HC Deb 15 July 1997 vol 298 cc179-81
3. Mr. Cash

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when he will next attend an EC Fisheries Council to discuss the Scottish fishing industry. [6692]

Mr. Chisholm

My noble Friend, the Minister responsible for agriculture, the environment and fisheries at the Scottish Office will normally attend Fisheries Councils. The next Council is planned for 30 October.

Mr. Cash

Does the Minister accept that the quota hopping agreement reached at the intergovernmental conference has been received with disgust by Scottish fishermen? How many representations has he received in favour of the agreement? Does he accept that the arrangements for a Scottish Parliament—if they ever come about—will mean that the Minister responsible for Scottish fisheries will be able to achieve even less than this wretched Government did in respect of Scottish fisheries at the IGC?

Mr. Chisholm

The hon. Gentleman is wrong on all counts. The agreement at Amsterdam was highly significant. For the first time, we have a written statement from the Commission, which is guardian of the treaties. It sets out in precise terms the measures that can be taken to establish economic links between vessels and local communities. The new Government established more and achieved more in eight weeks than the hon. Gentleman and his friends achieved in 18 years.

Mr. Godman

May I remind my hon. Friend—if, coming from the old herring port of Leith, he needs such a reminder—that it was a Conservative Government who inflicted the common fisheries policy on our fishing communities throughout the United Kingdom and agreed over-generous concessions to the new member states of Spain and Portugal? The hon. Member for Stone (Mr. Cash) ignores those facts. Will my hon. Friend assure me that he will continue to argue for a severe restriction in industrial fishing, particularly of sand eels at the Wee Bankie and the Buckie Man's Bank?

Mr. Chisholm

I agree that there must be tighter controls of industrial fishing. The Government support the common fisheries policy but, equally, we believe that it must be reformed, and we will pursue that vigorously from within.

Mr. Menzies Campbell

When the Fisheries Minister next visits Brussels, will the Under-Secretary ensure that he has in mind the importance to the Scottish fishing industry of its village-based component, not least in the East Neuk of Fife in my constituency? Will the Fisheries Minister seek to ensure that the common fisheries policy takes account of the problems of the village-based industry, especially as it is suffering from an aging fleet and declining work force? What assurance can the Government give that it remains an important part of the fishing industry in Scotland?

Mr. Chisholm

I shall certainly convey the concerns of the hon. and learned Gentleman to my noble Friend the Fisheries Minister. We have a wide agenda for reform of the CFP, including a greater regional dimension for it. I shall also convey the hon. and learned Member's concerns about Fife.

Mr. Doran

My hon. Friend will be aware that there is a serious problem of black fish in the North sea. Scottish Office inspectors have recently clamped down on the markets in Scotland, but there seems to be no evidence of that happening in English markets, particularly in Grimsby. Will my hon. Friend communicate with his colleagues in the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to ensure that enforcement of all aspects of our fisheries policy is as intense as it is in Scotland?

Mr. Chisholm

I know that my noble Friend the Fisheries Minister has been very concerned about black fish since he took over at the beginning of May. He has promoted his concern in speeches in Scotland. I am sure that he will also convey to the Minister responsible for fishing in England the need to ensure that there is action against black fish in both England and Scotland.

Mr. Bernard Jenkin

Can the Minister confirm that, as a Scottish Fisheries Minister in a United Kingdom Government, he can attend, speak and vote at meetings of the European Council of Ministers, but that, if fisheries became the responsibility of a Scottish Parliament, he would have to rely on an English Fisheries Minister to speak for Scotland there? How will that put Scotland at the heart of Europe?

Mr. Chisholm

As usual, the hon. Gentleman is wrong on matters of constitutional change. The Scottish Fisheries Minister will play a full part in those matters when the Scottish Parliament is created. I suggest that he reads with great care the White Paper when it comes out next week.

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