HC Deb 07 July 1993 vol 228 cc411-42 9.32 pm
The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Michael Jack)

I beg to move,

That the Fishing Vessels (Decommissioning) Scheme 1993 (Si., 1993, No. 1345), dated 25th May 1993, a copy of which was laid before this House on 26th May, be approved.

I shall begin by sharing with the House some words in a recent report by the European Court of Auditors on former decommisioning schemes. For me, the words sum up clearly the problems that we are facing in fisheries management. It said:

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 is backed up by some cold hard facts on the state of the United Kingdom's fishing stocks. Comparing 1992 with 1989, the spawning stock of North sea cod was down by 30 per cent., that of North sea haddock was down by 12 per cent., that of west of Scotland cod was down by 14 per cent., that of Irish sea cod was down 32 per cent., and that of Celtic sea cod down by 65 per cent. Overall, our scientists advise that all stocks in United Kingdom waters are vulnerable.

It is important to see the debate in the context not just of the pressure of fishing stocks in the United Kingdom but of news from Canada, carried today in the Financial Times, which brings home to us, all too bleakly, what happens when capacity is not limited.

The east coast fishery in Canada has been devastated in recent years with the entire removal of its northern cod stocks. As a result, that fishery had to be closed for two years and 20,000 fishermen and plant employees were put out of work. In summing up, the Canadian authorities said: the necessary drastic reductions in fishing mortalities can only be achieved by substantially decreased fishing effort and these reductions need to be permanent. That gives a clear indication of why we should be discussing this decommissioning order today.

Mrs. Margaret Ewing (Moray)

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Andrew Bowden (Brighton, Kemptown)

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Jack

I will give way to the hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing) and then to my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Mr. Bowden).

Mrs. Ewing

The common fisheries policy is a key aspect of the European Community. Does the Minister agree that that policy was based on the idea that the Spaniards should not have access to the North sea until the next century, but that has been brought forward as a result of the actions of this Government and at the expense of Scottish fishermen? Does he also accept that the Sea Fish Conservation Act 1992, as it currently stands, is a distinct disadvantage to our men, their families and communities?

Mr. Jack

It grieves me to hear the hon. Lady asking me a question when she clearly has not read the recent Hansard report of my statement following the Fisheries Council in Luxembourg. If she had read my statement and had seen reports of what happened at that Council in Luxembourg, she would realise that the United Kingdom Government were in the lead in fighting for the parts in the accession treaty in respect of Portugal and Spain to be honoured, but only in the context that there would be no increase in fishing effort.

If the hon. Lady had read those reports, she would be aware of our efforts to ensure that our fishermen would not be disadvantaged in that respect. The United Kingdom Government could not have been in the lead in respect of Spain and Portugal because those countries were arguing their own cases. I will deal with the other aspects of the hon. Lady's question after I have given way to my hon. Friend the Member for Kemptown.

Mr. Bowden

Is my hon. Friend aware that a substantial number of responsible fishermen accept that conservation is necessary? They understand and are aware that we are in danger of eliminating fish stocks around our coasts. However, instead of following the path that is being proposed, would it not be far better to reduce the mesh size of the nets—[HON. MEMBERS: "No, increase them."] Well, at least that makes it easier for the fish to get away. I got there in the end. My hon. Friend the Minister knows exactly what I mean.

Would it not be better to increase the mesh size, as that would allow fish to get away? That would have an effect on catches for one year. However, in the longer term, that would be of enormous benefit to the fishing industry in this country and to the continent as a whole.

Mr. Jack

If we were simply debating conservation, my hon. Friend would have a point. In fairness to the fishing industry, it has taken certain measures and our one-net rule lends itself to the point that my hon. Friend was making. One chooses an appropriate net size according to the species one wishes to catch.

I must inform my hon. Friend the Member for Kemptown that, in concert with the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations, we are carrying out a conservation exercise which will take into account the points that my hon. Friend has made. He is right, but his point does not sadly address the essential issue of the scheme, which deals with decommissioning and its contribution to meeting the targets of our multi-annual guidance programmes which are expressed in terms of tonnage.

Mr. Austin Mitchell (Great Grimsby)

The information that I heard from the previous Fisheries Council is exactly contrary to what the Minister is saying. That information is that the British Government, under pressure, presumably from the Foreign Office which always looks to give way on these matters, devoted their time to consumer matters and to opposing any restriction on imports from outside the EEC, and the Commission blithely assumed that the Spanish and Portuguese demands, which are basically for access to the North sea and the Irish sea in particular from 1996, will be granted. That is not so, to the extent that the Irish Minister had to come over and harangue our civil servants for not backing Ireland in opposition to that.

Mr. Jack

If the hon. Gentleman spent less time sowing seeds of discontent and misinformation and more time reading Hansard, he would know the facts. He was not sitting in a Fisheries Council in Luxembourg last week, as I was, supporting the Irish Minister. We needed no persuasion about the need to stick to the strict terms of the treaty and the accession arrangements for Spain and Portugal. We need no lessons from the hon. Gentleman about defending the interests of Britain's fishermen.

Mr. Patrick Nicholls (Teignbridge)

Does my hon. Friend agree—this point goes to the very heart of the matter—that no matter what debates there might be about the various theories of conservation, fishermen and the public need to be reassured about whether measures taken as a whole put our fishermen at a greater disadvantage than their EC counterparts? Will my hon. Friend say something about that?

Mr. Jack

I am certainly very determined that Britain's fishermen should not be put at a disadvantage. I will certainly insist that other member states are as effective as possible in taking steps to achieve their multi-annual guidance programme target. My hon. Friend puts his finger on a very important point.

Many people in the British fishing industry are deeply concerned that our continental competitors are not doing what they should on enforcement. We fought long and hard in the recent Fisheries Council to ensure that the new control regulation, which, for the first time, includes independent and random inspection by Community inspectors of other people's inspection systems, was brought into force. We want that greater transparency, greater openness and greater knowledge in enforcement of the common fisheries policy. Our fishermen deserve that protection, and we are fighting for it.

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan)

The Minister knows that this decommissioning package was initially contingent on the days-at-sea legislation. I understand that the Minister is about to change tack on the days-at-sea legislation. Will he tell us what that change of course is? Is it a genuine change of mind, or is it merely a delay in implementation? I do not want to write the hon. Gentleman's speech, but could he refer to that information, which is of enormous concern to all hon. Members with fishing constituencies?

Mr. Jack

Let me disabuse the hon. Gentleman. He is the last person whom I would ask to be my speechwriter. I sail dinghies. Any changes in tack depend on which way the wind is blowing. So far, it is not blowing from a very propitious quarter.

Mr. Barry Field (Isle of Wight)

Does my hon. Friend agree that an important factor in the debate is getting down to some more of the facts, rather than the fiction that appears to be regularly peddled by Fishing News? It misinterprets everything that is done and greatly alarms fishermen. Has my hon. Friend joined that newspaper's rogues' gallery of the ones that got away, by suggesting that trawlers in his constituency are affected by the regulations? It would be a change if that journal stuck to the truth rather than spread mayhem, lies and distortions.

Mr. Jack

Fishing News is a lively journal. It has picked out my hon. Friend's constituency with its three trawlers and my constituency with one trawler. If that is the way that those who pay for such advertisements wish to proceed, so be it.

Several hon. Members


Mr. Jack

If hon. Members will forgive me for a moment, I shall not give way. I wish to make a little progress. I want to debate the order or you, Madam Deputy Speaker, might rule that I am straying too far from decommissioning.

I was discussing Canadian fish stocks. I hope that right hon. and hon. Members will be convinced by my arguments. Those are very good reasons indeed why we must control the overall fishing effort. But to achieve that, we already have in place measures such as total allowable catches and quotas, but, by themselves, they are not able to do the job that we require.

The only sure way to conserve fish stocks and thus ensure the long-term future of the industry is to have less fishing. The industry accepts the need for conservation, but the perspective of the individual fisherman is somewhat different. For him, there is no incentive voluntarily to limit his fishing effort or to see that such an approach is fair and effective. He needs a guarantee that such actions are being applied collectively.

Mrs. Jacqui Lait (Hastings and Rye)


Mr. Jack

I should like to make a little progress.

That is why Governments throughout the world have taken responsibility for the conservation of fish stocks for the good of their fishing industries and the European Community has agreed multi-annual guidance programmes with targets for capacity reduction and limiting effort, which all member states must achieve by the end of 1996.

That is why, in February 1992, the Government announced a package of conservation measures aimed at reducing fishing effort—in other words, the number of fish caught—including changes to the licensing regime, the £25 million decommissioning scheme and, indeed, the days-at-sea restrictions.

I shall say more on that last point, but I want to focus on decommissioning, which is a key element of the package.

Mrs. Lait

My hon. Friend referred to the need for fishermen to be reassured about their future. He will know that the wives of the fishermen in Hastings are marching through the town tomorrow and presenting a petition showing their worry about the future. Can he give me the reassurance that they seek—that the fishermen will not be facing unemployment and hardship, which is as they currently see it?

Mr. Jack

The message that my hon. Friend can give to the wives of her fishermen is that they have a Member of Parliament who is assiduous in the way that she has supported their interests. She campaigns for the interests of the fishermen in that part of the world—[Interruption.] The noise is coming from the other side of the House. It is coming from Labour Members, who had no words about fishing or decommissioning in their manifesto, and SNP Members, whose sole contribution in their manifesto was to say that fishing was 10 times more important in Scotland than in England. They are the ones who are making the noise. It is the voice of my hon. Friend that is important.

