry. It is a shame that those organisations are having to do so, because they are not negative; they have not been critical or argued against the Government for the sake of doing so. They have often made constructive proposals to deal with the problems that the industry faces. I am only sorry that the Ministry has not adopted their proposals more often.

I invite all hon. Members to read carefully the amendment tabled by the official Opposition. It calls for British interests to be protected in the current mid-term fisheries policy review. It asks for structural changes to be applied equally to all fishing fleets throughout the European Community. It asks the Minister to reject measures which discriminate unfairly against British fishermen, to maintain the principle of relative stability and to ensure that our fishermen have the same right as others to an effective decommissioning scheme.

Hon. Members will have heard the criticism of the £25 million that the Government have made available. I explain to hon. Members who may not be aware that it is not £25 million of Government money but the total amount available taking into account the European Community's 70 per cent. contribution. It is a small sum—the Minister may wince, but he knows that—I am correct that the Government are putting into the pot for a decommissioning scheme. I endorse the Lords report which made it clear that it is not an effective or adequate amount.

Mr. Curry

I ask the hon. Gentleman the question that I asked the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Dr. Strang). He must have an idea of what would be an effective amount. What would be the amount of money, up front, that the Opposition would be prepared to spend on a decommissioning scheme?

Mr. Morley

The answer depends on what one would want to achieve from such a scheme. One would have to consider the existing fleet size when a scheme was introduced and what one wanted to achieve in terms of capacity units and horsepower, but certainly there would have to be a more adequate scheme. Hon Members are inviting me to give a figure which Conservative central office can double, treble or multiply by the Chancellor's banker's card overdraft and then quote back at us later. If they think that I am going to fall into that trap, they are sadly mistaken. Seriously, we need a more adequate scheme. It should be drawn up in consultation with the industry, with due account being taken of the fleet. I greatly fear that by the time a Labour Administration come to consider the issue, there will be far fewer fishing boats left to restructure.

I am very concerned about the multi-annual guidance programme, and my fear is shared by many hon. Members who have spoken today. I always worry when the Government talk about "a great victory" and "a good deal" that it might not be so good as it appears. Let us consider what the Government have achieved. When one considers the reduction overall in the European Community, omitting Greece which operates primarily in the Mediterranean, it is clear that we have the second largest reduction of all the Community fleets. The Minister mentioned a reduction of 19 per cent. In summing up, perhaps he will say whether that figure includes the roll-over figure from the capacity that we need to reduce or whether we have to add further reductions to it. I should appreciate clarification of that point.

Mr. Curry

I have already given the House clarification—there is no need to wait until I wind up the debate. The answer is that it does.

Mr. Morley

I asked for that clarification because I have seen conflicting figures, but I accept the Minister's assurance.

I should also appreciate the Minister's comments on the fact that as part of the great MAGP deal our fishermen will have to remeasure their fishing vessels. That will involve costs of between £700 and £1,200 per vessel. Is that regarded as fair and equitable or, indeed, necessary?

I should also appreciate clarification of one of the worst proposals from Europe. After dealing with the motion, we are to discuss the Sea Fish (Conservation) Bill, under which it is intended to reduce effort in line with the MAGP of about 8 per cent. in order to meet our obligations under that programme. If the European Community introduces conservation measures which also include effort reduction by linking it with total allowable catches, will British fishermen face a double whammy? Will they have to have a days-in-port restriction to meet the effort reduction under the MAGP and also days-in-port restrictions to meet conservation targets? I should be grateful if the Minister would clarify that point so that British fishermen will know what they face—days-in-port restrictions as a result of Government policy, as a result of Community policy, or as a result of both.

Some hon. Members referred to the fact that under the MAGP the Irish fleet has been allowed to increase, and it is also arguing for an increase under the Hague preference. As the Minister will be aware, the Irish Republic fleet did not take up its full allocation, so it seems strange that it can make a case for an extra fish allocation under the Hague preference.

The Spanish have the largest fleets in the European Community, but they face a reduction of only 4.5 per cent. It is not as though there has not been a problem with the Spanish fishing fleet: the southern hake quota, which is a major quota for the Spanish, has been cut to just 10 per cent. of the allocation last year. That makes one wonder exactly where those excess Spanish vessels will go, and where they will direct their attention. Why has the largest fleet in Europe come away with a reduction of only 4.5 per cent. while we have to face a reduction of 19 per cent? That has all happened while the Minister has been president of the Fisheries Council.

We have heard of the quota hoppers, and have often discussed them. Another growing problem is caused by the sale of licences from British vessels, both in England and in Scotland, to people from other countries. When the Government operate a policy based on a fixation with applying the free market to everyone and everything, no matter how inappropriate, problems will inevitably be caused by other fishing fleets, which are given a great deal more support and stability by their Governments and are therefore in a stronger financial position, coming in and buying up licences from British fishing boats whose owners want to get out of the industry. Unless we have a policy to deal with that, the inevitable consequence will be that some fishing ports in this country will become dominated by foreign vessels.

We have already heard, in an excellent contribution from my hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke (Mr. Ainger), what happens when foreign vessels unload on to foreign lorries which take fish away to foreign ports, with little direct employment input for British people and little chance for the young people of our fishing communities to follow in their parents' footsteps.

