HC Deb 14 December 1993 vol 234 cc894-944

[Relevant documents: European Community Documents Nos. 6272/92, relating to food hygiene on board fishing vessels; 5441/93, relating to European fisheries research; 4158/93, relating to fisheries: Spain and Portugal; 7047/93 relating to fisheries: Ireland; 9123/93, relating to fisheries: Spain and Portugal; 9285/93 and the Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum submitted by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on 10th December, relating to fishing licences; 10194/92, relating to industrial fisheries: North Sea and the Skagerrak and Kattegat; 11194/92, relating to industrial fisheries: North Sea and the Skagerrak and Kattegat; and the unnumbered Explanatory Memorandum submitted by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on 19th February 1993, relating to fisheries: Norway.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Morris)

Before I call the Minister to move the motion I must inform the House that Madam Speaker has selected the amendment in the name of the Leader of the Opposition.

7.19 pm
The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Michael Jack)

I beg to move, That this House takes note of European Community Document No. 9662/93, relating to guide prices for fishery products 1994, the unnumbered Explanatory Memorandum submitted by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on 9th December 1993 relating to total allowable catches and quotas for 1994, the Sixth Report from the Agriculture Committee of Session 1992-93 on the effects of conservation measures on the United Kingdom sea fishing industry (House of Commons Paper No. 620) and the Government's Response thereto contained in the Fifth Special Report from the Agriculture Committee of Session 1992-93 (House of Commons Paper No. 927); and supports the Government's intention to negotiate the best possible fishing opportunities for the United Kingdom fishing industry for 1994 consistent with the requirements of conservation of fish stocks.

As the winter weather is upon us, it is timely that we should reflect for a moment on the hazardous nature of the fishing industry. Many fishermen run considerable risks with their own lives and, obviously, the livelihoods of their families when they proceed with what is a risky business. I know that, from time to time, the House has properly shown its deep concern when tragedies affect the fishing communities around our shores. I am always conscious of that concern when I deal with fishery matters.

This will be a wide-ranging debate on fisheries issues, and I should like to pay tribute to our fisheries inspectors, and to the Royal Navy, which, in all weathers, carries out its task of enforcing our common fisheries policy with great professionalism and skill. The House may be interested to know that it is my intention in the new year to visit one of Her Majesty's vessels on protection duty to learn more about the way in which it carries out its duties.

Mrs. Margaret Ewing (Moray)

The Minister has paid a tribute to the men who work so hard in the fisheries industry. Does he recall that this week is the third anniversary of the loss of six men from my constituency in the Premier disaster?

Does he agree that one of our responsibilities as legislators is to ensure that the fishing industry has a viable future, and that all safety aspects are regarded as critical?

Mr. Jack

I endorse what the hon. Lady has said. None of us could forget the tragedy to which she referred. I am grateful for that intervention, because the hon. Lady was right to refer to safety. She will be aware that, some months ago in Committee, I announced the resumption of grants for safety measures. I also indicated our willingness to consider the implications of work being undertaken by the Department of Transport for vessels below 12 m.

I started by referring to the fishermen themselves, precisely because they and the communities in which they live and work lie at the heart of all our considerations. Since I took over responsibility for this area of policy, I have been greatly assisted by the many messages that I have received from hon. Members who represent fishing constituencies. I am sure that some of them will make their own contributions this evening, but fear that my hon. Friend the Member Torridge and Devon, West (Miss Nicholson) will be unable to do so. In her own way, she has singularly communicated the particular needs of her fishermen. She has also done singular service in ensuring that I am kept abreast of the feelings of many right hon. and hon. Members on this subject.

This debate is an annual one. It is important, because it provides an opportunity to prepare for the December meeting of the Fisheries Council, which will begin on Sunday in Brussels. It is at that meeting that the decisions on next year's total allowable catches and quotas will be made.

The debate also gives me the opportunity to outline the Government's position on fishing policy, in the light of the outcome of the recent court case brought by the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations. In addition to deciding on the total allowable catches and quotas, the Council will also consider the important Commission proposal concerning the Spanish and Portuguese accession arrangements. The debate also affords the House the opportunity to discuss the valuable report on fishing policy from the Select Committee on Agriculture.

As always, some of the Commission's proposals have only just become available, because they must be based on the most up-to-date scientific advice. I know that that means that, unfortunately, there has been little time for the Scrutiny Committee or hon. Members to study them. I believe that hon. Members understand such matters sufficiently well, however, to make an appraisal on the information available to them.

During the summer, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland and I visited our major fishing centres. We covered the United Kingdom in a genuine attempt to understand some of the issues that affect the fishing industry around our shores. I learned a great deal about that industry, and about the men and women who work in it. I also learned about the importance to those communities of a viable fishing industry.

Differences of opinion may be expressed in the debate about how we should achieve the viability objective, but there is no doubt about our common cause in trying to find a way forward for the long-term future of the industry. I approach the debate in a genuine spirit of co-operation. I want to listen carefully to the views of right hon. and hon. Members. I also want to listen to the representations by the industry, because it is important that we try to recognise the common problem caused by trying to conserve fish stocks for the good of the industry.

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

In the interests of fishermen, may I make a plea for greater co-operation among Departments? Following the tragic loss of the Antares, fine co-operation exists off the west coast of Scotland among fishermen and those mariners who sail the nuclear submarines. More needs to be done.

At this moment, a gas pipe is being installed between the south of Scotland and Northern Ireland, but the interests of the fishermen have been disregarded. Is it the case that part of that pipeline will be laid on top of the seabed and not in a trench? That decision is of considerable importance to the fishermen who work those waters. Similarly, with the abandonment of pipeline networks, as a result of the workings of the Petroleum Act 1987, much more consultation with our fishermen needs to be undertaken.

Mr. Jack

I thank the hon. Gentleman for displaying his customary courtesy in putting his views to me. We have debated matters connected with the Antares in Committee, and I know that he was satisfied with the response that I gave at that time. When my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland replies to the debate, I shall ask him to deal specifically with pipelines. Suffice it to say that there is considerable dialogue between those in the offshore gas industry and the fishing industry.

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan)

When the Minister undertook his trip around the coastline to the various fishing ports, he must have become aware that, although there was huge opposition to the legislation governing days at sea, there was general support for the decommissioning package: the fishermen's only criticism was that it did not go far enough. When the Minister announced his response to the court reversal, why on earth did he say that the Government would suspend decommissioning after this year in addition to suspending the requirements governing days at sea? Is that really an example of the Government listening to the fishing industry?

Mr. Jack

The hon. Gentleman has anticipated certain passages in my speech. I will say something about that decision later, when I will be happy to take a further intervention from him.

Mrs. Ewing

During business questions on Thursday, my party specifically asked for a clear statement to be made on the days-at-sea arrangements. We then read in the national press on Friday morning that the Government intended to drop those arrangements. They made no mention of considering the decommissioning programme against the decision on the days-at-sea arrangements. What carrot and stick are the Government using?

Mr. Jack

The hon. Lady should wait until we have made a little progress, when we can deal with that matter. I am not aware of any statement that I made to the national press. She may have read certain local reports in Scottish newspapers. I have seen a copy of the answer to a parliamentary question tabled today, and it offers a complete view of our policy. Any other reports on that policy were speculative.

I hope that hon. Members will not mind if I now make further progress by outlining our future policy.

In considering the fishing industry, we should be minded by a statement by the European Court of Auditors. I hope that the House will bear with me if I quote from it, as it puts in context the real problems that the industry is facing. On decommissioning schemes, the following words were uttered: It must be said that since the CFP was instituted, the technological changes in the fishing sector have been so big that catch and detection facilities have now reached such a level of perfection that the traditional balance between fishing and resources has been destroyed. Any resource can now be located and exploited with an efficiency that has never been known in all the time that man has been exploiting fish resources. That gives some indication of the problem that we must all join in dealing with. The balance between man and his ability to catch fish is very much in the favour of man.

Mr. Neville Trotter (Tynemouth)

I thank my hon. Friend for visiting North Shields and listening to the concerns of local fishermen. With the desperate state of stocks in the North sea—the extract that he has just read highlights that situation—can he give us some assurance on the problems that are facing us if the Spanish and Portuguese are given access to the North sea? However difficult the situation is now, it will be disastrous if they are given free access.

Mr. Jack

I thank my hon. Friend for raising that point. I congratulate him on the stalwart efforts that he has made in proposing, for example, a new fish quay at North Shields. He has done singular service to his fishermen.

I shall want to expand my remarks on Spain and Portugal. I understand the serious nature of the problems so far as fishermen are concerned, not just in the North sea but in the western approaches and Irish sea. Those are serious matters, and we will want to negotiate them during the coming Fisheries Council, commensurate with the policy of relative stability and no increase in fishing effort. I can give my hon. Friend the assurance that I will take the tenor of his remarks with all seriousness when we carry out that debate.

When I gave way to my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth I had given an indication of the European Court of Auditors' views on the relationship between man's ability to catch fish and the impact that that has on the fishing stocks. That reflects the fact that this time is difficult for the industry. The key problem is the perennial one of how to provide the maximum fishing opportunities for our fisherman while conserving the stocks sufficiently to ensure that there will be fish to catch in the future.

It is not an easy balance to strike, but we should not overlook the fact that the situation is not completely negative. In cash terms, the value of fish landed up to September this year has risen by 4.7 per cent. to a total of £315 million. That increase in the value of the landed catch reflects rises in each of the demersal, pelagic and shellfish sectors.

In deciding how the fishing stocks are to be managed, a key element must be the advice of the scientists, whose long-term analysis of the fish stocks guide their recommendations on the amount of fish that can be caught, area by area and species by species. As I shall outline, some of their recommendations will be difficult for our fishermen, as they reflect a real fear that some stocks will not be able to sustain current levels of fishing effort.

The negotiations taking place at the Fisheries Council in Brussels will also deal with the arrangements to apply in future to the Spanish and Portuguese fishing fleet, and will be very much focused on the means of ensuring that there is no increase in fishing effort by those fleets, so that vulnerable stocks are not further weakened.

As I have reported to the House, we are looking at all those issues against a background of securing the reductions in effort that are necessary to bring fishing opportunities, capacity and effort into a more sustainable balance, and to meet our part of the multi-annual guidance programme responsibility, which falls on all member states.

Those matters, then, constitute the agenda for the debate, and I want to expand on them. The sharing of our resources while protecting them and ensuring that we respond to changing requirements in ways that do not damage the delicate balance is one of the main challenges that we all must face. In achieving that, we must ensure that the United Kingdom's industry's needs and interests are fully reflected, in terms of fair treatment now and in developing measures for the future.

Last Thursday, in the House, I said that I would shortly clarify how the Government saw the way forward on days at sea. The House will be aware of the Government's plans to bring fishing effort more into a sustainable balance with the stocks and for meeting our MAGP targets. Hon. Members will also be aware of the recent High Court judgment in the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisation's judicial review proceedings.

The court, while noting that there is total agreement on the need to prevent overfishing of certain stocks, concluded that there are various points of Community law, which it felt unable to resolve. The case has therefore been referred to the European Court of Justice.

That means that the industry has been left in a state of uncertainty, and there is a question mark over our conservation policies. In that situation, my right hon. Friends and I have concluded that the most straightforward course is to suspend the implementation of days-at-sea restrictions pending the judgment of the European Court of Justice, which we shall seek to have expedited.

Mr. Menzies Campbell (Fife, North-East)

In what the Minister has just said, the implication must be read that, were the decision of the European court to be favourable to the Government, they would be prepared to reimpose the days-at-sea restriction. Is that a reasonable or realistic position for the Government to have? Would it not be much more straightforward for the Government to say now that the days-at-sea restriction is to be abandoned completely, and to open negotiations and discussions with the industry immediately?

Mr. Jack

I shall answer the hon. and learned Gentleman's point now, and I hope that he will not mind if, in later remarks, I repeat some further amplification of it. I can understand the point that he makes, but none of us, in trying to deal with the question of the over-capacity of our industry and the need to constrain effort, can uncouple those different parts of the package. When we introduced days at sea, we were mindful of the failures of previous decommissioning schemes.

Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)

Not that hoary old chestnut again.

Mr. Jack

If the hon. Gentleman wants to run away from the hoary old chestnut, he is running way from the central issue in our efforts to deal with the problem.

The central problem of decommissioning is that, if, by virtue of that policy, one takes out fishing effort, any of the gains from so doing will be lost if one does not in some way constrain the fishing effort of the remainder of the fleet.

As I shall come on to outline, at this time further discussions have to be held in the light of the uncertainties that the court case has thrown up.

Mr. John D. Taylor (Strangford)

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Jack

If I may just make a little more progress to the end of this passage, I will give way to the right hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Taylor

It is just on the European Court.

Mr. Jack

The right hon. Gentleman can have his say on the European Court when I have had mine on these remarks. In fairness, I want to finish my response to the intervention of the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell).

Hon. Members will recall that days-at-sea controls are one element of a package of measures designed to conserve the stocks and meet our Community targets, while securing value for money. Other elements are various new licensing rules, and a £25 million decommissioning scheme.

I am pleased to be able to confirm that fishermen whose bids have already been accepted under the decommissioning scheme will receive their grants, provided that, in accordance with the scheme, they scrap their vessels and submit the necessary documentation to the Ministry before 1 March 1994. Beyond that, we need to review the way forward; as a first step, we shall be speaking to the European Commissioner about what further needs to be done. I shall also speak to the industry. I shall present further proposals to the House in due course.

It is, however, already clear that it will not be easy to achieve our targets and conservation objectives without the effort reduction that was represented by days at sea.

Mr. Taylor

A case dealing with days at sea has been referred to the European Court in Luxembourg, and by tradition that Court has taken a long time to consider issues. Based on experience, what period does the Minister expect to elapse before the court reaches a decision?

Mr. Jack

I expect that the court would take between 18 months and two years to come to its decision, and there may then be subsequent legal proceedings within the United Kingdom's courts. The challenge before us is that we still have to meet our European reduction targets.

Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland)

The Minister has repeated the terms of the written answer given this afternoon, which, while confirming the position on decommissioning for the first year, is silent about decommissioning for the second and third years. If he wants to talk to the industry and, one hopes, also listen to it in the constructive way that he set out earlier, does he agree that he will do his case, and the talks, no good if there is a veiled threat about withdrawing decommissioning? Will he confirm that the decommissioning schemes will go ahead for years two and three?

Mr. Jack

I am not in the business of making threats. I acknowledge that the situation is sensitive, but, under the changed circumstances, I want time to think through carefully the range of policy options that are open to us, so that we may meet our Community targets. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me if, at this juncture, I do not reel off a potential list. Some schemes may be practical, others may not. I recognise the point that the hon. Gentleman makes, and I will take the most careful note of it in considering those options.

Several hon. Members


Mr. Jack

I must answer this important point, and I want my answer to satisfy the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace).

I want to give proper reflection to the available range of options to meet those targets—we shall come to other matters in the debate—and I may want to discuss all those issues with the Commissioner in the light of meeting our targets.

Mr. Keith Mans (Wyre)

My hon. Friend will know that people in my port of Fleetwood will welcome his comments about days at sea, because he knows that we in Fleetwood have had serious doubts about the effectiveness of the days-at-sea provision on effort control. Does he know when he will be able to give the House an idea of the other measures that he proposes to take, and whether he will be taking forward discussions with the industry along the lines of its recent proposals for an alternative to the days-at-sea provision?

Mr. Jack

I met representatives of the industry for discussions only this afternoon. The meeting had originally been called to hear their comments on the total allowable catches and quotas proposals from the Community, but we had an initial exchange on the implications of our announcement, and I gave them an undertaking that we would have—as I would want us to have—discussions with them on those matters. If our attempts to expediate matters in the European Court come to fruition, we might see an earlier resolution to some of the problems.

