HC Deb 16 May 1996 vol 277 cc1072-4
Q5. Mr. Steen

To ask the Prime Minister what plans he has to pay an official visit to Dartmouth. [28482]

The Prime Minister

I have at present no plans to do so.

Mr. Steen

Is the Prime Minister aware of the deep sense of outrage and injustice felt by south Devon fishermen as a result of the abuse by the Spanish of flags of convenience which results in 20 per cent. of the British quota being landed in foreign ports by the Spanish fleet? Will he take the opportunity at the intergovernmental conference to let the other countries in Europe know how committed he is to the British fishermen and that he will not tolerate that injustice any longer? Britain deserves something better from Europe and, because it does a lot for Europe, it deserves something back.

The Prime Minister

Yes, I intend to raise that matter at the intergovernmental conference. Foreign-owned vessels cannot, of course, obtain British quotas at will, but it is possible to buy a British vessel with a licence and then fish against the United Kingdom quota. Although that is legal, it was certainly not what was intended when the common fisheries policy was established or when the House approved the common fisheries policy. The intention was that national quotas would be available for national fishermen, to the advantage of the whole Community, and I intend to raise that point at the intergovernmental conference. I have advised our European partners of that and we expect that there will be changes at the IGC and, of course, the conference cannot reach a conclusion without unanimity.