We need a proper decommissioning scheme, which could be used to buy the licences so that they return to the sovereign nation state. They could then be reallocated, or used as part of the effort control and conservation policy. At the moment, no one is satisfied: the licences are passing into foreign hands, our conservation effort is not being helped, and our fishing ports are being seriously affected.

While we are dealing with the so-called quota hoppers, will the Minister tell us the position regarding the compensation claim by the people who, because of the slack wording of the Merchant Shipping Act, won their court case and are now demanding considerable compensation from the British Government? Where will the compensation come from? Will it come from the fisheries budget? What kind of figure are we talking about? I should appreciate any information that the Minister has.

As the Minister knows, during negotiations on the European Economic Area agreement Norway gave increased access to some of its cod stocks. Unfortunately, most of that went to the Iberian fleet, and we did not do well out of it. I understand that Norway is now seeking compensation from CFP fishing waters for that access. Will the Minister resist that idea? I feel that Norway got off lightly in terms of the waters allocated to EC fleets, especially ours, for membership of the EEA. I take the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks): if Norway ignores international laws and flouts international conventions, it should not expect to be treated sympathetically in relation to its application to join the EC or in other negotiations.

Subsidiarity is a buzz word in European negotiations these days. Although we agree that each nation state ought to have as much control over its own affairs as possible, in view of the Government's record I am worried that our fishing fleet may face restrictions which other European fishing fleets do not face—as, indeed, it already does with the days-at-sea restrictions. Will the Minister confirm that no other EC member state has days-in-port restrictions of the type that our fishermen have to put up with? If we are to have restrictions and conservation measures, they should be fair and equitable and our fishing fleet should not be put at a disadvantage compared with the fleets of other member states.

The question of the EC licensing policy has been raised in the mid-term review. The concept of a European Community fishing licence is a step forward. The Minister said that he regarded licensing as part of effort control. Would he care to expand on that when he sums up? Does he envisage introducing restrictions in terms of the banding and grouping of vessel types and the way in which licences can be used? Does he envisage tighter control of the allocation of licences in this country or in the EC generally? Will he undertake that, if such restrictions are imposed as a form of effort control, our country will not once again suffer adversely in comparison with other member states?

The principle of relative stability—an important element of any discussion of the Community—has been referred to. I acknowledge the Minister's assurances on that point, and I accept that he is arguing that the principle of relative stability should be maintained. Any efforts that he makes to achieve those objectives have the whole-hearted support of the Opposition.

The mid-term review recommends that the Hague preference should be maintained. We have no argument with the maintenance of the Hague preference—

Mr. Austin Mitchell

Yes, we have.

Mr. Morley

—although it has disadvantages for certain parts of the country, as my hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby has made only too clear. We should work towards a state of affairs in which the Hague preference, which should be regarded as a safety net, is not implemented and in which we have suitable stocks to which all our fishing ports have fair access.

The Shetland box is also to be maintained in its present form. I know the views of my hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby on that. The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) made the fair point, however, that in its present form the box has not placed restrictions on other vessels—certainly not on those from the Humberside fleet. There is an argument for the use of biological boxes as a conservation tool; they should not be used as a way of giving unfair advantage to a particular group. Would the Minister be willing to argue for the extension of the boxes principle, on a permanent and a temporary basis, to protect spawning stocks, sensitive areas and fishing grounds?

Mr. Salmond

I have some reasonably friendly fire for the hon. Gentleman. He is speaking with some confidence about the latest proposals for the revision of the common fisheries policy. Does he have them in his possession? Have they been made available to him by the Minister? If not, how can he be so confident about what they contain?

Mr. Morley

I am dealing only with the proposals in the papers made available to European Standing Committee A, which the hon. Gentleman has seen. I have seen no other papers or proposals apart from those debated by hon. Members who attended the sitting of that Committee. All the proposals were outlined in detail in that document. Perhaps it will be reviewed and revised. I remember the Minister saying that the wording was confused and somewhat inaccurate, so a further document may well be brought forward, but I assure the hon. Gentleman that I have seen no document other than what was laid before us. I am not aware of any other document, although I noted and listened with interest to what the hon. Gentleman said.

A careful consideration of regional policy as it applies to fisheries is needed. I hope that the Minister will consider European regional aid for communities in which fishing is of major importance. I refer not only to small isolated communities and fishing ports but to areas which depend heavily on fish processing, such as Aberdeen, Grimsby and Hull. Given the pressures and problems that the fishing industry faces—particularly if the proposals for still more days-at-sea restrictions go forward—it is important that we have an aid package which takes into account the communities and the crews and their families. Even with decommissioning, which I support as part of a package, the bulk of the help goes to the owner of the boat. We also need to consider crews, communities and families. I hope that the Minister will argue that assistance should be given to those communities via the relevant structural funds.