As to the other measures, once I have had an opportunity to meet the European Commissioner and discuss the situation with him, I hope that, not too long after that, we can come forward with some proposals.

Mr. Archy Kirkwood (Roxburgh and Berwickshire)

I understand that the Minister is trying to be helpful, and I appreciate that, but can he be a bit more specific? Is there any chance of getting an announcement in the hands of the fishing industry by early next year?

Mr. Jack

I can agree with the "next year" bit, but "early" is one of those words about which one has to think carefully. I am conscious that we have to meet our Community objectives. I want to be quite certain that the policy implications arising from the court judgment can be considered carefully, in consultation with the industry, and after listening to the views of right hon. and hon. Members. I do not want to jump to an early conclusion when there is a problem.

For example, nobody can run away, in the argument on decommissioning, from the central issue that we have to find some way to control the effort of the remainder of the fleet. If we do not,. we might potentially negate all the gains. I want to reflect on that.

Mr. Robert Hughes

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Jack

I will continue to give way to hon. Members, so long as I do not suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. That is what happened last time, when I gave way many times but was then accused of taking too long.

Mr. Phil Gallie (Ayr)

Can my hon. Friend confirm that the Scottish fishing industry did not choose to have recourse to the courts? Will he undertake to continue negotiations with the Scottish fishing industry, particularly on the decommissioning programme?

Mr. Jack

I hope that my hon. Friend will continue the dialogue. I have enjoyed my conversations with the Scottish fishermnen's representatives. They are robust, and I am sure that they will form a future part of our consultations.

Mr. Robert Hughes

Every hon. Member understands that the Minister is in a difficult position, and we do not expect him to tell us precisely what he will do in the interregnum while waiting either for the judgment from Europe or until the final decision has been taken. Surely he must say clearly that, among the options that have to be considered, he will not abandon decommissioning. That is all we are saying. Will he accept that decommissioning will have a vital part to play in the future? There is no difficulty in answering that question—a simple yes or no will do.

Mr. Jack

I have not uttered, nor does the rest of my brief contain, any words to the effect that I am abandoning any policy. As I have said, I understand the importance of decommissioning, and I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's understanding of my position, but I cannot give a definitive, detailed, worked-out, alternative approach.

I cannot escape the fact that the maximum effectiveness of decommissioning is derived when the central issue of effort control for the remainder of the fleet is addressed. In all honesty, nobody can run away from that point.

Mr. Ian Bruce (South Dorset)

Dorset fishermen have been impressed by my hon. Friend's approach to fishing problems. He should take credit for what he did for the inshore fishermen and the shell fishermen. We have a great deal of faith in what he can do. I hope that, supported by the positive approach of my fishermen to all the problems, he will be able to come up with a solution that can be to the benefit of all parts of the industry. After all, the industry will get the benefits of good conservation measures.

Mr. Jack

I am grateful for my hon. Friend's kind remarks. I met some of the fishermen from his area when we were discussing the previous policy, and I found what they had to say was useful.

Several hon. Members


Mr. Jack

I should like to make a little progress, because I want to deal with certain matters connected with decommissioning. I have been extraordinarily generous in giving way to hon. Members representing the Scottish National party. Others may wish to intervene. I am not against being interrupted, but I want to make a little bit of progress so that the House has something else to chew over.

Mr. Salmond

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was not quite able to hear the Minister, but he may in the extremity of the moment have forgotten that, earlier in his speech, he had committed himself to giving way to me. I know that he is a man of his word, and I am sure that he will want to keep it.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

That is not a point of order for the Chair.

Mr. Jack

I want to make a little progress. The hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) may catch my eye a little later.

Decommissioning has a role to play, but I note that even the Select Committee, which advocated a more generous scheme, appeared to share the Government's scepticism, in paragraph 140, and called for "value for money safeguards". Similarly, in last year's debate, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Dr. Strang) admitted: A decommissioning scheme is not a panacea or a policy that can work on its own".—[Official Report, 9 December 1992; Vol. 215, c. 865.]

Controlling fishing effort is not something we can dodge. No doubt Opposition Members will attack the Government—for example, on the size of our scheme. I hope that all those who choose that line of argument will be kind enough, on behalf of their respective parties, to tell us how much they would have spent, whether a firm pledge has been given or whether they have simply uttered words for the consumption of the industry—knowing, as Conservative Members know, that they will never have the chance to implement those hollow gestures.

Mr. Salmond

As the Minister knows, the plans of the Scottish National party for decommissioning were in our pre-Budget statement.

Will the Minister consider what he is doing with this policy? He has told us that the issue of days at sea will remain in the European Court and continue to poison the atmosphere. He is withdrawing decommissioning after the first year, even in Scotland where the industry was not a party to the court case that he is reacting to, as Conservative Members have pointed out. He has shown no signs of responding to the fishermen's submissions, which he asked to be submitted on 30 September.

Can we take from the Minister's utterances any indication of good faith towards the industry? He is in danger of once again poisoning the atmosphere by withdrawing decommissioning without rationale.

Mr. Jack

That almost sounded like a quote from the press release that was written before the debate started.

I have not yet said that decommissioning will be withdrawn. I said that I understood the importance attached to it, and that I would consider the views expressed by hon. Members during the debate. The hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) said that he understood my position and that I was not able to give definitive, detailed, point-by-point statements of the policies that we will have to follow, bearing in mind that we still have our Community effort-reduction targets to meet. I hope that the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) will understand that and not misrepresent the situation.

Mrs. Ewing

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Jack

No; I want to make some progress.

I do not want to pollute the good relations that I hope we have begun to build up with the industry, and I will later refer to the study that the fishermen's organisations have put before us.

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

In the intervention by the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Gallie), and in some of the Minister's earlier comments, there seemed to be a suggestion that the Government thought it improper that the National Association of Fishermen's Organisations and my constituents should take the matter to the court to obtain a ruling. That is a different attitude from the one taken on Sunday trading. I never heard Ministers say that it was wrong for B and Q to take that matter to the European Court.

In seeking good constructive relations with the industry, I hope that the Minister is not implying that its application for a legal ruling deserves some form of punitive reaction in relation to decommissioning, and that his action is a temporary prelude to reintroducing it as part of a new package.

Mr. Jack

I am not vindictive by nature. If the NFFO felt that that was the best course of action to serve its members' interests, it had every right to proceed. My disappointment was because, having listened to what people said during the summer, I would have liked to respond. But the court case got in the way, and we now have to tackle the programme in a different way.

The hon. Member for Banff and Buchan thinks through his policies carefully, and I hope that he will understand the difficulty I currently face. I still have before me the Community effort-reduction obligation in MAGP, and I need to discuss its implications for the United Kingdom. I am aware of a number of ways of achieving effort reduction, but I want to weigh those discussions very carefully—as I will those that I will have with the industry—before coming to a firm conclusion, about which I and my right hon. Friend would feel comfortable when putting it before the fishing industry.

Mrs. Jacqui Lait (Hastings and Rye)

I agree with my hon. Friend about the need for effort reduction. In Hastings and Rye during the summer, we did not reach our sole quota. There is great worry about the future existence of sole as a species in that area. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for arranging a survey of the shingle bank, in order to find out the cause of the problem. His announcement today will be welcomed by the fishermen. At least they have some respite from their worst fears.

Mr. Jack

I thank my hon. Friend for her comments. She has done a good job in representing the interests of her fishing community, and she brought a delegation of fishermen to see me. I am grateful for her comments about the aggregate dredging of the shingle bank in her constituency.

Mrs. Ewing

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Jack

Since the hon. Lady asks so nicely, I will.

Mrs. Ewing

I appreciate the exigencies under which the Minister is operating. He has spoken quite clearly about the carrot and stick of the days at sea and decommissioning. Under what circumstances would the Government argue for the continuation of a decommissioning scheme after 1 March 1994?

Mr. Jack

I have tried very hard to paint the picture. I have explained the current issues in regard to meeting the Community effort-reduction targets. As I have explained to the hon. Lady, and reflected in terms what the Select Committee have said, it must be recognised that, if we are to have a decommissioning scheme that delivers, we cannot escape considering the effort that remains fishing. No one can run away from that.

I do not dismiss any proposition about ways of achieving the Community target, but I need time to consider such propositions in the context of the discussions with the Commission and the industry.

Hon. Members have mentioned the work that the industry has done. Technical conservation has a role to play, as the Select Committee noted. The industry has done useful work during the summer and "I want to pursue that subject in discussions with it. We must recognise that the scientific advice is that the industry's suggestions will make only a small contribution to reducing fishing effort. The multi-annual guidance programme targets as currently constituted by the Commission do not allow technical conservation to count. I am sure that Opposition Members will tell me that technical conservation is the answer to some of the problems.

What set of proposals are the Opposition in favour of? We have had two sets of proposals put before us: one from the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations, which codifies existing good conservation practice but contains nothing which would genuinely relieve the serious pressure on north sea cod, except for the idea of a separator trawl. That would require more research, and raises a question of enforceability.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Ayr (Mr. Gallie) remarked about the Scottish Fishermen's Federation's proposals, they seem to contemplate a days-at-sea scheme with no total allowable catches. Their main proposal for the North sea was for a reduced mesh size in square mesh panels.

Unlike the Opposition, the industry has at least put down its ideas in detail. There are limitations to the proposals, but much valuable work has been done. I can assure the House that we will resume discussions with the industry on its ideas, to see what part it can play in our further attempts to reduce fishing effort and meet our Community obligations.

I cannot leave out the views of the Liberal Democrat party about this matter. I am at a loss in trying to comment on its fishing policy, because, since I have been responsible for fishery matters, its only policy seems to have been waving in front of me a document which was acquired from one of our fishery offices. If it cannot do any better, it is the Liberal Democrat party that should be decommissioned forthwith.

I have already referred to a number of points about effort control in the Select Committee's report. I was pleased to note that the Committee also endorsed a number of key elements in the Government's approach to the common fisheries policy—particularly the central importance of relative stability, the use of total allowable catches and quotas as policy instruments and the need to base policy decisions closely on the advice of scientific experts. All those concerns will underline our negotiating approach to TACs and quotas in the Council next week.

I know that the Committee considered our proposals on days-at-sea controls too draconian. I hope that its members have been able to see the action that we have taken in the light of the court case; we had hoped to announce an easing of policy, but the case prevented that.

The Commission's proposals for TACs and quotas, which the Council will consider next week, must be seen against a background of continued pressure on the principal stocks, and the need to find a satisfactory solution to the problem of reducing effort.

The picture around our shores is generally worrying. West coast demersals continue to be a poor state: They suffer from the same problems as those in the North sea—high mortality and low spawning stock biomass. In the Irish sea, the cod situation remains extremely serious, and the Advisory Committee on Fish Management has recommended drastic action.

Reductions are proposed for important stocks in area seven—cod, anglers and megrim. It is also proposed that the TACs for northern hake should be significantly reduced, on the basis of the first analytical assessment of that stock. Flatfish stocks in particular—everywhere—have shown some recovery, thanks to good recruitment; but, in that and all other stocks, prudent management must be exercised.

The Commission's proposals on the TACs for North sea demersals, as well as North sea herring and western mackerel, must await the conclusions of the Community Norway consultations, which are currently taking place. I think that it is too early to judge the outcome of those discussions; however, I can tell the House that the stocks of all round fish except haddock are depleted. As for pelagic species, although western mackerel and herring stocks are in good shape, the stocks of North sea mackerel remain in a collapsed state.

Dr. Godman

In the light of the negotiations with Norway—and given that a number of vessels are ready to sail at the end of the month, so that they can start fishing in northern Norwegian waters early in the new year—can the Minister give us any idea when the negotiations between the European Union and Norway will be settled? Are they likely to be settled before 31 December?

Mr. Jack

They must be settled in time for the negotiations of the Council this weekend. At the end of that meeting, we must agree the TACs and quotas.

Let me draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to a recent piece of good news in relation to Community negotiations with the European economic area, which included discussion of the so-called cohesion cod. As a result of that discussion, in the north Norwegian waters our vessels will enjoy an increase of some 40 per cent. in the amount of cod they can catch. We hope that, in our discussions this weekend and next week, we shall reach a conclusion that meets the hon. Gentleman's timetable.

In negotiating, the Government will have in mind the needs and concerns of people in all regions of the United Kingdom. We shall also request Hague preference terms where appropriate, and seek to obtain western mackerel flexibility at least at the same levels as last year.

I know that hon. Members will understand that we are in the process of a complicated negotiation. As well as dealing with the TACs and quotas for stocks in our own waters, we must deal with those for stocks that we share with Norway. As one of 12 member states, we shall do the best we can to secure an outcome that gives the United Kingdom the best possible fishing opportunities for 1994, consistent with the requirement to conserve fish stocks and preserve the principle of relative stability.

I was anxious for the industry to be aware of those factors. This afternoon, I met some of its representatives to explain our position, and to listen to their concerns before the negotiations.

The motion refers to guide prices. I am pleased to say that the 1994 prices agreed—as is usual—in the November Council were generally satisfactory for the United Kingdom. In particular, we secured the continuance of the dual guide price for herring, which is designed to enable the United Kingdom industry to take best advantage of the Community support mechanisms.

Next week, the Council is likely to decide on the future of the fisheries accession arrangements for Spain and Portugal. As with the TACs and quotas, we shall insist that relative stability must be maintained; equally, there must be no increase in fishing effort. We must all accept that the option of doing nothing does not exist. The Act of accession for those two countries clearly lays down the obligation to examine the position, and for us to consider changes this year.

Mrs. Ewing

In which articles?

Mr. Jack

The articles dealing with this matter that I have seen so far were in the Commission's original proposals. They were not acceptable to us. We made it very clear at the outset that the Commission's wish to concede the principle of freedom of access for all Community vessels to Community waters before putting in place the detail of what was to replace the existing mechanisms was entirely unacceptable to the United Kingdom. When the matter was discussed again in the November Council, we were joined by other member states that felt the same.

Mr. Paul Tyler (North Cornwall)

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Jack

May I finish my answer to the important question asked by the hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing)? I am glad that she asked it, from a sedentary position.

We have made our stance very clear. The Council will be presented with the outcome of discussions that have taken place among the various committees, including the Committee of Permanent Representatives. We shall have further proposals before us at the weekend, and I have outlined the basic principles on which we shall judge those matters.

Let me make it clear that I take the issues involving those with fishing interests in the North sea as seriously as I take issues affecting those who represent fishing interests in the western approaches in the Irish sea. This matter affects both areas, and it is extremely serious; but, as I have said, the option to do nothing is not available.

Mr. Tyler

I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House will wish to be helpful, and to strengthen the Minister's arm in the negotiations. In relation to both the western approaches and the Irish box, these matters could pose as serious a threat to the industry as the days-at-sea provisions—more serious, perhaps, in regard to certain species. We all recognise the problems that the Minister faces.

Nevertheless, I think that we all feel—I am sure that this is the industry's view—that the circumstances in which the accession treaty was signed were different in material ways. The emphasis on the conservation of particular species has changed dramatically in the intervening period. I hope that the Minister will be robust in the negotiations, and will not be happy to indulge in horse trading that will sell our fishermen down the river.

Mr. Jack

We took an extremely robust line when the matter was first discussed. We said that the Commission's proposed measures were unacceptable—and we took a similarly robust line last time. I like to think that the force of our arguments and our negotiating position attracted support from others.

