HC Deb 13 December 1999 vol 341 cc41-121

[Relevant document: European Union Document No. 7542/99 concerning the Commission's report to the Council and the European Parliament on the results of the multi-annual guidance programme for the fishing fleet at the end of 1997.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst)

I should make it clear to the House that the Speaker has selected both the amendment in the name of the Leader of the Opposition and that in the name of the leader of the Liberal Democrat party.

4.41 pm
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Elliot Morley)

I beg to move,

That this House takes note of the unnumbered Explanatory Memorandum, submitted by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on 5th December 1999, relating to the fixing of fishing opportunities for 2000 and certain conditions under which they may be fished; recognises that many fish stocks remain in poor shape and need to be rebuilt for the future; and supports the Government's intention to negotiate the best possible fishing opportunities for UK fishermen consistent with the sustainable management of stocks, effective enforcement and the need to ensure that the regional differences of fisheries and their communities are fully recognised. It is traditional to hold a fisheries debate each year before the December Agriculture Council to decide total allowable catches and quotas for the following year. It will be an important debate this year, given the recommendations of the International Council for Exploration of the Seas and of the Commission. This is an important occasion for Members from fishing constituencies and for those with a general interest in fisheries. Although total allowable catches and quotas are the main subjects, the debate enables hon. Members to focus on wider issues. I should like to touch on some of the problems that have affected the fishing industry over the past year, and to look ahead to some of the important questions for the future.

This year, the Select Committee on Agriculture produced a report on sea fisheries. I pay tribute to the Chairman of the Committee, the hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Luff), and its members for producing a thoughtful and well-constructed report that adds to the debate on fisheries. Although I regret that the debate has been cut short by the statement, I was pleased that, under the new procedures that have been introduced in the House, we were able to have a three-hour debate on the Agriculture Committee report. That was a useful innovation.

I want to begin by saying a word about the science behind the setting of this year's TACs. There is a debate about the science and the way in which it is applied. Fishermen have views on that, as hon. Members can quite understand. I am keen that there should be a greater exchange of information between scientists and fishermen.

This autumn, the chairman of the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations went to sea on the MAFF research vessel, and saw the detail and quality of the work that our scientists do. The Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science has regularly contributed articles on fishing science to Fishing News, which enables the industry to read about the scientific work and the calculations on fish stocks, and to comment on them. CEFAS scientists have visited fishing ports and have had useful meetings with fishermen. In the coming year, we want to discuss with the industry how to build on those contacts and put them on a more systematic basis.

Mr. John Gummer (Suffolk, Coastal)

We all want a closer relationship between fishermen and scientists. I hope that the Minister will pursue this matter with great vigour, given the Canadian experience. Despite specific warnings from the scientists, fishermen in Canada said that there were plenty of fish right up until the last one disappeared from the grand banks. It is important to be careful when considering the anecdotal evidence in this area.

Mr. Morley

I understand the right hon. Gentleman's point. We must ensure that we have a proper scientific basis for the assessment of fish stocks. That is not to say, however, that fishermen do not have valuable information to contribute. We want to work with them to develop that. The fisheries conservation group enables fishermen, scientists and fisheries managers to meet to consider and develop practical conservation measures. Some helpful measures have resulted, which I consider to be to the advantage of fisheries management. We want to develop that further.

Mr. Anthony Steen (Totnes)

May I explain why the Minister was given such a hard time when he visited my constituency last week, and was roughed up by the fishermen? They cannot understand why, despite the conservation measures, they are having to throw more fish overboard—having caught them dead—than they are managing to land in their own ports. Is the Minister aware that there is now a sea lion epidemic? Sea lions are coming from all over the north of Scotland and beyond to find the dead fish, and to catch live fish as well. That is why the quota goes down by 30 per cent. each year. The quota system is madness: the Minister should get rid of it.

Mr. Morley

I did not know that there were so many discards that sea lions are coming all the way from the south Atlantic to the British Isles to eat the fish. Nevertheless, discards are an important issue.

I was sorry that the hon. Gentleman could not join me at the meeting in Brixham. The fishermen did not "rough me up", although they made their point robustly, as would be expected. I thought that the meeting provided a useful opportunity to hear both sides of the argument. The fishermen allowed me, with some courtesy, to make my points and to answer their questions. I have no objection to the holding of such meetings elsewhere, to enable fishermen to discuss the issues at first hand.

Time is being squeezed. Although I find it difficult to resist interventions from Members who are interested in this topic, I want to say what I have to say as quickly as possible, in order to provide the maximum opportunity for Back Benchers to speak.

Let me say something about this year's total allowable catches and quotas. The scientific advice relating to most of the stocks that we are considering is depressing: there is no doubt that many stocks are under pressure. The North sea cod quota has not been taken up this year,

because the fish are not there to be caught. Monkfish are another example, and many round-fish stocks in the Irish sea are under considerable pressure. The resulting quota cuts proposed by the Commission have been described as the most drastic for 10 years, and we must think carefully about the consequences to the fishing industry.

Mr. Malcolm Moss (North-East Cambridgeshire)

Will the Minister be invoking the Hague preference for, say, cod in the North sea and monkfish in the western Scottish waters?

Mr. Morley

We intend to invoke a preference in regard to certain stocks when we consider it to be in our national interest. That applies to a range of stocks, and we need to give the matter some thought. As the hon. Gentleman may know, I am scheduled to meet representatives of the fishing industry this week, before I go to the Council of Ministers. I shall have an opportunity to discuss the preference then.

We need to take scientific advice seriously. It is provided in good faith by the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas, after thorough stock assessment and analysis. Some criticise the work of ICES because they do not like the implications of its proposals, but we cannot shoot the messenger because we do not like the message. Fisheries scientists do not have an easy job, but they address it professionally and are committed to it. We should recognise that. To be fair to the industry, some industry groups have pressed us on the need to respect the scientific advice on next year's TACs.

Nor should we blame the extent of the cuts proposed on the need for a precautionary approach. Significant cuts are required regardless of that approach, because many of our key stocks are in extremely poor shape. Some are at such low levels that they are over-dependent on the strength of incoming recruitment, which varies for natural reasons. As a result, the size of catches in the following year can vary significantly. It is not just a case of pressure on stocks, although that may obtain in some cases; there is also the question of natural cycles—for instance, the seven-year cycle applying to cod. Two poor year classes in 1997 and 1998 mean that current catch levels are already well down, with little prospect of improvement in the next couple of years. The number of young fish recruiting to the fishery in 1998 was by the far lowest in more than 30 years. In those circumstances, a deep cut in the TAC for next year will be inevitable and, indeed, essential if stock is to be conserved and rebuilt.

Mr. Patrick Nicholls (Teignbridge)

How can the Minister square what he has just said with the fact that, at Brixham last week, he made the point that he personally completely opposed the reduction of some minimum landing sizes and the abolition of others? After everything he said in opposition, is he going to justify pictures of 45 million dead fish floating in the sea because they have been discarded under the common fisheries policy?

Mr. Morley

I have made it clear that I take seriously the issue of discards. I also take minimum landing size reductions seriously. We cannot overestimate the discards issue. Many discards are the result of normal fishing practice, with undersized and unmarketable fish being caught. It is true that, when we have quota management, some marketable fish will be caught and discarded. That is one of the undesirable side effects of quota management, but the problem is to do not simply with the common fisheries policy, which is often blamed, but with the available quotas. The south-west is a case in point. Apart from the fact that the original quotas were based on the track record before the CFP and that more fish is caught and landed now, the quota has gone down in the non-sector. Boats have moved from the non-sector to producer organisations, taking their quota with them, and that has a knock-on consequence.

I said to fishermen in Brixham, "What is the alternative in those circumstances?" We have to manage a quota. Some fishermen may be catching fish accidentally and cannot stop. Some may be deliberately targeting fish. If we do not have such management, how do we control the effect on those stocks?

The answer from the fishermen was that I was the Minister and it was for me to sort such things out. No solution was forthcoming because there is no easy solution. There may be some alternatives to quota management, but all have advantages and disadvantages. With some of the more attractive ones, such as multi-annual quota, stocks have to be in good shape before they can be applied.

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan)

These things have to be looked at with some care. In certain areas—for example, cod in the North sea—people would agree that the stock is in a serious condition; it is difficult to argue against that. There is also the fact that the North sea settlement is boxed in by arrangements that the Minister has made with Norway, but, given his knowledge of the industry, is he really going to say that he is totally satisfied that the reduction in the quota for monkfish and saithe in the west coast of Scotland will not result—if it stands—in a substantial increase in discards of some of the most valuable species? Can he give us some assurance that he is aware of the underlying questions that I am talking about? Will he look at the west coast quotas very carefully in the negotiations?

Mr. Morley

I can certainly give the hon. Gentleman that assurance. There is a problem with stocks of west coast saithe, although I accept that there is the issue of by-catch and potential discards. That needs to be considered. There is also a problem in relation to monkfish, which is more of a targeted fishery. Nevertheless, such problems do arise. I assure him that I will consider them.

Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Inverclyde)

The Norwegians made their characteristic demand for an increase in North sea mackerel. Not many of our fishermen go to Norwegian or Greenland waters, but is my hon. Friend satisfied that those few vessels will get a fair share of the fish in those northern waters?

Mr. Morley

Yes. My hon. Friend, who knows the industry well and has long experience of it, makes a good point. By and large, there was a good outcome for the United Kingdom industry from the Atlanto-Scandian discussions on stocks such as mackerel. We got a good deal on mackerel and increased access in the western waters. We improved the position in relation to haddock, and that will help those who fish in the North sea as well, so those issues were dealt with.

I think that the overall outcome was not a bad one, although some of the agreed cod figures—not in United Kingdom waters—were probably higher than they should have been. We might like to re-examine that matter.

Mr. John Townend (East Yorkshire)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Morley

I shall, but only because the hon. Gentleman has fishing interests. I should like to make some progress.

Mr. Townend

Is there not some discrepancy between the figures that the scientists are working on this year and MAFF figures? For example, according to MAFF figures we have landed about 60 per cent. of our cod quota, whereas according to EU scientists almost the whole of the EU quota has already been taken. According to MAFF, we have landed about 55 per cent. of our plaice quota, whereas according to the scientists 125 per cent. of the EU quota has been caught. Therefore, either the scientists' figures are wrong or many of our European partners are enormously overfishing their quotas.

Mr. Morley

No, any difference is not due to the latter reason. Although the hon. Gentleman is right that the scientists' figures are higher than the landing figures, there are reasons for that difference, and also for the way in which the scientists make their calculations. A couple of weeks ago, when we met fishermen's leaders, we went through that issue. I should also caution the hon. Gentleman on one point: the logic is such that if actual landings are lower than those that the scientists calculate as possible, stocks may be in an even worse state than the scientists have calculated. Nevertheless, I understand the point. The issue has been addressed and, as I said, there will be an opportunity to discuss it further at the meeting.

We have to recognise the science and the fact that—for a variety of reasons, as I said—some of the stocks are in poor shape. However, we also cannot ignore the socio-economic consequences for the industry. Therefore, we have to examine the science and identify possible room for manoeuvre, while taking into account and trying to minimise effects on the industry. That is what we shall be trying to do when we meet in Brussels to discuss the issue. As I said, we have kept in close touch with the industry. This week, before we go to Brussels, there will be an opportunity to go through the issue again. I shall, of course, be listening very carefully to what the industry has to say.

There is no doubt that we have to institute recovery plans for some stocks, such as cod stocks in the Irish sea. The advice is that they are in such a bad state that only "the lowest possible" level of fishing should be allowed and a recovery programme put in place. Consequently, the Commission has proposed a 70 per cent. cut in the cod TAC and big cuts for haddock and whiting—which also feature in that mixed fishery. The cut is much bigger than the Commission would usually recommend—it tries to propose cuts of no more than 40 per cent.—but it has done so because of the potential consequences to the industry. Because of the size of the cuts, we shall have to examine the matter very closely.

I am convinced, however, that there is a need to develop and implement a recovery programme if those stocks are to have any chance of returning to sustainable levels. We have had informal exploratory contacts with the Commission and Ireland, and both agree on the need for exceptional measures, including technical conservation and for EU commitment to early action. I am also committed to ensuring that we make progress on the matter in consultation with the industry. We are also investigating ways of establishing a regional forum in the Irish sea, bringing together all those who are interested in that fishery. The right hon. Member for Fylde (Mr. Jack) has previously advocated such a forum, and we should like to make progress in establishing one.

Devolution—to the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly, and now to the Northern Ireland Assembly—has been introduced in 1999, and fisheries management is one of the spheres that have been devolved. Much time and thought were given in preparing devolution of fisheries management, and we have agreed various bilateral fisheries concordats as part of the general system of bilateral concordats between the Westminster Government and the devolved Administrations. The concordats are being published and made available for people to inspect. We should like, eventually, to establish a concordat on fisheries management with the Northern Ireland Administration.

I am particularly pleased with the excellent relations that have been forged between the Ministry and the new Scottish Executive, from ministerial to official level. The best example of those relations are perhaps in the Fisheries Councils, where I have been ably assisted by the Scottish Fisheries Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson), as a member of the United Kingdom team.

