HC Deb 14 July 1992 vol 211 cc1007-32

'. In section 20 of the Sea Fish (Conservation) Act 1967, after subsection (2), there shall be inserted—

"(2A) Section 4(6)(c) of this Act shall cease to have effect at the end of each period of twelve months beginning with the day on which this Act is passed unless before the end of that period—

  1. (a) the Ministers have laid before each House of Parliament a statement of their intended exercise of the power conferred by section 4(6)(c); and
  2. (b) that statement has been approved by resolution of each House of Parliament.".'.—[Mr. Trotter.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Neville Trotter (Tynemouth)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Madam Deputy Speaker

With this, it will be convenient to take the following: New clause 6—Consultation prior to making orders—

'.—(1) Section 20 of the Sea Fish (Conservation) Act 1967 (which makes provision as to orders) shall be amended as follows.

(2) At the beginning of subsection (5) there shall be inserted the words "Except as provided by subsection (SA) below".

(3) After subsection (5) there shall be inserted— (5A) A statutory insutrment containing an order made under section 4 of this Act shall be of no effect unless

  1. (i) a draft thereof has been laid before, and approved by resolution of, each House of Parliament and
  2. (ii) before the laying of such a draft—
    1. (a) the Ministers have consulted with such persons and bodies as seem to them to be representative of operators of fishing vessels and their employees,
    2. (b) the Ministers have laid before both Houses of Parliament a report upon the effect upon operators of fishing vessels and their employees of restricting the time which such vessels may spend at sea, and
    3. (c) any report laid under paragraph (b) above has been approved by resolution of both Houses of Parliament.".'.

Amendment No. 4, in page 2, line 13 [Clause 4], after 'Act', insert `, except section 1(2),'.

Amendment No. 22, in page 2, line 13 leave out from 'shall' to end of line 14 and insert 'not come into force until similar measures are adopted throughout the European Community.'.

Amendment No. 26, in page 2, line 13 leave out from 'shall' to the end of line 14 and insert 'not come into force until a commencement order has been laid before Parliament and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.'

Amendment No. 5, in page 2, line 14, at end insert— '(1A) Section 1(2) of this Act shall not come into force until a statement by the Ministers of their intended exercise of the powers conferred by this Act has been approved by resolution of each House of Parliament.'.

Amendment No. 18, in page 2, line 14, at end insert— 'provided that at that time provisions equivalent to those contained in the amendments made by this Act to the Sea Fish (Conservation) Act 1967 have the force of law in each member state of the European Community and that the application of such provisions is not to the disadvantage of British owned and registered vessels; or (b) on such later date as the Ministers may by order made by statutory instrument appoint, provided that the condition in paragraph (a) of this subsection has been fulfilled.'.

Mr. Trotter

On Second Reading, I and almost every other speaker—and certainly all those closely involved in the fishing industry—expressed concern at the way in which the Bill's powers were extending into the industry's future to an extent that I have not experienced in my time in the House. Those powers can accurately be described as draconian in the way that they could be implemented. That has created unity from one end of the country to the other—to an extent that those of us who know the industry well find remarkable. It was exemplified by the enormous rally held in central hall a few days ago.

I had hoped that the Bill would be amended in Committee to counter those concerns and to make it acceptable, but that did not happen. While I certainly welcome some amendments—such as the appeals procedure—more amendment is needed if the Bill is to be acceptable.

Everyone connected with the industry is well aware of the problems of over-fishing. There has been commendable co-operation in employing technical measures. Some say that, if more time is given to their application, those techniques will go a long way to deal with the problems. However, we must accept that they will not on their own be effective in the time scale that we must consider. Stocks are becoming so depleted that the industry will be not just harmed but destroyed. Major further steps must be taken.

I cannot accept that there is a need for the Bill's powers to be as extensive as they are—hence the reason for new clause 1 and my amendment No. 5. The Bill's powers would enable the Department to say that the whole fishing industry will tie up except on Christmas day. I readily accept that my hon. Friend will not use the power in such an absurd way, but he is nevertheless seeking to take such power for the future without parliamentary scrutiny. Under this power, he could order any boat to be tied up at any time, or all the boats tied up all the time. After the Bill is passed, that will be the end of it, and he will have ultimate power over the whole industry. That cannot be right. I believe that the Minister should be required to give the House details of his proposals on an annual basis: he should be required to demonstrate responsible stewardship of his power to deal with a problem whose existence we all accept.

One of the Bill's peculiarities is the way in which it anticipates what may happen in Brussels—indeed, what will happen there. We all know that the European Community fishing policy is a shambles; many of us would apply the same description to other aspects of Community policy as well, but the fishing policy is a particularly good example, and there is no doubt that it will be reviewed in the months ahead.

What I find it hard to understand is why we are anticipating that review, and seeking powers now to penalise our industry in the expectation of what will presumably happen to the industry in other Community countries. An image is being portrayed of our boats being tied up while their foreign competitors continue to fish outside the harbour entrance. That must be countered, and I hope that the Minister will give us the assurances that we require.

I consider it essential for Parliament to subject such draconian powers to regular scrutiny and the House should have some knowledge of the way in which the Minister intends initially to implement the great power that he is seeking.

Mr. Morley

I support what the hon. Member for Tynemouth (Mr. Trotter) has said. I believe that such far-reaching measures need some accountability. I urge the House to support amendment No. 18, in the light of some of the points made by the hon. Member. If restrictions are to be placed on fishermen, they should be applied fairly and reasonably across the European Community.

I pay tribute to Conservative Members who have put their names to amendment No. 18. It is not intended to score political points; we recognise that a serious problem exists in the fishing industry, and we have consistently said in our many fishing debates that we accept the existence of conservation difficulties and the need for difficult decisions. We do not wish to duck those decisions, and we are prepared to support the Government in that regard. Such decisions may be hard for the fishing industry to accept, but they are necessary none the less.

We are not convinced, however, that forcing British fishermen to lie up in port while their competitors are free to fish outside the ports concerned is fair reasonable, or, indeed, an effective conservation measure. Last week—on 7 July—3,000 fishermen came down to London to take part in a demonstration organised by the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations and supported by the Scottish Fishermen's Federation. Many hon. Members attended the demonstration, and many were lobbied by fishermen who had taken a day off work to make their case known.

Those who saw the demonstration were left in no doubt of the strength of feeling in the fishing industry about what the Bill will do to livelihoods and communities. There is almost a feeling of betrayal: our fishermen alone will face restrictions that will not affect their European counterarts, and that seems hard to justify.

I am sure that many hon. Members will have received a great many letters from fishermen's organisations all over the country. The National Federation of Fishermen, which speaks for many English and Welsh fishermen, said in a letter sent to every Member of Parliament: Why is it that only British fishermen are subject to unilataral restrictions when other Europeans are not? The bitter truth is that flag of convenience vessels will have the ability to land abroad unchecked, and the only fishermen suffering the restrictions will be British fishermen, not Spanish, French, Dutch or even the Republic of Ireland. The Cornwall sea fisheries committee wrote: Most importantly, there is no mention of similar restrictions on foreign vessels fishing in British waters. Fishermen feel aggrieved that, whilst their activities will be curtailed, foreign vessels will be free to fish in our waters … Many vessels, particularly the smaller ones, will simply not be able to earn a living under the Bill's restrictions. 5.45 pm

The North East Fishing Forum, a combination of local government and fishing communities over a wide area, wrote: Local authorities are concerned that there will be grave damage to local interests. Small inshore fleets such as those operating between the Tyne and the Tweed could be particularly disadvantaged by a system based on past performance, because of the tradition of voluntary restraint already practised. The South Eastern Fishermen's Protection Association also wrote to say that the measures were unfair and unilateral, and that they discriminated against our fishing fleet.

There are many more examples from around the country. All that shows that the industry has never been so united by a single issue, which is an achievement in itself. The reason why the industry is so united—an industry that has traditionally operated in different sectors, whose members have not always co-operated as well as they might have done—is that every fishing community in the country faces a severe threat.

