HC Deb 06 November 1997 vol 300 cc382-4
5. Mr. Amess

What recent representations he has received on the common fisheries policy. [12613]

Mr. Morley

I have received many recent representations on the common fisheries policy.

Mr. Amess

Will the Minister do all he possibly can to reverse the decline of the inshore fishery? Is he aware that many fishermen in Leigh-on-Sea feel that sole and plaice quota has been lost to flag ships and that that imbalance has failed to be addressed by underpinning? Will he finally ensure that EC directive 2141/70 article 39(i) is adhered to, as it will help fishermen in Leigh-on-Sea and those people who eat the fish in Basildon?

Mr. Morley

The hon. Member makes a serious point about the pressures on the inshore fishing industry, and Ministers are committed to supporting that sector of the industry. I can give the hon. Gentleman an assurance that, in the discussions that, as he is aware, are taking place on a change towards fixed quota allocation the Government will ensure that the needs of the inshore industry are protected and recognised by continued underpinning of quota and, in relation to directive EC 2141/70, by support for the inshore industry through schemes such as PESCA and harbour grants. The industries in that area are eligible for such schemes. They can make an application, and of course we shall treat each application on its merits as part of our support for the fishing industry.

Mr. Andrew George

While I appreciate the efforts being made by the Minister at the recent meeting of European Ministers to ensure that the most humane methods are employed to prosecute various fisheries throughout Europe, will he recognise, as I do, that many fishermen have chosen to employ other methods which take them away from the quota system, and will he respond to requests that compensation be afforded to the very few tuna drift net fishermen who will be damaged by any measures to ban their fishery so as to assist them to retrain and invest in other forms of fishery and remain off quota?

Mr. Morley

At the Fisheries Council last week, I made it clear that, under the United Kingdom presidency, the British Government will progress with proposals which have been lying on the table since 1992 to phase out high seas drift nets in EU waters, especially because of the impact on dolphins and non-target species. I also said then that we realised that this would have an impact on those fishermen who are involved in that fishery, and of course their interests and needs will be taken into consideration. I have already received representations from Mike Townsend of the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations, who has argued the interests of his members very strongly.

Mr. Jack

Will the Minister confirm that, due to the Prime Minister's failure in negotiating the Amsterdam treaty, that treaty contains no legal protection for British fishermen threatened as a result of quota hopping? Can he also confirm that what was negotiated in the form of an exchange of letters between Commission President Santer and the Prime Minister amounts in effect to nothing more than is already contained in category A licences as far as landings are concerned?

Can the Minister explain why, although he has been in conversation with the fishing industry since August about matters of enforcement and quota hopping, the industry is still waiting for a definitive statement of Government policy on these vital matters? Is that not a vivid illustration of the fact that his policy is a shambles?

Mr. Morley

The Conservative Government put forward totally bogus proposals to deal with quota hopping. They made proposals to try to deal with the issue in the intergovernmental conference, knowing that just one country could veto those proposals. Not only that, but not one other country supported the Government's position. We have made more progress to deal with quota hopping in six months than the Conservative Government made in their last decade in office. We shall make announcements about our policy on the fishing industry in due course, but we have been undertaking a proper consultation with the fishing industry to obtain its views and to involve it in decisions in a way that the previous Government failed to do.