HC Deb 14 July 1992 vol 211 cc1032-62
Mr. Channon

I beg to move amendment No. 7, in page 1, line 7, at end insert: '(1A) (a) In paragraph (a) of subsection (1), after the word "boats", there shall be inserted the words "of more than 17 metres overall"; and (b) in paragraph (b), after the word "boats", there shall be inserted the words "of more than 17 metres overall.".'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

It will be convenient to discuss the following: Amendment No. 8, in page 1, line 10, at beginning insert 'in respect of boats of over 17 metres overall,'. Government amendment No. 10.

Mr. Channon

The amendment deals with the inshore fleet and, in particular, with a group of fishermen in Leigh-on-Sea in my constituency and in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor). This is the first occasion on which I have intervened in a fishing debate—[Interruption.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. Will hon. Members leaving the Chamber, including those congregating at the back of the Chair, please do so quietly? That will enable the rest of us to hear the right hon. Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon).

Mr. Channon

The fishermen in my constituency who are particularly concerned about the Bill and would be helped by the amendment catch Dover sole, mainly in the Thames estuary, and they are already under considerable threat. They work on small boats, which usually have skipper-owners, and they do not travel enormous distances. The amount of pressure stocks that they can fish is already controlled. They are limited to about 40 stone of sole per month.

The size of the boats is limited under the rules of the Kent and Essex sea fisheries committee. That is why I propose that boats of less than 17 in should be exempt from the requirements of the Bill, or at least from its days-at-sea provisions. The livelihoods of these small, traditional fishermen are under threat and their conditions will be made much worse by the Bill.

To make a living, those fishermen must catch other fish than sole, which is their main catch. In particular, they go fishing for white weed, to which I referred in an intervention on an earlier amendment. White weed is a type of white coral, which is an extremely popular decoration, particularly in Holland. There is a considerable market for white weed, which they catch because their sole quotas are insufficient to enable them to make a living.

As the Bill and the proposed regulations stand, the number of days at sea which fishermen will he entitled to fish will be based on their fishing effort in 1991. But in 1991, all the fishing for white weed, eels and shellfish required no landing declaration. How, then, will they be able to prove that they were fishing on those days? Their allowable days will be based on an entirely false premise. I think that I heard my hon. Friend the Minister give an assurance on that point when we were debating new clause 1. Perhaps he will now spell out the precise situation, having had more time to consider the matter. Incidentally, I am grateful to him for the fact that there is to be a tribunal if no agreement can be reached with the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

7.30 pm

The Government should exempt those small boats altogether or, as a minimum, excuse them from the days-at-sea restriction. One of my constituents fished for sole for 61 days and for white weed for about 120 days in 1991. In future, his days at sea will be based on the 61 days and he will get no credit for the days that he spent fishing for white weed. That is most unfair and the system should not be adopted. If it has to be adopted, as an absolute minimum it should be based on an average of five years rather than simply on 1991, and days at sea spent fishing for non-notifiable species should be included.

As experts on fishing will know, 1991 was a particularly bad year for fishermen in my part of the country. They were extremely short of cod, but they will be penalised for the fact that they did much less cod fishing than usual in 1991. In general, my fishermen fish for only part of the day and rarely go out to sea for 24 hours; in many other parts of the country. enormous fishing boats go out to sea around the clock. Small fishermen will be particularly hit by the measures.

I have seen what the Kent and Essex sea fisheries committee says about the Bill, and I expect that my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham (Mr. Moate) has seen it, too. It says that the package of new measures which the Government are introducing appears to represent a significant threat to the inshore fishing industry in the committee's district, for reasons that I outlined. The committee says that if the Government's proposal to control effort and days at sea is accepted in its original form, it could effectively put out of business a large portion of the 10 m plus boats working from our district. It will certainly extremely curtail their current efforts and, in the long run, have an adverse effect on the value of those vessels.

The matter is serious, not to an enormous number of fishermen but to people from traditional families of fishermen who have been engaged in the fishing business for many years. Will my hon. Friend look at the matter again and see whether he can exempt the 10 m to 17 m boats? If he cannot go that far—I understand his difficulties, because those boats represent some 36 per cent. of the fishing fleet—I hope that he will meet some of my points.

All sorts of anomalies will arise under the Bill For example, boats that use nets will leave their nets out and go to sea less frequently and more and more fish will die. Those fishermen will not be particularly inconvenienced, but the measure will be bad for conservation. The measure is bad for small fishermen in my constituency and the constituencies of some of my hon. Friends in Kent and Essex. I hope that the Government can do something to meet the genuine fears of fishermen who live in my constituency.

Sir Teddy Taylor (Southend, East)

I hope that the Minister will be able to make a concession, because he can concede very little in the Bill.

As my right hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) so ably said, our constituents in Southend are extremely worried about the Bill, because there seems to be little that we can do about it. We have just discussed the possibility of a level playing field. We said that if our boats have to restrict the number of days, why could not the same rules apply to French boats? The Minister explained that, sadly, absolutely nothing can be done about it because of European law. Although I appreciate that that is a problem for politicians, the fact that we can do nothing about anything is a problem for all concerned. We can do nothing about matters such as unemployment and interest rates and the difficulty for those engaged in the fishing business is even greater. They see the possibility of a whole new bureaucracy and restrictions, and no good coming out of them.

Will the Minister answer a simple question: what would he lose if he accepted the excellent amendment tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West? It has been suggested that he make a concession on the number of boats. We are told that about a third of the boats are 17 m and below, but surely, as a part of the total fishing catch in any year, that is an insignificant number. We are not discussing the large boats that catch vast numbers of fish but a very small industry. If, by any chance, those small boats were to overfish, they would suffer the consequences.

The Minister should try to imagine the nonsensical bureaucracy through which the fishermen of Southend will have to go. It is obvious that we cannot base the number of their days at sea on the 1991 catch, because the fact that they engage in all kinds of fishing means that the information does not exist. They will probably have to start filling in forms, signing sworn statements, go to a tribunal and then appeal against the tribunal. If the tribunal appeal does not work, they may then be able to appeal to the Minister. The Minister may even find that some brave fishermen in Southend—there are plenty of those—will want to go to the High Court for a judicial review. What is the point of all that? How does anyone gain?

We know that there is a serious problem of overfishing by certain large boats, but the small fishermen gain nothing by going through that absurd nonsense. It will mean getting people to estimate valid days on the basis of what they think the situation is. While they are going before tribunals, filling in forms and discussing the matter with their colleagues, the French boats will be fishing in the same waters with no restrictions. How does that make sense? How is it fair? When people who do not study all the laws and procedures of Parliament see a measure passed which seems to be silly, costly and unfair, they will become extremely angry.

Will the Minister consider making a concession on this matter? What would be lost? The small 17 m boats could not rush round, kill vast numbers of fish and ruin the fishing industry. They simply do not have the capacity to do so; they make only a small contribution, to judge by their logbooks. It would be sensible to have an exemption for them. I have heard no argument against one. If, instead of allowing fishermen to go about their business, we make them fill in forms, go before tribunals and through all that costly, silly nonsense, that will he pointless.

Because of their enthusiasm for the EC, Labour Members will be well aware that we can do nothing about most of the measures in the Bill, because the EC has taken over and the power no longer rests here. However, the Minister could make a decision on this measure; the concession would do no damage, but would simply relieve fishermen in Southend and other places of much unnecessary hassle, stress and paperwork.

I hope, therefore, that, in that small area where the Minister still has some power and influence, he will use that influence in the best interests of the fishing industry and the fishermen so ably represented by my right hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West. I assure my right hon. Friend that, come what may, the fishermen of Southend appreciate what he has argued for and hope that the Minister will listen.

Mr. Moate

I believe that Government amendment No. 10 is grouped with amendment No. 7. May I respond to that, but begin by expressing my thanks to my hon. Friend the Minister? I may sometimes appear to be unreasonable in response to some of his points and I apologise for that. On this occasion, he has been most helpful and I am grateful to him for the steps that he has taken to help us with regard to the vessels measuring under 10 m. We discussed the matter at length in Committee and put forward clear arguments that, to apply days-at-sea regulations to small vessels, particularly those measuring under 10 m, would be extraordinarily difficult and unproductive. In effect, my hon. Friend had already conceded that by saying that it was not his desire to apply the regulations to the under 10 m vessels. None the less, the powers are there.

In response to our arguments in Committee the Minister helpfully said: We are not about to extend the restrictions. I will have a full process of consultation with the industry and I will give the House an opportunity to comment on the course of action that we then propose to take."—[Official Report, Standing Committee D, 2 July 1992; c. 183.] I hope that I am not quoting out of context. Clearly, if the Ministry feels that there is a need to extend the days-at-sea regulations to the under 10 m vessels, there will be another consultation process with the industry.

The Minister has gone further in Government amendment No. 10, for which I thank him. In effect, it says that there will be a further commencement order before any such rules are applied to the under 10m craft. He has been immensely helpful in saying that those resolutions will be subject to the affirmative procedure in both Houses of Parliament. That guarantees the industry further opportunities for consultation and Parliament further opportunities for debate.

I am most grateful to my hon. Friend for those assurances. I hope and believe that they will be welcome to the industry and will reassure many smaller fishermen who are genuinely worried about their livelihood. They had some reason to be worried, and here I come briefly to the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) about the 17 m boats.

I do not know whether we can be described as riparian Members of Parliament, having constituencies on an estuary, but on a fine day I can see my right hon. Friend's constituency and he can see mine. He has 17 m boats but most of mine are under 10 m. None the less, in a couple of weeks' time they will be competing in a trawler race. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am glad to hear that support from the Front Bench. But that poses the question whether a day at sea in a trawler race would count against the number of days at sea permitted under the regulations. One hopes not, and I am sure that my hon. Friend would say certainly not.