We shall discuss other amendments which present alternatives to days-at-sea restrictions. I hope that, even at this stage, the Minister will be willing to accept that the fishermen's organisations are anxious to co-operate with him and his Ministry to introduce workable measures that will deal with the problems of over-capacity and the need for conservation without the introduction of draconian powers.

The main thrust of many of the amendments in the group—especially amendment No. 18—is this. If there is an argument for forcing fishermen to remain in port for a certain number of days per week—we can debate that—it is only right and proper for the measure involved to be implemented through the Council of Ministers and the European Community, and to apply to every fishing fleet in the Community and every fishing fleet that is part of the common fisheries policy.

I do not believe that that is the way forward; I feel that we should have a proper decommissioning scheme, allied to a package of measures to deal with the problem. It is important, however, for the many hon. Members who are present tonight representing their constituents—local fishermen and their families, and the industries that depend on fishermen—to make one thing clear. If there is to be fairness, and if restrictions are to carry any credibility—it is generally accepted that they will have a drastic effect on fishermen's livelihood—those restrictions should apply across the board. In its present form, the Bill does not allow for that.

The amendment gives the House an opportunity to decide that, if the Minister has made a case for the restrictions and gets the Bill through, it should not be enacted until other members states have introduced similar measures. Any restrictions that we impose should be applied equally and fairly to every EC fishing fleet. Our fishermen must not be put at an unfair disadvantage, as they will be if this measure is passed without amendment.

Mr. Iain Sproat (Harwich)

I support strongly the new clause that has been moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Mr. Trotter). A fishermen's delegation came to see me last Tuesday. Its members expressed deep concern and deep hostility to the Bill. The fishermen of Harwich are totally opposed to the Government's proposals. I was deeply impressed by the strength of their arguments.

The fishermen of Harwich recognise, as do fishermen in all parts of the country, the need for conservation. They all accept that fish stocks must be conserved. They do not, therefore, object to conservation. They object, however, to the way in which the Bill proposes to enforce conservation. They followed, as I did, in detail the consideration of the Bill in Committee. Not a great deal of what happened in Committee has convinced them that they ought to change their minds.

The fact that the Bill came before the House while consultations were still going on with the industry did not help. I know that the Government will say that merely the details were discussed, whereas the Bill is concerned with the principle. However, fishermen's minds were not put at rest. They felt that the result of the consultations would not lead to the Bill being amended.

The fishermen in my constituency fear a huge and drastic cut in their income. They fear, too, that many families who have been fishing for generations will be forced to leave an industry that they love and that the decommissioning funds are pitifully inadequate. As the hon. Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley) said, they cannot see the justice, fairness and rightness in these measures being imposed on British fishermen while all the other European Community fishermen are unaffected by them. They believe that foreign vessels will not be bound by any conservation measures that are introduced, with the result that the British industry will soon be decimated. Foreign vessels will then take over what was once the British fishing industry.

I hope that the Minister will be able to provide some assurance that all the other member states of the European Community will speedily introduce measures that lead to the imposition of similar conservation requirements on their fishing industries.

I share my constituents' fears about the Bill. That is why I strongly support what my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth said. The very least that the Government can do in an attempt to assuage the fears and concerns of the fishermen is to say that they will look again at this question in a year's time and that, if the fishermen's fears are proved to be correct and have substance, the House will be given the opportunity to amend the clause.

Mr. John D. Taylor

When I spoke on Second Reading I stressed why we were concerned about the implications of the Bill. I mentioned that it was not just the Bill that caused us concern but the powers that we were giving to the Minister to exercise without our approval. The purpose of the new clause is to give back to the House the power to approve what the Minister does as a result of this measure. It is tremendously important that all hon. Members should have a say in the implementation of the Bill.

I find it difficult to accept many of the Bill's provisions. One relates to the mandatory fine of £50,000 if fishermen are found to be in breach of the measure. That fine would not be affected by the new clause. It would stand. That is one reason why I do not like the Bill.

The second reason why I do not like the Bill was mentioned by the hon. Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley)—that the provisions of the Bill do not apply to other European Community fishermen. We in the ports of Kilkeel, Portavogie, Donaghadee and Ardglass have a particular concern in this respect when it comes to Republic of Ireland boats. I was glad to see that at the beginning of this week the fisheries spokesman for the Social Democratic and Labour party, the hon. Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady), aired his concern in an article in Irish News. He expressed great concern about the fact that, if the Bill is passed, the fishing fleet in Northern Ireland will be seriously threatened by fishing fleets from the Republic of Ireland.

There is no way in which I can support the Bill unless the Minister can assure the House, especially the fishermen of Northern Ireland, that he has already held consultations with the fishing authorities in Dublin to ensure that they implement similar legislation that will apply to both Irish boats and British boats in the Irish sea fishing areas.

We hear a great deal about the Anglo-Irish Agreement. As you know, Madam Deputy Speaker, that has brought about stalemate in Northern Ireland since 1985. At last we are beginning to make political progress in Northern Ireland. Discussions are now being held between Dublin and London. I hope that the Minister can therefore assure us that he has been in discussion with Dublin, has brought to its attention the measures which are to apply to the United Kingdom and those which will apply specifically to Northern Ireland and that Dublin will therefore agree to introduce identical measures to apply to Irish vessels. If he cannot do so, there is no way that I can support the Bill.

I mentioned also on Second Reading the day on which fishermen will not be allowed to fish. How will that day be decided? Will there be a different day for different ports? Will there be a different day, depending upon the type of fish that fishermen try to catch, or will there be a different day according to region of the United Kingdom? There is already one day in Northern Ireland upon which most of our fishing fleets do not fish. It applies to parts of Scotland, too. That day is Sunday.

If there is to be one day on which we cannot fish, that day must continue to be Sunday for us. If it is to be any other day, it means that we shall be unable to fish on two days of the week. Therefore, we want the Minister to clarify whether it will be one standard day throughout the whole of the United Kingdom or whether that day will vary according to region.

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but if he looks at the lead clause he will see that it has to do with the timings, not with the days when one may or may not fish. It relates to how long the legislation will last before it is brought back here for renewal, or otherwise. The hon. Gentleman must address that point.

Mr. Roger Moate (Faversham)

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. As the selection list incorporates a number of other amendments, including the nature of the restrictions to apply within the United Kingdom and to other European Community countries, is it not in order to dwell upon the nature of the conditions as well as the timing referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Mr. Trotter) in new clause 1?

Madam Deputy Speaker

It will be in order provided that hon. Members relate the issue strictly to one of the group, but it was my understanding that the right hon. Member for Strangford (M r. Taylor) was dealing with the new clause only.

6 pm

Mr. Tim Rathbone (Lewes)

Like other hon. Members, I welcome this proof of the Government's commitment toconservation and especially to the conservation of fish stocks. It is remarkable—other hon. Members have remarked on the fact—that fishermen also welcome it.

Worries arise because of the nature of the Bill. It is an enabling Bill and, like all such Bills, it leaves many questions unanswered. When questions are unanswered, worries exist and may be magnified. I certainly found that to be the case in my conversations with fishermen in the port of Newhaven. Although we have had good discussions and although I provided them with as much information as I could to try to explain the details of the Bill, which may have allayed some of their fears, there still remains considerable worry in their minds. fishermen's worries are magnified by the lack of direct information in the Bill about how it will bite.

In my short intervention, I hope, Madam Deputy Speaker, that you will allow me to dwell on all elements of the amendments selected. I hope that the Minister can at least give some information to allay some of the worries, especially those mentioned by the right hon. Member for Strangford (Mr. Taylor). How will the fishing day restrictions apply? How will they be chosen? How are they to apply to different fishing areas if they are to be differentiated in various parts of the coast of the British isles? How are they to apply to different sizes of boat? Questions are left unanswered even on that detail. In what circumstances will action be taken under the Bill's enabling powers?

As the hon. Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley) stressed, the overriding concern is for an even playing field. Can one refer to an even playing field when talking about fishing? That may be mixing metaphors, but that is what we are talking about. We are seeking even-handedness between the fishing fleets of all the nations of the European Community.

