HC Deb 14 December 1994 vol 251 cc985-1036

[Relevant documents: European Community Documents Nos. 10648/94 relating to guide prices for fishery products 1995, 7831/94 relating to passive gear, 8612/94 relating to the crisis in the fishing industry, 8187/94 relating to European aquaculture research, 9837/94 relating to the common organisation of the market in fishery products and aquaculture, 10082/94 and an unnumbered Explanatory Memorandum, dated 17th November 1994 relating to two amendments to the 1994 Total Allowable Catches and quotas, 9215/94 relating to the financing of health inspections, 9466/94 and 9467/94 relating to European Community and Greenland fisheries, 10991/94 relating to an amendment to the Technical Conservation Regulation, and the second Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum 9285/93 relating to fishing licences.]

7 pm

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

I beg to move, That this House takes note of the unnumbered Explanatory Memoranda submitted by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on 8th December 1994, relating to the renewal of fishing arrangements for vessels from European Community countries other than Spain and Portugal in Spanish and Portuguese waters, and for Portuguese vessels in the waters of those other countries and relating to European Community quotas for 1995 in the waters of Guyana; on 12th December 1994 relating to proposals for reciprocal access and 1995 quotas in the Baltic (with Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland and Russia) and with the Faroe Islands; proposals allocating European Community quotas for 1995 in the waters of Iceland and Greenland, and a proposal fixing catch possibilities in 1995 for North West Atlantic Fisheries Organisation waters; and on 13th December 1994 relating to total allowable catches for 1995 and proposals fixing 1995 opportunities and reciprocal arrangements relating to Norway; and supports the Government's intention to negotiate the best possible fishing opportunities, and to protect the interests of British fishermen in these negotiations and in those providing for the integration of Spain and Portugal in the Common Fisheries Policy.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Morris)

Madam Speaker has selected the amendment in the name of the Leader of the Opposition.

I make a plea from the Chair that there are exactly three hours and there is specific interest in the debate that follows, so I hope that we shall have short speeches from the Back Benches and not too long a speech from the Front Benches.

Mr. Jack

This is indeed an important debate on matters connected with fisheries and the common fisheries policy. However, before turning to the substance of the debate, I am sure that the House will share with me our sorrow at the tragic loss of Skipper McLeman's life at sea. Sadly, his was the most recent of those events which bring home all too clearly to us an indication of the hazards that face our fishermen as they go about their lawful vocation.

I hope that the House will indulge me for a moment on a happier note if I take the opportunity of sending my best wishes and congratulations to my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro) on the announcement of his engagement. That was a joyous piece of news. He is destined, after the cold comfort of the debate, for warmer climes and I think that the whole House will wish him well.

This is a singularly important time for the British fishing industry. We shall be debating, among other things, the quantities of fish that we shall be able to catch next year, and the new arrangements for the full integration of Spain and Portugal into the common fisheries policy.

Among the many comments that I hear, it is sometimes said that the Government are in some way not fully committed to the future of the fishing industry. I shall rebut that line unequivocally.

There should be no doubt of the extent of the Government's commitment to the industry. We have had the challenge of bringing a better balance between, on the one hand, catching capacity of the fleet and, on the other, the quantity of fish available. To that end, we have a successful decommissioning scheme in its second of three years. We have already spent about £17 million and a further £8.3 million is available for 1995–96. In addition, we are investing nearly £3 million in grants for harbour developments to the benefit of the industry this year, and another £2 million is being spent on vessel safety grants.

It is often said that the question of enforcement and ensuring that people play by the rules is central to any policy such as the common fisheries policy. To that end, we are spending £17 million a year on air and sea surveillance to watch the activities of boats from all the members of the Community which fish in our waters. Our aim is to protect the long-term interests of the fish and our fishermen, and to ensure that the rules are observed and enforced.

Mr. Paul Tyler (North Cornwall)

While the Minister is on the subject of enforcement, I wonder whether he may be in a position to give us a progress report on the negotiations with the Spanish Government about compensation due to Cornish boats for the acts of piracy that took place during the so-called tuna war in the summer?

Mr. Jack

May I say, in responding to the hon. Gentleman, that I shall be happy to give way, but I hope that the House will understand that that necessarily will mean that the time for other hon. Members will be affected.

To answer the right hon. Gentleman's question directly, I have personally spoken to the Spanish Minister Atienza about that, making a plea to him to discuss that matter with his industry, because obviously there may be a joint endeavour to settle matters. That point was reinforced by my right hon. Friend the Minister when he recently visited Spain, and I have subsequently had a personal discussion with the Spanish ambassador on that subject. Matters remain under consideration by the Spanish industry. They are aware of the strength of feeling on that specific matter, and I assure the hon. Gentleman that I will continue to pursue that as diplomatically as I can.

Mrs. Margaret Ewing (Moray)

Will not many of the aspects of policing and monitoring be deferred back to member states, and will we not be seeking Europe-wide monitoring and policing? The documentation that I have received says that member states will have responsibility, and Spain certainly has not been one of the countries in the European Union that has received praise for its monitoring of the position.

Mr. Jack

I am sure that later I shall mention Spain and Portugal, which are central to our considerations this evening, in relation to the question of enforcement. However, the hon. Lady will be aware that technical developments are currently being appraised. Satellite monitoring of vessels may, in the longer term, have great relevance to Europe-wide enforcement. Nevertheless, it is generally accepted that the role of the coastal state is crucial in enforcement matters, and those are matters to which we attach much importance in terms of the money that we are spending.

Also in the long-term interests of the industry, we are spending £20 million a year on scientific research and assessment of our stocks, so that we can pursue policies designed to sustain the future of our industry. At the European level, we also benefit from a range of schemes, and soon many fishing communities will gain from the PESCA initiative. With a fund of about £28 million for the United Kingdom as a whole, that is designed to strengthen the onshore economy in respect of changes in the numbers of people employed in sea fishing.

In all that, the industry has also had its part to play. I place on record my appreciation of the industry's constructive contribution to the negotiations about Spain and Portugal. Its input has genuinely been much appreciated. That is a subject to which I shall return later.

I welcome the establishment of an industry task force on the difficult problem of fish marketing, which is to be led by the Sea Fish Industry Authority. That important initiative points the way forward to a means of helping the industry to increase its income. I look forward to the task force's report in the new year.

It is customary to hold fisheries debates at this time of the year, slightly before the December Council meeting of European Union Fishing Ministers. At that meeting, important decisions are generally taken on the total allowable catches, or TACs. Those deal with the situation for the forthcoming year and on the national quotas that are derived from them.

However, tonight's debate is on a wide motion, which will enable us to discuss all the common fisheries policy issues relevant to next week's Council. I recognise that many hon. Members will want to question me, and I shall be happy to give way in the terms that I have indicated.

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

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, because he seemed about to leave the TACs to move on to other issues. Will he consider the position in the North sea coast of the Farne deeps and Fladdens nephrops fishery? If that is not separated off, many Northumbrian fishermen will not have the degree of access that they should have to a traditional fishery.

Mr. Jack

I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising that point and I understand its importance. He will be aware that, as a result of a representation that we received from north-east fishermen, we were able to intercede with the Commission to keep that nephrops fishery open—to argue effectively the case that the precautionary TAC had perhaps been set slightly too tightly—so that fishermen were able to complete their fishing. I shall certainly bear that point in mind. However, there are problems with the North sea stocks which I shall address in just a moment.

It is always the case that, unfortunately, the annual cycle of scientific assessment of stocks and the Commission's analysis of what is proposed by way of TACs and quotas gives us little time for scrutiny before the December Council.

This year, however, we face an unprecedented situation. All the TAC and quota documentation in preparation for the December Council was understandably prepared by the Commission on the assumption that Norway would be joining the European Community. Following the referendum on 27 and 28 November, all the documents had to be adjusted and that delayed the provision of definitive texts. I regret the inconvenience which that must inevitably have caused the House.

Agreement has now been reached with the Norwegians for those stocks in the North sea which are jointly managed with them. For the first three months of 1995 we shall work on the basis of the 1994 quotas.

Decisions on those stocks for the whole of 1995 will be negotiated with Norway by the end of March 1995. The available quotas for the rest of the year will then be determined taking account of the TACs decided and the provisional allocations made for the first quarter. A regulation providing a legal base for all that is one of the documents that will be before the Council.

The December Council will also be asked to settle in the usual way those TACs and quotas which are not jointly managed. I draw the House's attention to the overall trend of scientists' advice on the stocks and to the Commission's proposals for western waters.

Generally speaking, with a few exceptions, the scientists feel that stocks continue to be under considerable pressure. As a result, many of the TACs that the Commission is proposing for western waters are substantially lower than this year's levels. That affects a number of stocks of importance to our industry, including most of the important Irish sea stocks and the western hake.

Mr. John D. Taylor (Strangford)

Last year, the scientists said that there would be hardly any cod left in the Irish sea, yet this year there were extremely good catches. How could the scientists have been so out of touch with reality in the waters?

Mr. Jack

The hon. Gentleman puts his finger on a perennial problem in dealing with fish and science. When two or three fishermen are gathered together, the chances are that they will always say that the scientists are wrong because they are comparing their individual catches with the position last year. The scientists carry out an exacting European-wide monitoring operation to assess the take of fish on particular points on the map and compare it with the data that they received last year.

Fishing science is well informed, but no fishery scientist would argue that it is a precise activity. That is why, when we go to the Council, we listen carefully to all views, including those from the industry. Those matters are and will be fully discussed with the fishermen and I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that we will take their views into account. If he has a specific view from Northern Ireland, I shall be happy to include that in our assessment vis-à-vis our negotiations.

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

I have a specific view from the west of Scotland. The Clyde Fishermen's Association is particularly worried about the TACs for cod, haddock, whiting, saithe, hake, monkfish and megrim. The total allowable catch for some of those species is only 50 per cent. of what it was five years ago. That is decimating the fleet on the west coast. Many fishermen are decommissioning their boats. Girvan, a traditional fishing port, is now under a great deal of pressure. Will the Minister take account of all that and argue the case powerfully for an increase in the total allowable catch? I agree with the right hon. Member for Strangford (Mr. Taylor)—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The House is most interested in who the hon. Gentleman agrees with, but he has already asked a question.

Mr. Jack

The hon. Gentleman tempts me to suggest that the solution to all fishing problems for this Minister would be to be able to re-enact the miracle of the loaves and fishes. Unfortunately, I am not endowed with those powers.

We examine all the arguments carefully. I understand the hon. Gentleman's point that when scientists suggest large cuts in particular quotas, in business terms that can be difficult for hard-pressed fishermen. I hope that he will understand that it would be folly not to take into account what the scientists say in reaching a view. It is all very well the hon. Gentleman shaking his head, but if we do not, as I shall point out in a moment, there can be disastrous results if a whole fishery collapses.

It would be folly and unwise if we did not heed what the scientists say. On the other hand, if there is good hard evidence so to do, we challenge the figures that are put forward and I shall obviously take his remarks into account at the Council next week.

Mr. Eddie McGrady (South Down)

Pursuant to the question from my right hon. Friend the Member for Strangford (Mr. Taylor) and the reply he received, cod catches in Northern Ireland ports have been the best throughout the season of 1994, despite the 1991 prediction by scientists that they would be almost non-existent. Will the Minister take it on board that the quantity, size and all the attributes of the cod show that the scientists were wrong? When will he take cognisance of the practical experience of the fishermen against the theoretical evidence from the scientists?

Mr. Jack

Fishermen are involved in the discussion assessing the scientists' evidence. It is not done between scientists and fishery Ministers. Real fishermen are involved in assessing the calculations and I have certainly arranged for fishermen to go to our fisheries laboratory at Lowestoft to see exactly how the work is done and how the calculations are made. If the hon. Gentleman would like to go there I should be happy to arrange a day trip for him.

Mrs. Ewing

Is the evidence of the fishermen given equal weight with that of the scientists?

Mr. Jack

All measures are taken fully into account, but we are aware of the real impact that the announcement of any change in TACs and quotas have on fishermen and their livelihoods. I assure the hon. Lady that we consider those matters very carefully when we argue our case.

As I said a moment ago, it would be folly to ignore completely the advice of the scientists. A fishery off the east coast of Canada delivered something like 300,000 tonnes of cod catch a year and, because people ignored good advice on conservation of the stock, it collapsed with the loss of 20,000 jobs. It would be folly not to listen to scientists when taking these matters into account. We shall be negotiating within the hard reality of the state of the stocks to ensure the best available fishing opportunities for fishermen around our shores.

Mr. Nick Ainger (Pembroke)

What disturbs the industry so much are the sudden changes imposed on it. The fact that the proposed TAC for western hake is to be cut by 45 per cent. means that it is difficult for fishermen to plan. If we are constantly getting scientific advice, why do we have these sudden changes rather than perhaps a gradual change? Can the scientists not warn that there is likely to be a problem in the future so that small reductions in TACs could be implemented rather than the large cuts now being proposed?

Mr. Jack

It is fair to say that when we ask scientists—that is why it is right that politicians and others can challenge their findings—they are sometimes hard-pressed to provide a full explanation because what occurs can defy logic. They can only report their findings. They are measuring the position this year compared with what they found last year. Their work is based partly on their own observations at sea and partly on their analysis of the landings of fishermen. They also take into account the requirements and, using all that information, they calculate the right level of fishing effort to maintain a proper spawning stock biomass.

For all those reasons, including an assessment of the recruitment into a particular fishery, there can be some large fluctuations. These are the recommendations of scientists and, as I said to the hon. Lady a moment ago, we take into account other views. For example, I have received individual representations from fishermen about the hake stock. We will take them into account, and no doubt there will be quite a debate on that subject in the Fisheries Council. I understand the point made by the hon. Member for Pembroke.

The other major item on the agenda for the Fisheries Council next week is the integration of Spain and Portugal into the common fisheries policy. I hope that the House will bear with me if I explain how that matter has developed.

Spain joined the Community in 1986 with a big fleet of fishing vessels, but with strict limits imposed on where they could go and how many boats could be on the fisheries at any one time. Those rules put limits on Spain and Portugal which do not apply to other member states. They also provided that the Irish box arrangement would end on 1 January 1996 and that there would be a review of all the arrangements before that. As a result of the review in April this year, the Council agreed the sensible guidelines to be applied when Spain and Portugal are integrated into the common fisheries policy. The timetable for concluding agreement on the arrangements was established in the enlargement negotiations and was reconfirmed by the European Council in Essen last weekend. That means that future arrangements for Spanish and Portuguese integration into the common fisheries policy need to be settled by the end of this year.

Dr. Michael Clark (Rochford)

Is there any truth in what is being said: that Spain wants access to western waters before it will agree to an enlargement of the European Union? If there is any truth in that, has a counter-arrangement been made so that Spain will be allowed into the western waters only when it has a better attitude towards its border with Gibraltar?

Mr. Jack

The timetabling arrangements for Spain were initially secured in the context of the EFTAn enlargement negotiations. During those negotiations, Spain secured language in the final text which indicated that the Fisheries Council should come to a conclusion on matters connected with the successor arrangement by the end of this year. I think that the remarks on the subject of Gibraltar are more appropriate for my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, and I shall certainly undertake to draw his attention to my hon. Friend's point.

Mr. Rupert Allason (Torbay)

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mrs. Ewing

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Jack

I said that I would give way to the hon. Lady.

Mrs. Ewing

I am grateful to the Minister.

I am interested in the Minister's reference to the language of the text of the Spanish treaty. Perhaps we could return to that matter later. Will he, in the context of what was said at Essen, give an indication of what was meant when Mr. Gonzalez said that he had achieved everything that he wanted in the context of Spanish accession? Who said what to whom? What was the status of those exchanges and what exactly does it mean?