I have made our basic principles extremely clear. Let me say in all sincerity, however, that, however robust I am, and however hard I fight for our fishermen's interests—which I will do—we are but one of 12. I cannot anticipate the final actions of other member states, which will themselves consider the matter in terms of their own national interests.

It is worth recording, in connection with the way in which the Community works, that Greece and Italy have little direct interest in the matter. Obviously, Spain and Portugal are entirely in favour of the proposition. The United Kingdom and Ireland have made a clear statement of opposition to the proposals that have been put forward so far. Other countries have voiced reservations in their own interests as they see fit. We shall continue to try to ensure that there is robust support, and to question inadequate proposals. We do not have the option on this occasion to do nothing.

Mr. Eddie McGrady (South Down)

The issue to which the Minister refers has serious implications for the Irish box and the Irish sea, where France, Spain and Portugal take 88 per cent. of the catch. The odds in that playing field, if one may use that analogy, are loaded agains the Northern Irish fishermen, and I am worried that the Minister's comments indicate a willingness to let himself be persuaded, or perhaps bullied, by other European nations.

That is not acceptable to the fishing industry. We need the same rules and regulations and for them to be enforced against other countries that are taking the major part of the fishing industry away from those Irish areas.

Mr. Jack

I thank the hon. Member for his remarks. Let me not leave him in any doubt that the United Kingdom has been resolute in its objections so far to the proposals that have come forward. Our negotiators went for further discussions with a clear remit that, unless the basic principles that I have outlined—relative stability and no increase in fishing effort—were met, the proposals were unacceptable.

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will understand that I could sit in the Council meeting all next week, thump the table hard and continue to say no, but if 11 people decide to say yes, I am not in a position to veto that. My task must be to negotiate with as much skill and determination as possible to achieve the best possible deal for our fishermen, under circumstances in which to do nothing is not an option.

I hope that the hon. Gentleman understands that there is an agreed Community position that the Irish box ceases to exist at the end of December 1995. That is not to say that there are not other options that ought to be considered that relate to the removal of that box. We shall consider those proposals carefully. Some people have suggested alternatives, such as a Shetland box, or closed areas. If any one of those were to be introduced, they would be put in place on a non-discriminatory basis and all Community countries would be bound by whatever restrictions were imposed.

In closing areas, one must remember the displacement effect—where people go to fish when they are not allowed to do so in certain areas. When I visited the three Northern Ireland fishing ports in the summer, I was left in no doubt of the state of the fishing industry there and the difficulties faced by those who fish there. Those difficulties shall be in my mind as we negotiate.

I hope that hon. Members understand the reasons for the policy announcement. I am not abandoning policies, as has been suggested, but merely regrouping to consider where we go from here. I cannot escape the Community obligations under our multi-annual guidance programme. I shall fight hard in the negotiations in Brussels in the coming days for our fishermen, and over the issues of TACs, quotas and the concerns with Spain and Portugal.

Conservative Members do not shirk difficult decisions over the fishing industry. It is easy, in the interests of gesture politics, to talk fine words, but our common task must be the conservation of our fishing stocks for the long-term future of the industry.

8.8 pm

Dr. Gavin Strang (Edinburgh, East)

I beg to move, to leave out from 'and supports' to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof: 'agrees with the House of Commons Select Committee on Agriculture that days at sea restrictions are "unnecessarily draconian" and "carry the risk that the United Kingdom fleet will suffer a catastrophic financial implosion"; notes the recent High Court judgment on the Sea Fish Conservation Act 1992; urges the Government to abandon the days at sea restrictions and to respond positively to the conservation proposals put forward by the fishing industry; calls upon the Government to maintain the role of the Royal Navy in fisheries protection work and to do all in its power to ensure that the Common Fisheries Policy enforcement mechanisms coming into operation on 1st January 1994 are effective; urges the Government to ensure that the minimum possible disadvantage is imposed upon the United Kingdom fishing industry by any agreement on the Spanish and Portuguese Act of Accession; and calls upon the Government to use the forthcoming European Union Fisheries Council meeting to secure a better deal for United Kingdom fishermen.'.

This has almost become the annual debate on the fishing industry. It is certainly the main debate of the year as it traditionally precedes the December Council when important decisions are taken in relation to the industry. Tonight's debate is not only about that Council. We have the report of the Select Committee on Agriculture and the Government's response before us and this debate is an unsatisfactory way in which to deal with that. There is a great deal of valuable information in the report. The Select Committee has made a great effort and it is unfair and unacceptable that it should be slotted into the debate when hon. Members wish to raise a whole range of issues. If there is any doubt that it is unfair and unacceptable, I suggest that hon. Members re-read the Minister's speech to see how little reference he made to some of the report's important recommendations. Indeed, he hardly mentioned it because he is inevitably preoccupied with the decisions to be taken at the Council later this month.

I am afraid that the industry is still in a relatively depressed state when compared to its state in the past year. There has been some improvement in prices, but not in all areas. However, the Scottish salmon industry—not the traditional sea fishing industry—is especially depressed. I hope that the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland will make some reference to it in his reply. The salmon industry is facing a crisis. It is being subjected to an utterly unacceptable level of dumping of salmon from Norway.

The minimum import price that has been set is derisory and the original proposal to license imports would have been more effective, but Norway refused to accept. In the Minister's negotiations with Norway and in talks at the Council, he must come up with more effective action to save that industry because thousands of jobs are at stake. The House as a whole does not seem to appreciate the growing importance of fish farming and how crucial the jobs are, not only to the Scottish economy, but to the United Kingdom as a whole.

The fishing industry depends on government. I use the word "government" in its widest sense to apply to the authorities of the European Community and the Government who are answerable to the House of Commons. I know that the present Government and their predecessors have made great play of their wish to disengage from industry and apply a laissez-faire approach. That cannot apply to fishing and at least on that point there is common ground.

The House accepts that the fishing industry cannot conserve its own stocks. Clearly, it needs Government intervention to protect its future and it needs support in other respects. Opposition Members would argue that the Government have a special responsibility to ensure that we can conserve our stocks and maintain a viable industry for the long-term future. One only has to look at the history of the North sea herring to recognise what can happen to stocks, or at the Mediterranean, where, as a result of over-fishing by some of the other EU member countries, there are too many fishermen chasing too few fish. As the Minister said in his opening remarks, we need to achieve a better balance.

The record of the Government—not just the record since the Minister of State took over, because we are entitled to take a longer view than that—is essentially one of failure, and nothing that we have heard today encourages us to believe that that period of failure is about to come to an end. One example of that is decommissioning, which has been central to much of the argument in the House.

When the Minister took over the brief, I dare say that, like me, he read some of the debates, particularly the main debate of the year, over the past five years or so. He will have seen the arguments about the need for a decommissioning scheme. Between 1987 and 1992, £256 million was made available for decommissioning schemes throughout the Community. Ireland did not take advantage of that because it has always been Ireland's policy—there is an implicit, if not explicit, acceptance of it—that its industry was entitled to grow. Ireland's position was unique in that respect. The only other country that did not take a penny of the money that had been allocated by the EC for decommissioning was Britain.

We are talking about substantial sums. Let me remind the House that Spain, which has a large fishing fleet, took £61 million out of the arrangement and Germany—that big fishing fleet—took £26 million.

Mr. Gary Streeter (Plymouth, Sutton)

The hon. Gentleman is talking about decommissioning. Will he tell the House how much his party would put into a decommissioning scheme in this country? How much would it cost and where would the money come from?

Dr. Strang

I shall come to that. If I do not answer that question, I hope that the hon. Member will intervene again.

I want to spend a little time on the history, which is important, not least because of the announcement today. The previous Minister, the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer), made it clear consistently in debates that the Government were resolutely opposed to decommissioning. In December 1990 he said: I emphasise that decommissioning is not the way to reduce the pressure on fish stocks".—[Official Report, 13 December 1990; Vol. 182, c. 1171.] Hon. Members who have been more regular attenders of these debates than I have been over the past five years will know that that was at a time when virtually every hon. Member with a fishing constituency was advocating the need for a decommissioning scheme.

We have a decommissioning scheme now, but it is inadequate. The Minister was quoting selectively when he referred to the Select Committee report. In fact, I believe that it was the only reference to the report in his speech. I shall give the whole quotation. The report states: We understand the Government's scepticism about decommissioning, although it has made things much harder for itself by its failure to control the size of the fleet since the end of the last scheme in 1986. The definitive point—I am glad that the chairman of the Select Committee is present—is this: We do not however consider that the Government's half-hearted scheme is the right response to the problems associated with decommissioning. More money should be committed to make a serious effort to reduce over capacity along with the necessary value for money safeguards. In the other place, the European Communities Select Committee published an equally good report. It said: The decommissioning scheme announced by the Government in February 1992 is welcome as a sign that the Government have accepted the principle of decommissioning. However, the measures which were announced are not sufficient to reduce the capacity of the fleet in the long term. The Committee accepts that £25 million is not even enough to prevent the fleet capacity from expanding. Four or five times that amount is now needed to make up for the lack of a decommissioning scheme in the United Kingdom during the last decade. The scheme which was announced must, regretfully, be described as too little, too late. We have said, and I repeat it, that £25 million a year should be the opening position for a decommissioning scheme.

Obviously we cannot predict what the circumstances will be in three year or four years. However, I submit that in the present climate an absolute minimum should be £25 million a year for three years, not £25 million over three years. The one thing about which we should be clear is that we must have a decommissioning scheme that will have a real impact on the fishing capacity, or we might as well not have one at all. All that we have from the Government is a belated, half-hearted approach. It has come many years after the other countries have implemented decommissioning schemes. Now, we are not sure what the Government are suggesting, but it seems that there may be a threat to suspend the scheme from the end of the financial year.

Mr. Jack

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for confirming his party's firm pledge about the amount that it would wish to spend initially. I note that it was for three years and possibly beyond. The hon. Gentleman talked about the effectiveness of decommissioning. Does he accept that constraining the effort of the remainder of the fishing fleet after the effects of a decommissioning scheme have been felt is crucial to the effectiveness of decommissioning as an approach to restraining fishing effort?

Dr. Strang

To pharaphrase the Minister, what he is saying is not dissimilar to what he quoted my hon. Friend the Member for Glandford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley) as saying, which is that decommissioning is not a panacea. It is not a solution to the long-term problem. We must take into account the increased efficiency to which the Minister referred to in his opening remarks. We accept that. However, we believe that a proper and effective decommissioning scheme has a part to play.

The Minister can correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that the enforcement of the Government's measures, including the proposed days-at-sea restrictions, would cost about £9 million. That is very costly. High costs are involved in some of the things that the Government are threatening to do. However, I take the Minister's point. In itself, decomissioning is not sufficient, but we are saying that it should be a major element of our approach.

The Government's approach is also inadequate—I would describe it as a debacle—on the proposed days-at-sea restrictions. There was virtual unity against that proposal among representatives in the House from fishing communities. The Opposition parties, led by the Labour party, consistently voted against the days-at-sea proposals at every opportunity. There was no support from the industry and no support from the House other than the whipped votes that the Minister secured. It could have been a close-run thing following the passage of the enabling Act, but not enough Government Members voted with the Opposition.

When the new Minister of State and the new Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food took over, they announced that the Government would not go ahead with the implementation of the days-at-sea restrictions on 1 October, but would defer them until 1 January. I am grateful to the Minister and his right hon. Friend for meeting us twice to discuss those issues. that deferral was a window of opportunity for the Government to come up with an alternative policy that did not involve days-at-sea restrictions, which were clearly unacceptable to the industry.

During the course of all that, the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations decided to go to court. The Minister was making it clear throughout that the Government were not minded to get rid of the days-at-sea restrictions. They may have reached that conclusion, but nothing that I heard him say at our meetings enabled me to walk out of the Ministry and say to the media, "Yes, I think that the Government will abandon the days-at-sea restrictions on the basis of the proposals put forward by the industry, which have all been submitted by the end of September."

The NFFO wrote to the Government to put it on record that it did not want the fact that it was going to court to prejudice the discussions on the conservation proposals put forward by the industry. The reply, dated 11 August, signed by Ms Rimmington, the Minister's Private Secretary, said that the Secretary of State was aware that leave was granted on 22 July, and that the substantive hearing"— the court hearing— will take place in the first week of November. However, she has asked me to emphasise that this should not affect the dialogue with the industry which the Minister of State announced on 7 July.

Notwithstanding that, the Minister gave the clear impression, which has been confirmed by interventions in the Chamber this evening, that the Government deeply resented the NFFO going to court. Indeed, in the course of the dialogue they threatened that, in return for going to court, the NFFO might find that the Government would abandon the decommissioning scheme. The industry was given the impression that that was an option. I was aghast when the Minister said as much at my second meeting with her on 11 November.

Why did the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Gallie), who is not in his place, and the leader of the Scottish National party, the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond), focus attention on the fact that the Scottish industry was not party to the court case? As the Minister knows, they made that point because the Government clearly implied that they were minded to punish the industry for going to court. What other interpretation can we put on their statements during that dialogue? If I had the press release, I could quote from it.

The Minister implied that the court process distracted from the real issue of considering the industry's proposals. But the deadline for those proposals was 30 September and the case did not come up in court until November. The Government had the whole month of October to reach decisions on the alternative proposals and announce that compulsory tie-up would not figure as an element of their package of measures for conserving our stocks. That is what should have happened, but the Government did not do that.

We now have the court's decision. Had it not been for the Government's announcement this afternoon, the NFFO would have applied for interim relief in the court on 11 January. Had that been granted, the court would have prevented the Government from going ahead with the days-at-sea restrictions. I do not know what legal advice the Government took, but it is important to make that point clear. The Government have simply said that they have suspended the days-at-sea restrictions until a decision by the European Court of Justice. That is a bad decision by the Government and I hope that, when they have had time to consider it further, they will recognise that they must remove the proposal completely. It will work only if the industry co-operates and the industry will never co-operate on that matter.

Dr. Robert Spink (Castle Point)

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the court judgment referred the matter up to the European Court of Justice? To summarise both cases, it was a neutral judgment. However, the court observed that it was necessary to conserve precious stocks.

Dr. Strang

I do not dispute that. I have quoted the Select Committee in our amendment. On compulsory tie-up, the Select Committee said that days-at-sea restrictions were "unnecessarily draconian" and carry the risk that the United Kingdom fleet will suffer a catastrophic financial implosion".

We believe that days-at-sea restrictions are wrong because they will discriminate against people who have borrowed large sums of money and young skippers who have bought a new vessel and are trying to earn an honest living. How can they pay off those debts and keep their business viable if those restrictions are imposed on them?

Like his predecessor last year, the Minister opened this debate by referring to the dangers associated with fishing. I make no apology for making this point and I make it as gently as I can. At present, if fishermen are a long way from home, fishing in difficult weather conditions, that constitute a danger to them, they will come home. With days-at-sea restrictions, there will be a pressure, however small, and an incentive to continue fishing in those dangerous conditions because that will be one of the limited days on which they can fish at sea.

One reason why the proposal would be unfair and unworkable is that, for various reasons—usually historically—Spanish, French and Irish vessels operate in the same areas as our fishermen, who could be tied up in port. The number of days which our fishermen could spend fishing those waters would be restricted, whereas no such restrictions would be imposed on those other member states because they are not implementing the days-at-sea restrictions, with which the Minister is still threatening the industry.

In the statement which the Government issued this afternoon in a written answer to the hon. Member for Cornwall, South-East (Mr. Hicks), the Minister says that he will discuss the matter with the EC Commissioner. We understand that there is a common fisheries policy and that it is not unreasonable for the Minister to discuss the matter with the Commissioner and his colleagues in the Council of Fisheries, but I hope that the Government will not try to replace what is essentially domestic legislation—the regulations that have been enacted by the House of Commons on the basis of the Sea Fish (Conservation) Act 1992—with EC regulations that would apply days-at-sea restrictions across the board. Is that what the Minister has in mind?