For the sake of the continued support of our fishing fleets and fishermen for the principle of conservation, it is imperative that they feel that their efforts to conserve are matched by the efforts of others and that any actions taken to make it necessary for them to act in a way in which they might not like will also be imposed on other fleets.

With that menu of comment ringing in his ears, may I ask the Minister for some reassurance on those terribly important points? If such reassurance is not given, I fear that it is highly unlikely that fishermen will support the Bill or obey any orders made under its enabling powers, and we do not want to pass such legislation.

Dr. Godman

I promise to be brief. I support the new clause and was pleased to hear the intervention by the hon. Member for Harwich (Mr. Sproat).

With regard to amendment No. 18, the Government could have avoided some of the problems into which they have sailed if, under Standing Order No. 94, they had agreed to the setting up of a Special Standing Committee which would have met no more than four times. Such a Special Standing Committee can take evidence from interested parties, and I think that it would have greatly helped our fishermen if it had been set up. However, the Government chose another route, which is unfortunate for all involved.

I have been around the fishing industry almost all my life, and I believe that, given the urgency of the need to conserve the dwindling fish stocks, our fishermen would have accepted the draconian measures if they were to be applied uniformly throughout the whole of the European Community. As I said in Committee, it has been said ad nauseam that there are too many fishermen chasing too few fish, and our fishermen know that as well as anyone else. I believe that they would be willing to accept the measures if they were to apply as rigorously to Irish or Spanish fishermen or to others.

The right hon. Member for Strangford (Mr. Taylor) said that he hoped that the Minister would speak to his counterpart in Dublin. It is much more important that he speaks to the Spanish Fisheries Minister because—

Mr. Rathbone

And the Belgian Minister.

Dr. Godman

And the Belgian Minister but, without sounding too ethnocentric, the Spanish punch holes in any Communitywide regulations. Anyone who knows any-thing about the Spanish fishing fleets knows that, which is why amendment No. 18 is so important. The Spanish fishing fleets and their operators encourage their skippers to break the rules. We know about the insurance clubs of skippers and owners in Vigo. If a skipper is caught off the west coast of Scotland or Ireland and hauled in and fined in the sheriff courts or in an Irish court, the fine will be met from the moneys in the club barrel in Vigo.

The hon. Member for Harwich was absolutely right to say that the measures must be uniformly applied throughout all the fishing nations of the European Community. If they are not, there will always be resistance among our fishermen. If there is uniformity, I genuinely believe that our fishermen, from Shetland to Cornwall, will accept them, but they must apply across the Community. Failure to ensure that will mean that our fishermen should challenge the legislation if it is passed.

Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)

While fully agreeing with what the hon. Gentleman said and standing on the principle of absolute uniformity across all nations, I must say that the menace of the southern Ireland fishermen to the Northern Ireland fishermen is greater. While the Fisheries Minister from the Republic was prepared to close a blind eye to what was happening in northern waters, the northern authority—the Secretary of State—was quick to try to make every fisherman from Northern Ireland conform. We need not only uniformity but a power to ensure conformity.

Dr. Godman

If I dare say so in your presence, Madam Deputy Speaker, "closing a blind eye" is a very Irish expression. I take the hon. Gentleman's point that there are discrepancies between north and south. I assure him, however, that, for all their skills, the Irish have nothing on the Spanish fishing vessel skippers—and owners, because the skippers are encouraged by the owners to punch holes in the regulations.

On this occasion, we may need to fly in the face of article 3 of the mortally wounded Maastricht treaty, which argues for subsidiarity in these matters. If we are to have regulations that severely restrict our fishermen's incomes, and if the only way to ensure uniformity in the policing of fishing activity in EC waters is to have the rules applied by Brussels, so be it. If a domestic Parliament cannot control all the fishing activities in its waters, let us give Brussels the power to do so.

I believe in regional policing. This Parliament ought to be able to stipulate who can fish when and where in United Kingdom territorial waters. But, if that is not to be the case, and if we are to have uniformity in the policing of our fishermen's activities, the regulations must be applied throughout the Community without fear or favour.

This is a bad Bill. It imposes harsh restrictions on our fishermen in advance of the deliberations that will take place concerning the mid-term review of the common fisheries policy. I am not a lawyer, but I believe that, if the Bill goes through, our fishermen or their associations will eventually be able to challenge it at the European Court of Justice because it discriminates unfairly against them. The House should support new clause 1 and amendment No. 18.

Mr. Stephen

I have no doubt that the fishermen of the United Kingdom accept the need for conservation—indeed, their livelihood depends upon it. It is essential, however, that conservation measures are seen to apply fairly, as between them and their counterparts elsewhere in the European Community.

The principle of conservation must depend for its effectiveness on a large number of fishermen cutting down their effort a little, not on British fishermen cutting down their effort a lot, allowing all the others to continue to fish at the same or at similar levels. I ask my hon. Friend the Minister to give me an assurance that, in exercising the powers that he seeks today, his Department will have careful regard not only to the legislative provisions applying to the fishermen of other member countries but to the extent to which those provisions are enforced on those fishermen by the authorities of their own member states.

6.15 pm
Mr. Salmond

I propose to refer to new clause 6 and amendment No. 22, standing in the names of members of the Scottish National party and Plaid Cymru.

The hon. Member for Tynemouth (Mr. Trotter) certainly put his finger on an important point in tabling new clause 1. It would be remarkable if we had to write into a Bill a measure to enforce consultation but, given the present circumstances of the fishing industry, that is the stage that we have reached.

In new clause 6, we seek to do the same thing but to cast the net wider and to make the procedures rather more rigorous. The proposal would ensure that no statutory instrument containing an order could or would be enforced until certain procedures had been undertaken by Fisheries Ministers. A draft order would have to be laid before both Houses of Parliament for approval and could not be approved until Fisheries Ministers had carried out certain tasks, the first of which would be to consult the industry properly about the proposals.

I repeat that it is remarkable that we should have to seek to write that into legislation. I do not know whether fisheries Ministers are aware of the bitterness that they have engendered by proceeding with primary legislation during a consultation period. We have had much experience in recent years of so-called consultation. I know that the Under-Secretary will understand an analogy with the hospital opt-out legislation for Scotland, in respect of which many of us felt the consultation process was no more than a matter of form—a process to be undergone before the Government took the decision that they had always intended to take. But I cannot recall another occasion on which primary legislation has been proceeded with before the formal consultation period has ended.

For the fishing community, that adds insult to injury. So devoid of sensitivity have Fisheries Ministers been that we have reached the stage at which the provision of proper, effective and thorough consultation throughout the industry should be written into the legislation before greater powers are conferred on Ministers.

The second duty that Ministers would have to take on board under the terms of new clause 6 before being seeking to exercise draconian powers would be the obligation to conduct an analysis of the economic impact of their proposals on the fishing community. There is a major divergence of view between the Government, who believe that the impact of the enabling legislation will be marginal—I have even heard official sources argue that, because fishermen are so boxed in by quotas anyway, it does matter about the days-at-sea restrictions—and fishermen, who believe that the Bill will constitute another serious imposition on them and will have a serious impact on their ability to make a living from the sea.

Let us contrast the fishing and farming, to which the Under-Secretary referred. We lack the net income statistics for the fishing industry which are available for agriculture which would enable us to judge the impact of any measure or series of measures on fishermen's livelihood. We know what the overall net catches are and we know their value, but we do not have net income figures, which are important in judging whether a measure such as this can be borne by the fishing communities.

I hope that those who support new clause I will not be fobbed off by vague assurances that Ministers will occasionally turn up in the House and make statements on the fishing industry—no doubt late at night, at a time inconvenient to hon. Members. The hon. Member for Tynemouth should ensure that we bind and gag those Ministers by placing a statutory duty on them rather than relying on assurances which may not, in the end, amount to much.