One way of achieving less fishing effort is to have fewer vessels and that is the objective of the decommissioning scheme.

Mr. Elliot Morley (Glanford and Scunthorpe)


Mr. Jack

I shall make a little progress and then give way to the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Roy Beggs (Antrim, East)

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I am sure that you will agree that, with regard to the fairness with which debates should be conducted, the Minister should acknowledge that the scheme applies to Northern Ireland as well as to England and Scotland. He should give way at least once to my right hon. Friend the Member for Strangford (Mr. Taylor).

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes)

That is not a point of order for the Chair.

Mr. Jack

There will be plenty of time for hon. Members to intervene, because I have a lot more material to go through. I wish to get on the record the subject of the scheme. I am sure that other hon. Members will have their chance to speak. I want to finish this passage and then I will give way.

The scheme has the potential to reduce the United Kingdom fleet by about 10,000 to 12,000 tonnes and make a contribution to our MAGP target of at least 5 per cent. but that approach cannot be the whole story, because decommissioning alone could simply result in the remaining vessels fishing harder and, therefore, maintaining pressure on the scarce fish stocks. In proposing this decommissioning scheme, we had to think long and hard.

Mr. John D. Taylor (Strangford)

It will not go down well in Northern Ireland that the Minister has gone out of his way to ignore Northern Ireland Members this evening. We were not howling at what the hon. Member for Hastings and Rye (Mrs. Lait) was saying. We were howling because she voted against the interests of her fishermen throughout the earlier stages of the Bill. I simply want to ask the Minister whether this is—[Interruption.] The Minister is not listening. [HON. MEMBERS: "Get on with it."] I shall get on with it in my own time with the permission of the Deputy Speaker and not because of Conservative Members' comments from a sedentary position.

The scheme that we are asked to approve applies to British fishing vessels—those of Scotland, Wales, England and Northern Ireland—but not to those from elsewhere in the European Community. It discriminates against the interests of the British fishing industry. [HON MEMBERS: "Silly."] It is not a matter of being silly.

As the fish in the Irish sea do not recognise the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, how can 1, as a constituency Member for Northern Ireland, tell my fishermen that their vessels should be tied up in port while the southern Irish fishermen are free to catch the fish which my fishermen should be allowed to catch on equal terms, if the common fisheries policy is to be equal?

Mr. Jack

I had hoped that we might have a more sensible intervention after all that shouting. The right hon. Gentleman may not be aware that every country in the Community has signed up to the system of the multi-annual guidance programme—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble) waves his hands, but those are the rules of the game by which we are playing. Other member states have also decided to have their own decommissioning schemes to achieve that target. The scheme is not discriminatory. The targets exist for everybody to achieve and it is up to individual member states to determine how to achieve them and have their scheme agreed with the Commission. I have outlined our policy.

Mr. Anthony Steen (South Hams)

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Jack

No, I must make some progress. My hon. Friend must be patient for a moment because I have not yet given way to the hon. Member for Glandford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley).

The Public Accounts Committee and the National Audit Office were highly critical of the previous decommissioning scheme. It gave poor value for money and some vessels rejoined the fleet simply to claim grant. The scheme was inflexible and had no specific objectives. More recently, the European Court of Auditors has made similar criticisms of the schemes operated by other member states.

In spite of large sums of money having been spent on decommissioning schemes, the impact on effort was negligible. Many of the vessels decommissioned were small and not fishing much, and there were no limits to prevent the rest of the fleet from fishing more intensively or new vessels from joining the fleet. Belgium, the Netherlands and Greece had decommissioning schemes, but, like the United Kingdom, they did not achieve their multi-annual guidance programmes.

Mr. Steen

The whole House should be grateful for the effort and energy that my hon. Friend the Minister is putting into wrestling with a difficult problem faced by this country.

Is it possible for us not to implement the scheme until the other European countries have similar arrangements? If we could delay implementation until all the other European countries had similar legislation in place, it would be a level playing field, or a calm sea. The most important contribution that the Government could make to the debate is not to enforce the scheme until the other European countries are doing exactly the same and there is cross-border enforcement.

Mr. Jack

I understand my hon. Friend's point, but I cannot undo what the House has agreed in terms of the Sea Fish Conservation Act 1967. However, I reiterate to my hon. Friend that the most important aspect of the new control regulation is that it will try to ensure that everybody plays by common rules. Our fishing industry seeks that important reassurance, and we shall continue to do all that we can to ensure commonality of enforcement of that policy.

The task of Opposition Members who criticise the Bill is to tell the House what they would do—how they would meet our multi-annual guidance programme, if not by decommissioning. If they say that this scheme is too little, too late, they must tell us how much they would spend, where they would "get the money from and what impact it would have on the fishing industry. It is easy to criticise, but more difficult to be constructive.

As I have indicated to my hon. Friends, the manifesto of the official Opposition did not contain a word about fishing. That is how much they have cared.

Mr. Morley

I think that the Minister's brief is a bit inadequate. The reason why there was not a word in our manifesto was that we dedicated a detailed policy document to the fishing industry, which I launched at Tynemouth during the general election. Rather than calling on the Opposition to say what we would do to deal with the problem, the Minister should get to the point and tell us whether he is going to improve this rather feeble decommissioning scheme.

Mr. Jack

In the interests of greater accuracy, I have obtained a copy of the document, the so-called document "Marine Harvest"—a product of the home-produced word processor industry beloved of the Labour party. It is a thin diet and hardly -worth a read; it contains no facts and no quantifiable proposals.

Our facts on the decommissioning scheme were contained in our manifesto. That shows just how much in-depth research that the Opposition do.

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

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Jack

No, I want to make some progress. I want to put on record how we will spend £25 million on our decommissioning scheme.

I praise my predecessors for the efforts that they have made in fighting the Treasury to ensure that we have this money in the light of the record of the previous decommissioning scheme. The track record of that scheme was not good, and did not take tonnage out of the fishing industry in the way that it should have.

We have won this money. Before the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) derides me once more from behind his bright and shiny tie—which is typical of the glitz and glitter that he likes to create—let me tell the House that the £25 million is being backed up by £18 million on research and £20 million on fisheries protection. Those are substantial sums in relation to the size of the fishing industry.

The purpose of the statutory instrument is to set out the rules for the payment of decommissioning grant. Eligibility for the grant—I am now coming to the good bits —is restricted to registered fishing vessels that are over 10 m long and over 10 years of age, are seaworthy, have a valid fishing licence that has not been downgraded since 27 February 1992 and were acquired before that date. Those vessels should have spent at least 100 days on fishing trips in each of the years 1991 and 1992.

Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Jack

No, the hon. Gentleman must hear the good news. This is how they will get the money.

Payment for vessels decommissioned will be determined by a tendering process, with bids ranked according to pounds per vessel capacity unit. That approach will enable us to take out the largest catching capacity for the available funds. Owners of eligible vessels must be prepared to scrap and deregister their vessels and surrender all their licences by 1 March 1994. That is a much tighter scheme than its predecessor.

Those are the eligibility rules which will apply for 1993–94. Next year, they may be changed in the light of the experience of this year's scheme. In that way, we can provide for the best targeting of funds. I know that the Opposition will like that.

Moreover, £8.4 million is available under the 1993–94 scheme, and £25 million in total. A press announcement inviting applications under the scheme was made on 26 May 1993. The closing date for applications is 9 July.

However, we have had representations from fishermen that that deadline is too tight, particularly in view of uncertainties. I am pleased to announce an extension to the end of the month, to allow fishermen to reflect further and apply if they wish.

I believe that this scheme, as part of the package of conservation measures that I have described, represents an excellent opportunity for fishermen who wish to leave the industry. It will help to reduce fishing effort, and help us to meet our European Community obligations.

But what about the other main element of the package, the days-at-sea restrictions? The fishing industry has expressed many doubts about these restrictions, and I am fully aware that some sectors of the industry have ideas about alternative solutions or specific concerns about the detail of the days-at-sea rules that they want addressed. When the Minister and I were appointed we said that we would listen to the industry on those matters. We have both met the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations. I had a long meeting at Brixham with representatives of the fishing industry. I have been to the EC Fisheries Council, I propose to go to Humberside next week and I have several other engagements lined up in fishing areas.

My Scottish Office colleagues and I will shortly meet the Scottish Fishermen's Federation. We will continue to listen, but I should like to hear from hon. Members about the issues that are arising in their constituencies. With their help, we want to look at ideas for dealing with the problems and to see whether we can be more flexible and responsive to the industry's needs.

To allow more time for this dialogue, I now announce a postponement of the days-at-sea restrictions. They will not be introduced until January 1994. That will give us the opportunity to consult fully with the industry about its concerns and to hear its ideas for tackling conservation.

Mr. Foulkes

I welcome the Minister's announcement. He is a great improvement on his predecessor, and the Secretary of State is an even bigger improvement. [Interruption.] I agree with the Minister about my hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell). I wish he would shut up occasionally.

The Minister said that he wanted to hear from hon. Members. My constituents in Girvan, Ballantrae and Dunure, and those who fish out of Ayr, are worried about the effect of the tie-up regulations on fishermen who fish stocks that are not precious and for which conservation is not a problem. I hope that, when the Minister speaks to the fishermen and looks again at the matter, he will pay attention to that problem.