Mr. Jack

Given that, as I said earlier, we still have to try to achieve our Community effort reduction target, under the multi-annual guidance programme, it is right that we should go to the Commission, explain in more detail what has occurred and analyse the implications of suspending the days-at-sea restrictions. They were an attempt to reduce fishing effort for the reasons that I gave earlier in terms of their relationship with decommissioning. We should then explore alternative measures with the Commissioner. I do not rule out the possibility of exploring with him some of the ideas with which the industry has come up. I gave a guarded reservation on the Commission's scepticism over gear regulations, but I did not rule out discussing that and other measures. What the Committee may choose to do is up to it.

Dr. Strang

We shall see what develops from the Minister's discussions with the Commission. I presume that they are to take place this month—

Mr. Jack

Early in the new year.

Dr. Strang

I am grateful for that information. I understand that Ministers will be preoccupied with all the material before the Council next week, so it will be January before the hon. Gentleman meets the Commissioner.

The Government's statement on decommissioning does not stand up. We listened carefully to what the Minister said about it, but there is no case for the suggestion that decommissioning might not continue beyond the end of this financial year. The very opposite is true. If we are suspending the days-at-sea restriction proposals, we need additional measures to tackle the problem of too many fishermen and too few fish. If anything, the Government should announce this evening an enhanced decommissioning scheme.

The Minister failed to give any logical reason for suspending the decommissioning scheme from 31 March —which was certainly the implication of his remarks. We can read the statement in only one way: the money will be provided for this year, but the Government wish to consider whether they will provide the money for the next two years. Either that is just vindictive, or it is a threat that the Government will halt decommissioning at the end of this financial year. If the Minister reads his remarks today he will find that he totally failed to make the case for what he announced.

The Minister was right to draw attention to the conservation proposals that he has received from the Scottish Fishermen's Federation and the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations and it is only right to pay tribute to the work that they have put into their proposals. Those proposals are not complementary; they are contradictory in many important respects. That is not to say that it is impossible to produce a package of additional technical conservation measures, allied with an enhanced decommissioning scheme, which would greatly improve the future of our fishery stocks.

I have already mentioned the inadequacy of the time allowed for debate on the Select Committee report and the Government's reply to it. I do not have time to do justice to that problem, but I should like to refer to one element in the report which is important—the proposal for individual transferable quotas. I wholly endorse the Government's response to the Select Committee on this. The Select Committee was wrong to make the proposal in the first place and the Government's reasons for rejecting it were valid.

My main worry about ITQs is that big business would move in and buy them up, with small fishing communities in the south-west of England or the north-west of Scotland selling them off. They might not even be able to buy them in the first place, because the Select Committee recommended auctioning the ITQs, so that people would have to pay for the right to fish. Another problem is that some of the ITQs could go to foreign-owned vessels.

I also agree with the Government's comments on enforcement and conservation. I do not believe that ITQs would produce a more effective conservation regime.

The Minister mentioned total allowable catches being proposed at the forthcoming Council. My hon. Friend the Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe will have something to say about TACs later, but I should like to point out two issues in this context. The Minister did not refer to the first of them, which was the idea of the Council regulation establishing a control system for the common fisheries policy. The Minister will, however, recognise that this is important. We know that some countries are flouting the regulations more than others are.

I make no apology for singling out Spain, which has a large fleet and which is guilty, as the Irish Government have documented. There was an excellent programme on television about it, carried on "The Cook Report". The Spanish fishing industry is certainly flouting the regulations in a big way, so it is crucial that the new Council regulation be used in due course to sort out the problem.

The responsibility for policing the quotas will remain in the first instance with the fishery inspectors. We have a good force of them and the Minister paid tribute to them. The Spaniards have very few inspectors and other countries have inadequate systems of surveillance and inspection, so there is no effective enforcement of the quotas. That renders the whole approach to TACs nonsensical. I strongly urge the Minister to make a major issue of this next week.

My second point about the Council concerns the Spanish and Portuguese accession, to which we refer in our amendment. I appreciate the fact that the subject must be discussed at this meeting and that there is a commitment to come up with a firm solution. It will not be enough to stonewall in the belief that that will maintain the status quo until the year 2002.

The bottom line is that we must ensure that Spanish vessels in particular do not gain access to waters where they cannot fish now—the south-western approaches, the Irish sea and the Clyde fishery, not to mention the North sea. I emphasise the importance of the Irish box—an emphasis different from the Minister's. The real pressure from the Spanish will arise in the Irish box. We need a wide variety of ways of dealing with that; it calls for some ingenuity. If the will exists, it will certainly be possible to put in place successor arrangements which achieve precisely what the Irish box achieves: to prevent Spanish vessels from getting into these waters. As the Minister said, that must apply also to the North sea, where we want no additional Spanish effort.

This is the supreme challenge facing the Minister at the forthcoming Community meeting. Ultimately, although the TACs are important, they change from year to year, but this problem is one with which we shall have to live for years to come. As long as the proposal, presented by the Commission or by the Presidency, is within the terms of the treaty of accession, the decision will be by qualified majority voting: there will be no British veto.

Understandably, therefore, the Minister said that we cannot stop this on our own. But the best way to stop it would be to avoid a vote altogether and to succeed, in the horse-trading that goes on, in getting a deal meaning that we have enough support to stop any measure that would damage our interests being agreed to. I do not fault what the Minister has said, but the real test will be what he brings back. It is crucial that he does not let down the British industry and the House of Commons in the forthcoming negotiations—I am sure that we are united on that.

We regret the way in which the Government have handled the conservation issue. We believe that relations between the Government and the industry are at an all-time low, and are worried that that is reflected in an increase in the number of landings of black fish. The only way in which we can stop that is to re-establish a proper relationship between the industry and the Government. I appeal to the Government not just to suspend the days at sea restrictions but to abandon them. They should return to the House as the Minister pledged in his announcement today—I dare say that it will be February at the earliest. The Government should announce a clear abandonment of the days at sea restrictions and a policy enabling the Government to work with, not against, the industry. We shall vote for that when we vote for our amendment tonight.

8.51 pm
Sir Jerry Wiggin (Weston-super-Mare)

My first pleasant task is to say how nice it is to see the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Dr. Strang) back on the Labour Front Bench, and I am sorry that I have not had an opportunity to say so earlier. It is many years since we used to debate together across the Floor of the House on various agricultural matters. If my memory does not fail me, in those days I used to disagree with almost everything that he had to say. I was therefore delighted when I entirely agreed with his first three points.

The hon. Gentleman said that he believed that we should have had a considerably longer period in which to debate the Select Committee's report. Although I say so myself, it was an important report, and I was grateful for the support that I received from members of the Committee. The hon. Gentleman might have a word with his hon. Friends on the Liaison Committee which, despite an application for a half-day debate on the subject, decided that the matters that we debated yesterday should take priority. It is partly for that reason that the Government have been kind enough to refer to our report in the motion.

The hon. Gentleman also commented on the fish-farming industry, and I endorse what he said. Some two or three years ago, we did a study of that extremely important industry, whose economic importance may one day exceed that of the wild fishing industry. In parts of the highlands of Scotland it remains far and away the largest employer. The Norwegians have disgracefully overproduced. I hope that, on receiving a sensible application from the salmon farmers, Her Majesty's Government will use that as a card in the negotiations and put up a substantial quota against the farmed fish which are coming in in such profusion, and at well below the cost of production, from Norway.

The hon. Gentleman also made a statement reinforcing the Committee's conclusion—the absolute necessity for Government intervention if there is to be control over the fishing industries of Europe. The hard truth is that the physical operation of fishing has become much too efficient. The march of science cannot be halted—fish-finding equipment, trawlers, machinery and all that goes with the technology of fishing are all more efficient than stocks will allow. I cannot see any voluntary arrangement ever being successful in constraining Europe's fishermen from overfishing their main resource.

I have never spoken in a fisheries debate before, and I shall be brief as the two or three fishermen in my constituency hardly constitute a major interest. We had to learn about the industry almost from scratch and the subject was of interest to us all. When we stand back from the subject in a way that no other hon. Member present in today's debate can do—with the possible exception of the Whip—we see a relatively small industry.

I was pleased to learn that the industry's gross output has risen to £315 million, which must be a much higher figure than in recent years. To put the industry in context, it is less than half the size of the canned pet food industry and quite a lot smaller than the coffee industry. It has representatives in the west country who are more vociferous and—dare I say it—sometimes less reasonable than their counterparts in Scotland.

Mr. David Harris (St. Ives)

It is sinful to say that.

Sir Jerry Wiggin

I do not wish to enter into a debate about that, but the calmness and rationality of some of the Scottish fishing interests were impressive.

I also acknowledge that there are small villages, harbours and ports where the fishing industry is so important to the social fabric and structure of the district as to have a disproportionate effect on the local economy. It is perhaps for that reason that my hon. Friends from the west country are present today—we always stick together.

Mr. Harris

Not at the moment.

Sir Jerry Wiggin

I was making comparisons to encourage everyone to adopt a more rational approach. There has been a good deal of hot-headed talk in the debate, from which I can stand back, and I did not think it was unreasonable to make my earlier comment.

The Committee travelled all over the United Kingdom, and would have preferred to take longer doing so. We also visited fishing dependent areas in Norway, France and Spain. As we listened to fishermen and others, we felt considerable sympathy for all Governments in their attempts to establish a workable sea fisheries conservation policy.

The blame for the uncontestable fact that sea fish stocks are in a parlous state always lay with somebody else—the Eurocrats in Brussels, the Government in Whitehall, Spanish fishermen, French fishermen, Norwegian fishermen, other types of fishing vessels and methods, the chaps from the next-door harbour—certainly those from the next-door county. If we were in Cornwall, we were told that it was the fault of the Scots; if we were in Scotland, we were told that it was the fault of those in the west country. Such an approach did not allow anybody to produce a rational and sensible solution.

In private, not a single fisherman, whether Norwegian, Spanish, French or Scottish, denied that a problem existed. They all freely admitted that something had to be done and that there could be no future without a policy of some sort. But they could not suggest a firm arrangement that would not affect them, so any suggestions were unacceptable. I know that that seems harsh, but we must face reality.

The Committee felt that, in effect, the common fisheries policy had been developed from the agricultural sector of the Community. Although it appeared to be a good idea at the time, the failure to administer it in a universal and even-handed manner throughout the northern fishing countries has led to the mess in which we now find ourselves. The fact remains that, despite the figures given, our fishing stocks are still declining. Far from simply imposing the proposals, much more urgent and stricter measures will be needed if positive assistance is to be given to the re-establishment of certain stocks.

The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East referred to the history of the herring industry. The truth is that the herring fleet was happy to have a moratorium on herring fishing because there were no herring left. By not fishing for herring for 10 years, the stocks are now gradually being restored. The same principle should and must apply to many other species, but for the United Kingdom it is particularly important for cod and haddock.

I previously expressed sympathy for the Government, but I admit that the Committee had some rather harsh things to say about how the Government were proposing to achieve their capacity and effort-reduction targets under the Community's 1993 to 1996 multi-annual guidance programme. The three key elements of that policy are the decommissioning scheme, the cap on the number of days fishing vessels can spend at sea and the penalties on the aggregation or transfer of fishing licences.

We have heard a great deal about days at sea. Because of the court case, which has not been resolved but which has shot everybody's fox, there is to be a void next year. I am glad that my hon. Friend the Minister said that he has an open mind, but the fact remains that on 1 January everybody will fish like mad and, without constraint, will continue to do the damage that has been getting progressively worse over the years. I hope that my hon. Friend does not allow the political pressures on him to divert him from the essential need to reduce total fishing effort.

I am sure that hon. Members have read the Committee's report—certainly the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East has done so. Of course, I hope that he will not always find our reports so useful for quotations to back his case. Nevertheless, there is all-party accord on the issue and the Committee had no difficulty reaching agreement.

The Committee asked a number of questions and we feel that the Government's response has been a holding one. Because of events and because my hon. Friend the Minister has gone around the fishing industry—I know that that has been widely welcomed—he may now feel able to answer some of those questions. The Committee commented on the absolute need to base future policy on research and on the question of how technical conservation measures and gear selectivity can be carried out.

We want to know how that is progressing. Some £18 million of taxpayers' money is being spent on research annually. We visited two laboratories and found that the Scottish one was in much closer in touch with its fishermen. The west country fishermen made the genuine complaint that they did not feel that the scientists from Lowestoft understood their problems.

The accession of Spain and Portugal will cause my hon. Friend the Minister considerable difficulty as both have made it clear that they expect a sympathetic hearing. When we visited La Coruña we saw the vast fishing industry which operates on that part of the Spanish coast. It is on a scale that we do not see in the United Kingdom. The Spanish have more than 19,000 fishing vessels. On my last visit to Portugal, I looked out of my hotel window in the middle of the night and counted 43 fishing vessels. I concede that they were small and probably single-handed operations, but what I saw reflected the number of people in those two countries who were involved in the industry.

The question of taking the matter onshore and examining the social aspects has not yet been mentioned today.

Mr. Andrew Welsh (Angus, East)

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. As the Front-Bench spokesmen have taken up more than half the debate, may I, through you, appeal for short speeches in order to allow Back Benchers the maximum participation? Many hon. Members wish to contribute to the debate, so brevity would assist everyone, especially the fishing industry.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes)

On this occasion, the Chair cannot dictate the length of speeches, but the point is well taken.

Sir Jerry Wiggin

I have never been accused of making long speeches, but my Committee spent nearly a year on the matter and produced a full and comprehensive report. I do not think that any Conservative members of the Committee will speak in the debate, so I hope that I will cover what I hope has been an important contribution to the general debate.

One of the functions of a Select Committee that is not always observed is its ability to collect the relevant evidence from the various interested organisations. I hope that hon. Members will have a good look at some of that evidence because much work was put into gathering it, not just by us but by the contributing organisations.

I asked my hon. Friend the Minister whether he would say a little about the Government's attitude to fishing dependent areas and what will happen to them as their industry declines, as it surely will, either because measures have to be taken or because the fish are simply no longer there. It is no good dodging the issue; one must face up to it.

Another question concerns the collection and presentation of economic data. We were surprised to find that, unlike in farming, where the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food can give the economic returns on various farms in various parts of the country, evidence from the economic returns on fishing is poor—the cost of vessels and all that goes into preparing a proper economic background.

Finally, I come to the Committee's recommendations with which the Government did not agree. The decommissioning issue has had a full airing to which I shall not add my comments, except to say that I understand that, according to a press release from the Ministry, 142 vessels are likely to be decommissioned in the first year, reducing the capacity by a mere 2.5 per cent. That surely is the root cause of the problem of decommissioning—at the end of the day, it is only the worst, the least efficient and the oldest vessels that are taken out of use. The French, in the port of Lorient, gave us similar figures showing that a large number of vessels have been taken out of commission with practically no effect on the total numbers or quantity of fish caught.

It gives me little pleasure to see disarray creep into the Government's policy on days at sea, even though my Committee came down strongly against it. We have been quoted several times. We believe that it would be an inherently unfair policy, more particularly when no other country in the EC was subjected to a similar regime. Unsurprisingly, the French told us that there was no question of their being able to make such a policy work, even if it were to be imposed centrally.

We shall fall short of our MAGP target. That will not be for the first time, but if we have the fishermen's interests at heart the Government must take some steps to reduce fishing effort. I am sorry that I cannot persuade anyone that ITQs are a solution. The fishermen's organisations were against them, but I am not sure that they truly understood the great benefits of quotas. Quotas for milk and sheep have been widely welcomed—perhaps one should suggest abolishing them to see what the reaction would be.