Mr. Jack

I was not there at the time, so I really cannot honestly answer the hon. Lady's question. I do not believe in giving unclear answers to straight questions. I would rather tell her straightforwardly that I did not have the pleasure of being at Essen. I cannot explain why the Spanish Minister went off in such a high propagandist tone when in fact what he got was simply an underpinning of the agreements within the EFTAn arrangements. I know of no deals being made at Essen, for the simple reason that, because there was no proposal to consider that particular matter, a deal could not have been made. I shall come back to the question of the Essen declaration in due course, because it is central to these matters, but I must give way to my hon. Friend.

Mr. Allason

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. Will he at least state whether it is a fact that there was an agreement in the 1986 treaty of accession with Spain that Spain would not have full access to Community waters until 2002?

Mr. Jack

What was very clear in the treaty of accession was that the arrangements for the Irish box would end on 1 January 1992—[Horn. MEMBERS: "1996."] I apologise. The question of whether matters could have been postponed until 2002 was considered and has been debated in the House, in the European scrutiny committee. Opposition Members shake their heads. I am sorry if they were not there. The hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing) gave me a detailed quizzing on that point. She and I may still disagree, but the treaty of accession was fully debated, as she will see from columns 158 and 350 of Hansard of 4 December 1985. There was a question of the legal base and the timing. That was resolved by the Community's legal services. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Dr. Strang) looks troubled. I am riot surprised. This is perhaps the detail that he ignores in these matters. It was debated and the Community's legal services say that there was a proper basis for the matter to be considered in the terms now before the Council.

Dr. Gavin Strang (Edinburgh, East)

What the Minister says in relation to the Irish box is, of course, correct, but I do not believe that what he says in relation to the other waters is correct, and it is not the view of the House as a whole or, indeed, the legal advisers.

Mr. Jack

I was at the Council and the hon. Gentleman was not. I stand by what I said and what is on the record in Hansard in the House. I have made my views clear.

Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)

To follow up the intervention from the hon. Member for Moray, it is no good the Minister saying that he cannot comment on what was said to whom and where at Essen because he was not there. He must have known that, given the strong statement about the Spanish getting everything that they wanted, the matter would be probed in the House. What inquiries has he made of the Prime Minister or the Foreign Secretary? Can he therefore categorically say that what the Spanish said was totally wrong, that there has been and that there will be no change?

Mr. Jack

With respect to the hon. Gentleman, when I give a straightforward answer that I was not present at any conversations that took place, I am not going to invent one. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, as my hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives (Mr. Harris) averred to earlier, was pressed on this matter in the House on Monday and made his position entirely clear. I inquired through the official channels as to what was agreed. What was agreed was the published text in the Essen statement, a copy of which is in the Library. The hon. Gentleman will have read it and understood the text that is in it. I cannot explain why Spanish politicians choose the language that they do. I suspect that the message that the hon. Gentleman has received has been more a media-based report than what actually happened. The fact of the matter is that a straightforward agreement was reached on the terms of the timetable, with some helpful language in it, which I will come on to.

Mrs. Ewing

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Jack

I have given way generously to the hon. Lady and would like, in deference to the House, to make a little progress.

As I said, as a result of the review, in April this year, the Council agreed the sensible guidelines to be applied when Spain and Portugal are integrated in the common fisheries policy. The timetable for concluding agreement on these matters was established in the enlargement negotiations and was reconfirmed by the Council in Essen last weekend. That means that the future arrangements for Spanish and Portuguese integration into the common fisheries policy need to be settled by the end of the year.

Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland)

The House will accept that, as a man of honour, the Minister knows of no conversation. Is he confident in his own mind that if an impasse is reached next week at the Fisheries Council the Spanish will not call in some deal that was done with Prime Minister Gonzalez and Chancellor Kohl last Saturday or Sunday?

Mr. Jack

I am sure that if the Fisheries Council does not come to an agreement next week, I may not be enjoying a turkey at Christmas. The Council might have to resume discussions, because, as I point out to the hon. Gentleman, it meets on 19 and 20 December and there are still a number of days left before the end of the year. He will also be aware, I am sure, that people always make contingency plans. It would not be the first time on which Europe had negotiated right down to the wire. There does seem to be a genuine effort being made to find a way forward on this matter. No deal was done. The words are there in the Essen declaration and they mean what they say. I will say more about that in a moment.

As required by the April guidelines, the Commission made proposals, but these were, in our view, enormously complex, bureaucratic and unenforceable as well as being based on dubious arithmetic and unsound assumptions. We rejected them and so did the rest of the Council. I am glad to say that the United Kingdom led the charge. Since then, no further official proposals have been made, but the presidency has been striving to find a better way forward and to reach agreement, at least on the elements of a compromise on the principles for integration. The essence of the presidency's latest thinking is that member states should draw up their own list of vessels entitled to fish in the various fisheries, work out the amount of fishing effort they need to catch fish there, and, if there is excessive effort, install a means for controlling it.

Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby)

My hon. Friend makes a great stand on behalf of Britain's fishermen under difficult circumstances. My hon. Friend may not be aware that my wife is called Rachel and that she comes from near Plymouth. He may, therefore, imagine my pleasure recently at seeing a fishing boat called the Lady Rachel from Plymouth—[Interruption.] I am sorry, but I cannot hear what is being said by the Opposition.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. Sedentary remarks tend to put off hon. Members and they are not helpful. I hope that the hon. Member for Blaby (Mr. Robathan) has a short question for the Minister.

Mr. Robathan

My hon. Friend may not know that the Lady Rachel is currently tied up in Coruna because, although it is registered in Plymouth, it is a Spanish boat that fishes British quotas. My hon. Friend will know that we have previously opposed the Spanish taking our quota by registering boats in Plymouth. I hope that my hon. Friend will be fighting hard against the Spanish, because they do not have a record of good faith in fisheries policy.

Mr. Jack

On the latter point, I can well understand my hon. Friend's comments. On the former part of his remarks, he will be aware of the Factortame judgment.

He will know that, sadly, despite our best endeavours, Anglo-Spanish boats have the opportunity to use British quotas to fulfil their fishing opportunities. I understand that that is still a matter of considerable concern in the industry, but it has now been settled.

Finding satisfactory arrangements is a difficult challenge. We have at all stages had extensive consultations with the industry. Even today I met industry leaders to bring them up to date with the latest developments. I have made clear to the industry and to the presidency the United Kingdom's objectives in the negotiations. We want a simple, non-bureaucratic scheme. We want one that allows our fishermen to take their quotas. It must be enforceable at reasonable cost and it must not put new constraints on our fishermen so long as their effort does not increase. We want proper protection for the Irish box. As I have said, there was never any question of its continuance. We need to find new management tools for western waters which will replace what is in the treaty. That is what I am negotiating for.

Mr. David Harris (St. Ives)

My hon. Friend has given an admirable list of objectives. Will he go a stage further and assure me and my colleagues from the south-west that another objective is to give special protection to those areas of traditional fishing for our own fishermen? I am referring in particular to the area between Cornwall, Devon, Wales and Ireland. Will he assure me that he will fight for that and that he will vote against any proposal that does not secure it?

Mr. Jack

I have one or two words to say about the amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives (Mr. Harris). My hon. Friend has raised an important point in the discussions so far. We have battled very hard in respect of the Irish box. It is worth pointing out that in the presidency's efforts so far to satisfy our requirements, it has conceded that the zones in the areas mentioned by my hon. Friend do require special protection. One of the successes is that already area VII a is indicated to be available for traditional fisheries and, therefore, closed to Spain. We seek to build on the base that we have established with area VII a and, as I have said, we wish to expand the area of protection as far as we can in respect of those very important fisheries which have long been the home of those who fish from our west coast ports. I understand my hon. Friend's point and I shall try to secure what he seeks.

My hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives will understand that, as a negotiator, I will not at this stage tell the House or my hon. Friend—I am sorry to put it firmly—what the United Kingdom's position will be on this matter.

Mrs. Ewing

Why not?

Mr. Jack

If I go into the Council wearing a large badge that tells everybody which way I am going to vote, I will have given away my most precious negotiating position. It would be irresponsible and lunatic for me to go into the negotiation telling people my position. If the hon. Member for Moray has ever been a card player, she will know that the last thing she should do, if she is to have any chance of winning, is to show her hand to her opponents. My task is to win the game for Britain's fishermen. I am not in the business of giving our position away by declaring my negotiating hand.

Mr. Calum Macdonald (Western Isles)

In previous statements about the Government's objectives the Minister has talked about no change in relative stability and no increase in fishing effort. He did not use those phrases in his list just now. Are they still part of the Government's objectives?

Mr. Jack

In the text that was agreed for the regulation in April, the maintenance of relative stability and the question of no increase in fishing effort were two of the underpinning principles. I did not rehearse the entire content of that regulation so I did not mention it. I am glad that the hon. Gentleman asked about that and I assure him that those fundamental principles of the common fisheries policy underpin the negotiations.

Mr. Harris

I understand my hon. Friend's point about not revealing his negotiating hand. Can he assure the House, my colleagues from the south-west and, above all, the fishermen of the south-west, that one of his objectives is to keep the Spanish out of not only area VII a but of areas VII f and VII g? Can he assure me that that is one of his objectives and that he will do his damnedest to achieve it?

Mr. Jack

I told my hon. Friend that we want to build on the concession already won about area VII a. I said that we want to extend the protection as widely as possible because those areas are within the terms of the current Irish box. I shall do my very best to include the areas mentioned by my hon. Friend. I must tell my hon. Friend very quietly that his amendment mentions area VII b. I assume that that was a typographical error. That shows that I have studied his amendment with great care.

Mr. Ainger

Is there not a fundamental contradiction in the Minister's negotiating position? If we accept that by 1 January 1996 the Irish box will disappear either in part or entirely, and that the basic list of some 200 Spanish vessels will come in to all or part of the Irish box, how can we maintain relative stability unless there is a massive reduction in fishing effort from British—that means south-western English, Welsh and Scottish—fishermen?

Mr. Jack

It is important to distinguish between the effect of relative stability and the question of fishing effort. Relative stability is the basic mechanism of calculating the key points in the allocation of stocks within the common fisheries policy. That is not the subject of these discussions, except that in the terms of the April agreement, the regulation makes it clear that relative stability must be maintained. There is no dispute about that among any of the participants in the discussion.

Fishing effort is a different matter. The hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Ainger) talked about a Spanish fleet of 200 vessels. When the basic periodic list system was established, we saw a basic list of 300 Spanish vessels, of which, at any one time, 150 could fish. The Spanish have argued that the size of their fleet has diminished. It remains to be seen, however, what type of basic list or reference list system will be devised under the light-touch type regime that is being considered at the moment and under successive regimes. Clearly, that will be of particular importance in the determination of the amount of fishing effort to be applied in relation to stocks and quotas to be fished.

Mrs. Jacqui Lait (Hastings and Rye)

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. Will he assure me that, when he goes into the negotiations, he will bear in mind the interests of inshore fishermen? Will he take account of the fact that, if pressure is placed on the deep-sea fishing sector, by a process of osmosis that pressure will also be placed on inshore fisheries? Fishermen off Hastings have trouble from beamers that destroy their nets and whose engine sizes are far too large. We must ensure that our enforcement deals much more efficiently with engine sizes.

Mr. Jack

My hon. Friend is an assiduous campaigner on behalf of inshore fishermen in her constituency and I pay tribute to that.[Interruption.] Clearly, she has a lot of support in the House for that position.

Mr. Foulkes


Mr. Jack

The hon. Gentleman has had his share of my total effort. I must deal with the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Hastings and Rye (Mrs. Lait). I shall not give way to the hon. Gentleman at this stage. My hon. Friend talked about the position of inshore fishermen. The 12-mile limit has been one of the benefits at least of the common fisheries policy. She will be pleased that, during the many long hours that we spent negotiating on the subject of Norway, the position of inshore fishermen was very much acknowledged. Sadly, those discussions did not lead to Norway's entry into the European Community, but I assure my hon. Friend that the position of coastal communities is important—

Sir Teddy Taylor (Southend, East)

It is disgraceful.

Mr. Jack

I agree that it is disgraceful, but the point is that the question of inshore fishermen is taken fully into account. My hon. Friend the Member for Hastings and Rye makes an important point.

Several hon. Members


Mr. Jack

In due deference to hon. Members, I feel that I should make a little progress. I shall give way a little later, so hon. Members will have to stay their handl. I think that they should listen to the rest of my speech, which is very good.

We want a simple, non-bureaucratic scheme that allows our fishermen to take their quotas. I have said that those are some of the key objectives for which I argued at the November Council.

Mrs. Ewing


Mr. Jack

The hon. Lady will have to restrain herself for a moment.

I have personally lobbied with other Fisheries Ministers to explain the strength of the British case. I shall give way to the hon. Lady for the last time.

Mrs. Ewing

I appreciate that the Minister argued against bureaucratic controls—no one will take that away from him. In light of that, however, will he explain why the Council document refers to potential fishing effort … a reference list … and assessed effort"? Has he any clear definition of exactly that what means for our fishermen?

Mr. Jack

There is a difference between talking about the elements that will have to form part of a new agreement and the way in which it will be worked out. It is clear from the Essen text, which contains the word "non-bureaucratic", that simplicity will be the order of the day. That is the stuff of the negotiation and any document that the hon. Lady may read is very much an interim document. I am not certain where she has obtained the document, but, wherever she obtained it, until the Council meeting, we will not know precisely the nature of the text that we shall discuss. I assure her, however, that we shall continue our fight against over-complex, over-bureaucratic systems that would bear down unfairly on our fishermen. As I said, that has been our negotiating stance all along and the hon. Lady has been kind enough to acknowledge that.

Sir Teddy Taylor

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Jack

I must give way to the hon. Member.

Sir Teddy Taylor

As the splendid fishermen of Southend-on-Sea have been sending me faxes all day containing the demands that I should make and how one should vote, will the Minister, to avoid any misunderstanding, make it abundantly clear to them that, although he will try hard and fight valiantly, he or any alternative Government could give no assurance that the decisions will be made by a majority vote of the Council of Ministers? Will he further appreciate that Southend fishermen have been slaughtered since the United Kingdom entered the EC and that many of them greatly sympathise and respect the good people of Norway, who voted to retain their freedom?

Mr. Jack

The hon. Member knows as well as I—[Interruption] If he could contain himself for a moment, I might be able to give him an answer. He knows as well as I do that the matter will be dealt with by qualified majority voting. I am surprised that he did not advert to the singular success that we achieved in keeping the Spanish out of the North sea, which will be of particular interest to Southend fishermen. I am also disappointed that he does not advert to the fact that one of the things that we achieved in the reform of the licensing and quota management arrangements, which was of particular concern to me, was to protect the interests of small-sized boats in the Southend fleet by underpinning the non-sector. Those are important gains for his constituents and I should be happy to discuss them with him in detail.

Mr. Foulkes


Mr. Jack

I must make a little progress.

As I have said and as hon. Members are perhaps sensing, the negotiations have been an uphill struggle. Despite our best efforts, the presidency has not been able to adopt our straightforward approach. As a result of our efforts, however, it has begun to focus on the United Kingdom's concerns and to accept that we mean business in pursuing them.

Mr. Foulkes

Will the Minister give way on that point?

Mr. Jack

No, I want to make some progress.

Our position, however, was not helped last weekend when it became clear that the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East had been putting it about that some shady deal had been done in the margins of the Essen Council and that our fishermen's interests had been scuppered. I know that because when I was waiting to be interviewed on BBC South West's parliamentary programme, I heard the hon. Gentleman telling the audience all about the matter but clearly indicating that he had no idea what was in the Essen text when he was putting that about. I was able to put him right and to tell him, as I have told the House, that no deal had been done and that the content of the Essen text is helpful to our cause.