Mr. Jack

That is the most constructive Opposition contribution during the debate. I am glad that at least one Opposition Member is alive to some of the industry's real problems. The hon. Gentleman puts his finger on an interesting point. In fairness to my hon. Friend the Member for South Hams (Mr. Steen), who has left the Chamber, fishermen in Brixham also raised that matter with me. They also asked about crustacean fishermen. It is important that such ideas are fleshed out and considered, and I look forward to such dialogue.

Mr. Wallace

The Minister said that he and his colleagues from the Scottish Office would shortly meet the Scottish Fishermen's Federation. The federation was given to believe at a much earlier stage that that meeting might have taken place by now and would have been with his right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. When will the meeting be held—or is the federation just being given a hope and a prayer?

Mr. Jack

The fishermen may have prayed to see me and their prayer has been answered. We hope to have the meeting as soon as possible. When I met them at a preliminary meeting in Luxembourg last week, I indicated that we would be meeting as soon as I could fit such a meeting into my diary.

Mrs. Ewing

Is it a blind date?

Mr. Jack

I cannot tell the hon. Lady that. Orders and other bits of parliamentary business keep appearing in my diary just when I want to see people such as the Scottish fishermen. As soon as that business is out of the way, I shall go to see them. I will try to have the meeting before the end of July, but, in any case, it will be held as soon as possible.

Mr. David Trimble (Upper Bann)


Mr. Jack

I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman, but this is the last time that I shall give way.

Mr. Trimble

I was impressed by the Minister's itinerary. He has been to Brixham, and intends to visit Humberside and Scotland. When does he intend to go to Northern Ireland to speak to fishermen there?

Mr. Jack

As always, I took many of the engagements because people had the courtesy to invite me. Obviously, my right hon. Friend and I want to listen to representatives of fishermen from all parts of the country and I hope that I have given the hon. Gentleman sufficient indication that, if the appropriate invitation comes, we shall do our best to listen to those views.

Mrs. Ewing

Obviously we are concerned about the blind date which seems to be emerging between the Minister and representatives of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation. I hope that we can have some clarification of the immediate need for that particular meeting to take place. Given what he has already said about the Department's change of attitude, what attitude does he strike towards the pelagic fleet which has already met its MAGP requirements, and to the prawn fishermen who represent a very important part of the fishing industry? Many areas, including Buckie in my constituency, are dependent on the crustacean fishermen.

Mr. Jack

It is just like blind date; one never knows what will happen until the screen rolls back. We are on either side of the screen at the moment; I hope that it will roll back and we will have a proper dialogue. The hon. Lady's question draws attention to another area of complexity in a difficult subject—differences between regional fishing area in the way in which policy impacts. I already have a flavour of that from some of the representations that I have received and I will certainly want to hear more and have it developed.

I say to everybody who wants to contribute to the discussion that it must be with the objective of enabling us to meet our multi-annual guidance programme. It is no use running away from the fundamental task of reducing the fishing effort in Britain and Europe. I gave a clear indication at the start of the debate about what happened in Canadian waters when dramatic overfishing occurred.

Hon. Members on both sides of the House have a genuine feeling for the industry which is full of dedicated individuals who each day gamble with their economics, their lives, the weather and their well-being. I try to understand that, but, if there is to be an industry and fish stocks for them to enjoy in future, we have to find ways of balancing the effort and the catching capacity of the fleet to the available fishing stocks.

The proposals that I have put before the House this evening are a way forward.

Mr. Morley

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Jack

The hon. Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe will have the chance to put this point of view later, but I will give way to him.

Mr. Morley

I am grateful to the Minister, because it is a crucial point.

In the discussions that the Minister intends to have with the industry, will there be a possibility of new money being put on the table? We have heard nothing tonight about any increased funding of the core of the decommissioning scheme. If there is no new money, what is the point of having discussions on making the scheme work better?

Mr. Jack

I have just announced the spending of £25 million. It is not an insubstantial sum. Let us assume that the head nodders on the Opposition Benches have now committed their respective parties to very large sums of public expenditure. Let me put it this way. We shall be spending £8.4 million in the first year of decommissioning.

Whichever way the hon. Gentleman seeks to interpret it, and I know how he may argue the case, the fact is that British taxpayers' money is being spent. We want to make certain that the money is applied as effectively as possible and that the new decommissioning scheme does not run foul of the problems of the previous scheme.

Before the hon. Gentleman smiles and blindly promises money away, he should read the European Court of Auditors' report from the beginning to the end of its 100-odd pages and he will see why we have to be careful with public money.

I said that we wished to postpone the introduction of days-at-sea regulations until 1 January 1994, and I want to make quite certain that we give a reasonable amount of time to representations from the fishing industry. I want those to be concluded by the end of September so that we can have a proper time to consider carefully what those representations contain and can then take those into account in terms of the final arrangements for days at sea and their application from 1 January.

Our task will not be easy. Reducing effort in the fishing industry is difficult, but it remains a key part of our multi-annual guidance programme targets. Effort control cannot be abandoned in the long-term interests of the fishing industry. It is vital to ensure that we make the best use of the £25 million available for decommissioning. We cannot remove vessels from the fleet and allow other vessels to fish harder.

Mr. Gary Streeter (Plymouth, Sutton)

Is my hon. Friend aware that his announcement of a postponement of days-at-sea restrictions until next year will be warmly welcomed in the west country, where there has been a great deal of concern about that? Can he confirm that the decommissioning scheme will not be postponed? Will he also say whether that extra period will give us an opportunity to observe what our European competitors will be doing to conserve their own fish stocks, so that we can see how they are performing against standard?

Mr. Jack

I can confirm that, apart from the extension on applications, which I mentioned earlier, there will he no delay on the decommissioning scheme. As an act of faith, we are putting this scheme before the House. We said that we would introduce the scheme, and that is what we are doing.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. Streeter) said, it is important to see what other countries are doing. As my predecessor indicated, he wanted to make that a key part of the policies that we are adopting. It is vital that others work hard to meet their multi-annual guidance programmes. We will be watching that carefully, as we will the whole issue of the enforcement of the common fishing policy.

Mr. John Home Robertson (East Lothian)

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Jack

I must come to a conclusion. Many right hon. and hon. Members wish to take part in the debate and it would be churlish for me to take more time than is necessary.

We want to listen carefully to the views expressed in the debate. We want to listen to the views of colleagues from both sides of the House, many of whom are deeply involved with their fishermen and the fishing industry. We want to listen to the fishing industry because it is from the industry that the ideas for managment of change must now come. I commend the scheme to the House.

10.11 pm
Mr. Elliot Morley (Glanford and Scunthorpe)

I had hoped that the new Minister would have had an opportunity to look again at the decommissioning scheme and the whole package. He claims that he has looked at it. He has made some suggestions, which both I and the industry welcome. We welcome the stay of execution from this autumn until January 1994. I could be a little churlish and wonder how much that delay has to do with the fact that his Ministry is having difficulty getting it ready to operate from this autumn. That may have influenced the decision. Nevertheless, the Minister has given an assurance that he will consult the industry and I welcome that. However, in his battles with the Treasury, it seems that not one penny of extra money has been put on the table to improve the scheme.

The Minister was full of bluster about the previous decommissioning scheme. The National Audit Office report did criticise that scheme, but it also made it clear that the principle was sound. The reason that it did not work was the Government's incompetence in administering the scheme.

The key issues involved in the package of decommissioning, which is allied to days at sea, are reducing capacity and conservation. We have never, in all these debates, argued against the genuine need for capacity reduction and for tackling conservation. Our question concerns the best way of going about that. We do not feel that the Government have gone far enough or fast enough.

Mr. Keith Mans (Wyre)

The hon. Gentleman has mentioned the amount of money put into the scheme this year. Will he give some indication of how much more money he thinks should be put into the scheme this year to make it effective? I genuinely want to know how much more money he thinks is needed to make the scheme work.

Mr. Morley

The hon. Gentleman knows very well that it is hypothetical to ask the Opposition how much money should be allocated, but I shall answer the question directly. He knows that there are two reasons why I cannot give a figure: first, I am not in office and do not know what the situation will be in a few years' time; secondly, when we give guarantees and assurances, unlike the Government's assurances on tax and VAT, we will honour them and ensure that they are delivered. if the hon. Gentleman has so little confidence in his Minister that he wants me to make suggestions, I shall happily do so. He should know that, according to the Government's figures, this package will cost an extra £1.4 million in bureaucracy and enforcement, but I suspect that the total will prove to be much higher.

I shall suggest an alternative approach to the hon. Gentleman which would allow money for enforcement to be added to the total package, attracting a further 70 per cent. from European Community funds. It must be borne in mind that the £25 million is a gross figure comprised of 70 per cent. of European Community money and a very small Government contribution. If the hon. Gentleman wants me to introduce measures, he can move a motion of no confidence and we will he only too pleased to take over.

Mr. Home Robertson

Is it my hon. Friend's understanding that any of the money that the Government are proposing for decommissioning will go to the crews? It would be an outrage if employees who work on fishing vessels were to find themselves redundant and without compensation and all the extra money were to go to skippers or owners. I hope that, when we have a Labour Government, we will ensure fair distribution of this money.

Mr. Morley

My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. I was disappointed that the Minister did not mention the affected communities that will lose jobs as a result of even this decommissioning scheme. The Minister should be arguing for Community social funds for those communities. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for speaking on behalf of the many share fishermen who stand to get nothing out of the measure.