Mrs. Ewing

I am interested to hear what the hon. Gentleman has to say about ITQs because, obviously, he has not understood the significance of that aspect of policy for the fishermen whom my hon. Friends and I represent, many of whose boats are small family fishing businesses. ITQs would inevitably mean that those fishermen were bought out, thus destroying the fishing industry as we understand it and, as a result, destroying communities.

Sir Jerry Wiggin

The fact remains—the hon. Lady must grasp this point, as everyone in the fishing business must grasp it—that there must be a reduction in the number of vessels, or at least in the number of fish that are caught. If we decide in advance that there will be a fixed quantity of fish and give everyone an allocation, we shall, first, do a great deal to prevent waste and, secondly, and perhaps most important, give the fishermen an economic alternative to fishing. They will have the quota to sell. That is what happened in the milk industry. It is exactly what is happening in the sheep farming industry. It is a way of fixing production when otherwise there is absolutely no control.

I ask my hon. Friend the Minister not to reject ITQs. With a little organisation and understanding, they may prove to be far and away the most simple way of handling this most obscure and difficult problem.

9.10 pm
Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)

Each time we debate fisheries, the uncertainty becomes greater. Each year, the complexities become even worse. This year, the matter has been further obscured by the court case. Although I do not have many serious complaints about the length of the Front-Bench speeches—the Minister and the Opposition spokesman took many interventions and fisheries are not an easy matter to deal with—those speeches took one hour and 31 minutes out of a debate lasting two hours and 41 minutes.

The Leader of the House is here and he should take note that it is not good enough to squeeze issues into half a day's debate. We cannot discuss them properly. We have a debate in shorthand. We have to take a view and stick by it instead of discussing the issues rationally. Only by rational discussion shall we get ourselves out of the mess that we are in. I was not being over generous to the Minister when I said that I understood his problems in being definitive between now and the time of the final decision on the days-at-sea regulations, yet now that he has been dragged kicking and screaming into accepting that decommissioning is important, he cannot abandon that policy.

All that the Minister has to say when he replies to the debate is, "Yes, in future, decommissioning will have a part to play in the policy." It cannot be otherwise. I accept what he says. Decommissioning alone will not solve the problem. Yet restrictions on fishing effort alone will not solve the problem either—unless he is fixed on a policy of driving down the size of the fleet through bankruptcy, and all the problems that that brings with it. Decommissioning and restrictions must go hand in hand. The Minister must make it clear that decommissioning will be an even more important part of the policy.

The hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Sir J. Wiggin) mentioned the small proportion of fishing effort that has been taken out as a result of the 142 acceptances of decommissioning. That demonstrates the problem. There were 433 applications. Even at the present rate of growth, the three years would be taken up by the applications before anything else happened. It is vital that we have an extended decommissioning scheme.

Of course, we must consider different fishing methods and how we should proceed. I accept that there is no possible way in which we can approach the problem by abandoning total allowable catches and quotas. That is a deficiency in the Scottish Fishermen's Federation document. We cannot go back to a world in which there are no controls, in which people simply go out and fish and conservation is done by voluntary effort.

A programme on television the other night showed what had happened to the Canadian fishing industry. The producers went around the fishing ports in Canada and the film showed the absolute devastation that had occurred. It is in order to avoid that devastation that we all want a rational policy. I hope that the Minister will make it clear at the end of the debate, so that there is no poison in the atmosphere, that a proper discussion is being had with the industry. I plead again for an increase in decommissioning.

I shall make only one more point because I am not like the after-dinner speaker who said that he had not known what was expected of him so he had prepared a long speech and a short speech and had decided to give both. I shall give only the short one. A useful proposal has been made on monitoring and inspection in other EC countries. Yet we have heard all this before. For goodness' sake, it must stick this time. There must be a proper inspection and control policy in other fishing nations. I know that other people do not always play by the book.

In terms of black landings or trying to pull a fast one, the fishermen of the north-east coast are no more saints than the fishermen in the south-west or anywhere else. However, our fishermen are still a damned sight better than those in most of the other countries. We demand parity, and I hope controlled parity, of inspection. That is one of the most important measures to take forward.

In a sense, the court case presents a window of opportunity that should be used to discuss and present rational policies. I hope that the Government will grasp that opportunity and will not ruin the relationships that have been built up. Under the ministry of the present Minister, there has been a change in attitude. Discussion has been much freer and there has been much more willingness to listen. My problem is that, although Ministers have listened a good deal, so far they have not given very much. In that respect, I hope that the future will be a bit better for fishermen.

9.15 pm
Mr. David Harris (St. Ives)

It is a pleasure to know that you are chairing this debate, Madam Deputy Speaker, because I am aware of your constituency interest in fishing, especially that which is practised from the Barbican. 1 am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Weston-super-Mare (Sir J. Wiggin), who is the Chairman of the Select Committee on Agriculture, has left the Chamber because, although I welcomed the general thrust of his Committee's investigation and report, I wished to take him to task over some of his remarks.

In his reference to the importance of the industry, my hon. Friend may have given the wrong impression by stating just the bald output figure. Of course, the industry is of much greater significance than just the total value of its catch. The jobs of many people on shore depend on the catch, but it goes much wider than that because our lifeboats are manned by fishermen and the very fabric of many villages and fishing ports depends on fishing. If the industry were taken away, not only the ports but communities that have been there for generations would decline. Therefore, there is also an important social side to the industry.

I am afraid that I must also take my hon. Friend to task over his remarks about the quality of representation of the fishing industry in the west country. My hon. Friend may have been getting at me: I do not know. Some fine people lead the industry in the west country and in that context I took exception to some of my hon. Friend's remarks.

The Minister's announcement of the suspension of the days-at-sea restrictions has been greeted—certainly in the west country and, I suspect, all around our coasts—by relief rising to jubilation. I hope that the suspension of the scheme marks the end of the whole concept of the days-at-sea restrictions. My position and that of my hon. Friends the Members for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Coe) and for Cornwall, South-East (Mr. Hicks) is well known. We have been opposed to the days-at-sea scheme because we think that it is unfair and unworkable.

I have always told the industry that there is no point in just opposing the scheme but that it has to present viable alternative proposals. The National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations should be given full credit for doing just that in a comprehensive document that went far beyond what many of us expected from the industry. The industry did not present a soft option but a well-thought-out scheme that would cause pain to the industry. That is because one cannot tackle the problem of conservation without painful measures. There is no easy way if the policy is to work.

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Minister for the way in which he has listened to the industry and tried to work with it. In the void created by his announcement today, I urge him to do as he has promised and hold serious talks with the industry both in England and Wales and in Scotland. I know that there is a divergence between the approaches to the problem in those two parts of the United Kingdom, but I believe that the way forward is contained in the NFFO document.

That document is not the complete answer, but it suggests, for example, the concept of closed areas, in which fishing would be restricted or even completely stopped, especially during the spawning season. That would be a courageous step and, although it would cause pain to fishermen, I believe that the Minister would be well advised to consider such proposals with great care. I am sure that they represent a better way forward than the days-at-sea restrictions, if only because if the Minister moves in that general direction he will have the general backing of the industry, whereas if by any chance he reverts to restrictions on days at sea, he will be on a confrontation course.

The NFFO is to be congratulated on its courage in taking the Government to court, at considerable financial risk to itself. I have always maintained that it was right to pursue its opposition in every constitutional way that it thought fit. I have always made it clear that I utterly opposed the actions of some fishermen who blockaded ports and invaded and occupied Ministry offices; indeed, I believe that those actions were illegal. However, although I deplore such direct action, which caused many other people inconvenience, to say the least, I heartily applaud the way in which the NFFO took the matter to the courts and I am pleased with the outcome.

I shall now switch—quickly, because many hon. Members want to speak in the debate—to discussing the two issues before Ministers at the Fisheries Council, which have already been well rehearsed tonight. The first of those issues, which concerns the total allowable catch and the quotas, has special significance for the south-west, where it is causing alarm. I shall not go into all the details, because my colleagues and I have already met the Minister to press the case being made, especially by the Cornwall fish producers organisations, for changes in the proposals before Ministers.

Three major species would be affected if the proposals took effect. First, the Commission proposes a cut of up to 50 per cent. in the hake quota. Some countries, such as Ireland, benefit from the hake preference, whereas the south-west does not, and they will have their position safeguarded at the expense of my fishermen. The other species are monkfish and megrim. Channel cod and sole would also be affected to some extent. I do not have time to go into the details, but I know that my hon. Friend the Minister is well seized of the point.

The other danger, for which we in the south-west are in the front line, is Spanish, and to some extent Portuguese, accession, with those countries' consequential claim for greater penetration of the waters of the south-west, especially in the Irish box—the waters between the south-west and Ireland. That is extremely worrying for our fishermen, especially as it comes on top of the history of flag-of-convenience boats.

We have lived with the Spanish presence in our waters and we know what it means. As other hon. Members have said, the Spaniards completely disregard the rules on conservation. We have seen many examples of the tricks that they get up to, such as false holds, and catching undersized fish. This week I was delighted to hear that, in your own city, Madam Deputy Speaker, the court imposed a large fine on a Spanish boat that had been caught and, perhaps more significantly, suspended for two years its licence to fish in our waters. We want more of that when dealing with the Spaniards.

I would not be so crude as to use the phrase "double whammy", but our fishermen face a serious double threat of a possible reduction in the quotas of important species in the south-west and possible increased fishing by the Spaniards in the waters around our coasts. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will do everything possible to remove those threats, although the House understands that he may be outvoted.

There is no real danger of the Spaniards gaining access to the North sea, partly because the alliance of member states is determined to keep them out, because they have never had access to those waters. The Irish box waters are a different matter and that is why the fishermen of the south-west feel so vulnerable. That is why I look to the Minister to defend their interests.

9.25 pm
Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland)

It always seems to fall to me to follow the hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. Harris). I agreed with much that he said. He was right to point out that the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Sir J. Wiggin), in his capacity of Chairman of the Select Committee on Agriculture, missed the point: that, although the catching side of the industry is important to many communities, the onshore jobs that that sector creates are just as important.

Those who are worried about any move towards individual transferable quotas, ITQs, are concerned that those quotas would be concentrated on a relatively small number of communities. That would not only lead to the loss of catching capacity in other communities, but the loss of onshore jobs. The whole fabric of many remote communities, where alternative employment is not readily found, would be damaged.

I do not intend to criticise the Minister for the time he took. He got his defence in early when he said that he would take interventions, but he would not take criticism. I accept that.

The time taken up by the contributions from the Front-Bench spokesmen and other hon. Members demonstrates that three hours is inadequate for a debate on fishing. In fact, tonight we are holding two debates, possibly even three. The first debate is the normal one held in advance of the December meeting of the Fisheries Council. We are also debating the contents of the Select Committee report. It would have been far better to separate those debates, although no doubt hon. Members will have an opportunity to repeat some of the points raised tonight in tomorrow's sitting of European Standing Committee A.

The 1994 TACs will be negotiated at the weekend. They are still clouded in mystery because the negotiations with Norway are not yet complete, unless something has happened within the past 12 hours. I understand that the Norwegians have made substantial demands with regard to some of the pelagic species. I hope that our Ministers and officials will be firm in their negotiations with them and the House will, I am sure, do anything that it can tonight to strengthen the hand of the Minister.

An important factor with regard to the pelagic fishery is the continuation of the flexibility across the 4 deg. line. In recent years that has had an important part to play in that fishery and I hope that it is kept in place. I have made representations to the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland that there is nothing special about the cut-off date of 31 December. Last year, after that date had passed, we suffered exceptionally bad weather, as I am sure hon. Members will remember. Fishermen were forced to make hazardous journeys to ports on the west coast of Scotland because they were not allowed to land their catches for trans-shipment at ports such as Lerwick because the flexibility had ended on 31 December. I know that the Under-Secretary was sympathetic to my representations when he responded earlier this year and, as a result of negotiations, I hope that he manages to obtain even more flexibility than we have had to date.

Every year, the same cry goes up, that there appears to be inconsistency and mystery about the basis on which the white fish TACs are recommended by the scientific community. This year it has been suggested that the haddock quota will go up while the cod and whiting quotas will be reduced. According to some of the scientific state of the art information, although it is accepted that cod and haddock stocks are under potential threat, the same cannot be said of whiting stocks. Why then is it proposed to increase the haddock TAC and reduce the whiting one? There has to be some rationale introduction into that. We should recognise, too, that if there is a reduced cod quota and an increased haddock quota, when the two can be caught together, one is inviting illegal cod to be landed. I am sure that Members on both sides of the House, and the responsible parts of the industry, would strongly condemn that. Likewise, the experience of the fishermen is that saithe is in relative abundance and that perhaps the United Kingdom quota has been understated in past years. That is a continuing source of some concern, which I hope will be addressed this weekend.

The hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. Hams) referred also to the savage reduction in the TAC for hake. The reduction is of concern to fishermen not only in the south-west but in Scotland, as it is a very large cut for those communities which are dependent on fishing to take in one go. The important point is that it appears—certainly to the fishermen—that much of the reason for the reduction in the availability of hake is not due to anything that they have done; it is due to the intense pressure by Spanish and French fishing vessels. The proposals of the NFFO is that the TAC should be broken down into tighter management areas, or subdivision of existing areas. In that way, there may be an opportunity for our fishermen, particularly in the south-west, to be able to continue to prosecute the fishery —they have done that responsibly—and not have to suffer additionally for what effectively has been the over-fishing by others.

The question of hake take us on to the important issue of the Spanish and Portuguese Acts of Accession. We have seen the depletion of stocks of western hake following on from a moratorium on southern hake because of the gross over-fishing by the fishing vessels of those countries off the Spanish and Portuguese coasts and the south bay of Biscay.

I would challenge just how wide it is legally responsible for the European Union to go in amending the Act of Accession. It has been suggested that it may relate only to the basic list of vessels and to a consideration of the Irish box and that it would not be legally competent to extend the Act to the North sea, where there are also other factors —the Spanish have no track record in the North sea. If, as has been suggested, they are to have open access, but we are still going to maintain relative stability, it is not worth their while to come into the North sea, because they have no quota to fish. That suggests why the issue should not even be opened up. The concern must be that, if they have any access, it will be difficult to police, despite all the fine words and safeguards that have been mentioned.

The issue of fishing in the Irish box must concern my hon. Friend the Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Tyler). We are in a very different situation now from when the Acts of Accession were originally agreed. We have far fewer fish. We are in an era of conservation. It seems difficult to justify greater access for Spanish vessels to the Irish box at a time when we are having to reduce substantially the quota for one of the main species to be fished in that box.

I hope that the Minister will introduce his own proposals and win friends to support them. He was honest in saying that the industry has to know that he cannot necessarily deliver on this, but it appeared to me that he was making his alibi before he had even lost. I hope that he will not lose and that he will not be outvoted by 11 to one. I hope that he will try to win friends and get a solution that will satisfy the industry.

I shall now refer to the issue that has dominated much of the debate—days at sea—and the announcement that we had earlier from the Minister. I shall not repeat all the reasons why the days at sea restrictions have been strongly opposed, not only by the industry but by right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House, and by my party quite consistently. If the Minister had looked up only a few copies of Hansard he would have found out where we stood on the issue.

The hon. Member for Castle Point (Dr. Spink) suggested that the decision of the High Court was neutral. In a very technical and legal sense, it was. But if we examine what it said, it criticised the says at sea legislation on a number of grounds, queried whether it would do anything for conservation, and said that the legislation would severely prejudice the value of fishing vessels. It was not neutral in some of those comments. The Select Committee report uses strong words about the days at sea proposals and those words are repeated in the Labour party's amendment.

