HC Deb 19 December 1995 vol 268 cc1348-409

[Relevant documents: European Community Documents Nos. 10409/95, on the annual report by the Commission on the multi-annual guidance programme, 10862/95 relating to guide prices for fishery products in 1996, the unnumbered Explanatory Memoranda submitted by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on 27th November 1995 relating to the EC/Morocco Fisheries Agreement, on 12th December 1995 relating to the Community observer scheme in North West Atlantic Fisheries Organisation (NAFO) waters, on 12th December 1995 relating to joint international inspection in NAFO waters, on 12th December 1995 relating to control measures in NAFO waters, on 12th December 1995 on a pilot satellite tracking project in NAFO waters, on 12th December 1995 relating to Community catch possibilities in NAFO waters for 1996, on 12th December 1995 relating to reciprocal access and 1996 quotas with Norway, and on 12th December 1995 on amendments to the criteria for the decommissioning of fishing vessels.]

Madam Speaker

I have selected the amendment in the name of the Leader of the Opposition.

There is great pressure to speak in the debate, so I have imposed a 10-minute limit on all Back-Bench speeches. I plead with Front Benchers to keep in mind the number of hon. Members who I know wish to speak.

3.33 pm
The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Michael Forsyth)

I beg to move,

That this House takes note of the unnumbered Explanatory Memorandum, submitted by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on 8th December 1995, relating to the fixing of total allowable catches for 1996 and certain conditions under which they may be fished; and supports the Government's intention to negotiate the best possible fishing opportunities for British fishermen consistent with scientific advice and the need to sustain the stocks for the benefit of future generations of fishermen. On Thursday the Fisheries Ministers of the European Union will meet to decide the 1996 quotas for fish stocks. Today's debate allows the House to consider these matters and to scrutinise the relevant documents, which are set out in the Order Paper. Already this year the House has had a number of debates on fisheries. Earlier in the year and again in October, it considered proposals for limiting fishing effort in waters west of the United Kingdom. More recently my hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) succeeded in raising his concerns about the common fisheries policy in an Adjournment debate.

The main focus for today's debate are the proposals which the Council of Fisheries Ministers will consider later this week in Brussels to determine the fishing opportunities for the various fleets of the Community next year. I am delighted to have this opportunity to open the debate. As I made plain when I attended the meeting of the Council of Fisheries Ministers in October when the final critical decisions were taken on the arrangements for western waters, I attach great importance to the prospects for the industry which is so important to remote communities, not just in Scotland but around the whole coastline of the United Kingdom.

I was brought up in Arbroath on the north-east coast of Scotland and I well recall the vibrancy of the harbour and the fish market, and the community spirit that was encapsulated in the local fishing fleet. It is a great sadness to me personally to see how the industry has changed over the past 20 years. Looking back only 10 or 15 years, one sees that the volume of the main white fish landings in the United Kingdom was little short of twice the volume that we can expect next year.

If there is to be a single measure of the success of the European common fisheries policy it should be the health of our fish stocks. On that, plainly, the jury is still out. Some 60 per cent. of those stocks are considered by the scientists to be at risk biologically. That means that the stocks are below or at about the lowest level which has been seen over the 30 years during which they have been subject to close scientific monitoring. That statistic tells its own story about the performance of the common fisheries policy.

Some hon. Members may argue that the state of the stocks is not as bad as the scientists advise. There may be some truth in that because fishery science is not an exact science. At the Council we shall certainly take into account the views of the fishermen in pressing for changes to the Commission's proposals, but I do not think that anyone can dispute the overall conclusion that our stocks are not in the same healthy state as they were 10 or 15 years ago.

Mr. Christopher Gill (Ludlow)

Does my right hon. Friend accept that the fundamental problem with the common fisheries policy is the principle of equal access to the common resource? Does he agree that that works very much to the detriment of the British fishing industry? Will he assure the House that the Government will go to the intergovernmental conference next year determined to see this written out of the regulations? Will they serve notice now on our European partners that that is our bottom line?

Mr. Forsyth

I have considerable sympathy with what my hon. Friend says. I think his point is that the idea of equal access to a common resource is more of an aspiration than a reality. In practice the principle of relative stability, for example, has been contrary to that. I assure my hon. Friend that the Minister of State will fight hard for British interests at the Council meeting, as he has always done in the past.

Mr. Gill

I thank my right hon. Friend for giving way again. I listened with interest to his answer but I should like to press him on the point. Will he serve notice now on our European partners that we will accept nothing less than a writing out of the fisheries regulations all the references to equal access to a common resource?

Mr. Forsyth

We have never had equal access and we have no intention of accepting that principle. I hope that that helps my hon. Friend to some degree.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)

I am most grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way—he has been most courteous as usual. Is not the fundamental problem that fisheries policy is subject to qualified majority voting? For the British, who have maritime interests just like the Icelanders and Norwegians, of paramount national importance is the fact that land-locked countries such as Luxembourg and Austria, and Mediterranean countries too, can have a vote on our Atlantic fisheries, which is clearly preposterous.

Mr. Forsyth

I read with interest my hon. Friend's comments in the Adjournment debate that he secured some weeks ago. I can say to him only that there are, of course, deficiencies in the common fisheries policy, but that, at the end of the day, we simply must find a means whereby we can meet the requirements to conserve stocks. Whatever the system, whether we are out of the CFP or not, we will have to proceed by negotiation and agreement. There is the opportunity for my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to achieve a good deal for Britain's fishermen. I am sure that he will take that opportunity when it comes.

Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)

While my right hon. Friend is giving way, it is probably helpful if he gets interventions out of the way at the same time. My hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Mr. Gill) talked about the intergovernmental conference. I do not think that anyone in the House finds the common fisheries policy satisfactory. Will my right hon. Friend give the House an undertaking that the Government will consider putting the problems of that policy before the IGC?

Mr. Forsyth

I am not sure what my hon. Friend is seeking to get me to do. If he is suggesting that we should seek to amend the treaty, with his own knowledge of these matters, he will know how difficult that would be to achieve, and I will deal with that later. Of course, there is the opportunity by regulation—which, as has been pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood, requires agreement by qualified majority voting—for us to achieve the forms and changes. I hope that I will take those opportunities, as will my hon. Friend the Minister of State as the negotiations proceed.

There is only one answer to our predicament: the need for more effective conservation. Fishing activity is the single biggest factor in deciding the fish mortality level. We must collectively face up to the need to reduce fishing's impact on fish stocks. The need to limit fishing activity's scope was recognised many years ago, long before the United Kingdom joined the European Economic Community, and well before the common fisheries policy was agreed. In the 1960s, the establishment of the North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission brought together the countries in this part of the world to co-operate on fish stocks conservation. That commission, not the European Commission, brought together Fisheries Ministers, with the benefit of scientific advice, to decide total allowable catches for the main stocks of interest to the commercial fishing fleets.

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

If the Secretary of State is not going to campaign for radical common fisheries policy reform by way, for example, of greater emphasis on regional and national management of local fisheries stocks, will he give the House an assurance that he will campaign for far tougher policing on fishing grounds? What discussions has he had recently with Norwegian authorities in terms of tougher policing, the doubling of fines, the confiscation of licences and the banning sine die of vessels caught fishing illegally?

Mr. Forsyth

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that it is important that we have effective enforcement. We are spending some £26 million on that and my hon. Friend the Minister is anxious to improve our performance in that matter. The hon. Gentleman makes an important point.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

On the scientific aspects of the matter, what will be done to induce Poland, Japan and Korea to become signatories to the United Nations conference on straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks, an important resolution that we have agreed and that they have not?

Mr. Forsyth

The hon. Gentleman is raising a slightly different issue from that which we are discussing this afternoon, but he makes a crucial point: the importance of international co-operation in dealing with fish stocks and of recognising in this debate that fish do not recognise international boundaries. Despite that fact, I am sure that—with your indulgence, Madam Speaker—my hon. Friend the Minister of State will address the hon. Gentleman's question when he winds up the debate.

The proposals that Fisheries Ministers—

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan)


Mr. Forsyth

I shall give way, but for the last time.

Mr. Salmond

Many observers would accept the fact that Spain, from within the European Union, and Norway, negotiating from outside, seem to be remarkably more successful in achieving their fisheries objectives than are Her Majesty's Government. Can the Secretary of State explain why, and tell us what he intends to do about it?

Mr. Forsyth

As on so many subjects, such as the Scottish budget, I refute the hon. Gentleman's analysis. He lives in a world in which he believes what he wants to believe; he does not seem to take account of the facts.

The proposals—

Mr. Calum Macdonald (Western Isles)


Mr. Forsyth

I said that I was giving way for the last time, but as it is the hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Macdonald) who wishes to intervene, I shall make an exception. But this really is the last time.

Mr. Macdonald

With regard to the imbalance in enforcement between Spain and the United Kingdom, why is it justifiable and acceptable to the British Government that Spain has only 12 fisheries officers to police its regime, whereas we have more than 200?

Mr. Forsyth

The hon. Gentleman is not right about that.

Dr. Godman

He is.

Mr. Forsyth

He is not. The Spanish have been increasing the number of their fisheries officers—[HON. MEMBERS: "How many are there?"] However, I certainly share the hon. Gentleman's concern that that should be done, and my hon. Friend—[Interruption.] I do not know what Opposition Members are shouting about. They were the first to come forward and argue for Spanish accession, and I do not recall any of them saying anything about fishing during those debates.

The proposals that Fisheries Ministers will consider this week—

Rev. Ian Paisley (North Antrim)

If what the Secretary of State says is true, why does the European Community's own document inform us that the annual number of surveillance hours by Spain is 50, whereas for our country the figure is 4,800 hours?

Mr. Forsyth

Well—[Interruption.] Any advance on 50? I said that the numbers were increasing and I entirely agree about the importance of that development. Opposition Members' concern for the policing of fisheries interests is somewhat belated—I shall deal with that subject later.

The proposals that Fisheries Ministers will consider this week are, and have to be, based on the scientific advice received by the Advisory Committee on Fisheries Management. The United Kingdom plays a full part in contributing to that international scientific advice.

The advice that we received this year points to the need for major new restrictions on catches of herring and mackerel, and on the plaice fisheries in the North sea. The scientists have also advised that we should continue to restrict catches of the main round fish stocks—scod, haddock and whiting—throughout the seas around the United Kingdom.

The Commission has had to take account of that advice in developing its own proposals. For stocks that the Community manages jointly with Norway, there has been a series of bilateral negotiations, which were conducted toughly on both sides. The agreement reached in the early morning of 9 December provides for a two-year programme of phased cuts in the total allowable catch for herring, mackerel and plaice. The cuts in quota for those species next year will be about 30 per cent. The agreement also provides for broadly stable TACs for cod, haddock and saithe, but for a significant cut in the North sea whiting catch.

Mr. John Townend (Bridlington)

Will the Secretary of State give way?

Mr. Forsyth

I said that I would not give way again. I shall give way to my hon. Friend, but this really must be the last time, Madam Speaker.

Mr. Townend

I have some sympathy with my right hon. Friend; he cannot be blamed for the betrayal of the British fishing industry by the former Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath). Does my right hon. Friend accept that the common fisheries policy, as based on the representations of the scientists, proves that the fisheries policy has been an unmitigated disaster?

If the system had worked, we would have seen quotas increasing year on year. But when it dictates that tens of thousands of good fish be discarded back into the sea to die, there is something wrong with it. Surely the final nail must be when the House legislates to protect the British fishing industry, and is then taken to court and asked to pay £30 million in damages. That is surely the end.

Mr. Forsyth

It is not within the power of this House to legislate to put more fish in the sea. Our basic problem is that we are having to deal with too many people chasing too few fish. I do not think that the sort of comments which my hon. Friend the Member for Bridlington (Mr. Townend) has made about my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath) add to the debate or get us further forward in seeking to address the difficult problems. Whether we were in the CFP or not, the issue of stocks would have to be addressed, and I hope that we can turn our attention to that matter this afternoon. The other fishing opportunities which the Community has negotiated with third countries, such. as Iceland, the Faroes, Greenland, in the north-west Atlantic and north Norway offer our fishermen broadly the same opportunities as applied this year. Fisheries Ministers in the United Kingdom have maintained a close dialogue with the fishing industry throughout the run-up to the negotiations in the Council, and the Government will have regard to the advice that we have received from the industry.

We recognise that the cuts implied by the Commission's proposals entail sharp and large reductions in quotas and, in the short term, such swings must undermine confidence. We recognise that these cuts in quotas will have serious implications for fishermen's incomes, and all of us are sympathetic to their position. Some of the cuts will be offset by increases in prices, and that is apparent in the mackerel market at least.

My hon. Friend the Minister of State will be fighting hard to get the best deal possible for our fishermen, consistent with the need to protect the longer-term interests of the industry. I am also aware that hon. Members have a number of specific concerns on matters of particular interest to the fishermen in East Anglia, in the south-west of England and in Northern Ireland. My hon. Friend will of course address these.

The Government share the values of the British fishermen. We respect their qualities of independence, enterprise and self-reliance. We believe in minimising the burden of regulation by the state, and allowing fishermen as much freedom as possible within the constraints necessary to conserve fish stocks. We demonstrated that only days ago when we withdrew the obligation on fishermen to report in as they crossed the 4 deg. west line in the north of Scotland.

I am well aware that many fishermen do not believe that they have been well served by the Community's common fisheries policy. Most of them recognise that the CFP has not been successful in conserving fish stocks. They point to the burden of regulation under which they now work. They do not believe that that burden is being applied fairly throughout the Community. They feel that their fishing rights are increasingly insecure because they believe that the CFP is founded on a principle of equal access by all Community fishermen to fish stocks throughout the Community waters. My hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Mr. Gill) made that point.

I understand fishermen's fears, but we should not underestimate our success in maintaining relative stability, in limiting access to our territorial waters and in applying effective controls on Spanish access and fishing efforts in western waters. These are successes which we have achieved within the Community, and which cut across the principle of equal access.

Those who argue that we could deal with these threats to the rights of our fishermen by abandoning the CFP need to consider carefully the practicalities and the costs of that course. I am sure that my hon. Friends who advocate this do not want the UK to act in breach of treaty obligations entered into with the approval of the House. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh yes we do."] My hon. Friends are the first to argue for the rule of law.

Renegotiating the treaty to exclude fisheries from the scope of Community competence would be a monumental and probably impossible task. It would require unanimity and ratification by all member states, and that could be bought only at a huge price. We cannot assume that we would be successful in such a high-risk strategy. Reforming the CFP only requires changes in regulations by qualified majority voting. We also need to recognise the practical needs of managing fish stocks that we share with our neighbours, which means that some sort of common fisheries policy will still be needed.

Mr. Austin Mitchell (Great Grimsby)

Will the Secretary of State give way?

Mr. Forsyth

I have been generous in giving way, and Madam Speaker is keen that we make progress. I know that the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) does not share the view of Opposition Front-Bench Members on these matters.

It would be far more realistic and effective to work for improvements within the CFP, and that is our strategy. Those who argue that we should seek to co-operate behind the barriers of 200-mile fisheries limits must have forgotten the lessons learnt painfully during the early years of the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission. The common fisheries policy offers us a substantial improvement on the voluntary and ineffective system epitomised by the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission. Those who think that Norway offers us a model for managing our fisheries should study that model more closely before they assume that it could be easily or costlessly replicated here.

The fishing industry does not need bogus options. What is needed is the courage to face up to the real issues, and to recognise the practical realities and the real opportunities to improve the working of the common fisheries policy. That is why Fisheries Ministers have initiated a review of the CFP. This is a review not by the Commission, but by an independent British group. It has been drawn from the fishing industry, the processors, the scientists and the environmental interests. I understand that members of that independent group expect to report early next year. I look forward to seeing their findings, because there will be opportunities to carry forward changes to the CFP without waiting till the next major review, in 2002.

That is also why the Government have committed substantial sums—£53 million over five years—to decommissioning older fishing vessels, and reducing fishing capacity towards the targets which we have accepted in the multi-annual guidance programme. It is also why the Government have led the fight to resist the cumbersome and bureaucratic proposals that the Commission advances for fisheries management, most recently for regulating fishing efforts in western waters. My hon. Friend the Minister of State will be able to talk about some of those initiatives and opportunities later in the debate.

Underpinning all that work is a fundamental need to ensure that the fishermen and their representatives are drawn more closely into the process of managing their fisheries. That is something to which Fisheries Ministers in the United Kingdom are firmly committed.

I despair of the Opposition amendments. This month the Liberals are suggesting that we advance the next review of the CFP. Only last month, the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) saw no need for that in an Adjournment debate.

Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland)

indicated dissent.

Mr. Michael Forsyth

The hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but he said:

The common fisheries policy should comprise a host of other detailed matters. I welcome the review group and look forward with interest to the outcome. The year 2002 will come upon us sooner than we think, and we must begin to put in place the measures that we want to see by then."—[Official Report, 22 November 1995; Vol. 267, c. 585.] As for Labour, whose members pose as the fishermen's friend, what has it understood about fisheries policy? Nothing that I can see in the amendment. What has it to contribute to the reform of the CFP? Does not it recall its acquiescence in the 1986 Iberian Treaty of Accession? The hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) said:

We welcome the accession of Spain and Portugal. It is the right move for the Community and for Spain and Portugal. We welcome it because we recognise the merits of those two new democracies joining the rest of Europe and facing Europe's problems with us. He continued:

The Opposition do not welcome accession blindly, ignorantly or oblivious of the difficulties and anxieties."—[Official Report, 10 December 1985; Vol. 88, c. 883.] The Opposition seem all too keen to gainsay what the hon. Gentleman said then. That treaty provided for the special protection of the Irish box to end at the end of this year. If the Government had done nothing, the Spanish boats would have been free to enter the whole of the Irish box outside territorial waters. Do not the Opposition understand that the deal that we negotiated last year maintains some protection for these sensitive waters; that it maintains the exclusion of the Spanish from the North sea; that it caps Spanish fishing effort in the west at the levels provided for in their Act of Accession? There is no Spanish armada, and that is a measure of our success: not walking away from the CFP but improving it from within.

What of conservation? I do not recall much about that in the Labour party's last manifesto—(Interruption.] The hon. Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley) knows that there was nothing in it. Nor was there anything in the manifesto for the European Parliament, or in Labour's actions when in office during the 1970s. Indeed, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Dr. Strang) was a Minister at the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food at the time. I do not recall that he or his colleagues did much to assist the fishing industry then.

Of course we recognise the need for effective conservation. We have committed £53 million to decommissioning. We have pursued the difficult agenda of limiting fishing effort.

There is a difference between the amendments tabled by my hon. Friends and the Opposition Front-Bench amendment. My hon. Friends are motivated by conviction and a passionate concern to ensure that the Government fight for British interests. I am prepared to accept that some Labour Members are similarly motivated; but the amendment in the name of the Leader of the Opposition is in another league altogether. It seeks to criticise the Government for not getting a good enough deal for our fishermen, yet every time the Government put the UK's interests first and fight for them, Labour leaders are to be found lining up with their socialist friends on the continent to denounce Britain for standing alone. When the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East and his colleagues were in office, so afraid were they of standing up to our partners that they allowed Brussels to filch massive sums from the pockets of UK taxpayers. Only when Baroness Thatcher took office was a substantial rebate secured.