Mr. Austin Mitchell

It is not only a question of the amount on which these pedantic party political points will be raised but the timing. Had the scheme been introduced when we were asking for it four or five years ago, we would not be in this situation. Every other EC country has put its multi-annual guidance programmes in place by introducing a decommissioning scheme on time and sufficiently funded, which is why we are now behind.

Mr. Morley

My hon. Friend makes an excellent point, which I shall deal with in a moment.

We want to see good value for public money and an effective decommissioning scheme. We have no argument about evaluating it and deciding how it operates, but other EC states have been using the scheme for a long time. Labour has consistently argued for the introduction of a decommissioning scheme, but the Government's failure to act has impacted on our fishing fleet. Does the Minister accept that part of the crisis of over-capacity is of the Government's own making? Between 1987 and 1991 no effort was made to introduce a decommissioning scheme, and the Government consistently failed to meet their multi-annual guidance programme targets. They must recognise their responsibility and ensure that the industry does not shoulder the full blame.

Mr. Jack

May I check a point of detail? The hon. Gentleman said that he favoured an effective decommissioning policy and cited those who had criticised the previous policy. Does his scheme include as a point of effectiveness an effort reduction policy?

Mr. Morley

An effort reduction policy is certainly extremely important, but it must be considered in the light of technical conservation measures. I shall deal with that point later, but I wish now to dwell on an issue which is at the heart of the Sea Fish (Conservation) Act 1992. The Government accepted an amendment to the effect that they were duty bound to

first give due consideration to a scheme of decommissioning in order to achieve a significant reduction in the capacity of the fishing fleet. Does the Minister believe that the scheme reduces the fleet significantly? Does it honour that section of the Bill? What considceration has he given to an effective decommissioning scheme to meet the requirements of the Act?

Will the Minister confirm that the decommissioning scheme was initially meant to be financed over a two-year period, whereas it is now projected to be over a three-year period? The decommissioning scheme, as opposed, has therefore been weakened rather than strengthened, and he can hardly claim that it is effective.

Mr. Jack

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving me the opportunity to answer that point. It is an effective scheme because, by spreading it over a longer period, we have the opportunity to examine how it is hitting the targets. I said that it was designed to take out 10,000 tonnes to 12,000 tonnes but we may find that the first tranche does not necessarily affect the areas that are most effective in taking out the greatest tonnage in pursuit of our MAGP targets. Opposition Members intervened to ask us to recognise specific differences in the way that fishing is carried out, so I should have thought that having time to reflect and adjust strengthens the scheme,

Mr. Morley

We shall see, but I would argue that it has weakened the scheme.

Does the Minister accept that the £25 million that has been committed will reduce the fleet's capacity only by a measly 5 per cent? That does not go very far and I would hardly say that it was an effective or significant reduction.

Will the Minister confirm that 70 per cent. of the overall funding for the scheme will come from the European Community? Like other Ministers, he may mention the Fontainebleau agreement and how the money is clawed back, but will he confirm that the money that fishermen will receive as part of the decommissioning will be subject to tax? The House would welcome a clarification of how the tax will be calculated; will it be corporation tax or capital gains tax? It would be useful to know.

The Minister said that the scheme has been criticised as being too little too late. He accused the Labour party of making that criticism, but, although we endorse it, it was in fact made by the House of Lords all-party Select Committee. The Minister has not dealt with the fact that, because of technical improvements, the catching rate of the fleet has increased by 2 per cent. a year. Due to the delay, for which I hold the Government responsible, capacity has also increased.

Does the Minister acknowledge the bitterness felt by fishermen when they compare how they have been treated with the way in which the agricultural sector is treated? When there is over-capacity in the agricultural sector, farmers are offered substantial compensation for not growing crops, but when there is a problem in the fishing industry, the response has been a tiny decommissioning scheme and compulsory days in port. Fishermen also have loans and mortgages to pay and families to keep and they feel bitter about the dual standards that the Government have adopted when dealing with them and the agricultural sector.

On scrapping procedures, has the Minister given any thought to how fishermen will find enough places for their boats to be scrapped and who will scrap them? Has he given any thought to the question of who will scrap wooden fishing boats? That is an unusual detail. Does he accept the fact that, as I understand it, fishermen will have to pay between £6,000 and £10,000 for the scrapping of their boats, which has to be included in the bid that they make for the decomissioning money?

I shall make some suggestions to the Minister and deal with some of the points made by the hon. Member for Wyre (Mr. Mans). I challenge the Minister, when he meets the fishermen, to consider their proposals for dealing with effort reduction by means of a package of effective and workable technical conservation measures. The Minister has his scheme in place and he can always implement it. He announced tonight that he will delay implementation until January 1994. Why does not he take a step further and delay the scheme until January 1995, to give technical conservation measures a chance? We could evaluate them and see whether they work and we could give the fishing industry a chance to make them work.

Does the Minister recognise that the industry wants to be involved and that the fishermen have sensible and constructive suggestions, which I believe could work? If he will not consider those, will he consider, as an alternative, giving fishermen an option involving technical conservation gear rather than enforcing days in port?

Mr. Jack


Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)

Wait until the end.

Mr. Jack

The hon. Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley) has been generous in allowing me to intervene and I would like to pick up a few more of the points that he has raised.

I made it clear in my speech that we were working closely with the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations on its technical conservation review. I am sure that other such measures will be suggested for us to consider, but will the hon. Gentleman acknowledge that, if those measures are to contribute to achieving the multi-annual guidance programme target, they must be agreed by the Commission to be helpful in that respect? If such ideas are proposed, we are prepared to discuss them with the Commission, but we must agree that the point at which all our ideas must come together is the achieving of the MAGP target.

Mr. Morley

I accept that, but does the Minister accept that the Commission has been pressing the Government for many years to take up its offer of decommissioning grant, yet until recently the Government have consistently ignored the offer? If the fishermen are making an offer on technical conservation measures, which will cost them money and, by their very nature, reduce their catching capacity, the Minister in turn should give some sign that he is willing to move in terms of the money on the table for the decommissioning scheme.

Is he prepared to move on the idea of returning to a two-year period for decommissioning? The period should be as short as possible. We all accept that we must reduce the fleet, so surely it is better to do that as quickly as possible, to ensure that the reduction is effective, rather than having a slow process that will do neither the industry nor fish stocks any good.

As I said, fishermen will have to put in a bid for the scrapping of their vessels. Will the Minister consider a radical alternative to scrapping and examine, with his colleagues in the Overseas Development Administration, a package of measures that could be financed by EC money from another budget, and which would allow the boats, rather than being scrapped and wasted, to be used in an aid programme for developing countries, as part of a package of support measures for fishing in those countries? I appreciate that there may be technical difficulties, but will the Minister consider and discuss the idea? It would certainly be a more usesful way of disposing of the boats. Indeed, saving the scrapping element in the bids would provide more money that could go into the pot for an effective decommissioning scheme.

Mr. Mans

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way to me, especially as he has done so twice. flow would he get over the problem that would arise if, when we had sent those vessels to third-world countries, they found their way back into British waters to fish our stocks?

Mr. Morley

There would be control by licence applications.

Mr. David Harris (St. Ives)

They would buy licences.

Mr. Morley

There is nothing to stop other member states buying licences now, so there would be no change there. It is unlikely that such vessels would find their way hack. There may he ways in which to deal with that in terms of the overall package. However, the main point is that, if boats do not have a licence, they simply cannot fish.

If the Minister feels that that suggestion is not feasible, and if the boats are to be disposed of in this country, will he consider the idea of sinking them rather than scrapping them? They could be sunk to create artificial reefs, which could be used for fish conservation, for marine diving, for rod fishermen or for the protection of conservation areas. I am sure that the hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. Harris) would not object to a few scuttled boats in the south-west mackerel box to protect fish stocks there.

I shall bring my speech to a conclusion—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I recognise that other hon. Members wish to speak, but I am sure that they appreciate that there have been many interventions from hon. Members of all parties. It is right to allow interventions and to allow hon. Members to make their points.

I do not believe that the Government have considered all the options available to them. As I said, if the proposal is successful and takes on board the technical gear conservation measures, it would be possible to add the savings of £1.4 million of annual revenue commitment for enforcement and scrapping to make the decommissioning scheme more viable.

The measure does not go far enough. It does not meet the Government's pledges or the obligations they have accepted. It discriminates unfairly against British fishermen while the fishermen of other EC states, which have made good use of their decommissioning money over the years and which have called on more money from the EC than is the case with our Government, are allowed to fish unhindered. Our fishermen face restrictive and punitive tie-up measures.

I ask the Minister to consider all those points, to take note of the interventions from both sides of the House, to consult the fishermen and to use the breathing space that he has announced tonight to ensure that we have a more sensible, more generous and more effective decommissioning package which will really bring about a sustainable industry in this country.

Several hon. Members


Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse)

Order. Hon. Members will notice that only an hour is now available for the remainder of the debate. Many hon. Members hope to catch my eye. I hope that those who are fortunate enough to be called will be brief and will give other hon. Members the opportunity to speak.

10.31 pm
Mr. David Harris (St. Ives)

I welcome very much the tone of my hon. Friend the Minister's speech, and I congratulate him on his appointment. I also welcome his main announcement that he will postpone implementation of the freezing of effort control, at least until January. I am sure that that will be welcomed by the industry, especially in the south-west, as has been said. I am sure, to echo the points made by the hon. Member for Glanford annd Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley), who is a reasonable hon. Member, that my hon. Friend the Minister will ensure that the time is well spent in listening, as he said, to the views of the fishing industry. At long last, the fishing industry is taking a positive approach to what we all recognise to be a very difficult problem.