In the same vein, I look forward to welcoming Brid Rodgers, the new Northern Ireland Fisheries Minister, who will be on board at the Council later this week. Brid Rodgers will be joining the discussions that we shall have with the industry, as there are particular issues of concern for Northern Ireland fishermen, as there are for Scottish, Welsh and English fishermen.

Last month, I had the pleasure of opening the new London headquarters of the North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission—NEAFC. I was honoured to be accompanied by Commissioner Fischler as well as Fisheries Ministers from Norway, Iceland, Greenland and the Faroe Islands. NEAFC is an organisation which has come of age and is exercising an increasing influence over the management of fish stocks in the international waters of the north-east Atlantic. It now regulates redfish, mackerel, blue whiting and Atlanto-Scandian herring stocks. A comprehensive new control and enforcement scheme has recently come into effect. We shall be playing a full role in the organisation.

There are two further issues I am particularly keen for NEAFC to get to grips with. The first is the expanding unregulated fishing for haddock by Russian and Icelandic vessels in the Rockall area. That risks undermining Community conservation measures to protect the stock. It is also unfair to UK and other EU fishermen who respect TAC limits when others do not. At the UK's instigation, the European Commission has served notice that that fishery must be brought under control. If it is not, we shall seek appropriate measures in NEAFC to deal with the problem.

The second issue is the management of the slow-growing, deep-water stocks, which experience elsewhere in the world has shown to be particularly

vulnerable to overfishing. Last year, the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea urged that fisheries for those stocks in the north-east Atlantic should be brought under better management. The UK pressed for the issue to be raised in NEAFC. Unfortunately, a Community proposal for an immediate freeze on fishing effort on those stocks was not acceptable to certain NEAFC members. However, I hope that suitable measures will be adopted next year, once further advice has been received from ICES on management options.

New minimum landing sizes for plaice and other species come into effect in January. Several hon. Members have expressed concern about those regulations—including my hon. Friend the Member for Waveney (Mr. Blizzard), who mentioned their effect on his local fishermen in Lowestoft. The changes have been introduced on the basis that reducing the minimum landing size reduces discards. There is some truth in that argument, but we believe that the proposals are not the right way forward because they send the wrong conservation message to the industry. It is better to address the issue of discards through conservation measures, perhaps by introducing bigger mesh sizes, rather than by reducing minimum landing sizes. We shall continue to oppose the proposals, because they are the wrong way forward.

Although we are dealing with an EU regulation, we have the right to apply a higher minimum landing size as a national measure in the UK. Other member states have expressed concern about the new measure and may consider doing the same. I want to discuss that with those member states, including Holland, to see whether it would be in the interests of our fishermen and our industry to apply different landing sizes from those in the European regulation.

Mr. Nicholls

I think that the Minister will at least give me credit for the fact that I have always been prepared to criticise his predecessors from my party as much as I criticise him. Will he at least assure us that there will be no question of agreeing to extra restrictions being imposed on our fishermen if they are not imposed on those from other nations who could be fishing in our area? If not, those who are practising conservation will not receive the benefit of it.

Mr. Morley

I want to apply measures in such a way that the benefit goes to our fishermen. The new limit has been agreed in the Council by a majority decision, so I cannot apply a higher measure to other member states who want to abide by the European directive, but our fishermen are telling me that they do not consider a catch of that size to be marketable. They also do not consider it good for conservation. If our industry tells us in consultation that we should apply our own rules, we must consider that. Other countries may make similar unilateral decisions. I am prepared to discuss that option with the industry.

Mr. David Curry (Skipton and Ripon)

Does the Minister agree that haddock is the stock about which we are talking? As we catch about 78 per cent. of the relevant stock, the survival or otherwise of the haddock is in the hands of our fishermen. If our fishermen say that they would like special conservation measures, does not it make sense to grant them?

Mr. Morley

A number of helpful suggestions on conservation have come from our industry. In many cases. it would be better to apply measures on an EU-wide basis—there are no two ways about it, and that is a priority. In other cases, there may well be measures that we could apply in the UK that would benefit our industry, and we should not rule that out.

Mr. Christopher Gill (Ludlow)

I have provided the Minister with proof positive that undersized fish are landed and sold openly in Spain. Have the British Government ever tried to bring enforcement proceedings against the Spaniards for allowing the landing of undersized fish? Is that not a failure of their inspectorate?

Mr. Morley

Making sure that each member state complies with European regulations is a matter for the Commission. We have argued consistently within the Council of Ministers that control measures should be applied properly across all member states. I believe that we are making progress on the new control measures, and that genuine efforts are being made by countries such as Spain in tackling what they admit is a problem with undersized fish. They are tackling that through market controls—and, from their point of view, that is the right way to do it.

We have been developing an interchange between our inspectors and those of other countries, including Spain. Our inspectors have been to Spain, in the company of Spanish inspectors, and their inspectors have been to the UK in the company of our inspectors. Recently, I was pleased to address a conservation course run by the sea fish inspectorate, which included a Spanish and a Norwegian inspector. It was useful to have them involved in a course run by our UK administration, and it was useful to listen to their experience and ideas. We are trying to develop better national and international management and to make sure that each EU country applies the same regulations to the same standards. We take that very seriously.

Mr. Gummer

Will the Minister consider building on the decision of Baroness Thatcher, when she was in office, to support an international inspectorate in the EU, and consider enabling that inspectorate to make unannounced visits to ports? Until that happens, it cannot do the job properly. Until now, the UK Government have been least happy about that, so it seems to be entirely in our interests if the inspectorate were to have that power.

Mr. Morley

I am glad to report to the right hon. Gentleman that we have reached agreement this year. The new control measures include the right of the Commission's inspectors to make unannounced visits to any member state fishing port, accompanied by the inspectors of that member state. That is the right way forward and we support it strongly.

Mr. Andrew George (St. Ives)

Fishermen in the south-west, and Cornwall in particular, view with dismay the proposal to reduce the minimum landing size for megrim. As the hon. Member for Ludlow (Mr. Gill) pointed out, the Spanish market has a particular taste for immature and small fish. All this measure will do is to encourage that market, which I understand—as does the Select Committee on Agriculture, following its visit to Spain—the Spanish authorities are trying to stamp out.

Mr. Morley

The hon. Gentleman is right that Spain and other member states are seriously addressing this issue, as it is in no one's interests to have a market in undersized, immature fish which have not had a chance to breed. Our industry does not want to catch such fish, not only for conservation reasons—which they take seriously—but for marketing reasons, such as demand and maximising prices. That is why it may be in the interests of our industry to take steps which benefit other markets and fishing patterns. As I said, we should not rule that out and I am prepared to consider it.

Mr. Steen

I am having difficulty understanding the problem. If the Minister believes that conservation and quotas are important, how can he justify the fact that sometimes, when fish of a certain species are caught, all of them have to be thrown overboard? Would not the simplest way to deal with the problem be to stop that happening, as dead fish do not need to be conserved? I mentioned sea lions earlier, but seals rushing down from the north kill live fish and eat dead ones. However, apparently they are not a conservation problem as there are plenty of fish and no quotas are needed. Why does not the Minister deal with that issue?

Mr. Morley

We cannot look for scapegoats for problems that we have inflicted on the seas. I do not suggest that seals do not have an impact, and the hon. Gentleman mentions issues that need to be examined carefully. Research programmes are currently looking into seal numbers and population dynamics, and the food chain and food web in which they are involved.

However, the problem with discards stems from the difficulty of managing a fishery where there are many species whose quotas are exhausted. How do we prevent such a fishery from being deliberately targeted? I accept that it is impossible for fishermen not to catch certain species even when their quotas are exhausted. That is where discards come in, but experienced fishermen know how to target certain species within the limits that are set. That is another reason for the management system that is in place.

I would be the first to accept that the system is not perfect. As I have made clear to the industry, I am more than willing to consider options and different ways to manage quotas, but they must be managed for conservation and sustainability. As we have discovered, it is neither simple nor easy to find alternatives.

Mr. Townend

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Morley

No. I have given way to the hon. Gentleman once already and I want to make progress.

I shall not go into great detail about the common fisheries policy review in 2002, as there will be other opportunities to discuss what is a very large issue. Suffice it to say that we recognise that the CFP is not perfect and, indeed, has a number of serious flaws. We believe that it can be improved, but not simply by abolishing a fisheries policy designed to manage stocks in all European waters. That must remain an important element of the policy, but we want the CFP to adopt a more rational approach with more regional management and greater flexibility.

I am glad to say that I was encouraged by the very sensible approach to CFP reform displayed, in our recent talks, by Franz Fischler, the new Fisheries Commissioner. He certainly had a good grasp of the problems involved. We are also talking informally to other countries with a common interest in CFP reform, especially in connection with the regional issue. Some of the responses have been very encouraging, which shows that progress will be possible in some areas. Earlier, I touched on the very good report from the Agriculture Committee. I shall not go into detail about that, other than to say that we are trying to act on its recommendations.

This year, we have brought in some new technical conservation measures, one of which will provide better protection for shellfish stocks. Another measure—introduced unilaterally, but strongly supported by the UK industry—imposes limits on catches of bass in the south-west of either 5 tonnes a week or 15 tonnes a month. Incidentally, France applied those limits unilaterally long before we did. The move has been warmly welcomed by all concerned, and it is an example of how local action can be taken. I should mention also that the organisation representing fishermen in the south-west applied that measure unilaterally before we introduced it.

Mr. Andrew George

At the time of the consultation, the Minister did not propose a 15-tonne-a-month option. That has not gone down well in the south-west and around the Cornish coast, and I think that the hon. Gentleman understands why.

Mr. Morley

I do understand why, but I ask the hon. Gentleman to consider what I am about to say. Of course, we discussed with the Scottish Parliament the impact that such a measure would have on Scottish trawlers—there is no doubt that it will severely limit their catching opportunities—but we think that it is justified because of conservation. However, we also had to consider the practical issues. A limit of 15 tonnes a month is less than 5 tonnes a week, but it would mean that a vessel taking a large haul would not have large discards. We are taking into account management and the potential impact of discards, which we are trying to minimise. We think that that is a fair point and that fishermen who understand bass, how they shoal and how a large haul can be caught, accept it. The hon. Gentleman should bear in mind the fact that the limit will take a lot of pressure off the stocks, and that has been welcomed.

We also hope to see progress on industrial fishing, which is a matter of great concern. I am very hopeful that, with the agreement of Denmark, we will be able to announce the first closed area for industrial fishing in the North sea. It will extend from north Northumberland to beyond Fraserburgh. The closure will eliminate the competition between fishermen and sea birds. We are using the science provided by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea, based on the impact of sea birds. Issues such as migrating salmon and white fish stocks also play a part.

I want to pay tribute to the Danish Minister. This is a sensitive issue, but he has approached it in a spirit of co-operation and considered the scientific and conservation aspects. We are optimistic that we will get Denmark's support for the measure at this week's Council. It will be the first time that we have introduced measures to restrict industrial fishing. It is also an example of integration of environmental and fisheries management which we were called upon to carry out by the Cologne European Council. We take that issue seriously and are trying to apply some of the points.

Fisheries management and enforcement measures have also been introduced this year. When I became Minister two years ago, black fish was a serious problem. It depressed prices at fishing ports and had a devastating effect on stocks. We had to take firm action, and I make no apology for doing so because it is in the long-term interests of fishermen and the fishing industry. In January, our new designated ports system was introduced—there are now prior notification arrangements for all white fish landings made by vessels of more than 20 m.

Mrs. Margaret Ewing (Moray)

Against the background of satellite tracking, is there still the same need for designated ports?

Mr. Morley

I shall talk about tracking in a moment. I accept that the installation of satellites gives us an opportunity to review vessels' control measures and bureaucracy and may give us an opportunity to relax those measures. As for designated ports, even if we know where vessels are, someone still needs to be able to carry out an inspection, or at least have the right to do so. I assure the hon. Lady that we understand that satellites can provide flexibility in reducing burdens and we want to consider carefully how to do that.

We have also tackled engine power and put in place measures to require the accurate declaration of engine power, which we believe to be essential to a level playing field in the United Kingdom and if measures to limit fishing are to be effective. However, as we recognise that there are practical issues relating to engine power, we have made generous transitional arrangements for fishermen who need to take action to correct deficits in their registered and licensed engine power. I believe that we can make progress on that.

As the hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing) said, satellites will come in from January for vessels more than 24 m long. More than 100 vessels are linked to our monitoring system and a further 250 are in the process of linking up. The system will apply to all EU vessels of that size that fish in our waters. Norway is also voluntarily applying the system to its vessels, and I welcome that action. There is an issue of enforcement, but there are benefits for fishermen's equipment, and safety implications arise from the knowledge of where vessels are around our coast.