To be fair, a handful of Opposition Members could, in all sincerity, have put their names to the amendment—but they are not among those whose names appear on the Order Paper. The amendment has not been framed to keep the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) on side—far from it. It is simply a squalid exercise in synthetic patriotism by those whose sole objective is to try to entice some of my hon. Friends to withhold their support from the Government, so that the Opposition can hasten the day when they obtain power to deliver these islands, lock, stock and barrel, to the forces of federalism.

It is nauseating to see the party which for decades has clothed itself in the red flag now seeking to wrap itself in the Union flag; whereas in reality Labour would sail under a white flag and be forced to abandon our fishermen to the party's vision of an ever more integrated Europe.

I am the first to acknowledge the degree of concern among my hon. Friends. I must tell them and the communities they represent that we understand their anxieties, and that we have fought, and will always fight, for their right to fish the waters around our shores—consistent with maintaining adequate fish stocks. My hon. Friends' determination will command respect among the fishing communities of Britain, but I appeal to them not to risk compromising that respect by associating themselves with a bunch of sell-out merchants whose earlier crimes have already resulted in a sentence of 16 years on the Opposition Benches. Nothing in their behaviour suggests that they deserve any remission; indeed an extension of the sentence would seem to be the only answer.

The Minister of State will speak for the United Kingdom's fishermen. He will fight for their interests and for those of the United Kingdom generally. Let this House send out the clearest signal that we are united in our determination not just to get the best deal on quotas but to achieve a long-term solution which offers this vital industry the security that it deserves.

4.3 pm

Dr. Gavin Strang (Edinburgh, East)

I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof: believes that the agreements of the Council of Fisheries Ministers, allowing Spanish fishing vessels into the Irish Box and allowing increased access for Spanish fishing vessels to the waters of the west of the United Kingdom, present an unacceptable threat to the long-term economic viability of fishing communities in England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland, and place unsustainable pressure upon the fish stocks in these already sensitive waters; recognises the failure of the United Kingdom Government to implement a decommissioning policy until 1993, and notes that Ministers only abandoned their unfair, unpopular and unworkable days-at-sea proposal after the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations challenged the Government in the European Court of Justice; concludes that the United Kingdom Government has not effectively represented in Europe the interests of the United Kingdom fishing industry, and has failed to implement in the United Kingdom a fisheries policy that is in the interests of the United Kingdom fishing industry; recognises that the over-riding priority of the Common Fisheries Policy must be the conservation of fish stocks, for only through healthy stocks can the fishing industry survive; believes that the Common Fisheries Policy in its present form does not adequately meet this priority; and calls on the United Kingdom Government to work in Europe to secure reforms of the Common Fisheries Policy to ensure the conservation and fair allocation of fish stocks throughout the European Union, with effective enforcement by all member states. The House will be aware that this is the major annual fisheries debate of the parliamentary year. It precedes the important December meeting of the Council of Fisheries Ministers, which is to agree total allowable catches, quotas and other changes to the workings of the common fisheries policy.

I welcome the Secretary of State for Scotland to our debate. I hope that there is nothing to be read into the fact that the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food left halfway through the Secretary of State's remarks. We shall assume that he had another engagement.

The Secretary of State referred to the 1992 Labour party manifesto. My hon. Friend the Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley), who will wind up for the Opposition, may refer to the fisheries document we issued, but I do not think that we should spend much time arguing about the 1992 manifestos. [Interruption.] There is a difference between a Government who win on their manifesto, and a party that loses on its manifesto. [Interruption.] Perhaps Conservative Members do not know the constitutional position. Oppositions are not bound by their manifestos; Governments are.

The Conservative party manifesto for 1992 states:

We are determined to see that the renegotiation of the Common Fisheries Policy protects the interest of UK fishermen and retains our share of the Community's fishing opportunities. Who in the House believes that the Government have delivered on that? Not a single fisherman in the country does. I have spoken to fishermen's leaders from Plymouth to Lerwick today, and they support the amendment standing in the name of Leader of the Opposition.

Mr. Phil Gallie (Ayr)

I do not believe that fishermen's federations, certainly in Scotland, support the Opposition's amendment, for one reason in particular. The debate is about total allowable catches. There is not one mention of them in the Opposition amendment. Would the hon. Gentleman like to explain that?

Dr. Strang

Yes, I will come to the issue of total allowable catches and quotas. I know that the Government would like the debate to be only about the quotas which are set every year, but it is not just about them. Everyone who knows about the protracted arguments and discussions that have taken place since the agreement last Christmas knows perfectly well that the arrangements which will come into force on 1 January 1996 are of crucial historic importance to our fishing industry, as I shall explain.

Right hon. and hon. Members who represent fishing constituencies will be well aware that the stocks in those waters are already under immense pressure and are crucial to our fishing industry. The priority must be to conserve our stocks. There should be less, not more, fishing effort in those areas.

As this is the right hon. Gentleman's first UK fisheries debate as Secretary of State for Scotland, may I draw his attention to the words of the then Minister of State, who is now Financial Secretary to the Treasury, on going into the negotiations in October 1993 on the question of additional Spanish access to the waters around our islands?

Far from saying that increased access and effort was inevitable, the hon. Gentleman said that Spanish and Portuguese fishing activities should be confined as closely as possible to their historic patterns, and that there should be no access to the Irish box. He was quite right. Access to those waters should have been based on historic fishing activity. The fact is that the deal was a reflection of the Government's failure to represent the UK national interest in Europe.

The Government had had since 1985, when the Spanish terms of accession were agreed, to secure support in Europe for a just deal. In the event, the then Minister of State was not able to persuade a single other member state to refrain from voting in favour of the deal. It is true that, under the Spanish accession treaty, it was necessary to renegotiate the Irish box by the end of 1995, but we did not have to make arrangements for additional Spanish access to other waters around the UK by that deadline. Under the accession treaty, those arrangements did not have to be in place until 2002.

Ministers have still not adequately explained why the Government accepted that additional Spanish access should be effective from 1996 as opposed to 2002— [Interruption.]

Sir Teddy Taylor (Southend, East)


Dr. Strang

I heard the hon. Member for Billericay (Mrs. Gorman) make a sedentary intervention, but, as the hon. Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) is on his feet, I shall give way to him.

Sir Teddy Taylor

I do not wish to be unkind, because I like the hon. Gentleman very much—[HoN. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—I mean that sincerely. As no British Government, irrespective of which party is in power, have the right now to make decisions of that sort and say what will happen with regard to Spanish access, would it not be wiser to try to help the fishing industry out of this absurd constitutional mess rather than engage in political games? Does the hon. Gentleman realise that no fishermen, whether in Scotland or England, will be happy seeing their politicians slinging mud at each other when there is little that any British Government can now do?

Dr. Strang

I do not accept that there is little that any British Government can do, and nor will the fishermen's leaders. However, the hon. Gentleman's point has some merit. I agree that the fishermen's leaders, and fishermen who are watching this debate, do not want to see mud slinging, and I do not intend to sling mud, but I must explain what has happened in recent years.

Mr. Patrick Nicholls (Teignbridge)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way on that point?

Dr. Strang

I shall give way for the last time.

Mr. Nicholls

How on earth can the hon. Gentleman expect the fishermen or anyone in the House to take seriously his suggestion that something radical should be done, when, during the five years that he was a Fisheries Minister, at a time when we were not crippled by qualified majority voting, he achieved precisely nothing?

Dr. Strang

I was never a Fisheries Minister, but I accept collective responsibility for all the decisions of that Government.

Mr. Michael Forsyth

What were you, then?

Dr. Strang

I shall tell the Minister where I was. I was in the Department of Energy and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

I do not want to spend much time discussing history, because, as the hon. Member for Southend, East rightly reminded the House, the fishermen are not looking for mud slinging. I remind the hon. Member for Teignbridge (Mr. Nicholls) that that Labour Government did not take the crucial decisions on the common fisheries policy. Indeed, previous Ministers of Agriculture have criticised the Labour Government for not settling. The House will understand that the settlement came after the Conservative party came to power.

I wish to be fair. The decisions implicit in our entry into the European Community under the leadership of the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath) were important in relation to setting the stage for the common fisheries policy. But let us stick to the historical facts. The Government have not represented the interests of our fishing industry in Europe, and their record at home is just as bad.

In the past three years, four Ministers of Agriculture have each made their mark on our fishing industry without dealing with any of the problems facing the industry. First, the present Secretary of State for the Environment, the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer), was the mastermind of the unfair, unpopular and unworkable tie-up regime. The Government's tie-up regime was so iniquitous that the High Court referred it to the European Court of Justice. So this year, we had the demeaning spectacle of the UK Government fighting the UK fishing industry in the European courts.

On 17 October, the Minister of State, who is in his place, finally announced that the Government would not, after all, implement the tie-up regime. We welcomed that announcement. The Secretary of State for the Environment also deprived our industry of a decommissioning scheme for many years while other industries in Europe had that option. Five years ago, he said:

decommissioning is not the way to reduce the pressure on fish stocks".—[Official Report, 13 December 1990; Vol. 182, c. 1171.] The right hon. Gentleman was running scared, following the appalling mismanagement of the Government's previous scheme.

Finally, the Minister bowed to pressure—from the industry, from Members of Parliament representing fishing constituencies and from the official Opposition—and introduced a decommissioning scheme in 1993. Unfortunately, that scheme was so small that the Agriculture Select Committee concluded that the cuts achieved would

be more than offset by efficiency gains in the remainder of the fleet". Then we had the right hon. Member for South-West Norfolk (Mrs. Shephard) and her bright new dawn. She was going to listen to the industry. In July 1993, the Government invited the industry to submit conservation proposals for technical conservation measures. The industry co-operated, and submitted detailed proposals. Two and a half years later, not a word in response has been heard from the Government.

Then we had the right hon. Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Waldegrave). It was he who negotiated the deal on Spanish access—and abstained on it, and came back and told the House what a great deal it was.

To the right hon. Gentleman's credit, however, he made one commendable commitment. In January 1995, as hon. Members will recall, the Labour party forced a debate to condemn the deal on Spanish access. To prevent a Government defeat in the House of Commons, the right hon. Gentleman announced that £28 million would be added to the £25 million that had already been allocated for decommissioning.

Decommissioning is not a panacea. It has an important part to play in reducing fishing effort to help conserve our fish stocks, but surely the Secretary of State for Scotland and his ministerial colleagues understand that it is unacceptable that we should be decommissioning vessels to facilitate additional fishing opportunities in waters around the UK for the fishing industry of one of our European partners—in this case, Spain.

I guess that that additional money provided for decommissioning made the vote in the House of Commons on 18 January 1995 one of the most expensive votes that the Government have ever had in the House of Commons.

Of course, the Government give with one hand and take away with the other. Our new Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the right hon. and learned Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg), slipped into this year's Budget the announcement that the Government are to refuse to launch in England the European Union grant schemes for fisheries processing and marketing, port facilities and aquaculture production. The Minister also scrapped the national fishing harbour grant scheme.

That is the Government's record. They have imposed unfair and unworkable regulations on our fishing industry. They have failed effectively to represent the industry in Europe. The real problems and issues that have confronted our fishing industry for many years remain unaddressed by the Government.

One outstanding matter is an obligation to cut our fleet. Like all other EU member states, the UK must cut its fleet capacity under the multi-annual guidance programme. The present round began in 1992 and must be completed in 1996. As a result of the Government's past failures, we are expected to cut our fleet by 19 per cent. from 1991 levels by the end of next year.

The European Commission estimates that, by the end of last year, we had reduced our fleet by only 5 per cent. The latest figures show that, by the end of next year, we shall have reduced our fleet by about 10 per cent. in total.

That leaves 9 per cent. of the fleet that the Minister is supposed to get rid of between now and the end of 1996. I address my remarks to the Minister of State, who will reply to the debate, although I can understand that he has slipped back a row or two. Will the Minister describe to us the way in which he proposes to find the extra 9 per cent. fleet reductions? Is he just waiting for our fishermen to go bankrupt? I hope that, when he winds up, the Minister of State will set out what he expects the consequences to be if the Government fail to meet the UK's requirement under the multi-annual guidance programme.

It is becoming clear that the current common fisheries policy is fundamentally flawed. Its priority must be the conservation of fish stocks, but that is not the priority. Across Europe, too many boats still chase too few fish—that is not controversial.

Mrs. Teresa Gorman (Billericay)


Dr. Strang

I did say that I had given way for the last time, but I will give way to the hon. Lady, so that she can make an intervention rather than interrupt me from a sedentary position.

Mrs. Gorman

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that, where there is a common resource such as the fishing territory, there will always be exploitation? If he genuinely wants to prevent our fishing fleet from being cut still further, he should support the amendment tabled in my name and that of 17 of my colleagues. It calls for a 200-mile exclusive fishing zone around our coast where adequate, or to the median line, which would give our fishermen the equivalent of private territory in which to continue to ply their trade.

Dr. Strang

I think that the hon. Lady understands that the Opposition do not support the policy that I believe she espouses: withdrawal from the common fisheries policy, and possibly, withdrawal from the European Union itself. I should have thought that there was common ground on the subject of the additional Spanish access, and perhaps on other aspects of which I have been speaking this afternoon.

All member states have recognised the over-capacity, as has the UK fishing industry. As the Minister of State advised the House last month, nearly 60 per cent. of the main stocks in the waters we fish are at risk of biological collapse. The contentious issue is how to tackle the problem. The UK Government must take their share of the blame. Their recalcitrance over decommissioning, and the consequent failure to reduce pressure on stocks, will further hinder the chances of matching fishing effort to fish stocks.

Tonight we are debating proposals for next year's total allowable catches, which contain some heavy cuts which will be felt hard in various sectors of the UK fishing industry. There is particular concern at the effect of the cuts in North sea sole and plaice total allowable catches on our east coast industry. That is one problem that Ministers will face in the Fisheries Council later this week. My hon. Friend the Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe will address those matters in greater detail. It is not enough for the fishing industry across Europe to be hit by short-term annual attempts to rectify a long-term and worsening problem.

The common fisheries policy needs to be reformed, to make conservation the priority. There is clearly a need for a review of quota management.

Mr. David Wilshire (Spelthorne)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Dr. Strang

No, I will not.

The problem of discards has to be addressed; the need for conservation cannot be squared with the throwing back of dead fish. There is also a scientific aspect: total allowable catches and quotas should be based on scientific advice, and tempered by a political assessment of socio-economic needs. With that in mind, it makes no sense to cut the resources available to our scientists responsible for assessing the health of fish stocks.

As the fiasco over the Government's tie-up regime made clear, fisheries policy cannot be reformed in the face of united opposition from the fishing industry. As I have said before of the common fisheries policy, the priority of conservation is far too often overridden by the drive to eliminate any preferential treatment of the various national fleets. Fishing industries in all member states must have absolute confidence that the management of their fisheries is carried out in their interests. The Labour party has been arguing for some time that there is a powerful case for greater national control for each member state within the framework of a reformed common fisheries policy.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Tony Baldry)

Will the hon. Gentleman explain to the House what he means by the phrase "the whole of national management"?

Dr. Strang

I hope that the hon. Gentleman is not suggesting that there is no prospect for reform of the common fisheries policy. I shall tell him what the phrase means, and in time I shall develop it further. It means that, in practice, we must move towards a system of management that is closer to our coastal waters and to our fishing communities. We suggest that that will mean greater involvement by national Governments. The hon. Gentleman may not understand what the phrase means, but the fishermen understand that we cannot go further down the same road.

The amendment is designed to advance the case of the fishing industry and the fishing communities throughout the United Kingdom. I appeal to all right hon. and hon. Members to support it.

4.24 pm
Sir Edward Heath (Old Bexley and Sidcup)

Once again, the Government have devoted inadequate time to a debate on a very important subject. As a result, Madam Speaker, you are compelled to limit all speeches to 10 minutes until the wind-up. That gives those hon. Members who wish to do so little opportunity to discuss the subject seriously.

However, in my brief contribution I propose to deal with the abusive remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Bridlington (Mr. Townend), who ought to be ashamed of the way in which he degraded himself with his interruption. His comments follow the maniacal article by Christopher Booker, which appeared in yesterday's edition of the Daily Mail. The article's assertions are entirely false, and I shall deal with them now—although I shall have to go back in history further than other hon. Members have done so far in the debate.

Mr. Booker begins his article by referring to components of the "great fisheries disaster" of which he says:

the first, of course, being Sir Edward Heath, in 1972, signing away all the fish in Britain's waters as 'a common European resource'". There is no truth whatever in that statement. The principle was laid down by Act of Parliament, as were all principles. However, the policies to be followed were not laid down, and there was no common fisheries policy at that time—nor was one being discussed. That did not occur until 1983—10 years after I left office and my Government left power.

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)


Sir Edward Heath

There is no time to allow interventions.

That is an entirely false statement about what happened at that time. Mr. Booker continues:

So secretively was this done (the House of Commons was kept in the dark) that Britain's desperate fishermen now openly accuse him of 'treason'". I make two points in response to that. First, my actions were not secretive; I have a record in my own papers. The principle was published, and it was open for debate in the House. We debated our proposed entry into the Community day after day in both Houses of Parliament. Anybody who knew about the principle and who wished to discuss it had an opportunity to do so. As the records show, the issue was not discussed by anyone because no one regarded it as objectionable. Therefore, it is a lie to say that we were secretive and held back information from the House.

Mr. Booker refers to fishermen now openly accusing me of treason. I take that assertion with a grain of salt. I was born by a fishing port. On my way to school, I would watch the fishermen coming into port, and I would stop to talk to them. There were no fishermen after the war; that had all finished. I then spent 15 years ocean racing, and for most of that time I captained British teams. [Laughter] It is no laughing matter; I had close contact with fishermen at that time. We could owe our lives to fishermen in certain circumstance; we knew that, and we maintained good relations with them. I am not a traitor to my country, although the hon. Member for Bridlington may think I am.

The policy formulation followed. We retained the 12-mile rule: six miles entirely for us and six miles for other fishermen. Under the negotiations, the latter six miles were limited to fishermen who were already fishing in those waters. So the countries with fishermen already there could keep them there. It was a perfectly workable arrangement that everyone accepted.

At the time, it suited us to keep the six-mile rule for other countries because our fishermen were getting a large amount of their catch in Icelandic waters, not in local waters. The bitter war over Icelandic fishing when we were in Government led to the stretch of Iceland and the matter was finally dealt with in 1976—after we left office—by the Hague agreement in which the stretch was extended to 200 miles for every country.

Now we are hearing glib suggestions that we should all go back to a 200-mile limit. Anyone can see that it is not workable today, as any fisherman will agree. The waters covering the European Union, the Mediterranean and the North sea overlap to such a large extent that we have to have an arrangement and the way to reach an arrange is through the European Union. That is what we are doing. The Government are quite right to pursue that endeavour and it can be achieved successfully.