In respect of regionalism, we also heard about small boats which operate in inshore waters. I welcome the fact that the mid-term review proposes that the six-mile and 12-mile limits are to be kept, but I hope that the Minister will also consider small vessels which operate inshore close to their home ports and use highly selective gear. In that respect, I am thinking of the Cornish handliners, of longliners in general and of small boats which take small catches and are very selective, with next to no by-catch. In many cases, those very small boats suffer as a result of policies designed to catch much larger boats taking a much larger catch. As part of a regional policy, and recognising that those small boats operate a very environmentally friendly method of fishing, the very small quota taken by those boats should receive special consideration.

The news about total allowable catches is no worse than the news last year. There are proposals for a significant increase in the haddock quota. I appreciate that the Community and the Minister must be guided by scientific advice, but there is a problem when quotas seem to change dramatically from drastic cuts one year to drastic expansion the next. The Minister may argue that the past two years have been very good spawning years, particularly for haddock, but I hope that he will ensure that the Commission's scientific advice is reliable and the basis for a manageable quota so that we avoid difficulty.

As the Minister is aware, the Commission produced a consultation document on discards. I hope that more work will be done on discards, particularly in relation to the introduction of various kinds of conservation gear. Hon. Members will be aware of the arguments in favour of square mesh panels and the pioneering work carried out on that in this country. Square mesh panels have been implemented unilaterally by the United Kingdom and I hope that the Minister, as president of the Fisheries Council, will argue for them to be included throughout the Community fleet as part of an effort to reduce discards.

There are some welcome steps in the mid-term review in respect of enforcement. I support the idea of multinational teams and I was a little surprised at the comments of the hon. Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor). If we argue about equality of enforcement, there is a good argument for a multi-national team entering member states to ensure that they are abiding by the regulations agreed within the Community. The best way to do that would be to have an impartial spot check by inspectors who have no connection with that country.

There may well be an argument for establishing a European agency directly responsible for that work to ensure that the rules are applied. I see the hon. Member for Southend, East wincing at that suggestion, and I appreciate that it would be yet another agency, but we are members of the Community and we have certain rules. It is important that those rules are enforced fairly in every country.

My colleagues have referred to satellite surveillance. There is an argument for that, but we would need a pilot study on it. The Minister will recall that I said in Committee that it might be possible to consider linking satellite surveillance to GPS satellite navigation systems. That would save many fishermen a great deal of money. The system would be more attractive to fishermen if it provided details of a boat's position and if it could be incorporated in satellite navigation systems towards which many fishermen are moving. We must also stress the safety implications of that equipment. There are advantages for fishing boats, as they would be tracked at all times. If the signal stopped, the appropriate national emergency services could be alerted.

Data transfer has also been considered in depth. In relation to new technology, it is a good idea to discuss the possibility in the future of electronic data transfer, perhaps even by signalling data to a central recording station where there could be an immediate update on catch position and what boats have been doing. That is a good idea, but one must take into account the cost implications for fishermen and the actual equipment, which soon becomes outdated. I would not want fishermen to be put under an unfair burden. I hope that the Minister will speak to his hon. Friends in the Department of Trade and Industry and alert some of the electronics companies that on the horizon is a potentially big order for the equipment. I hope that British electronic companies will bid for contracts for the provision of such equipment, which I suspect will be installed on EC fleets.

The Minister knows my views on industrial fishing. He knows that the Labour party has argued for many years for the phasing out of industrial fishing. I welcome the emphasis in the mid-term review that we need to examine fishing in the global context and take into account the whole marine ecosystem, and I accept that. Where does that leave industrial fishing? In Committee, the Minister told us to wait for the report. I have to agree with previous comments that the report appears to be a whitewash, in the sense that it merely says that we need more research into industrial fishing whereas I believe that we need action on industrial fishing.

During the summer, on my family holiday, I took the opportunity to go round Esbjerg and look at the fishmeal plants and their trawlers. One could say that I was sniffing around. I also visited Esbjerg fishing museum, which was excellent. In Denmark, I found that the support for industrial fishing is not universal. Even in the national fishing museum, there were critical comments about the role of industrial fishing and what it was doing to fish stocks in the North sea. So the Danes cannot claim unanimous support for industrial fishing, which is primarily used for pig food. The time has come to take some firm action on the matter.

I appreciate what the Minister said about research and the fact that it is not clear either way. There is such a thing as the precautionary principle. I hope that the Minister will argue for that principle. I refer to third country access.

I wonder whether the Minister could comment on the Falkland Islands position, which the hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. Harris) has briefly mentioned. Is it true that the European Community has given 100 per cent. financial support to a joint venture between Spain and Argentina to develop the hake fisheries around the Falkland Islands? Such aid is normally 50 per cent. Does that support mean that a large Spanish fleet has registered as Argentinian, is operating around the Falklands, will have unrestricted access to EC markets, and will have a deterimental effect on the licensed income for the Falkland Islands? That licenced income has cut the overseas development aid payments from British taxpayers to the Falkland Islanders, whose income will now be severely dented. Was financial support given to the joint venture while the British Minister was president of the Fisheries Council? I would certainly appreciate the Minister's comments on that.

The need for conservation is real. Sometimes one has to take tough decisions, and sometimes those decisions must be implemented. The Labour party recognises and supports tough decisions on conservation if science dictates such decisions and if the measures are fairly applied. The root of the problem that we are discussing is that for more than three years we have argued for an effective decommissioning scheme but failure to implement that scheme has caused all the problems that we have been talking about. There must be a package including decommissioning as well as conservation gear, licensing enforcement and conservation management.