From January, fixed quota allocations were introduced following the suggestion of the industry. The idea is to provide greater certainty within the industry, and fishermen should no longer be under pressure to maximise their catches simply to maintain a track record for the maximisation of quota. That will bring benefits. Producer organisations are more willing to make quota available to overcome problems in other parts of the fleet. The UK is likely to remain within its quota allocation for almost all stocks.

We shall review the operations of FQAs with the industry early in the new year, taking into account helpful recommendations from the Agriculture Committee on rules on the transfer of licences and quota, issues of ownership, and provision for new entrants, as well as the question of individual transferable quotas, which the Committee has asked us to consider.

Since 1 January, we have made it a licence condition that every UK-registered fishing vessel must demonstrate an economic link with this country. Contrary to the expectations of many, those arrangements are having a significant impact. Landings and related expenditure into the UK have increased. In some cases, additional quota has been made available, such as 50 tonnes of sole in the North sea, and we have allocated it to the inshore fishing fleet. Overall, the number of so-called quota hoppers has declined since the economic link measure was introduced.

That is a far more effective system than the factor 10 system was. The previous Government enacted the Merchant Shipping Act 1988, which was designed to address the quota-hopping problem. However, it addressed the problem in the wrong way, partly because it was driven by Europhobia and attitudes against other nationalities, rather than addressing the real management issues surrounding the problem. As a result of legal action, the UK is liable for damages for vessels illegally prevented from fishing after the 1988 Act's introduction. Many figures have been bandied about, but the court case has established only the right of vessels affected to claim compensation for the period during which they were prevented from fishing. It is up to the vessels to demonstrate the amount of the loss. It would be wrong, therefore, to say that an automatic sum of money should be made available for compensation.

Mr. Nick Ainger (West Carmarthen and South Pembrokeshire)

As my hon. Friend knows, I used to represent several quota hoppers before the boundary commission intervened. On the measures introduced this year, what action will the Government take against quota hoppers that have not satisfied the criteria? Is my hon. Friend aware that several people in my former constituency believe that they can provide evidence showing that the fishing efforts being claimed by some quota hoppers were somewhat dubious?

Mr. Morley

I understand that point, and the matter must be examined carefully. It is up to the claimants to prove their claims.

On vessels that have not complied with the economic link conditions, regulations make it crystal clear that compliance is a licence condition. Any vessel that does not comply will have its licence confiscated. We have reviewed licensing, and I look forward to receiving a comprehensive report from an industry body, which will consider matters including capacity, penalty, aggregation and the sectors of the fleet that are within their multi-annual guidance programmes.

We shall also deal with the under-10 m fleet, an issue with which I have always had much sympathy. We have published a comprehensive consultation paper on the management of the inshore fleet to try to find a strategy for the way forward. Some hon. Members will be aware that there have been some problems in the inshore fleet with this year's nephrops fishery—its expansion and the need to introduce management controls. Although we want to avoid lengthy and harmful closures in the under-10 m fleet, I cannot guarantee that that will always be possible—especially if effort continues to rise.

I am glad to see the investment that has taken place in the inshore fleet, but the problem is that many of the new boats are immensely more powerful than the boats that they have replaced; they are faster and more effective. That causes problems because we need to manage effort so as to stop it increasing. We need to consider those matters.

Many of the matters that I have mentioned involve new regulations and procedures, because much had to be done during the past two years. Many new measures had to be introduced—some of them were UK measures, to deal with particular problems, and some were European. I realise that they imposed burdens on the industry—I am sensitive to that. For that reason, we have asked officials to convene an early meeting with the industry to consider all aspects of regulation and bureaucracy, as well as issues such as the new satellites. We shall consider whether we can use that new technology to reduce some of the burdens on the industry. We take the matter seriously and we want to deal with it.

Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)

There is one more issue that the Minister might add to his list, although it crosses Departments. It should interest him that the smallest fishermen are having great difficulty with the old share fishermen's stamp system. They find that jobseeker's allowance is not available to them when dreadful weather prevents them from fishing. Those are the very people who have been pushed to the margins by the larger and faster vessels to which the Minister referred.

Mr. Morley

The right hon. Gentleman will understand why I do not list the share fishermen's scheme, although I am not ducking the issue. It is important. I shall look into the matter after the debate and write to him.

One of the saddest parts of this annual debate is that it is traditional to reflect the dangers faced by fishermen at sea. Sadly, so far this year seven fishermen have lost their lives—two were lost when the Donna M sank, one each from the Coleen and Gradely, and three fishermen have been lost overboard. I am sure that the House will join me in expressing sympathy to the relatives and friends of all those who were lost. In 1998, 26 fishermen were lost. I hope that the significant reduction in the number of fatalities this year will be continued in future.

Safety grants are of interest to hon. Members—many of them have spoken on that subject. Safety at sea is most important. Obviously, it is a key responsibility of fishermen themselves. I am always concerned when I read of incidents where it appears that there has been a lack of precautions. We are all aware that many incidents are caused by the crew's lack of experience—sometimes, there is a failure to observe safety needs. This year, in two cases of fatal loss, the boats involved did not carry a life raft, which would have increased the crew's chances of survival.

Other factors closely related to accidents are the way in which the vessel is operated and changes in fishing methods and in the areas fished. The industry is well aware of those matters. We want to deal with training and the full use of appropriate safety equipment with the industry.

There has been pressure to reinstate the safety grant scheme. Hon. Members will be aware that, when my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister visited the south-west, he said that the safety grant scheme would be reinstated. We have been considering how that can be done. New structural funds will be introduced next year. There will be an opportunity to consider safety grants, bearing in mind that, under the old scheme, boats under 12 m were excluded and only certain items of equipment were covered. There are arguments over whether that was the most appropriate scheme. We also need to deal with the safety culture of the industry.

Safety is being taken seriously and we are looking into how we might reinstate a grant scheme. I emphasise that it will not be the old scheme, which was imperfect in many ways. We must consider a new safety scheme—that is what we are doing at present.

Other issues that are—

Mr. Lawrie Quinn (Scarborough and Whitby)

Before my hon. Friend leaves the safety issue, I wonder whether he will take the opportunity to commend the work that has been done by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution during the 175 years of its existence. In my constituency, many fishermen serve on the local boats and instil the safety culture to which my hon. Friend referred. I am sure that all hon. Members would join me in commending the excellent work that the RNLI has done over 175 years.

Mr. Morley

I am very pleased to join my hon. Friend in supporting the work that the RNLI has done. It is true that many of its crews are from the local fishing community, and that they serve us very well.

Discussions have taken place on structural regulations. I shall not go into those in depth because they have been reported and I want to bring my remarks to a conclusion, but I shall emphasise one aspect. There is sometimes a misunderstanding, especially in some newspapers, to the effect that the evil bureaucrats in Brussels are denying fishermen fish, and that we go to Brussels to argue with them to get that fish back. It is not like that at all. The discussions are about the science, taking into account the sustainability of stock and the socio-economic effects on the industry. We shall have further discussions on the subject, but I emphasise that it is not an issue of horse trading, although I know that horse trading between Fisheries Ministers has gone on in the past.

Mr. Peter Luff (Mid-Worcestershire)

Seahorse trading.

Mr. Morley

It is not exactly seahorse trading, but it has not been applied in a rational or scientific manner. The decisions that we take must be based on sound science and take into account fishermen's views. This is about management. It is also about technical conservation, as is shown by the idea of introducing no-take zones and closed areas for spawning stocks.

There is much in the Liberal Democrat amendment that is thoughtful and constructive. The Liberal Democrats are seriously addressing many of the issues, most of which we are considering. Much that is in the amendment features in the programme that we are trying to develop, and we would welcome their comments and involvement in shaping it.

I cannot say the same about the Conservative amendment; indeed, I am not even sure what it means. It is in Euro-sceptic jargon. I assume that it involves the more extreme and unachievable position of pulling out of the CFP.

Mr. James Paice (South-East Cambridgeshire)

No, it does not.

Mr. Morley

Well, okay, but that is what has been said in the past, and that of course is a fantasy fisheries policy.

Mr. Paice

Read it.

Mr. Morley

I am being asked to read the amendment. I merely want to acknowledge that its wording differs subtly from what has been said in the past. For a long time, the Labour party has been advocating a policy of regional and local control. If the Conservative party has now shifted from its position that the United Kingdom should withdraw unilaterally from the CFP, it would be helpful to know that because that would be a major and very welcome shift away from a fantasy fisheries policy.

Unilateral withdrawal from the CFP is not achievable. One cannot ignore the rights of other countries that have fished our waters for generations, and in whose waters we have fished for generations. It is impossible to ignore the need for a European fisheries policy. It is also impossible to ignore the fact that the logic of taking an extreme position—such as advocating unilateral withdrawal from the CFP—is a complete withdrawal from the European Union. If that is the Conservative party's position, it is entitled to take it, but it should make that clear.

In conclusion, this will be a difficult year for negotiations on quotas. With my colleagues from the devolved Administrations, I shall go to Brussels to argue for the best deal that we can get for our fishing industry. We shall continue to address some of the industry's structural problems, for example, by considering the CFP report. We shall continue to develop the links that we have forged with the fishing industry and to involve the industry in developing sensible ideas, especially building on the ideas from the Agriculture Committee programmes on aspects of an achievable and sustainable fisheries policy. I believe that we all have a common interest in that. As parliamentarians, we have a common interest—with the industry, environmental groups and others—in ensuring that our fish stocks are managed.

I understand the implications of the proposed cuts in quotas, and I can assure the House that we shall certainly take into account the socio-economic impact on the industry when we decide how to negotiate the final quotas, bearing in mind the fact that the bottom line must be to achieve a sustainable fisheries management regime.

5.35 pm
Mr. Malcolm Moss (North-East Cambridgeshire)

I beg to move, To leave out from "future" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof: and believes that this can only be achieved by negotiating a reform of the Common Fisheries Policy that will devolve power to national, regional and local levels. I join the Minister in offering the condolences of Conservative Members to the families of those who lost their lives in the fishing industry in the past year.

I am amazed that the Minister should attack our amendment.

Mr. Morley

Very mildly.

Mr. Moss

The Minister says, "Very mildly" but he still attacked it, and he thought that the Liberal Democrat amendment was marvellous. However, the Opposition are embracing a policy that the Minister espoused only three years ago. He said: We believe that the CFP should be radically reformed to allow us far greater autonomy and national control of fishing waters within our country's limits.

Mr. Morley

Within the CFP.

Mr. Moss

The Minister did not say that. He added: We must say that the current situation is unacceptable and that there is a better way which meets the criteria of the CFP, but which gives all member states greater national control and a better way of managing fish stocks leading to a sustainable fishing industry. If we do not meet that objective, we will have no fishing industry."—[Official Report, European Standing Committee A, 23 July 1996; c. 25-27.]

Mr. Tim Yeo (South Suffolk)

Welcome aboard.

Mr. Moss

My hon. Friend makes a very pertinent point.

The proposals for total allowable catches for the next fishing year make disturbing reading. If implemented as in the first draft, the effect—to use the words of a leading figure in the industry—would be catastrophic. The spectre of crisis has, indeed, been raised before, but never before has a cut of this magnitude been proposed across so many different species' stocks and, in particular, across all commercial white fish fisheries in all sea areas. The reason for that is not so much a sudden downturn in the health of those fish stocks, but the way in which scientific advice has been presented this year. Safe biological limits have been supplemented by precautionary limits within a precautionary approach.

No one in favour of conservation and the future sustainability of fish stocks would argue against that in principle, but there is a substantial gulf between theory and practice. Insufficient thought seems to have been given to how precautionary limits might be introduced without a major disruptive impact on the fishing industry.

The proposals for total allowable catches this year suggest a revenue loss for the United Kingdom fishing fleet of about £85 million to £90 million, and that is out of a total revenue of £660 million. Frankly, that loss is a disaster in the making, and is unsustainable in the industry. Is the Minister aware of the implications? What estimates has the Ministry made of their impact— both social and economic—on fishing communities? The Minister alluded to the fact that he would consider that, but he gave the House no figures this evening. Do the figures for the loss come as a surprise to him, or is he well prepared with counter-arguments and proposals?

I am grateful to the Minister for his response to my question on the Hague preference; it will be gratefully received by the industry, which has been pressing for it. Members of the industry will have been in communication with him about that and other issues.

Mr. John D. Taylor (Strangford)

The hon. Gentleman mentioned the major reduction in the proposed income of the United Kingdom fishing industry, but is he aware that the position in Northern Ireland will be worse? There is a proposal to reduce the income of the industry there by 30 per cent.—a dramatic cut in the income of fishermen—for next year.

Mr. Moss

I am sure that the Minister has taken note of those serious figures.

Is there no comfort that the Minister can give the fishing industry today about the stance that he will take at the Fisheries Council? Surely, a more phased approach could be proposed—more on the lines of a multi-annual approach—so that over, say, a three to five-year period the industry could move to the precautionary limits without the devastating socio-economic problems that the present proposals imply.

Nothing underlines more starkly the fact that the CFP is not working than the recently announced TACs for next year. Unlike three years ago, however, the Minister has not said a word today about real reform of the CFP, although I remember reading that it was, indeed, one of Labour's manifesto commitments.