The other argument concerns the amount of fishing that is possible. Any dispute between fishermen and those responsible should be sorted out by mutual discussion. The scientific adviser says that there ought to be some limitation. I heard fishermen say on television yesterday that there are masses of fish wherever they go. That can be sorted out without having an open row and suggestions that the fisheries policy should be abandoned. It is so unnecessary.

After the Hague agreement in 1976, the first common fisheries policy was established in 1983 and has continued. People talk about the losses experienced by our fishermen as a result of the Government policy in 1970-73, but I have the figures that show the changes.

In 1970, the total catch by British vessels was 963,000 tonnes; in 1971 it was 964,000 tonnes; in 1972 it was 942,000 tonnes; in 1973 it was 998,000 tonnes and in 1974 it was 954,000 tonnes. Those figures are very similar and my Government were responsible for that power. It is why the article is false and the remarks by my hon. Friend the Member for Bridlington were abusive and I strongly object to them.

When we listen to the views of some of my hon. Friends today, we should note that there is a complete difference between the fishermen and the Euro-sceptics. Earlier today, a spokesman for the fishermen said that they wanted nothing whatever to do with Euro-sceptics. The fishermen value the European Union, and want a satisfactory arrangement within the European Union. The last thing they want to do is damage it.

Sir Richard Body (Holland with Boston)

My right hon. Friend has been speaking to the Spanish fishermen.

Sir Edward Heath

I quite realise that some of my hon. Friends want to damage it. They can laugh all over their faces, because they do not have to think responsibly about the effect on other people.

I want to say something to my hon. Friends who represent the fishing industry. There is an important vote tonight. It may be quite important, not because it will change the position, but because of its political effect on the Conservative party. That is quite plain.

Of course my hon. Friends must take notice of the fishermen in their constituencies, but I also remind them of the remark by Burke so many centuries ago that is often repeated in the House. The purpose and responsibility of a representative is to look after the interests of his constituents, but he must also consider the interests of the country and the community. That is the basis of our work here.

Every hon. Member owes his constituents not only his energy "but his judgment". Those were Burke's words. We can offer our fishermen our energy, but my hon. Friends have to make a judgment tonight as to whether it is an event and a matter that justifies their defeating the Government. That is the crucial question to be answered. I do not think that many of our constituents, other than fishermen, would agree with that course of action. Indeed, I do not think that fishermen want to destroy the Government. Therefore, I ask my right hon. and hon. Friends to give careful thought to what they will do at the end of the debate.

4.34 pm
Mr. Calum Macdonald (Western Isles)

The Minister said that the key element is conservation, the key problem being too many boats and too many fishermen chasing too few fish. There is agreement on both sides of the House about the importance of conservation, and the key to successful conservation is enforcement.

If there is to be successful enforcement, there must be the perception of a level playing field, as it were, on which all the Community's fishing fleets operate. That is not the current perception. British fishermen feel that they are bearing the brunt of enforcement in achieving conservation. They feel that other fleets and other fishermen are escaping their fair share of responsibility. As a result, there is growing demand for withdrawal from the common fisheries rather than reform. I agree that withdrawal from the CFP is not practicable. It is not possible without withdrawal from the European Union. It is not, therefore, a serious option to be considered. But no one should underestimate the anger that is felt in fishing communities and which leads them to opt for withdrawal.

The Minister seemed to be asking for details to flesh out a package of reform. Most importantly, we need allies. It is striking that the Government seem to be isolated on fisheries policy year after year. They seem to be consistently outvoted when they argue their case with the other fisheries Ministers. It is not difficult to understand why the Government are consistently isolated. They are out of step on almost every other issue within the European Community. For example, they are out of step on the social chapter. As we have seen over the past couple of days, they are out of step on economic and monetary union. They are out of step also in discussions on foreign and security policies and moving them forward. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that the Government find themselves isolated on fisheries policy and unable to acquire the allies that are necessary if we are to defend British interests and obtain a fair deal for British fishermen.

The secretary of the Western Isles Fishermen's Association, which covers the Western Isles fleet, visited Madrid last week with a BBC television crew. He went to the big fish market there and found small, immature fish openly available for sale. He saw juvenile fish that should not have been landed. They should not have been for sale in any EU state. Apparently he saw hake only 4 in long. Whatever rules and regulations we write, they will mean nothing unless there is fair enforcement overall. If they mean nothing, the confidence of our fishing community will be undermined and eroded. As I said to the Secretary of State, the latest figures that I have show that there are only 12 fisheries officers in the whole of Spain.

Mr. Baldry


Mr. Macdonald

Perhaps the Minister has the latest figures.

Mr. Baldry

In fact, there are 30 fisheries inspectors working for the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture; in addition, some 240 fisheries inspectors work for the autonomous Spanish regions, and 300 civil guard personnel devote part of their duties to fisheries enforcement work. Spain has 31 patrol vessels of the Spanish naval marine unit. Some 106 vessels are operated by regional Governments and the marine civil guard—all on fisheries protection work—and there are six aerial surveillance helicopters, so that is quite a substantial input by the Spanish Government in enforcing their fisheries regulations.

Mr. Macdonald

In that case, how can such a vast force fail to notice four-inch long fish being sold in the main market of the capital city of Spain? The Minister cannot simply recite figures and say that the number of fisheries officers in Spain has increased from 14 to 30, compared with 200 in the UK, without also acknowledging that there is a real problem: the perceived lack of a level playing field, whereby British fishermen have to work within the rules, because of the very tight and efficient enforcement of the rules in the United Kingdom, while Spanish fishermen get away with landing juvenile fish and breaking the rules time and again. That reality underlies the fear in relation to Spanish access. The Minister must address that point, and he must get allies—this is the key point—in the Council of Fisheries Ministers to help him to do that if he is to satisfy British fishermen.

Another aspect which plagues, troubles and depresses British fishermen is the existence of the Spanish flagships, which are counted against the British register, and their impact on the whole decommissioning process. Some 28 per cent. of the UK-registered fleet of more than 10 metres are now Spanish owned; they are crewed by Spaniards and land their catches in Spain. That exceeds the amount by which Britain is supposed to reduce its overall fleet to meet the EC guidelines. The UK is required to decommission 19 per cent. to meet EC targets. Unless we do that, our fishermen cannot get any aid to help to rebuild and renew their fleet. Yet the Spanish-flagged element counting against the British fleet is far in excess of what we have to decommission.

Worse than that, hardly any of the Spanish-flagged vessels are decommissioning. They make a massive contribution to our perceived overcapacity and yet make no contribution whatever to the solution of decommissioning. Where is the level playing field? A disaster is looming, of which the Minister must be aware. If it is not causing him sleepless nights, we fear for the future of the British fishing industry. If the decommissioning target of 19 per cent. is met exclusively by the real British boats within the British fleet, by the end of the decommissioning process, almost half the British-registered fleet will be Spanish owned. I fear what the reaction in British fishing communities will be if that were to happen.

I ask the Minister, when he replies, to address himself specifically to that question, because those vessels are making a mockery of the common fisheries policy, the British Government and their protections. It is still going on. Spanish boats are still being added against the British register. I appreciate that the British Government tried to find a solution. They were warned at the time that it would fail and it did, because it went against EC guidelines. It is vital that the British Government address that problem and find a solution. I suggest that one possible solution would be to have a real linkage between boats that are registered in Britain and which have to operate economically in Britain—that is, establish some kind of economic linkage. For example, boats would have to make a proportion of their landings, say three quarters—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Morris)


4.45 pm
Mr. David Harris (St. Ives)

I sometimes think back with nostalgia to the rather cosy debates that we used to have a number of years ago, when only Members who represented fishing industries, like myself, took part. On the other hand, I warmly welcome the wider focus now given to the fishing industry, because we will begin to find a solution to the plight—that is the only word to describe it—of our fishermen and the difficulties that they face only through the concern of many hon. Members or, indeed, people in the country.

I do not suppose that there has ever been a debate on this subject in the history of the House in which a former Prime Minister has spoken, and I very much welcome the fact that my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath) has done so. I shall say a few words about his concluding remarks, because for all I know, they may have been aimed at me or, indeed, my colleagues who have the honour to represent fishing communities, and he was right to point out the precise dilemma that we face.

I do not want to vote against my Government tonight. I do not want to see my Government defeated. That would not be in the interests of my country or of the fishing industry. However, it is incumbent on people like myself to speak up for the industry and to fight for it, and in my years in the House that is what I have sought to do. One television interviewer said tonight, "Surely you want to be popular with your fishermen." I would like to be popular, but if one goes into politics one cannot always be popular, and at the end of the day one has to do what is right. What makes me despair is what has happened in recent years to our fishing industry and to the fishing industries of other countries.

That brings me to the amendment tabled by a number of my hon. Friends who are usually known as "Euro-sceptics". I welcome their interest in the fishing industry because it focuses attention on the difficulties of that industry. Having said that, I think that their amendment is misguided, particularly in the context of today's debate, because what the debate should be about is, of course, what will be before the Fisheries Ministers when they meet in Brussels on Thursday and Friday in relation to the setting of quotas for the coming year. That will affect in the immediate term the livelihood of fishermen in my constituency, because some pretty massive cuts are proposed for individual quotas and total allowable catches.

I refer to one of the reductions that the Commission proposes on species that are of direct concern to the fishermen of the south-west of England, and Cornwall in particular. I will not go into the precise details, but in the English channel a reduction of 41 per cent. is proposed for the allowable catch of sole. In the Bristol channel, a reduction of 27 per cent. is proposed. For plaice, a reduction of 34 per cent. is proposed. Those reductions follow on from reductions in previous years. What we are seeing, therefore, is cheating on a massive scale, because fishermen have to cheat to survive. They do not do it willingly; they loathe cheating, but that is the system that we now have. The problem is, what on earth can we do to change that system?

In their amendment, the Liberal Democrats ask for the review of the common fisheries policy to be brought forward. That may sound attractive, but unless the voting system is altered there will be a repetition of what happened on 23 December last year, when the United Kingdom was outvoted and the rest of the Community voted—under qualified majority voting—to allow 40 Spanish boats to fish in the waters of the former Irish box, where stocks were already under pressure. Where is the conservation in that? My friend—I regard him as my friend—the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace), the Liberal Democrats' agriculture and fisheries spokesman, is a sensible man. His party wants to abolish the veto altogether. I want to restore it, however, for the purposes of the review of the CFP.

For the past three days, people have been asking me, "How are you going to vote?" I am not sure how we are going to vote. I must face up to the dilemma posed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup: the balance between what I regard as in the national interest—maintaining the Government—against the importance of speaking up for the fishermen in my constituency. I make no secret of the fact that, together with my hon. Friend the Member for South-East Cornwall (Mr. Hicks)—who, I am sure, shares my views entirely—and my hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Coe), I have spent a good deal of time talking to Ministers. We have presented them with a number of proposals, in particular on the central issue that should be debated here tonight—the reductions in quotas. I have received certain assurances, which I value very much, on what I believe will be the negotiating position of Her Majesty's Government when the Fisheries Council meets at the end of the week. I am fairly confident that, just before Christmas, we shall not be faced with reductions such as those that I mentioned earlier.

In my amendment—which, of course, has not been selected—I have asked my hon. Friends in the Government to negotiate changes upwards in the case of quotas which are not based on hard scientific evidence. The fishermen's organisations reckon that there is scope for that. I accept that in some instances cuts will have to be made, because the scientific evidence points irrefutably in that direction. I accept the conservation argument.

The hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Macdonald) mentioned fairness, and that is at the root of the fishermen's anger: they do not think that the system is fair. Let me give an example. I am glad to see that the Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is present. In the wake of the Budget, the Ministry decided to abolish harbour grants in England, but not in Scotland nor, I believe, in Wales. That is not fair.

Mr. Baldry

My hon. Friend is right. I have listened carefully to colleagues' views over the past few days, and my hon. Friend—along with my hon. Friends the Members for South Hams (Mr. Steen), for South-East Cornwall, for Falmouth and Camborne and for Wyre (Mr. Mans)—has made the importance of the harbour, marketing and processing grants to local fishing industry. I see the force of their case, especially their arguments that expectations had been raised about the giving of those grants earlier in the year. In the light of their representations, we have decided to reinstate the grants.

Mr. Harris

I am very grateful to my hon. Friend. The decision will be particularly welcome in Newlyn, where an application of long standing was being rejected because of the cuts.

All hon. Members on both sides of the House must find a way forward so that we can restore real confidence to the fishing industry. I wish that we could put aside party politics, and politics involving the future of Europe, and concentrate on achieving a solution. That is what our fishermen need and deserve.

4.54 pm
Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland)

I share many of the sentiments expressed by the hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. Harris), whom it is my privilege and pleasure to follow in so many fisheries debates.

This debate has attracted a wider audience than usual. Despite all the media speculation, we would do the fishing industry a gross disservice if we did not spend some time focusing on issues of particular interest to that industry at the Council meeting that will take place on Thursday and Friday this week. As the hon. Member for St. Ives pointed out, there are to be considerable reductions in total allowable catches of a range of species, and that will have serious consequences for the industry as it plans for 1996 and the future.

As has been said, there is growing concern—there has always been concern, but it seems to be increasing annually—about the scientific basis on which some of the TACs are decided. Only a few years ago, the fishing industry was being told that the North sea whiting was a predatory fish, and that it would therefore be helpful to catch as many as possible. Dangled before the industry was the possibility of smaller mesh sizes and lower minimum landing sizes—which, in fairness to it, it resisted. In 1990, the TAC for whiting was 135,000 tonnes; although the fishermen were told to fish as much whiting as they could, the TAC has now been reduced to 67,000 tonnes. There is something wrong with that.

The Minister will be aware that the Scottish industry in particular would like the Hague preference to be invoked in respect of North sea whiting. Is that on the Government's agenda for Thursday's negotiations?

Mr. Baldry


Mr. Wallace

I welcome that news. Let me add that, when the Hague preference has been invoked in the past, there has been a tendency to average it out rather than bringing it up to the full amount; the industry will be looking for the full amount.

Western mackerel is an important species in my constituency. In terms of quota allocation, tonnage and horsepower, 30 per cent. of the United Kingdom's pelagic fleet is based in Shetland, but what has happened to the TACs for western mackerel? In 1992, they were increased by 15 per cent., in 1993 by 10 per cent. and in 1994 by eight per cent. On the basis of those growing TACs, over the past two or three years and into next year, constituents of mine will have invested some £50 million in new vessels. That is an important business decision.

If a Japanese company had invested that amount in microchips, no doubt there would have been a press conference at the Scottish Office, with the Secretary of State cutting the first sod for the factory. It is a substantial investment, which has been made on the basis of what were originally growing TACs. However, they were reduced by 20 per cent. this year, and it is predicted that they will be reduced by 33 per cent. next year. That is no long-term basis for stability on which the industry can make serious investments.

It appears that this year Norway has gone forward by the lowest common denominator, on the basis that it sees opportunities in the Atlanto-Scandian herring negotiations. If he has time, will the Minister confirm that the United Kingdom—the European Union, indeed, but with the United Kingdom receiving a share—will seek a share-out of the winter herring, now known as the Atlanto-Scandian herring, in the waters to the north of Shetland? A premature allocation would be regrettable; it would be better if UK vessels were allowed to fish the stock as they have in the past.

We may well find that a substantial part of that stock can be caught in European Union waters, which would entitle the European Union and, in turn, the United Kingdom to a substantial share in the future. That would help to offset some of the disappointments and lost fishing opportunities that have resulted from the cuts in mackerel and herring TACs.

The hon. Member for St. Ives mentioned plaice. The reduction in plaice TACs has had a serious effect on the east coast, and there has been a knock-on effect because of the fewer opportunities for swaps. That applies not only to the east coast, but all around the channel ports and into the south-west. Those in the south-west fear that, if opportunities in regard to quota stocks of Bristol channel and North sea plaice are cut, many of the non-quota stocks fished by fishermen in the south-west will be under ever greater pressure. It is important to take that dimension into account.

I could go into many details, but I shall deal finally with the west coast nephrops precautionary total allowable catch, which was originally set at 16,000 tonnes. That TAC was based on very little scientific evidence. My understanding is that the scientists do not know when prawns spawn or how long they live: it is an inadequate science. Over the years the TAC was reduced to 12,600 tonnes on no more detailed or sophisticated scientific evidence than that for some time that was what was being landed. It appears that that amount was fished out early this year and it is thought that returning to 16,000 tonnes, which was satisfactory in the past, would give adequate fishing opportunity to those who fish the west coast nephrops. I ask the Minister to consider that in his negotiations later this week.

Underlying all these problems is the unsatisfactory nature of the TAC arrangements. There is no proper mechanism to channel into the decision-making process the fishermen's experience of stocks and the change in behaviour. I understand that there were substantial quantities of cod in the Humber in the latter part of this year when boats were tied up and the fishermen could not go after it.

In the 1992 changes to the common fisheries policy there is reference to a scientific, technical and economic committee. But economic and social consequences seldom seem to be taken into account. As I have said, the roller-coaster approach is damaging not just the catching sector but the processing and marketing sectors. If we could take forward the multi-annual strategic approach that was agreed in 1992 it would encourage scientists to look to the longer term when considering TACs and not base their conclusions on just one year's findings. That could lead to greater stability in the industry.

I reject the idea that a 200-mile limit within which Britain would have complete sovereignty would be a solution to our problems. As I said in the debate on 22 November, a 200-mile limit off Canada has not stopped the collapse of the cod industry on the Atlantic seaboard nor has it stopped the overfishing of pollock on the Russian pacific coast. A limit is no panacea. I regret, although it is no reflection on the Chair, that we cannot vote on the amendment that was tabled by the hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) and his hon. Friends because it would have been bombed out of court. By a long way there is no majority in the House for Britain to renege on its international obligations and withdraw from the common fisheries policy. The policy requires a thoroughgoing reform along the lines that I suggested in the debate on 22 November, and there must be proper enforcement.

During the Secretary of State's speech the hon. Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley) intervened and spoke about the hours of enforcement. That was one of the most telling points in the debate because if the fisheries policy is common its enforcement must be common as well. That has been missing and the fishermen perceive gross injustice and unfairness. We need to address that as efficiently, effectively and vigorously as possible.

My hon. Friends and I will vote against the Government. There are a good number of reasons for doing that and many of them have been set out in the amendment. The Government had a late conversion on decommissioning although hon. Members in all parts of the House mentioned it time and again in fisheries debates. European taxpayers' money is funding the modernisation of the Spanish fishing fleet, but we are not allowed to have access to funds to modernise the British fishing fleet. The days-at-sea legislation had a damaging effect and it was abandoned only after recourse to the European Court of Justice.

I went through the Division lists and it would be interesting for other hon. Members to do that to see how many of the 17 hon. Members who signed one of the amendments on the Order Paper voted in favour of restrictions on the amount of time that fishermen could spend at sea. There is also the whole question of Spanish access and the issue of a secret deal. The Secretary of State referred again to the fact that the House agreed to Spanish and Portuguese accession in 1986, but he failed to mention that the terms of that agreement were secretly changed. The House has never been properly told why that happened. The fact that there was no support for Britain last year on the detail of Spanish access shows how we have lost friends, and that in turn damages our ability to support our fishing industry.

The hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) said that from outside the Community Norway seems to have a better deal for its fishermen. Within the Community, Spain seems to do well for its fishermen. The Government invite the House to back them and say that they will support the best interests of British fishermen, but many of us long ago gave up on the Government knowing what are the best interests of British fishermen.

5.4 pm

Rev. Ian Paisley (North Antrim)

There is no doubt that the dictated common fisheries policy is driving the fishing community in Northern Ireland and in other parts of the United Kingdom into severe decline. Fishing in Northern Ireland is worth more than £20 million a year and offers employment to more than 2,000 people, 1,200 of whom are actively engaged on trawlers. It is an important industry but every year it receives further body blows that are forcing fishermen out of the industry altogether.

The main concern of Ulster fishermen is the allocation of quotas in the Irish sea. In past years Northern Ireland's fishermen have witnessed those allocations being greatly reduced. For instance, since 1990 the total allowable catch in the Irish sea has been reduced by 40 per cent. The whiting allocation has been cut by 44 per cent. and the TAC for prawns, which are the foundation of the Ulster fleet, has been cut by 25 per cent. Government policies in alliance with the European Union mean that Northern Ireland fishermen cannot build vessels that are capable of fishing the deep waters to the west of Ireland and Scotland. It is ridiculous that Northern Ireland fishermen have to sit idly by while fishermen from other parts of the European Union are able to exploit those resources.

The strong feeling among many fishermen is that they are forced into quotas which bear no relation to the fish that are to be found in the fishing grounds. On top of that, the depleted quotas are further hit by the detrimental effect of the Hague preference on United Kingdom allocations. That preference, which is part of the common fisheries policy, awards fishermen in the Irish Republic extra fish at the expense of their northern colleagues.

In 1995 British fishermen in the Irish sea lost 805 tonnes of cod to the Irish Republic, which annually fails to catch its own allocation. That example is repeated in other stocks. Consequently, the United Kingdom has to swap away some of its other quota allocations so as to regain some of the fish without which vessels would be tied up at the quays. Despite the return of cod quota British fishermen are still 290 tonnes short of the previous year's allocation of Irish sea cod. The Hague preference along with drastic quota cuts mean that Ulster's fishermen are being driven from their traditional fishing grounds.

A major factor complicating matters this year is the uncertainty surrounding the future of international swaps. It is important that those swaps should proceed because by means of them fishermen are at least able to gain access to a quota that would not otherwise be available. The nettle of the iniquitous Hague preference system, which acts to the detriment of Northern Ireland fishermen, must be grasped. Additionally, we have the prospect, from 1 January next year, of the entry of up to 40 Spanish fishing vessels into the Irish box, while restrictions are placed on people who have fished in the Irish box for generations. Spanish fishing vessels, renowned for disregarding fishing controls and regulations, are being allowed in.

In relation to 1996 total allowable catches and quotas, it is the same depressing story of more cuts. Something needs to be done about the haddock TAC for the Irish sea. The ridiculously small quota allocated for haddock means that fishermen are not able to take advantage of the tremendous haddock fishery. There is a proposal to have further cuts in cod to the tune of 6.9 per cent. Cuts are also proposed for plaice and sole. Those are unacceptable to Ulster fishermen.

Although Northern Ireland and United Kingdom fishermen are having quotas cut and are being rigidly regulated and policed by the authorities under European Union regulations, the same cannot be said of other EU countries, which makes fishermen very angry. A recent comparison of member state enforcement resources, undertaken by the EU itself, showed that the United Kingdom was devoting far more resources than any other member to enforce the fishing regulations.

I refer to a paper issued by the EU on the European Commission's estimate of existing resources and their utilisation. I find that, annually, Belgium puts in 15 surveillance hours, Denmark none, Germany none, Spain 50, France 500, Ireland 700, the Netherlands none, Portugal 100 and our own nation 4,800. Those are not my figures, but EU figures. That must alarm everyone in the fishing industry. It is a pity that there are not a few Nelsons back in the fishing industry to put a telescope to a blind eye and to let the fishermen get a proper quota. We are told that we should not say those things, but if the law is unfair, it must be dealt with, and this law is unfair. No wonder our fishermen are angry and frustrated, not only at the EU laws that have created the framework for their industry's destruction, but at the zeal with which these regulations are policed by our own authorities.

On a separate, but not entirely unrelated, issue, 1995 saw the European Court judgment on the fishing industry's judicial review of Her Majesty's Government's proposed days-at-sea legislation. Although the court's decision came down on the Government's side, it was clear to many people that the industry won a moral victory through the withdrawal of the proposals. The industry. however, incurred the legal costs. Why will not the Government say that they will not demand that money from the fishing industry? Today, one concession has been given. That on the legal costs would be a good concession to give to the fishing industry.

That is another difficult burden for the industry to bear at a time when it is coming under increasing pressure. The Minister should consider waiving the Ministry's legal costs associated with the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations' legal challenge to the Government on this issue. It is all right for a former Prime Minister to tell us that all fishermen are for the European Community. He should come on some of the ships that I have been on and he would hear a different story altogether. Many fishing industry members are outraged at what is happening. I agree with a colleague sitting along this Bench, the hon. Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor). As we have handed away power after power to Europe, we are not now going to be in a position to remedy this situation.

5.14 pm
Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan)

In the course of a largely knockabout speech, the Secretary of State for Scotland aimed a sideswipe at the Euro-sceptics by saying that much of their interest in the fish industry was "belated"—I think that was the word he used. Of course that is correct—it is belated. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing) for answering the question asked by the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) and pointing out that, of the 17 hon. Members on the Euro-sceptic amendment this evening, 13 voted with the Government on fishing industry tie-ups on 9 December 1992.

Many of us, including the Secretary of State, may not have records that we would like to remember in relation to the fishing industry. I remember a debate in 1991 on tie-ups, when, as a junior Scottish Office Minister, he sat with his feet on that Dispatch Box, sniggering, while many of us tried to argue a case about fishing safety and safety at sea in the fishing industry. Unfortunately for him, that debate has not been forgotten around the communities of Scotland.

There has been some entertainment this evening for those of us who have observed the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food touring the Back Benches, speaking to the potential rebels in the vote tonight. Now we know that the inducement that is being offered is to restore the financial instrument for fisheries guidance, which was cancelled only last month in England. I am not sure whether the fishing harbour grant scheme, which was cancelled last month in both Scotland and England, is to be restored as well, but the night is still young.

My advice to the potential rebels on the Tory Back Benches tonight is, "For goodness' sake, do not be bought cheaply, as so many of your predecessors have been in fishing debates." I remember a previous Minister of Agriculture standing at that Dispatch Box, saying that he gave his word to the House that under no circumstances would the regulations elsewhere in Europe be any different from those pertaining on United Kingdom fishermen. How many of us believe that that commitment has been kept and honoured in the past few years?

Therefore, my advice to Conservative Members thinking of rebellion is, "Watch your votes," because what is said in honeyed words now might be different from what is said once the danger of the vote has passed.

I want to ask the Minister three specific questions, and I hope that he will deal with them in summing up. Earlier, in an intervention, I made the point that it seemed evident that Spain, from within the common fisheries policy, and Norway from outwith the CFP, have secured a better deal for their fishermen than the UK has in the past few years.

The former Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath), reminded us of the Hague preference, which is another example that is worth remembering. That preference, which has been so useful to our fishermen, was achieved because of the intervention of Garrett Fitzgerald when he was Irish Foreign Minister in 1976. It was the Irish who secured the Hague preference, which has been so useful to fishermen north of Bridlington in the past few years. Substantial evidence exists, therefore, of the point that was made earlier in the debate.

One reason why the Norwegians have been dictating the pace of the negotiations is that they, in relation to the pelagic side, have the comfort of the new 1 million tonne revived stock of Atlanto-Scandian herring. I want to ask the specific question: as that is an international stock, what percentage of it does the Minister believe the UK and the Scottish pelagic fleet will be entitled to when it comes back on stream in the coming year?

Mr. Baldry

On the part of the stock that is in international waters, those negotiations will start in the new year, and obviously, we will seek to obtain the largest possible quota for the UK industry—it is as straightforward and as simple as that. One must remember, however, that a sizeable part of that stock is in Norwegian waters.

Mr. Salmond

I will take that as an indication that the Minister appreciates the importance of that stock in a circumstance where the pelagic fleet will face tough times as a result of the Norwegian negotiations. The second precise point is on cod and haddock. From scientific evidence, it seemed to fishermen representatives that there was room for an increase in cod and haddock total allowable catches, but the TAC was restricted for cod, and there has been no increase for haddock. There is an important point here. Many of us believe that a relaxation in the TACs would result in fewer fish being caught and being discarded. Will the Minister return to that point, given that the scientific evidence does not seem to support the tough stance that the Norwegians successfully forced on the European Commission two weeks ago?

Thirdly, I want to emphasise the point about whiting made by the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland. It is impossible to fathom the Commission's thinking on the whiting stock. A few years ago, it was defined as a predatory species that had to be fished down, and the minimum landing size had to -be reduced so as to cut its numbers, so why is its TAC now being sharply reduced? Does the Minister intend to invoke the Hague preference to try to ensure that there will be at least some fishing opportunities in the coming year for that important stock for the Scottish industry?

I am greatly concerned about structural support for the fishing industry. In a memorable phrase, Cecil Finn of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation said that the industry was

still wallowing in the broken water of the do nothing years". He was talking about the years between 1987 and 1993, when—because of the obduracy of the then Minister of Agriculture, who set his face against decommissioning schemes because of his personal experience as a Minister in previous years—although the United Kingdom industry had 12 to 15 per cent. of the overall European fleet, it received only about 2 per cent. of the structural funding.

That put our industry and our communities at a huge competitive disadvantage. It now looks as though, in both objective 1 areas, and certainly in my area of Grampian, the PESCA scheme, which was introduced to try to compensate fishing-dependent communities for the effects of the difficulties that the industry has faced over the past few years, is also being jeopardised. That is happening because of the Scottish Office's refusal to allow local authorities the additional cash required to qualify for European funding. I hope that the Minister will pick up that point, too, in his summing up.

My third key point about structural support is that it would be helpful to clarify whether the harbour scheme is back on for this year. That was not clear from the exchange between the Minister and the hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. Harris).

Mr. Baldry

The hon. Gentleman cannot have been listening, because the rest of the House heard, and clearly understood, that I have heard and carefully considered the representations by some of my hon. Friends, and that the harbour scheme has been reinstated.

Mr. Salmond

For Scotland too?

Mr. Michael Forsyth


Mr. Salmond

Just a nod will do.

Mr. Forsyth

If the hon. Gentleman will give way, I shall happily answer the question.

Mr. Salmond

indicated assent.

Mr. Forsyth

As the hon. Gentleman knows, the Scottish position was that we did not follow the English on FIFG—the financial instrument of fisheries grant. But yes, the harbour scheme will be open.

Mr. Salmond

We know about the FIFG. That is why I asked about the harbour scheme, and I thank the Minister for confirming the position there.

The question marks over structural support at this difficult time for the fishing industry, and the track record on decommissioning, represent one of the Government's great failures over the industry. But the Government have had many other failures, too. The failure on flag of convenience vessels was a policy failure, which caused the industry huge difficulties and totally wrecked any hope of reaching the multi-annual guidance programme targets. The Government's entire strategy floundered because of that decision. I served on the Committee on the Merchant Shipping Act 1988, and the Government were warned that the use of nationality as a basis might flounder in the European Court, but they went ahead just the same.

There was also a failure concerning accelerated access for the Spanish. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Dr. Strang) gave way to the wrong Euro-sceptic, when, earlier in the debate, the hon. Member for Billericay (Mrs. Gorman) was about to tell us of the secret deal that resulted in the Spanish being allowed, almost unilaterally, to revise their own treaty of accession, and thus to secure accelerated access to western waters. The hon. Lady was about to reveal to the House what the Government had had in mind, and whether there had been any concession by Spain on qualified majority voting. She should have been encouraged to continue.

The Government's biggest failure has been their failure to bring about a coherent fisheries policy. Today we have heard that a review group is to meet, and is expected to report early next year. However, the Scottish Fishermen's Federation is still awaiting the formal reply to its submission of September 1993, which contained a series of suggested ways of approaching the problems of the industry.

Time and time again, the fishing industry has offered the Government a strategy, and time and time again, the people at the Dispatch Box have greeted it with deaf ears. That is why, when fishing communities all around the coast have been sold down the river so many times by Ministers, if the Government are defeated on their fisheries policy tonight, there will be rejoicing in every fishing port the length and breadth of the United Kingdom.

5.24 pm
Sir Richard Body (Holland with Boston)

My right hon. and hon. Friends in the Government can be assured that they will have a majority tonight, because members of the Labour party intend to demonstrate their support for the fishing industry by staying at home—preferring, I regret to say, a rather longer Christmas holiday than they would otherwise have.

Of course, there are some notable exceptions, such as the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell). The hon. Gentleman and I can remember when fishing was an important industry for Lincolnshire; no one can claim that it is now. Fishing is in serious decline. I believe that fewer than 20 boats now go out of Grimsby, and in Boston we have only 40 boats in all, only a fraction of which go out at any one time.

Those who argue on behalf of the fishing industry have said again and again that the common fisheries policy will cause the total allowable catch to go down and down, because it contains no effective conservation measures. I shall draw attention to two main factors. I know that my hon. Friend the Minister of State has been considering them, and I hope that he will argue them effectively on Thursday.

The first problem is the size of nets. We are now catching immature little fish that have had too little opportunity to grow. Most of the cod we now catch are half the size that they should be. From a conservation standpoint, that is woeful.

Secondly, there are the discards; I am sure that you know all about them, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Discards are the fish that are thrown back dead into the sea, because we are not allowed to catch them. If those were only a few fish, no one would much mind, but various estimates have been made of their numbers, and the best is that discards probably account for about 1,000 million fish a year. Surely that is a crime against conservation. I hope that the Minister of State will raise that matter vigorously on Thursday, and press instead for a levy on excess catches.

Hon. Members with some part of the inshore fishing industry in their constituencies know that, as matters now stand, despite what my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath) said—I do not know where my right hon. Friend has met fishermen, but I suspect that it cannot have been in this country—no fisherman has any confidence in the future of the industry after the year 2002.

Fishermen know that, when that day comes, their existing rights will have to be renegotiated, and they have no idea where they will stand then. That has created appalling uncertainty in the fishing industry. Fishing has been largely a father-to-son affair. No father in the fishing industry with a teenage son will encourage his son to join him as he will have joined his own father years before.

Moreover, even with the old dilapidated boats that we have in Boston and elsewhere, no fisherman is going to replace his boat—partly because, in the present uncertainty, no bank will lend him the many thousands of pounds that that would cost. Indeed, hardly any fishermen I know are willing to spend large sums on maintaining their boats as they should be maintained if they are to continue fishing for a few more years.

Many inshore fishermen in their forties ask me whether it is not time to get out of fishing now, rather than wait for 2002, when they will be in their fifties and it will be far more difficult for them to find another occupation. The year 2002 may seem far away to many of us, but for people concerned with inshore fishing, it is drawing close.

My hon. Friend the Minister knows that last year, at a representative gathering of fishermen in Lowestoft, I said that the common fisheries policies was so absurd, and acted so unjustly against our fishermen, that I was convinced that the Government would renegotiate it. I was pressed about that, and I said that I felt so certain about the matter that I would not reapply for the Whip until the Government renegotiated. I only hope that, on Thursday, my hon. Friend the Minister will enable me to put that matter right.

5.29 pm
Mr. Eddie McGrady (South Down)

It is somewhat ironic that, at a time of year when most of commerce and industry is looking forward to the festive season, we are debating an industry that is in a state of depression and is wondering what fate will befall it after this week's EU conference. It has been a momentous year in fishing, with traumas, successes and legal victories.

Decommissioning, which is a reflection of the depression in the fishing industry, should not be taken as a victory. It has certainly helped in trying to eradicate some of the hardships in the industry, but it is not a victory in itself. Northern Ireland's fishermen are worse off than most other UK fishermen.

My constituency has three of the four fishing ports in Northern Ireland, and they depend very much on the fisheries in the Irish sea area VIIa. Local fishermen must cope with quotas—which, they say, bear no relation to the fish to be found in the area—but the depleted quotas will be further hit by the detrimental effect of the Hague preference allocations. Unfortunately, this year new complications have crept into the equation in the shape of the uncertainty surrounding international swaps. It is vital that the swaps proceed. They provide a much-needed lifeline that sustains viable fisheries in area VII, and their importance in the wider western waters area is crucial.

My constituency is unique as it has a water border with the Republic of Ireland. Fishermen from my constituency, who are restricted by quotas, can see their colleagues just a couple of miles away in the Irish Republic merrily fishing. They are not catching the quotas allocated to them under the Hague preference. It is important that the international swaps are negotiated in such a way that Northern Ireland fishermen get the better part of their traditional access to the Irish sea fisheries in area VIIa. The swaps must not be used as a back door for additional Spanish or other European fishing fleets to gain access to protected waters.

I understand that evidence given by the Advisory Committee on Fisheries Management at a recent meeting seemed to be based on fairly weak foundations. The ACFM seems to contend that if a TAC is not caught, the fish do not exist. That is nonsense and it has no scientific base whatsoever. The vast majority of countries annually fail to catch their TAC, and sometimes only 50 per cent. or 60 per cent. of the catch is taken up. On that basis, scientists propose to make further cuts, which seems to be totally unscientific and illogical. The cuts will have little or no impact on nations that do not catch their TAC, but a very substantial impact on those countries whose TAC is so restricted as to be minimal.

Northern Ireland's fishermen have been crying out for some time for something to be done with the area VII haddock TAC. Fishermen tell me, and I have no reason to doubt them, that there is a very substantial haddock fishery, but as the United Kingdom quota is so small—it is only some 600 tonnes—they have been unable to take advantage of the abundance of stock. Despite all their efforts, they have been told that the stock merits only a brief mention in this year's report by fisheries' scientists, despite the fact that the scientists agree that the fish are there. What are fishermen supposed to do? Why is the scientific community not as quick to advise on increases in quotas as it is to advise on cuts? The second matter to which I should like to refer is cod area VIIa. The ACFM advised that there should be almost 7 per cent. of further cuts in this TAC. The cut is not as severe as in previous years, but fishermen in Northern Ireland have no confidence in the ACFM's proposals. Catches during 1995 in the species and sector have been as good as, if not better than, in previous years, so how distinct to area VIIa is the cod stock?

Has any calculation been made of the consequences of decommissioning? One of the consequences is that there will be a reduction in the effort put into fishing. Have these points been taken into consideration? I contend that if they had, the proposed 6.9 per cent. reduction in cod for area VIIa would not have been proposed.

Fishermen have little confidence in the ACFM's proposals for plaice and sole because, again, it appears that an unscientific approach has been taken to the problem. There is substantial evidence of well-recovered stocks of haddock, cod, plaice and sole in the sector.