Mr. Curry

I think the answer is that it depends what they do with their nets. If they keep their nets on board, the answer is positively no—if they are not fishing.

Mr. Moate

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. He did not make such a helpful statement in Committee. He did not say that time spent at sea not fishing would not count against the days at sea permitted. That would mean that collecting white weed would presumably not count as fishing.

Mr. Curry

My hon. Friend is seeking to lead me much further down the path. His question was whether if there was a trawler race it would count against days at sea. My response was that if it were a trawler race, it would not.

Mr. Moate

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I and some fishermen had understood that a vessel not tied up in port would be subject to inspection and perhaps challenged as being at sea. This is a particular problem with the 17 m vessels and vessels fishing in our estuarial areas. Very little of their time is spent fishing precious stocks. Much of their time is taken up with a range of other activities such as going for oysters, non-notifiable stocks or white weed, they may be on pleasure trips, carrying angler parties or engaging in trawler races. Because it is so difficult to find quota stocks in the estuary, much time is often spent looking for alternative sources of income. That is why I hope that we shall never have to apply these tough regulations to the 17 m vessels.

In Committee, my hon. Friend mentioned the Dutch days-at-sea regulations. I was informed that they applied only when their fishermen were fishing for quota stocks. When they were not, they were free to pursue other activities at sea. If my hon. Friend can confirm that our regulations will be applied with equal flexibility and common sense, many of the fears of the smaller fishermen will disappear, because they will know that they can carry out a range of other activities freely as long as they are not endangering quota stocks.

I support what my right hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West said about 17 m vessels. I repeat my thanks to my hon. Friend the Minister for his helpful and constructive response on smaller vessels. I hope that he can meet the point about 17 m vessels, exempt them altogether or at least demonstrate a great deal of flexibility and help in response to the valid points made by my right hon. Friend.

7.45 pm
Mr. Curry

I hope that I shall be able to help my right hon. and hon. Friends, to some extent at least. My right hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) has introduced me to a new flora, white weed, which I did not expect to encounter in this debate and I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. One discovers things all the time. The answer to his question is that we are not interested in how much time is spent chasing white weed. That does not fall within the restrictions.

We are interested in the time that is spent fishing for fish. Fishermen engaged in activities other than fishing—for example, trips round the bay in a clearly definable period, fishing for white weed or ferrying people to an oil rig, an example that I have given before—could have their licence suspended for that period so that they would not then find themselves caught by the regulations. It is not our intention to deprive a fisherman of his due fishing entitlement.

My right hon. Friend and my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor) referred to the relative unimportance of vessels under 17 m in the fleet. However, they are a significant part of the fleet, comprising 61 per cent. of licensed vessels in England and Wales, catching 30 per cent. of the landings by licensed vessels. They are not a negligible part. If we were to exempt those vessels, an enormous part of the burden would fall upon the larger vessels, which the industry would see to be unfair.

However, I think that I can help my right hon. and hon. Friends. My hon. Friend the Member for Faversham (Mr. Moate) said that I gave a clear undertaking in Committee that I would reflect upon the question of the 10 m and under 10 m vessels. He will recall that at that point I said that I would invite the House to take a further view on the extension of the system, but that I could not in Committee commit myself to an affirmative resolution of both Houses. This amendment provides for an affirmative resolution of both Houses. We shall invite the smaller boats to provide information which enables us to find out what they are doing. That is the important thing. We shall then go to a more detailed sample and collect information on what the smaller vessels are doing and the pressure that they represent on the stocks.

Everyone will accept that some vessels under 10 m are powerful machines. If we exempted vessels under 17 m, a new generation of boats at 16.99 m would be designed. We have experience of the so-called rule beaters, or metre beaters as my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham describes them. That would cause some difficulty. However, we shall investigate which vessels have an important effect upon stocks. If we were to bring them within the system, it would only be after the consent of both Houses of Parliament.

I emphasise that I cannot think of a circumstance in which we would try to bring in the whole of that class of vessels. We would seek to identify those that clearly had an appreciable impact upon the stocks. That said, the Sea Fish Industry Authority, which represents the industry, has pointed to the beginnings of pressure on shellfish stock, and there is some pressure from the industry for conservation measures. I do not want to rule that out, but it would be a separate measure not related to this. It would be in response to a particular demand from the industry as a result of pressures upon those stocks.

Mr. David Shaw (Dover)

I have two interests in the matter, in that I represent a constituency which has a small number of inshore fishermen, and I am also concerned about small businesses. I trust that neither will be subjected to a lot of bureaucracy. Is it the intention that small boats and small fishing operations will be exempted from any regulations, and will there be an opportunity for extensive consultation before any regulations affecting smaller vessels are introduced?

Mr. Curry

We will of course consult widely before introducing any such regulations. We shall have to judge which vessels we eventually suggest to the House ought to be included, in the light of their impact on stocks. However, those that my hon. Friend described make only a small impact—and that would be true of such vessels no matter where they were. I do not imagine that cost-benefit analysis would indicate that it would make sense to bring them within the system. We are trying to include vessels that make an appreciable impact on stocks. I am confident that we shall be able to work out the track records, and I will write to my right hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West and to my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham about how we intend to do that, if that will be acceptable.

Mr. Channon

Our great worry is how one can prove that a vessel has been fishing when no landing declaration was required in 1991. I have many examples of daily returns to MAFF numbering fewer than one half the days fished because the balance was made up by effort on shellfish, eels and other species for which no landing declaration was required. How can that be overcome, to ensure a reasonable allocation in 1993?

Mr. Curry

The days-at-sea allocation will be made on the basis of 1991 track records, but they are not available for some vessels that landed TAC species only on some of their trips. All vessels over 17 m in length landing TAC species are required to submit logbook returns and landing declarations. Vessels over 10 m but not exceeding 17 m catching TAC species are not required to submit logbook returns for trips of less than 24 hours, but for such trips they are required to submit landing declarations or equivalent data. The declaration states the date of departure and of return, and therefore the days at sea can be calculated.

The appeals procedure will deal with those fishermen who feel that they are entitled to a larger allocation of days at sea, and it will make use of independent and specialist advice. I hope that we shall be able to settle disputes by discussion in the first instance. We intend to be sensible and flexible. Only if we are unable to reach agreement—and our fisheries inspectors are very experienced—will there be recourse to the statutory tribunal.

Mr. Brian Wilson (Cunninghame, North)

While there will be information on pressure stock catches and landings, and on the number of days at sea, it appears that there will be no equivalent information about catches of other species, where there is no requirement to register them. How will that information be taken into account in formulating the permitted catch for such vessels?

Mr. Curry

We should be able to make some of the allocation involving non-TAC species by reference to voluntary returns. We may also find it possible to determine the days-at-sea allocation using a formula based on days per tonne of fish landed calculated from voluntary returns. We looked hard at that aspect and accept that it is not straightforward. We know that none of this is straightforward, but we believe that, with common sense, we can work it out.

Sir Teddy Taylor

When my hon. Friend the Minister says that the authorities will be "sensible and flexible", does he envisage that a fisheries inspector will negotiate vessel by vessel, or that there be an overall allocation? Will individual vessel owners have to make their case to the inspector—and if they are not happy, will reference be made to a tribunal, might an appeal be lodged, and so on? Or will the Minister make an overall decision in respect of vessels fishing out of, for example, Scotland?

Mr. Curry

I made it clear that we intend to make individual allocations. We will not apply a blunt, blanket formula. I gave that pledge at the earliest stages of the Bill, and I am pleased to repeat it. In the light of my remarks, I hope that my right hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West will feel able to withdraw his amendment, and that the House will accept the measure that I have suggested—which fulfils the obligation into which I entered in Committee.

Mr. Morley

I welcome the Minister's remarks in respect of boats under 10 m, which are an improvement on those made in Committee, when the issue was discussed in terms of an affirmative order. His proposal introduces some accountability in terms of any change that might apply to boats under 10 m. Some of them, however, will be caught by the restriction. Although the Minister has tried to be reasonable and helpful, there will be some hard cases to deal with in terms of track records, fishing activities, and which vessels should be covered by the rule. There will be some difficult borderline cases. Also, all the bureaucracy involved in administering the regulations will be imposed on small business people who are already subject to a lot of stress—not least in making their living.

We welcome the improvement to the original Bill, but we remain concerned about the provision's effects on vessels of under 10 m, and on the many thousands of small business people around our coasts.

Mr. Channon

Although we are against people having to go to tribunals, thank goodness they exist. If there is a manifest case of injustice, it can be dealt with. Let us hope that is a step forward. My hon. Friend the Minister said that he would write to me, but perhaps I may press him further. If I, or those more expert than I, find that small fishermen are still worried about the situation, will my hon. Friend receive a deputation of Southend fishermen, accompanied by my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) and myself, so that we may explain to him in detail the points of remaining concern?

Mr. Curry

If we can find a date, I will come to Southend.

