HL Deb 28 July 1976 vol 373 cc1352-401

2.56 p.m.

Lord KENNET rose to move, that this House takes note of the Forty-ninth Report of this session of the European Communities Committee on the Common Fisheries Policy (S/30/76 and S/353/76; S/911/76 and R/2988/75 (inshore fishing proposals)). The noble Lord said, My Lords, I should like to start by saying what an honour it is to be allowed to introduce this Sub-Committee's report to the House and to thank the chairman of the Sub-Committee, my noble friend Lord Raglan, for allowing me to have that honour, especially as I am not even a member of the Committee which he chairs with such ability and flair.

It is also a pleasant occasion for me because, for the first time in I do not know how long, I have the unfamiliar sensation that things are going right. It is almost as though the Government, and the other Governments involved, have read the report of our Sub-Committee and paid attention to it in reaching the decisions which they did yesterday. I am fortified in the belief that this may be so by my inability last night to get a copy of the printed version of it from the Printed Paper Office. Therefore I must apologise to your Lordships for using a typed version, but I hope I shall be able to make sense, in spite of any changes there may be in paragraph numbering.

Theoretically, to present this matter to your Lordships I should say, first, what the Commission proposed, then what your Sub-Committee proposed, then what the Council of Ministers did about it yesterday, and then what might be done about it in the future. But that would take all afternoon; so I propose to cut matters short and to discuss very briefly what the Sub-Committee found wrong with the Commission's original proposals and to compare that, also very briefly, with the decisions taken by the Council of Ministers yesterday, and to look forward from there. Before beginning, I should like to emphasise once more the extraordinary speed at which these things are now going. It is rare indeed for the Council of Ministers of the European Community to decide on a matter before one of your Lordships' Sub-Committees has got its teeth into it. Maybe we were late; maybe they were early: but at any rate things are now moving and, even better, they are moving in the right direction.

As to general observations regarding what the Sub-Committee said in its report, we found (as did the council of Ministers) that the world is moving rapidly towards the general extension of Exclusive Economic Zones by all nations in the world to 200 miles, and that the liberty of action of Member States of the European Community has been quite specifically limited by the passage of a law through the French Parliament a week or two ago by which the French annexed under full national sovereignty any waters they wished to 200 miles, or beyond where their Continental Shelf went further. This is enabling legislation.

We then considered the situation that left us in and we thought, first of all, it could not but be that this country should do the same. At the time we were drawing up our report, this country was proposing to extend its fisheries protection zone—which is another, smaller matter—to 200 nautical miles. We proposed in our report that we should go further than that and claim a full Exclusive Economic Zone out to 200 miles or to the median line required between this country and the next, whatever it might be. This proposal is far from being a nationalistic one. To claim such a zone would not preclude the creation of a Community fisheries protection régime, or indeed a Community régime of any other kind for any other purpose, within the waters of that zone, or over them, or under them or under the seabed itself. We tended to the view that the creation of such a national zone was a prerequisite of the creation, valid in law, of any Community system of management for the resources of that zone.

In coming to this conclusion, we were very much influenced by the experience of Canada, the country best known to us, where they had actually checked what foreign fishing vessels were doing about the quotas they were allowed under the relevant fishing agreement, which in the case of Canada is the North-West Atlantic Fisheries Commission. The Canadians, in their putative EEZ—and they were one of the first countries to get an EEZ—boarded 300 fishing vessels in six months and found that among those the vessels of three nations, Spain, Portugal and the Soviet Union, were grossly overfishing, were flouting their quotas, and the only way this could be put right was by the taking of the powers which the Canadian Government subsequently took. Now that they have those powers, the Canadians believe that it will take them five to 10 years to replenish the fish stocks which have been run down by the overfishing that was taking place illegally but unchecked at that time.

Nor should we be complacent about the difficulties which face us on this side of the Atlantic. The North-East Atlantic, as your Lordships will know, includes the North Sea for fisheries purposes at the moment. The scientists of the North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission—the one to which we belong—are on record as having said that there should now be a complete halt to the fishing of certain species until the stocks come up again. Their advice has been rejected and fishing continues in these species. It may therefore be assumed that the stocks will go down yet further, and that in time we may face a situation—maybe we already do—where it will be five or 10 years before the stocks are brought up again to where they were, and brought up to the level of the maximum sustainable yield.

I want to draw your Lordships' attention specially to a point which may appear difficult or even eccentric in our report, and that is paragraphs 30 and 31—I hope I have it right—headed, "Vesting of EEZ resources in the Crown". This is the place where we say quite simply that the fish in our own EEZ ought to be vested in the Crown, exactly as the oil and coal under the seabed are so vested. Coal under the seabed is born nationalised in the public sector. When found or exploited it is automatically in the public sector, just as if it was in Yorkshire or Lancashire. The oil is Crown property and the exploitation of it is then leased to the oil companies. But fish at the moment are anybody's property; they swim about, and how logical that seems. But we in our Committee do not believe that this will be a possible permanent condition.

The resources of the seabed, as those of your Lordships who are cognoscente will know, include not only oil and gas, but also lobsters and other creatures which walk about the sea bottom, but do not swim or take little leaps into the water above. Such creatures are the national property of the nation whose Continental Shelf is at stake, and when they cross the median line they become the national property of the next nation. We do not believe it is possible to maintain a distinction between a bottom-walking creature and a water-swimming creature, and we therefore propose that there should be legislation, or at least enabling legislation, which w ill vest the resources of the water column, as it is technically known, in the Crown, in exactly the same way as the resources on the seabed, namely lobsters, and under the seabed, namely oil and gas, are at present vested. This will then give us indubitable legal power to enter into agreements with our partners in the Common Market countries for whatever Community régime we may agree to set up.

At present, there is a strong current of legal opinion, notwithstanding the recent decision of the European Court of Justice in a related matter, that any Community fisheries régime which was set up would be illegal since the fish are nobody's property, and it is explicitly against the Treaty of Rome for the Community to own property in anybody's sovereign territory or waters; and those will by then be sovereign waters, once we extend our national EEZs. Your Lordships will, of course, be familiar with the analogy one might draw of the pheasant. You rear it. It is undoubtedly yours. You can let anybody you like shoot it, and prevent anybody else from shooting it. It then flies onto somebody else's land and it undoubtedly becomes his and he can prevent anybody he likes shooting it, or can shoot it himself or do whatever he thinks fit. It is not intrinsically absurd to claim sovereign rights of ownership over fish swimming freely in the sea.

As to the new taking of the 200-mile zones in themselves, we are insistent in our report that a Community 200-mile EEZ will not be enough, because the North Sea is not entirely surrounded by Community countries. I should like to draw the attention of the House, and indeed to invite the comment of the noble Lord the Minister of State who is to reply to the debate, to a speech by Mr. Jens Evensen, the Norwegian Minister of Fisheries, who is not only that, but is also chairman of the Evensen group at the United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea, which can be briefly defined as the group of sensible developed countries which have got together to work out sensible policies.

Mr. Evensen, speaking only two or three days ago, is reported in the Press to have said that, … it was inevitable that international trawler fleets would be 'kicked-out' of the West Atlantic, and would then search for other grounds. Norway for one, he said, was determined that these grounds should not be in the North-East Atlantic". He was speaking there, of course, principally of Russian fleets. Mr. Evensen pointed out that for more than a year Norway had been trying to negotiate reciprocal fishing pacts with the EEC, but it had been impossible to get any response. Britain, West Germany and France could not negotiate bilaterally, yet the Brussels Commission could not negotiate either. Norway had negotiated with Russia, Poland and East Germany but time was passing fast, Mr. Evensen said. It would be peculiar' he added 'if we were prevented from reaching agreement with our allies'. I hope that yesterday's decisions in the Council of Ministers will make any such sentiments a matter of history, and that the Community and its Member States, singly if necessary, are now in a position to talk constructively and positively to Norway about the great question: what to do at the edges of the Community's exclusive economic zone.

In our report we lay as much emphasis as we can, also, on the importance of considering the Community seas—for us the North Sea and the Channel; for others the Mediterranean—as marine unities, maritime unities, as a whole and not singling out fisheries policy for settlement in complete isolation from policy and enforcement towards everything else. That way confusion lies, that way overlap lies and that way waste lies. We think that it is necessary to take fishery expertise vice versa into account in the question of pipeline routing and maintenance, because you cannot fish off a pipeline.

I know that in this country the Department of Energy have gone no further than to say that they view with a more favourable eye oil company proposals for putting pipelines on the seabed, where the company has consulted fishing interests. In my opinion, for a national arrangement that is far from good enough. The Government themselves should consult the fishing interests and take the decisions, bearing in mind not only oil interests but navigation interests also about where the pipelines should go. If that is so on the national level, then of course it is so on the international level and on the Community level as well.

The same applies to the question of pollution regulations. We have to have international and Community agreement on the maximum levels to be set for the compensation to be paid by the oil companies when there is a spill from a pipeline or, indeed, from a ship. I believe that we are still at odds with Norway on this, in that we are claiming a 20 million dollar ceiling per incident. The Norwegians, to my mind much more practically, are claiming a 60 million dollar ceiling. I wonder whether there is yet a Community position on this and, if not, whether we can propose and get one?

Looking still wider, is it possible for the Government to tell us anything yet about the future of the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission itself? Will it continue after the institution of the Community régime in the North Sea, given that, catch-wise, the North Sea represents so much of its area? Can the noble Lord also, when he replies, tell us whether it is true that Cuba, of all places, is asking to join the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission? They are wanting to take herring and mackerel from the North Sea and cod from the White Sea. If that is so, it is obviously a mere extension of the Soviet fishing capability. We know that Yugoslavia has been ordering fishing boats from Poland for use in the North Sea. Has Yugoslavia demanded membership of the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission? What is happening in this whole confused business?