I hope that in their negotiations towards the end of the week, Ministers will take the matter on board and challenge the evidence that has been given. It seems that our European partners do not take proper cognisance of the scientific evidence, which is freely available, and they seem panic-stricken as they go for further and further quota cuts.

I referred earlier to the relationship between the fishermen of Northern Ireland and of the Republic of Ireland. We have heard from other hon. Members that some of the quotas are simply not caught in the Republic of Ireland. Each year, the Department of Agriculture at the Northern Ireland Office enters into negotiations with its counterpart in the Republic of Ireland to arrange for local swaps of those parts of the quota that will not be caught.

Could not the Government enter into a more meaningful and long-term agreement with the fisheries department in the Republic of Ireland, whereby there could be an exchange of unfished quotas between the two fishing fleets? After all, until a few decades ago, the fleets had a common approach and common fishing areas, and they still have the same interests. Could not the Government make this a more meaningful and permanent arrangement, so that the element of uncertainty between the north and south of Ireland could be eliminated?

I hope that there will be an increase in quotas for cod and whiting in area VII, and that the quota arrangements for haddock in area VIIa will be enhanced to take cognisance of the scientific evidence, which seems to show that fishing shoals have returned there. Finally, there is a need for more permanent swap arrangements with the Republic of Ireland.

5.39 pm
Mr. Christopher Gill (Ludlow)

I have no interest to declare in the debate, other than that as a practical butcher and farmer, I have enormous sympathy with the plight of that other group of intensely practical people—British fishermen—as a result of the machinations of the common fisheries policy. I have not hidden my ambition to see this country leave the CFP, which is also the object of the Save Britain's Fish campaign, to which I and several of my colleagues have pledged our support.

Some in the Chamber will seek to question my motives for supporting the amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson). I do not impugn the motives of the integrationists on these Benches, and I trust that they will desist from impugning mine. Some people recognise the danger that the renegotiation of the CFP by 2002 would, in the words of my hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives (Mr. Harris),

mean the end of the fishing industry as we know it".—[Official Report, 22 November 1995; Vol. 267, c. 581.] However, if those people, perversely, do not support amendment (b), suffice to say that the ballot box will be the final arbiter.

I have spent some time reading and re-reading the Official Report of the debates that took place on 23 October and 22 November to refresh my memory of the arguments deployed by the Minister of State in defence of the CFP. I accept that his basic position is as set out in his answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Waveney (Mr. Porter), when he stated:

Withdrawal from the common fisheries policy is not an option, either legally or practically."—[Official Report, 17 July 1995; Vol. 263, c. 969.] I will deal with those points in due course.

My hon. Friend's case against withdrawal from the CFP seems to hang on three points: first, the time that it would take the Government to negotiate satisfactory bilateral agreements with other countries; secondly, the absence of any especially strong or co-ordinated objections to the CFP in the past; and, thirdly, the legal problems associated with disengagement.

I trust that the House will recognise that none of those arguments is sufficient in itself to justify the perpetuation of a regime that is so obviously defective in that it is precipitating the demise of British fishing industry, failing to protect fishing stocks, encouraging short-term exploitation at the expense of genuine conservation, making criminals of otherwise honest people alienating public opinion and perpetuating the situation in which a vital British interest is compromised by the process of qualified majority voting.

On the point about negotiating satisfactory bilateral agreements, it is a fact that the Government are concluding such agreements with all sorts of countries on all sorts of issues as a matter of routine. Does my hon. Friend the Minister of State accept that, in the calendar year to date, the Government have concluded no fewer than 81 bilateral treaties and 28 multilateral treaties? The time that Ministers and civil servants expend in the process has never previously deterred Governments from pursuing their objectives. That is an entirely spurious argument to advance as a reason for doing nothing about the common fisheries policy.

My hon. Friend the Minister of State has asserted that there have been no protests in the past about the CFP. In 1971, however, the fishing industry was assured by the Government that its interests would be protected. Indeed, I have a photocopy of a letter dated 4 October 1971, signed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath), in which he said:

For our part, as the White Paper said, we are determined to secure arrangements which will safeguard the interests of British fishermen. When the Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, no less, gave such a categorical assurance, the whole industry was entitled to believe that there was no cause for concern.

Fishermen at that time, and subsequently, were entitled to believe that their interests really would be protected. It is only now that the realisation is dawning that this never was—and under the terms of the CFP never could be—the case. The fact that it has taken 20 years or more for the duplicity of a previous generation of politicians to manifest itself cannot in any way justify my hon. Friend's determination to preserve the present arrangements.

I also submit that any person looking dispassionately at the present unsatisfactory situation would recognise that the reason why there were no strong objections about fisheries, as my hon. Friend the Minister of State avers, at the time of the Spanish and Portuguese accession is in good measure because the Spanish and the Portuguese were not scheduled to gain full access to the CFP until 2002. It is the bringing forward of their full membership of the CFP to 1 January 1996 that has precipitated the present outcry.

Mr. Paul Tyler (North Cornwall)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Gill

I will not give way to the hon. Gentleman. As he knows, we are limited to 10-minute speeches and I am anxious to make several points. I hope that he will have an opportunity to make his contribution to the debate.

Whatever the Government may say about the Spanish accession, a deal was done at the time of the later accession of Austria, Finland and Sweden to the European Community whereby full membership of the CFP for the Spanish and Portuguese was accelerated by six years. At no stage were right hon. and hon. Members informed that that was being done, nor the reasons for doing it.

My hon. Friend the Minister of State's assertion that Members of Parliament were fully aware of the ramifications of the United Kingdom's entry into the CFP is questionable. Furthermore, I question whether hon. Members were able to follow the Government's more recent footwork in accelerating the full entry of Spain and Portugal into the CFP. I wonder how many parliamentarians, even today, are aware that the CFP is not spelt out in treaty form, but exists only by dint of EC regulations.

I turn now to the Minister's statement that it is not practically possible to withdraw from the CFP. Indeed, he addressed that problem in an earlier debate. He is on record as saying:

It is politically unrealistic to imagine that a new deal can be done that will result in other countries in the European Union giving away fishing opportunities to the United Kingdom."—[Official Report, 22 November 1995; Vol. 267, c. 591.] Precisely. It is inconceivable that any other member of the European Union would vote for any substantial change in the present arrangements, under which the majority of European Union countries get a bargain at the expense of the United Kingdom.

We get what can only be described as a raw deal, notwithstanding the fact that this country contributes more than 60 per cent. of the European Union's fishing stocks. My hon. Friend the Minister recognises that, under qualified majority voting, it is practically impossible to obtain any redress for Great Britain. Those who believe that the application of a veto will alter that situation are deluding themselves and misleading the people whom they represent.

On the subject of the legal obstacles to withdrawal from the CFP, I remind my hon. Friend that the political reality is that, at the next general election, the electorate will not stop to consider the legal niceties, but will simply vote in accordance with their perception of what is right or wrong.

I conclude my remarks by reminding my hon. Friend the Minister that Cicero's maxim salus populi suprema est lex"— the good of the people is the chief law—is, in the context of his present difficulties, the overriding political imperative in the run-up to the next general election. This fisheries policy is not the will of the people: it is the diktat of bureaucrats and their political apparatchiks.

5.48 pm
Mr. Austin Mitchell (Great Grimsby)

An interesting paradox of these debates is the fact that the stronger the opposition in the fishing industry to the common fisheries policy grows, the more vigorously Ministers come here to defend it—inadequately and disingenuously—and the less they can deliver. They busily defend it in the Chamber while obtaining little that will benefit the fishing industry in the United Kingdom.

Today the Government are putting the squeeze on their supporters and telling them not to rock the boat or damage relations with Europe. Their line is that if we rock the boat on the common fisheries policy it could endanger our whole relationship with Europe. Meanwhile the Conservatives' leader, the Prime Minister, goes to European Councils, rocks the boat and damages our relations with Europe. In other words, the Government are telling their Back Benchers not to behave like the Prime Minister.

Instead of coming here to deliver their laboured defences of the common fisheries policy—as witness the Minister's opening speech—Ministers would be better employed getting some achievements for the British fishing industry. They should be as virile in Europe in obtaining something for our fishermen as they are in the House when defending the CFP to their own Back Benchers. I do not want to pursue that path today, but most of the debate has centred on it.

Our fishing industry is in crisis, and nowhere more so than in Grimsby, whose fleet, as the hon. Member for Holland with Boston (Sir R. Body) suggested, has shrunk below the limits of viability. The same is happening all over the country. As British vessels go out of business, their track records are bought up by quota hoppers. Most of the fishing done in excess of our targets is done by foreign companies which arrive and buy up British quotas because they are over target in their own countries. So they escape their targets by buying up the British quotas, and if flagship vessels went out of business we would find ourselves below target.

Ministers are imposing a double whammy on the industry. First, it is hit by the common fisheries policy. That is inevitable; our fishing grounds are the richest in the world, so we shall face intense competition if we turn a larger European fishing effort loose on them. If the CFP were effective in terms of conservation, we would not be holding today's debate because the industry would not be facing the problems of over-fishing and shrinking stocks.

Ministers have not defended British interests at all. When it comes to negotiations, something else is always more important so they give way on fishing—on Spanish access to our fishing grounds, for instance, to get Norway into the European Community. Always the higher aim results in fishing being sacrificed. To that extent, Ministers do not defend British fishing interests in Europe.

At the same time as the CFP is damaging our industry, Ministers are failing to provide it with the sort of backing and support which our competitor countries give their industries. They are our competitors, not our partners. The French fishing industry still gets the fuel subsidy to which Ministers have been objecting. That subsidy helps with the fuel costs of French fishing boats which come to fish in our fishing grounds—and it comes from the French Government. No such support is forthcoming from our Government.

Other industries such as the Spanish receive Government support for modernising their fleets, which then compete with our aging fleet which receives no Government support of that kind. Nor does our industry have the benefit of ports of landing facilities, which are provided as a local government service to the Danish and Dutch fleets. We pay heavy landing charges for which there is no Government help.

The industry might be able to put up with one or other—with the depredations of the CFP on the one hand or the lack of Government support on the other. The ports of landing in Europe are inadequately policed, so that there is no real control over the catches taken from our waters. The fishing industry might be able to cope with the slow anorexia that the Government are imposing on it, but it cannot cope with both problems at once.

It is wrong for Ministers to come here and vigorously defend the CFP when that defence is no more than a cloak for their inactivity and inadequate support for the industry. The industry cannot support the double whammy being imposed on it. When we lament the coming cuts in quotas, Ministers always tell us in these debates that they intend to go to Europe and get a good deal for our interests. They then come back after Christmas and apologise, saying that they were outvoted and could not get their way—they could not get the deal that we had been led to expect. The same will happen again this time.

We are being asked to accept substantial reductions in the total allowable catch of plaice; that will be disastrous for Grimsby, which relies mainly on cod but also on plaice. The problem would be compounded if the Minister engaged in the yearly swap agreed with the Dutch on plaice quotas. If plaice quotas are to be reduced, we cannot agree to any further such swaps with the Dutch. I hope that the Minister will tell us that he will not go ahead with it this year.

What is needed is greater stability. The National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations is asking that year on year swings be moderated to 15 per cent. The industry needs that certainty to be able to plan ahead. We should not enforce sudden, massive quota cuts on the industry, sometimes based on scientific advice which is not good at year-by-year predictions but which is very good at predicting long-term fluctuations in stocks. The problem with year-on-year predictions is that they do not take into account the perceptions of the industry. Many skippers complain to me about scientific advice which is not borne out in the fishing grounds, where stocks are much greater or smaller than scientists say. Hence scientific predictions need to be combined with the knowledge of the industry in a process of consultation before being enforced.

I hope, therefore, that the Minister will commit himself to moderating year by year swings and to ensuring that scientists consult the industry before quota cuts are based on advice that may be wrong. In its pathetic and shrunken condition, the industry needs Government support of the kind provided for the competing industries in Europe. It also needs stability and certainty so that it can survive to inherit the better years which must lie ahead.

5.57 pm
Mr. Rupert Allason (Torbay)

A proportion of those who still work in what survives of the fishing industry in the south-west live in my constituency and work out of Brixham. They tell me that there are more MAFF inspectors than police officers there. That is a sad indictment of what has gone so terribly wrong in our industry.

There is an overwhelming recognition by everyone in the industry of the need for conservation. People understand it because it represents their future and their children's future. At any rate, that is what they believed. There is no fisherman in the country who does not understand the need for conservation. Despite the gloom cast over the House by the Secretary of State's predictions of likely future quota cuts, the fishermen to whom I have spoken are all perfectly willing to accept those cuts—if they are limited to what they would refer to as the British fishing fleet. That is where the real problem lies, because around 28 per cent. of the tonnage of the British fishing fleet is not British at all, but Spanish. If we could get over that problem, many of our difficulties would disappear.

Two quite separate problems face the Government. The first is conservation and the need to reduce our fishing effort. Everyone accepts and understands the arguments for that all too well. We can do something about that, perhaps, in a common fisheries policy.

The second problem exposes the impotence of the Government. Following the judgment in the European Court of Justice, the Government cannot insist that British vessels are precisely that: British owned, British registered and with British flags. The real problem is that 30 per cent. of those vessels are owned by foreigners who are quota hoppers and who are living off the backs of our fishermen and destroying our industry.

The first problem is one with which my hon. Friend the Minister is well qualified to deal. I wish him well on Thursday when he goes to Europe. He has a difficult task, but, like his predecessors, he has done a good job for the industry in fighting our corner. The real problem lies with the quota hoppers. As I voted with the Opposition on the last occasion when the matter was before the House, I listened carefully to the Labour party's proposals. It seemed to me that the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Dr. Strang) proposed, first, that total allowable catches should be based entirely on scientific evidence. The second plank of his argument was that scientists should be given more resources so that they can understand precisely what the problems are and make accurate assessments. The third part of the argument was that we should ignore the scientists on socio-economic grounds.

Many Conservative Members wanted to understand what firm proposals the Opposition had to get us out of the dilemma, but there was nothing there. For those of us who in the past had tried to get some comfort from Opposition proposals on this difficult issue, there was none to be had.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State's speech could be summarised as, "Brace yourself because there is bad news to come." He tempered this with the slightly good news that harbour improvement grants would be restored. I welcome that, but I would like my hon. Friend the Minister of State in his winding-up speech to say that he will take another look at the way in which the Spanish and the Dutch in the North sea have been exploiting our quotas. That is the key to the problem.

I accept that the lawyers say that we lost last time and that the law is against us. Fine—but I do not believe that it is beyond the wit of man to find a way around that conundrum. I judge that the compromises that have been made in the past, to the detriment of the industry, were made by the Foreign Office because it does not regard the industry as significant or important. Invariably, compromises have been reached and the industry handicapped because the Foreign Office has decided that other issues are more important. When it comes to qualified majority voting, it believes that the fishing industry is dead and buried and insignificant, so we abstain on fishing to get Spanish support on some more important topic. That is unacceptable.

I urge hon. Members who do not have fishermen in their constituencies to accept that there can be nothing more distressing than to see a fishermen having to go down to his boat, not with a net and a lifejacket but with a chainsaw, to destroy it. That is what the Spanish and Dutch are forcing our industry to do. It is distressing, wrong and short-termist. That is why my hon. Friends and I have tabled an amendment.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)

Can my hon. Friend say whether there is any other country in the European Union whose fishing industry has been dealt with in such a devastating and damaging way as has the UK fishing industry?

Mr. Allason

My hon. Friend puts his finger on the point. Not only have we been handicapped in that way, but it appears that it is our money that has been spent on improving the Spanish fleets. There is nothing more upsetting for our fishermen than to know that funds paid by them through their taxes have gone to our competitors. They may be our partners in the European Union, but they are competitors and they are putting us out of business with our own taxpayer's money.

I urge my hon. Friend the Minister of State to give an undertaking to take another look at the abuse of flags of convenience. In those circumstances, I would reconsider the way I voted last time the issue came before the House. I wish my hon. Friend the Minister well on Thursday, but I urge and beg him to fight for British interests because if he does not, no one else will—certainly not the Foreign Office.

6.5 pm

Mr. William Ross (East Londonderry)

The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Dr. Strang) said that this was the most important fishing debate of the year. If the Labour party thinks so much of the subject, why on earth did it not get a full day's debate out of the Government, rather than a half-day? That does not say much for its negotiating skills. I am sorry to have to start on that note, because there was much in what the hon. Gentleman said with which I agreed. If the matter is important, let us have a full day's debate next time.

If it were possible that the Government might be cajoled into following the course of action suggested in the amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson), I would urge my right hon. and hon. Friends to support them. That is no secret. However, that will not happen—or at least, not yet. Our fallback position will be that set out by the hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. Harris)—with, of course, particular reference to the interests of Northern Ireland.

Every year on this issue, there is nothing more or less than a further instalment of crisis management. Far too much catch capacity is chasing too few fish. Allied to that is a lack of accurate information about the quantity of fish present in the sea. We have to expect that the efficiency of the vessels will continue to increase. There will be fewer and fewer vessels chasing the same number of fish.

If I have a quibble with what the hon. Member for St. Ives said, it is on his comment about firm scientific advice. Experience has shown that scientists' assessments can be wildly astray. It may well be that a large margin of error is always involved, but if, on top of that, the sort of, cheating to which the hon. Gentleman referred is added in, it is no wonder that the assessments go astray. In fact, it would be a miracle if the scientists got it right. Unless everybody is prepared to play by the rules of the game, there is no chance whatsoever of coming up with firm estimates of the numbers of a species in an area at a given time.

For instance, last year, the advice was that cod and whiting in the Irish sea were in a parlous state. This year, the advice is optimistic, but only the status quo for catches is being allowed. I hope that my remarks will be read in conjunction with those of the hon. Members for South Down (Mr. McGrady) and for North Antrim, (Dr. Paisley), who touched on aspects of what I am trying to put across to the House.

We need to be willing to reassess the situation as fishing returns demonstrate the abundance or scarcity of a particular species in a given fishery.

As the United Kingdom Minister can argue for only three species at a time, although there are 18, his ability to debate the entire range is somewhat limited. Is the information that has been given in that respect correct? For instance, we are told that this year the Irish sea contains a huge amount of haddock. The hon. Member for South Down referred to that matter in detail. We know from the returns that the fish are there, but we are not allowed to catch them. The figure mentioned is 600 tonnes, but the scientists say, "Well, perhaps we could catch up to 2,000." So why should not Northern Ireland fishermen catch them? So long as we proceed with short-term, ad hoc, arrangements, we shall get nowhere. Short-term changes must be measured against the general framework of total allowable catches and quotas, which are out of tune with the real position in the Irish sea.

Despite what the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath) said, much of the United Kingdom's problem stems from its failure to defend its interests when we entered the EEC. I listened to the right hon. Gentleman rejecting that argument, which was put rather brutally by one of his right hon. Friends. I have been told that, although the principle was agreed, embodied within the principle was the whole concept of qualified majority voting. If that is so, whatever case the United Kingdom put forward, it would never have been accepted. It had not a snowball's chance of getting anywhere.