Where is the Government's policy on conservation after today's announcement? We have a suspended days at sea policy, a yellow card has been shown to the decommissioning scheme and the Minister lightly dismissed some of the technical measures. Basically, there is an effort to expedite the proceedings in the European Court of Justice and a chat with the European Commissioner.

We need a commitment to the continuation of the decommissioning scheme. It is not sufficient for the Minister to say that we have to reduce capacity, but to imply that the decommissioning scheme may not continue. He said that decommissioning is all very well, but that we need something to back it up so that the good of decommissioning is not undone, and we accept that. However, in the arguments before the High Court, reference was made to a report by the Sea Fish Industry Authority, which showed that even the much-criticised decommissioning scheme in the 1980s reduced the overall fishing effort. It did not lead to an increase in fishing effort and was relatively successful. Therefore, decommissioning is one way to tackle the problem. It reduces capacity.

If the Minister wants to know how much we would spend on such a scheme, I answered that question at a press conference, given during the last general election campaign in a hotel in Aberdeen. I leave it to his researchers to find it out, because it was well publicised. [Laughter.] It was sufficiently well publicised in Scotland that we won far more seats in fishing areas than did the Conservative party.

The Minister should not dismisss some of the technical measures suggested by the NFFO and the Scottish Fishermen's Federation, and many other bodies representing fishermen. He took only one specific from the NFFO's submission, but it suggested a whole range of other measures. I am sure that he has that submission in front of him. Other proposals include closure areas, the licensing of the industry and a minimum landing size.

He has a large agenda on which he can have discussions with the industry. If he does that in a constructive spirit, it can come up with proposals which will mean that days-at-sea restrictions will not be necessary. It is important to recognise that these are alternative proposals and that they should not be latched on to days-at-sea restrictions. If the Minister abandons days-at-sea and says that decommissioning is here to stay, he will achieve the necessary good will and constructive approach to enable the industry to go forward, co-operating with the Government and getting in place some effective conservation measures.


Mr. Eddie McGrady (South Down)

I thank the Minister for visiting the north of Ireland and the fishing ports of my constituency, where he took part in a robust exchange of views, which was of benefit to both sides. It is an indictment of the management of the fishing industry to do what I have done—stand on the beach and watch the burning of viable ships. The last time that happened in Ireland was when the Vikings drew their longships up to the Strang fjord and set them alight. Such actions are an appalling sign of the state of the fishing fleets of the north of Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.

Like other fishing communities, those in the north of Ireland are opposed to the days-at-sea concept set out in the Sea Fish Conservation Act 1992. They see it not as a conservation measure but as a fleet limitation or fleet reduction programme based on the multi-annual guidance programme.

One aspect of the decommissioning scheme that has not been mentioned today—I do not want to repeat what has been said about conservation—is that we need to have efficient, economic fishing units. We know that there is a limited catch, so fewer units of catch or production should pursue it. That is an additional reason why decommissioning should be a continuing part of the Government's policy. For those who continue in the industry, there should be a smaller number of vessels so that the economics of fishing are more sustainable than they can be when the catch is spread among a greater number of vessels. I endorse what other hon. Members have said. I hope that the decommissioning scheme will not only continue for the second and third years but be substantially enhanced.

The fishermen of Northern Ireland are diametrically opposed to the so-called conservation measure of tied-up boats. They see it as an uneven and unjust system. It is galling for the fishermen of Kilkeel and Ardglas to look out two or three miles across Carlingford lough and see Republic of Ireland fishermen fishing to their hearts' content without restriction. That is a mockery of the European concept of fish conservation.

Northern Ireland fishermen want equality of treatment. The Chairman of the Select Committee on Agriculture mentioned his visits to Portugal and Spain, where he saw the enormous Spanish fishing fleet. It is interesting that for that enormous Spanish fleet there are only 17 fishing inspectors, all of whom are based in the land-locked city of Madrid. We have 285 fish inspectors. It is a charade to say that there is any degree of enforcement against the Spanish and the Portuguese.

As other hon. Members have said, those fishing fleets strongly impinge in the Irish box and the Irish sea fishing areas. Between them, France, Spain and Portugal take 88 per cent. of the catch in those areas, leaving only 12 per cent. for the indigenous fishing industry.

Local fishermen do not feel that they are being listened to. They do not feel that their experience at sea and their knowledge of fish shoaling is sufficiently taken on board. They are convinced that, in many instances, the scientific evidence is flawed, yet it appears to be the rock base on which all decisions are made. Will the Minister take the local fishermen's practical experience and knowledge on board, as well as the scientific evidence, when he comes to agree and fix quotas?

As to TACs, year after year the quota of the Republic of Ireland is not used, particularly of whiting. It is ludicrous —our boats are tied up and unable to fish because they have caught their quota, while our neighbours 10 miles down the coast do not achieve their permissible quota. Will the Minister use his position to contact his opposite number in the Republic of Ireland and ask him to transfer to the Northern Ireland fishermen the quota of the Republic's catch that it does not anticipate making this year? Such transfers have happened in the past. He should also make that a more permanent feature, rather than a gratuitous year-by-year endeavour; he might well find a willing ear.

The reductions that have been made will strike yet another devastating blow at the Irish fishing industry. I cannot go into all the details. Let me confine my remarks to the subject of herring, which has merely been touched on. The industry has been diminished almost to extinction and fishermen on the east coast of Ireland feel that the closure of the Douglas bank area from 21 September does not represent proper management. They strongly believe that, because the herring season has come later in the year than it used to, the Douglas bank closure should also take place later. The stocks are substantial, and I know that a review is in progress. It may be finished by June next year. I hope, however, that the results of the reconsideration will be implemented before September 1994.

I wish to draw attention to the plight of the fishing industry and the social consequences mentioned by the Chairman of the Agriculture Committee. A report prepared by the United Kingdom Sea Fish Industry Authority, entitled "Regional, Socio-Economic Study by the Fisheries Sector", states: Here"— in Northern Ireland— there are currently very few alternative employment opportunities. Perhaps this is one area where the maintenance of fish and related industry employment should be a priority". I hope that the Minister will take note of that.

I welcomed the Minister's announcement that the implementation of the days at sea provision would be abandoned for the duration of the court hearing at The Hague, but I support the contention of other hon. Members that that constitutes—de facto, if not de jure—the abandonment of an ill-conceived scheme that did not fulfil the purpose for which it was intended. I hope that the Minister will reconsider the matter in general, abandon the Sea Fish (Conservation) Act 1992 and give us a new set of proposals based on many of the fine ideas presented to him by the various fishing organisations, and by others, with their co-operation.

Ultimately, our fishermen know very well that it is in their interests for fishing to continue into the next century. They are more concerned about conservation than any of us. Given the chance, they will produce the real measures that will sustain both the industry and fish quantities. We need a partnership between the Government and the industry that will continue into the 21st century.

Mr. Salmond

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. My hon. Friends and I represent more than half the Scottish fishing industry, which in turn represents rather more than half the United Kingdom industry. Is it not rather absurd that the procedures of the House do not even allow us to contribute properly to the annual fishing debate?

Madam Speaker

I have considerable sympathy with the hon. Gentleman and with other hon. Members representing fishing industries who have not been called tonight. I have looked at the list, and I appreciate that—although there were many interventions on the opening speeches—the two Front-Bench speakers took up an hour and 24 minutes. That is a considerable time, given the shortness of the debate.

9.49 pm
Mr. Elliot Morley (Glanford and Scunthorpe)

Following on from that point of order, with which I have some sympathy, I should like to put on record my anger at the fact that the debate covers three separate issues. Ministers should have responded to the court case in a proper statement to the House. The matter should not have been dealt with by a written answer just before this important debate. There should have been adequate time for a considered response to the Select Committee report, which contains a great deal of work and many important suggestions and recommendations that ought to have been considered more carefully and in more time than we have had.

The real reason why we do not have time to discuss issues is the Government's contempt for procedures and for proper democratic scrutiny. It is not as if we are short of time in the parliamentary Session. The Government would rather run on auto-pilot than have Members of Parliament scrutinising legislation and discussing matters in a sensible way. Given that contempt, is it any surprise that relations have broken down between the usual channels? If that attitude continues, normal relations will not be restored for some time.

Mrs. Ewing

I speak as an hon. Member for whom the usual channels have no implications. Does not the hon. Gentleman recognise that the usual attitude of both Front Benches allows a debate on such a vital industry to be compressed every year into a short period shortly in advance of the Fisheries Council, where fundamental decisions are taken that affect our communities? Surely there must be a better way forward. Although Standing Committee A will help, there should be a full debate in the House at least twice a year on the fishing industry.

Mr. Morley

The problem is more to do with the procedures than with the Front-Bench speakers. In all fairness to the Minister, he allowed a great many interventions in his speech and made it clear that he was doing so.

The main points that I should like to address, which we have not had time properly to debate or scrutinise are the allocation of total allowable catches and the quota that the United Kingdom fishing industry will get at the outcome of the Fisheries Council. I hope that the Minister will seriously consider those issues when he replies.

Under the draft proposals for the North sea, the haddock allocation is to be reduced by 28 per cent., there is to be a marginal increase in the cod allocation, the whiting allocation is to be decreased by 25 per cent. and the plaice allocation is to be decreased by 16 per cent. There is a potential problem with mixed fisheries of that kind. There is also a certain inconsistency to the scientific advice about the allocations. I remember a few years ago when the Minister said that scientists were recommending that whiting catches should be increased on the ground that whiting was a predator of cod stocks. Now it seems that whiting catches must be decreased. Such inconsistency makes one wary of that sort of scientific advice.

If there are to be mixed fisheries in the North sea and the haddock allocation is to be increased by 28 per cent., there will be problems in terms of discards of cod and whiting. I hope that the Minister will bear that in mind at the Council of Ministers and try to equalise the figures so that the industry can operate on a more managed basis. Given the reduction in the plaice allocation in area 7 and given that plaice is traditionally used as a swap in negotiations with the Fisheries Council, a reduction in the allocation by 16 per cent. would inevitably restrict what the Minister can do.

The main problem for the south-west area is the dramatic proposed cut in the hake quota, to which several hon. Members referred. We all know that one reason for the proposed cuts has been the pressure on the hake stocks exerted by the Spanish vessels and the illegal catching of undersized hake.

I add my congratulations to those which have been expressed at the fact that at least one vessel has been adequately dealt with by a two-year suspension of its licence. I welcome that firm action on a vessel that was breaking every rule in the book and was caught red handed. We know that the Spanish presence is one reason why there is a suggestion that there should be a reduction in the monkfish allocation. I understand that we fish up to our full allocation of monkfish, but other member states do not. That is due to the attention of many Spanish vessels.

On the west coast there is a problem with the suggestion of a major reduction—about 66 per cent.—in the cod quota. I listened carefully to the Minister's comments about the pressure on west coast stocks and I acknowledge that point. Nevertheless, he will be aware that, if we have a quota reduction on that scale, there is a danger of the hake preference being implemented. That would mean that United Kingdom fishermen would lose out to the Republic of Ireland. That would affect the Northern Ireland fishery. That is a serious problem. If that preference were implemented, our total share of the cod catch in the west coast area would decline from 42.7 to 28.3 per cent. I hope that the Minister will do everything he can to ensure that the hake preference is not implemented in the west coast area and that our fishing industry in that area is protected.

The treaty of accession for Spain and Portugal has been mentioned. The point has been well made. I endorse and support the concerns that have been expressed by hon. Members about the implications of having Spanish and Portuguese vessels operating in what was the former Irish box area.

In the limited time left to me, I should like to deal with the High Court case. That is crucial in terms of planning future fisheries policy and meeting multi-annual guidance programmes. The National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations did the industry a favour by taking the case to the High Court and being successful. I remind the Minister that it was supported by Northern Ireland fishing organisations and, although the Scottish fishermen did not contribute financially, I know from talks with many in the Scottish industry, that they are pleased with the outcome and the reference to the European Court.

However, that court case should not have happened. We should not have been in a position in which the Government were taken to court by fishermen's organisations because a policy was unpopular and despised and was considered unworkable. We warned the Government that the days-at-sea measures were unpopular, unworkable and of debatable value. We argued that the Government should be seeking co-operation with the industry for a package of measures with an effective decommissioning scheme at its heart. As my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Dr. Strang) said, we recognise that when dealing with effort limitation and conservation we must have a package of measures. Whatever we have, an effective decommissioning scheme must be a central part of it.

We also want to see measures such as the technical measures that the industry has been challenged to come up with—it has responded favourably to that challenge. We want to look at closed areas, particularly spawning areas, and we want to see effective management agreements and enforcement. Over the years, our position has been backed by a House of Lords Select Committee report, every industry producer organisation, every industry fishing association, the processors and hon. Members on both sides of the House who represent fishing communities.

Mr. Sebastian Coe (Falmouth and Camborne)

I do not wish to intrude on private grief, but the hon. Gentleman is suggesting a slight change in the history of those debates. The discussion tonight on days-at sea would have been irrelevant had it not been for the ill-discipline of Opposition Members on the night the orders were before the House, when 20 or so Opposition Members could not stay behind for a three-line Whip to get rid of the proposals.

Mr. Morley

That is nonsense. If a few more hon. Members from fishing constituencies had joined us in the Lobby, the measures might have been defeated. Those measures should never have been rammed through the House without the Government having listened to the reasonable arguments expressed on both sides of the House. It is yet another example of the Government's not giving proper consideration to other people's views or allowing proper scrutiny of Bills, with the result that they face a humiliating U-turn in the courts.

The Government should deal with the matter more effectively. When the Minister heard the court result, he initially shrugged if off by saying that the fish had lost the case. I am only glad that he did not blame single parent fish, as single parents seem to be blamed for all the Government's problems. The Minister now says that he is regrouping after the court loss. It is not regrouping but retreating. His measures were shot down in flames as they did not stand up to critical examination.

I remind the Minister of the evidence that was put before the High Court and influenced its decision to refer the matter to the European Court of Justice. The court accepted evidence that the days-at-sea measures were unfair and were in the interests of neither the market nor conservation. The court went on to consider the fact that the Government had chosen to rely on using market forces rather than on decommissioning. Market forces operated by expanding rather than reducing the United Kingdom fleet. The use of market forces and blind dogmatism, rather than sensible regulation and co-operation with various sectors of industry, are not unique to the fishing industry. The Government have used market forces in other legislation, with the same disastrous results.

It is not too late for the Government to think again about the whole matter. It is not good enough for the Minister to talk about the failure of the original decommissioning scheme, which was designed for different kinds of ships and was poorly implemented and supervised. The right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) was the Minister responsible for that scheme at the time. It is therefore unreasonable to suggest that this decommissioning scheme should be tarred with the same brush.

If we are to manage the conservation of our fisheries effectively, it must be done with the industry's co-operation. It must have the support of those who will carry out the measures, and the measures must be effective, fair and justified. The Sea Fish (Conservation) Act 1992 never fulfilled those criteria.

I hope that when the Minister negotiates a workable conservation scheme with his European colleagues, he will recognise that the industry has responded to his request for suggestions and has made detailed proposals. As he knows, it has trialled many of the experiments with technical conservation gear, with encouraging results, and I believe that they can be built on further.

I hope that the Minister will recognise that he has lost the heart of the Bill and needs to think again about those measures. Rather than being dominated by blind dogmatism and an arrogant disregard for the democratic procedures of the House, he should sit down with the industry to discuss its suggestions seriously and bring forward proposals that will command respect, benefit our fishing industry and properly conserve our fish stocks.