Lastly, looking widest of all, can the Government say anything about their attitude in the European Community, as a Community Power, towards the International Seabed Authority? I know that yesterday the Council of Ministers touched upon that question. What is their attitude towards the proposal in the Labour Party programme, which is also a proposal by the International Parliamentary Conference on the Environment, of which I have the honour to be chairman, that the International Seabed Authority should as rapidly as possible be extended into an International Maritime Authority, and that the same principles by which it at present proposes to order the affairs of the seabed should be extended once more upward through the water column so as to cover the water and, indeed, the air above it?

I will leave aside, because I believe other members of the Committee will be coming to it, what we have to say about the social impact of the proposed Community Fisheries Policy on traditional fishermen—the small communities and so on. I will say only this. I find that the Commission's proposals show the usual sectorality—the usual lack of breadth of insight into the matter. They are perfectly sensible fishery proposals but there seems to have been no social input; nobody has considered the social impact and nobody has even considered the energy impact This is somewhat characteristic of the Commission in Brussels which tends to consider matters singly. This is the theme song that I was singing to your Lordships only last week, so I shall not return to it today.

Lastly, I want to consider what the Council of Ministers concluded yesterday. The noble Lord who winds up will correct me if I have it wrong and I hope that he will tell us more, but it may be useful to get it on the record at the beginning of the debate because it has not hit the Press in very much detail. The Council of Ministers passed two documents: a general decision of the Council and, secondly, a declaration of the Council on the European Community 200-mile limit.

The general decision of the Council created a Community policy for use in the United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea. We must all be extremely glad that this has proved to be possible; it will be a landmark in the development of Community foreign policy. It is good that there is such a policy and, as I said before, it is even better that it is pointing in the right direction. The elements of this policy are, I understand, that there should be a 200-mile Community Exclusive Economic Exploitation Zone, as defined in the present documents of the United Nations Conference, and that the extension of the Zones of Community members and of the Community should include the full Continental Shelf; that is, that it should go beyond 200 miles where the Continental Shelf does.

The Commission took no decision on the regulation of the exploitation of the resources of the Continental Shelf beyond 200 miles. I think that it is wise to wait until this question has been thought about. The Council of Ministers decided that in their view the International Seabed Authority should have an opera tional arm amd not simply be a licensing body. It is an extremely important political decision that it should have some power to enforce its judgments and to ensure that its licences are observed.

The Council noted the need for machinery to prevent the emergence of monopoly or dominant positions in exploiting the seabed. This is somewhat vague phraseology but I think that it will prove to be extremely useful. They declared that the Convention, which we hope will come out of the United Nations Law of the Sea Conference, should contain a provision for the compulsory settlement of disputes—none of your voluntary, nonbinding settlements. This is very good. They showed a favourable disposition towards the representation of the Community as such on the International Seabed Authority. This is very good also. Lastly, and here I am not so sure that it is so good, there is some hazy wording about colonial EEZs—that is, EEZs accruing to residual colonial territories—becoming in some way part of the Community EEZ or part of the EEZ of the home country. I do not understand this. If it means what it sounds like, I consider that it is rather dangerous; and when he replies, I hope that the noble Lord will be able to explain it.

The second document passed yesterday by the Council of Ministers was a declaration of their own 200-mile limit. So far they had been laying down their policy in the United Nations and saying what they wanted for the world. Then they took certain actions which are within their own power to take as regards the West European Community. They took all these actions without prejudice to the method of the delimitation of maritime zones between Member States. To me this sounds very wise because there is a lot of argument to go on there, not only around the Channel Islands.

The Council of Ministers adopt the principle of concerted action, according to which the Member States would be led—I am translating from the French here as it is pretty much "Community-ese" and it is rather vague, but your Lordships will see that it is pointing very much in the right direction—to extend the limits of their fishery protection zones to 200 miles, fisheries within these limits being regulated by the provisions of the Community Fisheries Policy. That seems to me to be as far as any sensible Council of Ministers could go at the moment. They say that this is to be done by 1st October of this year; their foot is still very strongly on the accelerator. The Government have already announced their intention to pass enabling legislation to this end, and I hope that they can manage it by 1st October, for this will be a step in the right direction. Can the Government say that they will continue in this direction further towards making it a European Community Zone of maritime regulation and towards shifting Community policy at the United Nations level into support of an international maritime authority, and not solely on an International Seabed Authority, as at present? My Lords, I beg to move.

Moved, That this House takes note of the Forty-ninth Report of this session of the European. Communities Committee on the Common Fisheries Policy (S/30/76 and S/353/76; S/911/76 and R/2988/75 (inshore fishing proposals)). —(Lord Kennet.)

3.20 p.m.


My Lords, the House will be indebted to the Select Committee for this valuable and timely report and also to the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, for having introduced it with such clarity. I think we should also express our gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, who is due to speak later in the debate, because he has been chairman of Sub-Committee D which has been considering this subject and it is very much as a result of his energy that the accelerated procedure has been followed and we have the opportunity of discussing these matters today. The timing of this debate is felicitous because the subjects are due to have important decisions taken upon them in the near future. Many of them are before the EEC and are still to be decided during the coming weeks. There is also the renewed session of the United Nations Law of the Sea Conference which is due to start in New York on Monday and to continue until the middle of September. As the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, has described, the British Government are now engaged in discussions within the EEC about the whole question of the future of the régime for fishing industries in the light of the changes which are to take place throughout the world.

As the noble Lord mentioned, the basis of these changes is the comparatively new concept of the 200-mile economic zone which is not yet in force but which has been agreed in principle by virtually all the nations in the world. That economic zone would embrace not only fisheries but also oil and gas in the seabed, the question of control of pollution and of traffic in narrow straits or congested waters, and also the matter of defence and the policing of installations and shipping in the zones.

Today we are concerned with the subject of fisheries. I believe that is right because the problem of fisheries is the most urgent of the problems which are before the United Nations conference and before us in Western Europe. The main effect of a 200-mile economic zone upon our own fishing industry will be that our middle and distant water vessels will have to fish near home in future. Most of the fish they have caught in the past have been off the shores of other countries; they will have to come and fish in home waters. There can of course be special agreements with Norway or other countries to allow some fishing within their zone. They could be reciprocal agreements, but we cannot expect to be able to catch fish in anything like the same quantities as we have before in those areas. It is important that we, within the EEC, should establish a 200-mile economic zone and the fishing régime within it at the same time as the other maritime countries in the world extend their economic zones to 200 miles.

There is also another point which affects us within the EEC. In 1970, before we joined and before we even started our negotiations, the Six—as they then were—agreed upon a Common Fisheries Policy. That simply boiled down to extinguishing the 12-mile limit within the EEC, that is between the members as they then were. The 12-mile limit was then recognised by most of the world as the fishing limit, and that is still the present position. But between the Six it was extinguished. However, that did not apply to us when we joined two years later because we were able to negotiate the continuation of virtually the situation as it was—the 12-mile limit with special rights up to six miles until 1983, and I shall remind your Lordships about that in a moment. That Common Fisheries Policy of the EEC will no longer be appropriate or applicable in the new world of 200-mile economic zones, and in the coming weeks vital decisions will have to be taken for our fishing industry, the first of which must be the decision within the EEC about what should be the British exclusive fishing band.

We must recognise that a dramatic change is about to take place in the world fisheries régime. In a few months' time the world's fishing fleets will be having to change radically to a completely new pattern of fishing areas. Whether the agreement in principle already reached at the UN Conference on the Law of the Sea on a 200-mile economic zone has been embodied in a convention or not, it is clear that the principal maritime nations will assuredly have arranged to move together to a system of 200-mile zones—zones controlled by the coastal States. So we have to be ready for that, whether or not a convention has been completed.

The wide difference between the present I 2-mile limit and the new 200-mile fishing limit will transform the international fishing scene. Countries such as Britain which have traditionally caught much of their fish off the shores of other nations will in future have to concentrate on home waters. I believe that the United Kingdom must be among the nations making this change together. For this reason I welcomed the Government's reply to my Question a few days ago, on 8th July, given by the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, stating that they had already started to prepare the necessary domestic legislation to extend to a 200-mile economic zone. Other countries have done or are doing this, including the United States of America, Canada, Norway and France.

As I mentioned, before we joined the EEC the Six had already agreed on a policy of no fishing limits where the members were concerned. This was not suitable for Britain and when we joined the EEC we succeeded in obtaining a standstill agreement until 1983. This retained virtually the status quo on fishing limits and provided a long breathing space while the new concept of a wide economic zone, already then in prospect, was being worked out. Anyone who suggests that we should have extended our fishing limit beyond 12 miles then, in 1972, is exhibiting ignorance of the fishing industry. I might add that it is not surprising in the case of some SNP exhibitionists—the Scottish National Party—who a year or two ago did not know one end of a fishing boat from the other. Such action, claiming more than 12 miles for the fishing limit then would have led to immediate retaliation, preventing our vessels, Scottish and English, from fishing up to 12 miles from the shores of Norway, the Faroes and elsewhere. We should have lost far more than we gained if we had then tried to go beyond the world accepted limit of 12 miles.

But now, when the fishing nations are about to change together to the completely new system, so retaining reciprocity, we can and should consider our position differently. We shall benefit from the exclusion of the countries which are not members of the EEC, such as the Soviet Union, but it is crucial that the British Government should, in the negotiations on which they have embarked, obtain a wide enough exclusive fishing zone. This is needed in order to preserve our own fish supplies, taking into account the new kinds of fish which we are going to have to catch. There are not going to be enough cod in future for all the consumers in Britain who have been used to it before.