The Minister argued today that the arrangements that have been agreed—in an exchange of letters with Jacques Santer—since the Amsterdam summit to establish a so-called economic link between the quota hoppers and the UK economy are having results. However, he did not in any way quantify those results. As we know, some observers have challenged the legality of those arrangements, and we have already seen how foreign trawler owners circumvent the regulations by landing catches in, for example, Scotland straight on to refrigerated trucks to be driven over land back to the home port. The Minister did not say whether that practice has now been stopped.

On quota hoppers, the key issue is not the number of UK nationals or boats employed but the size of the boats and their catch potential. During the time of the Amsterdam treaty, quota hoppers had only 2 per cent. of the total fleet, but they took 44 per cent. of the plaice catch and 46 per cent. of the hake catch. Estimates today point to a share of 25 per cent. of total national tonnage.

Mr. Salmond

The hon. Gentleman will remember that during the passage of the Merchant Shipping Act 1988, the Conservative Government were well warned about the likely consequences of the direction of their legislation. Given that, and the fact that local councillors have been warned that they can be surcharged if they make poor decisions, does the hon. Gentleman see any case for a surcharge on Conservative Prime Ministers and fishing Ministers to make up for the tens of millions of pounds that is about to be paid to quota hoppers which could have been invested in our fishing industry?

Mr. Moss

As the hon. Gentleman knows, proper legal advice was sought at the time and taken.

Mr. Gummer

While my hon. Friend is considering surcharging, may I ask whether he would like to surcharge the Scottish National party for being against every single conservation measure that would bear on every voter whose support it hoped to get?

Mr. Moss

A good political point was made for all to hear.

Mr. Ainger


Mr. Moss

I shall press on now and take no more interventions. The Minister spoke for 55 minutes, and I should prefer to leave some time for other hon. Members to contribute to the debate.

The Labour Government's priorities for the fishing industry are more effective and consistent enforcement; more effective conservation of fish stocks; the achievement of a sustainable future for the fishing industry through structural and conservation measures; increased participation by fishermen in the development of policy; and an improvement in the regional dimension of the CFP. A staggering feature of that list is the omission of any mention of CFP reform.

In measuring the Government's performance against their priorities, I shall concentrate first on enforcement and satellite monitoring. The Government have declined to part-fund satellite monitoring for vessels over 24 m long, blocking any chance of access to EU grants. As we know, boats from other EU countries receive a 100 per cent. grant for that measure.

On conservation, the Government have failed to get agreement on technical proposals such as the mesh size for white fish. As the Minister agreed, they have also failed to prevent the introduction of lower minimum landing sizes for three species, which will be implemented next month.

The third priority was to achieve a sustainable future through structural changes. The key issue here is modernisation. The UK fleet is aged and becoming older by the year. For vessels between 12 and 24 m long, the average age is 25 years. As we know, European funding has been available to assist with the construction and modernisation of fishing vessels, and all our European partners, especially Spain and France, have taken full advantage of that facility to rebuild their fleets by replacing obsolete vessels with modern capacity.

All that has been denied the UK industry since 1989, initially because of the UK's failure to meet the European Community's fleet reduction targets and, more recently, because of the Treasury's unwillingness to permit participation. The Government's position is that, having paid substantial sums to take capacity out of the UK fleet through decommissioning schemes, it makes little sense to pay the industry to build new vessels. That would have an undeniable logic, were it not for the fact that the recently agreed EC structures regulation ensures that EC funding will continue to be made available to other member state fleets.

The prospect of the UK fleet continuing to become increasingly decrepit while our continental competitors modernise is, therefore, very real. Continental fleets largely fish the same grounds and sell to the same markets; clearly, they will have an economic advantage using modern vessels, as the cost per tonne of producing fish will be lower using new capacity. We should bear in mind also the fact that, with revenue generated in such a way, the door remains open for any other member state to buy UK licences and quotas. A new wave of quota-hopping, surfing on EU structural aid, is a clear possibility.

The Government's position ignores the critical factor, which is equity. For other member states to modernise while the UK fleet is denied the same access to funding can only be a recipe for winding down the UK fleet.

Also on the issue of a sustainable future for the industry, there are the unrelenting and upward costs of regulations, which are often imposed unilaterally by the UK Government. Examples include light dues, hygiene inspection, tonnage measurements, survey fees, escalating fuel prices, installation of the global marine distress system and the requirement of the new control regulation—and the list goes on. What of safety grants? I thought that the Minister was going to make a commitment to them, but he simply said that the Government would look at them afresh, as and when new structural funds appear.

The final plank of the Government's priorities relates to a regional dimension for the CFP, but nobody seems to know what that really means. Even the Minister is not clear. In his evidence to the Agriculture Committee in June, he said in answer to a question on the subject: there are some key issues to resolve, and one of the key issues is the definition of both regional and zonal management, because it means different things to different people, different countries and different parts of the industry. So, before we even start to make much progress on this, we need to resolve that particular issue. However, he said reassuringly: we are giving thought to that at the present time. Given the continuing decline of the UK industry, does not the Minister recognise the need for a great deal more urgency on that issue?

On the face of it, the policy of regional and zonal management is an attempt to restore some competency to member states—probably not individually, and more probably as groups of states—although it is still within the EU structure of the CFP. The policy is flawed on two counts. First, there is the legal position, especially of new entrants to the EU. Where will equal access to a common resource be if everything is stitched up before they join? Secondly, is such management really in British fishermen's interests?

As with any other significant change to the CFP, unanimity would be required, and that is most unlikely. Which member states would be involved in regional or zonal management? Would the Spanish, for example, be involved in the management scheme for the Irish box? On the regional management scheme, how are matters to be resolved—by some form of qualified majority voting or by unanimity? There are so many questions, but it is blindingly obvious to the UK fishing industry that the cards look stacked against it.

The cry goes up continuously from the fishing industry for a level playing field. It believes that it is seriously disadvantaged, and there is, indeed, plenty of evidence of that. How do we begin to address the inequalities of the EU system? Why is not that a Government priority?

It has long been a criticism that employment of UK subjects in the directorates-general in Brussels is well below a fair representation in relation to population. In DG XIV—the fisheries DG—only four grade A officials are UK subjects. That is a miserly 1.4 per cent. of the total. Let us compare that with 17 per cent. in DG I and 16.1 per cent. in DG VII. Does the Minister consider that there is fair and adequate representation at the heart of decision making on the CFP?

Another grievance is the lop-sided grant structure. There is no mention of the Government's intention to renegotiate a more favourable outcome for the UK in the successor to FIFG—the financial instrument of fisheries grant. In the mid-1990s, the UK was the fifth largest recipient of such aid–173 million ecu, compared to France, with 267 million ecu and Italy, with 408 million ecu. Way out in front was Spain, which received 1,163 million ecu, a staggering sum.

It has been calculated that the UK's share of supporting the upgrade of the Spanish fleet during the same period was £100 million, on top of the UK's share of the £90 million cost for the purchase of CFP rights to fish in third-party waters.

We heard not a word about such inequities from the Minister today. Does he think that it is fair? Does he believe that UK taxpayers and UK fishermen are getting value for money? Does he agree that arrangements such as the second-generation agreements, which benefit Spain particularly, constitute a fair and proper national fleet reduction, which may extend further favours to the Spanish in the future, possibly when negotiations start in earnest after 2003?

That brings me to the key date of December 2002. The Minister continues to peddle his complacent and over-confident line, first in the Select Committee debate a few weeks ago and again today. No one disputes the fact that, by midnight on 31 December 2002, under Council regulation 3760/92, member states, under qualified majority voting, must decide on any changes to the existing arrangements. If none occur, the arrangements are rolled over, with one exception—foreign vessel access to national six and 12-mile limits. A further derogation will be required to maintain those restrictions beyond December 2002. The previous one was for 20 years, and the assumption is that the proposal will be for a similar period from January 2003.

That all sounds very well, but even though a majority vote may be obtained under QMV, some states, which stand to lose out, may challenge the outcome in the European Court. The Council is, therefore, likely to seek unanimity to avoid such challenges, but that is far from guaranteed.

One of the countries likely to lose out is Spain, which posted its intentions back in 1994, when it withheld its consent to admit new members to the EU until it was given access to more fishing—in that case, 40 boats into the Irish box, which was previously restricted.

Mr. Morley

May I deal with that point? I do not intend to wind up, in order to give maximum time to Back Benchers. On the point about QMV, that is true, but no country has expressed an interest in not renewing coastal limits. That is why I am confident. It is in the interest of our industry and that of other states. With regard to the Opposition motion, there has been a significant shift of emphasis in the Opposition's attitude to the CFP. Is the hon. Gentleman saying that it is not their policy to withdraw unilaterally from the CFP?

Mr. Moss

We have never said that we would withdraw unilaterally from the CFP. We said that, in negotiations, we would insist on repatriation of national control. The hon. Gentleman agreed with that when he was an Opposition spokesman.

Portugal is another coastal state which, like Spain, would lose out because it has no proper coastal shelf. It is difficult to see how the blocking votes of those countries could be overcome without a change in the voting system. Such changes imply a direct assault on the acquis communautaire.

It is comforting to hear the Minister's reassurance that all will be well on the night. He has just reiterated that at present there is no sign of any state not wishing to extend the derogation, but, judging from the shenanigans over the beef issue, until countries cast their vote, it is difficult to anticipate their attitude.

Why cannot the Minister acknowledge the pitfalls that can be seen by every commentator to whom one turns for advice on the issue? Does the Minister have a deadline by which he would require agreement? If so, will he tell us what it is? Are the UK's six and 12-mile limits non-negotiable, or will he yield them up in the interests of some compromise agreement?

The CFP claims to be science-led, but regularly fails to match that claim because the data that it uses are far from solid or reliable. No one envies the administrators who have to come up with the TACs each year at about this time. To balance the many variables—including stock counts, increasing catching efficiency, estimates of illegal landings and discards, how recruitment operates, and the inter-connectivity of the food chain-must require the patience of Job and the genius of Einstein.

Given the lack of real communication between fishermen, administrators and scientists, it is no wonder that the annual announcement is considered by many to be a rather futile exercise. It also has the ability to generate anger and frustration, not just because of the disputes over fish stocks, but because fishermen are tied up in UK ports and see other EU boats fishing on the horizon and taking the so-called "limited" stocks from under their very noses.

Some years ago, illegally landed fish, or black fish, were reliably estimated to amount to up to 40 per cent. of reputed catches. The other wild card that derails a science-led CFP is discarding, which occurs most where quotas are tight, as in the North sea, and least where under-sized fish can find a ready market or where there is a lax policing system at the ports, as in some southern countries. At the Select Committee, the Minister boasted that he had solved the black fish problem, but the industry acknowledges that it is still significant.

Discarding is scandalous. No doubt many hon. Members will refer to it this evening. It has already come up in questions to the Minister. Some scientific estimates put discards at more than 30 per cent. of the fish stock. It is not good enough for the Government to argue that discards are an inevitable consequence of a quota system, particularly as the justification for the TACs and quotas is largely the conservation of stocks and a sustainable resource.

Why is not the Minister pressing for changes that would at least start to tackle the problem? As we know, Norway bans discards. Admittedly, it monitors catches at sea, has fewer ports and has fewer species in its fisheries, but why could not the CAP introduce rules for spot monitoring? Seasonal closures could reduce discards, but the most practical way is through technical measures such as improved fishing gear and mesh sizes.

I know that the Minister has been active in that regard, and he announced earlier that the UK would regulate a larger mesh size in the near future, but that unilateral decision may again limit the ability of UK fishermen to compete.

The problem of introducing technical measures is one of harmonisation between member states, which is almost impossible, given the wide variation in fisheries and environments. That does not mean that the Government should not have a policy on technical changes, and a programme and timetable for their introduction.

It is difficult to find anyone who believes that the common fisheries policy is working. The general downward trend of the total allowable catches is testimony to that. The CFP is full of contradictions. It seeks to conserve under-age fish that have not yet reached breeding age, but brings in changes to lower minimum landing sizes. We believe—as the Minister and his party believed only a few years ago—that there must be fundamental reform of the CFP.

Conservative policy is therefore to insist on such reform to devolve power to national, regional and local levels. We will press for national or local controls to be established over our own waters, through zonal management or coastal management or in some other way. We are more than happy to discuss a way forward with the industry. These are not exclusive rights of access, and we would hope to develop sensible bilateral agreements and give recognition to the historic rights of other countries.

The Minister has a tough task ahead of him in the Council. We urge him to be robust and to fight for the interests of UK fishermen.

5.59 pm
Mr. Frank Doran (Aberdeen, Central)

I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this important annual debate. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Minister on his constructive approach, which contrasts with the spirit in which these debates used to be held. We do not hear any of the aggression and bad feeling that existed previously. That is reflected in my experience of the way in which the industry is co-operating. Now even the fish catchers speak to the merchants in my part of the world. There is a much more constructive and co-operative approach.