10.3 pm

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

This has been a valuable debate and many constructive points have come out of it. However, it is fair to say that the contribution of my hon. Friend the Member for Weston-super-Mare (Sir J. Wiggin) was extremely important. It highlighted, from a top-of-the-mountain view, the fact that conservation is desperately important and that no one had come forward in the debate with constructive ideas on how to meet the same effort control that may have been taken out by the loss of the days-at-sea restriction.

This is a most important subject, especially for the highlands and islands of Scotland, where there is little alternative employment. That is why the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) was right to say that we must consider the interests of onshore and offshore concerns alike—including the processors and, ultimately, the housewife, who is the important customer of the fishing industry.

Mr. Calum Macdonald (Western Isles)

Will the Minister find time to respond to what the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Sir J. Wiggin) described as the crisis in the Scottish salmon industry? I know that the Minister has many topics to cover, but he must know that that crisis is profound. Will he at least tell the industry that the Government regard the status quo as unacceptable and that they will return to the European Community to try to obtain stronger safeguards?

Sir Hector Monro

Certainly the salmon industry is very important to Scotland, particularly to the area that the hon. Gentleman represents. We have a minimum import price which is lower than I would like, and a reference price, which will come in on 1 January and which I hope will be much higher. I appreciate the fact that 6,000 jobs are at risk in Scotland if the salmon industry does not flourish. That is why it is important to make every effort inthe Commission and the Community to find the right solution.

Norway is producing 180,000 tonnes, while Scotland produces 45,000, and we have been swamped this autumn by sales from Norway to the continent. That has had a serious impact on the price. We are holding regular talks with the Commissioner; the Minister is in touch with Commissioner Paleokrassas, and I hope that there will be a chance to raise the matter next week at the Council in Brussels.

Fish are an important natural resource and most of our stocks are under great pressure. We have to reduce the amount of fish being landed—a fact that was not disputed when the court referred the matter to the European Court of Justice. We know that there are no easy or painless solutions and that we cannot rely solely on technical measures or on gear selectivity.

In the coming weeks and months, we must review in detail the many constructive ideas suggested by the Scottish and English industries and by the independent bodies that responded to the consultative document, in an attempt to find the right solution, both to restrict fishing and to make certain that our fishermen operate a profitable industry.

Mr. Salmond

Will the Minister give way?

Sir Hector Monro

I will not. I have only a few minutes left, and members of the hon. Gentleman's party have intervened umpteen times in this debate.

The industry is beginning to realise that effective measures to control effort are essential, and we must work together to put something in place as soon as possible. Everyone accepts that days at sea are out for the count, at least for the coming year, so, like last January, the industry will be starting with a clean sheet.

What steps can the industry take? I should like to comment on the black fish landings that are prevalent in Scotland and are the cause of major worry to leaders in the industry. Sophisticated organisations are handling black fish and transporting them south to the processors. That must stop; it is getting us a bad reputation in the European Community. We give credit to the officials in the Scottish Fisheries Protection Agency who have helped to run the industry, as have others. They have made progress in enforcing the provisions. This year, there have been 94 successful prosecutions over a nine-month period, compared with 78 last year over a 12-month period. 'The black fish issue is a sad development that undermines the future of our industry.

Mrs. Ewing

Will the Minister give way?

Sir Hector Monro

No, the hon. Lady has intervened several times.

The recent court decision to refer the days at sea restrictions to the European Court was not a victory for fishermen and was a major setback for conservation. We must find something to put in place, and it will take quite a long time to achieve that. We shall examine urgently what measures—technical and effort control—are available and have discussions with the industry. My hon. Friend the Minister of State has frequent meetings with representatives of the industry in England, as I do in Scotland—and will be doing so again this week. It is extremely important to establish a policy which is acceptable to the industry and the Commission and which, most importantly, will have an impact on conservation.

Important issues concerning Spain and Portugal have been raised in the debate. The efforts of my hon. Friend the Minister are beyond criticism. He raised the issue in the October meeting of the Council and put a stop to the efforts of other countries to force the issue through. The discussions continued through the November Council, and we shall return to the subject next week when he and I shall be in Brussels representing the Government.

Mrs. Ewing


Sir Hector Monro

I shall not give way.

As my hon. Friend the Minister of State said, there is no doubt that we shall do everything possible to ensure that the view of the United Kingdom Government prevails. We have made it absolutely clear that we shall not accept a blank cheque. We do not wish to see additional fishing in the North sea and we want relative stability to be retained. We want to ensure that the review that has to take place now only comes into force in 1996, with amendments to the policy that are acceptable to us—including a decision to consider the Irish box, which expires on 1 December 1995. The Belgian presidency is working on an alternative and I hope that we can consider that issue in a constructive light next week.

I emphasise that the United Kingdom view is firm and that we shall be fighting as hard as possible for our fishermen.

Dr. Godman

I am grateful to the Under-Secretary of State for showing his characteristic courtesy in giving way. Earlier, I asked the Minister of State about the need to supervise other maritime industries to ensure that they did not impinge badly on the fishing industry. Will the hon. Gentleman ensure that the installation of the gas pipeline between the south of Scotland and Northern Ireland does not damage the interests of our fishermen who fish those waters?

Sir Hector Monro

I heard the hon. Gentleman's question when he originally asked it. I have been unable in the intervening time to establish exactly what contact the fishing industry has had with the gas and oil industry. Normally, the relationship is good, and we shall follow up the issue and ensure that no unnecessary hiccups occur in the pipeline between Northern Ireland and Scotland.

I emphasise the importance of next week's negotiations in relation to Spain and Portugal, and the issue of catches and quotas. There is immense pressure on the west coast —the haddock stock will certainly go down in the Irish sea and the western approaches, whereas it will go up in the North sea. I agree with the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland that discards are worrying—it is unattractive to see good fish wasted. The problem is how to enforce quotas if we do not have strict regulations covering the catches that are taken ashore.

There has been much discussion about decommissioning. It is fair to say that the current scheme has been successful. It involved 140 boats, or 5,400 tonnes, of which 46 boats, or 1,400 tonnes, came from Scotland. I cannot understand why Labour Members are so suspicious when we discuss decommissioning. If we are considering overall fishing policy, we should consider decommissioning as well.

Mr. Salmond


Sir Hector Monro

I shall not give way to the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Salmond

Why not?

Sir Hector Monro

Because the hon. Gentleman asks so many damned silly questions.

At a time when we are bringing forward new policies —we hope in conjunction with the English and Scottish fisheries organisations—we must consider all the issues. As the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) said, we cannot consider decommissioning alone; it must be done in conjunction with other efforts.

I thought it important that the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Dr. Strang) put on record the fact that the Labour party is giving a firm pledge to commit £75 million to decommissioning and that it expects that further effort restrictions will be required. I was glad that he also linked decommissioning to effort restrictions. It is important that they are acknowledged as complementary.

I am also glad that the hon. Gentleman and I are as one on the matter of ITQs. The industry is not keen on them. The hon. Gentleman made the point that relatively wealthy areas would buy up the quota, taking it away from the less-well-off areas, especially those in the highlands and islands. Inevitably, that would have a bad effect on fishing in those areas. Hon. Members rightly mentioned dependent areas, which are important in the north. I am glad that objectives 1, 2 and 5(b) are likely to apply. It is important that the highlands and islands now have objective 1 status, plus help from the enterprise companies.

My hon. Friends the Members for St. Ives (Mr. Harris) and for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Coe) gave, as I expected, a warm welcome to our decision on days at sea. We will bear in mind what was said about fishing in the western approaches.

The hon. Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady) referred to inspectors from Spain. His facts were not quite right. Spain is recruiting 25 more fisheries officers, with another 25 next year. We are looking carefully at the Douglas bank herring box under the Advisory Committee on Fisheries Management review next year.

The house agrees that the fishing industry is vital to many of our coastal communities. It has always played a distinctive part in the economy of these islands. We must take the necessary steps to ensure the long-term future of the industry. The policies promoted by the Government are designed to achieve that objective and I commend the motion to the House.

It being three hours after the commencement of proceedings on the motion, MADAM SPEAKER proceeded to put forthwith the Question necessary to dispose of them, pursuant to Standing Order No. 81.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 273, Noes 312.

Division No. 32] [10.18pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Denham, John
Adams, Mrs Irene Dewar, Donald
Ainger, Nick Dixon, Don
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Dobson, Frank
Allen, Graham Donohoe, Brain H.
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Dowd, Jim
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale) Dunnachie, Jimmy
Armstrong, Hilary Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Ashton, Joe Eagle, Ms Angela
Austin-Walker, John Eastham, Ken
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Enright, Derek
Barnes, Harry Etherington, Bill
Barron, Kevin Evans, John (St Helens N)
Battle, John Ewing, Mrs Margaret
Bayley, Hugh Fatchett, Derek
Beckett, Rt Hon Margaret Faulds, Andrew
Beggs, Roy Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Beith, Rt Hon A. J. Fisher, Mark
Bell, Stuart Flynn, Paul
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Foster, Don (Bath)
Bennett, Andrew F. Foulkes, George
Benton, Joe Fraser, John
Bermingham, Gerald Fyfe, Maria
Berry, Dr. Roger Galloway, George
Betts, Clive Gapes, Mike
Blair, Tony Garrett, John
Blunkett, David George, Bruce
Boateng, Paul Gerrard, Neil
Boyes, Roland Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Bradley, Keith Godman, Dr Norman A.
Bray, Dr Jeremy Godsiff, Roger
Brown, Gordon (Dunfermline E) Golding, Mrs Llin
Brown, N. (N'c'tle upon Tyne E) Gould, Bryan
Burden, Richard Graham, Thomas
Byers, Stephen Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Caborn, Richard Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Callaghan, Jim Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Grocott, Bruce
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Gunnell, John
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Hain, Peter
Canavan, Dennis Hall, Mike
Cann, Jamie Hanson, David
Chisholm, Malcolm Hardy, Peter
Clapham, Michael Harman, Ms Harriet
Clark, Dr David (South Shields) Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian) Hill, Keith (Streatham)
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Hinchliffe, David
Clelland, David Hoey, Kate
Coffey, Ann Hogg, Norman (Cumbernauld)
Cohen, Harry Home Robertson, John
Connarty, Michael Hood, Jimmy
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Hoon, Geoffrey
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Corbett, Robin Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)
Corbyn, Jeremy Hoyle, Doug
Corston, Ms Jean Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Cousins, Jim Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Cox, Tom Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Cryer, Bob Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Cummings, John Hutton, John
Cunliffe, Lawrence Illsley, Eric
Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE) Ingram, Adam
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr John Jackson, Glenda (H'stead)
Dafis, Cynog Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H)
Davidson, Ian Jamieson, David
Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral) Janner, Greville
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Johnston, Sir Russell
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side)
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l) Jones, Ieaun Wyn (Ynys Môn)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C) Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lew'm E)
Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O) Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW) Primarolo, Dawn
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham) Purchase, Ken
Jowell, Tessa Quin, Ms Joyce
Keen, Alan Radice, Giles
Kennedy, Charles (Ross, C&S) Randall, Stuart
Kennedy, Jane (Lpool Brdgn) Raynsford, Nick
Khabra, Piara S. Redmond, Martin
Kilfoyle, Peter Reid, Dr John
Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil (Islwyn) Rendel, David
Kirkwood, Archy Richardson, Jo
Leighton, Ron Robertson, George (Hamilton)
Lestor, Joan (Eccles) Robinson, Geoffrey (Co'try NW)
Lewis, Terry Roche, Mrs. Barbara
Litherland, Robert Rogers, Allan
Livingstone, Ken Rooker, Jeff
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Rooney, Terry
Loyden, Eddie Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Lynne, Ms Liz Rowlands, Ted
McAllion, John Ruddock, Joan
McAvoy, Thomas Salmond, Alex
McCartney, Ian Sedgemore, Brain
Macdonald, Calum Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
McFall, John Shore, Rt Hon Peter
McGrady, Eddie Short, Clare
McKelvey, William Simpson, Alan
Mackinlay, Andrew Skinner, Dennis
McLeish, Henry Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
McMaster, Gordon Smith, C. (Isl'ton S & F'sbury)
McWilliam, John Smith, Rt Hon John (M'kl'ds E)
Madden, Max Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Maddock, Mrs Diana Snape, Peter
Madel, David Soley, Clive
Mahon, Alice Spearing, Nigel
Mandelson, Peter Squire, Rachel (Dunfermline W)
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Steel, Rt Hon Sir David
Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S) Steinberg, Gerry
Martlew, Eric Stevenson, George
Maxton, John Stott, Roger
Meacher, Michael Strang, Dr. Gavin
Meale, Alan Straw, Jack
Michael, Alun Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley) Taylor, Rt Hon John D. (Strgfd)
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll Bute) Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Milburn, Alan Tipping, Paddy
Miller, Andrew Tyler, Paul
Moonie, Dr Lewis Vaz, Keith
Morgan, Rhodri Walker, Rt Hon Sir Harold
Morley, Elliot Wallace, James
Morris, Rt Hon A. (Wy'nshawe) Walley, Joan
Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley) Wareing, Robert N
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Watson, Mike
Mowlam, Marjorie Welsh, Andrew
Mudie, George Wicks, Malcolm
Mullin, Chris Wigley, Dafydd
Murphy, Paul Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)
O'Brien, Michael (N W'kshire) Wilson, Brian
O'Hara, Edward Winnick, David
Olner, William Wise, Audrey
O'Neill, Martin Worthington, Tony
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Wray, Jimmy
Parry, Robert Wright, Dr Tony
Patchett, Terry Young, David (Bolton SE)
Pendry, Tom
Pickthall, Colin Tellers for the Ayes:
Pike, Peter L. Mr. Dennis Turner and
Pope, Greg Mr. John Spellar.
Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)
Aitken, Jonathan Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv)
Alexander, Richard Ashby, David
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby) Aspinwall, Jack
Allason, Rupert (Torbay) Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Amess, David Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North)
Ancram, Michael Baldry, Tony
Arbuthnot, James Banks, Matthew (Southport)
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)
Bates, Michael Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley)
Batiste, Spencer Freeman, Rt Hon Roger
Bellingham, Henry French, Douglas
Bendall, Vivian Fry, Peter
Beresford, Sir Paul Gale, Roger
Biffen, Rt Hon John Gallie, Phil
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Gardiner, Sir George
Booth, Hartley Garel-Jones, Rt Hon Tristan
Boswell, Tim Gamier, Edward
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham) Gill, Christopher
Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia Gillan, Cheryl
Bowden, Andrew Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair
Bowis, John Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Bradley, Keith Gorst, John
Brazier, Julian Grant, Sir A. (Cambs SW)
Bright, Graham Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thorpes) Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)
Browning, Mrs. Angela Grylls, Sir Michael
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Budgen, Nicholas Hague, William
Burns, Simon Hamilton, Rt Hon Archie (Epsom)
Burt, Alistair Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Butcher, John Hampson, Dr Keith
Butler, Peter Hanley, Jeremy
Butterfill, John Hannam, Sir John
Carlisle, John (Luton North) Hargreaves, Andrew
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Harris, David
Carrington, Matthew Haselhurst, Alan
Carttiss, Michael Hawkins, Nick
Cash, William Hawksley, Warren
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Hayes, Jerry
Churchill, Mr Heald, Oliver
Clappison, James Heathcoat-Amory, David
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Hendry, Charles
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ruclif) Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Hicks, Robert
Coe, Sebastian Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence L.
Colvin, Michael Hill, James (Southampton Test)
Congdon, David Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham)
Conway, Derek Horam, John
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st) Hordern, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A)
Cormack, Patrick Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Couchman, James Howell, Sir Ralph (N Norfolk)
Cran, James Hughes Robert G. (Harrow W)
Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire) Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)
Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon) Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)
Davis, David (Boothferry) Hunter, Andrew
Day, Stephen Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Deva, Nirj Joseph Jack, Michael
Devlin, Tim Jenkin, Bernard
Dickens, Geoffrey Jessel, Toby
Dicks, Terry Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Dorrell, Stephen Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Jones, Robert B. (W Hertfdshr)
Dover, Den Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Duncan, Alan Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Duncan-Smith, Iain Key, Robert
Dunn, Bob Kilfedder, Sir James
Durant, Sir Anthony King, Rt Hon Tom
Dykes, Hugh Knapman, Roger
Eggar, Tim Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter Knight, Greg (Derby N)
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield) Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n)
Evans, Jonathan (Brecon) Knox, Sir David
Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley) Kynoch, George (Kincardine)
Evans, Roger (Monmouth) Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Evennett, David Lang, Rt Hon Ian
Faber, David Lawrence, Sir Ivan
Fabricant, Michael Legg, Barry
Fenner, Dame Peggy Leigh, Edward
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) Lennox-Boyd, Mark
Fishburn, Dudley Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Forman, Nigel Lidington, David
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Lightbown, David
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Shaw, David (Dover)
Lord, Michael Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Luff, Peter Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Shersby, Michael
MacKay, Andrew Sims, Roger
Maclean, David Skeet, Sir Trevor
McLoughlin, Patrick Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Madel, David Soames, Nicholas
Maitland, Lady Olga Speed, Sir Keith
Major, Rt Hon John Spencer, Sir Derek
Malone, Gerald Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset)
Mans, Keith Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Marland, Paul Spink, Dr Robert
Marlow, Tony Spring, Richard
Marshall, John (Hendon S) Sproat, Iain
Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel) Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Mawhinney, Dr Brian Steen, Anthony
Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick Stephen, Michael
Mellor, Rt Hon David Stern, Michael
Merchant, Piers Stewart, Allan
Milligan, Stephen Streeter, Gary
Mills, Iain Sumberg, David
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Sweeney, Walter
Mitchell, Sir David (Hants NW) Sykes, John
Moate, Sir Roger Tapsell, Sir Peter
Monro, Sir Hector Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Taylor, John M. (Solihull)
Moss, Malcolm Temple-Morris, Peter
Needham, Richard Thomason, Roy
Nelson, Anthony Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)
Neubert, Sir Michael Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Thornton, Sir Malcolm
Nicholls, Patrick Thurnham, Peter
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Townend, John (Bridlington)
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West) Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexl'yh'th)
Norris, Steve Tracey, Richard
Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley Tredinnick, David
Oppenheim, Phillip Trend, Michael
Ottaway, Richard Trotter, Neville
Page, Richard Twinn, Dr Ian
Paice, James Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Patnick, Irvine Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Patten, Rt Hon John Walden, George
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Walker, Bill (N Tayside)
Pawsey, James Waller, Gary
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Ward, John
Pickles, Eric Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Porter, Barry (Wirral S) Waterson, Nigel
Porter, David (Waveney) Watts, John
Portillo, Rt Hon Michael Wells, Bowen
Powell, William (Corby) Whitney, Ray
Rathbone, Tim Whittingdale, John
Redwood, Rt Hon John Widdecombe, Ann
Renton, Rt Hon Tim Wiggin, Sir Jerry
Riddick, Graham Wilkinson, John
Rifkind, Rt Hon. Malcolm Willetts, David
Robathan, Andrew Wilshire, David
Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S) Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)
Robinson, Mark (Somerton) Wolfson, Mark
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne) Wood, Timothy
Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent) Yeo, Tim
Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Ryder, Rt Hon Richard
Sackville, Tom Tellers for the Noes:
Sainsbury, Rt Hon Tim Mr. Sydney Chapman and
Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas Mr. Timothy Kirkhope.