Mr. Channon

I might even make my hon. Friend travel on the misery line. He can then kill two birds with one stone, and report on it to the Department of Transport. My hon. Friend the Minister has not fully met my points, but we have made some progress this evening. I therefore beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Morley

I beg to move amendment No. 1, in page 1, line 11, at end insert ', provided that it shall be a condition of any licence granted under this section which contains a condition under paragraph (c) above pursuant to those regulations that any days on which such a restriction applies should be spent at a port nominated in advance by the owner or charterer of the vessel.'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this it will be convenient to consider the following amendments: No. 2, in page 1, line 11 at end insert 'provided that it shall be a condition of any licence granted under this section which contains a condition under paragraph (c) above that a proportion of days spent in port pursuant to these regulations may, at the direction of the Minister, be taken in any United Kingdom port.'. No. 17, in page 1, line 11, at end insert 'provided that, in respect of any British-registered vessel regardless of nationality of ownership, any day which is not to be spent at sea as a result of a condition under this paragraph shall be spent in a British port.'. No. 19, in page 1, line 11, at end insert 'provided that the period of restriction shall not exceed 4 days in any month, or 48 days in any period of twelve months.'. No. 20, in page 1, line 16, at end insert '; but time spent in fishing for shellfish shall not count as time spent at sea'. No. 21, in page 1, line 16, at end insert '(6C) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (6B) above, any day or part of a day during which a fishing vessel sails to its home port or to a port in which it is to undergo repair shall not count towards the number of days spent at sea as long as no fishing is undertaken during the voyage.'.

Mr. Morley

The House now has an opportunity to deal positively with the problem of foreign vessels that register as British and are therefore legally entitled to fish on the United Kingdom quota. The Government tried to tackle that problem, which has existed for some years, by amending the Merchant Shipping Act 1988, to try to restrict the vessels that went on the United Kingdom register according to the nationality of their ownership. That was doomed to failure, because of the Government's commitment to a single market within the European Community. It was never likely to stand up in court.

Although quota hoppers were stopped from fishing—the fishing was suspended—the owners of the vessels concerned brought a case against the British Government in the European Court on the ground of discrimination on the basis of nationality. They argued that, if the Community was moving towards an open market, it was wrong for a member state to discriminate in licence conditions on the ground of nationality rather than the business that was being pursued. They won that case.

What worries me, apart from the current position, is the fact that such people are entitled to claim damages from the Government for the fishing time that they have lost. What is even more serious is the possibility that they will try to claim a track record as well. When we were discussing days-at-sea restrictions, the Minister said that he would have to try to calculate a national track record to be spread among the various vessels, on the basis of the targets laid down for us by the multi-annual guidance programme of the European Community.

The problem of having quota hoppers on our register is twofold. First, they will inflate the fleet, because every vessel that appears on the United Kingdom register is counted as a British fishing vessel, thus adding to our problem of over-capacity. Secondly, any problem involving retrospective track records may have to be included in the target figures that the Minister will have to meet. I shall be interested to hear his comments on that.

8 pm

Amendments Nos. 1, 2 and 16 provide the Minister with a helpful opportunity to try to deal with the problem of quota hoppers. They offer him three different ways of doing that. They present the principle of using licence conditions in a way that blatantly favours British vessels. I am not suggesting that any individual should be discriminated against on grounds of nationality; I am saying that, if people are registering their fishing boats as British, sailing under the red ensign and applying for British fishing licences, they must expect to obey the conditions of those licences, whatever they may be. If those conditions are laid down for all licence holders in the country, and if they are applied fairly and equally, it is clearly not a case of discrimination.

Some of the amendments suggest that, if days must be spent in port, they should be spent in a British port. It is stretching a point to allow vessels that are registered as British to be based in Spain, to operate in Spain, to land in Spain and to enter United Kingdom ports rarely if at all. There is no reason why such vessels should not adhere to the licence conditions that apply to our British ships.

There is also a practical implication—the question of enforcement. If vessels are operating from foreign ports, who is to make sure that the enforcement is carried out? Who will make sure that the vessels spend their days tied up in port as a condition of their British licences? How will the Ministry do that? We discussed the issue in Committee, but the Minister has not yet given us a satisfactory answer about how it could be done and what the cost would be. Will MAFF fishery inspectors be based in Spain, Holland and France to ensure that vessels abide by the regulations?

It should be said that, for various reasons, genuine British vessels operate from foreign ports. Equally, genuine British vessels may want to fulfil some of their days-at-sea restrictions in a foreign port: they may have entered into a contract for refitting, they may have been landing there or it may suit their operational arrangements. That is why one of the amendments gives the Minister the option of making it a licence condition for those who are to spend that time in port to nominate the port in advance to the Minister, so that he will know where they are. Even if it is a foreign port, it will be a nominated foreign port, which will make the measure much easier to enforce.

Mr. Curry

Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that boat owners should notify Ministers of the port where they intend to spend the entire period for which they will be tied up, or does he mean that they may have to name the port in which they will spend each specific day?

Mr. Morley

In typically generous fashion, I am deliberately giving the Minister an opportunity to make such decisions for himself, thus allowing him the maximum flexibility. That not only helps the Minister, but deals with a serious problem. A number of vessels are still coming on to the register, and the Minister should spare a thought for what that will do to our capacity targets. The implication is that, for every foreign vessel that comes on to our register and flies the British flag, there will be another over-capacity problem for the Minister to handle.

If the Minister is determined to apply the measures in the Bill, he may as well take the opportunity to use the amendments to try to end an anomaly in British law and solve the problem of quota hoppers. I accept that this is a tricky legal area; some of the amendments may need some technical knocking into shape, and I should welcome an assurance from the Minister that he is prepared to examine them further. I shall not be impressed, however, if the Minister says that his legal advisers have told him that the amendments will not work. I strongly suspect that they are the same people who advised on amendments to the Merchant Shipping Act 1988, which did not work at all, and I think that we should exercise some common sense.

Mr. Moate

The position is not merely anomalous, as suggested by the hon. Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley); I find quota hopping offensive and outrageous, and I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister—or other Ministers—will tell us at some stage of the Bill's progress what the Government will do, or try to do, to deal with it.

No doubt my hon. Friend will describe the immense legal difficulties involved and will enlarge on the legal dilemma—touched on by the hon. Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe—that now confronts us. Although the position may be legally complex, there must be a political solution. It is outrageous that the European Community should allocate national quotas to us and then allow those quotas to be undermined by another Community rule. "Outrageous" is a strong word, but I suspect that my sense of outrage is widely shared. Why should British quotas be taken up by Spanish vessels? If Spanish vessels register in British ports, we accept that they have found their way through a legal loophole; none the less, the position is unacceptable.

We make much of the fact that, for the next six months, Britain will have the European Commission presidency. I gather that we are renegotiating protocols to the Maastricht treaty, among other things. Why can we not renegotiate another protocol to deal with the quota anomaly? I am sure that the European lawyers could come up with some amendment to the Maastricht treaty to deal with the provision and to make it acceptable in European law. Presumably our European partners intended the quotas to work for British fishermen; let us translate that intention into practice. If the amendments are unacceptable, I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will tell us what the Government plan. Are they going to try to do something, or do they intend to sit back and accept the present untenable position?

If we cannot control or prevent quota hopping, a number of alternatives are on offer, by which we could try to control quota hoppers who, presumably, will operate under the British days-at-sea regulations. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will tell us how he intends to ensure that the British days-at-sea regulations apply to Common Market vessels fishing in British waters. If he cannot do so, there will be an even greater sense of outrage among British fishermen when they are tied up and see Dutch, Belgian or French fishermen fishing in our waters. My hon. Friend knows that that is unacceptable. We have to find ways to overcome the problem.

The hon. Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe put forward some practical ideas. They may not be perfect, but they are certainly worthy of examination. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will respond today or, if necessary, at some other time and tell us how he intends to apply the days-at-sea regulations to foreign vessels and, more importantly, what the British Government's plan of campaign will be to eliminate the problem of quota hoppers, in conjunction with our European partners. My hon. Friend the Minister sighs. I know that it is a difficult problem to solve, but there has to be a political solution, in conjunction with our European partners. If partnership means anything, let us put it on the agenda and deal with the issue during our presidency of the European Commission.

Mr. Curry

What my hon. Friend thought was a sigh was the tail end of sinusitis.

Mr. Archy Kirkwood (Roxburgh and Berwickshire)

I support the submissions by the hon. Members for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley) and for Faversham (Mr. Moate). It is important for the House of Commons to understand the extent of the outrage felt by the industry, to which they so eloquently referred. The Government must be left in absolutely no doubt about the sense of unfairness that the Government have created among the fishing communities, because of the legal bind into which they have got themselves.

I am concerned about the effects of the whole measure on small communities and, in particular, on small-scale businesses in the smaller ports. I underscore the need for an answer to the question about how quota hopping will affect capacity targets. The vital question was raised, fairly, by the hon. Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe. However, the issue is much wider than that. If the quota-hopping trend continues in this worrying way in relation to Spanish vessels and, in particular, to Dutch beamers, we run the risk of driving a coach and horses through the whole concept of relative stability and the share of total allowable catches.

That, in its own way, will have an important potential impact on the review of the common fisheries policy. This is not a temporary problem. We shall have to deal with it over a long period. It may have a fundamental impact on the way in which the common fisheries policy operates in this country in the years to come.

It is right not to make light of the fact that these are legal questions. They were all caused by the European Court of Justice when it exposed our industry to the predations of other European Community fishing fleets. That, combined with the unilateral imposition of days tied up that this measure unilaterally brings about, creates very great difficulties for our fishing fleets.

It is not just a matter of finding a way through the legal problems. The Minister cannot just sit back and listen to his legal advisers and then sigh, or say that he has sinusitis. The House and the industry deserve at least an update on the Department's current thinking on this important subject.

Apart from the legal difficulties, there are enforcement difficulties. The amendments go to the heart of the questions that are in the minds of small fishing communities throughout the length and breadth of the United Kingdom. They concern the way in which the Minister intends to police the provisions. Cast-iron, copper-bottomed guarantees have to be built into the enforcement procedures.