I do not know whom the hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Moss) consulted in the industry when he prepared his amendment to the Government motion. When representatives of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation, whom I met earlier today, saw the word "national" in the amendment, they were extremely concerned. The federation is working across national boundaries with other European countries, their producer organisations and Governments. It does not like the thought that we shall return to the petty nationalism that identified the approach taken by the Conservative Government. That certainly worries it as it wants to see a constructive approach.

The importance of the debate is coloured by the debates that are still to take place with the other EU members. At the top of the agenda for the fishermen and fish processors in my constituency is the proposed new total allowable catches, and particularly the reduction in some of the quotas. Some of these are causing considerable concern, such as a 26 per cent. reduction in the haddock quota—although that is much better than we had feared.

My hon. Friend the Minister referred to saithe and monkfish quotas. I am aware from my discussions with the Scottish Fishermen's Federation that there is especial concern about the monkfish quota for the west coast fisheries and the way in which that quota reduction has been reached. I am advised that there is virtually no scientific evidence relating to monkfish and that it is particularly difficult to calculate the age of the fish. The experience of west coast fishermen is that there are large numbers of monkfish and ample fish to meet the existing quota.

A research project is under way that was jointly sponsored by the Scottish Fishermen's Federation and the marine laboratory in Aberdeen. It is only six months into its work, with another 18 months to go. As I represent a constituency on the east coast, I am concerned that there will be a displacement of fishing activity from the west coast round to the east, where there is also a reduction in quota but where the baseline is that much higher. The removal of virtually 1,000 tonnes from a 3,000 tonnes quota will have a major impact, and I ask my hon. Friend the Minister to examine that problem in his discussions in Europe.

A major problem in the management of the industry has improved over the past few years. There have, for example, been references to multi-annual quotas. The way in which the fishing industry—processors and catchers—has accepted rather than simply moved towards the concept of a sustainable fishing industry is interesting. It is important that that is recognised. I know that my hon. Friend the Minister recognises the constructive approach that the industry is taking.

There is concern about huge reductions or fluctuations in quota. Sometimes we see an increase in certain quotas, although not so many this year, but it is possible that there will be quite a large increase in the haddock quota next year because there is such a strong year class this year. I have received several representations recently about a multi-annual approach. I accept the point made by my hon. Friend the Minister about the need for stability in stocks, but I would argue against that being seen as an excuse for not preparing multi-annual quotas.

There needs to be some predictability in the industry. We are discussing in December quotas that will take effect in about three weeks' time. It is difficult for fish catchers, processors and the entire industry to plan ahead if the market is thrown into turmoil. It is important that we move towards a system that leads to much more predictability within the industry.

We know that huge sums are invested in the industry, both onshore and offshore. In my constituency, there is a sea change in the way in which the processing sector has developed. Traditionally, it has consisted of small, one-man businesses. They are usually one-man businesses because there are not many women at that end of the industry. However, we are going through a period of consolidation. Sectors and companies are being forced to merge because they cannot meet the competition. As for the retail side of the industry, almost two thirds of produce goes through supermarkets. The traditional method of retailing has changed. We need much more certainty and predictability in the industry. It is important that that is examined.

There are questions about the way in which decisions are taken. I think we all accept that scientific evidence is crucial. However, I think it will be accepted on both sides of the House that that evidence is not necessarily complete; certainly it is not perfect. I am concerned that scientific evidence leads to a proposal for significant reductions in quota when that goes against the experience of fishermen who report in certain areas. Saithe is a good example on the west coast. The fishermen there claim that there are abundant supplies of saithe, but the scientific evidence suggests that there should be significant reductions in TACs. It is an issue which has been discussed by the all-party fisheries group.

We are concerned that what starts as scientific advice is almost treated as the rule of law by the time that it gets to Brussels. I know that my hon. Friend the Minister will do all that he can to argue our case nationally. It worries me that officials in Brussels—I hope that this does not apply to United Kingdom officials—tend to hide behind scientific advice, with the result that practical evidence, such as that of fishermen, is not taken into account.

Both sides of the industry—catchers and processors—recognise the need to have an environmentally sustainable policy. The Scottish Fishermen's Federation recently proposed to my hon. Friend new technical measures that would result in the introduction of square mesh panels and thinner twine, which makes up the nets. If implemented, these proposals would allow more smaller fish to escape. These are constructive proposals from the industry, which I hope will be introduced, I hope also that they will help to reduce discards, which is a concern for us all.

Mr. Morley

The suggestions from the industry and the Committees were helpful. The action that the fishermen are taking has helped in our discussions to get an increase in the haddock quota. I shall be pressing these matters on the Commission in relation to the calculations that it undertakes.

Mr. Doran

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. This is another example of the industry and Government working in co-operation. We are moving towards a real partnership.

In my constituency, the Aberdeen Fish Curers and Fish Merchants Association has developed an environmental policy, which is a radical step for the industry. A collection of small businesses sees its interests in developing and being part of a process of procuring a sustainable industry in the North sea. The future of these businesses depends on the sustainability of stocks in the North sea. They do not like a rollercoaster. Like me, they believe that the only way forward is to develop stability in our stocks through a sustainable fishing policy, which takes into account the social and economic aspects of the industry together with the biological aspects. Scientific evidence is important, but it is only part of other elements in reaching a solution.

We need to recognise the importance of the individual fisherman and processor. Year in and year out, we ask the fishing industry and individuals within it to make sacrifices. We cannot ask fishermen to catch fewer fish if they are not to be part of the future of their own industry. That must be a key part of future policy.

It is also important to recognise that environmental groups are focusing more and more on the industry. I know that all of us who are interested in the industry have been lobbied recently by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, which is beginning to take an interest in it. That is important in terms of the pressure that it will apply to the industry.

I shall speak briefly about the contribution that can be made by public authorities, especially local authorities. In my city of Aberdeen, Aberdeen city council and Aberdeenshire council, the neighbouring local authority, established a fisheries summit two years ago. They brought together every group in the city that had an interest in the fishing industry, and hammered out the matters on which local authorities could help the industry to make progress. That has resulted in many improvements in the way in which issues are tackled locally. Grampian Enterprise is involved and has a better view of the effect of employment in the fishing industry on our area. However, the most significant step forward is the involvement of Aberdeen city council in responding to the major problem that the industry faces throughout Britain: the likelihood of increased water charges through the waste water directive.

Aberdeen city council has decided to construct a waste water treatment plant which the council, Grampian Enterprise and the industry will fund. It will protect my local fish processors from the huge increase in waste water charges. That is a significant local solution to a national problem. I hope that when my hon. Friend the Minister considers policy on the industry, he will take into account the important contribution that local government can make.

I conclude by making a point that has not been mentioned because it is not strictly relevant to today's debate. We have heard much recently about the beef war between Britain and France, and the Conservative party's call for a trade war. My local fishing industry depends greatly on our exports, especially to France but also to Spain. My office is opposite the Aberdeen fish market. Every day, I can see from my office the lorries leaving for France. My fishing industry would be devastated by a war with France over beef. I hope that the Government will never countenance it.

6.12 pm
Sir Edward Heath (Old Bexley and Sidcup)

I am grateful for the opportunity to make a brief speech. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will realise that all too little time has been allocated for debate on such an important subject.

I was born by the sea, and I lived by the sea for more than 50 years. I swam and fished in the sea when I was a kid; later, I won the national record for the amount of cod caught in a single day–146 lbs 13 oz. Therefore, I have some experience of the matters that we are discussing. I have travelled all over the world, and sailed and raced in the Atlantic, the Mediterranean and the Pacific. Wherever I have travelled, I have talked to fishermen, who have been immensely helpful to us at times. I understand their views and share their anxieties.

I want to look back to some original foundations. We can consider modern problems, but it is also important to look back to 1963 and 1964. Some people claim that the European Community created its fisheries policy in 1963 at the last moment to try to prevent us from becoming a member and to make matters as difficult as it could for us. That is a complete falsehood. The Community's fisheries policy was first discussed by the French in 1963, and they continued to discuss it, to try to resolve problems and create a policy until 1969. A general review of Community policy, including fisheries policy, then took place and it was decided to try to settle the policy by spring 1970. The Community did not succeed in that, and the policy was finally settled in December 1970. We took part in the discussions that followed, and the Community knew our position perfectly well.

There is an answer to those who claim that we sold out to the Community or to the French: we got the decision for which we asked. We asked for the 12-mile arrangement—six miles plus six—and to stick to the arrangements that had existed since the relevant legislation came into force.

Mr. Nicholls

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Sir Edward Heath

No. I am sorry, but I shall not give way because there is no time to do so.

We got the decision that we wanted at the time. It was to last for 10 years, and it was then renewed for 20 years. It will be discussed and possibly re-created in 2002. That policy, which suited us, has remained in operation.

I want to consider deep-sea fishing. At the time, there was a great difference between our deep-sea fishermen and other fishermen. That point is often overlooked nowadays. The coastal fishermen were in the minority. It is also forgotten that when the Conservative Government came to office in 1970, we were at war with Iceland over deep-sea fishing. We had to send warships to protect our fishermen. We got a settlement on political grounds, which hardly changed our landing of fish—I do not know whether the Icelanders ever realised that. However, for four years after that, we were still in the 900,000 series. We did not lose out over that, but we lost our deep-sea fishing industry.

I tried to resolve that by asking the Minister of Agriculture to organise a search for other parts of the world that we could recommend to our deep-sea fishermen. We quickly discovered that the coast of Africa was useless because it was largely monopolised by the Russians. We went to the coast off South America, where excellent opportunities were found. They were put to our fishing organisations. It was reported that, when landed, the deep-sea fish looked awful but tasted delicious. We passed around the information but it was never used, and very few fishermen fish off the coast of Latin America. The change in the balance happened then, and it affected the matters that we have discussed today and in the past.

The arrangements that exist today were not accepted in my time because they were not necessary, but Mrs. Thatcher accepted them when she was Prime

Minister and said that they were necessary. I agreed with her; they were the right measures. We must protect the industry by limiting catches—there can be no doubt about it. Unless one is prepared to face up to that, we shall get nowhere. That is why the Government are right—even if they have changed their minds—to pursue the policy thoroughly. I hoped that my party would agree with that. However, the Conservative amendment leads one to conclude that the party wants us to leave the Community. If we accepted the amendment, we would demand to be outside any Community fishing policy. The Community would not accept that, not for a moment.

Mr. Nicholls

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Sir Edward Heath

No, I am sorry.

The Community would not accept that for a moment and we would be forced to give way or get out. I want my fellow Members to realise that. We have to be realistic: that is the situation, so there is no point in tabling such amendments because they are entirely unrealistic and completely ineffective.

We are in a situation in which it is absolutely right to have limits, and if hon. Members look at our figures they will see that we have done very well—much better than most. I am not complaining about that in the least—it has been achieved by the proper means—but, looking to the future, we have to appreciate the situation fully, reach agreements and accept and operate them. If the fishermen have that explained to them, they will understand it perfectly well. I have talked to them on many occasions, and whenever I send them a letter explaining something I never receive a counter-answer saying, "Oh, we can't accept that" or "You're wrong." It is obvious to me that when they analyse an issue they recognise the real facts and the action required to deal with them. That is why I hope that we shall give them encouragement from the House today.

6.21 pm
Mr. Eddie McGrady (South Down)

In moving the motion, the Minister made a broad sweep of the canvas. In the time that will fairly be allocated to me, however, it will not be possible to deal with many of those issues and I shall therefore concentrate on one or two matters specific to the Northern Ireland fishing industry. It would be an understatement to say that our fishermen are greatly disturbed and alarmed by the total allowable catches and quotas proposed for 2000 for most of the main marketable Irish sea species. Such proposals are totally unacceptable to them and will place an enormous economic burden on them and their families, on the onshore industries that depend on them and on the economies of the fishing villages in my constituency—Kilkeel and Ardglassas—as well that of Portavogie, in the constituency of Strangford.

The cuts are of a most dramatic dimension. The European Commission has proposed 69.1 per cent. reduction in the TAC of Irish sea cod and, if that is not bad enough, 40 per cent. reductions for Irish sea whiting, haddock and herring. How can our industry survive such cuts made in one fell swoop? It is not possible. On top of that, there is a proposed reduction from 23,000 tonnes to 17,200 tonnes for nephrops, which is our main crop. That will immediately wipe out in that sector alone £3 million of gross takings for those small communities.

It is argued that many of the reductions are based on scientific facts, but most of us could be forgiven for questioning some of the bases on which these scientists make their recommendations. I shall give the House a brief example. There were substantial stocks and catches of all those species for the first six months of 1999, but then the fish disappeared for no apparent reason. The scientists said that the temperature of the inner Irish sea had increased by 2 per cent. and the stocks would come back in the autumn when the temperature returned to its normal seasonal average, but it did not do so. The migratory habits of the fish had changed and their dispersal was such that the trawlers could not make economic sorties on the shoals. That, however, does not mean that the fish are not there; they have simply moved across the demarcation lines that have been so conveniently drawn on the map. I suspect that these drastic and unacceptable reductions in respect of all those main species are based on not the scientific fact of the absence of fish, but the evidence of a lack of catches, and that is an entirely different concept.