Fishermen are facing severe hardship. They feel discriminated against and ignored, and that they are not being treated fairly. We lack a structured and coherent policy. The industry has suffered as a result of a crisis management approach. Our amendment outlines the basic principles which our fishermen want to see. I hope that hon. Members from fishing ports will support their fishermen by backing our amendment. I hope that the Minister will also answer my questions. Above all, I hope that the Government will think again about their whole fisheries policy and recognise the awful consequences of a poorly considered and crisis management approach.

9.39 pm
The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. David Curry)

This has been an extremely reflective debate. I fear that I may not be able to answer all the points raised because the time available for my reply has been somewhat squeezed.

Several hon. Members asked me to talk to the industry. I look forward to meeting the leaders of the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations at 12 o'clock on Friday to discuss the forthcoming meeting of the Fisheries Council. We have a rendezvous with the NFFO for an open-house discussion on the whole conservation package in the new year. Of course, matters such as the sqauare mesh panel, to which my hon. Friends referred, will be discussed.

A couple of weeks ago, I had representatives of the industry from Hull in my office to discuss their problems. The deep sea Norwegian fisheries are particularly important to them. On behalf of Grimsby they said how pleased they were to see such a large Government grant going into the port of Grimsby. The hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) would not forgive me if I failed to mention that.

My hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough (Mr. Sykes) recently brought a delegation from Whitby to see me. I have received a delegation from fishermen who fish in the waters around the mouth of the Thames. I have visited Fleetwood. I have met the fish processors, to whom import duties are of particular importance. I inform the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) that I have met representatives of the industry which cans dolphin-friendly tuna.

So I have been fairly active in the past few weeks in meeting representatives of the industry. It is a constant communication and it will continue. There is no question of there being some terrible freeze on relationships. I have discussed the matters with the industry. My officials are in virtually daily contact on one issue or another and inevitably that will continue.

I recognise that the Irish sea presents particular difficulties to Northern Ireland fishermen. The Northern Ireland Members who spoke asked me to make sure that their voices were heard in the European Council discussions. If those three hon. Members are willing, I shall meet them separately before the next meeting of the Council to discuss matters relating to the Irish sea and Northern Irish fisheries. I have spoken to my right hon. Friend the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and he thinks that it is an extremely good idea.

I extend that invitation to those hon. Members. I shall ask my office to get in touch with them to make arrangements to have detailed discussions. I warn them that on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday I shall be at a meeting of the Agriculture Council in Brussels. But we shall have that meeting because I recognise the particular sensitivity of the waters in which Northern Ireland fishermen have to fish.

The hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Ainger) will be aware that the Prime Minister raised the matter of the Norwegian fisheries with the Norwegian Prime Minister when she was in the United Kingdom recently. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman's points will have been widely heard. I know how deeply he feels about the matter. Many people share his sentiments about Norwegian activities.

We usually have a pretty constructive debate across the Dispatch Boxes—I am flattering the hon. Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley); it is a pity that he is not listening, because I do not do it often. On occasions such as this we have a sensible debate. There is a large measure of agreement between many of us. There always tends to be a bipartisan quality to discussions on the European Community. I should like to see that reasserted.

It is helpful if I can go to Brussels and say, "The whole House believes this. I cannot sell this measure to the House. This is what I must deliver to the House." That is important because we are subject to a closer form of supervision and control than almost anyone who sits around the Council table. Other member states are beginning to acknowledge that that is the case.

The hon. Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe referred to the Spanish demand for compensation. That has gone back to the European Court of Justice for clarification. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will accept that I should prefer not to be drawn into those legal waters.

The Labour party has kept its plans for decommissioning one of the most closely guarded secrets in the fishing industry. We went through a whole Bill this year without the secret getting out. We have gone through two Opposition spokesmen without the secret getting out. I am sure that we shall continue to go around that subject. At least we have put our money on the table —£25 million over three years. All we know is that Labour does not think that it is enough. Opposition Members think that the House of Lords is right in saying that there should be four or five times that much, but they will not say how much they will put on the table, and it is the amount of money that counts.

Mr. Ainger

In my short contribution to the debate I said that if we are right, if the Select Committee on European Legislation is right and the Minister is wrong, how will he deliver the multi-annual guidance programme?

Mr. Curry

I shall come to the MAGP in a minute, but the answer is simple. We shall deliver it by a combination of decommissioning and aggregation proposals.

We have delivered some of the percentage by cleaning up the register and we shall deliver the rest through the day-at-sea controls. I outlined how that will work during debate on the Sea Fish (Conservation) Bill.

The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) asked a detailed question about how the MAGP would work. It is complicated and concerns vessel capacity units. The hon. Gentleman will be familiar with the term. I shall write to him with details of how it will work because frankly it would sound like algebra if I produced it at the Dispatch Box.

There is the old canard about 70 per cent. Community money, but because of the Fontainebleau mechanism and the United Kingdom abatement it is three quarters British money. I have not detected any hon. Member advising the Prime Minister that he should not fight for the maintenance of the British abatement during the negotiations on the Community budget that he will undertake during the next few days.