Like the hon. Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe, who so eloquently moved amendment No. 1, I do not know whether it is technically in order. However, the amendment, and those grouped with it, go to the heart of the question that ordinary people on quaysides throughout the United Kingdom are asking: how can the provisions be enforced unless there is a move in the direction outlined in these important amendments?

If a fair scheme of implementation is not written into the Bill, fishing communities will be justifiably outraged. The Bill discriminates against the way in which the industry operates in this country. The question of enforcement must be dealt with.

8.15 pm

There is a great deal of confusion about the tie-up regulations. This issue was raised in Committee. Unfortunately, I was not one of those who was chosen to serve on the Committee, but I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) represented my interests assiduously and played an important part in its work. There is great uncertainty about the regulations. They must be clarified, either here or later in the Bill's passage through Parliament, or by means of a statutory instrument or whatever other device the Minister decides to use.

The best way to deal with the issue is put forward in the amendments. That would entail the inclusion of restrictions in the licences. I can think of no better way of resolving the problem. The spirit and intention of the amendments are clear. They have a defined purpose. They are necessary. I have great pleasure in supporting them wholeheartedly.

Mr. Rupert Allason (Torbay)

The objective of amendment No. 19, which stands in my name, is to limit the Minister's power. I make no apology for that. As has already been pointed out, the powers being vested in the Minister under the terms of the original Bill—I appreciate that he has made certain commitments—are wholly unacceptable. Under its original terms, it would be possible for the Minister to ban fishing on every day of the year except Christmas day. Just to give the Minister such enormous power, even assuming that no sensible Minister would come anywhere close to using it, would undermine the livelihood of many thousands of fishermen throughout the country—in particular, the livelihood of the fishermen in my constituency. More than a dozen boats and their crews operate from the Torbay constituency, although the boats are moored mainly in Brixham.

The objective of the amendment is to limit the Minister's powers. My constituents and, I believe, everyone in the industry accept the need to conserve fish stocks. They represent their future, but the question is how fish stocks are to he conserved. Quotas do not work. If they did, the Bill would be unnecessary and we should not be debating it this evening. As my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham (Mr. Moate) said, the concept of quotas is deeply flawed, especially as foreign vessels—the so-called quota hoppers—take advantage of our quotas. That leads to consideration of the technical means to limit catches. Clearly, there would not be a need for an effort control exercise if the technical means worked.

What has gone wrong with quotas? I believe that we are the only country in the European Community to take any notice of them. I do not believe for one moment that the French exercise any control over their fishing fleets. It became perfectly clear a few weeks ago that there were no enforcement oflicers or inspectors in French ports to exercise control or to police French fleets. Quotas have come to an end, and that is the heart of the problem. There can be nothing more galling for a British fisherman than to accept the principle of conserving fish stocks and to tie up his vessel, only to watch a foreign boat come to exactly the area that he would like to fish, for that boat to fish to its heart's content and then to claim off the British quota.

That is the position of the British skipper. We should bear in mind the fact that skippers and their crews are not rich men. I have seen their landing documents, and I know the size of their catches. They are barely making a living and rely on the good will of their bank managers: it is as simple as that. One of the great problems with the Bill is that it undermines the relationship between the skippers and their bank managers.

Skippers have been able to get loans and operate on large overdrafts on the understanding that they carry on with their livelihood, catch fish and pay their debts. As soon as the bank managers read in the newspapers that their customers' livelihood is subject to the will and whim of a Minister, it dramatically undermines their confidence in the skippers' ability to pay the interest on their loans.

The amendment would limit the Minister's powers. As I understand it, the Minister has agreed that the limit that he proposes to put on the days at sea is to be directly linked to the days at sea of each individual vessel in 1991. I welcome that, and I also welcome the introduction of an independent appeals tribunal. Clearly, the moment the Minister says he is going to reduce his powers and accepts a finite limit, there is bound to be argument about what the 1991 level was for each vessel. I thank the Minister for the commitment to the 1991 limit and for the introduction of the independent appeals tribunal. However, some confusion remains, and I hope that the Minister will deal with one issue in particular.

Some of my hon. Friends believe that the Minister's commitment to a 1991 limit is directly linked to the French and to our European partners introducing similar limits. From his remarks, I understand that the 1991 level will be introduced immediately and that any future step to reduce the figures will first have to come before the House but, in any event, will not be brought before the House or the other place unless our European partners agree to similar limits.

There could be nothing more galling for British fishermen than to be the first victims of Maastricht. If we are honest, we must concede that Maastricht is the reason that the Bill has been introduced in this way. As the fishermen have said, the Bill was introduced before the end of the consultation period. Surely it is because the Maastricht Bill has effectively come to a dead end—and not a day too soon—that there was a gap in Government legislation.

It was a mismanagement of the House's affairs to produce a Bill with such wide powers, but to do so before the end of a consultation period seems to show a certain arrogance or incompetence, or both. I am profoundly disappointed, because the Bill has created an enormous feeling of ill will among fishermen who accept that conservation is necessary.

Amendment No. 20 covers shellfish fishermen. I am attempting to exclude them from the legislation in every regard except that of decommissioning payments. I understand that there is a lot more to the issue than meets the eye. It is a European matter, and the Commissioner will have a say, so the Minister is not his own master. I should be interested to hear what the Minister has to say about shellfish fishermen.

The shell fishermen themselves recognise the need for good conservation measures. When I spoke to them, they mentioned two particular proposals. I hope that my hon. Friend will agree to listen to the proposals and will discuss them with the fishermen. First, the fishermen are willing to increase the size of the lobsters they catch, which will, of course, reduce the total catch but will mean that there will be more stock available and more breeding stock.

Secondly, at present the so-called cripples—the crabs which have lost one claw—are caught. I understand that the shellfish fishermen would be willing to throw back the cripples. Such crabs are not as valuable as others. They are being caught at present but could be thrown back and could become part of an important stock.

I am grateful for many of the Minister's remarks and for the concessions that he has made. There will be a broad welcome for the fact that he has recognised the fact that the blank cheque which he had proposed to write himself would be unacceptable to the House.

There must be a long-term measure to protect shellfish stocks around our coasts. There is no alternative to a licensing system, which I believe the shellfish fishermen would welcome. I am disappointed that such a system is not proposed in the Bill. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will give a firm undertaking to consider the needs of shellfish fishermen, the need to preserve stock and the need to introduce at some stage a sensible method of licensing.

8.30 pm
Mr. Salmond

Let me take the opportunity afforded by amendment No. 21 to revisit a subject with which the Minister is familiar. May we have an exact definition of what constitutes a day at sea and, in particular, clarification of whether a day spent sailing to or from a home port or going into another port for repairs will constitute a day's fishing for the purposes of the Bill? I read what the Minister had to say about that in Committee, although I confess I was none the wiser: The model is more of an a la carte, 135-day tie-up, than a dirigiste, inflexible eight-day tie-up."—[Official Report, Standing Committee; 23 June 1992, c. 44.] I regard the Bill as more of a dog's breakfast than an a la carte meal, but we are certainly due some explanaiton of whether a vessel going to or from a home port, or to a port elsewhere for repairs, counts as a day's fishing.

The Bill says: A licence containing a condition restricting the time which a vessel may spend at sea may make provision as to the circumstances in which time is, or is not, to count as time spent at sea. The amendment specifies that time spent by a vessel sailing to or from a home port or going in for repairs would not constitute time spent at sea.

Those who follow the affairs of the fishing industry will recall that a similar argument occurred during the debate on the eight-day continuous tie-up. I pointed out then that a vessel sailing the short distance from Whitehills to MacDuff, a major port, for repairs, would be counted as breaching the tie-up regulations. Would a vessel making the same journey be counted under the Bill as taking another day at sea, or does the Minister intend to discount time spent in that way?

In Committee, the Minister's response to those questions, which it is legitimate to ask of a Minister who is seeking such extensive powers, was that everything would be flexible. He said that everything would depend on individual circumstances and that he intended to consult the industry and see what came out of that consultation. We need to know more about what progress he has made since then, and whether he is clear in his own mind whether a vessel undergoing such trips will or will not be counted as taking a day at sea.

The Minister will recall that much concern was expressed about this question in respect of the continuous eight-day tie-up in Scotland. Implicit in what I am saying is the fear of discrimination between ports. Clearly, if fishing boats land in a port away from their home port, and if a trip to the home port for repairs is to be counted against fishing time, they will tend to stay at that port.

On 7 March last year, I presented a petition from the Fraserburgh harbour traders expressing precisely that concern. Yesterday I received a charming note from the Clerk of Public Petitions, telling me, pursuant to Standing Order No. 135, that, having had the petition for 16 months, the Scottish Office had no observations to make on its contents. Even by Scottish Office standards, 16 months is a long time to take to say nothing. I repeat that we are due some explanation from the Minister on this important matter.

The Minister cannot have drafted the Bill without having a clear view on whether time spent at sea that is not spent fishing will or will not be counted as a day spent at sea. In Committee, he argued that the present provisions were quite different from the prescriptive "dirigiste" continuous tie-up proposal. If he is to honour that, he must give us some idea of how the flexibility that he promised will be implemented. The fishing industry would greatly appreciate a straight answer to a straight question: is time spent going to and from a home port or for repairs in another port to be counted as a day at sea?

Mr. Harris

I shall direct my remarks to the amendments intended to ensure that some control is exercised over the so-called quota hoppers or flag-of-convenience vessels, to which I might apply even stronger terms. I have been trying to fight these wretched vessels for a dozen years or more, both in this place and, before that, in the European Parliament, because I believe that they have posed and continue to pose a tremendous threat to our own fishing industry, particularly in Cornwall.