Whenever we return to the position in the Irish sea, we find that the Irish Republic never catches the high quotas that it is allowed for cod and whiting, for instance. The reason for that is simple: it was given twice its true entitlement on historic fishing returns. That seems to me and the fishermen in Northern Ireland to be mad, and something needs to be done about it. If we do not catch the quota, the uncaught fish will act as a magnet to other nations looking for fish. That is unavoidable. We must have sufficient swaps to ensure that those quota are caught.

Will the Minister assure us that the promise made by Earl Howe in the other place on 26 October 1992, that the Government will continue to reduce any disadvantages to Northern Ireland and Wales—by, for example, utilising the system of quota exchanges with other member states, which traditionally enabled the United Kingdom to obtain additional quantities of fish in the Irish sea—will be carried into effect? Has that promise been buried? If so, it is regrettable, because it was a firm promise, and the Government should give an undertaking this evening to honour it.

I hope that, when the Minister goes off later this week to argue the case for the United Kingdom, he will persuade the Irish Minister to co-operate with Her Majesty's Government this year, so that the maximum number of available fish can be harvested from the Irish sea by those who earn their livelihoods there. As the Government of the Irish Republic failed to support Her Majesty's Government last year when we were trying to defend the Irish box, they owe us one. The problem that my hon. Friends and I face this evening is how we can best strengthen the Government's hand in their negotiations later this week.

6.12 pm
Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)

I always find it sad when a Minister with a fine mind deploys his cerebral skills and undoubted rhetorical talents in an intellectually unsustainable argument. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland fulfilled that unenviable task with great courtesy, and I listened with rapt attention to what he said.

It may help the House if I subject the amendment tabled in my name and that of my hon. Friends to textual analysis. It

requires Her Majesty's Government to issue at the forthcoming Inter-Governmental Conference a statement of its intention to declare an exclusive fishing zone out to 200 miles or to the median line and of its decision in principle to withdraw from the Common Fisheries Policy to be endorsed by the British people at the next general election. The intention behind the use of the verb "requires" is to assert the primacy of this Parliament. This Parliament must be sovereign if we are to recover the proper relationship between our country and the European Union. We must utilise any opportunities for genuine dialogue with our Community partners to our advantage.

The intergovernmental conference, which begins on 29 March, is a classic case in point. It is an opportunity not to be missed. Many people will allege that fishing is not on the agenda, but I am sure that the conference, which is likely to continue for several months, will have some "any other business", and that, in the course of the proceedings, we can make it known that the United Kingdom Government intend to declare an exclusive fishing zone up to 200 miles—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman must be aware that his amendment has not been selected for debate. Therefore, while an allusion to his amendment is in order, a detailed analysis of what is written on the Order Paper is not.

Mr. Wilkinson

In that case, I shall seek to deploy arguments which are germane to the whole debate.

Our country must make it clear to our European Union partners what we intend to do, so that they may make appropriate representations to us to secure the necessary bilateral fishing agreements in traditional fishing areas within our waters.

The Icelanders and Norwegians have found that a 200-mile limit is essential to safeguard their fishing interests. At the time of the cod war, I went to Iceland with the North Atlantic Assembly military tour. I was struck by the fact that relations between peoples were not adversely affected, as both sides recognised that vital interests were at stake.

With the benefit of hindsight, no one can reasonably suggest that what the Icelanders bravely did was wrong. I believe that they were right. Others will say that the Canadian— example—Canada has a 200-mile limit—proves that a 200-mile limit does not necessarily secure the conservation of stocks. That is true, but if, having asserted a 200-mile limit, we fail to conserve, the fault will be entirely ours. We shall pursue a conservation policy that is manifestly in Britain's interests, so it should have the support of fishing communities, because they will understand that they benefit.

Mr. Marlow

May I draw my hon. Friend's attention to a note that I have received, prepared by the Library for my Whip? This sentence is headed:

The Argument against the CFP", and the statement made in the note is:

The problem is, rather, that it has a poor record on conserving fish. That is the Library's objective view.

Mr. Wilkinson

It is also the objective view of my extremely honest right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, who expressed it loud and clear in his opening remarks. That is why we say quite candidly that the common fisheries policy is a busted flush, and we should be no further part of it.

However, if we are to take such an important step, we must inform our Community partners, and we need the support of the British electorate. In the process of European construction, the last people to be consulted, and the last people who are carried along with the policy, are the voters, which is why the issue should be put to them in the Conservative party manifesto. They will then know that, if they vote Conservative, we shall pull out, we shall have a 200-mile limit, and British fishing communities will he protected.

That is not Labour party policy, which rests on reform of the CFP, a hopeless undertaking. The Liberal Democrat party's policy will do exactly the same. As my hon. Friend the Member for Holland with Boston (Sir R. Body) said, we need to look to 2002, to the renegotiation of the common fisheries policy and the enlargement of the Community. When Poland and the Baltic states join, their fishermen will, by treaty, be entitled to access to the common resource of our fisheries. This will cause further depredation of stock. It will lead to diminished quotas for our fishermen, and less chance of a sustainable livelihood for them.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland averred that it would be impossible for us to withdraw, and that we were bound by treaty to stay in. I challenge that argument. If the British electorate have clearly demonstrated that they wish our country to withdraw from the CFP, our sovereign Parliament should instruct our Government so to do.

If there were retaliation, what form would it take? It might take the form of action in the area of trade or other areas of mutual interest, but what would be our counter-retaliation? Perhaps it would be not to pay so much money to the European Union. We are the second biggest net contributor, and much of our net contribution goes to subsidising Spanish fishermen and others who are putting British fishermen out of work. We must confront the challenge head on.

Hon. and right hon. Members will have noticed British fishermen going to sea with the Canadian flag at the masthead. Something is seriously wrong if British fishermen go to sea with a foreign flag flying from the masts of their vessels. It demonstrates a degree of alienation, at the least, which I find horrifying.

Such displays have their good side. In my office, I have a Canadian flag proudly displayed, which was presented to me and some hon. Friends by our counterparts in the Canadian Parliament for the support we gave them when their Government challenged the European Union about fishing rights off the Newfoundland banks. I shall not go into the legalities of who was right and who was wrong; all I know is that the British people were wholeheartedly behi[...]d our Canadian friends. To be candid, they were affronted that we appeared initially to take the side of the Spaniards.

On matters of this kind, emotions are important. We need to take account of the heartfelt feelings of our constituents and the fishing communities, and do what we know in our hearts to be right.

We are a maritime nation. It is appropriate that we should be responsible for the conservation of our own stocks. We should have an exclusive fishing zone out to 200 miles. We should inform our Community partners that that is what we intend to do, and we should seek the endorsement of the British people for the policy. If we do that, we shall gain the political initiative, and be rewarded for it.

6.22 pm
Mr. Nick Ainger (Pembroke)

I shall be brief, because I understand that my hon. Friend the Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley) wants to start his speech at 6.30.

Those of us who represent fishing constituencies know that the industry is in crisis. Unfortunately, some of the contributions by hon. Members who do not represent fishing constituencies did not present practical solutions to the immediate, short-term and medium-term problems that confront the industry.

The withdrawal from the common fisheries policy and the establishment of a 200-mile limit will not solve the problems of people living in my constituency or many other fishing constituencies in the next few years, because it cannot be achieved.

We need to do what the Government have failed to do, at least during my time in the present Parliament, since April 1992—tackle the serious problem of effort versus stocks. It began with the Sea Fish (Conservation) Act 1992, which tried to bring in the days-at-sea limitation, to limit effort that way, which was finally thrown out, not too long ago, by the European Court. The Government failed to accept what all the Opposition parties and the industry were saying at the time—that the only solution was a decommissioning programme that worked, which would reduce effort and compensate fishermen who decided to leave the industry.

The hon. Member for Torbay (Mr. Allason) said that the French and Spanish had been able to invest in their industry, in their equipment and in their boats. The reason for that is that they have been meeting their multi-annual guidance programmes and have been able to qualify for grant aid, which the Government have failed to do in each of the multi-annual guidance programmes. Therefore, British fishermen and the British industry have been unable to benefit from grant aid, and to upgrade and improve their equipment.

One reason why the quota-hoppers and flagships have been able to come in and pick up British licences is that British fishermen have not had the wherewithal and the support from the Government and the financial institutions to enable them to invest in new plant and equipment. We end up in the crazy position where we artificially try to control the amount of fish that is caught, rather than tackling the effort problem. We end up with the farce that the TACs and the quotas have become. We have that huge roller-coaster—the term that the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations used—of quotas and TACs.

Last year, the TAC for western hake was reduced by about 45 per cent., and it was understood and hoped that that would solve the problem in relation to that stock. Now we find that the proposal for next year is, not the status quo, not an increase, but yet another cut, of about 29 per cent. How can any industry that depends on one product, plan and invest in such circumstances? We have substantial evidence from the fishermen on landings of cod in the Irish Sea, where, apparently, there is an abundance of cod and of haddock, yet there is no change in the TAC.

I hope that the Minister will consider the issue relating to the Irish sea, in relation to both the failure on occasions of the Irish Republic fishermen to meet their TACs, and the fact that English, Welsh and Northern Irish fishermen are constantly up against the ceiling of the TAC that has been set.

Unless we tackle the problem of the other effort, we shall repeatedly have this debate, as we do every year, just before the Minister goes off to Europe to try to argue a case that we all know will fail. Unless we tackle that problem, we shall have the same debate yet again, and the arguments will be made yet again, the following year.

One reason why we have that serious problem in relation to conservation is that we constantly speak about total allowable catches when they are not that, as the Minister knows; they are total allowable landings. There is a massive difference between what is taken out of the sea and what is landed in the ports. I have been told that discards may be at least 40 per cent. of TAC; 40 per cent. that will have no benefit to the market or to the fishermen, fish that are dead and returned to the sea. Unless that issue is tackled, I am afraid that TACs will never work.

We need to tackle the problem of the flagships. I accept that many attempts have been made by the Government to consider that, but I seek from the Minister of State an assurance that the fishermen of Wales and of south-west England will not suffer any reduction in their quota as a result of the 40 Spanish vessels coming into that part of the Irish box that they will be able to enter from 1 January 1996.

We want an assurance that no British fisherman, whether Welsh or English, will suffer reductions in the quota for any species as a result of that measure. The Minister was asked to give that assurance the last time we debated the issue, but I am afraid that the answer we received was, to say the least, non-committal. The matter is vital for the south-west and the Welsh fishing ports.

I hope—I fear that it is a hollow hope—that the next time we have a debate, we shall be able to say that fishing effort has been reduced sensibly in co-operation with the industry. I hope that we shall at last be able to say that we are starting to match our conservation measures with effort and stocks. I hope that there will be a partnership between Government, Europe, industry and the scientists. It may be a forlorn hope, but unless we start tackling the problem soon, our industry is doomed.

6.30 pm
Mr. Elliot Morley (Glanford and Scunthorpe)

This has been an important debate and there have been many useful contributions. I agree with the hon. Member for East Londonderry (Mr. Ross) that it is an annual debate for which we should have more time. He will appreciate that the business timetable is in the Government's hands. But when we are in government he can be assured that we will listen sympathetically to his representations.

The Secretary of State for Scotland mentioned the 1992 manifesto: in 1992 the Labour party made suggestions for amending the common fisheries policy, working with the fishing community on conservation measures and campaigning throughout the fishing constituencies. The moves were covered in the fishing press. The Government are only now—three years later—considering many of those ideas in the review committee. We do not need lessons from the Government about what we have been doing.

In some ways today's debate is a re-run of previous debates. In the past, when the Government felt that they were under pressure, they suddenly came up with more money for the decommissioning scheme, which was welcome at the time. Now, when they are under pressure, we suddenly find that the harbour grant scheme has been reinstated—it is a more modest contribution than the decommissioning scheme, but it is welcome for all that. We shall not be churlish about it.

Much attention has been focused on the debate for many reasons. There is no doubt that the debate provides an opportunity to discuss European Union policy as it affects our country. It is completely legitimate to question the mechanics of the European Union, particularly how it applies in terms of the common fisheries policy—many hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell), have done so. But we must not forget the importance of the debate to the British fishing industry, and I shall touch on some of the serious concerns.

I shall first discuss the quotas set for individual species which the Minister will have to discuss at the Fisheries Council. Concern has been voiced in tonight's debate about the way in which the quotas seem to fluctuate wildly from year to year. That not only makes it difficult for the fishing industry in terms of applying effort and using opportunities, it does not help the credibility of science. I accept that there are difficulties in calculating fish stocks at sea. It seems strange that some stocks have increased dramatically over recent years, while others have been dramatically cut. It does not help when the Government make cuts in sectors of vital fisheries research, such as they have done recently on research into the impact of the industrial fishing of sand eels in Shetland. The Government also made research and development cuts across the board in the Budget, including cuts in fisheries research.

The Minister will be discussing species quotas. We certainly welcome the fact that there will be an 8 per cent. increase in the cod quota, but it is thought within the industry that the increase could be greater given the evidence of large numbers of cod presently in the North sea. It is strange that there is to be no increase for channel cod although it is accepted that the stocks of channel cod and North sea cod are linked to some extent.

A big issue for our fleets involves North sea sole and plaice. There is great concern about the 29 per cent. cut in that quota, which will hit our eastern, Northern Ireland, south-western and Irish sea fleets. The problem of swaps with Holland has been mentioned. If no swaps are to take place, I hope that the Minister will look at the total allowable catch for the western waters for those fish that we would normally obtain from a swap with the Dutch. My hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke (Mr. Ainger) made a clear case for western hake for his local fishing fleet. It would be helpful if the Minister would say whether such a swap would take place at the current projected total of 78,000 tonnes for North sea plaice or whether the total would have to be increased for the swap to go ahead. There is a severe cut of 22 per cent. in the whiting quota. It seems strange that in recent years it has been argued that the quota should be increased because whiting are predatory fish and affect the white fish stocks. But the present cut is so large that it could invoke the Hague preference. I hope that in his negotiations the Minister will ensure that the quota limits are set at a level that does not do so because of the problems involved in the Hague preference. That preference provides benefits for this country north of Bridlington, but also applies to the Republic of Ireland and therefore has implications for our Northern Ireland fleet and the fleet that fishes in area VII. The Irish Republic is trying to invoke the Hague preference on Irish sea cod and haddock, which has implications for our area VII fleet.

Throughout the debate we have discussed the common fisheries policy; we cannot talk about quotas and fisheries management without discussing how the common fisheries policy operates. The subject cannot be avoided as it is the framework for the fisheries management scheme. Our amendment recognises that there are severe problems with the CFP and that we need a radical approach to reform.

Much attention has focused on whether there will be a rebellion tonight and the reason for it in terms of the political agenda, particularly for those with Eurosceptic views. There is no doubt that the policy of voting against the Government on various European issues has been successful for the Eurosceptics. The debate has provoked the Foreign Secretary into taking to the airways to appeal to the dissidents. The Prime Minister has written articles in The Daily Telegraph that have been slanted towards the dissidents. Tonight, a former Prime Minister and the current Secretary of State for Scotland have spoken in the debate. There is no doubt that the Eurosceptics' tactics have been successful and are moving the Government towards their agenda, whether for good or ill.

The debate, however, is about the dire state of our fishing industry. To be fair, those who have spoken have had a genuine interest in the subject—they include hon. Members from Northern Ireland, from the nationalist and Liberal Democrat parties, and hon. Members from both sides of the House who represent fishing constituencies. Even those with Eurosceptic views have taken an interest in the problems of our fishing fleet. The hon. Member for Holland with Boston (Sir R. Body) feels passionately about the subject and knows the effect of the policy on his local fishermen.

Problems with the common fisheries policy include those involving the Western waters and Spanish accession; the fact that Spanish and Portuguese vessels are to be allowed in from 1 January, six years ahead of schedule. There are also problems involving control measures on our south-western and Northern Ireland fleet; problems of bureaucracy; the flagships issue; the need to qualify properly the principle of a common fisheries resource—a key issue; problems of meeting the multi-annual guidance programme and effort control; problems of having an ageing fleet compared with those of other countries; enforcement problems, particularly with other countries; problems of implementing a conservation scheme that is tailored to our waters; and the problem of discards. There is a need for associated socio-economic measures and a need to consider the operation of the decommissioning scheme. Increasing pressure is being placed on many of the white fish in the North sea which fall within the two to three-year-old age group, which means that the potential of the larger species is never realised.

The Labour party calls for reform of the CAP and recognises that we must seek co-operation to achieve that; no one country can achieve it alone. We firmly believe that, even within the framework of the CAP, we can achieve greater national autonomy. We also believe that there is scope for greater involvement of fishermen in the management of stocks through their associations and producer organisations. There are structural conservation packages, many of which were put forward by organisations such as the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations and the Scottish Fishermen's Federation to deal with the practical problems of conservation. We need to gather allies and support for those packages and we must talk to the Commission. The Labour party has already begun that process.

Conservative Members must ask why other fishing countries such as Norway and Spain are so successful at negotiating good deals for their fishery sectors. The answer must be the pressure that is applied to their Governments in their respective Parliaments. A vote tonight for Labour's amendment would send a clear signal to the European Commission that neither the British Parliament nor the British fishing industry are satisfied with the present common fisheries policy or the current state of the industry. That is a perfectly respectable position for any Member of Parliament to take on the issue.

In that respect, a vote for our amendment is vital as a demonstration of the House's support for our fishing communities. Members of Parliament who represent fishing communities know that their fishermen want and expect them to support the amendment. For far too long, the British fishing industry has been isolated in terms of the support that it believes it should receive from Government. Tonight we have an opportunity to rectify the matter.

Mr. Gallie

Earlier this afternoon I asked the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Dr. Strang) whether he had considered inserting some reference to total allowable catches in his amendment. I cannot understand why that has not been included in the amendment. In attempting to persuade Conservative Members, perhaps the hon. Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe could refer to that very important issue.

Mr. Morley

I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman was present for the beginning of my speech, but I discussed in detail the quotas issue and the problems that the industry faces in that regard. I outlined how those problems could be dealt with. The quotas issue is open for negotiation. The Minister has some scope in that area and we hope that he will move the negotiations in the directions that I have outlined in some detail.

Members of Parliament who want to see reform of the common fisheries policy and European institutions—they are our objectives, although we may disagree about the detail—represent a strand of opinion in this country that expects them to support the amendment. The vote tonight should not be seen simply as a vote for a Labour amendment, an Opposition amendment or even a particular Government position. It should be seen as a statement of intent to the European Commission that change is needed. We must adopt a clear policy position that will reinforce the Government's position in the negotiations in Europe. Above all, it is a vote for an amendment which promotes the British fishing industry. In that respect, it is worthy of the support of all hon. Members.

6.42 pm
The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Tony Baldry)

As the United Kingdom Fisheries Minister, I have only one ambition: to represent the best interests of the United Kingdom fishing industry. My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Robertson), my noble Friend Baroness Denton of Wakefield and I shall attend the Fisheries Council meeting this week. I doubt whether any other member state will have in attendance so many Ministers who are committed to defending and promoting the interests of their industry.

