HC Deb 27 January 1999 vol 324 cc338-9
Q3. Mr. Anthony Steen (Totnes)

If he will visit Kingswear in order to take a trip to sea in a crabber.

The Prime Minister

I regret to say that I have no immediate plans to do so.

Mr. Steen

Either the Prime Minister enjoys the seas around the Seychelles more than the icy steel waters of the English channel, or the reason why he does not want to accept the second invitation that I have extended to him to go to sea in a British fishing boat is that he does not want to see the wanton destruction of the sea beds and the marine environment, which is largely caused by Belgian and Dutch beam trawlers and scallopers with outsize 1,500 horsepower engines and 40 dredges—20 on either side—which do immense damage to the sea bed and to shellfish. How does he square that with the Labour party's conservation policy?

The Prime Minister

I thank the hon. Gentleman for the holiday advice. We have no information about Dutch or Belgian vessels infringing their access rights, and if the hon. Gentleman has any such information, we should be grateful if he would bring it to the attention of the relevant authorities. However, the proposition apparently being advanced by the Conservative party, which is to withdraw from the common fisheries policy altogether, would not be a sensible way to proceed. There are huge problems, but we are committed to trying to ensure that the CFP is a more effective instrument for the conservation of fish stocks.

To ensure a more healthy marine environment and a sustainable fishing industry, we are putting in extra investment; and we have managed to tighten European Union rules on the breach of the fishing quotas. To withdraw from the CFP, which is the alternative put forward by the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends, would lead to a worse situation, not a better one.

Forward to