I believe that the blue whiting and other fish will have to come on the market, and new methods will be developed to catch this new kind of fish. This requirement is not related simply to our inshore fleet. Most of our distant and middle water vessels will in future have to fish in home waters. About 60 per cent. of the EEC Economic Zone will be British and conservation requires that a wide coastal band should be reserved for British fishermen. The Government's position, as stated publicly, is that they have proposed within the EEC a British reserve band of between 12 miles and 50 miles. I have said, as have others, that the emphasis should be on the 50 miles rather than the 12 miles.

It appears that a map has been seen by the fishermen's leaders. Its validity is not clear, and the Minister may be able to say something about this. But what is worrying is that, apparently, this map has long stretches of the British coast line where 12 miles is the band which the British Government are contemplating. For example, apparently there is a long stretch on the West Coast. This is where fishing for hitherto less known fish may well have to be developed in the future, That is where the blue whiting will have to be caught, in deeper water, and beyond 12 miles. So I would ask the Government, in negotiatiog on this band, not just to take into account the fishing grounds which we already know, but also to take into account these areas which are going to be more important in future, where fish which have not been seen in quantity on the fishmongers' slabs will in future have to be caught.

I agree with the Select Committee's conclusion in paragraph 40 that the EEC Commission's proposal that the band should simply be 12 miles for Britain is not enough. That proposal was put out some months ago, and the Select Committee accept that it is now out of date. But it marked a significant change of policy. The fact that the EEC Commission no longer accepted the Common Fisheries Policy of fishing up to each other's beaches, and accepted that there had to be a band (although it was too narrow where Britain was concerned) at 12 miles was in itself a significant change which indeed we should welcome.

It has been said that the inshore boats do not need more than 12 miles, or that perhaps there are some places where they may need 20 miles. But this brings in the question of the whole definition of the inshore fleet. Of course, the boats which only go out for the day, such as the small shellfish boats, may well not need more than 12 miles. But when we are talking about the inshore fleet in Britain, we are covering a whole range of fishing vessels, some of which go out for four or five days, or even more if necessary, who fish far out in the North Sea, who go out and fish off the coast of Norway, and come back. So far as Britain is concerned, the definition is usually connected with the length of the boat, and not with the kind of fish caught or the number of days the boat usually stays at sea. In other countries, I suspect that the term "inshore fleet" applies to the small boats which simply go out for a few hours, and which are perhaps the mainstay of some small, isolated community. In our negotiations we must make it clear that we are not considering only our inshore fleet, but the middle and distant water fleets which will be having to come back and fish in our own waters. That is why we require 50 miles over a large part of our coastline.

Paragraph 14 of the Report of the Select Committee says: The Commission has proposed the introduction of an exclusive zone in recognition of the needs of small local communities which often depend partly on inshore waters for their livelihood. This does not, of course, take in all the fishing grounds of the so-called inshore boats which fish out of Scottish ports". That makes my point. I agree with the Select Committee that the proposal of the Commission, although a significant change of policy, is now out of date, and cannot be accepted by the British Government.

Of course, there is the difference where Britain is concerned, that on the whole the inshore fleet has consisted of those who own their boats or own shares in the boats, whereas the middle and distant water fleets have been owned by companies and the crews and the fishermen have been employees of the companies. In the past there has been a conflict of interest. Besides the different form of employment which I have described, there has been a conflict of interest, which has been that the boats fishing far afield have naturally wanted to fish up to 12 miles, and even beyond if possible, to the coasts of other countries, whereas our inshore fleets have been desperately trying to get the limits extended so as to keep foreign boats away from our own shores. That conflict of interest has now come to an, end and in other ways the distant water boats and the inshore boats are finding that their interests are coinciding. Your Lordships will have seen some of the advertisements which have appeared in the national Press in the last few days, and which have been put out by the combined fishing organisations of the whole country. I have one here which took up a whole page in a daily Scottish newspaper.

It says: We have got the fish. We have got the men to catch them. We have got the ships. Give us the fishing grounds and we will supply the British consumer with plentiful, varied and competitively priced food from around our shores. But we must have as a minimum a 50-mile exclusive limit all around our coasts. That makes quite clear what the fishing industry thinks the Government should be pressing for. I think it underlines that this is a vital moment in the history of the British fishing industry.

The British Trawlers Federation and the Scottish Trawlers Federation are considering combining. Previously they have been separate. Through their organisations, which have been various associations, the inshore men have come together and for the first time this year held meetings with the trawler federations. This also emphasises that the interests of the fishing industry have come together, and that all parts of the industry are now speaking with the same voice, making representations to the Government, and placing these developments in the national Press to make sure the public understands their views.

In the light of these developments, let us examine the situation in the EEC. The Financial Times of today reported that some agreement had been reached yesterday in the Council of Ministers. The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, gave us more particulars about this but, like him, I hope that at the end of this debate the Minister will be able to tell us what happened yesterday. There is an opportunity for him to give us the latest news. But the attitudes of our partners in the EEC are not the same as ours. It may be asked whether, for example, Germany adopts the same view towards a 200-mile economic zone as we do in Britain, and the answer is, "No".

At the United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea, a group has been formed calling itself the Landlocked and Geographically Disadvantaged States. One could quite understand the landlocked States—the Chairman of this group is Austrian. There are other States from Central Africa and elsewhere and they are all members of the Conference, but being landlocked they are in a special position. But I do not know how many of your Lordships would know that among the 50 or so nations in the group of geographically disadvantaged States are West Germany, Belgium and Holland. Some of us consider that, from an industrial and economic point of view, these States have many geographical advantages. They are very close to what is called the "Golden Triangle", if not part of it.

Certainly their access to the seas of the world has not been impeded, judging by the success of the ports of Hamburg, Rotterdam and Antwerp; but, because their economic zone, their coastal area under the new arrangements, will be small compared with their neighbours', they say that they are geographically disadvantaged.

I have made some inquiries as to how one joins this club. I had the opportunity of asking the chairman when he was here the other day. Apparently anyone can join, and the only countries blackballed are the ones you would expect, Israel by the Arabs and Iran by the Gulf States. But it shows that the partners in the EEC do not necessarily look at these matters in the same way as we do. It is important that we should get agreement on our own economic zone in the EEC, and we should also, so far as possible, adopt common policies in our negotiations with other countries. We shall be able to bargain with the Russians and the Poles, who have been fishing, particularly the Russians, with factory ships in great quantities in what will be the 200-mile zone of the EEC.

The fishing industry is neither the largest nor the most important of Britain's industries. But this time, 1976 and 1977 is a very important period of decision for that industry. The decisions that will be taken will govern its size and its prosperity for many years ahead. I hope that, where the EEC is concerned, we can impress on the Government that they must aim to achieve as wide a reserved band for the British fishing fleets as is possible, and that the emphasis should be on the 50 miles and not on the 12 miles. Then, as regards other countries, our Government should be discussing with the principal maritime nations of the world outside the EEC the whole question of the move to 200-mile economic zones, and keeping in touch with them. My guess is that this move will take place early next year, and we must be with the other countries and moving at the same time.

Then we come to the United Nations Conference about to resume on Monday. The American Secretary of State, Mr. Kissinger, has said that he is going to lead the American delegation. The Americans have made it clear how important they regard this Conference and this session. Of course, they are engaged in seabed mining and other matters as well, but they have passed domestic legislation and are all ready for the 200-mile economic zone in order to make sure that their fishing industry is not left behind.

I should like to conclude with some words about conservation. The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, drew attention to paragraph 30 of the Select Committee's report and the proposal there that fish resources should be vested in the Crown. He referred to coal and oil as being substances which are being treated in much the same way. This is an interesting suggestion, but the difficulty about fish, which has always existed, is that they move about. Coal and oil stay; they have to be found, but they do not move about. So you cannot guarantee that the fish are going to be in a certain area, even though there are fishing grounds which become well known. The other point is that what happens in one area of the sea can very much affect the fish stocks in another. If one country is over-fishing in an area where certain fish breed or are to be found in large quantities, this can disturb the balance of the whole stocks of that species of fish. So, while considering that proposal, I must also remind your Lordships that it is not an easy concept to vest fish resources, which cannot be quantified and which move about, in that way.

I think all of us would agree that one of the reasons why we are having to consider this new world scheme is that there has been over fishing by the world's fishing fleets, and unless this is stopped soon we shall find ourselves without this source of protein. We already know that we are going to get less cod in this country, unless we buy it from other countries. The herring has disappeared from many of the traditional grounds where it used to be caught. With the new system, the responsibility for conservation will rest with the coastal States, and I believe that this is likely to be more effective. That is the basis of it; the coastal State will be responsible. The conservation measures are more likely to be severe and also to be carried out.

As the Select Committee's Report states, the system of quotas has fallen into disrepute. British fishermen certainly are very suspicious of whether quotas that have been set by the International Commissions are being observed by the countries concerned. I am attracted by the proposal in paragraph 29 of the report that instead there should be a system of "effort limitation" which the coastal States would impose within their economic zones. This would do away with the need for inspection of vessels and would be much easier to police and control.

The fishing industry is sometimes thought to be a specialist subject, but it affects food supplies and the balance of payments. It could concern every person in this country. If the Government fail in the negotiations ahead, it will be felt by the housewife and the consumer, because they will immediately see the results if the tragedy were to happen that our inshore and other vessels had to be decimated because there was little left for the British fleets to catch. In the coming weeks Ministers will be taking part in far-reaching negotiations for the new world schemes for fisheries and their effects upon our British industry. They must recognise that this chance is unlikely to return during this century and that they should obtain sensible arrangements, fair to all, and conserving fish stocks. These will need hard bargaining by the British Government, and Ministers will be pressed, and I hope also encouraged, by this Bench to achieve them.