Hon. Members must recognise that it is not foreigners that we should fear, but the straightforward fact that at present too many fishing vessels are chasing too few fish. There is no escaping the fact that the failure to conserve fish stocks poses the greatest threat to the fishing industry. We must have regard to the scientific evidence which suggests that a considerable number of our most important fish stocks could collapse within a matter of years without tough conservation measures. Some 60 per cent. of fish stocks are already below minimum biological levels.

I must ensure not only that our fishing industry has the maximum catch next year but that there are sustainable levels of fish in the seas for our fishermen to catch the year after next and in every year as we move into the next century. Co-operation with our European partners is essential in view of the overcapacity of fishing fleets and the fact that fish do not respect national boundaries. We fish in the waters of other countries and they fish in ours, so it is essential that there is collaboration and co-operation throughout Europe.

A number of hon. Members raised questions about specific fish stocks. I suspect that they have raised those questions at the behest of fishing organisations such as the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisation and the Scottish Fishermen's Federation. My ministerial colleagues and regularly I meet those two organisations. We have lengthy detailed discussions with them.

I make it clear to the House that their priorities are my priorities; their concerns and goals in the Fisheries Council are mine also. The detail that they give me about individual fish stocks is the detail that I hope to take forward and argue for in Brussels this week. In some instances, that will mean moderating the reduction in quotas that the Commission has suggested, and in other instances the quotas may be increased. I shall go to Brussels—I hope in co-operation and collaboration with the industry—to seek to address what the industry sees as its most important priorities.

Mr. Keith Mans (Wyre)

Will my hon. Friend confirm the remarks that he made by way of intervention to my hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives (Mr. Harris) in relation to marketing grants? He said that grants will be available to those at Fleetwood who have already applied for them and that they will be available to people in other ports who may apply for them in the future.

Mr. Baldry

As I told the House earlier, since my appointment as Fisheries Minister in July I have travelled around the country from Newlyn to Newcastle and from Hastings to Hull meeting industry representatives and with hon. Members who take a close interest in the fishing industries in their constituencies. I have been very impressed by the arguments advanced by my hon. Friends the Members for Wyre (Mr. Mans), for St. Ives (Mr. Harris), for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Coe), for South Hams (Mr. Steen), for Cornwall, South-East (Mr. Hicks) and others. They have argued strongly that at a time when quotas are being reduced—with good reason—we must continue to support the industry through harbour grants and marketing and processing grants. I understand their concerns and we have looked carefully for new funds for a number of grants schemes. I am pleased to announce that the national harbour grants scheme and the European Union structural measures for port facilities and marketing and processing will apply.

Mr. Salmond


Mr. Baldry

I can anticipate the hon. Gentleman's intervention: they will apply throughout the United Kingdom.

Mr. Salmond

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Baldry

I do not need to give way as I have confirmed that the grants will apply throughout the United Kingdom.

Returning to the quotas issue, I shall be arguing in the Council for quotas to be set at realistic levels that will do the least possible damage to the industry's prospects next year. I understand the argument that a number of hon. Members have made: of course we cannot expect the industry to cope with wildly varying quotas year upon year. After all, people have invested in their vessels and in their future; they cannot be expected to deal with wildly fluctuating quotas.

We should not try to remedy the damage caused by overfishing by cutting particular fish stocks severely in any one year. If stocks must be protected by reducing the fishing effort, I hope that that can be achieved over a period of years rather than by introducing severe yearly cuts. Badly depleted stocks must be rebuilt if we are to maintain a viable industry in the long term.

Mr. Gallie

A year or two ago there was a quota of 16,000 tonnes for prawns on the west coast of Scotland. The quota has been reduced in recent years, but the quality and the volume of the prawn catch has increased. Some have suggested that there are many prawns to be taken, although scientific evidence seems to refute that claim. Will my hon. Friend re-examine that issue, as my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Robertson) has already done this year?

Mr. Baldry

My hon. Friend makes a good point. He will know that, because of the wishes of the Scottish fishing industry, we revisited that issue this year and achieved an increase in the quota for prawns. I hope that that increase will be reflected in the negotiations later this week.

Mr. Harris

I am grateful for the way in which my hon. Friend responded to the points that I and other Members have raised and assured the House that he would press for the priorities put forward by the industry. Can he give the House any information on another matter of concern to the industry on which representations have been made? Is there any progress on the long-standing claims for compensation from Spain to fishermen from the south-west for the damage caused to their nets in the tuna war?

Mr. Baldry

In an earlier debate in the House, I promised to try to resolve the issue by Christmas. I am glad to inform the House that the Spanish Minister responsible for fishing has confirmed that United Kingdom fishermen will be offered compensation of £100,000 to be paid by the end of this year or early next year, so I hope that the House will feel that I have fulfilled my promise.

Mr. Salmond

May we return to tonight's inducement? If the Minister believed that the financial instrument for fisheries grant and the harbour grant scheme were so important, why did he agree three weeks ago to their cancellation?

Mr. Baldry

I never cease to be amazed at how ungrateful some Members can be. Here I am, the week before Christmas, restoring marketing, processing and harbour grants, and such an ingrate individual quibbles about it. The only person who is more ingrate than the hon. Gentleman is the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell), who comes to the House complaining that not enough is done for fishing ports [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman never listens. I know of no more ungrateful Member than him. He complains to the House that not enough is spent on fishing ports when Grimsby is awash with money that the Government have invested in the port. Nearly £969,000 in Government fisheries grants will have been made available to Grimsby in two and a half years. That is the largest such allocation to any port in the United Kingdom. Clearly, the hon. Gentleman cannot recognise that.

Later this week I shall seek to ensure the best possible quotas and the best possible deal for the United Kingdom fishing industry, but consistent with the scientific advice which demonstrates that some of our fish stocks, such as North sea herring and mackerel, are in serious danger of collapse, which would be disastrous for the fishing industry, the processing industry and the consumer.

Mr. Allason

When my hon. Friend goes to the Fisheries Council on Thursday, will he raise the issue of quota hoppers and the abuse of the flags that is so obvious in the British registry?

Mr. Baldry

I certainly will not forget that. My hon. Friend quite rightly reminds the House of the problem of quota hoppers. We all share that concern. The Factortame judgment has nothing to do with the common fisheries policy—it is based on that principle of European law which allows the free association of individuals in different member states—but it is a matter of real and legitimate concern.

My hon. Friend the Member for Torbay, who takes a close interest in promoting the interests of the fishing industry in the south-west, rightly continues to draw the issue to the attention of Ministers. He asked me to consult lawyers as to whether anything could be done about that judgment. I shall gladly draw together the lawyers in the fishing industry.

As I went round the ports of the United Kingdom, I issued a simple challenge. If any fishing industry representative has any sensible suggestions on how we can get around the Factortame judgment, I shall gladly take them on board and willingly support my hon. Friend's suggestion that we take yet a further look at the issue.

Mr. Anthony Steen (South Hams)

I thank my hon. Friend most warmly for his visits to my constituency and the port of Brixham, where he has always been very welcome. Is it the Government's policy to try to reform the common fisheries policy?

Mr. Baldry

Yes. All hon. Members recognise that the common fisheries policy has a number of defects. However, we shall not support the totally meaningless garbage put forward in the Labour amendment. When the Opposition Front Bench spokesman was asked to explain what it meant, he was clearly incapable of giving any such explanation. No one in the House is satisfied with the existing common fisheries policy; it clearly needs to be reformed.

Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham)

Does the Minister recognise that many good Conservatives here tonight do not wish to give any comfort to the Labour party, but are deeply worried about the state of the fishing industry? Can the Minister say anything more about the robust stance that he will take at the Fisheries Council and British action that might be taken after the Council so that we stand up for British fishermen, not Spanish ones?

Mr. Baldry

My right hon. Friend can rest assured that my primary duty to the House is to represent and stand up for the interests of the British fishing industry. If at any time any Member can point to an occasion when I failed to stand up for the British fishing industry, I shall gladly vacate this place.

Mr. Tyler

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Baldry

I should make some progress. I am determined that there should be an on-going dialogue between the fishing industry and scientists on the specific issue of quotas and I recognise there are real concerns that the industry is not being heard.

It is important that the fishing industry becomes more involved in what we are doing. Many in the fishing industry see the year-on-year debate on quotas as a somewhat blunt instrument for ensuring control of the fishing effort and believe that more can be done by way of technical conservation measures. For that reason, I am setting up a fisheries conservation group that will bring together Government scientists and other academics with representatives of the industry to examine issues on which there are concerns, such as industrial fishing and the level of discards and to find out what more can be achieved by improving fishing gear.

Not only do I intend that we should do that here in the United Kingdom, but one of my other objectives at the Fisheries Council meeting later this week is to ensure a clear commitment to technical conservation measures in respect of fishing gear. Progress also has to be made towards addressing widespread concerns about industrial fishing, discards and by-catching.

I assure hon. Members representing Northern Ireland constituencies that I shall be pressing the Fisheries Council for increases in the quotas proposed for the Irish sea. I fully appreciate the concerns of the Northern Irish industry about the Hague preference and of course we shall continue to seek to reduce the disadvantages to Northern Ireland resulting from the Hague preference, for example by carrying out international quota swaps.

The hon. Member for East Londonderry (Mr. Ross) asked whether the quota is still Government policy. It is and will continue to be Government policy. Members have been concerned that there should be equal and strict enforcement of EC fishery measures throughout the Community and we determined to ensure that.

Two concerns have run through this evening's debate. One is the common fisheries policy, where the Government need reforms. It would be disingenuous, however, to suggest that we could leave the common fisheries policy. We should concentrate instead on reforming it in ways that would benefit the industry.

I find the Opposition amendment disingenuous in the extreme. Opposition Members play on the worst aspects of xenophobia. They criticise the Spanish, but forget that not a single Labour voice was raised against the accession of Spain or Portugal to the European Union. They criticised the Government for the deal that was achieved and clearly failed to read the Spanish treaty of accession, which stated that 300 vessels may be authorised to fish in western waters from the date of accession until 31 December this year. The result of the agreement that we achieved in December 1994 is that the number of Spanish vessels with access to the Irish box from 1 January will he not 300 but 40. That is a considerable deal on behalf of the United Kingdom fishing industry.

We do not need the Labour party to give us lessons on representing British interests. Anyone who is concerned about British interests should have regard to what the Labour party and other socialist parties signed up to this week in Madrid—a significant extension of qualified majority voting and restrictions on how long people can work. If those policies were implemented, we would be unable to represent best fishing interests.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 297, Noes 305.

Division No. 16] [7.00 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Berry, Roger
Adams, Mrs Irene Betts, Clive
Ainger, Nick Blair, Rt Hon Tony
Allen, Graham Blunkett, David
Alton, David Boateng, Paul
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Boyes, Roland
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'Dale) Bradley, Keith
Armstrong, Hilary Bray, Dr Jeremy
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Brown, Gordon (Dunfermline E)
Ashton, Joe Brown, N (N'c'tle upon Tyne E)
Austin-Walker, John Burden, Richard
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Byers, Stephen
Barnes, Harry Caborn, Richard
Barron, Kevin Callaghan, Jim
Battle, John Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Bayley, Hugh Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)
Beckett, Rt Hon Margaret Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Beith, Rt Hon A J Campbell-Savours, D N
Bell, Stuart Canavan, Dennis
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Cann, Jamie
Bennett, Andrew F Chidgey, David
Benton, Joe Chisholm, Malcolm
Bermingham, Gerald Church, Judith
Clapham, Michael Hill, Keith (Streatham)
Clark, Dr David (South Shields) Hinchliffe, David
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian) Hodge, Margaret
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Hoey, Kate
Clelland, David Hogg, Norman (Cumbernauld)
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Home Robertson, John
Coffey, Ann Hoon, Geoffrey
Cohen, Harry Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A)
Connarty, Michael Howarth, George (Knowsley North)
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Howells, Dr Kim (Pontypridd)
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Hoyle, Doug
Corbett, Robin Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Corbyn, Jeremy Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Corston, Jean Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Cousins, Jim Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Cox, Tom Hume, John
Cummings, John Hutton, John
Cunliffe, Lawrence Illsley, Eric
Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE) Ingram, Adam
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr John Jackson, Glenda (H'stead)
Cunningham, Roseanna Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H)
Dafis, Cynog Jamieson, David
Dalyell, Tam Janner, Greville
Darling, Alistair Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side)
Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral) Jones, leuan Wyn (Ynys Môn)
Davies, Chris (L'Boro & S'worth) Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O)
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW)
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l) Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Denham, John Jowell, Tessa
Dewar, Donald Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Dixon, Don Keen, Alan
Dobson, Frank Kennedy, Charles (Ross,C&S)
Donohoe, Brian H Kennedy, Jane (L'pool Br'dg'n)
Dowd, Jim Khabra, Piara S
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth Kilfoyle, Peter
Eagle, Ms Angela Kirkwood, Archy
Eastham, Ken Lestor, Joan (Eccles)
Evans, John (St Helens N) Lewis, Terry
Ewing, Mrs Margaret Liddell, Mrs Helen
Fatchett, Derek Litherland, Robert
Faulds, Andrew Livingstone, Ken
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Fisher, Mark Llwyd, Elfyn
Flynn, Paul Loyden, Eddie
Forsythe, Clifford (S Antrim) Lynne, Ms Liz
Foster, Rt Hon Derek McAllion, John
Foster, Don (Bath) McAvoy, Thomas
Foulkes, George McCartney, Ian
Fraser, John McCartney, Robert
Fyfe, Maria McCrea, The Reverend William
Galbraith, Sam Macdonald, Calum
Galloway, George McFall, John
Gapes, Mike McGrady, Eddie
Garrett, John McKelvey, William
George, Bruce Mackinlay, Andrew
Gerrard, Neil McLeish, Henry
Godman, Dr Norman A Maclennan, Robert
Golding, Mrs Llin McMaster, Gordon
Gordon, Mildred McNamara, Kevin
Graham, Thomas MacShane, Denis
Grant, Bernie (Tottenham) McWilliam, John
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) Maddock, Diana
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Mahon, Alice
Grocott, Bruce Mallon, Seamus
Gunnell, John Mandelson, Peter
Hain, Peter Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Hall, Mike Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S)
Hanson, David Martin, Michael J (Springburn)
Hardy, Peter Martlew, Eric
Harman, Ms Harriet Maxton, John
Harvey, Nick Meacher, Michael
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Meale, Alan
Henderson, Doug Michael, Alun
Hendron, Dr Joe Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Heppell, John Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)
Milburn, Alan Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Miller, Andrew Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby) Short, Clare
Molyneaux, Rt Hon James Simpson, Alan
Moonie, Dr Lewis Skinner, Dennis
Morgan, Rhodri Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Morley, Elliot Smith, Chris (Isl'ton S & F'sbury)
Morris, Rt Hon Alfred (Wy'nshawe) Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley) Smyth, The Reverend Martin
Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon) Soley, Clive
Mowlam, Marjorie Spearing, Nigel
Mudie, George Spellar, John
Mullin, Chris Squire, Rachel (Dunfermline W)
Murphy, Paul Steel, Rt Hon Sir David
O'Brien, Mike (N W'kshire) Steinberg, Gerry
O'Brien, William (Normanton) Stevenson, George
O'Hara, Edward Stott, Roger
Olner, Bill Strang, Dr. Gavin
O'Neill, Martin Straw, Jack
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Sutcliffe, Gerry
Paisley, The Reverend Ian Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Parry, Robert Taylor, Rt Hon John D (Strgfd)
Pearson, Ian Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Pendry, Tom Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Pickthall, Colin Timms, Stephen
Pike, Peter L Tipping, Paddy
Pope, Greg Touhig, Don
Powell, Ray (Ogmore) Trimble, David
Prentice, Bridget (Lew'm E) Tyler, Paul
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle) Vaz, Keith
Prescott, Rt Hon John Walker, A Cecil (Belfast N)
Primarolo, Dawn Walker, Rt Hon Sir Harold
Purchase, Ken Wallace, James
Quin, Ms Joyce Walley, Joan
Radice, Giles Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Randall, Stuart Wareing, Robert N
Raynsford, Nick Welsh, Andrew
Redmond, Martin Wicks, Malcolm
Reid, Dr John Wigley, Dafydd
Rendel, David Williams, Rt Hon Alan (SW'n W)
Robertson, George (Hamilton) Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)
Robinson, Geoffrey (Co'try NW) Wilson, Brian
Robinson, Peter (Belfast E) Winnick, David
Roche, Mrs Barbara Wise, Audrey
Rogers, Allan Worthington, Tony
Rooker, Jeff Wray, Jimmy
Rooney, Terry Wright, Dr Tony
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W) Young, David (Bolton SE)
Ross, William (E Londonderry) Tellers for the Ayes:
Ruddock, Joan Mr. Dennis Turner and
Salmond, Alex Mr. Robert Ainsworth.
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) Biffen, Rt Hon John
Alexander, Richard Bonsor, Sir Nicholas
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby) Booth, Hartley
Allason, Rupert (Torbay) Boswell, Tim
Amess, David Bottomley, Peter (Eltham)
Ancram, Michael Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia
Arbuthnot, James Bowden, Sir Andrew
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Bowis, John
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv) Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes
Ashby, David Brandreth, Gyles
Aspinwall, Jack Brazier, Julian
Atkins, Rt Hon Robert Bright, Sir Graham
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Baker, Rt Hon Kenneth (Mole V) Brown, M (Brigg & Cl'thorpes)
Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset) Browning, Mrs Angela
Baldry, Tony Bruce, Ian (Dorset)
Banks, Matthew (Southport) Burns, Simon
Bates, Michael Butcher, John
Bellingham, Henry Butler, Peter
Bendall, Vivian Butterfill, John
Beresford, Sir Paul Carlisle, John (Luton North)
Carlisle, Sir Kenneth (Lincoln) Harris, David
Carrington, Matthew Haselhurst, Sir Alan
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Hawkins, Nick
Chapman, Sir Sydney Hawksley, Warren
Churchill, Mr Hayes, Jerry
Clappison, James Heald, Oliver
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ru'clif) Heath, Rt Hon Sir Edward
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Heathcoat-Amory, David
Coe, Sebastian Hendry, Charles
Colvin, Michael Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Congdon, David Hicks, Robert
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st) Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Hill, James (Southampton Test)
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham)
Cormack, Sir Patrick Horam, John
Couchman, James Hordern, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Cran, James Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire) Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon) Howell, Sir Ralph (N Norfolk)
Davies, Quentin (Stamford) Hughes, Robert G (Harrow W)
Davis, David (Boothferry) Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)
Day, Stephen Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)
Deva, Nirj Joseph Hunter, Andrew
Devlin, Tim Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Dicks, Terry Jack, Michael
Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Jenkin, Bernard
Dover, Den 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 Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Dykes, Hugh Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Eggar, Rt Hon Tim Key, Robert
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter King, Rt Hon Tom
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield) Kirkhope, Timothy
Evans, Jonathan (Brecon) Knapman, Roger
Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley) Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)
Evans, Roger (Monmouth) Knight, Rt Hon Greg (Derby N)
Evennett, David Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n)
Faber, David Knox, Sir David
Fabricant, Michael Kynoch, George (Kincardine)
Fenner, Dame Peggy Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) Lamont, Rt Hon Norman
Fishburn, Dudley Lang, Rt Hon Ian
Forman, Nigel Lawrence, Sir Ivan
Forsyth, Rt Hon Michael (Stirling) Legg, Barry
Forth, Eric Leigh, Edward
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman Lennox-Boyd, Sir Mark
Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring) Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley) Lidington, David
Freeman, Rt Hon Roger Lilley, Fit Hon Peter
French, Douglas Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Gale, Roger Lord, Michael
Gallie, Phil Luff, Peter
Gardiner, Sir George Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Garel-Jones, Rt Hon Tristan MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Garnier, Edward MacKay, Andrew
Gill, Christopher Maclean, Rt Hon David
Gillen, Cheryl McLoughlin, Patrick
Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles Madel, Sir David
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Maitland, Lady Olga
Gorst, Sir John Major, Rt Hon John
Grant, Sir A (SW Cambs) Malone, Gerald
Greenway, John (Ryedale) Mans, Keith
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N) Marland, Paul
Grylls, Sir Michael Marlow, Tony
Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Hague, Rt Hon William Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archibald Mates, Michael
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Mawhinney, Rt Hon Dr Brian
Hampson, Dr Keith Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
Hanley, Rt Hon Jeremy Mellor, Rt Hon David
Hannam, Sir John Merchant, Piers
Hargreaves, Andrew Mills, Iain
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset)
Mitchell, Sir David (NW Hants) Spink, Dr Robert
Moate, Sir Roger Spring, Richard
Monro, Rt Hon Sir Hector Sproat, Iain
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)
Moss, Malcolm Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Needham, Rt Hon Richard Steen, Anthony
Nelson, Anthony Stephen, Michael
Neubert, Sir Michael Stern, Michael
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Stewart, Allan
Nicholls, Patrick Streeter, Gary
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Sumberg, David
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West) Sykes, John
Norris, Steve Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Oppenheim, Phillip Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)
Ottaway, Richard Temple-Morris, Peter
Page, Richard Thomason, Roy
Paice, James Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)
Patnick, Sir Irvine Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Patten, Rt Hon John Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Thomton, Sir Malcolm
Pawsey, James Thurnham, Peter
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Townend, John (Bridlington)
Pickles, Eric Townsend, Cyril D (Bexl'yh'th)
Porter, Barry (Wirral S) Tracey, Richard
Portillo, Rt Hon Michael Tredinnick, David
Powell, William (Corby) Trend, Michael
Rathbone, Tim Trotter, Neville
Redwood, Rt Hon John Twinn, Dr Ian
Renton, Rt Hon Tim Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Richards, Rod Viggers, Peter
Riddick, Graham Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm Walden, George
Robathan, Andrew Walker, Bill (N Tayside)
Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn Waller, Gary
Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S) Ward, John
Robinson, Mark (Somerton) Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne) Waterson, Nigel
Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent) Watts, John
Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela Wells, Bowen
Ryder, Rt Hon Richard Wheelaer, Rt Hon Sir John
Sackville, Tom Whitney, Ray
Sainsbury, Rt Hon Sir Timothy Whittingdale, John
Scott, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Widdecombe, Ann
Shaw, David (Dover) Wiggin, Sir Jerry
Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey) Wilkinson, John
Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian Willetts, David
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Wilshire, David
Shersby, Sir Michael Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'fld)
Sims, Roger Wolfson, Mark
Skeet, Sir Trevor Yeo, Tim
Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick) Young, Rt Hon Sire George
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Soames, Nicholas Tellers for the Noes:
Speed, Sir Keith Mr. Timothy Wood and
Spencer, Sir Derek Mr. Derek Conway.