I must say to the Minister that there is no doubt whatever that the Northern Ireland fishing fleet, the industry and the onshore jobs that come from it will be decimated if the proposals are carried. I am sure that he is not content with the figures. I hope that they are not a fait accompli and that the Council at its meetings on December 16 and 17–wherever they are held, be it London, Brussels or anywhere else—will reject them for their lack of scientific basis and because the proposals will decimate the north Irish fishing industry.

In 1991 and 1992, the Commission recognised the uniqueness of the ecosystem that is particular to the Irish sea, which is virtually an enclosed seaway, and that the special circumstances and needs of the fishing industry had to be addressed. That has never been done, but I ask the Minister to look back to that debate to see where there is reason, justice and logic for allowing him to convince his counterparts in Europe that the cuts are not acceptable. He has rightly mentioned their socio-economic consequences and the motion itself says that

"the regional differences of fisheries and their communities are fully recognised."

I ask for that regional difference to be fully recognised and for the drastic and unacceptable cuts in TACs to be eliminated. The TACs should revert to what they were, at least for 1999, to provide a sustainable industry.

In an intervention, the right hon. Member for Strangford (Mr. Taylor) briefly touched on the Hague preference and its invocation by the Government of the Republic of Ireland. Surely, under the new political dispensation—which I welcome and to which the Minister has referred—and, in particular, in the North-South Ministerial Council, special attention could be given to that particular problem to ameliorate the adverse effects of the Hague preference where it is called upon by the Republic of Ireland. Indeed, that should also be a matter for the proposed British-Irish Council, but such consideration cannot be given in this round of talks. Our Agriculture and Fisheries Minister will not have a place at the table with the Minister in the negotiations, I assume, so we depend totally on him and his Department delivering on this problem.

Mr. Gummer


Mr. Curry


Mr. Morley

I assure the hon. Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady) that the Irish Minister, along with the Scottish Minister, will be with me at every stage of the discussions and fully involved.

Mr. John D. Taylor


Mr. McGrady

I thank the Minister—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. May I make it clear to the House that the hon. Member for South Down was allowing the Minister to intervene?

Mr. McGrady

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Mr. John D. Taylor

Will the hon. Gentleman give way now?

Mr. McGrady


Mr. Taylor

Was the hon. Gentleman referring to the presence of the new Northern Ireland Fisheries Minister or that of the Irish Minister? I think that the Minister's reply referred to the Irish Minister, but we want to know about the Northern Ireland Minister.

Mr. McGrady

I am not sure that I can clarify an answer that was not given by me. The Minister referred to Brid Rodgers, the Minister responsible for agriculture and fisheries in the new devolved Assembly in Northern Ireland. I am delighted to have the assurance that she and her officials will be with the Under-Secretary at the table, and will share responsibility for delivering a much better deal for the fishing industry in Northern Ireland.

In view of the time constraints, I shall not pursue any other issue except a matter that has not been mentioned but is particularly important to the fishermen of Northern Ireland. The Chancellor of the Exchequer introduced a new scheme for small businesses whereby, in Northern Ireland, as a sort of peace dividend, there would be 100 per cent. capital allowance grant on capital expenditure. Up until the past two or three days, it was anticipated that such a facility would be extended to capital expenditure in the fishing industry. Before leaving home this morning, I was informed that the fishing industry is excluded from the 100 per cent. relief that was given to small businesses in Northern Ireland. I am sure that the Minister will be as surprised as I am by that decision, and will think it unjust, inequitable and unfair. I hope that he will take the matter up with his ministerial colleague for the purpose of clarification.

I cannot emphasise enough the fact that the 70 and 40 per cent. cuts across the main species will decimate the Northern Irish fishing industry. The Minister must not allow those figures to be on the paper at the end of his negotiations.

6.32 pm
Mr. Andrew George (St. Ives)

I beg to move, To leave out from "House" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof: 'in taking note of the unnumbered Explanatory Memorandum, submitted by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, on 5th December 1999, recalls that the previous Government added to the burden on UK fishing communities and failed to take any decisive action to protect British fishing interests in 18 years; believes that the Government should establish a coherent joined-up vision of where the UK wants the fishing industry to be in the medium and long term; recommends that the Government both itself and in its negotiations with European and other fishing nations seeks: to develop arrangements which significantly improve the cooperative relationship between fishermen and scientists, to avoid the last-minute annual total allowable catch and quota-setting process which does much to damage this relationship and the ability of the industry to plan ahead, to bring forward proposals to regularise and manage the trading of track records and fishing licences, to establish a decentralised system based on regional fisheries management whilst seeking to reduce the need for discards and engage fishermen in management decisions, to ensure equality of monitoring and enforcement across the European Union, to develop a pan-European policy to encourage low-impact fishing methods, and to reinstate a system of fishing safety grants.'.

There is little time left to discuss this substantial amendment to the Government's motion, the spirit of which the Liberal Democrats agree with, although we want to beef it up along these lines. I have some sympathy with the Minister because of the great difficulty that he is in, especially over the scientific advice. I am sure that he would not wish this on himself, and it puts him in a difficult position in the negotiations that he faces later this week in Brussels. However, as a member of an Opposition party, I shall exploit his discomfort whenever appropriate, but in a responsible way.

The Minister accepts, as I do, that some stocks are in a serious state of decline, and robust and responsible action must be taken. The industry wants a medium-term vision, as described by the hon. Member for Aberdeen, Central (Mr. Doran), with a multi-annual quota. That would make it much easier for the industry to swallow what I think will be an extremely bitter pill this year.

As for Conservative opposition, I was waiting in anticipation to see whether there would be a significant change in Conservative party policy with the change of its spokesperson. It is unclear, and the jury is still out on the Conservative party's position.

Mr. Nicholls

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. George

No. I would enjoy an intervention from the hon. Gentleman, but, in view of the time constraints, I have to move on.

The Conservative amendment is curious, because, in the Scottish Parliament last week, the Conservatives tabled an amendment advocating the reform of the common fisheries policy that devolves powers to regional and zonal levels. There was no mention of national levels. That is a curious and perplexing amendment, and I cannot help but note that the Conservatives have criticised others for saying one thing in one place and another thing somewhere else, because that is what they are doing now with their amendments in the Scottish and Westminster Parliaments.

Mr. Moss

I have a news release from the hon. Member for South-East Cornwall (Mr. Breed) who visited the Looe fishermen. It says that if the Liberal Democrats do not get their way, they would have to withdraw Britain from the Common Fisheries policy. In a letter, Mr. Robin Teverson MEP says that the Liberal Democrats would advocate actual changes to the Treaty of Corfu and other treaties.

Mr. George

The hon. Gentleman is right, in that, in all Opposition parties, there are some who stray—he made that point earlier—and make irresponsible calls for pulling out of the CFP and repatriation. I speak on behalf of the Liberal Democrat party in Parliament. I could appeal to irresponsible and populist opposition and call for a unilateral withdrawal from the common fisheries policy, but I am making it absolutely clear that that is not our view. The Liberal Democrats provide responsible opposition. We want radical reform of the common fisheries policy, but not withdrawal from it, as that is unrealistic and not on the agenda.

The background papers to today's debate refer to progress towards meeting targets under the multi-annual guidance programme—ter has not been dealt with in the debate—ACs and quotas for next year. As other hon. Members have said, here we go again. What other industry would tolerate being managed in such a way that it has to limp on year after year, never being sure where it is going? That is a product of either poor circumstances or poor policy management.

Politicians who engage in the fishing industry and anyone who has responsibility for fishing policy will know that fishing is a no-go, no-win area: it is a poisoned chalice, as I have told the Minister before. Last week, the Minister was harangued and verbally roughed up in the south-west. Given the views expressed by fishermen in that area, he may have thought that not being given worse treatment was tantamount to a ringing endorsement. The fishing issue is not for politicians of a nervous disposition. This issue either results in Ministers being harangued and verbally roughed up, or is an opportunity for certain people to get on their high horse about European constitutional issues and to use fishermen as front-line troops in their own xenophobic war. The fishing industry requires responsible and serious leadership, not such an irresponsible approach.

If we wanted to contrive a set of circumstances in which to produce really bad policy, we could not do much better than start here. The relationship between politicians and fishermen has not been good for some time. That relationship needs to be worked on, as does that between fishermen and scientists, which, despite some improvements, is still not what it should be.

The fishing industry faces this 11th hour brinkmanship: this annual short-term, short-sighted approach to the management of fishing policy in which the crucial issue of the quota for the following year is decided only a few weeks before the end of the year. We need a coherent, joined-up strategy to take the industry forward. We need a coherent policy on quota management and trade, technical measures, equality of monitoring and enforcement across Europe and policies to improve the relationship between scientists and fishermen.

Many hon. Members have already made the point that the quota settlement proposed for next year would take quotas for all stocks to their lowest levels for a considerable time. The industry is also facing increased fuel costs, compliance costs and satellite monitoring costs, and the introduction of a global maritime distress system and tonnage proposals. The quota cuts could take £88.5 million from an industry with a total revenue of £660 million.

The scientific base is in the form of advice, not instruction. Some assessments of stock, such as west of Scotland monkfish, do not have an adequate scientific base. The industry has argued to that effect, and I think that it has sound evidence.

Fishermen feel that no proper account is taken of effort limitations, or of decommissioning controls, when quotas are set in the beam trawler sector. As others have pointed out, advice is sometimes out of kilter with experience—for example, in the case of the wholesale dumping of saithe in Scotland. This is no way in which to plan for such an important industry. The industry needs meaningful mid-term blueprints, and it needs discussions early in the year between fishermen and scientists.

I heard the wise words of the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath), and I am aware of his experience. I have to say that, for fishermen in Cornish and south-west waters, the original quota settlement on which relative stability is now based was not satisfactory. It was clearly not good enough in places like area VII, where the French have 75 per cent. of the cod quota, while local fishermen have only 15 per cent.

Mr. Nicholls

Will the hon. Gentleman give way on that point?

Mr. George

I cannot possibly do so, given the amount of time that remains.

A number of hon. Members mentioned the Hague preference. The Minister said that he would consider invoking it in Scotland, and I hope that he will extend that to include hake stocks in western waters.

I think that the Minister accepted our arguments about low-impact fishing, which is mentioned in our amendment, but I do not think that his answer to me about bass was adequate. Fishermen in Cornish waters, and in the south-west, are concerned about the way in which the "15 tonnes per month" decision was made. It was not part of the original consultation. The Minister will appreciate that the fishermen are not happy, and I ask him to keep the matter under close review.

Safety is an important and tragic issue. Today, we learned of another tragedy in Grimsby, involving a Brixham trawler, and in October, we lost another of my constituents off the coast of the Isles of Scilly. Following the announcement of an end to fishing safety grants in May, I am encouraged by the fact that the Minister—having gone round the mulberry bush of the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions and the Deputy Prime Minister—is now reconsidering their reintroduction.

Concern has been expressed about the safety of beam trawlers following the investigation of the loss of the Margaretha Maria, a trawler from my constituency, in November 1997, with the loss of four lives. The findings of the marine accidents investigation branch make it clear that the Maritime and Coastguard Agency's own stability tests may not be adequate. I am not saying that all beam trawlers are fundamentally unstable—I have been out on them, and they have a good track record—but the MCA has been criticised by the MAIB. It is important for the tests to be improved, and for our fishermen to know that they are adequate. That means carrying out the tests in dynamic, rather than static conditions.

I have spoken briefly on what is a substantial amendment. It is important to reinstate fishing safety grants, to encourage low-impact fishing, to establish regional forums—the Minister has referred to that in regard to the Irish sea—to encourage, through the reformed common fisheries policy, an increased regional dimension, and to bring about a medium-term joined-up policy based on a clear vision and the introduction of multi-annual quotas for future years.

6.45 pm
Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Inverclyde)

It is a long time since I spoke in a fisheries debate. Although I shall vote with the Government, I can tell the hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. George) that I have some sympathy with his amendment. I think that he and the hon. Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady) were absolutely right to tell my hon. Friend the Minister that our fishermen were being asked yet again to swallow a bitter pill because of what I consider to be a lousy common fisheries policy.

I must tell the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath), with great respect, that I, too, have some experience of the industry, but my experience is a little different from his. I am the son of a fisherman and a fishhouse lass. When the right hon. Gentleman and his Administration were mishandling the fisheries dispute between the United Kingdom and Iceland—popularly known as the cod war-three of my brothers were fishing on trawlers off the Icelandic coast and facing the dangers of wire cutting. I can tell him from personal experience—because I was up there as well—that wire cutting was very dangerous for the lads who were on the decks of those trawlers.

Coming, as I do, from a fishing community, I can tell the right hon. Gentleman something else, again with great respect. Many members of our fishing communities feel that his Administration sold the pass when they took us into the European Economic Community, because the common fisheries policy and, more important, our fishing industry were used as a bargaining counter. Unfortunately, the right hon. Gentleman's Administration and his officials were too ready to listen to the representatives of the British Trawler Federation, which represented only the trawler companies on the Humber and, to a lesser extent, in Aberdeen.