I am pleased that my hon. Friend paid tribute to his predecessor. He had a difficult time—the understatement of the year—in fishing matters. However, he was instrumental in getting £25 million from the Treasury, as my hon. Friend the Minister acknowledges. He did that largely because there was—[HON. MEMBERS: "A general election."] Not at all because of the general election. he did that largely because there was agreement by hon. Members of all parties who represent fishing constituencies about the part that a decommissioning scheme could and should play in trying to resolve this difficult problem.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Of course a decommissioning scheme of itself cannot begin to solve the problem. He was also right to concentrate on the limitations of a decommissioning scheme and to point out our unhappy experiences when we had a decommissioning scheme before. I have never gone along with the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations when it has tried to put the emphasis on decommissioning in bringing about a better balance in the fleet. Decommissioning certainly has a part to play, but it cannot solve, or begin to solve, most of the problem.

It is no secret that I do not believe that £25 million over three years is adequate for a decommissioning scheme. I know that many of my colleagues who also represent fishing constituencies take that view. I should like to see the amount increased. For what it is worth, I have given my hon. Friend the Minister some private advice on the matter. I am delighted to see the Secretary of State here for the debate. The private advice that I gave was that together the Minister and the Secretary of State should find money from within their Departmental budget for decommissioning.

I am reinforced in that view by something that happened today in a meeting of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, of which I am a member. We took evidence from the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, on whether Britain should rejoin the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation. That is a point close to the heart of the Minister's Parliamentary Private Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Torridge and Devon, West (Miss Nicholson). She also cares passionately about the interests of her fishermen. Later tonight, in the Adjournment debate, she will undoubtedly argue that we should rejoin UNESCO.

Our subscription to UNESCO would be £11 million a year. Over three years, the cost of rejoining UNESCO would be significantly more than the amount proposed for the decommissioning scheme to help restructure the fishing industry. That puts the matter into context. More money should certainly be made available for the decommissioning scheme.

I also share some of the anxieties expressed by the Opposition spokesman, the hon. Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe, about some of the details of the scheme. He mentioned the cost of scrapping vessels. That is relevant. He also mentioned taxation. There is uncertainty about taxation. I hope that the Minister will clarify exactly how the fishermen will stand in respect of capital gains if they take decommissioning money.

There is also the issue of technical progression in the industry. It is always increasing its capacity to catch. The hon. Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe said that it increased its capacity by some 2 per cent. a year. I gather that the term for that in the trade is technical creep.

Mr. John Home Robertson (East Lothian)

A Parliamentary Private Secretary.

Mr. Harris

Fortunately, my days as a PPS are long behind me. I am told that the amount of money for decommissioning will hardly match the technical creep in the industry. So, again, the amount proposed for the scheme is not adequate.

I now strike a positive note. The Minister's remarks were welcome. There is a new mood in the industry. I was heartened to hear reports of the discussions that took place in the south-west on 22 May in Brixham between representatives of the industry and Ministry scientists about some other ways of achieving conservation. It is no secret to the House that I have pressed for such discussions for more than a year. The industry was slow to respond to that challenge, but now it is responding. So my plea to the Minister tonight is to take advantage of a changing mood in the industry, put behind us the unhappiness of the past, look to the future and concentrate on how we can devise better ways to achieve conservation than the Government's proposals.

Again, it is no secret that I and some of my colleagues, especially those from Cornwall, including my hon. Friends the Members for Cornwall, South-East (Mr. Hicks) and for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Coe) have consistently opposed the principle of tie-up. It is not the right way forward.

Mr. Robert Hicks (Cornwall, South-East)

Does my hon. Friend agree that while we welcome the announcement made by my hon. Friend the Minister this evening, it would have had greater credence—I think that my hon. Friend the Minister would agree in his heart of hearts—if he had agreed to suspend the implementation of the tie-up restrictions until there was tangible evidence that our European fishing partners were taking similar measures. That is the crucial point for my hon. Friend's fishermen in Newlyn and for mine in Looe and Polperro.

Mr. Harris

My hon. Friend is right. I share his view, which some of us pressed on our Front Bench colleagues earlier this evening. The previous agreement—the Gummer or Curry agreement—given in the famous debate of last year, that the Government would not move to the next stage until it was proved that others were implementing equivalent or equally effective measures, was a big step forward. We want Ministers to go one step further, and not go ahead with the suspension in January unless there is positive evidence that other member states are also taking that action.

There is now a window of opportunity. If the industry acts positively, as I hope and believe that it will, and if my hon. Friend the Minister and his officials act positively, perhaps we will not need to implement the tie-up scheme. I urge him to take that opportunity.

I asked my hon. Friend the Minister a series of questions last week about the number of boats that were restricted to tie-up in England and the west country, and in particular the number of vessels that, because they do not have a track record, have been given a minimum provisional allocation of 80 days or 160 half days. His answer was that, of the 1,582 boats in England subject to tie-up, 801—over half—are in that category.

I had hoped that my hon. Friend would announce tonight that he would increase that number. I know that he is concerned about the subject and is looking at it carefully. I press him to make an early decision to increase the allocation, because the vessels have not had to keep log books and records, and are being put in an invidious position. It would be an enormous help, and another sign of his good faith towards the industry, if he could make an announcement on that.

Mr. Jack

That is the kind of suggestion that we shall think on carefully.

Mr. Harris

I am grateful for my hon. Friend's approach. I hope that we can return to a reasonable relationship between the industry and the Government, because the present trench warfare is in the interests of no one.

10.43 pm
Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)

I shall begin by spending a few seconds expressing my sympathy to the hon. Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro), who has been deprived of the chance to go to the farewell dinner for Lord Sanderson, while Tory Back Benchers think that that is much more important than being in the Chamber to defend the fishing industry, from which they derived some votes.

I have only one quarrel with the hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. Harris). I did not find the Minister's tone conciliatory. I thought that the belligerent way in which he opened the debate was the traditional way of demonstrating weakness—when one has a weak case, shout the others down. I began to think that the Government had learnt nothing from our previous debates.

Our debates on the fishing industry over the past few years have shown a rigidity of purpose among Ministers, brought about by mental paralysis. They seem to be totally incapable of independent thought. However, they have had ample opportunity, provided by the fishing industry—

Mr. Streeter

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Hughes

No, I will not give way. Many other hon. Members wish to speak. I do not have much time and I want to make my remarks speedily and so allow other hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. Streeter), an opportunity to speak. I will not be like the Minister and speak for 40 minutes. Thai was quite disgraceful.

The Government are incapable of considering the very constructive points made by the fishing industry. Like many hon. Members, I welcome the Government's apparent conciliatory measure of postponing the days-at-sea regulations until 1 January next year. However, we are not looking for a temporary respite. We are looking for a real, fundamental reappraisal. It is not enough to say that we will put it off for six months or whatever and then come back in January and do nothing.

The Minister announced that the date for application of the decommissioning scheme has been extended to the end of the month as if that was some great concession. It is not a great concession. The Minister must recognise that people will have to consider whether to sell their vessels and so lose their livelihoods and that of their crews. That is not an easy decision. The Minister might argue that people in the industry should have made their minds up by now. That is perhaps a reasonable criticism. However, things have been so tough for those people that it has not been possible for them to make rational decisions.

I welcome the new ministerial team. The team began by saying that it was going to be a much more listening team and that there was to be less of the macho style and the style that Whitehall, Dover house in London and St. Andrew's house know best. We were told that the team would listen. However, the Minister has not listened to the industry.

The industry is saying quite specifically that the decommissioning scheme takes out of the overcapacity only 5 per cent. while the Minister has signed up to a reduction of 19 per cent. If the Minister's scheme works totally, it will produce a saving of only one quarter of what he has signed up to reduce. The £25 million which was initially due to be spent over two years is now to be spent over three years. If enough applications come forward, and if they meet all the criteria, is the Minister prepared to spend that money in one year and then argue for more?

The hon. Member for Wyre (Mr. Mans) demanded to know how much we would spend. As soon as we say how much we would spend, the hon. Gentleman gets up and says that we are spendthrifts. We are not having that. We believe that the money should be spent to sharply reduce the capacity.

Everyone agrees that there should be an effective decomissioning scheme. However, the Minister must consider a serious matter that has hung over the industry for many years. The Government talk of decommissioning as though it means only boats and property and not people. People will have to pay the price. Until the Government assure us that they will battle in every quarter to deal with the social consequences of decommissioning in tightly knit fishing communities that depend entirely on fishing for their living, they cannot command our respect.

I concede that the Minister quietened down after intervening like a jack-in-the-box—no pun intended—and toned down his remarks. No doubt he will say that he listened. However, will he, or the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland if he replies to the debate, assure us that the postponement of the days-at-sea scheme that has been announced today will mean a fundamental review and, if necessary, new regulations or new primary legislation? If the Minister were to do that, I am sure that we could support him.

Several hon. Members


Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse)

Order. I hope that the length of the speech by the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) will be an example to hon. Members. I am keen to call as many hon. Members as possible, not least those from the minority parties.

10.50 pm
Mrs. Angela Browning (Tiverton)

I wish to make two brief points.