Question accordingly negatived.

Main Question Put:

The House divided:Ayes 297, Noes 299.

Division No. 17] [7.15 pm
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) Ashby, David
Aitken, Rt Hon Jonathan Aspinwall, Jack
Alexander, Richard Atkins, Rt Hon Robert
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby) Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Amess, David Baker, Rt Hon Kenneth (Mole V)
Ancram, Michael Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset)
Arbuthnot, James Baldry, Tony
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Banks, Matthew (Southport)
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv) Banks, Robert (Harrogate)
Bates, Michael Freeman, Rt Hon Roger
Bellingham, Henry French, Doughlas
Bendall, Vivian Gale, Roger
Beresford, Sir Paul Gallie, Phil
Biffen, Rt Hon John Gardiner, Sir George
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Garel-Jones, Rt Hon Tristan
Booth, Hartley Garnier, Edward
Boswell, Tim Gillan, Cheryl
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham) Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair
Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Bowden, Sir Andrew Gorst, Sir John
Bowis, John Grant, Sir A (SW Cambs)
Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Brandreth, Gyles Griffiths, peter (Portsmouth, N)
Brazier, Julian Grylls, Sir Michael
Bright, Sir Graham Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Hague, Rt Hon William
Brown, M (Brigg & Cl'thorpes) Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archibald
Browning, Mrs Angela Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Bruce, Ian (Dorset) Hampson, Dr Keith
Burns, Simon Hanley, Rt Hon Jeremy
Burt, Alistair Hannam, Sir John
Butcher, John Hargreaves, Andrew
Butler, Peter Harries, David
Butterfill, John Haselhurst, Sir Alan
Carlisle, John (Luton North) Hawkins, Nick
Carlisle, Sir Kenneth (Lincoln) Hawksley, Warren
Carrington, Matthew Hayes, Jerry
Channon, Flt Hon Paul Heald, Oliver
Chapman, Sir Sydney Heath, Rt Hon Sir Edward
Churchill, Mr Heathcoat-Amory, David
Clappison, James Hendry, Charles
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ru'clif) Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Hickes, Robert
Coe, Sebastian Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence
Colvin, Michael Hill, James (Southampton Test)
Congdon, David Hogg, Rt Hon Doughlas (G'tham)
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st) Horam, John
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Hordern, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Cormack, Sir Patrick Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Couchman, James Howell, Sir Ralph(N Norfolk)
Cran, James Hughes, Robert G (Harrow W)
Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire) Hunt, Rt Hon David Wirral W)
Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon) Hunt, Sir John Ravensbourne)
Davies, Quentin (Stamford) Hunter, Andrew
Davis, David (Boothferry) Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Day, Stephen Jack, Michael
Deva, Nirj Joseph Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Devlin, Tim Jenkin, Bernard
Dicks, Terry Jessel, Toby
Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Dover, Den Jones, Robert B W Hertfdshr)
Duncan, Alan Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Duncan-Smith, Iain Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Dunn, Bob Key, Robert
Durant, Sir Anthony King, Rt Hon Tom
Eggar, Rt Hon Tim Kirkhope, Timothy
Emery, Fit Hon Sir Peter Knapman, Roger
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfied) Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)
Evans, Jonathan (Brecon) Knight, Rt Hon Greg Derby N)
Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley) Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n)
Evans, Roger (Monmouth) Knox, Sir David
Evennett, David Kynoch, George (Kincardine)
Faber, David Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Fabricant, Michael Lamont, Rt Hon Norman
Fenner, Dame Peggy Lang, Rt Hon Ian
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) Lawrence, Sir Ivan
Fishburn, Dudley Legg, Barry
Forman, Nigel Leigh, Edward
Forsyth, Rt Hon Michael (Stirling) Lennox-Boyd, Sir Mark
Forth, Eric Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Fowler, R Hon Sir Norman Lidington, David
Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring) Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley) Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Lord, Michael Sainsbury, Rt Hon Sir Timothy
Luff, Peter Scott, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Shaw, David (Dover)
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsy)
Mackay, Andrew Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian
Maclean, Rt Hon David Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
McLoughlin, Patrick Shersby, Sir Michael
McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick Sims, Roger
Madel, Sir David Skeet, Sir Trevor
Maitland, Lady Olga Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Major, Rt Hon John Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Malone, Gerald Soames, Nicholas
Mans, Keith Speed, Sir Keith
Marland, Paul Spencer, Sir Derek
Marshall, John (Hendon S) Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset)
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Spink, Dr Robert
Mates, Michael Spring, Richard
Mawhinnney, Rt hon Dr Brian Sproat, Iain
Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)
Mellor, Rt Hon David Stanley, RT Hon Sir John
Merchant, Piers Steen, Anthony
Mills, Iain Stephen, Michael
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Stem, Michael
Mitchell, Sir David (NW Hants) Stewart, Allan
Moate, Sir Roger Streeter, Gary
Monro, Rt Hon Sir Hector Sumberg, David
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Sykes, John
Moss, Malcolm Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Needham, Rt Hon Richard Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Nelson, Anthony Temple-Morris, Peter
Neubert, Sir Michael Thomason, Roy
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)
Nicholls, Patrick Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Thomton, Sir Malcolm
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West) Townend, John (Bridlington)
Norris, Steve Townsend, Cyril D (Bexl'yh'th)
Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley Tracey, Richard
Oppenheim, Phillip Tredinnick, David
Ottaway, Richard Trend, Michael
Page, Richard Trotter, Neville
Paice, James Twinn, Dr Ian
Patrick, Sir Irvine Vaughan, Sir Gererd
Patten, Rt Hon John Viggers, Peter
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Pawsey, James Walden, George
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Walker, Bill (N Tayside)
Pickles, Eric Waller, Gary
Porter, Barry (Wirral S) Ward, John
Portillo, Rt Hon Michael Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Powell, William (Corby) Waterson, Nigel
Rathbone, Tim Watts, John
Redwood, Rt Hon John Wells, Bowen
Renton, Rt Hon Tim Wheeler, Rt Hon Sir John
Richards, Rod Whitney, Ray
Riddick, Graham Whittingdale, John
Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm Widdecombe, Ann
Robathan, Andrew Wiggin, Sir Jerry
Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn Willetts, David
Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S) Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'f?ld)
Robinson, Mark (Somerton) Wolfson, Mark
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne) Yeo, Tim
Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent) Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela Tellers for the Ayes:
Ryder, Rt Hon Richard Mr. Timothy Wood and
Sackville, Tom Mr. Derek Conway
Abbott, Ms Diane Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy
Adams, Mrs Irene Ashton, Joe
Ainger, Nick Austin-Walker, John
Allen, Graham Banks, Tony (Newham NW)
Alton, David Barnes, Harry
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Barron, Kevin
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale) Battle, John
Armstrong, Hilary Bayley, Hugh
Beckett, Rt Hon Margaret Flynn, Paul
Beith, Rt Hon A J Forsythe, Clifford (S Antrim)
Bell, Stuart Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Foster, Don (Bath)
Bennett, Andrew F Foulkes, George
Benton, Joe Fraser, John
Bermingham, Gerald Fyfe, Maria
Berry, Roger Galbraith, Sam
Betts, Clive Galloway, George
Blair, Rt Hon Tony Gapes, Mike
Blunkett, David Garrett, John
Boateng, Paul George, Bruce
Boyes, Roland Gerrard, Neil
Bradley, Keith Godman, Dr Norman A
Bray, Dr Jeremy Golding, Mrs Llin
Brown, Gordon (Dunfermline E) Gordon, Mildred
Brown, N (N'c'tle upon Tyne E) Graham, Thomas
Burden, Richard Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Byers, Stephen Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Caborn, Richard Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Callaghan, Jim Grocott, Bruce
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Gunnell, John
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Hain, Peter
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Hall, Mike
Campbell-Savours, D N Hanson, David
Canavan, Dennis Hardy, Peter
Cann, Jamie Harman, Ms Harriet
Carttiss, Michael Harvey, Nick
Cash, William Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Chidgey, David Henderson, Doug
Chisholm, Malcolm Hendron, Dr Joe
Church, Judith Heppell, John
Clapham, Michael Hill, Keith (Streatham)
Clark, Dr David (South Shields) Hinchliffe, David
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian) Hodge, Margaret
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Hoey, Kate
Clelland, David Hogg, Norman (Cumbernauld)
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Home Robertson, John
Coffey, Ann Honn, Geoffrey
Cohen, Harry Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A)
Connarty, Michael Howarth, George (Knowsley North)
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Howells, Dr Kim (Pontypridd)
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Hoyle, Doug
Corbett, Robin Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Corbyn, Jeremy Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Corston, Jean Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Cousins, Jim Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Cox, Tom Hume, John
Cummings, John Hutton, John
Cunliffe, Lawrence Illsley, Eric
Cunningham, Jim (Cory SE) Ingram, Adam
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr John Jackson, Glenda H'stead)
Cunningham, Roseanna Jackson, Helen (Shefld, H)
Dafis, Cynog Jamieson, David
Dalyell, Tam Janner, Greville
Daring, Alistair Jones, Barry (Alyb and D'side)
Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tra) Jones, leuan Wyn (Ynys Môn)
Davies, Chris (L'Boro & S'worth) Jones, Jon Owen Cardiff C)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O)
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) Jones, Martyn Clwyd, SW)
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l) Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Denham, John Jowell, Tessa
Dewar, Donald Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Dixon, Don Keen, Alan
Dobson, Frank Kennedy, Charles (Ross, C&S)
Donohoe, Brian H Kennedy, Jane L'pool Br'dg'n)
Dowd, Jim Khabra, Piara S
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth Kilfoyle, Peter
Eagle, Ms Angela Kirkwood, Archy
Eastham, Ken Lestor, Joan (Eccles)
Evans, John (St Helens N) Lewis, Terry
Ewing, Mrs Margaret Liddell, Mrs Helen
Fatchett, Derek Litherland, Robert
Faulds, Andrew Livingstone, ken
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Fisher, Mark Llwyd, Elfyn
Loyden, Eddie Randall, Stuart
Lynne, Ms Liz Raynsford, Nick
McAllion, John Redmond, Martin
McAvoy, Thomas Reid, Dr John
McCartney, Ian Rendel, David
McCartney, Robert Robertson, George (Hamilton)
McCrea, The Reverend William Robinson, Groffrey (Co'try NW)
Macdonald, Calum Robinson, Peter Belfast E)
McFall, John Roche, Mrs Barbara
McGrady, Eddie Rogers, Allan
McKelvey, William Rooker, Jeff
Mackinlay, Andrew Rooney, Terry
McLeish, Henry Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Maclennan, Robert Ross, William (E Londonderry)
McMaster, Gordon Ruddock, Joan
McNamara, Kevin Salmond, Alex
MacShane, Denis Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
McWilliam, John Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Maddock, Diana Short, Clare
Mahon, Alice Simpson, Alan
Mallon, Seamus Skinner, Dennis
Mendelson, Peter Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Smith, Chris (Isl'ton S & F'sbury)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S) Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Martin, Michael J (Springburn) Smyth, The Reverend Martin
Martlew, Eric Soley, Clive
Maxton, John Spearing, Nigel
Meacher, Michael Spellar, John
Meale, Alan Squire, Rachel (Dunfermline W)
Michael, Alun Steel, Rt Hon Sir David
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley) Steinberg, Gerry
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute) Stevenson, George
Milburn, Alan Stoot, Roger
Miller, Andrew Strang, Dr. Gavin
Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby) Straw, Jack
Molyneaux, Rt Hon James Sutcliffe, Gerry
Moonie, Dr Lewis Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Morgan, Rhodri Taylor, Rt Hon John D (Strgfd)
Morley, Elliot Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Morris, Rt Hon Alfred (Wy'nshawe) Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley) Timms, Stephen
Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon) Tipping, Paddy
Mowlam, Marjorie Touhig, Don
Mudie, George Trimble, David
Mullin, Chris Tyler, Paul
Murphy, Paul Vaz, Keith
O'Brien, Mike (N W'kshire) Walker, A Cecil (Belfast N)
O'Brien, William (Normanton) Walker, Rt Hon Sir Harold
O'Hara, Edward Wallace, James
Olner, Bill Walley, Joan
O'Neill, Martin Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Wareing, Robert N
Paisley, The Reverend Ian Welsh, Andrew
Parry, Robert Wicks, Malcolm
Pearson, Ian Wigley, Dafydd
Pendry, Tom Williams, Rt Hon Alan Sw'n W)
Pickthall, Colin Williams, Alan W Carmarthen)
Pike, Peter L Wilson, Brian
Pope, Greg Winnick, David
Powell, Ray (Ogmore) Wise, Audrey
Prentice, Bridget (Lew'm E) Worthington, Tony
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle) Wray, Jimmy
Prescott, Rt Hon John Wright, Dr Tony
Primarolo, Dawn Young, David (Bolton SE)
Purchase, Ken Tellers for the Noes;
Quin, Ms Joyce Mr. Dennis Turner and
Radice, Giles Mr, Robert Ainsworth

Question accordingly negatived.

7.29 pm
The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Douglas Hogg)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. My right hon. and hon. Friends and I have listened carefully to the opinions that have been expressed, often with great vigour, in the debate. The Government will give due weight to what has been said. My hon. Friend the Minister of State will represent the United Kingdom at the Fisheries Council beginning on 21 December. He will, as always, vigorously represent the interests of the United Kingdom and its fishermen. In particular, he will fight for effective conservation of fish stocks, a fair allocation of fishing opportunities, and rigorous enforcement of the controls that are in place.

Dr. Strang

Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. That is just not good enough. The House of Commons has taken an historic decision. It has passed a motion rejecting—[Interruption.] It has failed. [Interruption.]

Madam Speaker

Order. I will not allow further debate on this matter. If the hon. Gentleman has a point of order, I must of course hear it.

Dr. Strang

The Government have been defeated. That is the important point. It is all very well for the right hon. and learned Gentleman to say that Ministers will pay due attention. [Interruption.]

Madam Speaker

Order. The House listened to the Minister and what he said was not precisely a point of order. Hon. Members will be tolerant and will listen to the hon. Gentleman for a moment.

Dr. Strang

The House has rejected the Government's position on fisheries policy. The right hon. and learned Gentleman did not take part in the debate and he cannot just jump up to the Dispatch Box and tell us that the Government will pay due attention. They have to address the issues in the debate, and they relate to the additional access of Spanish fishing vessels to our western waters. There has been a repudiation of the Government's policy and the Government are answerable to the House. They have lost the confidence of the House in relation to representing our interests in the European Union in fisheries and also in relation to their whole approach to fisheries policy. It is not good enough for the right hon. and learned Gentleman to talk about what will happen in the Fisheries Council.

Madam Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman and the Minister are experienced parliamentarians. Proper points of order are not being put to me and I cannot allow the debate to continue in this way. I propose to move to the next item of business.

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

On a point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam Speaker

Is it a genuine point of order?

Mr. Beith

It is. I hope that you will confirm that a Government motion setting out the Government's negotiating position has been defeated and that when a Minister goes to Brussels to take part in negotiations he cannot represent the position that is set out in that motion as being the position that was approved by the House. He will have to convey to the meeting the fact that the House rejects the Government's position and wants a stronger stand, and he will have to make clear to the meeting that he has lost the confidence of the House, as have his Government.

Mr. Salmond

Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. Should not we ask for a Government statement tomorrow? The Government have failed to carry their position on a vital industry. The Minister told us that that does not matter and that the Government will carry on as before. Does that not represent contempt for the House in the same way as contempt for the fishing communities has been the Government's undoing?

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster)

Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. The House also rejected the Labour-Liberal amendment.

Madam Speaker

Order. The debate has taken place and the House has made its views known in a Division. It is now up to the Government to determine their position. I now propose to move to other business. [Interruption.] Will hon. Members who are leaving the Chamber please do so quietly.

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