As I have also said, the text contained the provision that future arrangements should be "non-bureaucratic". The hon. member for Edinburgh, East may have thought that he was gaining some short-term political advantage by what he was doing, but he well and truly frightened many fishermen into believing that the game was up. That was wrong.

Dr. Strang

The Minister is totally misrepresenting what I said in that programme. I suggest that he reads the transcript. I made it clear that I did not know what had been agreed at Essen, but I noted, as others had done, that the Spanish Prime Minister met Chancellor Kohl and said that he believed that he was in a position to lift his block on the new entrants because he had got what he wanted. I emphasise that I did not know what was agreed.

Mr. Jack

I should not want to be unfair to the hon. Gentleman, but I said that he told the audience that he did not have any idea of what was in the Essen text. I assume only that perhaps he and other politicians put it about in the media last weekend that some deal had been done when that was palpably not the case.

Dr. Strang

The Minister is an honourable man. I suggest that he now accepts that I did not suggest that any shady deal had been done.

Mr. Jack

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for clarifying that and obviously I accept his assurance that that was the case. All I say to him is that some of the questions that I was asked by the media showed that information had reached them that deals had been done. I had to spend my time refuting that view and making clear the contents of the Essen text.

Mr. Douglas French (Gloucester)

Does my hon. Friend agree that, as a result of many of the Opposition spokesman's comments on this matter, much concern has been expressed in the industry and unnecessarily so? Does he also agree that that has partly come about as a result of the hon. Gentleman's ignorance about these matters? Before the hon. Gentleman makes statements like that in public, he should learn a bit more of his brief.

Mr. Jack

My hon. Friend makes his own point. I rang fishing sector leaders at the weekend to give them a personal assurance about what had happened in relation to the Essen text to calm the position down.

Mr. Foulkes

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Jack

I must give way to the hon. Gentleman, or he will blow up.

Mr. Foulkes

I am grateful to the Minister. I want to calm the position down as well. My hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke (Mr. Ainger) asked about the criteria for the scheme, which the Minister described. The Minister—who I am not sure is listening—said that one of the criteria was enforceability at reasonable cost. How does he envisage enforcing the scheme when an armada of 150 or 200 Spanish boats—

Mr. Austin Mitchell (Great Grimsby)

There are 220 boats.

Mr. Foulkes

My hon. Friend corrects me. How does the Minister envisage enforcing the scheme when an armada of 220 boats comes into the Irish sea in the Firth of Clyde? How will he possibly ensure that that Spanish armada abides by the agreements that have been made by him and his colleagues?

Mr. Jack

We must keep matters in perspective. The fishing industry is valued at about £500 million a year, and we already spend in total about £50 million on the industry. Enforcement is an important part of that expenditure. We must balance expenditure against objectives. We shall examine enforcement in the light of what is ultimately agreed.

Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Jack

No. I must make some progress.

Amendments have been tabled to the motion—

Mr. Marlow

Before my hon. Friend moves on—

Mr. Jack

No. I want to make some progress.

Mr. Marlow

I shall be brief.

Mr. Jack

Very well.

Mr. Marlow

I am grateful. How will it be possible to give the Spanish and Portuguese fish from British waters without reducing the amount of fish that is available for British fishermen in British waters? How will it be possible to satisfy the Spanish and the Portuguese without causing a grave injustice to British fishermen?

Mr. Jack

The hon. Gentleman might have been right if that was what we were going to do. I said that relative stability would be maintained. Perhaps the hon.

Gentleman is not aware that Spain already has quotas in the western waters and that there is no intention of increasing them. Portugal does not fish there.

Mr. Anthony Steen (South Hams)

Will my hon. Friend give way on the issue of enforcement?

Mr. Jack

No. I shall make some progress. I may be returning to enforcement.

I fully understand the problem that my hon. Friends the Members for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Coe) and for St. Ives (Mr. Harris) have raised through their amendment. I explained only a few moments ago our attitude towards the assurances that have been sought for protection in the areas mentioned in their amendment. I hope that I have convinced my hon. Friends of the Government's negotiating endeavours and that they will be able to support us tonight.

My hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor)—I am glad that he is still in his place—tabled an amendment which was not selected. I merely say that the amendment is not relevant to the debate as discussions are taking place in the context of the common fisheries policy.

The substance of the Scottish Nationalists' amendment has been dealt with in earlier debates. They know the Government's views. We agree, of course, with the importance of proper policing for whatever measures are adopted.

The amendment of the Liberal Democrats is interesting. I re-read last night the report of the debate on the accession of Spain and Portugal. The hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) was one of only two Members to say anything in the debate about fishing. When he reviewed the position of Spain and Portugal in that context, he congratulated the Government on the negotiations and on what had been achieved and said that it was a difficult matter. He said that he recognised that a good job had been well done.

We have explained the biological sensitivity of the Irish box to the Commission and the presidency. We are already using every means to secure the interests of our fleet, and we recognise the importance of enforcement. We have been promoting the point. Liberal Democrats should not feel uncomfortable about supporting the Government's motion this evening.

Before I mention the Opposition's amendment, which has been selected, I shall remind the House of what the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) said in Committee in December 1985 about Spanish and Portuguese accession. He said that the Opposition welcomed the accession of Spain and Portugal and described it as the "right move" for the Community and the applicant states. He said that the Opposition took that view because they recognised the "merits" of the two new democracies joining the rest of Europe and facing "Europe's problems with us." He added that the Opposition did not welcome accession "blindly, ignorantly or oblivious" of the difficulties and anxieties. That implicitly acknowledges that difficult issues would face us all over integrating Spain and Portugal fully into the European Community. We are facing those difficulties now and they cannot be ignored. The difficulties must be resolved.

It is clear from those remarks that the Opposition of the day knew exactly what they were signing up to and exactly what was in the list of forthcoming attractions.

The present Opposition, like the rest of us, must recognise that the solution lies within a European context. Much of the language in their amendment is compatible with the Government's negotiating position. But the text is not helpful in three specific ways.

First, the amendment introduces into our considerations an irrelevant point about days at sea. That is not what we are negotiating about. Secondly, on the reference to the Irish box, will the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East accept that I will do all in my power to find ways of protecting as much of the box as I can? I would say that despite the specific reference in the accession treaty to the box vanishing at the end of 1995, our firm negotiating stance has already won a concession from the presidency that area VII a can remain exclusively open to those who have traditionally fished there. I shall build on that in the negotiations. Thirdly, the amendment calls for access to be restricted to vessels with an historic record in the western waters. That would not be acceptable to our industry if, as would certainly be the case, the rule would also be applied to United Kingdom vessels.

I say quietly to the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East, who takes a keen interest in these matters, that his proposal could well rule out the possibility of boats from the east coast prosecuting a fishery, in his terms, on the west coast. There is danger in what he suggests.

In the light of all that I have said and of my desire to ensure that the House sends this Minister in to bat in Brussels with a best chance of achieving a good result for our industry, I ask the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East, in the light of my remarks, whether he really wants to press his amendment.

I have made it clear that our objective is to reach agreement in the Council next week. I do not want to hold things up. We want to see whether it is possible to assist the presidency to meet the deadline and to stay within the terms of the Essen declaration.

Mr. Steen

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Jack


The negotiations are likely to reach a conclusion next week, but it is possible that that may be on the basis of a text that leaves more to be done under the next presidency.

Mr. Steen

I am glad that my hon. Friend knows where his friends are. May I remind him that currently Spain is receiving about £6.5 million a day from the European Community and that £4.5 million goes from Britain to the Community every day. When he goes to negotiate, will he satisfy himself that cross-border enforcement is as strong as it can be? There is no point in agreeing anything if other countries do not enforce what has been agreed. The concern on Conservative Benches is that we always follow what we say we will do when other countries enact laws and do absolutely nothing to implement them.

Mr. Jack

My hon. Friend has put his finger on a central issue. I have made it clear to Commissioner Paleokrassas on more than one occasion that I will not tolerate any no-go areas when it comes to the Community investigating the way in which the common fisheries policy is being implemented. It is vital that once the matters before us are decided, enforcement is considered seriously and that we are convinced that the necessary measures will be properly administered. I realise that unless I can convince our fishing industry that there can be proper policing, it will, however hard I negotiate, not have confidence in the final outcome. I give the House the assurance that I shall do all in my power to pursue enforcement and adherence to the rules as vigorously and as completely as I possibly can. These are important issues.

Mr. Foulkes

How will the Minister do that?

Mr. Jack

The hon. Gentleman, who is a member of a party which espouses the cause of Europe, will understand that negotiating in a European context is one of the ways in which we must proceed. It is a question of arguing our case and of making it clear that, on the question of enforcement, we will not accept no for an answer. Obviously, we shall examine our own enforcement in the light of the agreement; I know that it is central to the issue, and I shall pursue the matter with all the strength at my disposal.

Mr. Christopher Gill (Ludlow)

I felt that my hon. Friend was rather dismissive of the amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) and supported by seven of his hon. Friends. My hon. Friend the Minister said that the amendment was not relevant. How can he say that, given that it was tabled by eight Conservative Members of Parliament and is undoubtedly supported by thousands of British fishermen?

Mr. Jack

I said it was not relevant for the simple reason that it discusses a solution to the problem outside the terms of the common fisheries policy. We are discussing the problem within the terms of that policy. The amendment uses some amazing language, concluding with the words thereafter to negotiate, where appropriate, reciprocal arrangements with other nations in the interests of the British fishing industry. That is rather sloppy language, which gives no indication of the way in which the trick would be pulled. What, in the circumstances posited by the amendment, would we say to Spain if it said to us, "If you are outside the common fisheries policy, it is open door, boys: in we come"? It is an open-door policy, and I cannot associate myself with such logic. That is why the amendment is not relevant; I believe that we must negotiate within the terms of the common fisheries policy.

Throughout the negotiations I have wanted to stay in the closest touch with fishermen. I have told them frankly how matters have been progressing, and I have taken their wishes into account as fully as possible. The industry has set Ministers a tough negotiating brief because, understandably, it has stuck to its preference for what it considers an ideal solution. It wants the toughest possible restrictions on Spain, no new constraints on itself and continuation of the full protection of the Irish box after its expiry date. I pursued that approach because it was sensible to do so: it enabled me to gain understanding for the United Kingdom's position and it has been valuable to me to be able to point to the unity of the industry.

The time has now come for us to negotiate—as we will next week—on a new document that the presidency will table. I have made it clear to the industry, and I repeat now, that on an issue such as this, which is subject to qualified majority voting, to fail to negotiate is to be sidelined and to lose all influence over what is ultimately decided. We will not put ourselves in that position; it would not be in the industry's interest, the fishermen's interest or the national interest. We will do all that we can to assist the Fisheries Council to reach a conclusion, but above all we will do everything possible for the interests of our fishermen from all parts of the United Kingdom. We will negotiate, to the best of our ability, a successful conclusion to these vital matters.

8.2 pm

Dr. Gavin Strang (Edinburgh, East)

I beg to move amendment (a), to leave out from "Norway" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof: `supports the industry in its opposition to government policy on days at sea restrictions; calls on the Government to ensure that the UK fishing industry does not lose fishing opportunities in order to accommodate Spanish and Portuguese vessels; urges tint there should be no increase in Spanish and Portuguese fishing effort in UK waters and that access should be confined to vessels with a historic trade record in UK waters; recognises the importance of the Irish Box to protect threatened stocks and believes that it must be replaced with comparable measures which take into account the historic rights of established fishing communities and their traditional fishing patterns; recognises the pressure on fish stocks in UK waters and the need for a sustainable policy based on effective conservation measures; and calls on the Government to do all in its power to secure the effective enforcement by all member states of Common Fisheries Policy conservation measures.'. As the Minister has reminded us, this is the main fisheries debate of the year; indeed, it is often the only one. It precedes the December meeting of the Fisheries Council, at which a number of important decisions are made on, in particular, total allowable catches and quotas. As the Minister pointed out, on this occasion a major decision will be made about the arrangements for Spanish and Portuguese integration into the common fisheries policy.

I wrote to the Leader of the House some time ago to point out that half a day is an unacceptable amount of time to allow for the main fisheries debate of the year, given the industry's importance to so many communities. Certain communities are particularly dependent on it. Some people will think of Hull and Aberdeen for historical reasons. Those towns are still very involved in fishing, and especially in fish processing; but we should also consider fishing communities in small towns such as Brixham, Falmouth and Newlyn on the south coast, Milford Haven in Wales, Ardglass and Kilkeel in Northern Ireland and Mallaig and Ullapool in Scotland. I could name many more communities that depend on the industry. It is vital to those communities that we make the right decisions—that we do not allow our stocks to be exhausted and long-term fishing opportunities to be diminished for them, and for future generations.

Another reason why it is important for us to have a proper debate is that no industry is more regulated than the fishing industry. Inherent in the industry is the fact that the Government determine the opportunities, and have a major impact on the industry. It is even more regulated than agriculture. There is good reason for that: technological advance has been such that our stocks could be diminished or even exhausted. Government—I use the word to apply to European institutions as well as to our domestic Government—have a responsibility to implement and enforce conservation measures to protect stocks, and a responsibility for the long-term future of the communities which I mentioned and the country as a whole.

Let me refer to some developments in conservation that have taken place over the past few years before I deal with the major issue of Spanish access. The European Union has agreed that all member states should comply with multi-annual guidance programmes. We are expected to reduce our fishing effort by 19 per cent. by the end of 1996, compared with the 1992 level. One way in which to approach that target—the most efficient way, some would argue—is to establish a substantial decommissioning scheme.

I do not want to make a meal of this, because we have been over it time and again. Towards the end of the 1980s, however, we engaged in debate after debate: hon. Members on both sides of the House who represented fishing communities urged the Government to introduce a major decommissioning scheme as other countries in the European Community—as it was then—were doing, thus securing money from the Community for decommissioning.

Many hon. Members will recall the repeated refusals of the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer), now Secretary of State for the Environment. He simply would not accept the case for a decommissioning scheme. We have such a scheme now, but it is too small. That is certainly the industry's view. I appeal to the Government to think again about the possibility of an enlarged and bolder scheme, which will be necessary if we are to achieve the multi-annual guidance programme target. It is important that we achieve that target. As the Minister will understand, if we do not do so by the end of 1996 we may find that we are ineligible for European Union financial support for a range of fishing measures.

Mr. Keith Mans (Wyre)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Dr. Strang

I shall do so sparingly. I am keen to let others speak.

Mr. Mans

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. He mentioned a larger decommissioning scheme. How much more money does he think would be appropriate to make it effective, and what effect does he think it would have on the fishing communities that he mentioned?

Dr. Strang

The answer to that is in the Hansard report of last year's debate. If the hon. Gentleman takes the trouble to read it, he will get a very precise answer.

I take the hon. Gentleman's point: decommissioning is not a panacea. It has a part to play, however. We can keep the rest of the industry viable only if we take out a certain amount of capacity, so that what is left operates profitably. Decommissioning is not the only way in which we can achieve our target, but the industry is united about the case for a better decommissioning scheme. It has also been united over the years in opposing the Government's proposed compulsory tie-up scheme—the proposed days-at-sea restrictions. That is why the amendment refers to it. The reference relates not to Spanish access, but to an important issue that is still hanging over the industry.