Amendment No. 22 is similar to amendment No. 18, which stands in the name of Labour Members. That amendment goes to the very heart of people's concern about the Bill. I cannot think of any other United Kingdom industry that the Government seem so determined by their actions to place at a disadvantage in relation to its European counterparts.

I have already said that the lack of consultation, and the decision to go ahead during the consultation process, has provoked great anger in the fishing community. What outrage, then, was provoked by the decision to impose on the United Kingdom a draconian and potentially punitive measure that was not to be imposed on other EC fleets? That goes to the heart of the questions that hon. Members representing fishing communities have to ask about the Bill.

I hope that I will not do the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, the hon. Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro), an injustice or embarrass him when I say that, if we had been discussing the Bill a year ago, I have no doubt that the fishing communities would have been able to rely on his vote in the Lobby this evening. In the past, they could have relied on the support of Alick Buchanan-Smith, the late right hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside. I somehow doubt whether the current hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Kynoch) will carry out his responsibilities towards the fishing communities with the dedication shown by his late predecessor.

We have seen the transformation of the hon. Member for Dumfries from a Back-Bench Member from Scotland, concerned about the fishing community and prepared to match that concern with his vote in the Lobby on many occasions, to a Minister who, I am certain, has grave private doubts about the scope of the Bill and the manner in which it is being introduced. He must also have real concerns about the anger and frustration that the legislation has provoked in fishing communities. I hope that Conservative Members who represent fishing communities will hear the trials of the Minister in mind when they vote on these criticial amendments.

It is essential that hon. Members do not simply respond to pressure in the fishing communities by turning up in the Chamber and making a speech. The issue will come to the crunch shortly in the Lobbies. I hope that all hon. Members who are genuinely concerned about the future of the fishing industry will match that concern with their behaviour in the Lobbies.

Mr. David Harris (St. Ives)

My opposition to the Bill is pretty well known. I believe that I have been joined by an increasing number of my colleagues who, perhaps rather late ill the day, have woken up to the significance of the measure. Three Conservative Members voted against the Bill on Second Reading. In this debate, sufficient hon. Members have spoken to voice their own deep unease and the passionate anger felt by the fishermen against the Bill. That anger was demonstrated in last week's mass lobby to which reference has already been made.

My hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Mr. Trotter) has done the industry, the House and the Government a great service by tabling his new clause. The other amendments in the group have been similarly beneficial. I believe that the House will be in difficulty later this evening. Clearly, the Government have listened to many of the representations that many of us have made with some vigour over the past few weeks and days and, literally, over the past few hours.

I have no doubt that my hon. Friend the Minister of State will approach the group of amendments in a helpful and constructive mood. That will present difficulties, because we will have to take a decision bearing in mind what he says. We must decide whether we accept his undertakings or whether we will support the new clause. I will say only that I will listen with the utmost care to what my hon. Friend says, in the same way that I have listened to what right hon. and hon. Members have said during the debate.

I am absolutely convinced that the Government have got the message from the Conservative Back Benches, from the Opposition Benches and from the industry, that the Bill in its present form is absolutely and utterly unacceptable. The reasons why it is unacceptable were rehearsed by myself and others on Second Reading, but they are to a large extent encapsulated in this group of amendments.

The Bill is unacceptable because of the unilateral nature of the action that the Government propose to take. There is also what I regard as an affront to parliamentary practice and scrutiny. If the Bill is not amended, the Government will have a blank cheque. Elsewhere, I have used the analogy that the proposal in the Bill is rather like the Chancellor of the Exchequer desiring to take powers in a mere enabling Bill to raise tax to any level that he saw fit without further recourse to Parliament.

When my hon. Friend the Minister of State replies to the debate, I hope that he will address some of those criticisms. At this stage, I will say only that I will listen to him with the greatest care and interest.

Mr. Nick Ainger (Pembroke)

I support new clause 1, but I want to address my remarks to amendment No. 18. The right hon. Member for Strangford (Mr. Taylor) mentioned the problem of Irish fishermen competing with their southern Irish colleagues. Welsh fishermen also compete with their southern Irish colleagues. On the day of the mass lobby, I spoke to shell fishermen from Milford Haven and the west coast of Wales. They share their fishing grounds with their Irish colleagues. They lay their pots virtually alongside those of their Irish equivalents. They wanted to know how the Government could justify their being prevented from carrying out their lawful business when their Irish colleagues were allowed to fish on the same grounds. They believed that that was nonsense.

Undoubtedly, the Bill is discriminatory between the Welsh and Irish and, as other hon. Members have said, between the British, French and Spanish. It was very interesting that, the day after the mass lobby, the skipper of a French trawler was arrested in the western approaches off Milford Haven and his vessel brought into a Pembroke dock. He was fined £2,000 for fishing with undersized nets. That was his second offence; he was cautioned the first time. Although that skipper was prosecuted in a British court, he was prosecuted under EC regulations. The level playing field or nice mill pond applied, and it was accepted that there was no discriminatory element in that case.

We must ask whether the Bill is fair, whether it is reasonable and whether it will be effective. The answer to those questions is no in every case. It is not fair to the Welsh shell fishermen who compete unfairly with their Irish colleagues. It is certainly not reasonable to expect British fishermen to try to earn a living when their continental colleagues regularly catch what is basically the British fishermen's livelihood. It certainly will not be effective because, as we heard today and in Standing Committee, there will be an intensification of effort.

My shell fishermen have told me that they currently work eight or 12 hours a day before returning home. However, if they are to be restricted, they will work 24 hours a day or for 48 hours on the trot before returning to port. The reduction in effort will not be effective.

I remind the Minister that, although I am sure that the Government received correct legal advice at the time of the Merchant Shipping Act 1988 in which, with the general support of the House, they tried to outlaw the quota hoppers, the legal advice was that the legislation was not discriminatory and that the Government would be able to get it through the European Court. However, that was proved to be wrong. The European Court found the legislation to be discriminatory because it stated that the Spanish, French or Belgians could not own British fishing boats without those companies having a majority of British directors. It was therefore discriminatory. I have not sought legal advice, but I try to be logical about such matters. Surely the Bill is discriminatory because it says to British fishermen, "You can't do that, but your Irish, French and Spanish colleagues can." That is why it is a bad Bill, and this is why we shall support amendment No. 18.

Mr. Anthony Steen (South Hams)

I have in my constituency 88 miles of Devon coastline, probably one of the most beautiful areas in the country. The hon. Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley) was good enough to come down to Brixham port and say some helpful words. I am grateful to him for that. That coastline supports not only Brixham fishermen who are beam trawlermen but fishermen from Dartmouth and Salcombe who are involved in the crab and lobster industries. I speak as a Member who has been following the deliberations very closely.

I pay great tribute to my hon. Friends the Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, who have been extremely courteous and have considered every possible way to help me and the fishermen of south Devon. I should like publicly to record how grateful I am to them for their help and assistance in respect of a difficult Bill.

On Friday, I tabled two amendments, which have not been selected but which would have slotted in between amendments Nos. 26 to 28. They would have had an effect similar to that of new clause 1 and would have delayed the operation of the legislation for two months rather than one month. My amendments insisted that the House had an opportunity to delay an affirmative order by a further month, which would have given enough time for the other countries concerned to get their house in order.

My concern is twofold. First, I do not believe that action on our Government's part should in any way damage any fishermen's livelihood unless we are satisfied that the French, Spanish and Dutch have done something not identical but similar, which fits into the package that the Bill proposes. Secondly, no fishermen should have his boat tied up and be told that he cannot fish on certain days unless something similar happens in France, Holland and Spain. Unless the Minister of State can say something on those two points, Conservative Members will be placed in serious difficulties.

My hon. Friends have given me every opportunity to explain my problem to them, and I again pay tribute to their courtesy and the time that they have spent trying to explain their problem to me. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister of State will satisfy the House on both points. If he does so, we shall be delighted, because he will have achieved a tremendous victory. If he cannot do that, he will place many Conservative Members in some personal difficulties. I hope that the message is loud and clear to my hon. Friend.