The interests of the share fishermen, in communities throughout the United Kingdom—in Northern Ireland, the Shetland Islands and in Cornwall, for instance—were disregarded in the right hon. Gentleman's honourable drive to take us into what was then the EEC. Since those days, my brothers have been on the dole for many years, together with many friends and many other relations, and I blame his Government for that.

As one who was born into a fishing community, and has stayed with the industry all his life, I can tell the House that successive Administrations, both Labour and Conservative, have let our fishermen down. In the 1960s and 1970s, they behaved with appalling arrogance to the small nation of Iceland when we were involved in that fisheries dispute. Our fishermen are still suffering the aftermath—the unintended consequences—of British arrogance towards a nation that was wholly dependent on the catching and processing of fish for the livelihood of its communities, from Akureyri in the north to the Vestmannaeyjar Islands in the south. A deal could have been done; indeed, the right hon. Gentleman struck a deal with the Icelanders. All that led to the common fisheries policy. Our communities still suffer because the right hon. Gentleman's Administration sold the pass.

As I said earlier, we must be fair-minded: Labour Administrations have not done much better by our fishing industry. That was always the view of my late mother, who first worked "on the herring" when she was 13. She did not have much regard for Labour or Conservative Administrations; she lost a brother and a brother-in-law at sea. We, too, have some experience of the industry, perhaps more than the right hon. Gentleman.

Respect has been paid to the fishermen. A character in Scott's novel "The Antiquary" says—my Scottish friends will forgive me for the accent; my grandmother came from Aberdeen, but I did not—"It's not fish you're buying, but men's lives." That is precisely the case. I hate the fact that fishermen go out in bad weather to fish. I was brought up in a community where, if the ice room was empty or half empty, skippers would shoot the gear in very bad weather, often resulting in deck hands being knocked overboard, as happened to two school friends of mine, Harry and Terry Williams.

My hon. Friend the Minister should listen to what the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) said. If a share fisherman cannot fish because of heavy weather, he should not be denied a legitimate claim for jobseeker's allowance. I hope that a Labour Government will do something about that. I do not want men fishing, shooting the gear and having to work on deck in anything over a force 6.

If I push other hon. Members out of the debate, they will have to forgive me because it is a long time since I have spoken on the issue and I do not think that we sufficiently discuss the safety concerns of our fishermen. My hon. Friend the Minister mentioned safety grants, as did the hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Moss)—it is a bit different from our usual exchanges over Northern Ireland, but I welcome him to his post. Can safety grants be used to purchase survival suits?

I shall ask my hon. Friend a question. He will not be able to answer it tonight, but I would welcome a letter, with a copy put in the Library. What proportion of our fishing vessels carries survival suits for their crew members? If we are to talk about safety grants, as the Minister did, that issue will be critical. I shall give an example. A friend's trawler went down off St. Kildare a few years ago—in the month of February—with a crew of 27. The men who were on watch had time to put on their survival suits. The lads who were down below went over the side in their underwear or pyjamas. Some of the men with survival suits survived for almost four hours in freezing waters—the lads who had to go over the side in their simmits and drawers were dead literally within minutes. My view is—and the fishermen's organisations know it—that no fishing vessel should be allowed out to sea without survival suits for all crew members. My hon. Friend needs to look at that in terms of safety grants.

I think that I am right in saying that no French trawler whose overall length is 15 m or more can leave port without survival suits. The Minister and his ministerial colleagues have been informed by Brussels that survival suits should be carried. I should like him to examine the matter.

Another question comes to mind in relation to our fishermen, who follow that most hazardous of occupations. When will financial compensation be paid to former trawler company employees? Does my hon. Friend have an answer for me tonight? I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, North and Fleetwood (Mrs. Humble) and others, including the Minister himself, have pursued that issue.

Men who were put out of work saw their employers given money. The right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) gave a lot of money to Humber trawler owners by way of compensation, but the crews did not get a penny. That injustice-many of the crews are in their 60s and 70s—should be remedied.

The motion refers—my hon. Friend mentioned it—to regional management. The Opposition amendment talks about national management. That is nonsense, but I should like to know what the Government's definition of regional management is. I wrote a paper on it for the Scottish government yearbook of 1975; my hon. Friend the Minister might like to read it.

My view is that with regional management comes local preference. It is a difficult issue because it means giving local fishermen preference over nomadic fishermen—not just from other countries, but from the same country; from other parts of Scotland. There will be conflicts among the nation's fishermen—for example, those in Ullapool and those whom the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) represents—but, if we are to talk about regional management, we will have to talk about protecting local fishing communities against the depredations of big trawler operators—against beam trawlers. I would ban beam trawling if I had my way. We have to protect those communities, many of which are far removed from London; they are far removed even from Edinburgh.

That is the problem with the review of the common fisheries policy in 2002, which my hon. Friend mentioned. What will we do about regional management? Will we give autonomy to local fisheries committees of one sort or another? Looking at Brussels, I do not think that we have a cat in hell's chance of having regional management that protects the local indigenous industry from nomadic fishermen, who are often not concerned about preserving the stock that they are dipping into and then disappearing over the horizon.

Another question arises from the review of the common fisheries policy. Have applicant countries that are seeking to join the European Union—obviously, I am talking about the maritime nations—been told that they will play no part in the CFP review? Let us not forget the Polish fleet.

Mr. Salmond

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. From memory, we were promised full-day fishing debate and then the Government promised a half-day fishing debate without a ministerial statement. Is there anything—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael J. Martin)

Order. The hon. Gentleman has raised a matter that has nothing to do with the occupant of the Chair.

Mr. Salmond

That is the point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Can you do anything from the Chair to avoid the farce of an annual fishing debate in which only seven Members get to speak?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

That is not a point of order.

Dr. Godman

I am about to finish, anyway—[Laughter.] I thought that I heard someone shout, "Daytripper" to the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan. I assure you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that it was not me, although he might be seen as a daytripper to this place. I would have thought that this place is as important to him and to his hon. Friends as the Scottish Parliament.

The safety of our fishermen should be paramount, and the Minister and his colleagues should not ever forget that. I say that against the background of a lousy common fisheries policy.

Amendment proposed: To leave out from "House" to end of the Question, and to add instead thereof: `in taking note of the unnumbered Explanatory Memorandum, submitted by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, on 5th December 1999, recalls that the previous Government added to the burden on UK fishing communities and failed to take any decisive action to protect British fishing interests in 18 years: believes that the Government should establish a coherent joined-up vision of where the UK wants the fishing industry to be in the medium and long term; recommends that the Government both itself and in its negotiations with European and other fishing nations seeks: to develop arrangements which significantly improve the cooperative relationship between fishermen and scientists, to avoid the last-minute annual total allowable catch and quota-setting process which does much to damage this relationship and the ability of the industry to plan ahead, to bring forward proposals to regularise and manage the trading of track records and fishing licences, to establish a decentralised system based on regional fisheries management whilst seeking to reduce the need for discards and engage fishermen in management decisions, to ensure equality of monitoring and enforcement across the European Union, to develop a pan-European policy to encourage low-impact fishing methods, and to reinstate a system of fishing safety grants:.—[Mr. Andrew George.]

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 36, Noes 320.

Division No. 17] [6.59 pm
Allan, Richard Keetch, Paul
Ballard, Jackie Kennedy, Rt Hon Charles
Beith, Rt Hon A J (Ross Skye & Inverness W)
Brake, Tom Kirkwood, Archy
Brand, Dr Peter Maclennan, Rt Hon Robert
Burnett, John Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)
Cable, Dr Vincent Moore, Michael
Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies Oaten, Mark
(NE Fife) Rendel, David
Chidgey, David Salmond, Alex
Cotter, Brian Sanders, Adrian
Dafis, Cynog Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Davey, Edward (Kingston) Stunell, Andrew
Ewing, Mrs Margaret Taylor, Rt Hon John D (Strangford)
Fearn, Ronnie Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Foster, Don (Bath) Tonge, Dr Jenny
George, Andrew (St Ives) Tyler, Paul
Harris, Dr Evan
Harvey, Nick Tellers for the Ayes:
Heath, David (Somerton & Frome) Sir Robert Smith and
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N) Mr. Bob Russell.
Abbott, Ms Diane Banks, Tony
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N) Bames, Harry
Ainger, Nick Barron, Kevin
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Bayley, Hugh
Alexander, Douglas Beard, Nigel
Allen, Graham Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale) Benn, Hilary (Leeds C)
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary Benn, Rt Hon Tony (Chesterfield)
Ashton, Joe Bennett, Andrew F
Atkins, Charlotte Benton, Joe
Austin, John Bermingham, Gerald
Betts, Clive Fisher, Mark
Blizzard, Bob Fitzpatrick, Jim
Blunkett, Rt Hon David Flynn, Paul
Boateng, Rt Hon Paul Follett, Barbara
Borrow, David Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Bradley, Keith (Withington) Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin) Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
Bradshaw, Ben Foulkes, George
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E) Fyfe, Maria
Browne, Desmond Galloway, George
Burden, Richard Gapes, Mike
Burgon, Colin Gardiner, Barry
Butler, Mrs Christine George, Bruce (Walsall S)
Byers, Rt Hon Stephen Gerrard, Neil
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Gibson, Dr Ian
Campbell—Savours, Dale Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Cann, Jamie Godman, Dr Norman A
Caplin, Ivor Godsiff, Roger
Casale, Roger Goggins, Paul
Caton, Martin Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Cawsey, Ian Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S) Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Clapham, Michael Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields) Grogan, John
Clark, Dr Lynda Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
(Edinburgh Pentlands) Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham) Hanson, David
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S) Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian) Healey, John
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge) Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S) Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Clwyd, Ann Hepburn, Stephen
Coaker, Vernon Heppell, John
Coffey, Ms Ann Hewitt, Ms Patricia
Cohen, Harry Hill, Keith
Coleman, lain Hinchliffe, David
Colman, Tony Hood, Jimmy
Cooper, Yvette Hope, Phil
Corbett, Robin Hopkins, Kelvin
Corbyn, Jeremy Howarth, Alan (Newport E)
Corston, Jean Hoyle, Lindsay
Cousins, Jim Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Cox, Tom Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Crausby, David Humble, Mrs Joan
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley) Hurst, Alan
Cryer, John (Hornchurch) Hutton, John
Cummings, John Iddon, Dr Brian
Cunliffe, Lawrence IIIsley, Eric
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S) Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Curtis—Thomas, Mrs Claire Jenkins, Brian
Dalyell, Tam Johnson, Miss Melanie
Darling, Rt Hon Alistair (welwyn Hatfield)
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W) Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn)
Davidson, Ian Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Jones, Ms Jenny(Wolverh'ton SW)
Davis, Rt Hon Terry Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
(B'ham Hodge H) Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Dawson, Hilton Keeble, Ms Sally
Dean, Mrs Janet Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Denham, John Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Dobbin, Jim Kemp, Fraser
Donohoe, Brian H Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Doran, Frank Khabra, Piara S
Dowd, Jim Kidney, David
Drew, David Kilfoyle, Peter
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey) King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston) Kumar, Dr Ashok
Edwards, Huw Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Efford, Clive Lawrence, Mrs Jackie
Ellman, Mrs Louise Laxton, Bob
Ennis, Jeff Leslie, Christopher
Etherington, Bill Levitt, Tom
Field, Rt Hon Frank Liddell, Rt Hon Mrs Helen
Linton, Martin Reid, Rt Hon John (Hamilton N)
Livingstone, Ken Robinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW)
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C) Roche, Mrs Barbara
Love, Andrew Rogers, Allan
McAvoy, Thomas Rooker, Rt Hon Jeff
McCabe, Steve Rooney, Terry
McCafferty, Ms Chris Roy, Frank
McCartney, Rt Hon Ian Ruane, Chris
(Makerfield) Ruddock, Joan
Macdonald, Calum Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
McDonnell, John Ryan, Ms Joan
McFall, John Sarwar, Mohammad
McGrady, Eddie Savidge, Malcolm
McGuire, Mrs Anne Sawford, Phil
Mclsaac, Shona Sedgemore, Brian
McKenna, Mrs Rosemary Shaw, Jonathan
Mackinlay, Andrew Sheerman, Barry
McNulty, Tony Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Mactaggart, Fiona Short, Rt Hon Clare
McWalter, Tony Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
McWilliam, John Singh, Marsha
Mahon, Mrs Alice Smith, Rt Hon Andrew(Oxford E)
Mallaber, Judy Smith, Angela(Basildon)
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S) Smith, Jacqui(Redditch)
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury) Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Snape, Peter
Marshall—Andrews, Robert Squire, Ms Rachel
Martlew, Eric Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Maxton, John Stevenson, George
Merron, Gillian Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Michie, Bill (Shefld Heeley) Steward, Ian (Eccles)
Milbum, Rt Hon Alan Stinchcombe, Paul
Miller, Andrew Stoate, Dr Howard
Moonie, Dr Lewis Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Moran, Ms Margaret Straw, Rt Hon Jack
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N) Stringer, Graham
Morley, Elliot Stuart, Ms Gisela
Morris, Rt Hon Ms Estelle Sutcliffe, Gerry
(B'ham Yardley) Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
Mountford, Kali (Dewsbury)
Mowlam, Rt Hon Marjorie Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Mudie, George Temple—Morris, peter
Mullin, Chris Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Murphy, Denis(Wansbeck) Thomas, Gareth R(Harrow W)
Naysmith, Dr Doug Tipping, Paddy
Norris, Dan Todd, Mark
O'Brien, Bill(Normanton) Touhig, Don
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks) Truswell, Paul
O'Hara, Eddie Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Olner, Bill Turner, Dr George(NW Norfolk)
O'Neill, Martin Turner, Neil(Wigan)
Palmer, Dr Nick Twigg, Derek(Halton)
Pearson, Ian Twigg, Stephen(Enfield)
Pendry, Tom Tynan, Bill
Perham, Ms Linda Vis, Dr Rudi
Pickthall, Colin Walley, Ms Joan
Pike, Peter L Walley, Ms Claire
Plaskitt, James Wareing, Robert N
Pollard, Kerry Watts, David
Pond, Chris White, Brian
Pound, Stephen Whitehead, Dr Alan
Powell, Sir Raymond Wicks, Malcolm
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E) Williams, Rt Hon Alan
Prentice, Gordon(Pendle) (Swansea W)
Prescott, Rt Hon John Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Primarolo, Dawn Williams, Mrs Betty(Conwy)
Prosser, Gwyn Winnick, David
Purchase, Ken Winterton Ms Rosie (Donzcaster C)
Quin, Rt Hon Ms Joyce Wise, Audrey
Quinn, Lawrie Wood, Mike
Radice, Rt Hon Giles
Rammell, Bill
Rapson, Syd
Raynsford, Nick
Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)
Woolas, Phil Wyatt, Derek
Worthington, Tony
Wray, James Tellers for the Noes:
Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth) Mr. Greg Pope and
Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock) Mr. David Jamieson.