One of the worst aspects of the Bill so far—again, I look to my hon. Friend the Minister to table amendments or give reassurance—is that it is clear that the tie-up measures cannot be applied to quota hoppers under the existing arrangements. Technically, the boats are British boats and appear on our register, although in reality they are nothing of the sort. Many of them are Spanish boats. If the Minister gets a holiday this summer, perhaps he should spend part of it in northern Spain—in Coruna, for example. Much to my wife's annoyance, I went there one Sunday morning last summer while I was on holiday. Numerous boats had British registration numbers painted on them. There were boats from Penzance, Plymouth, the east coast of England and Scotland.

Mr. Moate

What a farce!

Mr. Harris

Yes, it is a farce. They are no more British boats than are Spanish or French boats that carry the registration of their true home port in Spain or France. In reality, because they operate mainly from Spanish ports, there is no way that we shall be able to exercise effective control over them under the tie-up arrangements.

In a letter to The Western Morning News last week, my hon. Friend the Minister said that the Bill applied to such vessels. Of course it applies, but, at present, its application is only theoretical because the Minister and his officials cannot enforce it. They do not know how many days a particular boat spends tied up in a Spanish port, and they have no power to go there and demand to know.

I hope that the Minister will go some way towards meeting our objections. I have had some discussions with him and I believe that he has some proposals that may help. I look forward to hearing what they are. If my hon. Friend feels that I have been hard on him today—and perhaps I have—let me pay tribute to him and to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. No two Ministers could have worked harder to try to rid us of the plague of quota hoppers. They have both worked extremely hard.

Late in the day, urged by the industry and several hon. Members, including me, the Government introduced the Merchant Shipping Act 1988. I know that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, monitor these matters carefully from your constituency. No doubt you will recall that section 2 of that Act set up a fishing register, giving us a chance to start again and get rid of those wretched boats, which should never have been on our original all-vessel register in the first place. We all knew what would happen then: part of that Act was challenged in our own courts and, perhaps more important, in the European court.

I read the vitriolic comments of a certain columnist in The Sunday Telegraph, who tried to imply that, in recent years, my hon. Friend the Minister and his Department have been lax in allowing the boats on to our register, and almost that they welcomed them on to our register. That is completely untrue. The ships were able to get back on to the register because of the diabolical decision of the European Court of Justice, and that is why the Bill has been introduced. I am convinced that the Government were hoping for a reduction in the size of our fleet by removing the quota hoppers from our register under the 1988 Act. That would have gone a long way towards meeting the target that the Commission will eventually set for a reduction in catch capacity.

We face difficult problems tonight because of the decision of the European Court and the return of some of those quota hoppers to our register. If the Government want to enforce tying up on our boats, it is incumbent on them to make serious and effective efforts to ensure that the Dutch and Spanish boats, which are technically ours, but which really have nothing to do with us, are subjected to the same tying-up regulations. I look forward to hearing from my hon. Friend how he intends to bring that about.

Mr. Ainger

I want to refer to amendments Nos. 1, 2 and 17, which do not address the issue of the controls that should be placed on quota hoppers. I will refer to amendment No. 20 later in relation to shellfish fishing.

As the hon. Member who represents Milford Haven, which has the largest number of quota hoppers in Britain, I am aware that the quota hoppers from Milford Haven, Penzance and Plymouth may well be able to form their own fish producers organisation. I am sure that hon. Members recognise that the people in the south-west and on the west coast of Wales face an extremely serious problem.

The hon. Member for St_ Ives (Mr. Harris) said that he saw fish being landed in north Spanish ports such as Coruna and Vigo. We could perhaps stick a label on that fish stating, "This is British fish, but untouched by British hands." Even when quota hoppers land fish in ports like Milford Haven, that fish is not touched by British workers. It provides no benefits to the local economy. The fish literally passes from a Spanish vessel—for that is what they are—into the back of a Spanish lorry. The fish is then driven on to a ferry and off to markets in Spain.

That is the main reason why we should insist on every possible legal restriction on quota hoppers. It is not just a matter of jobs being lost at sea and unfair competition. More importantly, what should he a British product loses its value because it is not being landed or processed in our ports.

Current legislation requires the quota hoppers to make only four visits in every six months which last a minimum of 12 hours. That is the only time that they have to be in a British port by law. Amendments Nos. 2 and 17 provide that, when days-at-sea restrictions are imposed on those so-called British vessels, they should be applied and monitored in a British port. That is the only possible way that those cowboys or pirates will abide by the law.

As the hon. Member for St. Ives said, the issue has caused an awful amount of friction in my part of the country and in his. Having tried the Merchant Shipping Act 1988 and been knocked back by the European Court, we can use the amendments to offer one of the few opportunities to impose restrictions and control on those pirates. However, the Minister refuses to take the opportunity. Perhaps he will respond differently, particularly after his apparent concession earlier.

8.45 pm

In many of the small ports, and in some that we certainly would not call ports, the shellfish fishermen who work crabs and lobsters off the west coast of Wales are absolutely staggered that the Government are proposing to impose days-at-sea limits on them. They cannot see the logic in that. The South Wales Shellfish Fishermen's Association, together with other shellfish fishermen's associations, has offered proposals to the Government to increase the minimum landing size of crabs and lobsters. They have pointed out to the Minister that the new EC regulations on measurements of lobsters will mean that smaller lobsters will be landed. Those organisations have told the Minister that he should get hold of Mr. Marin and sort the problem out. I am glad to learn from a parliamentary reply that the Minister appears to be doing just that.

The fishermen's associations claim, quite sensibly, that there are far easier ways to limit effort and thereby increase conservation. For example, the number of pots that a boat is allowed to work could be limited. The size of pots could also be limited. In relation to shellfish fishermen, the gear option, not days at sea, is the right way to increase conservation.

As I said earlier, the number of days that shellfish fishermen can spend at sea may be limited if the Minister has his way. However, they will maximise the time that they spend at sea by working the pots for 24 hours a day in two runs, instead of for 12 hours a day in one run. However, in that respect, they will still comply with the days-at-sea regulation.

The shellfish fishermen's organisations constantly provide the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, local officers and local committees with suggestions for ways in which more conservation can be built into the way in which they operate. It would be a significant concession if the Minister were prepared to sit down with the relevant organisations that want to talk seriously about conservation of shellfish.

I remind the Minister that, in the latest EC document about the multi-annual guidance programmes for the period 1993–96 for fishing fleets, the suggested base for fishing methods should, for static gear fisheries including shellfish, mean no reduction of effort. However, the Minister insists on imposing reduction in effort and restrictions on days at sea on the shellfishery.

I urge the Minister to think again, particularly about quota hoppers. The Minister would receive unanimous support in the House if he were to impose restrictions on the quota hoppers. I am sure that the House would welcome any movement that would improve conservation in our shellfishery without imposing restrictions on days at sea.

Mr. John Townend (Bridlington)

Although the Bridlington fishermen welcome some of the proposals in the Bill, particularly in respect of licensing for smaller boats and the one-net rule, they have great reservations about the effect that the days-at-sea proposal will have on their livelihoods.

While, by and large, they are not affected by quota hoppers, I support the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives (Mr. Harris) about what I believe is an abuse of the common fisheries policy. That is not the Government's fault. They legislated, but unfortunately we were overruled in the European Court.

It is strange that we proposed legislation on restricting days at sea when we had a quota system. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Torbay (Mr. Allason) that quotas are not working. That is absolutely true. If quotas had been working, we would have been able to increase them rather than reduce them every year. If we had quotas, it would be nonsense to bring in regulations that prevented our fishermen from fishing their quota while fishermen from other EC countries were free to fish their quotas. I took up that matter with my hon. Friend the Minister and he assured me that that was not the intention, and that, if it became clear that our fishermen would not be able to catch enough fish to cover quotas, he would take action and extend their days at sea. I thought that that was a reasonable reply, and naturally I conveyed it to Bridlington fishermen. I regret to say that it did not pacify them. They said: It is therefore our view that the answers being given by the Minister cannot be given and will never come to fruition. Firstly, the EEC has a condition for compliance with its multi annual guidance programme is currently suggesting fleet reduction in capacity and net terms of 40 per cent. for our time of vessel"— that is, commercial trawlers. They go on: The Ministry in its wisdom, as an alternative to a decommissioning scheme has argued that the prime element of the policy be directed at effort limitation, namely, by means of day-at-sea restrictions. As the MAGP will be cast in stone"— That is what my fishermen fear— and will not relate directly to quota uptake, you will see that there will be very little room for quota manoeuvrability. While a counter assurance may be given to that effect which also from past experience with the north sea tie-up provisions for quota industries, I would suggest that the previous conditions were implicit on the quota regulations and as such could be relaxed. If my fishermen have got it wrong, I ask my hon. Friend the Minister to repeat, so that it is on the record, that, if the regulations that are being brought in by the Bill prevent our fishermen from catching their quota, he will take action to see that that quota may be fished. If he can give that undertaking, it would certainly help to reduce my reservations about the Bill.

Our fishermen are very worried about weather and what effect it will have on days at sea. We suffer from much bad weather in the North sea around the coast of Bridlington and Scarborough. We are particularly vulnerable to winds from the east to the south-west, which make predictions of tie-up days almost impossible at times.

This year, many Bridlington vessels which are caught by the EC's tie-up restrictions have found that the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has been singularly inflexible in relation to sudden changes in weather conditions, preferring to accept a morass of paper work from our fishermen for nine hours in advance of the tie-up date. The system is, in short, a bureaucratic nightmare and singularly inflexible to our fishermen, and does not take account of sudden changes in the weather.

