HC Deb 17 February 1998 vol 306 cc875-6
1. Mr. Gray

When he last met the Scottish Fishermen's Federation to discuss the common fisheries policy. [28068]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Calum Macdonald)

My noble Friend the Minister responsible for agriculture, the environment and fisheries, Lord Sewel, last met the Scottish Fishermen's Federation on 17 December, prior to the Fisheries Council that was held in Brussels on 19 and 20 December 1997.

Mr. Gray

Lord Sewel will doubtless have told the Minister of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation's grave concern that, after devolution, Scotland will lose the powerful voice at the Council of Ministers that she currently enjoys by right, rather than by invitation. What will happen when there is a difference of opinion between the Scottish Parliament and the English Parliament? How will the Scottish view be put over to the Council of Ministers?

Mr. Macdonald

The hon. Gentleman is wrong on two counts. First, Scottish Ministers have no "as of right"; arrangements are reached between Departments. Secondly, there will be no English Parliament; there will be a United Kingdom Parliament, and the two Parliaments will co-operate in the same way as Departments currently do.

Mr. Godman

Like many others, the federation is rightly and properly seeking radical reform of the common fisheries policy. Does my hon. Friend agree that an essential element of that reform must be a complete ban on, or a severe reduction in, industrial fishing, which damages commercially valuable species, particularly on the Wee Bankie and the Buckie Man's bank?

Mr. Macdonald

I know that there is concern about the scope and amount of industrial fisheries. The Government are examining that issue at the moment and my hon. Friend's views will have been noted.

Sir Robert Smith

In the Minister's discussions with the federation, have any concerns been expressed about the operation of any designated ports? In particular, can he reassure smaller fishing communities that the implementation of designated ports will be flexible, so that medium and smaller fishing boats can use them?

Mr. Macdonald

I assure the hon. Gentleman that we want the operation of designated ports to be practical and effective. We are, of course, listening to the views of the various federations on that. We shall produce a consultation paper, after which we shall hold consultations.

Mr. Ancram

Given that Scottish fishing comprises more than 70 per cent, of the total United Kingdom fishing industry, will the Minister reconsider his rather complacent answer to my hon. Friend the Member for North Wiltshire (Mr. Gray) about Scottish fishermen's concern that the right of access to the Council of Ministers, which he currently enjoys as a United Kingdom Minister, will be lost when the Scottish Parliament is established?

Is not it somewhat perverse that, just as Scottish fishermen need the strongest possible voice in Europe, that voice is about to be denied them? When will he accept that vague assurances of informally agreed arrangements or concordats are simply inadequate? If he will not protect the interests of Scottish fishermen in legislation, would not it be better for Scottish fishing to be a reserved issue, at least to ensure that their voice is heard strongly in the Council of Ministers?

Mr. Macdonald

I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman should repeat the error. There is no right of access as such. These are arrangements that are reached between Departments and the same sort of arrangement will be reached between the United Kingdom and Scottish Parliaments after devolution. There really will be no change in the situation.

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