6.30 pm
Mr. Austin Mitchell

I sense a carefully stage-managed situation arising. Conservative Members have been so shocked by the pressure of their fishermen's hostility to the Bill that they are now having to stage an elaborate scene by putting demands to the Minister, some of which he might or might not grant, so that they can then go away and say, "We have won a great victory; great concessions were made."

That will not be enough, because the principle of the Bill is bad. The Bill will not work. It will not be accepted by the industry. Indeed, it is a dictatorial imposition on the industry. It is not good enough for Conservative Members to manufacture a synthetic crisis to put pressure on the Minister and then say that they are satisfied with small crumbs that they might get from his table.

New clause 1 is a sensible measure, but it does not go far enough, because the principle of annual renewal allows us to bring pressure on the Minister between annual renewals to do what he should have done in the first place and take other measures which would more effectively reduce pressure on fish stocks. It is only if that is the basis of operations on new clause 1 that it is acceptable.

The heart of the matter is quite simple. The Minister is imposing that dictatorial measure on the fishing industry because of his failure to introduce a decommissioning scheme. He has denied that, but the July-August 1992 issue of "France-Eco-Pece" states that Commissioner Marin himself says: the British face the problem that their fishing grounds are badly depleted and Britain is the one country in the Community that has the worst problem with too large a fishing fleet. Had they only reduced their fleet, say five years ago, as did many other countries, the situation would not be so critical today. Had the Government introduced a decommissioning scheme when we were asking them to introduce one, they would not have had to impose the measure on the industry. The new clause might be useful if it allows us to press for an improvement in the decommissioning scheme—a bigger and better decommissioning scheme—which will act urgently on the problem. The one that the Minister has produced as the quid pro quo for the measure is not good enough and will not have a substantial enough effect on the size of the fleet.

The next point that the measure allows us to argue for is more technical conservation measures. It is important to know that they are the best way of approaching the conservation problem. They are far more effective in conserving stocks, which is what the Bill is supposed to be about—it will not have that effect, but it is supposed to.

It is important to note that the industry has been pressing more energetically for technical measures and proper conservation than the Department itself. The list supplied by the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations includes the increased selectivity of nets, the one-net rule, bans on the twin-rig trawl, bans on the French dredge, restrictions on the shape of nets to ensure the escape of juvenile fish, bans on industrial fishing, and a licensing scheme for shellfish. The industry even wanted a higher mesh size in the Irish sea—namely, 80 mm—than the 75 mm that the Government imposed.

The industry has been at the forefront of pressing for those technical conservation measures, which are far better. Let us have an advance down that path, because it will apply far more directly to the cause of the problem than the overfishing that is decimating stocks by catching fish that are too small. Let us therefore have the power to press for that every year through new clause 1. It allows us to advance those two causes, which are far more important than the Minister's Bill. The measure is not enough; therefore, we need to go to the extent set out in amendment No. 18.

It is a bad Bill. It will be acceptable only if it is felt to apply fairly to all competing fishing industries. It is no use stopping British fishermen going to sea if stocks are to be pillaged by effectively controlling efforts by competitor countries in the EC. What answer is that to the conservation problem if it just leaves the ground open to fishing fleets which have not applied the same effective technical measures as our industries? They have been backward in that respect.

I hope that if the Minister makes a minor concession Conservative Members will not go away feeling that they have done something for the industry. The only concession that will be acceptable—the only concession that their fishermen will accept—is an assurance that there is to be a level playing field, or a level fishing ground. Amendment No. 18 would provide for this measure to come into effect only at the same time as similar measures to restrain fishing fleets competing for the same stocks and, in the process, over fishing. That is the only thing that will satisfy the fishing industry, which demonstrated in force in London last week to impress on Members of Parliament, on both sides of the House, the concern from fishing constituencies.

Our legislation must come into force at the same time as similar measures introduced by our European competitors. The Minister himself has said that there can be proper conservation only with the consent and support of the fishing industry. Well, this Bill does not have that consent and support; it has the total hostility of the fishing industry. It will secure the consent of the fishing industry only if that industry feels that it is fair, if similar provisions apply to other people who are doing far more damage because of the lack of effective control in their home ports.

What about the clashes between French fishermen and British fishermen in the south-west? What about the clashes between Grimsby fishermen and Dutch beam trawlers in the North sea? Are we to say that our only answer is to prevent our vessels from putting to sea, so that they will not he attacked by French and Dutch vessels? Is it the Government's case that, if there is no competition, the problem will go away? That is no answer. It is not even a proper means of securing conservation.

If the Minister is to make the case that the Bill will help conservation, let him see that that is done in the only effective way—by ensuring that such measures apply to all. That is why amendment No. 18 should be supported. If Conservative Members who have uttered such professions of attachment to and support for the fishing industry have any guts or principles, they will support it. That is the only way to make the Bill acceptable to the industry, which regards a days-at-sea limitation as a dictatorial imposition. No such provision applies to any other industry, and in this case the proposal is to apply without compensation. It is very unfair. Only agreement to what we are proposing will make this Bill acceptable as a last, desperate measure.

6.45 pm
Mr. Keth Mans (Wyre)

I do not want to rehash the arguments on new clause I and amendment No. 18 that we have heard already, except to say that they relate to the two parts of the Bill that concern me most—the wideness of its powers, and the fact that the other European Community members who are involved in fishing will not necessarily have to abide by the same rules.

The latter point relates particularly to the situation in Fleetwood. The majority of vessels fishing in the Irish sea belong to fleets that are not British. Thus, any measures that we might take to control our efforts by way of a time scheme will be much less effective there than in the North sea and elsewhere. That fact alone makes the measure even less acceptable to British fishermen, particularly those from my port of Fleetwood. They know that, even if they put up with the restrictions, the conservation effect will be very much reduced by the fact that many other member states use other methods, which, according to the evidence of the specialist advisers to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, are less effective. For that reason alone, we need to do more, and amendment No. 18 and new clause 1 go quite a long way down that road.

We need a statutory procedure by which vessels on which this Bill will have a detrimental effect can appeal against the Minister's decision. In addition, any provisions for restrictions over and above those that the fishing fleet, particularly vessels off the west coast, had to endure during 1991 will have to be introduced by way of amendable affirmative resolution of both Houses of Parliament. That is the only way forward. That is the only way of ensuring that we can see for ourselves the detailed proposals of Ministers to deal with the problem of conservation. I agree with many hon. Members on both sides of the House that the powers in the Bill are far too wide.

If we go down this road, we shall give our own Ministers a bit more leverage in Brussels. We shall be able to insist on equivalent action by other member states fishing in our waters and nearby. I refer, for example, to the Spaniards, the French and the Dutch. We shall be able to say to the Commission that we are prepared to reduce our effort, but only if we see that others are taking equally effective measures. Without a commitment of that sort, I cannot see how the objective—the conservation of stocks—will be achieved, especially in the Irish sea, where the majority of fish are taken by foreign vessels.

New clause 1 and amendment No. 18 have a lot going for them, and I hope that the Minister will be able to reassure us along the lines I have suggested. In fishing matters, we and other European member states must be treated on an equal footing. Before the provisions of this Bill are enacted, we must have some idea of the particular proposals that the Government intend to bring forward.

Mr. Steen

My hon. Friend has mentioned the British register of ships. Is he aware that it includes Spanish, French and Dutch ships catching our quota? Does he have a view on that?

Mr. Mans

I am fully aware of that fact. We shall have to find a way of ensuring effectiveness if those vessels decide to tie up in foreign ports. If our quota is to be effective in the case of vessels from other countries fishing that quota, we shall have to find a means of ensuring that those vessels abide by the same rules.

Mr. Matthew Taylor (Truro)

The lobbying by fishermen from all over the country demonstrated the depth of real anger and concern in the industry about the provisions of this Bill, and it has met with some success. As the fishermen see the concern being expressed by Conservative Members—much of it not expressed on Second Reading—they can feel that they have achieved something, and to that extent they can congratulate themselves.