First, I emphasise the point that was made by my hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives (Mr. Harris). Boats which have been allocated just 80 days are in a particularly difficult position. They are not eligible for decommmissioning. When I attended the Devon county show this year, I was concerned to be approached by an area manager of a national bank, which has been required to lend money to fishermen, particularly for newer boats. In his opinion, with 80 days, they would have great difficulty in servicing the loan, let alone being able to pay crew and others. That is a genuine problem, and I should be grateful if my hon. Friend the Minister would consider that grouping.

Secondly, I emphasise what has been said about non-precious stocks and fishermen, particularly those in the south-west, who fish primarily in area 7. For example, as my hon. Friend the Minister will know, very little cod is caught in that area. Cod and haddock are a conservation problem. Because fishermen who fish primarily non-precious stocks are also subject to the days-at-sea policy, one aspect that worries them is not only the current situation but non-precious stocks also becoming quota stocks and quotas being based on what they have caught in previous years. Because they have to be tied up in comparison with boats from other nations, particularly France and Spain, they fear that they would automatically be down on the list of what they would be eligible to catch of new quota species.

10.51 pm
Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan)

I shall follow your stricture to be brief, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

The Minister should look again at the Scottish National party manifesto. He will find that we proposed a doubling of decommissioning money over a two-year period. He will remember that at that time the Government were also committed to a two-year period for decommissioning, not the present three-year period. The Minister's argument about the costs of decommissioning is fallacious. There is a 70 per cent. grant from the Community. Admittedly, it comes off the Fontainebleau rebate, but, if we applied the argument to any part of European funding, we would never spend any money from Europe on anything. Why on earth should the fishing industry be discriminated against?

What is certainly true is that, over the past few years, hundreds of millions of ecus of structural funding have gone to other fleets within the European Community, and nothing whatsoever has come to fishermen in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales. That should not be allowed to continue.

Will the Minister explain the split between decommissioning and effort limitation on the multi annual guidance premium targets? Theoretically, it could be 55 per cent. to 45 per cent. At no stage have we been told—many of us suspect that it is because the Minister does not know—what the exact trade-off is. I hope that the Minister also takes on board the argument that to restrict the decommissioning availability to boats which have fished 100 days in each of the past two fishing years might exclude boats which did not fish in the last two years for very good reasons, including conservation of stock.

I wish to read into the record a note that I received today from Hugh Allen, the secretary-designate of Mallaig and North-West Fishermen's Association. The letter was sent to the hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Kynoch), but, as we have heard, the hon. Gentleman is at a farewell dinner, so he is not here to present it to the House. The letter highlights the point which concerns fishermen about the tendering process which could result in some fishermen, even if they applied for decommissioning, ending up with no funds whatsoever.

Mr. Allen writes

To give you an illustration, a vessel built 15 years ago at a cost of £200,000 and kept in good condition would probably be worth £150,000 today and that figure is the level of the skipper's hid. She has a written down tax value of £10,000 so if he was successful with his application he would be liable to income tax at 40 per cent. of £140,000 which is £56,000, leaving £94,000 in the kitty. From this figure he has to repay any grants he received during that last three years. This figure could easily be £20,000 reducing his balance to £74,000. An operating deficit with the salesman's office of £20,000 which must also be repaid now leaves him with £54,000. The clearing of £30,000 outstanding mortgage brings his pay down to £24,000 and the closing of £10,000 worth of electronics contracts leaves him with just £14,000. Out of that £14,000, he must pay for the scrapping of the vessel—an average of £10,000—leaving £4,000 to disburse among the crew of the fishing vessel. In that illustration, a fisherman could theoretically—because of the tendering process forcing lower bids—end up with nothing from the decommissioning process.

I agree with the point often made by the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) about the previous decommissioning scheme. He has argued that, under that scheme, millions of pounds disappeared up the Humber to the friends of the previous Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, and nothing whatsoever was made available to the fishing crews who were made redundant as part of that process. I should like to see some sign from the Minister that he is aware of the social consequences of boats which could be decommissioned out of the fleet.

We have had a change of course from the Minister tonight. He is not going ahead with the implementation of days at sea until 1 January 1994. I hope that that also represents a change of heart. Let us face the reality: the days-at-sea legislation is unenforceable. Anyone who has seen the demonstrations up and down the coastline in the past few months knows that the days-at-sea legislation cannot be imposed on the fishing industry.

While the Minister takes a few months to contemplate this matter, let him remember that, if he does not bury the days-at-sea legislation, it will bury him.

10.57 pm
Mr. Patrick Nicholls (Teignbridge)

Underpinning this whole debate is the sense of community that the fishing communities feel and which they realise is under threat. Whether we are talking about a decommissioning scheme worth £25 million or £250 million, ultimately we are talking about the destruction of communities.

It is one thing to say that it is inevitable. It is one thing to say that if there are no fish left, there are no jobs for any fishermen—and it is proper to try to cope with that. However, as representatives of communities—I represent a fishing community—we must never lose sight of the fact that when we are having such a debate, we are talking about the destruction of ways of life and communities.

That way of life will often go back 200 or 300 years in the same family. Sometimes, the feelings of outrage, which can superficially seem unreasonable, are about a folk memory that goes deeply. When we have what may seem like a clinical discussion, it is important to face the fact that we are talking about the destruction of communities and ways of life that can never be replaced. That is certainly the first thing that I learnt from my acquaintance with a fishing community.

The second thing I learnt is that, no matter how modern technology is, fishing is still a dangerous job, because virtually every fishing family will have friends, relatives or acquaintances who ultimately did not come back from trips to sea. Few of us are called to display that type of raw courage in our working life. It says something about the way in which communities are reinforced and why they will find such debates so hard to take.

Another more pragmatic lesson that I learned from my meetings with fishing communities is that there will never be a consensus on how best to conserve fish stocks. When I started in politics, I thought that, if we talked enough and met enough people, and if we were reasonable enough, a consensus came through in the end. There is no consensus that I can see or that is achievable among the fishing community about how stocks will be conserved. In the end— this is a hard point to make, but I hope that it is an honest one—there is no alternative to Parliament taking a view on how conservation measures will be enforced and then being prepared to stand by them. There is no consensus available.

Even when fishing communities realise that there can be no consensus on conservation, they feel that they have not been listened to. That is unfair, bearing in mind the considerable efforts of my hon. Friend's predecessor. I know him well. I am also conscious that he knew the effect that it would have on fishing communities.

The problem with politics in the 20th century is that perception sometimes matters every bit as much as reality. Sometimes, there was a feeling that the case of the fishing communities was not being listened to. Ideally, they wanted their assessment of the situation to be accepted. What they wanted at the very least was a feeling that, even if nothing could be done, ultimately they were being understood.

I was delighted with the turn of my hon. Friend the Minister's speech. I have been greatly heartened by my meetings with my hon. Friend and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. Even if they could not do everything that we wanted for our domestic fishermen, I detected a desire and a keenness to understand and listen even when no ideal solution can be delivered.

I should like to think that my fishing community, listening to this debate and reading about it afterwards, will say, "It may not have contained everything that we wanted—how could it when no consensus exists?—but we have been listened to."

My hon. Friend's announcement that there is to be a moratorium on the effort restrictions came as much as a surprise to me as to anyone else. It will be possible, in the next few months, to listen to the fishing community yet again to see whether their concerns can be responded to. The position that my hon. Friend has adopted is extremely important.

Mrs. Ewing

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Nicholls

In view of the time, I ask the hon. Lady to bear with me, because others want to speak.

Secondly, even where it is accepted that nothing can be done, there is sometimes a feeling of outrage—I use the word deliberately—among the fishing community and members of the public that our communities are somehow being asked to bear the brunt while EC fishermen are not. I shall not repeat what I said to my hon. Friend earlier in the debate, but the assurance that he gave me was exactly what I wanted.

It is all too easy to say that we will not enforce any of our laws until the others do so. If we play that game so obviously, ultimately no targets are met by anyone and no fish are left. Although I should like it in my heart of hearts, I do not see how my hon. Friend could go so far as to say that we will not enforce our laws and meet our own obligations until we see that that has been done in advance by other countries.

But—it is an important "but" in the real world of trying to achieve something instead of indulging in empty rhetoric—my hon. Friend the Minister has made a clear statement that we shall do everything in our power to ensure that our fishermen are not out there by themselves and our EC partners also obey the laws. That seems to be right, and the fishing community can take heart from it.

Although it sounds less exciting and rhetorical than the alternative—that we will not enforce our laws unless others enforce theirs—ultimately, it is a far more honest position to put before fishermen. That is why I was so pleased by my hon. Friend's contribution tonight.

11.3 pm

Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland)

I take issue with one point made by the hon. Member for Teignbridge (Mr. Nicholls). He said that there was no consensus on conservation measures in the fishing industry. There is not only consensus but unity in the fishing industry's opposition to the Sea Fish Conservation Act 1967. It has united all aspects of the industry in all parts of the country.

I welcome the fact that the Government have slightly back tracked. They rushed this measure through in the early weeks of this Parliament, last year. They are now prepared to shelve it until 1 January. Although many of us would have preferred a total moratorium, I welcome the fact that the Minister has agreed to listen and said that he will try to meet Scottish fishermen by the end of this month.

I hope that he will take into account the fact that, although the industry opposes the days-at-sea legislation, if it is to exist and be fair, it must be fine-tuned far more than it is at present and take account of regional differences and pressures on stocks in different parts of the country.