Those are relevant points. Again, I ask my hon. Friend to give an assurance that will satisfy me and the Bridlington fishermen whom I represent that adequate note will be taken of the weather and that he will investigate the bureaucratic snarl-ups that have occurred in his Ministry in the past. Those points should be dealt with, because there is a great danger of misunderstanding. I am sure that my hon. Friend is aware of the fishermen's concern and of the financial pressures that they are under. I should like to add my thanks to those of my hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives for the concessions that the Minister has already made in respect of the Bill. I trust that the undertakings that I ask the Minister to give will produce a Bill that we will be able to support.

Mr. Curry

Again, we have had a wide-ranging debate, and I shall seek to answer the main points that have been made.

I understand concern about quota hoppers. I am sure that the House will equally understand that I cannot stand at the Dispatch Box and declare that there is some war plan specifically designed to sink quota hoppers, because I would be supplying ammunition to their lawyers in their next case against the United Kingdom. I put it bluntly to the House that that is the situation.

The House will know that measures were taken to tackle the problem of people seeking to register and fish against the British quota. Hon. Members know that that led to a series of court proceedings. The Attorney-General, who was on the Treasury Bench a short while ago, will know how hard the United Kingdom fought those cases. The House will know also that matters following those cases have not finished and that there are still outstanding matters. Therefore, I entirely understand why hon. Members are concerned, and I wholly support their concern, but we are very attentive in our policies to try to make sure that boats fishing against the United Kingdom quotas have the links with the United Kingdom which we have been able to write into the regulations, such as visiting conditions.

I am sure that the House will equally understand that I cannot declare that I can take a course of action that I know would be illegal and which I am strongly advised would be illegal. I have to take advice from my lawyers, and I seek advice from very authoritative sources. I cannot say that the lawyers have got it wrong and that I am going ahead. I cannot knowingly invite the House to legislate something which I am told would be illegal. It might be easy for me to do that as a political cop-out, but I cannot responsibly invite the House to do it.

I have to make that clear. It is a frustrating position for all hon. Members, but I must have the principles of the maintenance of the rule of law foremost in my concern, whether it be fishery legislation or anything else. I understand the problems, and hon. Members also understand the problems.

Mr. Harris

We are not asking my hon. Friend to take discriminatory action against quota hoppers, because we realise the difficulties in doing that, although I should like to take discriminatory action against them. However if there is to be a tie-up which affects our boats, it should apply equally to quota hoppers. That is not discrimination; it is equality of treatment.

Mr. Curry

I shall refer to the measures outlined in the amendments, but I wish to deal with one or two matters, that, strictly speaking, are not covered by the amendments, but hon. Members are concerned about them so I shall try to respond.

My hon. Friend

the Member for Torbay (Mr. Allason) said that we were guilty of arrogance and incompetence. That would be a double whammy for anybody, I suppose. I think that, in three years in the job, I have not displayed arrogance; as to whether I have been guilty of incompetence, I have to submit to the judgment of my peers and contemporaries.

9 pm

Mr. Rupert Allason

Let me take this opportunity to withdraw those remarks, on condition that my hon. Friend explain the point that I was making when I made them. It appeared that the Bill had been introduced before the end of the consultation period. That move was certainly open to misinterpretation, and I should be delighted to hear the Minister's explanation.

Mr. Curry

During the Second Reading debate and in Committee, I explained that the Bill is enabling legislation which makes provision for the broad principles of a certain course of action. There will be very detailed consultation about how it should apply specifically. I have made it absolutely clear that we hope that the industry will come to us with its views on how we should apply particular measures. We are still open to that course of action. Several hon. Members have asked me whether I will consult on this, that and the other. The answer is that, if the industry is in a consulting mood, I shall consult, but I cannot compel it to consult. It is known that my door is always open to people who want to see me, and that will remain the case. I have never taken up any contrary position.

My hon. Friend the Member for Torbay and the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Ainger) mentioned shellfish. Let me make the situation clear. We agree with the industry that the new minimum landing sizes for lobsters which have emerged from the interpretation of Community regulations are silly. The sizes are too small, and we have gone to Brussels to try to have the matter put right. I put that on record as a matter on which there is nothing between us.

On the question of action generally in relation to shellfish, the Sea Fish Industry Authority has produced a report indicating that there may be a case for limitation, some sort of discipline in respect of shellfish activity. We shall be discussing the implications of that report and what measures ought to be taken as a consequence of it. We accept that there is a problem in a particular fishery, and we shall seek to deal with it.

Let me now deal specifically with the amendments. With regard to amendment No. 1, the hon. Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley) said that owners or charterers of fishing vessels should be required to advise fisheries departments in advance of which port they intended to tie up in. As the hon. Gentleman acknowledged, the amendment does not specify whether the notification should take place before each tie-up or whether it should be a blanket arrangement. He kindly left the choice to me.

Blanket notification would reduce flexibility enormously, whereas one of the purposes of the Bill is to provide maximum flexibility. If it is a question of notification in respect of individual voyages, the amendment is flawed. However, it is not necessary to amend the Bill to require advance notification of tie-up, as this can be achieved by licence conditions. While I cannot accept the amendment, I can say that I shall examine the practical and administrative implications of introducing advance notification of the port of tie-up for individual voyages, and I shall consult the industry about whether it favours a notification system of this sort.

The hon. Gentleman then introduced a series of provisions dealing specifically with the quota-hopper problem. I am sorry to have to tell him that, while we sympathise with the intention behind the amendment and while we would welcome the opportunity to secure improved enforcement, I have been advised that it would discriminate against British-registered fishing boats operating out of foreign ports, because the European Court has established that, although the quota system entitles us to have a condition, such as a visiting condition—and I assume that the amendment is based on the visiting condition—that establishes a real economic link between quota and the population dependent on fishing, such a condition must not amount to an obligation to operate habitually from a United Kingdom port or hinder normal fishing operations. The amendment would be contrary to those principles and would give rise to legal proceedings, possibly involving a claim for damages.

Mr. Kirkwood

Does that mean that the Government concede that there is no effective way of enforcing these provisions?

Mr. Curry

The Government are saying that measures incorporated in the Bill that could he interpreted as being targeted specifically against a certain category of vessel—the flag of convenience or flagship vessels—would he illegal and could be challenged. That is the problem. My lawyers advise me that, although the European Court has established that the quota system entitles us to have a condition, such as a visiting condition, that establishes a real economic link between the quota and the population dependent on fishing, such a condition must not amount to an obligation to operate habitually from a United Kingdom port or not to hinder normal fishing operation. Tying up in a United Kingdom port amounts to an obligation to operate habitually from a United Kingdom port.

Mr. Salmond

Will the Minister turn his mind to what positive steps he plans to take? The economic link appears on the face of it to offer scope for a positive measure to restrict the activity of quota hoppers. I cannot believe that since the judgment the Minister has been merely sitting wringing his hands and doing nothing. He must have considered measures that he could take, drawing on the economic link criteria. The House would like to know what they are.

Mr. Curry

The hon. Gentleman knows that we introduced the visiting conditions, which were designed to address the problem. It was clear that we had to be careful how we framed the conditions so that we did not have the same legal problems again. I am sorry to sound boringly repetitive, but I am conscious of the possibility of further actions. I do not want to concede any more ground. I do not want to be driven to take actions that open the way to challenge. I am deliberately careful in phrasing my replies, for that purpose.

The hon. Gentleman knows that I am investigating the use of electronic tracking equipment to improve enforcement of limits on the activities of vessels which tie up overseas. We are working hard on developing that technology for enforcement purposes. I have made it clear throughout the debate that I recognise the problem of quota hopping. I do not pretend that the problem does not exist. I am describing candidly to the House the constraints on me and how I address them.

Mr. Moate

My hon. Friend referred to electronic tracking devices and the like. Will he endorse his determination to ensure that the days-at-sea regulations will be applied in practice and in an enforceable way equally to quota hoppers as to British vessels?

Mr. Curry

Yes, I will. The hon. Gentleman knows the difficulties we face. I ask him to accept my assurance of our determination.

Amendment No. 19, tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Torbay, would place a limit on days at sea because that is how the legislation is framed. I appreciate that that was not his intention. I am aware that, in tabling his other amendment, No. 20, he had in mind the particular problems of the shellfish sector. The reassurances that I have given about the vessels of 10 m and under, which must be the predominant type of vessel in that fishery, will go some way to reassure my hon. Friend. If I add that we are looking hard at concerns about the future of the shellfish sector as a whole, and considering measures such as he mentioned, I hope that he will feel that we have the fate of that sector in our focus.

The purpose of amendment No. 21, tabled by the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) is to allow vessels to sail from the port where their catch is landed to their home port. I recognise the problem that the amendment seeks to address, because it has been brought to my attention in the context of the eight-day and 135-day rules. We cannot adopt the solution envisaged by the amendment, because it would not provide a clear guarantee that fishing was not undertaken during the voyage. A better solution is to ensure that the days-at-sea entitlement includes an allowance for such voyages. That is what we propose to do. The appeals system could be used by those who feel that the system is unfair to them.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bridlington (Mr. Townend) asked me some specific questions. The multi-annual guidance programme targets are not yet agreed. The Commission has discussed the 30 per cent. cut, but it has not been agreed. I accept that fishermen do not like the Bill, but I hope that they will address what may happen, rather than some myth of what may happen. There has been some misinformation and exaggeration about the practical effects.