However, expressions of concern are not the same as delivery of the goods. We shall wait to hear the Minister's reply—what it is that has caused the buzz of excitement on the Government Benches. Or is it a buzz of concern as Conservative Members feel trapped in a dilemma somewhere between career and action?

I fear that the Minister will simply offer reassurance. Yet we need to have measures included in the Bill to guarantee that the actions for which we have asked will be taken. The fishermen I have met will not be reassured by anything less than measures written into the Bill. We shall see what the Minister has to say.

Anyone who attended the rally in central hall and saw the black and gold Cornish rugby shirts spread across the audience will appreciate that the concern in Cornwall about the Bill probably generated the greatest show of strength in London on an issue of this nature since the tin mines were threatened and the tin miners marched through the streets of London. The attendance from Cornwall was extraordinary, and I shall explain in a moment why the fishermen, particularly from Cornwall, turned out in such numbers.

The new clauses and amendments in this group will not achieve changes to the Bill that would lead me to vote for it on Third Reading. They do not tackle the basic inequity of the Bill or its basic faults, but at least they would provide a moment at which the Executive could be made answerable to the House on their detailed proposals. That is better than simply giving Ministers powers to go away and act without ever having to answer to the representatives of fishermen—or, indeed, the fishermen themselves.

The Bill provides for no effective consultation. Indeed, there was no effective consultation about it. The measures in the Bill were published even before the consultation period was complete, yet the Minister resists having to come back to the House when the detailed measures are introduced.

The Bill contains no effective conservation measure. It will lead to more intensive fishing. It will certainly lead to other countries stepping up their fishing effort. The Bill will not be effective as a conservation measure. If the Minister believes that it will be effective, he should come back to the House and explain it when the detail is before the House.

The Bill will bankrupt many in the industry. It will bankrupt many owners of small boats, who have fished for generations. I understand that, in Mevagissey in my constituency, many of the boats are already up for sale. The fishermen do not believe that the boats can be viable or that they can earn an income. That is in an area where there is literally no hope of alternative employment for the great majority of the men who at present go out fishing. Yet the Minister is not prepared to come back to the House to justify the detailed measures which those men believe could put them out of work and make them no longer able to support their families.

There is a lack of measures comparable to the days-at-sea regulations in other European countries. The fishermen feel that they will simply surrender their livelihood to fishermen in other countries. They feel that they will surrender, not preserve, the fish stock. Yet the Minister is not prepared to come back to the House to debate in detail the provisions that he will seek to make in future.

Amendment No. 18 contains the further proviso that none of the conservation measures makes sense unless other European countries do the same, and therefore the Government should not take them. I understand that the Minister will seek comparable action from other European countries. I make it clear that it would not be acceptable to the industry or the House if by comparable action the Minister meant conservation measures such as decommissioning or gear changes. It would not be acceptable if other countries took such measures while we imposed the days-at-sea regulations.That would not be comparable. The impact on individual fishermen would be to bankrupt fishermen in Britain but help those in other countries. I hope that the Minister will be clear about what he means by "comparable" internationally.

The Bill will never meet the needs of the industry, conservation or equity, but new clause I and amendment No. 18 will at least provide a chance of equity between countries and enable the House to bring the Minister to book on the detailed proposals. New clause 1 and amendment No. 18 are important. If the Minister seriously intends to take a big step towards achieving the aim of the amendments, he should undertake to amend the Bill at a later stage so that hon. Members do not have to rely on reassurances which may not be delivered in practice by the Minister's successors, even if the Minister genuinely intends to deliver them.

Hon. Members should bear it in mind that, if it was announced that our income was to be cut for every day that the Government decided that we should stay at home for our extended summer recess, no matter what Opposition and Conservative Members said, there might be more disagreement about the length of the recess. Of course Ministers would not expect to get away with that, and they should not expect to get away with treating fishermen in the same way.

Mr. Moate

The new clause proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Mr. Trotter) suggests that the Bill should be subject to annual renewal. That shows how extreme the Government's proposal is. It is extraordinary to propose that the British fishing fleet should be tied up in port for much of its time. Many of us can recall the impact of the three-day week in other contexts.

Mr. Curry

indicated dissent.

Mr. Moate

My hon. Friend the Minister reacts against that, but that is the proposal. I do not suggest that it is an unacceptable proposal—the next interesting fact is that virtually every fisherman to whom I have spoken accepts in principle the need for further conservation and effort control. But the proposal is extraordinary.

No one should be in any doubt about the far-reaching nature of the days at sea regulations. It is even more extraordinary that we should ask British vessels to be tied up in port while we do not place similar restrictions on our common market partners and other fishing vessels fishing in our waters and therefore often taking from the British quota. That is why I have added my name to amendment No. 18, which has been taken with the new clause 1 for the debate.

Amendment No. 18 argues for a level playing field. The British fishing industry accepts the need for conservation. There seems to be universal agreement that conservation measures must be taken, but surely it is self-evident that we shall not achieve conservation of British stocks without the full-hearted co-operation of the British fishing industry. It is surely also self-evident that that climate does not prevail as we reach this point in the legislation.

It would have been much better if we had paused for further consultation with the industry and sought agreement on how to implement conservation measures. We are taking the Report stage today without a great deal of time to consider the amendments that have been tabled or to discuss with the industry how best to implement the Bill.

I accept that there have been rumours of efforts to meet some of the genuine concerns of the House, but unless we can translate that concern into positive legislative intent, it is extremely difficult to respond other than by saying that we must have it in the Bill.

Amendment No. 18 is sensible. It might not be legally perfect—I am aware that Governments are in the habit of saying that the drafting of an amendment lacks something so they cannot accept it—but the Bill has a long way to go. My hon. Friend could accept the amendment, or he could accept the principle behind it and incorporate it in legislation in another place. I know that he wants to be helpful, so can he assure us that he accepts the principle of the amendment? Otherwise—[Interruption] If my on. Friend says that he accepts the principle of the amendment—

Mr. Austin Mitchell

He has not said that he accepts the principle of the amendment.

Mr. Moate

If he cannot accept the principle, those of us who signed the amendment in good faith will have no choice but to support it.

Understanding what is at stake, I hope that my hon. Friend will do his utmost to help the House and the fishing industry. There is a genuine desire to make further conservation measures work, but he is asking too much of British fishermen if he thinks that he can apply days-at-sea regulations so that British vessles are tied up while French, Dutch, Spanish and other nations' vessels are free to fish in our fishing grounds. If he does not accept the truth of what I and many of my hon. Friends are saying, he will undermine the principle of co-operation.

7 pm

I share much of the scepticism about whether the measure will work. There has been no proper explanation of how days at sea will be allocated, and whether they will apply to pressure stocks only or also to non-pressure stocks. My hon. Friend is asking too much of the industry by demanding its wholehearted co-operation, until we have had such an explanation.

I want my hon. Friend the Minister of State to tell us from the Dispatch Box that he fully accepts the principle of the amendment and, if he cannot say so, the House should say it by voting.

Mr. Curry

I did not wish to speak when there was such a sense of anticipation in the Chamber. Rarely has the main picture been preceded by so many trailers, but I had better be careful about what I say.

Effectively. we have had a Second Reading debate, and I shall not rehearse the arguments aired on Second Reading and in Committee; this is not the place to do so. Hon. Members were insistent about some matters and I shall try to reply briefly, so that hon. Members and my hon. Friends are satisfied.

People are concerned about how the scheme will work in practice. The right hon. Member for Strangford (Mr. Taylor) said that his fishermen do not want to work on Sunday. I hope that I gave him a satisfactory answer when he asked about that. Nothing in the Bill will force them to fish on Sunday. The idea is that fishermen will be able to choose which days they fish. There will be no Government prescription and no blocks of allocations for one coast, one port or one stock. All fishermen will have the choice of when they fish, within the framework that has been set. I have said so before, and I wish to make that clear to the right hon. Gentleman.

I have heard what my hon. Friends have had to say about their great concerns, and many fishermen have visited me in my office. Shortly before the debate started, some fishermen from the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for South Hams (Mr. Steen) visited me to express their concerns about the proposed measure.