3.48 p.m.


My Lords, I hope not to detain your Lordships for long because the report is there for all to read and indeed Lord Campbell of Croy and Lord Kennet have said much that I would have said if I had been making the first speech. I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to one paragraph, or one sentence, in the report, where we say in paragraph 28 in black print: This would not preclude the existence, within such an area, of coastal areas reserved for the coastal state alone". I think the whole history of the negotiations to date shows that it requires a country to be rather chauvinistic, rather selfish, rather parochial in defending its interests. We have had the Law of the Sea Conference going on for some years now, and really progress has been made only by the acceptance of unilateral action by the States themselves, starting with Denmark, Iceland, and going on to Canada, the States and France, who have unilaterally said that they are extending their limits in various ways including fishing, to 200 miles.

The British Government, as Lord Campbell said, has now resolved the conflict between the two fleets in Britain, the deep water fleet and the coastal fleet. The reason it has been resolved, of course, is that the Government have given way to pressure by the Icelanders, reserving the cod fishing waters round Iceland to themselves, and have accepted too low a quota to keep the fleets in employment. The fishing industry has now come round to seeing that their only hope is if they can reserve an area around Britain.

Lord Kennet stressed the co-operation in the EEC, the hope of agreement, the progress being made—and rightly so—and there is a vast area for this, not only within the EEC but certainly in the North Atlantic between the EEC countries and Norway, and indeed Iceland. There are big areas there where conservation will have to be applied, where quotas will have to work, with restricted fishing vessels and all the other devices, to try and preserve the stocks of fish in these areas.

I think it is up to us. In the Committee most of us certainly took a practical view of this. Nothing has worked so far, and agreements about the whale have not stopped it from being brought near to extinction. We have certainly got no herring to speak of in the North Sea, and the cod grounds are getting depleted up to date. Our own fishermen will tell you that whenever a French vessel, or foreign vessel, puts o into a Scottish port for some reason or other and they manage to get aboard, they always find that the net sizes are entirely illegal and agreements are not being kept.

Although the Canadians boarded 300 vessels during their check-up on fishing round their shores, I do not believe that really in that enormous area they could properly control it without enormous expense. Therefore, it is absolutely necessary that we have a 50-mile limit round our coasts. We can obviously negotiate within these limits with other countries, and we can go tit-for-tat, but within a 50-mile limit it is possible to adopt proper conservation measures. They are British boats going out from British ports and coming into British ports, and you can check up on what they are doing. But if you have no control over factory ships, or over net sizes, except by boarding, then you are going to need an enormous police force to control the fishing fleet.

Therefore, it is only wise and right and proper that we, in Britain, at least until the international measures and the EEC measures are worked out and seen to be working, should have a zone which is under our sole control. It is very interesting that in the evidence taken on fish farming I asked the expert from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if 50 miles would supply us with fish by hunting methods much more cheaply than subsidising or promoting fish farming. His answer was that at this stage, and as far as he could foresee, yes. Then I asked him about the position at 50 miles or at 100 miles, if I could be more particular, and the answer was that he thought that most of the important fisheries—and this was a very "by and large" answer—were in a narrower belt than 100 miles. In any event, it was quite obvious from that that our fishery experts thought we could replace the fish, and supply the fish that Britain needs, by taking care of a 50-mile limit round our coasts. Although it seems very parochial for one who has long supported the EEC, and with my noble friend Lord Gladwyn sitting close beside me, I think it is a wise measure and one that the Government should follow through with all possible vigour, because it is a case of hard bargaining and horse trading.

The noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, has already spoken of the EEC policy produced before we joined the EEC and while Norway was proposing to join the EEC, and there is little doubt in the mind of a cynical horse trader like myself that this policy was produced in the hope that Britain would buy it when she came in. But of course we were wise enough to negotiate a space. Therefore, I commend our report to your Lordships. I am sorry to harp on about our own fishing limits, but I think that until we see the international policies working it will be wise for the Government to lay great stress on a 50-mile exclusive limit around our coast.

3.55 p.m.


My Lords, my noble friend Lord Kennet and other speakers have covered the subject so admirably that I intervene only rather briefly in the debate in order to give the background of how and why our report was drawn up, and to add a few views of my own. The Commission put forward their proposals for the restructuring of the inshore fishing industry about last Christmas time, and then it was decided that it would be a useful exercise if the House of Lords and the House of Commons Scrutiny Committees could investigate these proposals together. The Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Scrutiny Committee, of which I have the honour to be chairman, formed a concurrent Committee with the House of Commons. Incidentally, this was the first time that such a thing has been done. We sat under the chairmanship of Mr. Peter Mills. It was not a joint committee. Being "concurrent" meant that either party was free to act upon the evidence taken as it saw fit, and this is the reason that in due course your Sub-Committee were enabled to draw up this report separately.

As well as the oral evidence printed at the back of the report, the Committee of course received written evidence from as many bodies as we could conveniently find. When we examined the witnesses in early March it became apparent that the Commission's proposals, whatever we thought of them, whether we thought them practicable or wise or not, could not sensibly be discussed, let alone implemented, unless they were considered in the context of fisheries limits, about which there appeared to me to be a considerable confusion, with different bodies suggesting different limits for this or that purpose. The noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, has already referred to some of these suggested limits.

As the Law of the Sea Conference was about to be held in New York, and it seemed that something positive with respect to limits might come out of that, we thought that it would be best to put off further consideration of the Commission's proposals until the position on the fishing limits became clearer, perhaps by the autumn. Therefore, the concurrent Committee produced a very short interim report and we went into cold storage, which is where we lie at the moment.

However, it became clear that things were moving on. In particular we became aware of a spread of the idea not only of the Fisheries Protection Zone but of the Exclusive Economic Zone which, as my noble friend Lord Kennet mentioned earlier, has already been adopted in principle by the French, and on which we firmly recommend that this country, and all members of the Community should, and indeed must, follow suit. I understand very well the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, about the landlocked countries, but the fact that there are landlocked countries disadvantaged by their geographical situation should not, I feel, prevent the adoption of a full 200-mile EEZ by the countries of the Community. We are, after all, talking of an area which we hope in time will be an area of common management.

The Sub-Committee believe that these developments, such as the FPZ and the EEZ, and how they might affect our fishing industry, should be brought to the attention of your Lordships as a matter of general and fairly urgent debate. Urgent because we think very strongly that Parliament, the Government, and the Community really must get their minds clearer about what sort of objectives we should pursue. In drawing up this report we have taken evidence which was not originally put to the concurrent Committee, and we have been greatly helped by the special knowledge on these matters of my noble friend Lord Kennet, who has been able to direct our attention to documents and reports which otherwise we might have had difficulty in finding.

I regret to say that inevitably the discussion on the details of the Commission's inshore fishing proposals has not formed as important a part of our report as one might have wished. However, one cannot discuss inshore fishing without first, for example, having a definition of what "inshore" means. The Commission appear to think that it relates to the length of a boat and, as the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, said, we learnt that quite small boats, smaller than the kind which the Commission would call inshore boats, travel from the East coast ports to beyond Norway, and that can hardly be called "inshore".

Their proposals also refer to a class of fisherman called "Artizanale", which we think we know the meaning of but for which there is no clear equivalent in English and no exact meaning in this country. But whether the fishermen should be inshore or Artizanale, it is clear that no fisherman can pursue his occupation if he does not have any fish to catch, and perhaps the most important consideration of this matter must be that in the interests of conservation alone, the days are gone when any fisherman can fish anywhere he likes with what gear he likes and catch however much he likes. If we as a Community are to institute a régime, it must be capable of enforcement and to be enforceable it must be held to be right and fair by the great majority of fishermen.

The major reason which has made it necessary for the Community to have a Common Fishing Policy has undoubtedly been the development of technology. The huge floating fishing machines that are now built are able to scoop out of the sea vast quantities of fish and frequently they do so without heed to quality or type because they are interested only in making fish meal; or perhaps the nets catch a quantity of fish of a type or grade which does not happen to be suitable for the time being, so that tons of dead and dying fish are tipped back into the sea. This kind of exploitation cannot be allowed to continue, because fish are becoming increasingly scarce and difficult to find. This technological efficiency also obviously impinges on the livelihood of what can best be described as local fishermen. For example, there are about 3,000 small fishermen in the area covered by the Southwest Fishermen's Association. We learnt that for about £500,000 one ship could be fitted out to catch as much fish in a year as would be caught by about 1,000 of these small fishermen. Furthermore, I was not impressed to learn that such a ship could land saleable fish at only a very slightly lower price than could be landed by the ordinary fisherman and that this lower price was not a significant component of the final retail price. For example, we learnt that mackerel landed at Falmouth for about 3p per pound would be selling in the shops for about 30p per pound.

I am pointing out that the improved technology does not necessarily mean that we get cheaper fish in the shops. However, the use of this technology poses a real threat to the livelihood—this may be called an emotional view—of the stalwart and harmless coastal fishermen and the local communities which depend on their activities in areas where there is often little other employment. Not only do I think that these fishermen and their communities should have their livelihood protected from the aggressive, careless and thoughtless activities of these high-powered vessels, but that they should to some extent be protected from incursions by other small fishermen from a distance, be they of their own or another nationality. In other words, coastal fishermen should he persuaded to stick to their own bit of coast, except where it can be said that they have established historic rights of fishing, so long as that has not meant over-fishing.

As I see it, there will have to be established a number of coastal zones, and in this sense I take up a point made by the noble Lord Lord Mackie of Benshie, in that in my view the parochiality should be regional and not national; they should be established within the 200-mile EEZs. These will have to be policed; there will have to be a licensing system within these coastal zones, and the zones should be agreed as a matter of common management within the Community, though of course for the time being the only means of fishery protection will be the navies of the component's Member States.