Question accordingly negatived.

Main Question put:

The House Divided: Ayes 309, Noes 272.

Division No. 33] [10.34pm
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) Alexander, Richard
Aitken, Jonathan Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby)
Allason, Rupert (Torbay) Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)
Amess, David Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)
Ancram, Michael Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)
Arbuthnot, James Evans, Roger (Monmouth)
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Evennett, David
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv) Faber, David
Ashby, David Fabricant, Michael
Aspinwall, Jack Fenner, Dame Peggy
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North) Fishburn, Dudley
Baldry, Tony Forman, Nigel
Banks, Matthew (Southport) Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Bates, Michael Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)
Batiste, Spencer Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley)
Bellingham, Henry Freeman, Rt Hon Roger
Bendall, Vivian French, Douglas
Beresford, Sir Paul Fry, Peter
Biffen, Rt Hon John Gale, Roger
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Gallie, Phil
Booth, Hartley Gardiner, Sir George
Boswell, Tim Garel-Jones, Rt Hon Tristan
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham) Garnier, Edward
Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia Gill, Christopher
Bowden, Andrew Gillan, Cheryl
Bowis, John Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair
Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Brandreth, Gyles Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Brazier, Julian Gorst, John
Bright, Graham Grant, Sir A. (Cambs SW)
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thorpes) Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Browning, Mrs. Angela Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) Grylls, Sir Michael
Budgen, Nicholas Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Burns, Simon Hague, William
Burt, Alistair Hamilton, Rt Hon Archie (Epsom)
Butcher, John Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Butler, Peter Hampson, Dr Keith
Butterfill, John Hanley, Jeremy
Carlisle, John (Luton North) Hannam, Sir John
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Hargreaves, Andrew
Carrington, Matthew Harris, David
Carttiss, Michael Haselhurst, Alan
Cash, William Hawkins, Nick
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Hawksley, Warren
Chapman, Sydney Hayes, Jerry
Churchill, Mr Heald, Oliver
Clappison, James Heathcoat-Amory, David
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Hendry, Charles
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ruclif) Hicks, Robert
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence L.
Coe, Sebastian Hill, James (Southampton Test)
Colvin, Michael Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham)
Congdon, David Horam, John
Conway, Derek Hordern, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st) Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A)
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Cormack, Patrick Howell, Sir Ralph (N Norfolk)
Couchman, James Hughes Robert G. (Harrow W)
Cran, James Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)
Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire) Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)
Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon) Hunter, Andrew
Davis, David (Boothferry) Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Day, Stephen Jack, Michael
Deva, Nirj Joseph Jenkin, Bernard
Devlin, Tim Jessel, Toby
Dickens, Geoffrey Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Dicks, Terry Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Dorrell, Stephen Jones, Robert B. (W Hertfdshr)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Dover, Den Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Duncan, Alan Key, Robert
Duncan-Smith, Iain Kilfedder, Sir James
Dunn, Bob King, Rt Hon Tom
Durant, Sir Anthony Knapman, Roger
Dykes, Hugh Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)
Eggar, Tim Knight, Greg (Derby N)
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n)
Knox, Sir David Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela
Kynoch, Georgee (Kincardine) Ryder, Rt Hon Richard
Lait, Mrs Jacqui Sackville, Tom
Lang, Rt Hon Ian Sainsbury, Rt Hon Tim
Lawrence, Sir Ivan Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas
Legg, Barry Shaw, David (Dover)
Leigh, Edward Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Lennox-Boyd, Mark Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe) Shersby, Michael
Lidington, David Sims, Roger
Lightbown, David Skeet, Sir Trevor
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Lord, Michael Soames, Nicholas
Luff, Peter Speed, Sir Keith
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Spencer, Sir Derek
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset)
MacKay, Andrew Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Maclean, David Spink, Dr Robert
McLoughlin, Patrick Spring, Richard
McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick Sproat, Iain
Madel, David Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)
Maitland, Lady Olga Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Malone, Gerald Steen, Anthony
Mans, Keith Stephen, Michael
Marland, Paul Stern, Michael
Marlow, Tony Stewart, Allan
Marshall, John (Hendon S) Streeter, Gary
Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel) Sumberg, David
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Sweeney, Walter
Mawhinney, Dr Brian Sykes, John
Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick Tapsell, Sir Peter
Mellor, Rt Hon David Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Merchant, Piers Taylor, John M. (Solihull)
Milligan, Stephen Temple-Morris, Peter
Mills, Iain Thomason, Roy
Mitchell, Sir David (Hants NW) Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)
Moate, Sir Roger Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Monro, Sir Hector Thornton, Sir Malcolm
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Thurnham, Peter
Moss, Malcolm Townend, John (Bridlington)
Needham, Richard Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexl'yh'th)
Nelson, Anthony Tracey, Richard
Neubert, Sir Michael Tredinnick, David
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Trend, Michael
Nicholls, Patrick Trotter, Neville
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Twinn, Dr Ian
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West) Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Norris, Steve Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley Walden, George
Oppenheim, Phillip Walker, Bill (N Tayside)
Ottaway, Richard Waller, Gary
Page, Richard Ward, John
Paice, James Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Patnick, Irvine Waterson, Nigel
Patten, Rt Hon John Watts, John
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Wells, Bowen
Pawsey, James Whitney, Ray
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Whittingdale, John
Pickles, Eric Widdecombe, Ann
Porter, Barry (Wirral S) Wiggin, Sir Jerry
Porter, David (Waveney) Wilkinson, John
Portillo, Rt Hon Michael Wiletts, David
Powell, William (Corby) Wilshire, David
Rathbone, Tim Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Redwood, Rt Hon John Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld
Renton, Rt Hon Tim Wolfson, Mark
Riddick, Graham Wood, Timothy
Rifkind, Rt Hon. Malcolm Yeo, Tim
Robathan, Andrew Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn
Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S) Tellers for the Ayes:
Robinson, Mark (Somerton) Mr. Timothy Kirkhope and
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne) Mr. Andrew Mitchell.
Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent)
Abbott, Ms Diane Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)
Adams, Mrs Irene Allen, Graham
Ainger, Nick Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale) Flynn, Paul
Armstrong, Hilary Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Ashton, Joe Foulkes, George
Austin-Walker, John Fraser, John
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Fyfe, Maria
Barnes, Harry Galloway, George
Barron, Kevin Gapes, Mike
Battle, John Garrett, John
Bayley, Hugh George, Bruce
Beckett, Rt Hon Margaret Gerrard, Neil
Beggs, Roy Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Beith, Rt Hon A. J. Godman, Dr Norman A.
Bell, Stuart Godsiff, Roger
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Golding, Mrs Llin
Bennett, Andrew F. Gould, Bryan
Benton, Joe Graham, Thomas
Bermingham, Gerald Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Berry, Dr. Roger Griffiths, Nigal (Edinburgh S)
Betts, Clive Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Blair, Tony Grocott, Bruce
Blunkett, David Gunnell, John
Boateng, Paul Hain, Peter
Boyes, Roland Hall, Mike
Bradley, Keith Hanson, David
Bray, Dr Jeremy Hardy, Peter
Brown, Gordon (Dunfermline E) Harman, Ms Harriet
Brown, N. (N'c'tle upon Tyne E) Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Burden, Richard Hill, Keith (Streatham)
Byers, Stephen Hinchliffe, David
Caborn, Richard Hoey, Kate
Callaghan, Jim Hogg, Norman (Cumbernauld)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Home Robertson, John
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Hood, Jimmy
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Hoon, Geoffrey
Canavan, Dennis Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Cann, Jamie Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)
Chisholm, Malcolm Hoyle, Doug
Clapham, Michael Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Clark, Dr David (South Shields) Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian) Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Clelland, David Hutton, John
Coffey, Ann Illsley, Eric
Cohen, Harry Ingram, Adam
Connarty, Michael Jackson, Glenda (H'stead)
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H)
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Jamieson, David
Corbett, Robin Janner, Greville
Corbyn, Jeremy Johnston, Sir Russell
Corston, Ms Jean Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side)
Cousins, Jim Jones, Ieuan Wyn (Ynys Môn)
Cox, Tom Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Cryer, Bob Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O)
Cummings, John Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW)
Cunliffe, Lawrence Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE) Jowell, Tessa
Dafis, Cynog Keen, Alan
Davidson, Ian Kennedy, Charles (Ross, C&S)
Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral) Kennedy, Jane (Lpool Brdgn)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Khabra, Piara S.
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) Kilfoyle, Peter
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l) Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil (Islwyn)
Denham, John Kirkwood, Archy
Dewar, Donald Leighton, Ron
Dixon, Don Lestor, Joan (Eccles)
Dobson, Frank Lewis, Terry
Donohoe, Brian H. Litherland, Robert
Dowd, Jim Livingstone, Ken
Dunnachie, Jimmy Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth Loyden, Eddie
Eagle, Ms Angela Lynne, Ms Liz
Eastham, Ken McAllion, John
Enright, Derek McAvoy, Thomas
Etherington, Bill McCartney, Ian
Evans, John (St Helens N) Macdonald, Calum
Ewing, Mrs Margaret McFall, John
Fatchett, Derek McGrady, Eddie
Faulds, Andrew McKelvey, William
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Mackinlay, Andrew
Fisher, Mark McLeish, Henry
McMaster, Gordon Pickthall, Colin
McWilliam, John Pike, Peter L.
Madden, Max Pope, Greg
Maddock, Mrs Diana Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Mahon, Alice Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lew'm E)
Mandelson, Peter Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Primarolo, Dawn
Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S) Purchase, Ken
Martlew, Eric Quin, Ms Joyce
Maxton, John Radice, Giles
Meacher, Michael Randall, Stuart
Meale, Alan Raynsford, Nick
Michael, Alun Redmond, Martin
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley) Reid, Dr John
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll Bute) Rendel, David
Milburn, Alan Richardson, Jo
Miller, Andrew Robertson, George (Hamilton)
Moonie, Dr Lewis Robinson, Geoffrey (Co'try NW)
Morgan, Rhodri Roche, Mrs. Barbara
Morley, Elliot Rogers, Allan
Morris, Rt Hon A. (Wy'nshawe) Rooker, Jeff
Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley) Rooney, Terry
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Mowlam, Marjorie Rowlands, Ted
Mudie, George Ruddock, Joan
Mullin, Chris Salmond, Alex
Murphy, Paul Sedgemore, Brian
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
O'Brien, Michael (N W'kshire) Shore, Rt Hon Peter
O'Hara, Edward Short, Clare
Olner, William Simpson, Alan
O'Neill, Martin Skinner, Dennis
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Parry, Robert Smith, C. (Isl'ton S & F'sbury)
Patchett, Terry Smith, Rt Hon John (M'kl'ds E)
Pendry, Tom Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Snape, Peter Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Soley, Clive Wareing, Robert N
Spearing, Nigel Watson, Mike
Squire, Rachel (Dunfermline W) Welsh, Andrew
Steel, Rt Hon Sir David Wicks, Malcolm
Steinberg, Gerry Wigley, Dafydd
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. (Strgfd) Worthington, Tony
Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck) Wray, Jimmy
Tipping, Paddy Wright, Dr Tony
Tyler, Paul Young, David (Bolton SE)
Vaz, Keith
Walker, Rt Hon Sir Harold Tellers for the Noes:
Wallace, James Mr. John Spellar and
Walley, Joan Mr. Dennis Turner.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved, That this House takes note of European Community Document No. 9662/93, relating to guide prices for fishery products 1994, the unnumbered Explanatory Memorandum submitted by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on 9th December 1993 relating to total allowable catches and quotas for 1994, the Sixth Report from the Agriculture Committee of Session 1992–93 on the effects of conservation measures on the United Kingdom sea fishing industry (House of Commons Paper No. 620) and the Government's Response thereto contained in the Fifth Special Report from the Agriculture Committee of Session 1992–93 (House of Commons Paper No. 927); and supports the Government's intention to negotiate the best possible fishing opportunities for the United Kingdom fishing industry for 1994 consistent with the requirements of conservation of fish stocks.