The Minister should also answer the point made by the hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing). If the pelagic fleet has already met its MAGP target, why in the world do we need to impose days-at-sea restrictions on it? Last year, it could not even catch the full quota allocated to it.

Mr. Salmond

And the quota has gone up.

Mr. Wallace

The hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) reminds me that the quota has gone up, yet the pelagic fleet has been asked to accept further days-at-sea restrictions.

To reduce pressure on white fish stocks in the North sea, many vessels may like to travel to more distant waters and fish new species. The fact that they must be at sea longer to get to those distant waters means that they will spend even more time at sea. I hope that the Minister will allow an opportunity for flexibility on that count.

I hope that the Minister will discuss positively with the industry questions on technical conservation measures. He said that he was already working well with the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations on its conservation review. How and to what extent will technical conservation measures adequately substitute for days-atsea restrictions? Those restrictions were introduced in a Bill that we debated over a year ago, but they were presented to us then as a conservation measure. What the Minister has said tonight makes it clear that this scheme has far more to do with meeting our MAGP targets.

A number of questions need to be answered. First, what is the trade-off between a days-at-sea restriction or effort limitation and decommissioning, which takes capacity out of the fleet? We are now faced with a two-pronged attack, but we have not been told the conversion factor. I think that it is only fair to let the industry know where it stands.

Secondly, we want to know what other European nations have done about the balance between effort limitation and capacity reduction. I am told that, by 1 May 1993, the steps taken by member nations to secure MAGP compliance should have been reported. We want to know what other European Community nations are doing about days-at-sea restrictions.

It has already been pointed out that Opposition Members—and, to be fair, a number of Conservative Members—called for decommissioning for many years before it was eventually announced, a few weeks before the general election. When we say that this is too little, too late, we do not say it with the benefit of hindsight; we said it before. It has also been pointed out that the same view was expressed by a House of Lords Select Committee, which opined that the present decommissioning scheme —the one on offer—would probably do little more than meet the technical increase of 2 per cent. per annum.

If that is so, will the Minister tell us how he thinks the 55 per cent. decrease in capacity will be met if it is not to be met by a decommissioning scheme? What element is being allowed for the bankruptcies that we fear will inevitably follow if harsh days-at-sea restrictions are placed on people who will not be given an adequate opportunity to make a return on the capital that they have invested in their ports?

I hope that the Minister will also answer the question raised by a number of hon. Members about those who will be made redundant, but will not benefit from decommissioning payments.

11.6 pm

Mr. Anthony Steen (South Hams)

My constituency includes the coastline from Paignton to Cornwall—about 88 miles of fishing coast. A number of ships in the area fish crab and lobster, which are not part of the quota. Will those crustacea be exempted from the days-at-sea and tie-up proposals?

I understand that, if the decommissioning grant is increased from £25 million to £100 million, the European Commission will give 70 per cent. back. If the British Government contributed £100 million, they would get £70 million back. As the £30 million that would go to the fishermen would be taxed, for £100 million given to our fishermen for decommissioning, the Government would have to spend only £20 million. Why can we not do the same as so many other European countries, which, having put such amounts into decommissioning, have taken many fishing boats off the seas and—rightly—recompensed the fishermen involved?

I believe not only that we should not implement the days-at-sea and tie-up provisions until other countries are involved in similar legislation, but—more importantly—that we should not do so until that legislation is also enforced by those countries. We have to be satisfied that every European country that fishes our seas has exactly the same rules and regulations as ours and that they are enforced in the same way.

I may have my figures wrong, but I understand that this country has about 270 fisheries officers enforcing the regulations on our fishermen. I think that there are only 17 —or is it 27?—such officers in Spain. Curiously, they seem all to be based in Madrid. Until there is a fair system, a level sea as it were, there will be constant complaints from the fishing industry that the scheme is not working fairly. Fishermen will be prepared to accept the measures if they can see that they are fair and reasonable.

I thank the Minister and his staff for their courtesy. Within a week of taking office, the Minister came to Brixham to see my fishermen and explain the matter to me and to them. He also satisfied himself that they had a real problem.

11.10 pm
Mr. John D. Taylor (Strangford)

I was glad to hear that the Minister will come to Northern Ireland if he is invited, but I was surprised to hear that the Minister responsible for fishing in Northern Ireland has not yet invited him to Northern Ireland. We shall certainly make representations to that Minister to ensure that such an invitation is extended.

I was disappointed by the belligerency of the Minister's speech. It displayed that element of arrogance that has been one of the problems with the Conservative Government in recent years, and it is the reason why they have lost support in the country. I hope that the Minister will listen more to hon. Members, including Northern Ireland Members. He was not prepared to do that earlier in the debate.

There are two major problems with the legislation, the first of which is the days at sea. That has caused great unease in the fishing industry throughout the United Kingdom, and we heard about it from the hon. Member for South Hams (Mr. Steen). In Northern Ireland, there is a special issue. Unlike the other fishing fleets, our fleet is in the Irish sea with a fleet from another nation—the Republic of Ireland. The fish obviously do not recognise any political border: they swim up and down the Irish sea.

The legislation will instruct the fishermen of Kilkeel, Ardglass and Portavogie, "You must remain tied up in your ports and watch the southern Irish fishermen catching fish in the Irish sea that you should have the chance to catch." That is the discriminatory element in the legislation, and that is why it has been rejected by the fishermen of County Down.

There is still a lack of information about the impact of the decommissioning scheme. The Minister was short on detail. He did not answer the question, "Will it bring about a reduction of only about 5 per cent. in the size of the British fleet?" That has been suggested by the industry and by Opposition Members, but so far no Minister has come out openly and said that the £25 million scheme will have such an impact. We want an answer. What will be the impact of the decommissioning scheme?

Secondly, we need more detail about the average payments that will be made for fishing boats. Fishermen have no idea of the average amount that they will get. There have been vague suggestions of a tendering scheme. That is mentioned in the regulations and it was dealt with in two or three words by the Minister, but we have had no details about how the tendering scheme will work and what it will mean in pounds for the fishing boats. We need some guidance on that before we can reach our decision.

Postponing the implementation of the days-at-sea regulations until 1 January 1994 has only put off the evil day for a few months. As the fishing boats have applied for their allocation of days and the procedure is now under way, will that procedure be stopped, will it still go ahead and all the fishing vessels be told how many half days they will have at sea, or will the scheme stop in the meantime?

11.14 pm
Mr. Austin Mitchell (Great Grimsby)

I must congratulate the Minister on a welcome performance at the Dispatch Box. Frankly, I dreaded it when he began his speech in such a combative fashion, and I thought that he was another in a long line of Ministers who would trample on us. However, it was a successful speech, introducing the decommissioning scheme that we have been awaiting for so long.

First, what took the Government so long? Why do all the arguments against a decommissioning scheme that were made with such theological certitude by the previous Minister two years ago no longer apply? However, it would be churlish to go on.

Secondly, the Minister has listened. I made a plea personally to him when he took office not to get into the same deadlock trench warfare as the previous Minister, but to listen to the fishermen and give them a chance and to use the Sea Fish (Conservation) Act as a sanction to get them to agree to conservation measures which would be much more effective in the long run. I am almost pathetically, gibberingly grateful to the Government for having listened and agreed to postpone the Act. I hope that they will now consider the possibility of abandoning it altogether.

The saving that would accrue from not implementing the Act, no matter what the costs are, whether £8 million or £4 million a year, would be the kernel of a bigger decommissioning scheme if the money from the EC were added to it, and that would achieve the purposes we want.

The decommissioning scheme that we are discussing today is not big enough. If it will take out 5 per cent. of the effort over three years, and if we take into account technical creep—which is not the name of the previous Minister, but the effects of technical improvement—we are trying to take out 20 per cent. plus 6 per cent. while achieving only 5 per cent., so 21 per cent. of the effort is still to be taken out and the scheme goes nowhere near to achieving that. Therefore, we need a bigger scheme.

I shall make one final point on tendering. It would be much better to have it in one big bag, to use all the money at once and to achieve the cumulative effect of taking out a big effort earlier. The problem is that we cannot target tendering at those vessels which took the most damage and which would deplete the stocks the most; it will go to those in desperate need. Had we introduced a scheme five years ago, people would have had the choice. Now we urgently need to get out first and quickly those with most damage. Tendering would have a disproportionate effect in Grimsby where many older vessels would be anxious to get out and would put in quite a low tender, but that would pull the prop out from under the Grimsby industry in a disastrous way.

I hope that the Minister will think again about tendering and about a bigger scheme, but most of all I hope he will use the breathing space which he has provided in his wisdom to get on with the conservation measures that the industry itself is taking such as segregated nets, which are a major improvement.

I do not see why the industry should have to continue the experiments. Why can they not be carried out by the Department itself and by the Sea Fish Industry Authority rather than by the industry? National technical conservation measures have a bigger effect than the crude measure of getting out the effort by days-at-sea limitation. The Minister can tell the Commission that we have a better way and that he, the new Minister, developed it, and that is what we want.

11.18 pm
Mr. John McFall (Dumbarton)

I shall be brief in my remarks, so that others can get in.

I noticed an article in The Sunday Telegraph entitled, Those in peril cast for help as fleet flounders". That article by Adam Nicholson mentioned the hon.