I have made a somewhat longer speech than I had intended, and of necessity I have repeated certain points that other noble Lords have made, but perhaps they are none the worse for that. I believe that we will have to reconvene the concurrent Committee in the autumn to consider the inshore fishing proposals further, in which case we will be reporting again and no doubt your Lordships will need to debate the matter again. I thank noble Lords for their kind remarks about the Sub-Committee, but I must say that its work would not be possible without their efforts and suggestions. I very much hope that the Government will be acting on the Select Committee's suggestions and I am looking forward to hearing what my noble friend Lord Goronwy-Roberts has to say.

4.8 p.m.


My Lords, I intervene very briefly only because I represented for 34 years the constituency in this country which caught more herring than any other. I can therefore assure the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, that I know one end of a fishing boat from the other and have been to sea with them. Before the war we were still exporting over 1 million barrels of cured herrings to Europe and Russia every year, and that prevailed all the time between the two wars. I remember that on the only occasion I met Mr. Khruschev he was kind enough to say to me, "Your salt herrings are no good without vodka." I replied, "You give us the vodka, and we will give you the herrings" and in due course a large order for herrings came from Moscow. Alas, we could not fulfil it because the herring had begun to disappear, and now for all practical purposes they have disappeared altogether from the North Sea. The great summer fishing off Buchan, and the great autumn fishing off Yarmouth and Lowestoft, both of which I used to visit every year, have gone, almost completely disappeared, as have the herring.

What is the reason for this? The noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, may enlighten us on this. It may be some natural cause, like the movement of plankton, but I do not think so. I believe that there is practically no doubt that the cause is the gross over-fishing for industrial purposes by modern technological methods of immature fish. In this perhaps the worst offenders have been the Danes, because the amount of small fish they have caught in the last few years has been astronomical. While we are, slowly but I think surely, moving in the right direction, we must bear in mind as a slight warning that until quite recently, just before we were accepted as a Member of the EEC, the Six passed a resolution which would have entitled their fishing craft to fish right up to our beaches, and that goes for French and Belgian trawlers. That would have resulted in the total ruin of our inshore fishing industry. To begin with may I say that, with all due deference to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, we did not get in our campaign against it quite the enthusiastic support from the Conservative Government, which was in power at the time, that we expected I took a very active part—perhaps my last effort in this connection—in the campaign against this EEC Resolution, even to the point of saying in this House (to the fury of the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown) that, if this went through, I should have to withdraw my support from the European Movement. Anyway, the Government came round. We won. I went on television, and to Scotland, to Cornwall, to Devon; I went to meet the fishermen in the Pool of London when they came up to protest. We won a victory and it was a great victory. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, when he said that at that moment of time 12 miles was right and anything else would have been no good. We won a victory and, for the time being, all went well. The industry was saved.

Since then, we have had not bad inshore white fishing, although the herring have gone. But I say that it is only for the time being. We now have to move a step further. I most strongly support the noble Lords—and I believe that all of them have said this—who have insisted that we must go for the 50-mile limit. I believe that it is absolutely essential.

There are other difficulties ahead. I believe that technological developments will in future make it increasingly difficult to differentiate between what we have hitherto called the inshore fishing industry and the middle or deep water industry because, as the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, said, the 200-mile zone will drive many of our deep water fishermen back to our own waters, and they will not be able to fish as they used to. At the same time, however, I supported Iceland in her action because, on the fundamental issue, she was right. The only hope for the future is conservation. It is absolutely vital and it is essential that we should all act together.

I believe that it will be difficult to enforce quotas and to see that every country abides by any decisions that may be taken with regard to quotas. I would suggest, as a possibility, and I should like the noble Lord to consider this, that it might be advisable, by agreement, to post inspectors from the EEC countries to different ports. The Belgians and the French should come to us, and we should go to Denmark, Holland and Belgium, and have an inspector just to supervise that quotas are more or less adhered to. We cannot ask for more than that. The inspectors might ensure that any quotas that might be decided upon were more or less enforced. I feel that this is very important. I should also like to see—again by international agreement at Brussels—certain zones between the 50 and the 200-mile limit in which fishing would be prohibited altogether for certain periods of the year. This would allow the breeding grounds to be re-established.

Finally, I would just say that I am a little apprehensive about oil. The port of Peterhead in what used to be my constituency is very gravely threatened at present not only by the pipelines themselves, but by all the ramifications and attractions of the oil industry with its higher wages which are gradually taking the younger fishermen away from their natural calling. I should be very sad to see that, and I hope that the noble Lord will look into this aspect of the question. I have put down a question about Peterhead for the end of September, so I hope that by that time there might be an answer.

Oil is a difficulty, and I sometimes wonder how much happiness it has really brought to the North of Scotland. I was up there the other day and I wondered whether the people were not happier when they were poor and I was their Member than they are today when some of them—but only some—are rich, and a great many more are afflicted by violent rises in costs and prices. We do not want to see the fishing industry of this country, which is a great industry, destroyed. The only way to get it back is to nurse it and that, I believe, is what the EEC is gradually coming round to realise.

4.15 p.m.


My Lords, it is the greatest joy to listen once again to the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, who reproduced all his youthful pungency for our benefit today. Hearing him hold forth just now reminded me of the speeches that I used sometimes to hear him give during General Elections in East Aberdeenshire, when he was able to sway round to his point of view people who started by feeling most antagonistic towards him.

The noble Lord, Lord Boothby, reiterated what many other speakers have been saying about conservation and its importance. I rather question whether, from the papers it has published, the EEC is giving more than lip-service to the conservation point. It comes in, but it is not unduly emphasised. For ourselves also, I wonder whether, when we speak of conservation, we really understand all that conservation implies. Conservation is not just a matter of the size of the net or of the quota, which is a very bad idea. The quota system is not the beginnings of conservation. Nor is it the number of boats. Or rather, it is that; it is, as the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, has said, having a close season; it is those things that can be achieved or not achieved by regulation, but there is still more to conservation.

I submit that it is something to which we should apply our minds more seriously than we have done up to now. There is disease control, which could be very important indeed. At the moment, certain shellfish suffer from diseases and there are regulations which need to be made to prevent the spread of those diseases. How long will it be before the sea fish also fall heir to diseases which become of economic importance?

Then there is the control of poisonous wastes. A few years ago in this House we had a Bill concerning poisonous wastes going into the sea, but that seems now to be forgotten. It is a primary matter for consideration when dealing with conservation of fish. Then, as the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, mentioned, there is hydrocarbon pollution from the oil rigs and pipes and also—a subject which is dear to the heart of the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder——there is the problem of dredging for aggregate. Such dredging in the North Sea and other places has become a matter of no little importance. It causes the destruction of the spawning grounds of certain fish—those which lay their eggs at the bottom—and it also upsets the food on which the shellfish and whitefish live. It also upsets the levels of the seabed and makes it difficult for the trawlers to come after.

These are additional grounds to those which have already been adduced in the debate today for conservation, and I submit that the execution of complete and proper conservation policy must be done by one authority. This cannot be shared out with different authorities trying to carry out this one task of fish conservation in the sea. Certainly the Commission itself cannot do it. I suggest that each nation must be made responsible for the conservation of fish in its own 200-mile zone or area which is inevitably coming to us. That includes making what it believes to be the essential regulations and the policing of them. Unless we have that there will not be proper conservation. The only proper control is on the national basis, working in close co-operation with the adjacent nations, and they would naturally work together and have a common policy.

But the primary control of what is to be the national area must be with the nation concerned. That can be done perhaps by limiting the number of boats, but the catches must be inspected. Ideally every catch would be landed at a home port of the nation in relation to which the boat had been fishing, but that is probably impracticable. But there is the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, for inspectors at the ports where the fish would be landed, where they would come off, perhaps, the British EEZ. British inspectors there would probably not take long in getting on to things that were going wrong.

I question whether any other country in the EEC, or indeed in the world, has done more for marine fishery research than has the United Kingdom. We have been, and are being, exceptionally well served by the Government research stations which have been established for different aspects of this matter, and I submit that we already have a caucus of knowledge which enables us to provide the scientific knowledge which is the basis of having any proper and effective conservation.

4.24 p.m.

Lord HOY

My Lords, we are grateful to my noble friend Lord Kennet for introducing this debate. I wish to take up one subject raised by the noble Lord, Lord Balerno. In all the years that I have been associated with this industry, conservation was the one predominant feature of every conference, and as a result of this we do not appear to have got very far. The proposal by the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, about inspectors is not a bad idea. I remember that when we got agreement among the nations of the world, including Soviet Russia, that we would be allowed to land inspectors on boats belonging to other countries while they were fishing, so that we might then be able to report those who were committing offences, we made a tremendous step forward. Yet, despite all that, we still have not found a solution to the problem. So, quite obviously, it has to be something much greater than we have yet planned or even anticipated.

One question in which I was interested was that of herring stocks at the moment, and that is why I am not going to assume that these decisions were made by the Council of Ministers yesterday. I have been reading recently about the return of herring stocks to Scotland. I do not know whether this is true, but if it is, it is good news. Perhaps the Minister will be able to confirm or deny the reports in the Press—


My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, but I should like to tell him that there was a brief reappearance, but in a very small area, and now they have gone again.