I do not think that, in the last 10 or 20 years, any issue has aroused such anger and opposition in our fishing communities as the proposed compulsory tie-up scheme. When the current Secretary of State for Education took over as the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food with the Minister of State, they inherited the policy and they announced that they would reconsider it. Indeed, they postponed the implementation of the days-at-sea restrictions, and it is worth recalling that if that postponement had not taken place and the scheme had not been challenged in court, the days-at-sea restrictions would have been in operation from 1 October this year. There was much hope in the industry that the new team of Ministers would abandon the policy of restrictions and adopt an alternative approach to reducing our fishing effort.

Ministers invited the industry to submit its own proposals, and I believe that the Minister of State congratulated the industry on the lengths to which its representative organisations had gone to produce conservation proposals, sometimes even encountering difficulty with their own members—I am glad to see that the Minister is nodding. However, the Government and the industry are now going to the European Court, still on the issue of compulsory tie-up. There has been no response yet from the Government to the proposals made by the industry, although, if my memory serves me correctly, those had to be in by the end of September 1993.

That is unsatisfactory. There is a vacuum, and the Government should be implementing conservation policies to defend our stocks throughout British waters. I appeal to the Minister and the rest of the Government to think again. How can it be right for us to continue with that hiatus? What sort of spectacle does it present for our industry and our Government to be fighting it out in the European Court of Justice?

Conservation measures work only if they have the support and co-operation of the industry, and the Government's proposals on days-at-sea restrictions did not have that support. Indeed, it is clear that in the form in which they were suggested, they will never have support, so I ask the Government to think again on that important issue.

On some things we agree, and there is no dispute. I accept without question the fact that the Minister has to take scientific advice on levels of total allowable catch, on quotas and conservation, and so on. Surely we cannot go on for another year without an agreement, still awaiting the proceedings of the European Court of Justice. I say to the hon. Gentleman, "Be bold; abandon the whole idea of days-at-sea restrictions and sit down to talk to the industry on the basis of its proposals." Let us go forward with an approach to conservation that the whole House can support.

As the Minister has rightly said, the major issue facing the Government, the House and the Council concerns the arrangements for the incorporation of Spain and Portugal into the common fisheries policy. Let us start by being clear about the importance of what is at stake. Our waters are crucial—the Irish box, the south-western approaches, right up the west coast and beyond the north-west of Scotland. Those are vital fishing grounds for our people and our communities. They must be protected.

The stocks there are already under enormous pressure. That is why Spain made the agreement on the Irish box in relation to the treaty of accession, and it is why there are limits on the Spanish vessels allowed to fish from the so-called restricted list in those waters. The Minister of State knows better than I that one has only to examine the quota figures to realise what pressure there is on the stocks. It is vital that nothing should happen next week to do long-term damage to those stocks. Of course, any system that is agreed will not come into operation until 1 January 1996, but once it is agreed it will be in place for a long time.

That is what we have to defend. I think that we agree about the threat. It is not unfair to say that the Spanish vessels operating in our waters have not demonstrated a willingness to comply effectively and rigorously with conservation measures—and that is putting it mildly. We have seen example after example. There is a lot at stake, and there is an entirely legitimate concern that any increase in the number of Spanish vessels operating in our waters would do enormous damage over a period to our stocks, and eventually would severely curtail the fishing opportunities and the economic well-being of some of the communities in the south and south-west of England, in Wales, in Northern Ireland and right up to Scotland.

Sir Teddy Taylor

What can we do about it?

Dr. Strang

That is a good question, and I shall come to the point. Where are we? We already have the treaty of accession. I do not want to get into an argument about the position in the year 2002, but it is certainly not in dispute that the Irish box had to be renegotiated, because the arrangements automatically fell at the end of 1995. What is important now is what happened at the end of last year and in the early months of this year.

As the Minister has said, those discussions were linked to the question of Norwegian entry. None the less, important decisions were taken, as a result of which we now have a timetable that demands an agreement on all the arrangements that will govern the access of Spanish vessels to our waters.

As I said to the media at the weekend, I do not know what happened at Essen. However, I know that the Spanish Prime Minister, with the support of his Parliament, wrote to President Kohl saying that Spain would block the access of the three new member states if it did not secure a satisfactory deal on fishing. I believe that the Minister will confirm that that threat has not been lifted. The nearest that Spain has come to lifting it was when its Foreign Minister said yesterday that he was 99 per cent. certain that his country would get a deal that would make it unnecessary to carry out the threat. But the threat is still on the table.

There is an agreement whereby there has to be a settlement by the end of the year, the Spaniards are threatening to block the access of new member states if they do not get an acceptable deal, and provided that the arrangements made are within the terms of the treaty—no doubt they will be—the decision can be made on a majority vote.

Given what the Government agreed in the earlier Councils this year, they seem to have boxed themselves into the necessity to reach a decision next month by majority vote. The only justification for their having done that must be that they can mobilise the support that they need in the Council to secure a satisfactory deal for the British people. It would be utterly unacceptable for the Government to be outvoted in the negotiations. Surely it would be unthinkable if we ended up by accepting a vote against us.

I shall now respond in part to the amendment to which the hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. Hams) has put his name, although I am sure that he did not mean that amendment to carry such an implication, as it mentions voting. It will not be good enough for the Government to come back to the House and simply say, "We voted against the agreement." Given the way in which the Community works, the basis for what the Government have already agreed can be justified only if they are confident that they can muster the support in the Council at least to block a bad deal and, it is to be hoped, to ensure that there is an arrangement that is satisfactory for our country as a whole.

Mr. Jack

When we managed to sideline the wholly unacceptable proposal by the Commission in September, we set about mustering support to ensure that the arguments and arrangements moved closer to a United Kingdom agenda than the original position. The fact that no decision was reached on the matter last November was a sign of the success that we achieved. We shall continue to negotiate and to seek all possible support for the simple, non-bureaucratic, straightforward, light-touch regime that our industry will understand.

Dr. Strang

I accept that. No one is criticising the hon. Gentleman for his efforts to keep close to the industry. Indeed, recent decisions have been made rejecting the Commission's initial compromise—although of course, that is still on the table—and subsequently the German presidency's "mark 1" compromise. No one is faulting the Minister of State for the way in which he handled himself then. I was referring to decisions taken earlier in the year, associated with Norwegian entry, which have meant that we are almost certainly boxed in and have to settle the matter next week.

I shall make my final point now because many hon. Members want to speak in the debate. I believe that the Opposition amendment gets it right. If we accept that our stocks are already under pressure, and that fishing in our waters should not increase, and if we are to protect the interests of our own fishermen, who traditionally fish in those waters, we cannot have an increase in Spanish fishing there. Given the track record of the Spanish on conservation, the only effective way in which to achieve that is to control the number of vessels in those waters tightly. Indeed, logically, to say that there can be no additional fishing is to say that there can be no more Spanish vessels.

Surely the fairest way in which to control the Spanish vessels is to say that those vessels that will continue to be allowed to fish in those waters—obviously, I am not referring to the new arrangements in the Irish box, where we hope that the Minister will negotiate to continue to keep vessels out of that general area—are those that have a historical track record in those waters. That is not incompatible, I would argue, with Spanish integration into the common fisheries policy. Indeed, we have only to look at the latest proposal of a new list of vessels, or the Shetland box, to see that there are plenty of precedents for operating on that basis.

The Labour party has laid down the minimum conditions which have to be met. They have the support of the fishing sector throughout the United Kingdom. There has been much speculation about whether, somehow, the amendment has been drafted to undermine the Government, to embarrass the Government. That is not the issue at all in this debate. The issue is quite clear. It is about protecting a vital national interest. It is about defending our long-term future.

Mrs. Ewing

Will the hon. Gentleman explain why the British Labour Members of the European Parliament have had to invoke a conscience clause so that they would not support Spanish accession to the European Parliament?

Dr. Strang

Frankly, to come up with that in the context of this debate is a bit rich. The position, as I understand it, is that the Scottish National party is against the integration of Portugal and Spain into the common fisheries policy. I have just been explaining that we accept the principle of Spain's accession and we believe that our amendment is quite consistent with that. The hon. Lady should not be complaining because British Labour MEPs and one SNP Member of the European Parliament happen to be voting together on the issue.

Our amendment lays down the minimum required to defend the long-term interests of our fishing communities and I urge all hon. Members to support it.

8.21 pm
Mr. Robert Hicks (Cornwall, South-East)

I recognise that at next week's Fisheries Council, the Minister faces a very difficult task. He has not only to reconcile the British sector and regional interests with the requirements of the common fisheries policy, but on that occasion, he has to take into account the added difficulties and complications associated with the accession of Spain and Portugal. I have to admit that as a Member of this House who voted for UK membership of the European Community in 1971–72 and who still believes that it is in our national interest to be at the centre of the European decision-making process, I would not use the example of the common fisheries policy as one of Europe's success stories. I say that with genuine regret. Indeed, since it was hastily contrived, just prior to our entry, with the proposal for rights of automatic access to the beaches of member states for all fishing fleets, the common fisheries policy has lacked a strategy and a direction.

For the past 10 years or so, attempts have been made at reform and the defining of objectives. Those have usually resulted in short-term remedies that have failed to address the underlying problems and weaknesses. That means that today we have a common fisheries policy which, frankly, is a shambles because it lacks cohesion and direction. It is difficult to monitor and virtually impossible to implement and police.

Given that unsatisfactory background, one may have been forgiven for thinking that, with the accession of Spain and Portugal, an opportunity had arisen for a basic review and assessment of the fisheries policy. One has to accept, however, that that will not happen. I must say that I have—sadly—come to the conclusion that existing and proposed arrangements cannot go on indefinitely. I do not say that lightly to my hon. Friend the Minister. A crunch will come. I do not know now what specific set of circumstances will trigger it off, but the common fisheries policy as we know it today will not survive.

Meanwhile, next Monday, Fisheries Ministers will continue with the present approach of seeking to accommodate new problems and requirements within the context of the present unsatisfactory framework. Obviously, we all look to the Minister to secure and confirm certain objectives for the UK fishing sector. Those include—they have been mentioned this evening—the safeguarding of fishing opportunities for our fishermen and the conservation of fish stocks backed by enforcement. This time, of course, there is the added complication of Spanish accession.

In that context, my hon. Friends the Members for St. Ives (Mr. Harris) and for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Coe) and I have tabled an amendment which, in effect, seeks two bottom-line assurances from our hon. Friend the Minister. We call on the United Kingdom Government to reject any attempt by either the German presidency or the European Commission to impose further bureaucratic controls on United Kingdom fishing vessels. That, of course, is a direct reference to the days-at-sea restrictions, on which I, like many other hon. Members from all parties, wish that Ministers would give a definitive response and say that, as far as UK legislation is concerned, that proposal is dropped once and for all.

Mr. Sebastian Coe (Falmouth and Camborne)

My hon. Friend will remember the night when the orders for the conservation measures—days-at-sea and tie-up—were brought before the House. We may not have been in this situation tonight, waiting on a European Court ruling, had Labour and Liberal Democrat Members—

Mr. Austin Mitchell

What about Conservative Members?

Mr. Coe

—bothered to maintain their discipline on a three-line Whip after 10 o'clock to come along and vote against the measures.

Mr. Mitchell

All the sheep are over there.

Mr. Coe

You cannot have it both ways. The majority that night was far smaller than the number of the hon. Gentleman's colleagues who did not stay behind to vote the measures down.

Mr. Mitchell

How did the hon. Gentleman vote?

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes)

If the hon. Gentleman on the back row wishes to catch my eye at a later stage, he had better keep a little quieter now.

Mr. Hicks

I know that on the occasion to which my hon. Friend referred, he, our hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives and myself, who all represent Cornish constituencies, voted against what we thought were ill-conceived Government proposals. Nevertheless, we were certainly heartened by the Prime Minister's statement in the House on Monday when, in answer to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives, he confirmed that the summit had agreed in its conclusion that a non-bureaucratic solution would have to found to meet the fishing requirements.

The second requirement is that, given the importance of fishing to the regional economy of Devon and Cornwall, the United Kingdom must not lose fishing opportunities to accommodate Spanish vessels, especially in areas of the Irish box which are not traditional fishing grounds for Spanish vessels—indeed, to the best of my knowledge, they have never yet ventured there to fish—but which are the traditional fishing grounds of south-west fishermen.

That seems to be a reasonable requirement to ask of my hon. Friend the Minister on behalf of my hon. Friends from Cornwall and myself. We look to the Minister to persuade his Council colleagues of the validity of our arguments, which are shared by a much wider section of the House of Commons. The Council should not ignore regional requirements and the political, economic and social significance of traditional fishing patterns and methods. My hon. Friend the Minister should be very robust in his approach next Monday. If, by chance, his colleagues in the Council of Ministers should not be persuaded by the validity of his arguments, my hon. Friend should stand by not only our fishermen but the regional economies of which fishing is such an important component part.

8.31 pm
Mr. Austin Mitchell (Great Grimsby)

It is rather good to see the comparative interest in and high attendance at this debate. It is even better that, at last, we have a three-line Whip for a fishing debate. It is about time we had such a concentration of interest.

The debate is taking place at a time when I have never seen the fishing industry in a worse state. Morale has collapsed. The industry 'feels that the Government have given up on it. Because the Government could not impose their will on the industry and get the days-at-sea limitation that they wanted, they now hope that the fishing industry will die and go away. The Government are using the fishing industry as a trade-off in Europe.

We have no sign of a Government strategy for the support, encouragement, development and improvement of our fishing industry. It desperately needs a testament of Government support and interest. It needs protection from intensifying competition, but it is receiving nothing. There has been no response to the industry's pleas. It is important for the Minister to listen occasionally to the debate. He might notice that we have not even had a proper response to the conservation plans that the industry put to the Government as an alternative to the days-at-sea limitation. There was a meeting four months after the plans were presented, but nothing has happened. The plans have fallen into a pool of silence. All proposals for encouraging fishing seem to fall into such a pool.

I am particularly concerned about the industry in Grimsby. Our fleet is shrinking below the critical mass that is needed to underpin facilities and, in particular, the improvements that are now taking place in landing and market facilities in Grimsby. Millions of pounds are being spent when the fleet is shrinking and is probably getting too small to underpin or support those facilities. The fleet is struggling to continue because catches are down, prices do not provide the necessary income, and there is a threat to the financial stability not only of some vessels but of some firms in Grimsby. That will cause disintegration. A failure in fishing has knock-on effects on suppliers, engineers and the rest of the industry. Everybody in fishing is in debt.

That shrinkage could cause a house-of-cards collapse in fishing. I dread that happening. That is why the Government must make a commitment and provide backing and encouragement for the fishing industry. It is a matter not just of negotiating in Europe, but of keeping a vital, active fishing industry going, and the Government do not seem to be interested. Every other European Government are doing more to support, encourage and back their fishing industries.

Grimsby will be particularly badly hit next year by the reduction in the plaice quota and the 47 per cent. reduction in catches. The scientists got it all wrong. They estimated an increase a couple of years back, but suddenly drastically cut it, taking out the consequences of their own mistake on the fishing industry. The result is that the Grimsby fishing industry, for which plaice is our second catch and which was accustomed to catching between 5,000 and 10,000 tonnes a year, will suddenly be reduced to catches of 2,000 tonnes of plaice a year. That will be the quota.

At the same time, non-sector vessels, the big-beam trawlers—they are big boats—will be upping their record, catching more plaice, and getting a better record in plaice at the expense of traditional fishing boats from Grimsby. That is an unreasonable balance between the two sectors of the industry. Grimsby is suffering because of the reduction in the plaice quota. There is a need to encourage and build not only the Grimsby industry but the national industry. We need a national plan for fishing. We need incentive, vision, encouragement and stimulus to invest in the industry.