I recognise that some of my hon. Friends have special problems—when I think back to their remarks, I find it difficult to think of one of them who does not have a special problem. My hon. Friend the Member for Wyre (Mr. Mans) mentioned Fleetwood. That port has problems, because it has many old vessels. Fishermen from Fleetwood fish in the Irish sea, which also has problems. We have a 74 per cent. stake in herring in the Irish sea, a 33.5 per cent. stake in cod, a 38 per cent. stake in whiting, a 48 per cent. stake in plaice and approximately a 58 per cent. stake in sole. Although those stocks are not phenomenal, they are none the less important, and I recognise my hon. Friend's problems.

I want to dispel the idea that there will be a gigantic tie-up and that fishermen face a 30 per cent. cut in days at sea this year, followed by another 30 per cent. and then another. It will not work like that.

Mr. Austin Mitchell

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Curry

No, I want to conclude this part of the debate.

I understand the problems that my hon. Friends have explained. I know that they appreciate that I have to negotiate with the Community. I have to come up with a target, and we have to deliver it, as has every other member country. I have listened to what has been said.

My hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Mr. Trotter) argued with great force, and my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich (Mr. Sproat) put the east coast view with particular cogency. My hon. Friends the Members for Shorham (Mr. Stephen) and for South Hams represent the south-west. I recognise that that area has a mixed fishery, which does not have a preponderance of certain stocks, as is the case with the North sea and the west of Scotland.

From the outset, my hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives (Mr. Harris) has taken an honourable position over the Bill. I do not agree with him, but we have had a friendly and constructive disagreement on the issue, and I hope that we may at least build a few piers towards each other before the day is out.

My hon. Friend the Member for Faversham (Mr. Moate) represents-another entirely different fishery, which shows the problems involved in trying to produce regulations which will not merely achieve a level playing field throughout the Community but will be seen to be fair among the various British fishing communities, which are often in competition. We all face that problem.

I recognise that the concerns that have been expressed have a twin source: first, the effort control regime and its impact on the fishing industry; and, secondly the use of ministerial power, which is a constitutional concern.

The new clause tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth seeks to tackle those concerns. I shall therefore make a proposal that I hope will satisfy my hon. Friends that I am trying to respond to those concerns. The Government have spelt out clearly their intentions in relation to 1993—a freeze, based on 1991 track records. No one can say that that was not fully debated on Second Reading and in Committee. I have amended the Bill as promised, to introduce statutory tribunals to deal with disputes.

I propose that Ministers should use the powers in the Bill, as envisaged, to freeze fishing effort in 1993. I also propose that Ministers should be obliged to seek an affirmative resolution in both Houses of Parliament before they use their powers to reduce effort below the level set for 1993. That meets the widespread concern expressed in the House.

We should not introduce such a resolution unless we are satisfied that member states which share our fishery stocks are taking effective steps to meet their multi-annual guidance programme targets. I therefore undertake that, subject to my hon. Friend's agreement to withdraw his new clause, the Government will table an amendment in another place to insert those provisions in the Bill. I hope that the House will feel that I have sought to heed its concerns in that regard.

Mr. Trotter

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Minister of State for making that statement and welcome it, although I and many other hon. Members will regret that it was not made earlier in the proceedings on the Bill. He has taken on board the fears expressed throughout the country about the future of the industry under the proposals before the House.

My hon. Friend must bear in mind that he and his colleagues will have to work with the industry, and it is essential that there should be a relationship which makes effective——

Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I hope that I have been following the proceedings with care. I am not sure whether the Minister has sat down and the hon. Member for Tynemouth is exercising his right of reply, or whether it is an intervention.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse)

I understood that the Minister had sat down.

Mr. Curry

indicated assent.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

He is nodding his head in agreement.

Mr. Trotter

The Minister will have to work with the industry and there must be seen to be a regime which is effective and fair. That is not the way in which the Bill, as originally presented to the House, was viewed.

Mr. Salmond


Mr. Trotter

I shall not give way.

There has now been a clear undertaking that it is the intention to freeze fishing effort for next year at the 1991 level. My hon. Friend said that that had been made clear from the beginning, but I do not believe that to be the case.

I welcome the fact that he now accepts the need, in principle, for the House to be consulted before he comes forward with any further developments.

Mr. Home Robertson


Mr. Trotter


No further reductions should be made unless other countries take steps to ensure that there is fair play.

It is fortunate that we have the presidency of the Council of Ministers, because it will take some time before this Bill is enacted. It must go through the Upper House, where it will be amended on the basis of what my hon. Friend has agreed to tonight. I hope that this country will take the opportunity presented by our presidency to ensure that similar action is taken by other countries and we have an equivalent footing against which our industry and the Government's measures can be judged.

On the basis of the undertaking to amend the Bill during its passage through the Upper House, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Hon. Members


Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 275. Noes 312.