The problem with the amendment moved by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Dr. Strang) is that its central part states that we must not do anything that no one else does, not even in conservation. If the amendment were accepted, I could not do many of the things that the industry has asked me to do unilaterally. The industry has told me that it thinks that the minimum carapace size for lobsters is too small and should be increased. It has demanded an increase in the minimum landing size for whiting because the Community has taken it too low. I could not do any of those things. Twin-rig trawls for prawns are mechanisms that the fishermen in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives (Mr. Harris) want outlawed. Under the terms of the amendment we could not do that. I do not understand the last part of the amendment, which deals with the money in the Community budget, and I shall not recommend that anyone should vote for something that I do not understand.

I am confident that we shall see off the Community's effort reduction proposals, which would almost exclusively affect the British fleet. Again, they affect areas 4 and 6. The proposals would be wider and would take in about 800 vessels. Part of the definition is for vessels that do not catch any cod or haddock. The formulation is curious, we have been engaged in intense discussions and I believe that those proposals will not be pursued.

I recognise all the sensitivities of the Irish issue. Essentially, the Irish demanded more quotas, which would mean revising the keys of relative stability. We shall not revise the keys. The Irish will not get more quota, which is their key demand.

It is true that, under the MAGP, because the Irish do not catch their existing capacity, they have been able to sustain a demand that they should have a lighter regime than other countries. That goes back to 1982, when the quotas were distributed. However, the key is to get more fish. No one in the Community to whom I have spoken is willing to allow more fish to be caught, and I have spoken to many people on the subject because I know how sensitive the issue is.

Mr. Salmond


Mr. Curry

If the hon. Gentleman will permit me, I shall not give way. I have been left little time to wind up and I want to cover as many matters as possible. The hon. Gentleman knows that I am not normally reticent in giving way.

The remarks of the hon. Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe on technical measures made a lot of sense. We are open to suggestions and I am willing to pursue his detailed suggestions on conservation measures.

I shall outline what I believe we will be able to achieve in the so-called revision of the common fisheries policy, or the next 10 years. I have put it in those terms because the final agreement has not been reached. Negotiations have reached a certain point. It seems that we will be able to achieve relative stability, as it is defined at the moment, which is similar to what I outlined in the Scrutiny Committee—the existing Shetland box. I know that the hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Macdonald) would have liked the box to be fatter, wider and larger, but many people—some are sitting next to him—do not like the box at all and the best bet seemed to us to be to maintain it as it was. We think that we have achieved that. We have preserved the zero to six and the six to 12-mile limit for another 12 years. That covers the exclusive zone, particularly the inner zone for coastal fisheries, which is important.

There is the possibility of multi-annual and multi-species TACs where they make sense. The proposed revision of the fisheries policy retains that concept. The use of such TACs does not become obligatory, but they may be used at the discretion of Ministers if they believe that a particular stock warrants that treatment as opposed to the current annual practice. The decisions will be kept at the level of the Council of Ministers; in other words, the idea that they should be floated off to some sort of management committee or a Commission-chaired body has disappeared.

Agreement has also been reached on the idea that all vessels should have a licensing system. There is some argument over the extent to which freshwater fisheries and non-commercial fisheries should be included. It embraces the Hague preference, but it does not embrace Spanish accession, because that is subject to a separate report, which, under the treaty of accession, must be delivered by the end of this year for further consideration.

I recognise the problems associated with the Hague preference. I know that for every winner there is a loser and that, sometimes, there seem to be two losers. On balance, as has been said, we estimate that the Hague preference is in favour of the United Kingdom. Therefore, we will continue to seek its application. I recognise the importance of swaps where the Hague preference applies—and, sometimes, where it does not. Swaps are becoming more difficult as quotas diminish in some fisheries and fisheries take their full quota. If my hon. Friend the Member for Waveney (Mr. Porter) were here, he would no doubt be inveighing against the swaps with the Dutch that we have arranged in previous years.

We must take a view, on balance, as to what is in favour of the fisheries when the time comes to take that view. We are particularly sensitive to the problems in the Irish sea and the swaps that would help to eke out a difficult fishery in that sea. We shall pursue those swaps where it appears to us that the balance of interest is in Britain's favour.

Mr. Salmond


Mr. Curry

I shall give way very briefly.

Mr. Salmond

When will we see the latest proposal? The Minister has spoken about relative stability not being qualified by the Spanish accession. That means that there has been a change since we debated the specific document in Committee. When will the Minister table the new proposals so that we can see them and ensure that we are defending the interests of our fishing communities?

Mr. Curry

It is not my intention to table presidency proposals that will be put forward as part of the debate. It is impossible to conduct negotiations on that basis. In any case, most of it takes the form of amendments to existing texts. The role of the Select Committee on European Legislation is to scrutinise the proposals that the Commission puts forward. I appreciate the difficulties, but we are in negotiation. I have given the hon. Gentleman as full an account as I am able, as I did in Committee this morning on a different matter. He must recognise that I try to give the House the best and most accurate information available.