I now refer to the wider issue of Spanish accession, about which the Minister talked at length. I must say a word of congratulation and encouragement to him—I mean it sincerely—because he is learning fast and coming out very strongly in defence of the industry. I say that because there was a bad start, which was the days-at-sea limitation, which alienated the British industry, and then the agreement in principle to allow the Spanish full access to the CFP. With such a bad start, it is difficult to recoup lost ground. In all sincerity, I must say that the Minister is working hard at recouping that ground. He started from a difficult position, but he is strenuously defending the claims and the position of the British industry in the Spanish negotiations.

Yet we are in an impossible negotiating position when it comes to Spain, because the terms of Spanish accession in 1986 were that Spain brought no great additional stocks or waters to the Common Market pool, of which we provide the great bulk. Eighty per cent. of stocks in the more valuable species are provided by Britain. Spain brought a huge fishing fleet, which doubled the fishing fleet and pressed on a pool to which it made no great contribution in terms of fish. In other words, if British and other European fishing industries have to be cut, and if our effort and the number of vessels are to be reduced, that is to make way for a Spanish fleet that is far too big.

The importance of the agreement was that there was a 16-year period of adjustment, during which it was clear that the Spanish fleet had to be massively cut. That period has effectively been shortened, as has been pointed out. That is the reason why our fleet is being cut. The overcapacity is not ours—it is theirs, yet the consequences of that overcapacity fall on us. The consequence of that overcapacity carrying on fishing is a threat to our stocks—British stocks—which we contribute to the Common Market pool.

In that situation, it is daft to agree in principle to accelerate the full accession of Spain to the CFP. Perhaps the Minister was not his own master in the negotiations. I accept that he is subject to the decisions of Cabinet and other matters and that the British Government are always interested in gains on other fronts. Fishing is small beer for the British Government; they are not particularly interested in fishing. That has been our tragedy all along. The British Government are never sufficiently interested in fishing to fight on the issue. There is always something more important. In this case, it was more important to bring the three Nordic states and Austria into the Community. To achieve that aim, the Government were prepared to make concessions to Spain. But that has now been totally vitiated. It was also hoped that Spain would receive concessions in Norwegian waters when Norway became a member of the European Union. The basis of our concession has now collapsed because Norway has decided not to join.

The Norwegians were right in voting not to join the European Union. I visited Norway to tell them not to join; it was very sensible advice. I do not claim that Norway decided against joining as a result of my persuasiveness—not entirely because of it—but the Norwegians were worried that what had happened to our fishing industry would happen to theirs if they joined the Union. That was a major argument in Norway when membership of the Union was considered.

Norway is not joining the Union, but Spain still wants its pound of flesh. It has been given, in principle, full access from 1996. I accept that the Minister is making a brave stand, but he will not get anywhere because the principle has been conceded without regard to safeguards and how it would be implemented. That is a bad negotiating position from which to start.

We have 35 documents to refer to in the debate, but they contain nothing about next week's proposal. We have not been told what will be discussed. According to the Library brief, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has a restricted document entitled "First Thoughts Towards Proposals", which we are not allowed to see. The Minister has not even told us about it. There have been three presidency Compromises that we have not seen and know nothing about. How can we discuss next week's proposal sensibly if we are not allowed to see all the documents?

We know that the Spanish Prime Minister has said that he has an agreement. I have no knowledge of the Spanish, but the Spanish Prime Minister would be daft to tell his people that he had an agreement if he did not have one. It makes me wonder who is telling the truth. I fear that we shall see a Government climbdown next week. There will be some agreement that will allow the Spanish fleet to fish for stocks with no total allowable catches and for non-pressure stocks in the North sea.

If a gradual build-up of the Spanish fleet is allowed, which will be policed by the relevant coastal state, it will impose a considerable burden upon our industry. The document talks about "non-bureaucratic administration". If that means that our vessels will not be burdened with a reporting system, I welcome it. But I fear that if Spanish vessels are allowed to fish in our area, we shall see a universal reporting system for everyone.

I fear that the limit of 150 vessels will be raised. It may be a gradual increase, but it will soon reach the eligible number of 220 vessels. There will be a gradual build-up in the number in the Irish box. Everyone is being threatened with a days-at-sea limitation. The point is that the Spanish fleet will be allowed full access to our waters under the common fisheries policy.

Spain has a massive fishing fleet. It has a £80 million programme, probably spanning five years, to rebuild its fleet when it should be shrinking. It will mean that the Spanish will dominate the seas and decimate fishing stocks. Once they are allowed access to our waters, there is no effective way of controlling the over-large fishing fleet of a nation which we know cheats. We know that Spanish vessels have false fish holds. We know that the fleet does not observe the quotas— it catches too much and hopes to get away with it— and that it fishes when it is not entitled to do so. Once the fleet is allowed to fish in the North sea for non-pressure stocks—turbot, dogs, monks and so on—our stock will disappear.

In a sense, the Spanish are the Commission's blue-eyed boys because they have fulfilled their multi-annual guidance programme. It has come down to that: we are well behind and we have not fulfilled our programme. The Spanish have counted all their fleet as gill-netters, for which they do not have to make any reduction— there is a 20 per cent. reduction for trawlers— and have therefore fulfilled their multi-annual guidance programme. The Spanish practices that were common in Fleet street are common in the Spanish fishing fleet.

The number of Spanish boats with access to our waters cannot be policed effectively. If they are not allowed access to the North sea, they will do what so many others are doing and set themselves up as British vessels and catch our fish that way. The Government will accommodate them by removing the Aliens Act amendment of 1919. That is a limitation which requires a vessel's crew to comprise at least some British officers. Spanish boats with entirely Spanish crews will be based in Britain and they will catch British fish.

Drake repelled the Spanish armada, but now a second armada is being allowed to play ducks and drakes with our policing system. I must warn the Minister of the consequences of allowing Spanish vessels to fish in our waters. The National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations and Grimsby fishermen have told me and headlines in Fishing News warn that there will be anarchy.

If British fishermen see Spanish vessels taking catches in our waters effectively unpoliced—because they cannot be policed—our fishermen will not want to obey the rules either. They will not recognise the restrictions, they will not be kept in dock and they will not co-operate with the Government. The Government will be unable to police our vessels, so great will be the anger of British fishermen about the way in which they have been treated. British fishermen will be forced to cheat to survive or go bankrupt. They will be driven to it by Government policy.

That brings me to the issue raised by the hon. Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor), with which I agree, about the common fisheries policy. It is a farce for hon. Members to pretend that the common fisheries policy is effective. It has failed and it cannot be made to work effectively. There was enthusiastic argument in favour of it on the basis that fish do not carry national flags—[Interruption.]

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. This is not the first time that I have had to tell the House that I deplore what appear to be conversations across the Chamber while formal debate is taking place.

Mr. Mitchell

The policy is unworkable for several reasons. It emerged from a political decision-making process, and there are certain things that one cannot do in such a process. We need to get rid of industrial fishing. It is decimating the fishing stock and the natural feeding cycle of fish. It is producing by-catches on an unknown scale.

However, we cannot get rid of industrial fishing because the Danes will not let us. As long as their resistance continues, there is no possibility of taking steps that are in everyone's best interests—they are certainly in the best interests of our fishing stock.

The British Government never get their way in negotiations. They never really try, because they always have another objective. The Minister responsible for fisheries is always told, "Keep quiet on this one, lad, and we'll get our way on something else." The Foreign Secretary will come along in his reasonable and avuncular fashion, and the Minister will have to climb down on an issue that is basic to fishing but not basic to the Foreign Office or to the Government, who want to give way.

Fishing is always sacrificed on the altar of Europe, and it has been consistently since we joined the Community, particularly since the derogation ended in 1982. The majority of countries in Europe are against us. It is easy for Spain to satisfy its ambitions, its fleet and its fishermen at our expense because the stocks are ours. We contribute the overwhelming majority—I calculate 80 per cent.—of the most valuable species in this so-called Common Market pool.

How easy it is for everybody else to gang up on us. They say that they are sympathetic to poor old Britain, but that their fishermen must be kept fishing. When they are kept fishing, the policy fails again because there is no adequate way of policing catches. It is not in the interests of the other nations to control the landings of fish that have been caught in our waters, or to have an effective and proper reporting system.

For all the other countries care, their fishermen can exhaust and decimate our stocks, and that is what is happening. The fish are not properly controlled or policed at the port of landing, and as long as nation states do not enforce the rules, that will go on. We enforce them properly, and we conserve stocks. They do not, and that will go on. Shall we overrule them? We effectively have no veto. The Minister has said that he will fight next week, but, in the end, he will be overruled because it is in the interests of everyone else to overrule him. The member states will solve their difficulties—a present difficulty is that of the Spanish accession—at our expense. They catch British stocks, and it does not matter to them.

The only thing central to the common fisheries policy is common access; everything else is derogation and temporary regulation. The basic principle is clear—the others get their nets into our stocks. Any restrictions are temporary, and can be swept aside. They may well be swept aside in 2002, because what will the basic principle be then? All the derogations will be up for grabs, and they will continue only if they are kept by all member states.

The principle of common access, it has been argued, should apply in full. Austria and Luxembourg—even if they do not have fishing fleets—can set up fishing companies in this country, take over British fishing vessels and catch our stocks for us. That is the trap we are in. It is a Sisyphean job to roll the stone back to where it was before it was betrayed by the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath), who sold the pass to British fishing in our entry negotiations.

The CFP for us will always be a no-win game. Whoever wins, we lose. That is the principle by which the CFP works. It seems to me that the Minister has two choices. He is either intransigent on the CFP and rolls the stone back uphill—I think that that is impossible, but keeping Spain out entirely is a central part of the problem for the industry—or he gives the industry massive support, financial backing, incentives and encouragement, and develops a new plan for fishing and gives it a place in the sun. The Minister cannot abdicate his responsibility to fishing on both those fronts as that would be a double-track, no-win situation for fishing. He must do one or the other. It seems to be difficult, because the trend has always been to abdicate on both fronts.

I warn the Minister that overwhelming support is building up in the fishing industry for the Save Britain's Fish campaign. More and more fishermen are coming round to back that campaign, which wants us out of the CFP. They see the damage that the CFP has done, and they say that we should act for ourselves. The more the Minister betrays the industry, the more he gives way next week and the more he refuses to help the fishing industry, the more support he will build up and generate for that campaign and for the basic argument that I am making. We have been in the CFP too long for any good that it is doing us. It is time to go.

8.55 pm
Mr. Neville Trotter (Tynemouth)

There is no doubt that the prospect of the Fisheries Council next week, and in particular the argument over Spain and Portugal, is dominating the debate, Anybody who is involved in the fishing industry cannot but deplore the way in which the common fisheries policy has been implemented. For those of us who are Euro-sceptics, the CFP illustrates the bureaucracy, inefficiency and impracticality of so much that is wrong in Brussels. The whole House must be behind the Minister in the difficult task which he faces next week in Brussels. I know that he carries with him the support of the industry, which has been encouraged by the way in which he has championed its cause this year.

I should like to refer to one or two detailed matters, including medicine chests. I was amazed to hear the suggestion that expensive medicine chests should be carried on all fishing vessels. It makes sense that there should be some provision for first aid, but expensive chests with equipment which requires a highly skilled person to operate it are wholly inappropriate, especially on smaller vessels. I urge my hon. Friend the Minister to have a word with his colleagues at the Department of Transport.

I wish to refer in particular to three matters relating to the north-east coast; the first being the cost of salmon licences. I and others have warned that, as the number of licences falls, there will be a danger that the National Rivers Authority will seek to recover its costs by increasing the cost of the remaining licences. That is what is happening now, and there is a danger that, as the number of licences falls further, we shall see an even greater increase in costs. I urge my hon. Friend to look into the matter, because it is simply not on that the whole of the costs should fall on an ever-decreasing numbers of licence holders.

The second matter relating to the north-east is the prawn fishing industry. The Minister will remember that, earlier this year, large catches in the Fladden field off Scotland led to the quota being practically exhausted before the north-east coast fisheries started—as they traditionally do—in the autumn. As a result, we faced draconian cuts in the quota and the likelihood that the industry would be banned completely in a short period of time. That would have been disastrous for local fishermen, whose livelihoods depend very much on the prawn fishing at the end of the year.

With the North Shields fishermen, I went to see my hon. Friend the Minister and urged him to take the case to Brussels. We are grateful to him for the way in which he acted so speedily and effectively. He won the argument in Brussels, and there was a significant increase in the quota. My hon. Friend arranged, at my request, for the local fishermen to visit the research establishment at Lowestoft, and he referred to the establishment there in his opening remarks. That was, I believe, the first meeting of its kind, and it was described to me as being constructive and helpful. There may be a lesson there for the future.

It is clearly wrong that there should be the present system of one quota for prawns. We do not want to see the same thing occurring next year. The total quota could again be used up by earlier fishing in the Fladden field and fishermen from North Shields and other north-east ports will find that the quota has been exhausted before their season starts. I urge my hon. Friend to look at that issue in the new year to prevent the same crisis from arising in 1995.

Prawns, by their very nature, do not migrate far, so there can be no real suggestion that catching them in the Fladden field affects the prawn stocks elsewhere. It was just as our fishermen prepared for their catching season that the quota ran out this year. I urge the Minister to take up that issue in the new year. I pay tribute to the leaders of the fishing industry of the north-east coast, who have put their case sensibly. Throughout the year, they practised restraint in the interests of the long-term preservation of that vital prawn stock.

My third concern about North Shields is the future of the quay and the auction market which, under European regulations, were threatened with closure if the facilities were not revitalised. I might add that I am one of those who is sceptical about how far those regulations are enforced in some southern European countries.

North Shields was facing a serious problem, because the fish harbour and the quay which were run by the port of Tyne were losing a great deal of money. The urban development corporation has put some money on the table, however, and as a result of initiatives by the local fishing industry, a development company was formed with Jeremy Pritchard as its chief executive to plan and implement the necessary works. I pay tribute to him and to his team for the success that they have had in facing up to the challenges. Money for improvements has also been provided by the port authority.

I am grateful to the Minister for his encouragement and support of the improvements in North Shields. That came to a head with the recent issue of a grant approval. We are grateful for that because it will mean an assured future for the industry, which would otherwise have faced absolute disaster.

On behalf of North Shields, I thank the Minister for what he has done to help us and I wish him well in the difficult task that he faces next week.

8.59 pm
Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland)

I hope that the hon. Member for Tynemouth (Mr. Trotter) will forgive me if I do not discuss the details of the north-east fishery. I should like to pick up on perhaps the one bright thing that the Minister of State said, by congratulating the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland on his engagement. I wish him and his future wife every happiness.

The debate is inevitably dominated by the question of the consequences of Spanish and Portuguese accession. It has been said that it is perhaps the most important negotiation that has taken place since the common fisheries policy was originally negotiated.

Given that I shall make a short speech, I will not mention days at sea and decommissioning, but my views on that, and those of my right hon. and hon. Friends, are well known to the House.

As has already been aired in the debate, part of the reason why the Minister and the Government find themselves in such a complex negotiating position is that, arguably, the pass was sold earlier on when accelerated full access for Spain and Portugal in 1996 rather than 2002 was conceded. It is clear that the arrangements relating to the Irish box were subject to review and were in place initially only until 31 December 1995.

I took careful note when the Minister suggested—I hope he will forgive me if I do not use his precise words—that the Legal Committee's advice was that the European Union could look to full Spanish and Portuguese accession after 1996. It could equally have been said, however, that that need not happen until 2002. I do not believe that there was any compulsion in the terms of the treaty for that to happen. I understand that it was felt that different arrangements should not be offered to member states who joined before 1996, then to Norway, Sweden and Finland and, yet again, to Spain and Portugal. It would appear that the fundamental decision was taken in that committee, but as we approach next week's negotiations, all that is water under the bridge. We should not, however, lose sight of the background to those negotiations.