Division No. 67] [7.13 pm
Adams, Mrs Irene Canavan, Dennis
Ainger, Nick Cann, Jamie
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Carlile, Alexander (Montgomry)
Allen, Graham Chisholm, Malcolm
Alton, David Clapham, Michael
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Clark, Dr David (South Shields)
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale) Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)
Armstrong, Hilary Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Clelland, David
Ashton, Joe Clwyd, Mrs Ann
Austin-Walker, John Coffey, Ann
Barnes, Harry Cohen, Harry
Barron, Kevin Connarty, Michael
Battle, John Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Bayley, Hugh Corbett, Robin
Beckett, Margaret Corbyn, Jeremy
Beggs, Roy Cousins, Jim
Beith, Rt Hon A. J. Cox, Tom
Bell, Stuart Cryer, Bob
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Cummings, John
Bennett, Andrew F. Cunliffe, Lawrence
Benton, Joe Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE)
Bermingham, Gerald Cunningham, Dr John (C'p'l'nd)
Berry, Dr. Roger Dafis, Cynog
Betts, Clive Dalyell, Tam
Blair, Tony Darling, Alistair
Blunkett, David Davidson, Ian
Boateng, Paul Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral)
Boyce, Jimmy Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)
Boyes, Roland Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l)
Bradley, Keith Denham, John
Bray, Dr Jeremy Dewar, Donald
Brown, N. (N'c'tle upon Tyne E) Dixon, Don
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Dobson, Frank
Burden, Richard Donohoe, Brian H.
Byers, Stephen Dowd, Jim
Callaghan, Jim Dunnachie, Jimmy
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Campbell, Ronald (Blyth V) Eagle, Ms Angela
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Eastham, Ken
Enright, Derek McFall, John
Etherington, Bill McKelvey, William
Ewing, Mrs Margaret Mackinlay, Andrew
Fatchett, Derek McLeish, Henry
Faulds, Andrew Maclennan, Robert
Flynn, Paul McMaster, Gordon
Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S) McNamara, Kevin
Foster, Derek (B'p Auckland) McWilliam, John
Foster, Donald (Bath) Madden, Max
Foulkes, George Maginnis, Ken
Fraser, John Mahon, Alice
Fyfe, Maria Mallon, Seamus
Galbraith, Sam Marek, Dr John
Galloway, George Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Gapes, Mike Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S)
Garrett, John Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)
George, Bruce Martlew, Eric
Gerrard, Neil Maxton, John
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Meacher, Michael
Godman, Dr Norman A. Michael, Alun
Godsiff, Roger Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Golding, Mrs Llin Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll Bute)
Gordon, Mildred Milburn, Alan
Gould, Bryan Miller, Andrew
Graham, Thomas Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)
Grant, Bernie (Tottenham) Moonie, Dr Lewis
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) Morgan, Rhodri
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Morley, Elliot
Grocott, Bruce Morris, Rt Hon A. (Wy'nshawe)
Gunnell, John Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Hain, Peter Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Hall, Mike Mowlam, Marjorie
Hanson, David Mudie, George
Hardy, Peter Mullin, Chris
Harman, Ms Harriet Murphy, Paul
Harvey, Nick Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Henderson, Doug O'Brien, Michael (N W'kshire)
Heppell, John O'Brien, William (Normanton)
Hill, Keith (Streatham) O'Hara, Edward
Hinchliffe, David Olner, William
Hoey, Kate O'Neill, Martin
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 Primarolo, Dawn
Ingram, Adam Purchase, Ken
Jackson, Glenda (H'stead) Quin, Ms Joyce
Jamieson, David Radice, Giles
Johnston, Sir Russell Randall, Stuart
Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side) Redmond, Martin
Jones, leuan Wyn (Ynys Môn) Reid, Dr John
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C) Robertson, George (Hamilton)
Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O) Robinson, Geoffrey (Co'try NW)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW) Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham) Roche, Ms Barbara
Jowell, Tessa Rogers, Allan
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Rooker, Jeff
Keen, Alan Rooney, Terry
Kennedy, Charles (Ross, C &S) Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Kennedy, Jane (L'p'l Br'g'n) Ross, William (E Londonderry)
Khabra, Piara S. Rowlands, Ted
Kilfoyle, Peter Ruddock, Joan
Kirkwood, Archy Salmond, Alex
Lewis, Terry Sedgemore, Brian
Livingstone, Ken Sheerman, Barry
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Llwyd, Elfyn Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Loyden, Eddie Short, Clare
Lynne, Ms Liz Simpson, Alan
McAllion, John Skinner, Dennis
McAvoy, Thomas Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
McCartney, Ian Smith, C. (Isl'ton S & F'sbury)
Macdonald, Calum Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S) Walker, Rt Hon Sir Harold
Snape, Peter Walley, Joan
Soley, Clive Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Spearing, Nigel Wareing, Robert N
Spellar, John Watson, Mike
Squire, Rachel (Dunfermline W) Welsh, Andrew
Steinberg, Gerry Wicks, Malcolm
Stevenson, George Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)
Stott, Roger Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)
Strang, Dr. Gavin Wilson, Brian
Straw, Jack Winnick, David
Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury) Wise, Audrey
Taylor, Rt Hon John D. (Str'gf'd) Wray, Jimmy
Taylor, Matthew (Truro) Wright, Tony
Tipping, Paddy Young, David (Bolton SE)
Trimble, David
Turner, Dennis Tellers for the Ayes:
Tyler, Paul Mr. Jack Thompson and Mr. Eric Illsley.
Vaz, Keith
Walker, A. Cecil (Belfast N)
Adley, Robert Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) Colvin, Michael
Aitken, Jonathan Congdon, David
Alexander, Richard Conway, Derek
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby) Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st)
Allason, Rupert (Torbay) Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Amess, David Cope, Rt Hon Sir John
Ancram, Michael Cormack, Patrick
Arbuthnot, James Couchman, James
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Cran, James
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv) Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon)
Aspinwall, Jack Davies, Quentin (Stamford)
Atkins, Robert Davis, David (Boothferry)
Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E) Day, Stephen
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Deva, Nirj Joseph
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North) Devlin, Tim
Baldry, Tony Dickens, Geoffrey
Banks, Matthew (Southport) Dicks, Terry
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Dorrell, Stephen
Bates, Michael Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Batiste, Spencer Dover, Den
Bellingham, Henry Duncan, Alan
Bendall, Vivian Duncan-Smith, Iain
Beresford, Sir Paul Dunn, Bob
Blackburn, Dr John G. Durant, Sir Anthony
Body, Sir Richard Dykes, Hugh
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Eggar, Tim
Booth, Hartley Elletson, Harold
Boswell, Tim Emery, Sir Peter
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham) Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)
Bowden, Andrew Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)
Bowis, John Evans, Roger (Monmouth)
Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes Evennett, David
Brandreth, Gyles Faber, David
Brazier, Julian Fabricant, Michael
Bright, Graham Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Fenner, Dame Peggy
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thorpes) Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Browning, Mrs. Angela Fishburn, John Dudley
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) Forman, Nigel
Budgen, Nicholas Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Burns, Simon Forth, Eric
Burt, Alistair Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Butler, Peter Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)
Butterfill, John Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley)
Carlisle, John (Luton North) Freeman, Roger
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) French, Douglas
Carrington, Matthew Fry, Peter
Carttiss, Michael Gale, Roger
Cash, William Gallie, Phil
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Gardiner, Sir George
Chaplin, Mrs Judith Garel-Jones, Rt Hon Tristan
Chapman, Sydney Gamier, Edward
Churchill, Mr Gill, Christopher
Clappison, James Gillan, Ms Cheryl
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ruclif) Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Gorst, John Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
Grant, Sir Anthony (Cambs SW) Mellor, Rt Hon David
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N) Merchant, Piers
Greenway, John (Ryedale) Milligan, Stephen
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N) Mills, Iain
Grylls, Sir Michael Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn Mitchell, Sir David (Hants NW)
Hague, William Monro, Sir Hector
Hamilton, Rt Hon Archie Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Moss, Malcolm
Hanley, Jeremy Needham, Richard
Hannam, Sir John Nelson, Anthony
Hargreaves, Andrew Neubert, Sir Michael
Haselhurst, Alan Newton, Rt Hon Tony
Hawkins, Nicholas Nicholls, Patrick
Hawksley, Warren Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Heald, Oliver Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Heathcoat-Amory, David Norris, Steve
Hendry, Charles Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Oppenheim, Phillip
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Ottaway, Richard
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham) Page, Richard
Horam, John Paice, James
Hordern, Sir Peter Patnick, Irvine
Howard, Rt Hon Michael Patten, Rt Hon John
Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A) Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford) Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk) Pickles, Eric
Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W) Porter, Barry (Wirral S)
Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne) Porter, David (Waveney)
Hunter, Andrew Portillo, Rt Hon Michael
Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas Powell, William (Corby)
Jack, Michael Rathbone, Tim
Jackson, Robert (Wantage) Redwood, John
Jenkin, Bernard Renton, Rt Hon Tim
Jessel, Toby Richards, Rod
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Riddick, Graham
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Rifkind, Rt Hon. Malcolm
Jones, Robert B. (W H'f'rdshire) Robathan, Andrew
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S)
Key, Robert Robinson, Mark (Somerton)
Kilfedder, Sir James Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Kirkhope, Timothy Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent)
Knapman, Roger Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela
Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash) Ryder, Rt Hon Richard
Knight, Greg (Derby N) Sackville, Tom
Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n) Sainsbury, Rt Hon Tim
Knox, David Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas
Kynoch, George (Kincardine) Shaw, David (Dover)
Lait, Mrs Jacqui Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Lamont, Rt Hon Norman Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian
Lang, Rt Hon Ian Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Lawrence, Sir Ivan Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Legg, Barry Shersby, Michael
Leigh, Edward Sims, Roger
Lennox-Boyd, Mark Skeet, Sir Trevor
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe) Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Lidington, David Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter Soames, Nicholas
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Spencer, Sir Derek
Lord, Michael Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset)
Luff, Peter Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Spink, Dr Robert
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Spring, Richard
MacKay, Andrew Sproat, Iain
Maclean, David Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)
McLoughlin, Patrick Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick Steen, Anthony
Madel, David Stephen, Michael
Maitland, Lady Olga 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)
Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E) Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Temple-Morris, Peter Waterson, Nigel
Thomason, Roy Watts, John
Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N) Wells, Bowen
Thornton, Sir Malcolm Wheeler, Sir John
Thurnham, Peter Whitney, Ray
Townend, John (Bridlington) Whittingdale, John
Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexl'yh'th) Widdecombe, Ann
Tracey, Richard Wiggin, Jerry
Tredinnick, David Wilkinson, John
Trend, Michael Willetts. David
Trotter, Neville Wilshire, David
Twinn, Dr Ian Wolfson, Mark
Vaughan, Sir Gerard Wood, Timothy
Viggers, Peter Yeo, Tim
Waldegrave, Rt Hon William Young, Sir George (Acton)
Walden, George
Walker, Bill (N Tayside) Tellers for the Noes:
Waller, Gary Mr. David Lightbown and Mr. Robert G. Hughes.
Ward, John

Question accordingly negatived.

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