Mackerel flexibility is one of the traditional conditions for which we go in the negotiations. It is important to take a percentage of the mackerel catch east of the four degrees west line because of the change in the migratory pattern of the stock. Fish are tiresome because they change their migratory pattern. The cod that used to be found west of Greenland are now migrating to the east of Greenland and perhaps around the Icelandic waters. That has implications for our deep sea fishery.

I recognise that the closure of fisheries presents problems for many people. I took the precaution of checking the latest figures to see where we are making such closures. I have a list of all the closures that we have been forced to undertake. I shall not read through it, but it shows that in all the areas where a fishery has been closed, by the time the last figures are available, we will have hit the quota. Therefore, we have not closed a fishery prematurely without enabling fishermen to take their legitimate catch; we have closed where experience has taught us that we have exhausted our quota or will do so.

The allocation between the sector and non-sector group of fishermen is something that one cannot fine-tune perfectly. I am willing to do more to make that allocation more satisfactory. Closures represent difficult decisions, but I want to be sure that, by and large, we have got it right. The figures in the list, which I am perfectly happy to give to those hon. Members who are interested, illustrate that we have got it about right.

Norway presents a difficult problem. It has been mentioned by several hon. Members, but I hope that they will understand that, with the short time available, I shall deal with issues rather than individual speeches. We have five jointly managed TACs with Norway. If we have no agreement, we set autonomous TACs and quotas for the Community zone, which means that we have no access to Norwegian waters until an agreement intervenes, nor do the Norwegians have access to our waters. The problem with deferring the economic area agreement is that the 2.9 per cent. share of the cod quota, which we run as part of that agreement, does not necessarily trigger. That share may be modest, but it is a share of a TAC that is increasing to 500,000 tonnes this year, so it is a large amount of cod. Equally, the 6,000 tonnes of fish that Spain, Portugal and Ireland wanted for their first entry into that fishery does not trigger either, so the so-called "cohesion fish" does not trigger. When we get the deal, access will have to be restored.

The hon. Member for Great Grimsby has links with the processing industry because of his constituency interests. It will be necessary to renegotiate the terms that we negotiated last month because of the failure of the EEA to come into force on 1 January. I have written to the Commissioner asking him to put the new proposals forward so that we can act on them.

I do not wish to go over the grounds of the haddock quota, except to repeat that I am convinced that to catch small fish on the margin of the landing size would be a mistake. We wish to see that fishery preserved to go into the spawning stock and we want a healthy stock to emerge as a result. I am glad that Opposition Members understand those problems.

On the multi-annual guidance programme targets, if one considers what the United Kingdom must do, excluding the catch-up, one will find that we are extremely comfortably positioned. The United Kingdom has a 10 per cent. cut; Portugal, 10 per cent.; Germany, 12 per cent.; France, 10 per cent.; and Belgium, 16 per cent. Even with the catch-up—I do not pretend that there is no catch-up, and I am concealing nothing from the House—Belgium must do 34 per cent.; Greece, 24 per cent.; and the Netherlands, 21 per cent. The United Kingdom is in the middle of that pack: we shall manage to achieve a balance between the decommissioning scheme and the other measures that tackle capacity, and the measures related to days at sea.

Discards are a major problem for all of us as no one wants that to happen. As I explained in an earlier intervention, it is difficult to find a formula that does not present equal problems. It may be a technical conservation measure to some extent, moving in certain circumstances towards multi-annual TACs and multi-annual quotas. We shall explore all those to tackle a problem which we all admit brings a great deal of disrepute to the industry, which no one likes to see. I have outlined the difficulties that that presents for us.

Hon. Members have mentioned many matters that relate to their fisheries and the TACs and quotas in them. The House will understand that those are detailed matters. Regretfully, I cannot deal with them now, although I have copious notes to do so had I had enough time. If hon. Members wish me to give the details, I shall make the information available in a condensed form so that they can make a judgment.

On the Community negotiations, we shall have a session the weekend before Christmas. It will he a difficult session. Traditionally, many items are piled on to the agenda. The Norwegian problems will be an extra item on the agenda. Although we had already cleared it once, we must return to it. We have the TACs and quotas to sort out and it will be hard work getting the work done in time to have matters in place by the new year, simply because of the inevitable rush at the end of the year. We shall achieve it. We are working hard in Committee and my officials are working extremely hard. We want to ensure that the industry knows where it is as soon as possible.

Let me make one thing clear about the Bill. We have £25 million worth of decommissioning and we shall have effort control—those two go together. Without effort control, there will be no decommissioning. We have said that from the start of the Bill's passage and I repeat it today. The money was not secured without difficulty, and it is important that the two issues should be seen to go together.

As I promised, we are licensing below 10 m. We have a programme of technical conservation measures, which are known by, and by and large approved by, the industry. The measures form a package that is designed to secure the industry's future and that of the fishermen. The policy is based on conservation and common sense. I commend it to the House and ask hon. Members to support the Government.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 213, Noes 294.