Question accordingly negatived.

It being after Seven o'clock, MR DEPUTY SPEAKER put the remaining Questions necessary to dispose of the proceedings, pursuant to Order [this day].

Amendment proposed: To leave out from "future" to end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:

"and believes that this can only be achieved by negotiating a reform of the Common Fisheries Policy that will devolve power to national, regional and local levels."—[Mr. Moss.]

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 131, Noes 347.

Division No. 18] [7.12 pm
Amess, David Hayes, John
Ancram, Rt Hon Michael Heathcoat—Amory, Rt Hon David
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E) Horam, John
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Baldry, Tony Hunter, Andrew
Bercow, John Jack, Rt Hon Michael
Beresford, Sir Paul Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Blunt, Crispin Jenkin, Bernard
Body, Sir Richard Key, Robert
Boswell, Tim King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W) Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Brady, Graham Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Brazier, Julian Lansley, Andrew
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Leigh, Edward
Browning, Mrs Angela Letwin, Oliver
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Bums, Simon Lidington, David
Butterfill, John Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Cash, William Loughton, Tim
Clappison, James MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Collins, Tim McIntosh, Miss Anne
Colvin, Michael MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew
Cormack, Sir Patrick Maclean, Rt Hon David
Cran, James McLoughlin, Patrick
Davies, Quentin (Grantham) Madel, Sir David
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice Malins, Humfrey
& Howden) Maples, John
Day, Stephen Maude, Rt Hon Francis
Duncan Smith, Iain Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter May, Mrs Theresa
Evans, Nigel Moss, Malcolm
Faber, David Nicholls, Patrick
Fabricant, Michael O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)
Fallon, Michael Ottaway, Richard
Forth, Rt Hon Eric Page, Richard
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman Paice, James
Fox, Dr Liam Paterson, Owen
Fraser, Christopher Pickles, Eric
Gamier, Edward Portillo, Rt Hon Michael
Gibb, Nick Prior, David
Gill, Christopher Randall, John
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl Redwood, Rt Hon John
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Robathan, Andrew
Gray, James Robertson, Laurence
Green, Damian Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxboume)
Greenway, John Rowe, Andrew (Faversham)
Hague, Rt Hon William Ruffley, David
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie St Aubyn, Nick
Hammond, Philip Sayeed, Jonathan
Hawkins, Nick Shepherd, Richard
Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S) Viggers, Peter
Spelman, Mrs Caroline Walter, Robert
Spicer, Sir Michael Wardle, Charles
Spring, Richard Wells, Bowen
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John Whittingdale, John
Steen, Anthony Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Streeter, Gary Wilkinson, John
Swayne, Desmond Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Syms, Robert Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Tapsell, Sir Peter Woodward, Shaun
Taylor, Rt Hon John D (Strangford) Yeo, Tim
Taylor, John M (Solihull) Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Townend, John
Tredinnick, David Tellers for the Ayes:
Trend, Michael Mr. Oliver Heald and
Tyrie, Andrew Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown.
Abbott, Ms Diane Clark, Dr Lynda
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N) (Edinburgh Pentlands)
Ainger, Nick Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)
Alexander, Douglas Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)
Allan, Richard Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbndge)
Allen, Graham Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Clwyd, Ann
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale) Coaker, Vemon
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary Coffey, Ms Ann
Ashton, Joe Cohen, Harry
Atkins, Charlotte Colman, Tony
Austin, John Connarty, Michael
Ballard, Jackie Cooper, Yvette
Banks, Tony Corbett, Robin
Bames, Harry Corston, Jean
Barron, Kevin Cotter, Brian
Bayley, Hugh Cousins, Jim
Beard, Nigel Cox, Tom
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret Crausby, David
Beith, Rt Hon A J Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough) Cryer, John (Homchurch)
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C) Cummings, John
Benn, Rt Hon Tony (Chesterfield) Cunliffe, Lawrence
Bennett, Andrew F Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Benton, Joe Curtis—Thomas, Mrs Claire
Bermingham, Gerald Dafis, Cynog
Betts, Clive Dalyell, Tam
Blizzard, Bob Darling, Rt Hon Alistair
Blunkett, Rt Hon David Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Boateng, Rt Hon Paul Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Borrow, David Davidson, Ian
Bradley, Keith (Withington) Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin) Davis, Rt Hon Terry
Bradshaw, Ben (B'ham Hodge H)
Brake, Tom Dawson, Hilton
Brand, Dr Peter Dean, Mrs Janet
Brinton, Mrs Helen Denham, John
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E) Dobbin, Jim
Browne, Desmond Donohoe, Brian H
Burden, Richard Doran, Frank
Burgon, Colin Dowd, Jim
Butler, Mrs Christine Drew, David
Byers, Rt Hon Stephen Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Cable, Dr Vincent Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
(NE Fife) Edwards, Huw
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Efford, Clive
Campbell—Savours, Dale Ellman, Mrs Louise
Cann, Jamie Ennis, Jeff
Caplin, Ivor Etherington, Bill
Casale, Roger Ewing, Mrs Margaret
Caton, Martin Feam, Ronnie
Cawsey, Ian Field, Rt Hon Frank
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S) Fisher, Mark
Chidgey, David Fitzpatrick, Jim
Clapham, Michael Flynn, Paul
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields) Follett, Barbara
Foster, Rt Hon Derek Laxton, Bob
Foster, Don (Bath) Leslie, Christopher
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings) Levitt, Tom
Foster, Michael J (Worcester) Liddell, Rt Hon Mrs Helen
Foulkes, George Linton, Martin
Fyfe, Maria Livingstone, Ken
Galloway, George Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Gapes, Mike Love, Andrew
Gardiner, Barry McAvoy, Thomas
George, Andrew (St Ives) McCabe, Steve
George, Bruce(Walsall S) McCafferty, Ms Chris
Gerrard, Neil McCartney, Rt Hon Ian
Gibson, Dr Ian (Makerfield)
Gilroy, Mrs Linda McDonnell, John
Godman, Dr Norman A McFall, John
Godsiff, Roger McGrady, Eddie
Goggins, Paul McGuire, Mrs Anne
Golding, Mrs Llin Mclsaac, Shona
Gordon, Mrs Eileen McKenna, Mrs Rosemary
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E) Mackinlay, Andrew
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) Maclennan, Rt Hon Robert
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) McNulty, Tony
Grogan, John Mactaggart, Fiona
Hall, Patrick (Bedford) McWalter, Tony
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE) McWilliam, John
Hanson, David Mahon, Mrs Alice
Harvey, Nick Mallaber, Judy
Heal, Mrs Sylvia Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)
Healey, John Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Heath, David (Somerton & Frome) Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N) Marshall—Andrews, Robert
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich) Martlew, Eric
Hepburn, Stephen Maxton, John
Heppell, John Merron, Gillian
Hewitt, Ms Patricia Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Hinchliffe, David Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)
Hood, Jimmy Milburn, Rt Hon Alan
Hope, Phil Miller, Andrew
Hopkins, Kelvin Moonie, Dr Lewis
Howarth, Alan (Newport E) Moore, Michael
Hoyle, Lindsay Moran, Ms Margaret
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford) Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N) Morley, Elliot
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N) Morris, Rt Hon Ms Estelle
Humble, Mrs Joan (B'ham Yardley)
Hurst, Alan Mountford, Kali
Hutton, John Mudie, George
Iddon, Dr Brian Mullin, Chris
Illsley, Eric Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough) Naysmith, Dr Doug
Jenkins, Brian Norris, Dan
Johnson, Miss Melanie Oaten, Mark
(Welwyn Hatfield) O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn) O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N) O'Hara, Eddie
Jones, Ms Jenny Olner, Bill
(Wolverh'ton SW) O'Neill, Martin
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak) Palmer, Dr Nick
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S) Pearson, Ian
Keeble, Ms Sally Pendry, Tom
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston) Perham, Ms Linda
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth) Pickthall, Colin
Keetch, Paul Pike, Peter L
Kemp, Fraser Plaskitt, James
Kennedy, Rt Hon Charles Pollard, Kerry
(Ross Skye & Inverness W) Pond, Chris
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree) Pound, Stephen
Khabra, Piara S Powell, Sir Raymond
Kidney, David Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Kilfoyle, Peter Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth) Prescott, Rt Hon John
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green) Primarolo, Dawn
Kirkwood, Archy Prosser, Gwyn
Kumar, Dr Ashok Purchase, Ken
Ladyman, Dr Stephen Quin, Rt Hon Ms Joyce
Lawrence, Mrs Jackie Quinn, Lawrie
Radice, Rt Hon Giles Stunell, Andrew
Rammell, Bill Sutcliffe, Gerry
Rapson, Syd Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
Raynsford, Nick (Dewsbury)
Reed, Andrew (Loughborough) Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Reid, Rt Hon Dr John (Hamilton N) Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Rendel, David Temple—Morris, Peter
Robinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW) Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Roche, Mrs Barbara Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Rogers, Allan Tipping, Paddy
Rooker, Rt Hon Jeff Todd, Mark
Rooney, Terry Tonge, Dr Jenny
Roy, Frank Touhig, Don
Ruane, Chris Truswell, Paul
Ruddock, Joan Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Russell, Bob (Colchester) Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester) Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Ryan, Ms Joan Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Salmond, Alex Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Sanders, Adrian Tyler, Paul
Sarwar, Mohammad Tynan, Bill
Savidge, Malcolm Vis, Dr Rudi
Sawford, Phil Walley, Ms Joan
Sedgemore, Brian Ward, Ms Claire
Shaw, Jonathan Wareing, Robert N
Sheerman, Barry Watts, David
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert Webb, Steve
Short, Rt Hon Clare White, Brian
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S) Whitehead, Dr Alan
Singh, Marsha Wicks, Malcolm
Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E) Williams, Rt Hon Alan
Smith, Angela (Basildon) (Swansea W)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch) Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Smith, John (Glamorgan) Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent) Winnick, David
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns) Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Snape, Peter Wise, Audrey
Squire, Ms Rachel Wood, Mike
Starkey, Dr Phyllis Woolas, Phil
Stevenson, George Worthington, Tony
Stewart, David (Inverness E) Wray, James
Stewart, Ian (Eccles) Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Stinchcombe, Paul Wyatt, Derek
Stoate, Dr Howard Tellers for the Noes:
Stringer, Graham Mr. Greg Pope and
Stuart, Ms Gisela Mr. David Jamieson.

Question accordingly negatived.

Main Question put and agreed to.


That this House takes note of the unnumbered Explanatory Memorandum, submitted by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on 5th December 1999, relating to the fixing of fishing opportunities for 2000 and certain conditions under which they may be fished; recognises that many fish stocks remain in poor shape and need to be rebuilt for the future; and supports the Government's intention to negotiate the best possible fishing opportunities for UK fishermen consistent with the sustainable management of stocks, effective enforcement and the need to ensure that the regional differences of fisheries and their communities are fully recognised.

  2. cc83-120
  3. Adjournment (Christmas) 21,016 words
  4. c120
  6. c120
  8. cc120-1
  9. COMMITTEES 19 words
  10. c121
  12. c121
  14. c121
  15. HEALTH COMMITTEE 19 words
  16. c121