Member for Hastings and Rye (Mrs. Lait). It stated: Her majority at Hastings is 6,634 and she is quoted as saying: Anyway, I reckon that there are only 1,000 fishing votes in my constituency … Let's wait and see. I don't understand why the fishermen "are so angry". I have news for the hon. Member for Hastings and Rye. Many hon. Members on both sides of the House know why the fishermen are angry.

Mrs. Jacqui Lait (Hastings and Rye)

The hon. Gentleman should understand that, as ever, accuracy is not an attribute of many journalists.

Mr. McFall

We now have confirmation that we cannot trust The Sunday Telegraph.

All that we have from this debate is a three-month stay of execution for the days-at-sea legislation and a vague promise of a review of how the scheme will operate. As the House of Lords Select Committee said, it is too little, too late. We have a total of £25 million over three years.

The real question concerns the best way to go about conservation. Should we not listen to some of the fishermen's representatives? For example, the Scottish fishermen's representatives have written to me and other Scottish Members. They have said that there should be a quick burst in one year to relieve the fleet of the excess capacity as soon as possible. We find that we are reducing the fleet by 5 per cent., but we have signed up with the EC for 19 per cent.

The £25 million is worthy of further investigation. As the Minister knows, 70 per cent. of that grant is from the Community. Given that it is taxed with a combination of income tax and corporation tax, we could be talking about a figure of £3 million or £4 million. That is a miserly sum from the Government. Does not the Minister accept, even at this stage, the findings of the House of Lords Select Committee, that an effective decommissioning scheme will require £100 million, 70 per cent. of which can be covered by the EC Commission?

It is sometimes said that making sense of the fishing industry row is like trying to catch hold of an eel in a barrel of oil. Bob Allan of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation told me that the tie-up requirements, like no other single issue, have united the industry. Some questions arise from that. As has been mentioned in the past, between 1987 and 1991, nothing happened because of the Government's inactivity. Because of that Government failure, the EC Commission refused to make Community financing available to the United Kingdom fishing industry. Did the Government ever challenge that? How much Community aid was lost to United Kingdom fishermen as a result?

The Government need to adopt a system of management by objectives, driven by expert advice, and a decommissioning scheme informed by genuine dialogue. That genuine dialogue has been missing until now. As some speakers have said, this is about people and communities. It is about the viability of communities. The social consequences are extremely important in all fishing communities throughout the United Kingdom.

The Government could tonight give a commitment that they will enter into that meaningful dialogue. The Under-Secretary at the Scottish Office could give an indication of when the Minister will meet the Scottish Fishermen's Federation so that it can get its point of view across.

The scheme buys some time for the Government, but, sadly, it does not buy a future for the industry, and we shall have to return to it.

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

It was rather disappointing, when my hon. Friend the Minister of State had brought new ideas and attitudes to the fishing industry, to hear such a niggardly and miserable response from the Opposition.

We have shown flexibility in fishing policy. We are glad to hold meetings and we were frequently asked when we would hold them. We shall, of course, hold them as soon as they can be arranged, but it is important not to say that we shall meet tomorrow or the day after, but for the fishing industry to advance constructive ideas. We are giving it the chance to do that between now and the end of September. We will consider its views carefully and reach decisions between then and the end of the year.

Mr. Calum Macdonald (Western Isles)

Will the Minister give way?

Sir Hector Monro

I have only about four minutes left.

The days-at-sea restrictions are postponed until 1 January and we shall consider the position at that time. In the meantime, we shall proceed with the £25 million decommissioning scheme over three years. That is an important step forward. Applications have been coming in steadily in the past few days and now approach 150 already. Fishermen see it as a good scheme.

We will continue our consultations in Europe and ensure that, as far as possible, the measures that we have agreed are fair throughout the Community.

We must be absolutely certain that we are conserving our fishing stocks; everything must be complementary to that and it must be scientific conservation, not just the good ideas of individual fishermen. It will be a constructive period for discussion. That is in the interests of the fishing industry, producer organisations and the processing industry, which has a large number of employees to be considered.

I see no reason why we should not achieve an amicable solution to the difficulties that have been facing the fishing industry this year. It can be done with good will on all sides, and I should have liked a bit more good will from the Opposition tonight. Let us see what we can achieve in the rest of the year.

I warmly thank my hon. Friends the Members for St. Ives (Mr. Harris) and for Teignbridge (Mr. Nicholls) for the many important ideas they advanced. I also thank my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mrs. Browning) and, indeed, the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond), who was rather more generous than usual. I say to him that the sum to be met by the taxpayer is £20 million, which is the difference between the Fontainebleau agreement and the rebate.

The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) mentioned the pelagic fleet. With the postponement of the days-at-sea regulations, that is an important issue, because it will give a clear run for the rest of the year and plenty of time to discuss the position for next year.

My hon. Friend the Member for South Hams (Mr. Steen) made an important contribution. He must remember that the decommissioning scheme is only for boats longer than 10 m, whereas many of the boats he mentioned will be under 10 m. We must discuss the other issue when we meet the fishing organisations.

Mr Steen

Will my hon. Friend say something about crabs and lobsters?

Sir Hector Monro

Charm has a better chance of intervening than the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan. I shall be pushed to say anything about crabs and lobsters in two minutes, but my hon. Friend and his fishermen will be able to put their good points to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

I re-emphasise that we are giving the fishing industry a real opportunity. We have backed right off the days-at-sea restrictions to allow plenty of time to consult. I say to the right hon. Member for Strangford (Mr. Taylor) that we shall file applications, and fishermen will be able to hold discussions with the Ministry. If they are unhappy with the decision made by the Department, they can appeal to the tribunal. We shall thus be able to determine each boat's eligibility.

We have had a worthwhile debate. I am glad that we have been able to get across the issues that are so important to the fishermen, who have a great opportunity to discuss them with Ministers. I hope that we can reach a satisfactory conclusion before the end of the year, which will open new opportunities for the fishing industry in the United Kingdom.

Question put:

The House divided: Ayes 137, Noes 22.

Division No. 326] [11.29 pm
Alexander, Richard Brazier, Julian
Amess, David Bright, Graham
Ancram, Michael Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thorpes)
Arbuthnot, James Browning, Mrs. Angela
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Burns, Simon
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv) Burt, Alistair
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Carrington, Matthew
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North) Carttiss, Michael
Baldry, Tony Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Bates, Michael Coe, Sebastian
Biffen, Rt Hon John Colvin, Michael
Blackburn, Dr John G. Congdon, David
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Conway, Derek
Booth, Hartley Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Boswell, Tim Cope, Rt Hon Sir John
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham) Cran, James
Bowden, Andrew Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire)
Bowis, John Davies, Quentin (Stamford)
Brandreth, Gyles Davis, David (Boothferry)
Day, Stephen Milligan, Stephen
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Dover, Den Monro, Sir Hector
Duncan, Alan Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Duncan-Smith, Iain Neubert, Sir Michael
Eggar, Tim Nicholls, Patrick
Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley) Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Evans, Roger (Monmouth) Oppenheim, Phillip
Fabricant, Michael Patnick, Irvine
Forman, Nigel Pickles, Eric
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Porter, David (Waveney)
Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring) Powell, William (Corby)
Freeman, Rt Hon Roger Rifkind, Rt Hon. Malcolm
Fry, Peter Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S)
Gallie, Phil Robinson, Mark (Somerton)
Gillan, Cheryl Ryder, Rt Hon Richard
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles Shaw, David (Dover)
Gorst, John Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N) Soames, Nicholas
Hague, William Spencer, Sir Derek
Hamilton, Rt Hon Archie (Epsom) Spink, Dr Robert
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Spring, Richard
Harris, David Sproat, Iain
Hawkins, Nick Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Hawksley, Warren Steen, Anthony
Heald, Oliver Stephen, Michael
Hendry, Charles Stern, Michael
Hicks, Robert Streeter, Gary
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham) Sweeney, Walter
Hughes Robert G (Harrow W) Sykes, John
Jack, Michael Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Jenkin, Bernard Thomason, Roy
Knapman, Roger Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)
Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash) Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Knight, Greg (Derby N) Thurnham, Peter
Kynoch, George (Kincardine) Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexl'yh'th)
Lait, Mrs Jacqui Trend, Michael
Lang, Rt Hon Ian Twinn, Dr Ian
Legg, Barry Waller, Gary
Lidington, David Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Lightbown, David Watts, John
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Wells, Bowen
MacKay, Andrew Whittingdale, John
Maclean, David Widdecombe, Ann
McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick Willetts, David
Maitland, Lady Olga Wilshire, David
Malone, Gerald Wood, Timothy
Mans, Keith
Marland, Paul Tellers for the Ayes:
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Mr. Sydney Chapman and Mr. Timothy Kirkhope.
Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Merchant, Piers
Barnes, Harry Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)
Beggs, Roy Molyneaux, Rt Hon James
Cryer, Bob Ross, William (E Londonderry)
Ewing, Mrs Margaret Salmond, Alex
Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S) Simpson, Alan
Gordon, Mildred Skinner, Dennis
Hood, Jimmy Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Walker, A. Cecil (Belfast N)
Loyden, Eddie Welsh, Andrew
Macdonald, Catum
Maginnis, Ken Tellers for the Noes:
Mahon, Alice Mr. John D. Taylor and Mr. David Trimble.
Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)

Question accordingly agreed to.


That the Fishing Vessels (Decommissioning) Scheme 1993 (S.I., 1993, No. 1345), dated 25th May 1993, a copy of which was laid before this House on 26th May, be approved.