Lord HOY

This can happen, my Lords, and all I am saying is that one ought not to be misled by newspaper reports. I think that the question of fixing areas will cause some difficulty and I should like to spend a moment or two on it. I thought that we had a portent of this when my noble friend Lord Raglan said that we might reach the stage when we would have to ask fishermen from one part of Britain not to fish in the waters of another part of Britain. If we are to get to that stage we really shall be in difficulty, and I do not think he is exaggerating. I remember serving with the noble Lord on the Committee upstairs and I recall a witness from the south-west of England appearing before the Committee. He said to the Committee: If only we could keep those Scottish 'Bs' out of our water"— and then, remembering where he was, he substituted "chaps" for "Bs". I preferred it in its original form. He was expressing a desire to retain that particular part of the water for his own people.

If this is to arise in an internal manner, how then is one to solve the outer problem? Sometimes we are not helped by political commentators, who apparently can find solutions to this problem very much easier than they can find solutions to their own personal problems. Indeed, some people find solutions after they are outside, and they seem to have a perspective very much greater than when inside.

So what we must do is face up to the realities of the situation. If we are to do that we must know whether a decision was made by the Council of Ministers yesterday. But before doing that we must remember that we still have to reach a settlement with Iceland because, if my memory serves me correctly, the present agreement runs out by the 1st December. There must be a new agreement between ourselves and Iceland. There is also the position of Norway, which is not inside the EEC. Perhaps the Minister will say something about that; indeed, we are entitled to expect him to do so. Unless we get decisions in this respect we might be in considerable difficulty.

Sometimes the Government, all Governments of this country, are not helped in the negotiations with other countries when we have here people who are willing to give away fishing rights which we have at present, in Iceland or elsewhere, without thinking of the consequences. So I should be grateful if we can have some information, as we are entitled to have, with regard to Norway and Iceland.

My Lords, if these decisions are to be reached, and even if the Community actually makes a decision, our first priority must be to get that decision, for a very simple reason—and I merely repeat what I said upstairs in Committee. There is not very much use in fixing a programme for the distant, the middle and the inshore fleets unless you know what you must have. Until that is settled, then you cannot know what in fact is going to be available for the fishing fleet in its totality; and, just as you have got to come back from distant waters, on which both Grimsby and Hull, and Lowestoft as well, depend, they are then going to participate in the fishing which is going to be available to us. So until you have got that matter settled you are not going to know what part they are going to play.

Secondly, in this respect, it will be only when we have reached this decision with regard to the waters and what part is to be played by the three sections—the distant, middle and inshore fleets—that we can make up our minds and make our decisions as to what we are going to do. We must remember this, and all of us must accept the responsibility. This must be done, and it is going to be rather costly. It has got to be paid for, and, to a considerable extent, it can only be paid for by the taxpayer of this country. If you are saying to the whole of the fleet that they must have a considerable conversion to meet the new situation, then you cannot say, "And you must do it at your own cost". This would be a piece of nonsense, and we have got to face up to it; but until we get that decision from the Council of Ministers, then we cannot even go ahead with this. This we have got to get if in fact we are going to do the job.

This is going to be extremely difficult, and I know that the job of our negotiators is going to be difficult. It is going to be difficult because, as has been said, we are working under an agreement that was made even before we started to negotiate for going into Europe. The decision was then made. That is true; and I do not regard it, as does Lord Boothby, as a great victory. I supported our going into Europe, and campaigned for it, but what I am bound to say is that what we did was to put down a marker. We put down a marker and said to our colleagues in Europe, "This industry is extremely important to Great Britain". It is perhaps of much greater importance to our country than to any of our EEC partners. What we have always got to remember in this context is this, that there are many parts of our country today where this is practically the sole livelihood. Without the fishing industry they would cease to exist; so it is terribly important from our point of view that we guarantee this work.

My Lords, I do not want to detain the House any longer, so may I go on simply to say that there are three things to which I should like to have answers. First of all, I should like to know just how far our negotiations with Iceland and Norway have gone. These are two important countries. As to Iceland, despite our disputes with them on two occasions we have had a very much greater, longer and warmer friendship with them than with any other country in Europe; and I hope that in the course of negotiations this will be shown. In the case of Norway we have always had this friendship. There has sometimes been a little difficulty over fishing for industrial purposes, but outside of that there has been a friendship that could not have been surpassed. So I think we have got to know this if we want to know what the future is going to be.

Secondly, may I sum up by saying what I think we have got to know from the Minister about the 200-mile limit. We should obviously like to know, if he is able to tell us, what bands are going to be available inside our own control and for our own industry. We have this rumour of something from 12 to 50 miles. There are those who say that we have got to have 50 miles all round. All I say is that it is awfully important, whatever else may be the finding, that we have the 50 miles in the important places. Given that, we might be able to do a little negotiation elsewhere; but please remember that this will have to be done by negotiation and not by unilateral action on our part. This is what we have got to remember. I repeat, finally, that the urgency of this matter cannot be overstressed. The whole of the fishing industry cannot plan its future, rebuild or do anything until these decisions are reached. I am certain that the Government and my noble friend are just as much aware of it as we are, but on these occasions it is not a bad thing to remind them that we are thinking along these lines.

4.35 p.m.


My Lords, if one speaks last in a debate of this kind there is always a danger that what one is going to say has been said before, and to some extent that applies this afternoon because my remarks will be directed mainly to the inshore fishing industry and its proposed restructure by the Commission. This has already been touched on by some speakers, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, but I will try not to be repetitive. It is stated in our report that the inshore fishing industry accounts for one-third of the total fish production by volume in the Community and for 40 per cent. by value, and provides employment for three-quarters of all Community fishermen. I have seen figures which suggest that, so far as the United Kingdom is concerned, the proportion of total production is a good deal higher than that. It may even go to 70 per cent. My Lords, these figures speak for themselves. Put another way, it means that the majority of our fish are being caught by people in small boats who sleep in their beds and go out when the weather is suitable. Because of the cod war and the forthcoming adoption of the 200-mile EEZ, attention tends to be focused on the deep-sea trawlers which are going to lose their traditional fishing grounds. One must naturally have great sympathy with the fishermen concerned, but, in order to provide them with alternative employment, let us not fall into the trap of destroying that other part of the industry which plays such a vital role in our national life.

There are two dangers. In the first place, the Commission are proposing that the inshore fleet should be run down by the payment of incentives to fishermen to leave the industry. I believe they are quite wrong in this approach, for the reasons stated in paragraph 38 of our report: just as I believe they are equally wrong, for similar reasons, in their desire to restructure the agricultural industry by persuading the small farmer to leave the land and to migrate to the cities. Do we want ever bigger and more sprawling cities? And will the fishermen who are going to be moved to them be any happier? Of course they will not. They love the sea, and they were bred to it; and in my experience people who earn their living from the sea (or from the land, for that matter) lead much happier and more rewarding lives than those who work in the cities.

It seems to be fundamental to the Commission's thinking that both the fishing and the agricultural industries should become more capital-intensive and less labour-intensive. In my view, this is the reverse of what is required, and I hope it will be resisted by the Government. If aid is to be given, let it be given to enable the inshore fishermen to replace their boats, rather than to drive them out of the industry.

The second danger lies in the likelihood that, with the 200-mile limit, our distant water vessels will try to make good their loss by fishing inshore and by catching in an afternoon, with their much more efficient gear, what is caught by the inshore men in a week or more. This is not a matter for the Community; it is a matter for ourselves, because the rivalry for the inshore grounds will take place largely within our own exclusive zone within the 200-mile limit whatever the size of that zone is finally agreed to be.

It is because of this increasing competition for the inshore grounds that, I believe, the Government should be formulating now a policy of how our own exclusive zone is to be managed. As the Commission make clear, one of the most important functions of the management within the Community—and this has been made clear by successive speakers this afternoon—is the conservation of fish stocks; and the management of our own zone must be given equal priority in this respect, otherwise we shall see the mackerel and other inshore fish go the same way as Lord Boothby's herrings. I would mention, in passing, that no one is better qualified to conserve the fish stocks than the inshore fishermen whose livelihood depends on their survival and who work generally not for a wage but for a share in the catch.

The disadvantages of quotas as a means of management which are spelt out in paragraph 29 apply equally to their allocation within our own industry. In the last fisheries debate on 19th May, I suggested that it might be possible to manage the fishing within our own zone by allowing vessels of a certain size only to fish within given distances from the shore. There would be, in effect, a series of bans, and only the smaller boats would be allowed to fish close inshore. This would preclude the purse-seiners which the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, was talking about and the other large boats from scooping the fish from the traditional inshore grounds. It would be relatively easy to police. Our recommendation in paragraph 29 is very similar to my proposal and I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, when he comes to reply will be able to say something about this especially in relation to the coastal areas.

My Lords, before I sit down, I should like to add one further point. I do so as one who believes in the Commission fisheries policy and who believes in closer integration with our European partners. We, in this country, have certain natural resources. We have coal, for example, and we now have oil under the North Sea; although it will last only for a matter of decades. Our partners in the Community have other resources which we have not. They are not disadvantaged; they merely have other advantages. Some of them possess large forests and a much larger acreage of cultivatable land than we have. They have hydro-electric power from the Alps, an abundance of wine and other produce which can be grown in their more southerly climate.

One of the things that we have got are the fish which swim round our coast. By all means, let us share these fish within the 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone with them under the Common Fisheries Policy. But our partners must realise that our coastal areas are vital to us both in terms of employment and of fish production. If we cannot have a 50-mile exclusive zone, it must be very close to 50 miles, or, as the noble Lord, Lord Hoy, said, 50 miles in the areas which are vital to us such as the areas where the blue whiting are going to be fished. Nothing else will be acceptable.

4.45 p.m.