It would be idle to pretend that the Minister and his colleagues will have an easy time next week. It would also be unfair if the Opposition parties did not acknowledge the efforts that the Minister has made to date. He has already succeeded in rebuffing the first set of overly bureaucratic proposals. He has worked closely with the industry on that issue. I am also aware that he is engaged in a number of bilateral discussions with other member states to try to bring them around to appreciating the British point of view. He deserves our support for that.

There is no need to rehearse all the details of the case that has been put by the British fishing industry, many of which have been aired tonight. I shall pick out some of the key points. All hon. Members are concerned about the future of the Irish box, which, according to the framework regulations, was accepted as a biologically sensitive zone. That being the case, it begs the fundamental question of why in the world we want to allow extra pressure on stocks in that box.

The Minister said that he would try to ensure that any Spanish access did not impinge on those who have traditionally fished those waters. Many would agree with that sentiment, including not just those who fish area VII a but those who fish areas g and f. I think that I have got those right. If Spain is allowed greater access to the box, it will be difficult to turn that sentiment into a reality.

I accept that it would be daft if the Minister revealed his negotiating hand to the House, just before those negotiations, but I would be interested to know whether he thinks that it would be possible to allow Spanish access while safeguarding the interests of those who have traditionally fished in the box. If Spanish vessels are to enter and there is to be no overall increase in effort, the equation appears impossible to resolve. Will the Government assure us that they have some proposals that could help to resolve it?

I am informed that a proposal may be put forward for discussion about a specific number of Spanish vessels in 1996–97, without mentioning the years thereafter. Does that imply a further review of the Irish box after 1997?

My concerns about not merely area VII a but areas VII f and g, and area VI a off the west coast of Scotland, are underlined when we consider the more traditional subject matter of these Christmas debates—the forthcoming total allowable catch regulations—and the fact that some critical decisions remain to be made about next year's TACs in those areas. Those concerns include the dramatic reduction proposed for hake in the channel and western approaches, and a 41 per cent. reduction in the cod quota in the Irish sea. Successive reductions in TACs of cod, haddock, whiting and saithe off the west coast of Scotland amount to some 50 per cent. over five years. The current proposals will result in swingeing reductions in TACs of saithe.

One has only to listen to what cuts are proposed to realise how vulnerable the stocks in those areas already are. That fact forms part of the background to the subject that we are discussing—access for Spanish vessels. Even if Spanish access were not an issue, we would still ask the Government to acknowledge the serious problem of the proposed TACs in all those areas and others, and I should be interested to learn how the Government intend to deal with the specific problem of TACs.

We support the aim—which the industry has made clear and which the Government have acknowledged—that existing fishing opportunities for British vessels should be safeguarded. It would be the ultimate tragedy and, if it were not so sad, almost a farce, if any proposal so constrained British effort that we could not fish our existing quotas. I am sure that Ministers will do their upmost to avoid such an outcome.

We also believe that the negotiations should not be used as a back-door means of agreeing a European days-at-sea restriction, or the like. Above all, we emphasise the industry's deep-seated and genuine anxiety that Spanish access to our waters be contained. We may all be asking for the circle to be squared, and various proposals will doubtless be made on how that might happen.

Reference lists of vessels might be the way forward, but that solution would produce its own problems. If we allow member states to compile reference lists, can we be sure what the Spaniards would put on those lists? Equally, we might feel that it is in our interests to compile our own national reference list. I do not pretend that such a solution would be easy. Our distrust of how the Spaniards might go about drawing up such a list is an important consideration to take into account in all those negotiations. Not just historical record but, as the Labour party's amendment says, entitlement—all British vessels are entitled to fish in those waters—may be a means of legitimately limiting Spanish vessels while not straying down the path of national discrimination.

Another point which Ministers will want to recognise is that next week is not necessarily the end of the road. Some people are concerned that an overall framework is all that will be agreed next week and that the detail will be left for the Commission's management committee to fill in. That sets many alarm bells ringing. The House wants to be satisfied that the Minister will do everything possible to tie down as much as possible of the detail next week, and that he will not allow some loose ends to remain, under which many unacceptable things could crawl in or crawl out—I am not sure which—and eventually appear in a final package.

I have mentioned suspicion and mistrust; those feelings pervade the entire issue. Mistrust was generated by the statement of Prime Minister Gonzalez that he got everything that he wanted. I accept the Minister's word that, as far as he and the British Government are concerned, no deal was done at Essen to which the British Government were party. I am afraid that suspicions have been roused as a result of what Prime Minister Gonzalez said, and I sincerely hope that the British Government will not be taken off balance next week if, out of a hat, some deal is produced which was cobbled together by the presidency and the Spaniards behind our back. Perhaps, instead of urging other Prime Ministers to take guide dogs to their respective Parliaments, our Prime Minister should take sniffer dogs to European Council meetings, to ensure that nothing is being hatched behind his back.

A mistrust of Spanish fishermen is also at the heart of the issue. In one sense, that need not cause any problem, because I doubt that there would be much to worry about, with relative stability agreed as a fundamental principle, if there was effective monitoring and a policing regime that worked. However, we know that that is simply not the case, and that judgment is based on both history and experience.

In The Herald of Monday 12 December 1994, Mr. Murray Ritchie says: A long catalogue of misdemeanours by the Spanish skippers has been built up by the Irish over the years. Some of the more obvious Spanish practices were the obvious one of catching too many fish, often the wrong ones, using illegally sized mesh and too large nets, hiding catches in ships with secret freezer compartments, overstaying time limits in the fishing grounds, and sometimes fishing the wrong grounds. Indeed, a fisherman suggested to me earlier today that the Spaniards could make a TAC last for 100 years.

That is the depth of the mistrust that exists, and that is why we believe, and I think that the whole House believes, that policing measures are essential. We have not heard enough in the debate about the specific monitoring and policing measures that are proposed, but they must be of the highest standard and done multi-laterally if any deal, whether or not it is initially thought to be good, is to command confidence and support throughout the industry.

That is why, of all the objectives sought by the fishing industry, limitations on Spanish effort is possibly the most important goal. The Spaniards cannot argue that they have not done well out of the CFP. It has already been said by the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) that they are building an £80 million investment in new boats, some of which includes European Union money. A third of the CFP budget spent on international fishing agreements is spent on that, so Spain takes the lion's share of that budget.

Our anxiety today is not so much about long-distance fleets or big business boats, but is focused on our local fisheries—on boats that represent a family's investment, on fishermen for whom the waters around their shores have been their source of a living for generations, and on communities whose vitality depends on a healthy fishing industry. Those are important considerations for the CFP to take into account. Conservation of stocks in areas such as the Irish box, the western approaches and west of Scotland is vital, because they represent the source of economic health for those communities for years to come.

To date, the Minister has shown that he understands how crucial those decisions will be for the industry. When my right hon. and hon. Friends cast their votes tonight, we shall want to send a message, not so much to the Minister but to his colleagues in the Council, so that they know that they will be dealing with a Minister who has come from, and will ultimately have to answer again to, a Parliament that is not prepared to accept that our country's fishing industry can be tossed aside like the loose change from some big deal.

9.13 pm
Mr. David Harris (St. Ives)

Not for the first time, it is a great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace). He is a fair and just man and puts his case with absolute sincerity. Like everybody else who has spoken tonight, he rightly paid tribute to the efforts of my hon. Friend the Minister of State. May I add my word of praise, particularly in light of what I might say later?

I have always found my hon. Friend to have a completely open door. Only last week, I took Mr. Michael Townsend, the chief executive of the Cornish fish producers organisation, to meet him for a full discussion about these matters and many others. It was the latest in a long line of meetings and I am sure that that is the experience of many hon. Members in the Chamber tonight.

I also praise him for the way in which he has genuinely listened to the views of the industry and tried to meet them. I echo the hope, expressed by many hon. Members, that he will implement some of the proposals from the industry. Like others, particularly my hon. Friend the Member for Cornwall, South-East (Mr. Hicks), I hope that he will abandon the wretched days at sea regime and not go to the lengths of a European Court case. He has transformed the relationship between the Government and the fishing industry in these difficult times, but the crunch is about to come, and I suspect that it will be next week.

My hon. Friends the Members for Cornwall, South-East and for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Coe) and I have tabled an amendment. First, let me make it quite clear that there is a misprint in it. When it refers to "areas VII a, b and g" it should refer to "areas VII a, f and g". I suspect that the misprint is due to my own rotten writing in submitting this amendment.

My task in speaking to the amendment is made much easier by the splendid speech of my senior colleague, my hon. Friend the Member for Cornwall, South-East who has spoken for the three Conservative Members and, I suspect, for all Members representing Cornwall, as we have an united aim in this matter. I am glad to see the hon. Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Tyler) nodding in agreement.

Our aim is same as that of hon. Members from other parts of the United Kingdom. We are doing our utmost to keep the Spanish out of the waters which our fishermen fish on a traditional basis and on which the Spanish have no great historic track record. We owe it to our fishermen to take that stand. More particularly, my hon. Friend the Minister owes it to our fishermen also to take that stand.

We are in a difficulty here tonight which, if we were honest, we would all acknowledge. We cannot determine what will happen in that vital Fisheries Council on Monday and Tuesday.

As we speak, we do not know what will be the exact terms of the German presidency compromise that will be laid on the table when the meeting starts on Monday. We all know bits of various drafts of compromises that have been floating around, but we do not know the final document that will spark off the debate in the Council. We certainly do not know how the debate and the negotiations will develop. No one here tonight can say what my hon. Friend the Minister and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food will be faced with at the end of those days of negotiations.

My hon. Friends and I understand why our amendment has not been selected. We would have loved to have had it selected so that we could vote on it—if necessary against the Government—to show where we stand. In our amendment we have tried to draw a bottom line and to say how we will judge the outcome of the negotiations. We have served clear and specific notice on my hon. Friend. No doubt he thinks that I pressed him rather hard this evening when the debate started, to try to pin him down in responding to the basic demands that we have encapsulated in the amendment.

I must tell my hon. Friend that I shall have no hesitation in speaking out if he votes for an agreement that does not deliver those demands. I have said to him—he will not mind me saying this—and to my right hon. Friend the Minister on a number of occasions, "Look, if the ultimate deal that comes out of those negotiations seriously damages the British fishing industry, particularly the fishing industry of the south-west, your clear duty is to vote against it." I am sure that that is the message that the House would want to leave with my hon. Friend as he sets out to Brussels.

I know, of course, that because the issue will be decided on the basis of qualified majority voting my hon. Friend will almost certainly be voted down, but I know that I speak for the many fishermen who contacted me, and no doubt my hon. Friends on both sides of the Chamber. They would rather see my hon. Friend voted down honourably, saying that we cannot go along with a deal that does real damage to our fishing industry. I beg of him and warn him not to go along with a compromise that seriously damages our fishing industry. I and my hon. Friends have set him very clear and specific targets, which we want to see him deliver. If he cannot deliver, he should vote against any deal that is done.

I shall now deal with the Opposition amendment. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Dr. Strang) said with a straight face, "Well, of course, there are no party politics in this. We have at heart the genuine interests of the fishing industry." Well, looking around the Chamber, one can judge the support or otherwise that the hon. Gentleman has for that proposition. I am not judging this on his attitude, because he has a genuine interest in fishing, and the hon. Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley) has a deep interest. I pay tribute to both of them.

The hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Hoon), in his remarks on the radio, made no bones about the matter, and said quite clearly that what this is about is voting the Government down, to inflict another defeat on the Government.

Mr. Coe

To ensnare the Government.

Mr. Harris

To ensnare the Government, as my hon. Friend says. It was a silly thing for the hon. Member for Ashfield to say, because it made it difficult and virtually impossible for my hon. Friends—who do not quarrel with many of the sentiments contained in it—to vote for the Opposition's amendment. Therefore, the difficult decision that I and my hon. Friends—particularly those who represent constituencies in Cornwall—have is over what to do. Do we abstain on this important matter or do we back my hon. Friend the Minister as he goes into the negotiations? No doubt I could court popularity in my constituency, as could my hon. Friends in their constituencies, by saying, "Yes, we will be big boat boys and will not support the Government tonight." Indeed, we have voted against the Government on many occasions on fishing, as my hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Camborne has said before.

I made up my mind during the course of the debate only after hearing my hon. Friend the Minister. I am going to back him, but I do so on the basis of the warning that I have clearly given him verbally tonight, and more importantly the warning that is set out, without fudge, in the amendment that stands in my name and those of my hon. Friends the Members for Falmouth and Camborne and for Cornwall, South-East. That is the basis on which I shall judge his action. I will back him and I hope that others will, too, because despite what the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland said in his concluding remarks, it is important that the House, which has paid proper tribute to my hon. Friend, backs him as he goes into the negotiations. That will be my position on the main issue.

I want to mention my concerns about the other major issues that have been virtually obscured tonight because of our quite proper concentration on the important matter of Spanish accession, and that is the total allowable catches and the quotas that will be before the Council. I echo all that has been said on that tonight. I am horrified at the proposal to reduce the plaice quota in the North sea by 47 per cent. I am grateful for the support of the hon.

Member for North Cornwall on that issue. That reduction would have a potential knock-on effect in the waters of the south-west in that it could inhibit the ability to do the swaps on which we depend to gain access to other species.

I am even more disturbed by the proposed 45 per cent. reduction in western hake. Hake features largely in these debates. Such a reduction, on top of everything else, would be devastating for the industry in the south-west, as would be the proposed reduction of 14 per cent. in the monkfish allocation. I believe that the way forward on hake would be to increase the mesh size. I believe that there is agreement about that on both sides of the House. If we did that, the biomass would increase and improve and the proposed draconian reductions would become unnecessary.

I reiterate the warning that I have given to my hon. Friend the Minister. However, I salute him for all that he has done. We are putting him on trust and he must deliver.

9.26 pm
Mr. Eddie McGrady (South Down)

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for the few minutes that will enable me to convey to the House the grave concerns of the Northern Ireland fishing industry. It is ironic that at a time when we want to wish people prosperity in the new year, this debate is bringing despair to the fishing industry. Time will not allow me to develop many of the real points that I want to make, but I want to add my voice to that of those who have already eloquently addressed the problems of the Spanish and Portuguese accession.

It is ironic that we can stand on the beaches of Northern Ireland and watch the fishing boats being burned when we know that in 1996 and 1997 those boats will be replaced not by boats from Northern Ireland but by new boats from Spain and Portugal. That is difficult to take.

We have heard during the debate that there is no easy answer. My Northern Ireland colleagues and I want to assure the Minister that we would strongly support him in not agreeing to the accession terms that are already on the table, particularly in terms of the numbers—23 additional vessels in 1996 and 37 additional vessels in 1997.

The Minister should go back to the opening statement made by the German presidency in respect of the fishing industry. It said quite categorically that there should be no increase in fishing effort. There is a contradiction here. One cannot introduce additional fishing vessels without, at the same time, increasing the fishing endeavour. Either they take more and we get less or they do not come at all. The latter must be enforced.

I do not believe that the self-monitoring system mentioned by the Minister can be imposed on the European states. That is not acceptable. The Minister referred twice in his opening remarks to the light touch that would be involved in the control of the enforcements. I do not understand that. We have all said that that is one of the most fundamental issues facing the fishing industry, not least the fishing industry in both the north and south of Ireland. I am sure that the Minister will find a ready ally in the Republic of Ireland in this matter, at least in the Council of Ministers. It is essential to note that fishing is the sole support of these communities in Northern Ireland. No alternative employment or industrial sector exists.