The one problem that we have never faced in our fisheries is not catching our quota. Indeed, as I have said many times, periodically we have to close fisheries down to eke the stocks out to the end of the year. I am sure that the problem to which my hon. Friend the Member for Bridlington referred will not arise. If the problem occurred in exceptional circumstances—they would have to be extraordinary circumstances—I repeat that I would immediately seek ways of ensuring that the quota was taken. We are not in the business of stopping people from catching their legitimate quota.

We mentioned that there was a difficulty with the 1991 data.

Mr. John D. Taylor

I asked the Minister earlier whether there had been any consultation with the Dublin Government, because of the implications of southern Irish and British boats operating under different guidelines in the Irish sea. The Minister did not answer. He is ending his comments on amendment No. 21. What would be the implication if fishing boats in Kilkeel registered in the Republic of Ireland, 15 miles to the south, but used Kilkeel as their port for landings? If their home port were in the Republic of Ireland, would they be excluded from the implications of the Bill? That is the way that some people are beginning to talk.

Mr. Curry

If I have received the message right, I think that the right hon. Gentleman is suggesting a new form of quota hopping. I have often been asked whether we could encourage our people to quota-hop. I shall not comment on that as a recommended course of action, but I have consulted the Irish Minister about enforcement and management in the Irish sea, which is much more important as stocks are in such a parlous state there. When we increased the minimum landing size for whiting, a simultaneous announcement was made for the first time from Dublin and from London that we had taken an act of conservation together to preserve joint stocks. I am willing to pursue that matter with the right hon. Gentleman outside this debate.

We shall make administration as flexible as we possibly can. If fishermen in Bridlington have had a problem because of the weather, they should use the consultation process to tell us.

I shall discuss the further amendments on the gear option when we come to that point, if my hon. Friend the Member for Torbay allows.

If tides cause a problem, it should be reflected in track records and thus fishermen would automatically receive time to allow for that under the system that we shall pursue.

I have tried to answer the debate fully, and I advise the House to vote against the amendments.

Amendment negatived.

Mr. Morley

I beg to move amendment No. 3, in page 1, line 11 at end insert 'provided that if the master, owner or charterer of a fishing boat gives an undertaking to use only such fishing gear as may be specified, whether by reference to mesh size, mesh shape, or otherwise, paragraph (c) above shall not apply.'. The amendment provides a choice of being tied up in port, or using conservation gear with a wider mesh size. That is an important option and fishermen are keen that it should be provided in the Bill. When the Government introduced the eight-day consecutive tie up, they conceded the option for fishermen to continue to fish by using a mesh size specified by the Minister. That facility is required in this Bill.

The gear option can work. There is no argument between us about the need for conservation. The gear option is more conservation orientated than simply tying boats up in port, which does not necessarily meet the conservation objective.

Also, if fishermen believe in, and can see the logic of, a measure they will do a great deal to support it, which has been borne out by the fact that fishermen pioneered square mesh panels and various forms of conservation gear. The 100 mm mesh size came into effect only on 1 June this year. The Minister has said that such options have not been effective, but many conservation options are very new and have hardly been given time to operate. We should give them more time so that we can evaluate their effectiveness, rather than deciding on the days-in-port option.

Fishermen advocated an 80 mm maximum mesh size in the Irish sea when the Government introduced a 75 mm size. Fishermen have also suggested a licence scheme for shell fishing and proposals for banning the French dredge, for conservation boxes and for a ban on industrial fishing in certain areas of our coast. The gear option should be included in the Bill.

Conservative Members who are concerned about the fishermen in their constituencies have been given a concession by the Minister, but it does not amount to much. I accept that limited accountability will be introduced which will allow us to consider the proposals that the Minister will bring forward. The Minister also said that the changes would not be brought in until 1994, but that was no concession, as that commitment was always part of the Bill. All the Minister has done is to put off until 1994 the time when the axe will fall. That still means that British fishing boats will be tied up in port while those of other member states will be allowed to fish.

The amendment is important because, although it will allow the Minister to argue, if necessary, for a days-at-sea restriction, it will also give fishermen the option of using conservation gear. Such an option would be more effective and meaningful than a days-in-port restriction.

9.15 pm
Mr. Paul Tyler (North Cornwall)

I support the amendment. During the United Kingdom's presidency of the Community, one of our main objectives will be to try to achieve a level playing field—in this context a flat pond. We strongly believe that the inclusion of this option in the Bill will enable such a flat pond to be enforced more effectively.

We have a clear choice between the compulsory tie-up and the gear option. The tie-up is subject to the sort of objections that have been voiced from every part of the House and every part of the country. It presents major difficulties for all sorts of fishermen who undertake all types of fishing. That restriction is transitional and short-term and lacks the authority of a permanent, credible option. It also presents all sorts of difficulties in terms of its stated objective of conservation; it is a backward step, because it pressurises the industry into depleting the juvenile stock.

Gear restrictions have major advantages. We already have good precedents to demonstrate its effectiveness. Such a restriction represents conservation in practice and it demonstrably achieves what it sets out to do. That is recognised even by those in other industries who might otherwise question the objectives for the fishing industry. Its precise objectives are an advantage in an imprecise area of the law. It has great advantages in terms of stock generally and major ones in terms of the survival of juvenile, immature fish in particular.

The hon. Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley) has already said that there is a precedent for the use of such restrictions, so we are not creating a pig in a poke, or whatever the fishing metaphor is. It offers great advantages for handliners, who are important in the south-west and for the shell fishermen.

The biggest advantage of that option is that it offers the very thing that the Minister wants to include in the Bill—maximum flexibility. That flexibility dictates that the gear option must be included in the Bill.

The NFFO is strongly in favour of the gear option and is prepared to do all that it can, within the industry, in support of it. It has set out in three concise phrases why it considers that the option should be included. First, it claims that it has considerable conservation advantages in terms of selectivity. Secondly, it provides an element of financial protection and could avoid the need to pay compensation to those who adopt that option. Thirdly, it is easier to administer than a days-at-sea restriction and it will minimise the enforcement and administrative costs. That final point must be of considerable importance to the Minister who will otherwise face a difficult time not just with the United Kingdom industry, but with that of the whole Community during our presidency.

The gear option offers the guarantee of effective Community conservation action. We strongly support it.

Mr. Curry

The hon. Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Tyler) was right to say that during our presidency, enforcement must come at the top of the agenda, so I could not accept a measure that would be unenforceable. Whereas a gear option was possible with 350 or 450 boats coming under the previous types in the Community, a gear option involving 3,800 vessels over 10 m would be impossible to police. They fish for a wide variety of stocks using a wide variety of gear.

I do not minimise the need for technical conservation and I pay tribute to the way in which the industry has co-operated in developing such means, which is an essential part of any fisheries package. But in the context of the Bill, I must be able to demonstrate that what we do is enforceable and not open to evasion. With some regret, I must reject the amendment because it could not be made to stick, and the whole Community would see that. I advise the House to vote against it.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 266, Noes 313.