My Lords, may I take a minute or two to say a word about fishing, a subject in which, at least some noble Lords know, I have had some experience. May I make three quick points to the Government? In the days when I was fairly close to the fishing industry, the biggest single factor which caused a lack of confidence was that the fishermen felt, rightly or wrongly, that we, as the British Government, always allowed other countries to get away with extending their fishery zones, making new rules and regulations and that we, the British Government, had a different standard and behaved in a much more gentlemanly fashion. I do not want to enter into any controversy with the noble Lord, Lord Hoy, about either Iceland or Norway. We have been enormously good friends with both on every occasion except when fishing was the topic of discussion. We really have always let both the Norwegians and the Icelanders lead the field in getting special concessions for their fishermen. I hope that whatever the Government decide to do on limits, they will at least make a bold bid for something that really sticks and that the fishermen can believe. My second point concerns conservation. Again, we have completely double standards on this. If you talk to our fishermen they will tell you all round the coast—although it will vary according to where you are—that the Danes are allowed to fish off Aberdeen and do things that we are not allowed to do; the Irish fishermen are allowed to fish in the Clyde and do things that we are not allowed to do; that our inspectors are very strict on our people; but that, whatever the international agreements, it is very much more difficult to get on to other people's vessels to make certain that the mesh size is right and that fishing is proper.

Lastly, I am torn in two directions by the suggestion made by the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, which is that inshore fishermen should be allowed some sort of exclusive right into their own local water. All the evidence that I have had in my part of Scotland has been that as soon as this is attempted you get the whole quality of the fishing industry deteriorating. You get the steadily lazier, more idle, more stupid people claiming more and more exclusive rights to a piece of fishing in order that they can make their livelihood, perhaps sleeping in their bed at nights, but sleeping in it, as well, for a long time after the sun is up.


My Lords, if I conveyed that meaning, I did not mean to. I meant that the regions should be protected and that coastal fishermen of that region should have a prime right to fish in that area; that they should be protected from encroachment and over-fishing by people who came into the area from outside; but that we would be managing the fisheries under common management and, as we say in the report, those fishermen from either Britain or neighbouring nations who have established historic fishing rights in that area should be allowed to continue with their fishing so long as that fishing was not contributing to overfishing.


My Lords, if I misinterpreted the noble Lord, I apologise. It is the difficulty of knowing what people mean when they talk about regions. I am, in my own mind, certain that the distinction which has been valid enough in the past between inshore and middle water and between middle water and long distance is something which is water very well over the dam. If we are to succeed in creating a new type of fishery organisation with new limits, we must really re-think the whole of this. I hope that we shall do it wisely and sensibly; that we shall not try to create differences but to create unanimity of purpose among all fishermen to preserve stocks and to catch them sensibly so that both the housewife and the fishermen get a good deal out of it.

4.50 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure that we are all extremely grateful to my noble friend Lord Kennet for introducing this very important debate. Speaking for myself and, I am sure, for all who have listened to the speeches, it must be one of the debates where the speeches have been uniformly of a very high standard indeed. Every speech has revealed knowledge and a rationality of argument in an area which is extremely complex and which is, as we were reminded in a powerful contribution by my noble friend Lord Hoy, of extreme urgency for this country. There are of course four documents before the House relating to very different aspects of this problem. If my noble friend Lord Kennet will forgive me for not following him in the second half of the two-pronged point he made, I will not discuss this evening the question of the larger maritime policy which the EEC must in due course adopt; we are this evening dealing with the sufficiently difficult and important question of fishing limits.

The four documents, which I do not need to identify to the House, together with the very useful report of the House of Lords Select Committee, serve as a very good basis for an informed discussion on this matter. I hope to pick up some of the points made in the report as I go along and to refer to one or two points specifically made by noble Lords. The fishing industry, and our distant water fleet in particular, faces a time of change as a result of the now irreversible trend towards 200-mile fishery limits. What is, I think, a new and hopeful factor is that the inevitability of the extension of fisheries limits is now accepted in the Community.

We have heard the history of the arrangements agreed within the Community of the Six and then subsequently; but today we are dealing with a situation where the Community accepts the irreversibility of the 200-mile limit. This is a point which the Government have been emphasising since at least April 1975 when we sought agreement from the Community in the Agriculture Council that the Common Fisheries Policy should be reviewed to take account of the new circumstances. We thought—and we were joined by both Opposition Parties at that time and since—that, as the United Nations Law of the Sea Conference was about to begin, something like this was inevitable and therefore we, as a major fishing country, and the Community should address our attention to it at once. So we have taken the lead on this to secure in our own interests and that of the Community a positive, definitive policy, not only on the larger question which my noble friend raised but specifically on the question of fisheries limits.

At the European Council this month—and only then—all Member States agreed to invite the Council to consider a declaration that they were ready to extend their fishery limits as soon as was necessary. We, like all Member States, retain the hope that this extension can be on the basis of agreement at the next session of the United Nations Law of the Sea Conference which will start next Monday, 2nd August. But the Member States now all acknowledge that circumstances may not allow them to wait so long. Some of our best friends and allies have anticipated the likely decisions of UNLOSC in this matter. Therefore, it is perfectly reasonable that we and our partners in the Community should hold ourselves ready to act similarly. We hope very much that we can act as a result of an international decision arising from the Law of the Sea Conference, but we are bound to be prepared to act in anticipation of it.

The actions or declared intentions of other North Atlantic States are already increasing pressure on the fishery resources in what will be the extended fishery limits of Member States; and the recent meeting of the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission in Lisbon demonstrated clearly that extended fishery limits are now a necessary assumption of international fisheries negotiations. I was asked about the results of the Foreign Affairs Council and, indeed, my noble friend Lord Kennet gave a very full account of what had been decided. The Foreign Affairs Council agreed on 22nd July the terms of a declaration which commits the Community to decide by the beginning of October the procedures to be followed for an extension of fishery limits.

I have in my hand the official text which I received fairly recently. I will not read it, but if any noble Lord or noble Baroness wishes to look at it at the end of this debate I will retain it so they may do so. Suffice it to say that there is now an acceptance of the 200-mile limit decision to proceed if possible in accordance with the Law of the Sea Conference, but equally a readiness to act in anticipation of that decision, and certainly an agreement on the terms of a declaration which commits the Community to decide by the beginning of October the procedures to be followed. That has an important relation, as my noble friend Lord Hoy would agree, to the question of the continuation of a workable arrangement with Iceland and of course with Norway.

This is an important step. It means that the Community must now come to grips with the problems outlined in the Commission's Working Papers—one of the four that we have been looking at, S/30/76—and build on the ideas presented in the Commission's communication to the Council, which is the subject of a third Paper that we have been looking at. I do not need to comment in detail on the first of these documents. As the explanatory memorandum makes clear, the Paper recognises the need for the Community to plan for the contingency of 200-mile economic zones, and describes not unfairly the crucial nature of the problem for the United Kingdom.

We are, as the Select Committee's report also makes clear, uniquely dependent upon fishing in third country waters. The noble Lord, Lord Vernon, and others emphasised this. Of all Member States, we are the most dependent in terms of catch, both in tonnage and in value, in waters off third countries. At the same time, the potential fishery zone off the United Kingdom is the richest in the Community, contributing, on the Commission's own calculations, something between 55 per cent. and 60 per cent. of the fish in what will be Community waters in the North East Atlantic region. This is the size of the British interest in an equitable and workable arrangement. The importance of it need not be emphasised. The urgency to secure via the Community something which is acceptable to us in terms of those facts is certainly acceptable to every part of the House.

The second Paper takes us a little way towards solving the problem. We share the Commission's belief that conservation and the rebuilding of fish stocks are quite fundamental; and among the speeches to which we listened—quite outstanding in this as in other arenas, as we would expect—was that contributed by my noble friend Lord Boothby. Conservation lies at the very heart of the future of the industry, and we are glad to note that the Commission are seized of this fundamental fact. We agree, too, that any régime must include a combination of coastal belts and quotas: the mix is a matter of negotiation rather than of argument. The important thing is that we are not tied down exclusively to a geographical or a numerate assessment of what is right and fair: the two measurements are used.

Perhaps at this point I should say that I am not too sure that I would go along with the comment in the Select Committee's report that the proposals in the second Paper have been outdated by subsequent developments. It was in anticipation of progress in UN LOSC towards a system of Exclusive Economic Zones that the Commission produced them. We are dealing at present not with economic zones but solely with fishery jurisdiction. The difference is not relevant in this context, and the Common Fisheries Policy is explicit in saying that its principles—and notably that of equal access—apply to all waters within the sovereignty or jurisdiction of Member States even though the actual decision to extend such jurisdiction to 200 miles remains a matter for the individual country. We shall have to take action, as will other Member States in regard to this.

In approaching the problem the British Government have found themselves, as it were, between Scylla and Charybdis—a classical reference which is perhaps more than usually apposite when one deals with this class of question. My noble friend Lord Hoy brought this out clearly when he referred, in a very balanced speech, not only to the urgency and importance to us of this question, but also to the fact that because of the Treaty of Accession, of our membership of the Community, our room for manoeuvre in negotiation is necessarily restricted. I hope it is not unduly restricted; but it is just as well that we should enjoin upon our own negotiators, and indeed those of Member States, to remember that, as a country, we have taken over a substantially settled policy and it is by a process of negotiation based on good will that we have got as far as we have got, and by means of which we hope to get further in future. So in looking at the various points made about the extent of the coastal belt, I would remind your Lordships that we are operating on a basis of negotiation which is not open ended.

The treaty of Accession contains provisions until 1982, exempting coastal waters from many of the provisions of the Common Fisheries Policy, and we are not in any doubt about the application of the policy to the waters under the jurisdiction of Member States. While we recognise that a fisheries policy containing adequate coatal belts will be the only basis on which it would be acceptable to us and to our fishing industry, we also recognise that in seeking changes we must take account of what might be agreed within the Community, because it is only with the agreement of the Community that we can get changes.