Division No. 99] [10 pm
Adams, Mrs Irene Armstrong, Hilary
Ainger, Nick Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Ashton, Joe
Allen, Graham Banks, Tony (Newham NW)
Alton, David Barnes, Harry
Anderson, Donald(Swansea E) Battle, John
Anderson, Ms Janet(Ros'dale) Bayley, Hugh
Beggs, Roy Hoon, Geoffrey
Beith, Rt Hon A. J. Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Bennett, Andrew F. Hoyle, Doug
Benton, Joe Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Bermingham, Gerald Hutton, John
Berry, Dr. Roger Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H)
Betts, Clive Jamieson, David
Boateng, Paul Johnston, Sir Russell
Boyce, Jimmy Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Bradley, Keith Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O)
Bray, Dr Jeremy Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW)
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Burden, Richard Jowell, Tessa
Byers, Stephen Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Caborn, Richard Kennedy, Charles (Ross,C&S)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Kennedy, Jane (Lpool Brdgn)
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Khabra, Piara S.
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Kilfoyle, Peter
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Kirkwood, Archy
Cann, Jamie Leighton, Ron
Carlile, Alexander (Montgomry) Lewis, Terry
Chisholm, Malcolm Litherland, Robert
Clapham, Michael Livingstone, Ken
Clark, Dr David (South Shields) Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Clelland, David Llwyd, Elfyn
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Loyden, Eddie
Coffey, Ann Lynne, Ms Liz
Connarty, Michael McAllion, John
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) McAvoy, Thomas
Corbyn, Jeremy McCartney, Ian
Cousins, Jim McCrea, Rev William
Cox, Tom Macdonald, Calum
Cryer, Bob McFall, John
Cunliffe, Lawrence McGrady, Eddie
Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE) Mackinlay, Andrew
Darling, Alistair McLeish, Henry
Davidson, Ian Maclennan, Robert
Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral) McMaster, Gordon
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) McNamara, Kevin
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) McWilliam, John
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'I) Madden, Max
Denham, John Mahon, Alice
Dixon, Don Mandelson, Peter
Dowd, Jim Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Dunnachie, Jimmy Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S)
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)
Eagle, Ms Angela Martlew, Eric
Eastham, Ken Meale, Alan
Etherington, Bill Michael, Alun
Ewing, Mrs Margaret Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Fatchett, Derek Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll Bute)
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Milburn, Alan
Flynn, Paul Miller, Andrew
Foster, Derek (B'p Auckland) Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)
Foster, Don (Bath) Moonie, Dr Lewis
Foulkes, George Morgan, Rhodri
Fraser, John Morley, Elliot
Fyfe, Maria Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Galbraith, Sam Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Gapes, Mike Mowlam, Marjorie
George, Bruce Mudie, George
Gerrard, Neil Mullin, Chris
Godman, Dr Norman A. Murphy, Paul
Godsiff, Roger Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Golding, Mrs Llin O'Brien, Michael (N W'kshire)
Graham, Thomas O'Hara, Edward
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) Olner, William
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Paisley, Rev Ian
Grocott, Bruce Pickthall, Colin
Gunnell, John Pike, Peter L.
Hain, Peter Pope, Greg
Hall, Mike Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Hanson, David Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lew'm E)
Hardy, Peter Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Heppell, John Primarolo, Dawn
Hill, Keith (Streatham) Purchase, Ken
Hinchliffe, David Quin, Ms Joyce
Hoey, Kate Raynsford, Nick
Hogg, Norman (Cumbernauld) Reid, Dr John
Home Robertson, John Roche, Mrs. Barbara
Rooney, Terry Tyler, Paul
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W) Walker, Rt Hon Sir Harold
Rowlands, Ted Wallace, James
Ruddock, Joan Walley, Joan
Salmond, Alex Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Sedgemore, Brian Wareing, Robert N
Shore, Rt Hon Peter Watson, Mike
Short, Clare Wicks, Malcolm
Skinner, Dennis Wigley, Dafydd
Smith, Andrew (Oxford E) Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)
Smith, C. (Isl'ton S & F'sbury) Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)
Spellar, John Wilson, Brian
Squire, Rachel (Dunfermline W) Winnick, David
Steinberg, Gerry Wise, Audrey
Stevenson, George Worthington, Tony
Strang, Dr. Gavin Wright, Dr Tony
Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury) Young, David (Bolton SE)
Taylor, Rt Hon John D. (Strgfd)
Taylor, Matthew (Truro) Tellers for the Ayes:
Tipping, Paddy Mr. Eric Illsley and Mr. Jack Thompson.
Trimble, David
Turner, Dennis
Adley, Robert Colvin, Michael
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) Congdon, David
Aitken, Jonathan Conway, Derek
Alexander, Richard Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st)
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby) Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Allason, Rupert (Torbay) Cope, Rt Hon Sir John
Amess, David Cormack, Patrick
Ancram, Michael Couchman, James
Arbuthnot, James Cran, James
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Critchley, Julian
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv) Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire)
Ashby, David Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon)
Aspinwall, Jack Davies, Quentin (Stamford)
Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E) Davis, David (Boothferry)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Day, Stephen
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley) Deva, Nirj Joseph
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North) Devlin, Tim
Baldry, Tony Dickens, Geoffrey
Bates, Michael Dorrell, Stephen
Batiste, Spencer Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Bellingham, Henry Dover, Den
Bendall, Vivian Duncan, Alan
Beresford, Sir Paul Duncan-Smith, Iain
Biffen, Rt Hon John Dunn, Bob
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Durant, Sir Anthony
Booth, Hartley Dykes, Hugh
Boswell, Tim Eggar, Tim
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham) Elletson, Harold
Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia Emery, Sir Peter
Bowden, Andrew Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)
Bowis, John Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)
Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)
Brandreth, Gyles Evans, Roger (Monmouth)
Brazier, Julian Evennett, David
Bright, Graham Faber, David
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Fabricant, Michael
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thorpes) Fenner, Dame Peggy
Browning, Mrs. Angela Field, Barry (lsle of Wight)
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) Fishburn, Dudley
Budgen, Nicholas Forman, Nigel
Burns, Simon Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Burt, Alistair Forth, Eric
Butcher, John Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Butler, Peter Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)
Butterfill, John Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley)
Carlisle, John (Luton North) Freeman, Roger
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) French, Douglas
Carrington, Matthew Fry, Peter
Carttiss, Michael Gale, Roger
Cash, William Gallie, Phil
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Gardiner, Sir George
Chaplin, Mrs Judith Garnier, Edward
Clappison, James Gillan, Cheryl
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ruclif) Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Gorst, John MacKay, Andrew
Grant, Sir Anthony (Cambs SW) Maclean, David
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N) McLoughlin, Patrick
Greenway, John (Ryedale) McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N) Madel, David
Grylls, Sir Michael Maitland, Lady Olga
Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn Major, Rt Hon John
Hague, William Malone, Gerald
Hamilton. Neil (Tatton) Marland, Paul
Hampson, Dr Keith Marlow, Tony
Hannam, Sir John Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)
Hargreaves, Andrew Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Haselhurst, Alan Mates, Michael
Hawkins, Nick Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Hawksley, Warren Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
Hayes, Jerry Merchant, Piers
Heald, Oliver Milligan, Stephen
Heathcoat-Amory, David Mills, Iain
Hendry, Charles Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Mitchell, Sir David (Hants NW)
Horam, John Moate, Roger
Hordern, Sir Peter Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A) Moss, Malcolm
Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk) Needham, Richard
Hughes Robert G. (Harrow W) Nelson, Anthony
Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W) Neubert, Sir Michael
Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne) Newton, Rt Hon Tony
Hunter, Andrew Nicholls, Patrick
Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Jack, Michael Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Jackson, Robert (Wantage) Norris, Steve
Jenkin, Bernard Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Oppenheim, Phillip
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Ottaway, Richard
Jones, Robert B. (W Hertfdshr) Page, Richard
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Paice, James
Key, Robert Patnick, Irvine
Kilfedder, Sir James Patten, Rt Hon John
King, Rt Hon Tom Pawsey, James
Kirkhope, Timothy Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Knapman, Roger Pickles, Eric
Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash) Porter, Barry (Wirral S)
Knight, Greg (Derby N) Porter, David (Waveney)
Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n) Portillo, Rt Hon Michael
Knox, David Powell, William (Corby)
Kynoch, George (Kincardine) Rathbone, Tim
Lait, Mrs Jacqui Redwood, John
Lang, Rt Hon Ian Richards, Rod
Lawrence, Sir Ivan Riddick, Graham
Legg, Barry Robathan, Andrew
Leigh, Edward Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn
Lennox-Boyd, Mark Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S)
Lidington, David Robinson, Mark (Somerton)
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent)
Lord, Michael Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela
Luff, Peter Ryder, Rt Hon Richard
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Sackville, Tom
Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas Thurnham, Peter
Shaw, David (Dover) Townend, John (Bridlington)
Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey) Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexl'yh'th)
Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian Tracey, Richard
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Tredinnick, David
Shersby, Michael Trend, Michael
Sims, Roger Twinn, Dr Ian
Skeet, Sir Trevor Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick) Viggers, Peter
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield) Walden, George
Soames, Nicholas Walker, Bill (N Tayside)
Speed, Sir Keith Waller, Gary
Spencer, Sir Derek Ward, John
Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset) Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs) Waterson, Nigel
Spink, Dr Robert Watts, John
Spring, Richard Wells, Bowen
Sproat, Iain Wheeler, Sir John
Squire, Robin (Hornchurch) Whitney, Ray
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John Whittingdale, John
Steen, Anthony Widdecombe, Ann
Stephen, Michael Wiggin, Jerry
Stern, Michael Wilkinson, John
Stewart, Allan Willetts, David
Streeter, Gary Wilshire, David
Sumberg, David Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Sweeney, Walter Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)
Sykes, John Wolfson, Mark
Tapsell, Sir Peter Wood, Timothy
Taylor, Ian (Esher) Yeo, Tim
Taylor, John M. (Solihull) Young, Sir George (Acton)
Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)
Thomason, Roy Tellers for the Noes:
Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V) Mr. David Lightbown and Mr. Sydney Chapman.
Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)

Question accordingly negatived.

Main Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That this House takes note of European Community Document No. 9697/92, relating to guide prices for fishery products for 1993, the proposals described in the unnumbered Explanatory Memorandum submitted by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on 7th December 1992, relating to total allowable catches and quotas for 1993, and the Government's intentions to negotiate the best possible fishing opportunities for the United Kingdom fishing industry for 1993 consistent with the requirements for conservation of fishing stocks.