Division No. 68] [9.20 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Cox, Tom
Adams, Mrs Irene Cryer, Bob
Ainger, Nick Cummings, John
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Cunliffe, Lawrence
Allen, Graham Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE)
Alton, David Cunningham, Dr John (C'p'l'nd)
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale) Dafis, Cynog
Armstrong, Hilary Dalyell, Tam
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Davidson, Ian
Ashton, Joe Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral)
Austin-Walker, John Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)
Barnes, Harry Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l)
Barron, Kevin Denham, John
Battle, John Dewar, Donald
Bayley, Hugh Dixon, Don
Beckett, Margaret Dobson, Frank
Beggs, Roy Donohoe, Brian H.
Beith, Rt Hon A. J. Dowd, Jim
Bell, Stuart Dunnachie, Jimmy
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Bennett, Andrew F. Eagle, Ms Angela
Benton, Joe Eastham, Ken
Bermingham, Gerald Enright, Derek
Berry, Dr. Roger Etherington, Bill
Betts, Clive Ewing, Mrs Margaret
Blair, Tony Fatchett, Derek
Boateng, Paul Faulds, Andrew
Boyce, Jimmy Flynn, Paul
Boyes, Roland Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S)
Bradley, Keith Foster, Derek (B'p Auckland)
Bray, Dr Jeremy Foster, Donald (Bath)
Brown, N. (N'c'tle upon Tyne E) Fraser, John
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Fyfe, Maria
Burden, Richard Galloway, George
Byers, Stephen Garrett, John
Caborn, Richard Gerrard, Neil
Callaghan, Jim Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Godman, Dr Norman A.
Campbell, Ronald (Blyth V) Godsiff, Roger
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Gordon, Mildred
Canavan, Dennis Graham, Thomas
Cann, Jamie Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Carlile, Alexander (Montgomry) Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Chisholm, Malcolm Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Clapham, Michael Grocott, Bruce
Clark, Dr David (South Shields) Gunnell, John
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian) Hain, Peter
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Hall, Mike
Clelland, David Hanson, David
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Hardy, Peter
Coffey, Ann Harman, Ms Harriet
Cohen, Harry Harvey, Nick
Connarty, Michael Henderson, Doug
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Heppell, John
Corbett, Robin Hill, Keith (Streatham)
Corbyn, Jeremy Hinchliffe, David
Cousins, Jim Hoey, Kate
Hogg, Norman (Cumbernauld) Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Home Robertson, John Paisley, Rev Ian
Hood, Jimmy Patchett, Terry
Hoon, Geoffrey Pendry, Tom
Howarth, George (Knowsley N) Pickthall, Colin
Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd) Pike, Peter L.
Hoyle, Doug Pope, Greg
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N) Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lew'm E)
Hughes, Roy (Newport E) Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Hutton, John Prescott, John
Illsley, Eric Primarolo, Dawn
Jackson, Glenda (H'stead) Purchase, Ken
Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H) Quin, Ms Joyce
Jamieson, David Radice, Giles
Janner, Greville Randall, Stuart
Johnston, Sir Russell Raynsford, Nick
Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side) Redmond, Martin
Jones, Ieuan Wyn (Ynys Môn) Reid, Dr John
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C) Robinson, Geoffrey (Co'try NW)
Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O) Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW) Roche, Ms Barbara
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham) Rogers, Allan
Jowell, Tessa Rooker, Jeff
Keen, Alan Rooney, Terry
Kennedy, Charles (Ross, C & S) Ross, William (E Londonderry)
Kennedy, Jane (L'p'l Br'g'n) Rowlands, Ted
Khabra, Piara S. Ruddock, Joan
Kilfoyle, Peter Salmond, Alex
Kirkwood, Archy Sedgemore, Brian
Leighton, Ron Sheerman, Barry
Lestor, Joan (Eccles) Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Lewis, Terry Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Livingstone, Ken Short, Clare
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Simpson, Alan
Loyden, Eddie Skinner, Dennis
Lynne, Ms Liz Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
McAllion, John Smith, C. (Isl'ton S & F'sbury)
McCartney, Ian Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Macdonald, Calum Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
McFall, John Snape, Peter
McKelvey, William Soley, Clive
Mackinlay, Andrew Spearing, Nigel
Maclennan, Robert Spellar, John
McMaster, Gordon Squire, Rachel (Dunfermline W)
McNamara, Kevin Steinberg, Gerry
McWilliam, John Stevenson, George
Madden, Max Stott, Roger
Maginnis, Ken Strang, Dr. Gavin
Mahon, Alice Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Marek, Dr John Taylor, Rt Hon John D. (Str'gf'd)
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S) Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Martin, Michael J. (Springburn) Tipping, Paddy
Martlew, Eric Trimble, David
Maxton, John Turner, Dennis
Meacher, Michael Tyler, Paul
Michael, Alun Vaz, Keith
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley) Walker, A. Cecil (Belfast N)
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll Bute) Walker, Rt Hon Sir Harold
Milburn, Alan Walley, Joan
Miller, Andrew Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby) Watson, Mike
Morgan, Rhodri Welsh, Andrew
Morley, Elliot Wicks, Malcolm
Morris, Rt Hon A. (Wy'nshawe) Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)
Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley) Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Wilson, Brian
Mowlam, Marjorie Winnick, David
Mudie, George Wise, Audrey
Mullin, Chris Worthington, Tony
Murphy, Paul Wray, Jimmy
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Wright, Tony
O'Brien, Michael (N W'kshire) Young, David (Bolton SE)
O'Brien, William (Normanton)
O'Hara, Edward Tellers for the Ayes:
Olner, William Mrs. Llin Golding and Mr. Thomas McAvoy.
O'Neill, Martin
Adley, Robert Duncan-Smith, Iain
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) Dunn, Bob
Aitken, Jonathan Durant, Sir Anthony
Alexander, Richard Dykes, Hugh
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby) Eggar, Tim
Allason, Rupert (Torbay) Elletson, Harold
Amess, David Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)
Ancram, Michael Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv) Evans, Roger (Monmouth)
Atkins, Robert Evennett, David
Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E) Faber, David
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Fabricant, Michael
Baldry, Tony Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas
Banks, Matthew (Southport) Fenner, Dame Peggy
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Bates, Michael Fishburn, John Dudley
Batiste, Spencer Forman, Nigel
Bellingham, Henry Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Bendall, Vivian Forth, Eric
Beresford, Sir Paul Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Blackburn, Dr John G. Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley)
Booth, Hartley Freeman, Roger
Boswell, Tim French, Douglas
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham) Fry, Peter
Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia Gale, Roger
Bowden, Andrew Gallie, Phil
Bowis, John Gardiner, Sir George
Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes Garel-Jones, Rt Hon Tristan
Brandreth, Gyles Garnier, Edward
Brazier, Julian Gill, Christopher
Bright, Graham Gillan, Ms Cheryl
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thorpes) Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Browning, Mrs. Angela Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) Gorst, John
Budgen, Nicholas Grant, Sir Anthony (Cambs SW)
Burns, Simon Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Burt, Alistair Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Butcher, John Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)
Butler, Peter Grylls, Sir Michael
Butterfill, John Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Carlisle, John (Luton North) Hague, William
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Hamilton, Rt Hon Archie
Carrington, Matthew Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Carttiss, Michael Hanley, Jeremy
Cash, William Hannam, Sir John
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Hargreaves, Andrew
Chaplin, Mrs Judith Harris, David
Chapman, Sydney Haselhurst, Alan
Churchill, Mr Hawkins, Nicholas
Clappison, James Hawksley, Warren
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Hayes, Jerry
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ruclif) Heald, Oliver
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Heathcoat-Amory, David
Coe, Sebastian Hendry, Charles
Colvin, Michael Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Congdon, David Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Conway, Derek Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham)
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st) Horam, John
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Hordern, Sir Peter
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Cormack, Patrick Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A)
Couchman, James Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Cran, James Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)
Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire) Hughes Robert G. (Harrow W)
Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon) Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)
Davies, Quentin (Stamford) Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)
Davis, David (Boothferry) Hunter, Andrew
Day, Stephen Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Deva, Nirj Joseph Jack, Michael
Devlin, Tim Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Dickens, Geoffrey Jenkin, Bernard
Dicks, Terry Jessel, Toby
Dorrell, Stephen Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Dover, Den Jones, Robert B. (W H'f'rdshire)
Duncan, Alan Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine Robathan, Andrew
Key, Robert Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn
Kilfedder, Sir James Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S)
Kirkhope, Timothy Robinson, Mark (Somerton)
Knapman, Roger Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash) Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent)
Knight, Greg (Derby N) Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela
Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n) Ryder, Rt Hon Richard
Knox, David Sackville, Tom
Kynoch, George (Kincardine) Sainsbury, Rt Hon Tim
Lait, Mrs Jacqui Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas
Lamont, Rt Hon Norman Shaw, David (Dover)
Lang, Rt Hon Ian Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Lawrence, Sir Ivan Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian
Legg, Barry Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Leigh, Edward Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Lennox-Boyd, Mark Shersby, Michael
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe) Sims, Roger
Lidington, David Skeet, Sir Trevor
Lightbown, David Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Soames, Nicholas
Lord, Michael Spencer, Sir Derek
Luff, Peter Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset)
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Spink, Dr Robert
MacKay, Andrew Spring, Richard
Maclean, David Sproat, Iain
McLoughlin, Patrick Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)
McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Madel, David Steen, Anthony
Maitland, Lady Olga Stephen, Michael
Major, Rt Hon John Stern, Michael
Malone, Gerald Stewart, Allan
Mans, Keith Streeter, Gary
Marland, Paul Sumberg, David
Marlow, Tony Sweeney, Walter
Marshall, John (Hendon S) Sykes, John
Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel) Tapsell, Sir Peter
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Mates, Michael Taylor, John M. (Solihull)
Mawhinney, Dr Brian Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)
Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick Temple-Morris, Peter
Mellor, Rt Hon David Thomason, Roy
Merchant, Piers Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Milligan, Stephen Thornton, Sir Malcolm
Mills, Iain Thurnham, Peter
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Townend, John (Bridlington)
Mitchell, Sir David (Hants NW) Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexl'yh'th)
Monro, Sir Hector Tracey, Richard
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Tredinnick, David
Moss, Malcolm Trend, Michael
Needham, Richard Trotter, Neville
Nelson, Anthony Twinn, Dr Ian
Neubert, Sir Michael Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Viggers, Peter
Nicholls, Patrick Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Walden, George
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West) Walker, Bill (N Tayside)
Norris, Steve Waller, Gary
Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley Ward, John
Oppenheim, Phillip Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Ottaway, Richard Waterson, Nigel
Page, Richard Watts, John
Paice, James Wells, Bowen
Patnick, Irvine Wheeler, Sir John
Patten, Rt Hon John Whitney, Ray
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Whittingdale, John
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Widdecombe, Ann
Pickles, Eric Wiggin, Jerry
Porter, Barry (Wirral S) Wilkinson, John
Porter, David (Waveney) Wilshire, David
Portillo, Rt Hon Michael Wolfson, Mark
Powell, William (Corby) Wood, Timothy
Rathbone, Tim Yeo, Tim
Redwood, John
Renton, Rt Hon Tim Tellers for the Noes:
Richards, Rod Mr. James Arbuthnot and Mr. Nicholas Baker.
Riddick, Graham
Rifkind, Rt Hon. Malcolm

Question accordingly negatived.

Amendment made: No. 14, in page 1, line 19, at end insert—

'(4A) After subsection (7A) there shall be inserted—

"(7B) In any proceedings in Scotland commenced on or after the coming into force of the Sea Fish (Conservation) Act 1992 for an offence under this section, any—

  1. (a) entry in any logbook kept, under an enforceable Community obligation relating to fishing activities, by the master of a vessel;
  2. (b) declaration made, under such an obligation—
    1. (i) by the master of a vessel or by an agent, as to fish landed; or
    2. (ii) by the master of a vessel, as to trans-shipment;
  3. (c) information required to be provided under—
    1. (i) any condition imposed under subsection (6) above, by the master, owner or charterer (if any) of a vessel, or by an agent;
    2. (ii) subsection (7) above, by the master, owner, or charterer (if any) of a vessel, shall be received in evidence without being produced or sworn to by any witness and shall be sufficient evidence of the matters stated therein.".'—[Mr. Curry]

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