If the fishing sector collapses, the community collapses—it is as serious as that. It is a matter of life and death. There is nothing else there for us. If the Minister loses in Brussels, those communities are condemned. It is as simple as that. That is the stark choice that the Minister must make. I know that the Minister has made valiant efforts in the past, as has Baroness Denton of Wakefield, who represents the Government in the other place on Northern Ireland matters. I should like to pay tribute both to him and to the noble Lady for their efforts.

On herring fishing, will the Minister renegotiate the closing date—I think that it is 21 September—for a resolution of that famous problem involving the Douglas bank? People in the fishing sector tell us clearly that the patterns of spawning and migration have changed dramatically since 1985. Will he endeavour to do something about that?

Because of the lack of time, I can refer only to cod quotas in area VII a, and only briefly. The fishing sector has demonstrated in 1994 that there is a reasonable supply of good-quality fish. The spawning is right. The number of smaller fish is right. All the 1991 predictions of the scientific voices are out of order and incorrect. The theory has been proved wrong by practice.

Will the Minister listen a wee bit more to the fishermen, who know what is happening in their sector, who see the physical evidence of their own efforts, which are better than the paper efforts of the scientists? Those fishermen take more account than scientists of reality in respect of not only cod but the other catches to which reference has been made.

Time prevents me from making further comments. My right hon. Friend the Member for Strangford (Mr. Taylor) referred to the Hague preference. You can take that as read, Madam Deputy Speaker. The Minister will have the total support of fishing organisations and fishermen in Northern Ireland if he goes in strong with all guns blazing in Brussels—figuratively speaking, of course, because we are now a peaceful society in Northern ireland—and if he does not yield in any single way to terms that will destroy our communities.

9.32 pm
Mr. David Porter (Waveney)

If it were not so serious, we could regard the annual fisheries debate in December as the start of the pantomime season. It has all the good old ingredients of a familiar plot, in this case, written about a sector that is choking under more regulation than the nuclear industry. It has some old favourites such as the tie worn by the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) and old certainties such as the fact that my hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives (Mr. Harris) is always called before me. Some things do change, however. The big names on the Front Benches change from time to time, but hon. Members in the chorus on the Back Benches have the same script.

My hon. Friend the Minister has done a good job since he took up the poisoned chalice. I agree that it is almost impossible to keep such a diverse sector totally happy, to keep Conservative Back Benchers happy, to keep moving with everything that was piled on Minister's plate when he took over and to keep negotiating in what is allegedly a European Union with so-called partners who tolerate our voices around the table so that they can get their hands into our wallets.

I should like to have been able to support the amendment calling for the United Kingdom's removal from the common fisheries policy to regain the sovereignty of our sea. That amendment is tabled in the names of my hon. Friends, who are described by the Government as the "unwhipped Conservative group." My hon. Friend the Minister dismissed the amendment as irrelevant because the common fisheries policy is a sacred cow. None of us would start with that policy, however. We have a messy structure of restrictions, with more tinkerings, changes, bodges and bizarre attachment than anything Heath Robinson could have dreamed of. Instead of saying, "It has failed, let us scrap it," we just add more to it ever more desperately. The pile of papers in many languages from the Vote Office which accompanies the debate demonstrates the absurdity of it. It becomes more like Kafka every day.

Bearing in mind the scale and size of the industry, the diversity of the seas around this country and the historical, cultural and psychological importance of fishing in this still maritime-minded nation, if we could start again we surely would not start with a concept that treats the seas as a common resource open to all, regardless of how much seaboard each member state has.

My right hon. and hon. Friends on the Government Front Bench receive advice from officials that the policy cannot be scrapped. They would advise that, would they not? A Member of the European Parliament once told me that if we did not have the common fisheries policy, we would have to invent it. That person is no longer an MEP.

Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington)

He is a Tory.

Mr. Porter

Indeed. There is a lesson for us all, and certainly for some of my hon. Friends.

When we talk of the CFP, we should be sure of what we are talking about. The CFP is not the 1983 agreement, which was an agreement of derogation involving mile limits, historic rights, percentages of total allowable catches and relative stability. The CFP is the basic agreement of 1972, which expires at the end of 2002. On 1 January 2003 everything reverts to the 1972 agreement, in which all Community vessels shall have free access to waters falling under the sovereignty of or within the jurisdiction of member states. Of course, some amendments have been made. The Maastricht treaty has altered the definition of sovereignty and other countries have lined up to join the Community.

There has been much debate about the Spanish and the Portuguese. We know that the Spanish fleet is more than half the size of the European Union's fleet. The former East German fleet has apparently been absorbed. How large is the Polish fleet? That is a consideration if Poland comes into the EU. How big does everything get?

There has been any amount of wringing of hands in the quarters of some Brussels apologists because the Norwegians have "failed" to vote to enter the Union. They have more sense than to do so. The Norwegian fishermen, especially, have more sense.

As there is to be delay in the introduction of the 1995 TACs, we have a golden chance to push for a new start. The proposals to reduce the plaice TAC by 47 per cent. and the sole TAC by 29 per cent. are alarming. We know that the scientists were in error over the quantity of stocks. No one doubts that scientific advice must inform quotas, but how are errors put right? Reference has rightly been made to the Ministry's laboratory at Lowestoft and the excellence of its scientific advice, but how are mistakes put right?

No one doubts the acceptance of a downturn in the plaice quota, but a reduction of the proposed magnitude defies belief. Lowestoft is the largest plaice port in England, but the quota is not always taken up. Restrictions mean that there are not enough boats to catch it. That is when swaps come in, mainly with Holland. There needs to be more flexibility within the system, more recognition of the effect of small boats and large boats and more recognition of the distorting effect of sector and non-sector differentials. There must be more recognition of the range of fishing activity from the north to the south of the North sea.

Similarly, there needs to be more recognition of the possibilities of swapping within United Kingdom areas before going outside them. Let us have more recognition of the point at which restrictions make earning a living impossible. There must be recognition of the unfairness of a policy that prohibits beam trawling in the plaice box off the Dutch coast, and of the difficulties of enforcement. One approach is to close the seas completely for certain periods for every boat, but let us compensate fishermen with a net aside to pay for it.

I am sorry that the reprieve that the court action on days-at-sea restrictions has given us has not been used to test the industry's solutions to the problem. We could have seen over the past 12 months if its ideas reduced effort, contributed to conservation and were workable, enforceable and fair. There seems sometimes to be a terrible desire on the part of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to produce bureaucratic decisions from desks rather than finding practical answers from the deck of a boat or on the market floor.

9.38 pm
Mr. Elliot Morley (Glanford and Scunthorpe)

The debate is perhaps one of the most important that we have had on fishing since the common fisheries policy was agreed in 1983. The Minister has told us that he does not want to put his cards on the table before negotiations take place. That is fair and understandable because he has to obtain the best deal possible, but it is fair and understandable also that the Minister should make it clear publicly what the bottom line is when it comes to a deal. It should be that we must recognise historical track records. We must recognise also that the Minister was wrong when he said that we cannot link days at sea with the issue that is before us. The Minister well knows that that is one of the issues that has been debated in terms of effort control.

My hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) talked about the importance of fishing to his community and to many others. We heard the hon. Member for South Down (Mr. O'Grady) speak of the importance of the issue that we are debating to his community in Northern Ireland. Many fishing communities have no alternative employment. We have heard about the importance of quotas to Northern Ireland fishing communities, which was also mentioned by the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace).

Let me say a little about total allowable catches. The debate has rightly been dominated by the accession issue, but there are other important issues that have an impact on the fishing industry, such as the severe cuts in North sea plaice and sole. I hope that the Minister will give careful consideration to those. Hake cuts have also been mentioned. The Spanish fish for hake in the bay of Biscay with mesh sizes of 55 mm, while in our waters we use mesh sizes of between 80 mm and 90 mm and square mesh panels of 80 mm. Many of us are disappointed that square mesh panels have not been introduced in the other European Community fishing nations.

As has been pointed out, if the Spanish and Portuguese gain access to the waters under the agreement, they can switch to non-quota stock species. The south-west has been affected by the current pressure exerted on stocks of sea bass by the French, which is causing great concern. Cornish Members will have seen an excellent letter from the Cornish branch of the National Federation of Sea Anglers, which demonstrated that the issue not only affects commercial fishermen but goes a good deal further.

There is also the issue of area VI, the west coast of Scotland, where advisory TACs have been applied. There is concern about the scale of the cuts in area VI, which other hon. Members have mentioned, and the fact that the TACs have been applied despite the comparative shortage of accurate scientific data. I hope that the Minister will consider the impact that that is having.

There have been some welcome increases in TACs, particularly the North sea nephrops quota, which has increased by 35 per cent. I raised the issue with the Minister in a written question on 24 October; it had been raised with me by Mr. Harold Musgrave of Maryport, a constituent of my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours). Mr. Musgrave, who operates from South Shields, will be particularly pleased that the quota for next year has been increased. I hope that the same will apply to other quotas.

Mr. Musgrave and many other people have mentioned the need to consider a separate quota for Fladden bank. That would help quota management. They have also referred to an issue that I have raised with the Minister before—the need to ban twin prawn trawls. There is a voluntary ban on such trawls for boats operating out of South Shields, which has been very successful. I feel that it should be extended around the coast; it is supported by many fishermen.

There is also the question of conservation practice and conservation gear, which is strongly supported by the industry and has worked effectively in fisheries management, as the Norwegians have shown. When we talk of the replacement of the Irish box and reduction of effort, conservation gear should be given a bit more consideration than the Commission, certainly, has given it. I believe that, through its representatives and associations, the industry has come up with serious, workable and practicable suggestions.

Mr. Ainger

Whatever conservation measures are suggested—and, perhaps, accepted and implemented—they will be worthless unless they are properly enforced, particularly in the light of the possibility of access for Spanish vessels to the Irish box. The conservation track record of the Spanish is appalling, as my hon. Friend knows. If certain trade-offs have to be made about access to the Irish box, should not the Minister take the opportunity next week to argue for a fully effective enforcement system?

Mr. Morley

That is an excellent point. The issue is, of course, crucial to fishermen in Pembroke, whom my hon. Friend defends both doughtily and regularly. I know that the Minister will want to examine the issue of enforcement, because we know of many examples of how the Spanish, in particular, have ignored proper fishing controls. That is one reason why there is so much concern about the current access negotiations.

I now return to the principles of relative stability and historical track records, which are two key elements that should defend the interests of British fishermen in the negotiations. The Minister has conceded that relative stability will be an important part of the negotiations, but we must recognise that if we increase the number of fishing boats in the Irish sea, there will be a knock-on effect on relative stability. The idea of historical track records has been recognised within the industry and has been used, for example, in agreeing extra fishing opportunities in north Norway. I do not see the problem that the Minister suggests arising from that.

The issue to which we must return, on which my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Dr. Strang) touched, is that of decommissioning. After two years, barely 5 per cent. of the capacity of our current United Kingdom fleet has been cut. The failure to meet multi-annual guidance programme targets will cost the industry money in grants towards marketing and also through the £28 million PESCA scheme, which the Minister has already mentioned. A little more than £6 million committed by the Government generates a scheme worth about £25 million over three years. We should contrast that with the position in Denmark, which has committed £125 million over three years. Removing boats is the only sure way to reduce effort—not letting more boats in, which is what we are discussing.

The House of Lords Select Committee recommended a scheme for this country worth about £100 million to make a meaningful impact on decommissioning, and that would need a Government contribution of about £30 million to attract the EC grant. We accept that £30 million is a large sum of money to find, and that it has to be budgeted for—but, coincidentally, £30 million was the sum given as a handout to the private hospital in Clydebank run by Health Care International. That was £30 million down the drain that could have made a significant contribution to an effective decommissioning scheme.

Mr. Phil Gallie (Ayr)


Mr. Morley

The Government should also examine the growth of industrial fishing, which has taken more than 50 per cent. by weight of the catch in the North sea—

Mr. Gallie

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Morley

The hon. Gentleman has not been here for the debate, and I am pressed for time.

The Minister will concede that the products of industrial fishing are used for substances such as fertiliser; they are even used in a power station in Denmark. The effect of such fishing on marine ecology is drastic, and the by-catches of the small-mesh nets used cannot be underestimated. The situation is not improved when the Government give grants to places such as a fish-meal factory in Grangemouth run by a Danish company, and when they grant increases in the quotas for fishing capelin.

Clearly, the big issue tonight concerns the Spanish and Portuguese accession agreements. They have worried many hon. Members on both sides of the House. The Opposition amendment recognises the need to protect our industry in every part of the United Kingdom, and the importance of the agreements to our fishing communities, especially those in the south and the south-west.

The hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Coe) had something to say about the vote on days at sea, but if he really wants to protect his local fishermen, he should support the Falmouth and Cambome Labour party, which has vociferously campaigned for his local fishing community. He should also support our amendment. There is little difference between our amendment and that tabled by the hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. Harris), whose integrity I fully recognise. The hon. Gentleman identified in particular areas VII a, f and g which are important to his local community, and our amendment would protect those communities, because we have specifically recognised the need to protect historical and local fishing patterns.

Mr. Coe

The hon. Gentleman is probably unaware that the president of the Falmouth and Camborne Labour party is the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), from that famous seafaring constituency, who has not been in the Chamber at all this evening to defend their interests.

Mr. Morley

As the hon. Gentleman has not spent half as much time in the Chamber as my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover, the Falmouth and Camborne party has shown that it has made the correct choice.

We are calling on hon. Members to support our amendment because our amendment clearly represents the feelings of hon. Members from all parties. Voting for our amendment tonight would strengthen the Minister's case when he goes to the Council because it would demonstrate clearly the strength of feeling in the House and the need for the Minister to protect the interests of British fishing.

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

First, I should like to thank very much those hon. Members who made kind references to my new status; perhaps the reception in Florida will be rather warmer than it is at the moment.

The traditional fishing motion before the December Council always sparks off a robust debate, and tonight has been no exception. I am glad that a number of hon. Members with fishing interests have been able to contribute to it. I agree with the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Dr. Strang) about the desirability of a full day's debate, in which all hon. Members with fishing interests could take part, but that is not a matter for me.

My hon. Friend the Minister of State has worked very hard indeed over recent months to achieve our current position and to rebut the first two presidency proposals. He and I will reflect very carefully on what has been said tonight before we go to the Council on Monday and Tuesday.

I do not follow the arguments of the hon. Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley), who replied for the Opposition. I should have thought that as the fishing industry has been exceptionally helpful over recent months in forming a united front with the Government to try to obtain the very best possible results from the European Union discussion, it would have been very much better if my hon. Friend and I were to go to Brussels next week with a united House behind us and with everyone determined that we should achieve the best possible for the fishing industry, which is the object of the exercise. I feel that, for the House to be divided tonight on the Opposition amendment, or indeed on other amendments that were not selected but which convey the same impression, would be most unfortunate.

The interest in the debate shows the continued importance of the fishing industry, which makes a tremendously valuable contribution to our economic well-being. All of us who are interested in the fishing industry know how much it means to the more remote areas where there is no alternative but fishing.

There are, of course, many concerns about the future of fishing, some of which have been articulated tonight, but it is sometimes easy to get the impression that the industry is hanging over a cliff-edge. Some key issues must certainly be resolved, especially the need to balance the fishing effort of our fleet with the fishing opportunities available to it.

Decommissioning was raised by a number of hon. Members. I believe that our £25 million scheme has been a big success. The first two tranches have taken out a significant percentage of the multi-annual guidance programme and we will remove about 6 per cent. over the whole scheme. It is worth recording that the Opposition have indicated that they are prepared to spend £75 million on a decommissioning scheme without saying where that sum will come from. However, more will need to be done at Community, national and industry level to ensure the sustainability of stock and we cannot look to instant solutions. I see no reason why the long-term future of the industry should not be bright.

The hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes), who was hopping up and down but now does not seem to realise that I am speaking to him, should have confidence on the issue of area VI and the quotas. We will discuss that issue in detail next week. The 1994 TAC was 13,000 tonnes. That figure is recommended by the Commission for discussion next week, and we shall watch that very closely indeed, as we did in respect of nephrops in other parts of Scotland and the United Kingdom. We were able to obtain additional quota, which was most important, over the past month.

My hon. Friend the Member for Cornwall, South-East (Mr. Hicks) pleaded for regional issues and the position of areas VII a, f and g. I assure him that we will watch those matters very closely indeed. If we can achieve all that he wants, I am sure that he will be the first to say thank you.

The hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) was wrong on several counts. There is no question of the Spaniards coming into the North sea for any stock unless a British licence is sold to a Spanish boat. It is wrong for the hon. Gentleman to continue to raise that issue, because the Spaniards do not have a track record in that respect. There is no question of my hon. Friend the Minister climbing down. He has been right at the front, leading the charge at each Council meeting in September and November, when we were able to reverse the policies that were on the table.

Again, the hon. Member for Great Grimsby was highly critical of policing matters. I know that the issue of the Spanish boats is difficult, but the hon. Gentleman must also give tremendous credit to our fisheries protection vessels, both at sea and in the air. They have had great success. Courts in Scotland have convicted offenders, imposing large fines on the Spaniards.

My hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Mr. Trotter) made an important point about directives. We will bring his remarks to the attention of my colleagues in the Department of Transport and discuss further the medical stores and other matters that he raised. My hon. Friend was right to highlight the issue of prawn fishing and how we were able to obtain extra quota, particularly for the Fladden grounds, which will have an important impact on North Shields.

The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) was right to say that we must not give away our negotiating position. We do not intend to do so, however much the hon. Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe says that we should give a bottom line. The last thing that we want to give is a bottom line. We will be way above it. There is no use in negotiating from a bottom line. I agree that we do not want to be tied down. We will see what comes out of the negotiations.

My hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives (Mr. Harris) is wise and experienced in this issue. It will be a tough negotiation, but we are going to try to get the very best out of it that we possibly can. My hon. Friend has confidence in our hon. Friend the Minister. We will fight a very hard battle in Brussels next week.

I advise the right hon. Member for Strangford (Mr. Taylor) and the hon. Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady) that we were helped in the negotiations by officials from the Northern Ireland Office and by my noble Friend Lady Denton. We will keep a very close watch on quotas. I have been looking at the proposed cod quotas for area VII a, which is down from 6,200 tonnes to 5,600 tonnes. We will negotiate on that issue next week, and we will do the very best that we possibly can for Northern Irish fishermen.

Opposition Members must realise that the negotiations next week will be critical. The diplomatic stakes are very high. It is no use Opposition Members expecting us to show our hand tonight. We will argue the case for the very best results for our fishermen, who deserve and are receiving the Government's support in terms of the money that we are putting into fishing, including, as I announced yesterday, large grants to three fishing ports in Scotland, which was good news for them. I should like to think that hon. Members on both sides of the House will be behind us when we go to Brussels to achieve the best result for Britain and Britain's fisherman.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 270, Noes 298.

Division No. 24] [21.59 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Allen, Graham
Adams, Mrs Irene Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)
Ainger, Nick Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale)
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Armstrong, Hilary
Ashton, Joe Flynn, Paul
Austin-Walker, John Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Foster, Don (Bath)
Barron, Kevin Foulkes, George
Barnes, Harry Fraser, John
Battle, John Fyfe, Maria
Bayley, Hugh Galloway, George
Beith, Rt Hon A J Gapes, Mike
Bell, Stuart George, Bruce
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Gerrard, Neil
Bennett, Andrew F Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Bermingham, Gerald Godsiff, Roger
Berry, Roger Golding, Mrs Llin
Betts. Clive Gordon, Mildred
Blunkett, David Graham, Thomas
Boateng, Paul Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Boyes, Roland Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Bray, Dr Jeremy Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Brown, Gordon (Dunfermline E) Grocott, Bruce
Brown, N (N'c'tle upon Tyne E) Gunnell, John
Burden, Richard Hain, Peter
Byers, Stephen Hall, Mike
Caborn, Richard Hanson, David
Callaghan, Jim Hardy, Peter
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Harman, Ms Harriet
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Harvey, Nick
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Campbell-Savours, D N Henderson, Doug
Canavan, Dennis Heppell, John
Cann, Jamie Hill, Keith (Streatham)
Carlile, Alexander (Montgomry) Hinchliffe, David
Carttiss, Michael Hodge, Margaret
Chidgey, David Hoey, Kate
Chisholm, Malcolm Hogg, Norman (Cumbernauld)
Church, Judith Home Robertson, John
clapham, Michael Hood, Jimmy
Clark, Dr David (South Shields) Hoon, Geoffrey
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian) Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)
clelland, David Hoyle, Doug
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Coffey, Ann Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Cohen, Harry Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Connarty, Michael Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Hutton, John
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Illsley, Eric
Corbett, Robin Ingram, Adam
Corbyn, Jeremy Jackson, Glenda (H'stead)
Corston, Jean Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H)
Cousins, Jim Jamieson, David
Cox, Tom Janner, Greville
Cummings, John Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side)
Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE) Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr John Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O)
Dalyell, Tam Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW)
Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral) Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Jowell, Tessa
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'I) Keen, Alan
Denham, John Kennedy, Charles (Ross,C&S)
Dewar, Donald Kennedy, Jane (Lpool Brdgn)
Dixon, Don Khabra, Piara S
Dobson, Frank Kilfoyle, Peter
Donohoe, Brian H Kirkwood, Archy
Dowd, Jim Lestor, Joan (Eccles)
Dunnachie, Jimmy Lewis, Terry
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth Liddell, Mrs Helen
Eagle, Ms Angela Litherland, Robert
Eastham, Ken Livingstone, Ken
Enright, Derek Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Etherington, Bill Llwyd, Elfyn
Evans, John (St Helens N) McAllion, John
Ewing, Mrs Margaret McAvoy, Thomas
Fatchett, Derek McCartney, Ian
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Macdonald, Calum
Fisher, Mark McFall, John
McGrady, Eddie Rendel, David
McKelvey, William Robertson, George(Hamilton)
Mackinlay, Andrew Robinson, Geoffrey(Co'try NW)
McLeish, Henry Roche, Mrs Barbara
McNamara, Kevin Rogers, Allan
MacShane, Denis Ross, Ernie(Dundee W)
McWilliam, John Rowlands, Ted
Madden, Max Ruddock, Joan
Maddock, Diana Salmond, Alex
Mahon, Alice Sedgemore, Brian
Mandelson, Peter Sheerman, Barry
Marek, DrJohn Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S) Short, Clare
Martin, Michael J (Springburn) Simpson, Alan
Martlew, Eric Skinner, Dennis
Maxton, John Smith, Andrew(Oxford E)
Meacher, Michael Smith, Chris(lsl'ton S amp; F'sbury)
Meale, Alan Smith, Llew(Blaenau Gwent)
Michael, Alun Soley, Clive
Michie, Bill(Sheffield Heeley) Spearing, Nigel
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute) Spellar, John
Milburn, Alan Squire, Rachel (Dunfermline W)
Miller, Andrew Stevenson, George
Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby) Stott, Roger
Moonie, Dr Lewis Strang, Dr.Gavin
Morgan, Rhodri Straw, Jack
Morley, Elliot Sutcliffe, Gerry
Morris, Rt Hon Alfred(Wy'nshawe) Taylor, Mrs Ann(Dewsbury)
Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley) Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon) Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Mowlam, Marjorie Timms, Stephen
Mudie, George Turner, Dennis
Mullin, Chris Tyler, Paul
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Vaz, Keith
O'Brien, Mike (N W'kshire) Walker, Rt Hon Sir Harold
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton) Wallace, James
O'Hara, Edward Walley, Joan
Olner, Bill Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
O'Neill, Martin Wareing, Robert N
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Watson, Mike
Parry, Robert Welsh, Andrew
Patchett, Terry Wicks, Malcolm
Pickthall, Colin Wigley, Dafydd
Pike, Peter L Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)
Pope, Greg Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)
Powell, Ray (Ogmore) Wilson, Brian
Prentice, Bridget(Lew'm E) Winnick, David
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle) Wise, Audrey
Prescott, Rt Hon John Worthington, Tony
Primarolo, Dawn Wray, Jimmy
Purchase, Ken Wright, Dr Tony
Quin, Ms Joyce Young, David (Bolton SE)
Radice, Giles
Randall, Stuart Tellers for the Ayes:
Raynsford, Nick Mr.Gordon McMaster and
Reid, Dr John Mr.Joe Benton.
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) Banks, Robert (Harrogate)
Aitken, Rt Hon Jonathan Bates, Michael
Alexander, Richard Batiste, Spencer
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby) Bellingham, Henry
Allason, Rupert (Torbay) Bendall, Vivian
Amess, David Beresford, Sir Paul
Arbuthnot, James Biffen, Rt Hon John
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Bonsor, Sir Nicholas
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv) Booth, Hartley
Ashby, David Boswell, Tim
Aspinwall, Jack Bottomley, Peter (Eltham)
Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E) Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Bowden, SirAndrew
Baker, Rt Hon K (Mole Valley) Bowis, John
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North) Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes
Baldry, Tony Brandreth, Gyles
Banks, Matthew (Southport) Brazier, Julian
Bright, Sir Graham Grylls, Sir Michael
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Brown, M (Brigg & Cl'thorpes) Hague, William
Browning, Mrs. Angela Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archibald
Bruce, Ian (Dorset) Hampson, Dr Keith
Burns, Simon Hanley, Rt Hon Jeremy
Burt, Alistair Hannann, Sir John
Butcher, John Hargreaves, Andrew
Butler, Peter Harris, David
Butterfill, John Haselhurst, Alan
Carlisle, John (Luton North) Hawkins, Nick
Carlisle, Sir Kenneth (Lincoln) Hawksley, Warren
Carrington, Matthew Hayes, Jerry
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Heald, Oliver
Churchill, Mr Heath, Rt Hon Sir Edward
Clappison, James Heathcoat-Amory, David
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Hendry, Charles
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ru'clif) Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Hicks, Robert
Coe, Sebastian Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence
Colvin, Michael Hill, James (Southampton Test)
Congdon, David Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham)
Conway, Derek Horam, John
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Hordem, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John Howard, RtHonMichael
Corrnack, Patrick Howarth, Alan(Strat'rd-on-A)
Couchman, James Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford
Cran, James Howell, Sir Ralph (N Norfolk)
Currie, Mrs Edwina (SD'by'ire) Hughes, Robert G (Harrow W)
Davies, Quentin (Stamford) Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)
Davis, David(Boothferry) Hunt, Sir John(Ravensbourne)
Day, Stephen Hunter, Andrew
Deva, Nirj Joseph Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Devlin, Tim Jack, Michael
Dicks, Terry Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen Jenkin, Bernard
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Jessel, Toby
Duncan, Alan Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Duncan Smith, Iain Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Dunn, Bob Jones, Robert B (W Hertfdshr)
Durant, Sir Anthony Key, Robert
Dykes, Hugh Kilfedder, Sir James
Eggar, Tim King, Rt Hon Tom
Elletson, Harold Kirkhope, Timothy
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter Knapman, Roger
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield) Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)
Evans, Jonathan (Brecon) Knight, Greg (Derby N)
Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley) Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n)
Evans, Roger (Mon mouth) Knox, Sir David
Evennett, David Kynoch, George (Kincardine)
Faber, David Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Fabricant, Michael Lang, Rt Hon Ian
Fenner, Dame Peggy Lawrence, Sir Ivan
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) Legg, Barry
Fishburn, Dudley Leigh, Edward
Forman, Nigel Lennox-Boyd, Sir Mark
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Forth, Eric Lidington, David
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring) Lloyd, Rt Hon Peter (Fareham)
Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley) Lord, Michael
Freeman, Rt Hon Roger Luff, Peter
French, Douglas Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Fry, Sir Peter MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Gale, Roger MacKay, Andrew
Gallie, Phil Maclean, David
Gardiner, Sir George McLoughlin, Patrick
Garel-Jones, Rt Hon Tristan McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick
Garnier, Edward Madel, Sir David
Gillan, Cheryl Maitland, Lady Olga
Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair Major, Rt Hon John
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles Malone, Gerald
Gorst, Sir John Mans, Keith
Grant, Sir A (Cambs SW) Marland, Paul
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N) Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Greenway, John (Ryedale) Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Mates, Michael Soames, Nicholas
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Dr Brian Spencer, Sir Derek
Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset)
Mellor, Rt Hon David Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Merchant, Piers Spink, Dr Robert
Mills, Iain Spring, Richard
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Sproat, Iain
Mitchell, Sir David (Hants NW) Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)
Moate, SirRoger Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Monro, Sir Hector Steen, Anthony
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Stephen, Michael
Moss, Malcolm Stewart, Allan
Needham, Rt Hon Richard Streeter, Gary
Nelson, Anthony Sumberg, David
Neubert, Sir Michael Sweeney, Walter
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Sykes, John
Nicholls, Patrick Tapsell, Sir Peter
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West) Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Norris, Steve Temple-Morris, Peter
Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley Thomason, Roy
Oppenheim, Phillip Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)
Ottaway, Richard Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Page, Richard Thumham, Peter
Paice, James Townsend, John (Bridlington)
Patnick, Sir Irvine Townsend, Cyril D (Boxl'yn'th)
Patten, Rt Hon John Tracey, Richard
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Trend, Michael
Pawsey, James Trotter, Neville
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Twinn, Dr Ian
Porter, Barry (Wirral S) Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Porter, David (Waveney) Viggers, Peter
Portillo, Rt Hon Michael Walden, George
Powell, William (Corby) Walker, Bill (N Tayside)
Rathbone, Tim Waller, Gary
Redwood, Rt Hon John Ward, John
Renton, Rt Hon Tim Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Richards, Rod Waterson, Nigel
Riddick, Graham Watts, John
Robathan, Andrew Wells, Bowen
Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn Wheeler, Rt Hon Sir John
Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S) Whitney, Ray
Robinson, Mark (Somerton) Whittingdale, John
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne) Widdecombe, Ann
Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela Wiggin, Sir Jerry
Ryder, Rt Hon Richard Willetts, David
Sackville, Tom Wilshire, David
Sainsbury, Rt Hon Tim Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)
Shaw, David (Dover) Wolfson, Mark
Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey) Wood, Timothy
Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian Yeo, Tim
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Shersby, Michael
Sims, Roger Tellers for the Noes:
Skeet, Sir Trevor Mr.David Lightbown and
Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick) Mr.Sydney Chapman.

Question accordingly negatived.

Main Question agreed to.

Resolved, That this House takes note of the unnumbered Explanatory Memoranda submitted by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on 8th December 1994, relating to the renewal of fishing arrangements for vessels from European Community countries other than Spain and Portugal in Spanish and Portuguese waters, and for Portuguese vessels in the waters of those other countries and relating to European Community quotas for 1995 in the waters of Guyana; on 12th December 1994 relating to proposals for reciprocal access and 1995 quotas in the Baltic (with Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland and Russia) and with the Faroe Islands; proposals allocating European Community quotas for 1995 in the waters of Iceland and Greenland, and a proposal fixing catch possibilities in 1995 for North West Atlantic Fisheries Organisation waters; and on 13th December 1994 relating to total allowable catches for 1995 and proposals fixing 1995 opportunities and reciprocal arrangements relating to Norway; and supports the Government's intention to negotiate the best possible fishing opportunities, and to protect the interests of British fishermen in these negotiations and in those providing for the integration of Spain and Portugal in the Common Fisheries Policy.