HC Deb 08 June 1995 vol 261 cc314-5
12. Mr. David Atkinson

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what attempts he has made to involve the fishing industry in his CFP reform group. [25824]

Mr. Jack

All sections of the industry have been invited to contribute their ideas to the common fisheries policy review group.

Mr. Atkinson

Does my hon. Friend agree that the conservation of our fishing stocks must be paramount in any future reform of the CFP? How does he intend to involve the fishing industry in plans to implement the December agreement?

Mr. Jack

On both counts—the arrangements for the western waters and conservation—we have had many useful meetings with the fishing industry. It is fully involved in that work.

On the new arrangements from 1 January next year, we have secured from the Commission an agreement that there will be, as part of its package of implementing regulations, proposals on conservation. I have also secured an additional benefit

it will review the minimum landing sizes. That, combined with good conservation gear, can make a big contribution to long-term fish conservation.

Dr. Godman

Any reform of the CFP, or a campaign for such reform, should surely advocate a complete ban of all industrial fishing in the North sea and elsewhere. To that end, should not the reform of the CFP be looking at the regional management and regional preferences for fishermen who are based in the more fragile fishing communities?

Mr. Jack

I always find it sad when somebody who follows fishing matters as closely as the hon. Gentleman does not acknowledge the lead that the United Kingdom has taken on the whole question of industrial fishing.

It was we who got the Commission to agree to the scientific study—the results of which we are awaiting—to look into this whole matter. The science is complex. We are troubled and concerned by this issue and we keep the pressure up, as we will at the North sea conference, to deal with the matter.

On the hon. Gentleman's second point, we have in fact invited Mr. Alain Laurec, in Directorate-General XIV, the No. 2 official in the Commission, who deals with this particular matter, to come to talk to us about some of the regionalisation ideas that are being discussed. It is a very important issue in the dynamics of Europe's future fishing policy.

Mr. Harris

Does my hon. Friend accept that there is a massive danger that, when the CFP comes up for complete review in 2002, we could have a repetition of the disgraceful events that occurred before Christmas over Spanish access to the Irish box, when we were outvoted because of the system of qualified majority voting? Therefore, will he take up my suggestion with other Ministers and look at the possibility of trying to get restoration of the veto for the final decision on the CFP review?

Mr. Jack

My hon. Friend is right in his own way to raise the question of protecting our vital national interests. He discusses it in the context of the veto. At least that is the kind of idea that comes from Conservative Members; Opposition Members would do away with vetoes left right and centre. I shall certainly reflect on what my hon. Friend says, and I can assure him that, in any further discussions on reform of the CFP, Britain's vital national interests will be at the top of our agenda.

Mr. Morley

Has the Minister had a chance to see the evidence submitted by Dr. Mark Tasker, of the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, to the North sea conference, which suggested that, unless urgent steps are taken on fish stocks, North sea cod as a commercial stock will be extinct in five years? Are we to see some meaningful progress towards tackling pollution, tackling industrial fisheries and bringing in closed areas before fish and chips becomes a luxury food?

Mr. Jack

As somebody who enjoys his fish and chips and grew up not far from Harry Ramsden's fish and chip shop, I have some sympathy with what the hon. Gentleman says. I have seen the evidence that Dr. Tasker has put forward, but I think that he may be exaggerating, shall we say, to make a particular point. The hon. Gentleman, who, again, follows fishing matters closely, will know that the scientists advised last year that there should be a 30 per cent. reduction in effort on cod, and that was in fact reflected in the cod quota agreed at last December's Fisheries Council; so Ministers do listen to that point. I do not think that there will be a total collapse of the cod stock in the North sea, because there are about 500 million cod there already.