Our position was set out in the Foreign Affairs Council by my right honourable friend Mr. Hattersley on 4th May. I should have liked to see a reference to his statement in the Select Committee's report: it is really essential to our discussions this afternoon. In that statement he made it clear that what we are seeking is a coastal belt of variable width, of a minimum width of 12 miles stretching to 50 miles in places and taking in the fishing grounds of greatest importance to our industry. I think it was my noble friend who, in referring to this variable system, very rightly emphasised that the maximal point should be in those areas of most importance to us and to our fishing industry. Certainly that will be our object. Since 4th May, when my right honourable friend made that statement, the matter has been raised in the European Council and there have been bilateral discussions with Member States and with the Commission. I would not wish to go into details of the negotiation, but I want to say that no one should be in any doubt about the importance which the Government attach to this issue or about the strength and determination which our negotiators will apply to the discussions: as they have done in the past. so in the future.

I should like to say a little more about conservation and enforcement. The noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, and others, made quite a point over these matters, and quite rightly. They are fundamental and will undoubtedly involve the highest degree of co-operation between the Community and Member States. There is a great deal of detailed work to be done here. There was in this House on 15th July a very useful debate about the policing of any British economic zones, and I need say no more about tht anow. The report of the Select Committee contains some very valuable suggestions, and I can assure the House that these will be taken fully into account.

The powers which the Government will take in legislation to extend British fisheries limits will be sufficient to ensure that conservation measures can be properly enforced within our waters. Whether we need to go as far as vesting the fisheries resources in the Crown, I am not so sure. I am not disputing the principle of this: it is the necessity for it. Let us have a good look at it and see whether this is the way in which we can safeguard the position most effectively. However, I would wholeheartedly agree that the actual policing of conservation measures within an economic zone, or extended fisheries jurisdiction, will need to be the responsibility of the Member States concerned. This is not to reject the suggestion made that from time to time there might be a system of inspection based on an exchange of nationals between one port and another. I would not rule that out at all; indeed, I personally find it an attractive suggestion.

There will no doubt be a variety of measures required in the interests of conservation, such as restrictions on mesh sizes, closed areas and so forth. I do not have a legible note as to which of your Lordships made the point that there might be a closed season between the 50-mile limit and the 200-mile limit. I see that the candidate for authorship is the noble Lord, Lord Boothby. There could very well be closed areas—indeed, I imagine that there would be—in the whole composite system of conservation. Effort limitation measures may, as suggested by the Committee, feature among them, but at this stage I would only wish your Lordships to bear in mind the complexity of the issue. I can assure the House that the fisheries Departments are studying this whole area most carefully and, as a former Minister, my noble friend Lord Hoy will be more aware than most of us of the expertise which the fisheries Departments can bring to bear in a study of these matters.

May I now turn to the question of negotiations with third countries? This brings me conveniently to the instrument bringing into force Protocol 6 of the EEC/Iceland Agreement. Part of the Commission's proposals is that, with the extension of limits and the application of the Common Fisheries Policy to such waters, the Community should conduct negotiations on fishery matters with third countries. In one way, that lets us out. In another way, we want to make quite sure that we have negotiated with the Community a firm base upon which it will conduct these very essential negotiations on our, and their, behalf with third countries, with whom for so many years we have had such close connections, business and otherwise.

It is explicit in the agreement with Iceland that the successor arrangement should be with the Community. Where reciprocal rights are concerned, this is a practical and sensible arrangement which conforms with Community practice. It will also allow the negotiating weight of the Community to be brought to bear. We shall be substituting the weight of the Community for the force of our frigates, and it is a substitution that everyone here will welcome. We are pressing very hard for the Community to produce the draft mandates for the negotiation with Iceland and Norway, which is the third point that my noble friend raised. Negotiations with Iceland will need to take place very soon after the summer break, if there is not to be a hiatus following the expiry of the present arrangement on 1st December.

I have said that we are looking hopefully to the meeting in October, and the urgency is there because the Icelandic agreement expires on 1st December. There is therefore not much need to convince our own negotiators, and I see no need to convince those of the Community as a whole, that time is now of the essence, especially in regard to successor agreements with third countries. Whether the new agreement is a transitional arrangement or a full agreement with the Community, is not quite the point. What we want is a smooth transition and assurance for the future. It may well be that a full agreement is not immediately available; it may well be available. But at least there will not be the uncertainty and the opportunity, or the temptation for political argument and disturbance of our relations, which, unfortunately, in the past have hindered agreements between us and our very old friends in Iceland.

I have little doubt that there will be some tough bargaining between the Commission and Iceland. Protocol 6 of the EEC/Iceland Agreement is a strong card in the hand of the Community. At this moment, I must resist the temptation to say any more, because this is now a matter of negotiation. I agree that negotiations with Norway will also need to follow soon, and the Community will need to turn its attention to other countries also. We have seen our distant water catch eroded, as the noble Lord, Lord Vernon, pointed out, by quite a number of other countries. The negotiations will be complex. They will not be common form in relation to every one of the so-called third countries. They will be difficult, and the Community will need to protect its interests, and consequently ours, by taking a firm line with the countries with little or no fish to offer the Community in reciprocal arrangements. That is a matter of fact, not a threat. It is one of the facts of life that some of these countries have very little reciprocity, in the sense that Iceland and Norway are able to offer us.

May I now turn briefly to the Commission's proposals for the restructuring of the inshore fishing industry, contained in the relevant document on which the Ministry of Agriculture provided an explanatory memorandum, which I understand remains valid. As your Lordships will know, this proposal was considered by Sub-Committee A and it is also referred to in the recent report by the Select Committee. The Committees were critical of this proposal, believing it inappropriate to consider inshore fisheries on their own. The Government have considerable sympathy with this viewpoint; indeed, it conforms very closely with our views.

I think that everything I have said this evening points to the virtual certainty that, in the rapidly changing circumstances, all Community fleets will face the need for major structural changes over the next months and years, not simply the British fleet. As my noble friend most presciently reminded us, this may well need financial action involving the participation and contribution of the taxpayer as a whole. It is not quite enough to demand this and that for any industry, however important. At the end of the day, this kind of restructuring must, as my noble friend showed, depend upon adequate finance, which in these circumstances can come only from the public purse, and that means the taxpayer. There is, of course, much preparatory work which can usefully be put in hand and the United Kingdom would seek to make a constructive contribution to it; that is, to the Community's study of this part of the problem.

The more logical course, in our view, would be to await the time when a more objective assessment of the scale and nature of future fishing opportunities can be reached, and for the Commission then to produce comprehensive proposals for action relating to Community fleets as a whole. I think that that would be acceptable to us all, except that we are entitled to put in a caveat that the specific needs of the British fishing fleet may well be somewhat different, in fairly important directions, from those of countires which have rather less experience of fishing as a major industry figuring largely in their economies. This is a matter for argument and negotiation within the Community.

The subject I have dealt with this evening is virtually inexhaustible in scope. We have seen the way in which the international framework is changing and how this is accepted world wide, certainly by the Community. It is going to have profound effects on the way in which our own fisheries are organised. The Government are in the closest consultation with the industry and the other interests which are affected. They will be negotiating strongly in Brussels to ensure that the Common Fisheries Policy is adapted in ways which meet our interests and also to ensure that in the negotiation of reciprocal arrangements with third countries the Community guards our interests.

But there are many uncertainties. I am fully aware of the unease which is felt in many quarters. A period of change is never a comfortable time, but, as my right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture said in another place on 20th June, the Government are determined to ensure that our fisheries resources and the industries exploiting them continue to make a major contribution to the British economy. I am confident that this determination will not falter.

I think I have dealt with the outstanding points which were emphasised during the debate. If I have left out anything which noble Lords feel I might have dealt with in this winding up speech, perhaps they will do me the honour of bringing it to me bilaterally rather than multilaterally so that we can follow it up. This is not a debate of confrontation; rather it is a meeting of minds and of accepted interests. We stand on the basis that, whatever are the views of the various Members of this House and, indeed, of the general public about membership for Britain of the European Community, the fact is that by a large and decisive majority we are members.

Part of the terms of membership is acceptance of certain arrangements which the Community had come to before we joined. There were very substantial and clear arrangements relating to fisheries that had been agreed by the Community before we joined. At the time of the argument last year it was said on both sides of the argument that once we had reaffirmed our decision to remain within the Community there would be every opportunity to negotiate for the adaptation of existing arrangements of this kind. The country accepted that assumption. Perhaps this is outstandingly a test of whether in fact adaptation is possible.

We are faced here with a British national interest of quite outstanding importance. We have made this clear and we continue to make it clear to our friends and partners in the Community. We believe that they understand our position and will respond to what we propose to them on that basis. If, as I hope and expect, the Community respond to our arguments on this matter, it will be the fact of agreement on this point which will be among those forces which will effectively promote the future cohesion of the Community and certainly the efficacy of the British contribution to its future.


My Lords, before the Minister sits down, may I ask him whether he will bring to the attention of the requisite authorities the question of trawling for prawns? It may seem a small matter, but it is an important one for the local inshore fishermen on the West Coast of Scotland. If you trawl for prawns, for every prawn you catch you probably destroy three or four more. Prawns, like the rabbit, although it may seem an absurd comparison, live in burrows, and when the trawl comes over the seabed it suffocates a great number of prawns in their burrows. Therefore, the correct method of catching prawns is in pots. There is now quite a large trade in prawn, from the West Coast of Scotland to France and Spain. The problem is that if trawling is allowed to go on it will deplete very considerably the prawn stocks. Perhaps the Minister will be kind enough to consider that point of view. I think that trawling for prawns ought to be made illegal.

5.24 p.m.


My Lords, the whole House will be grateful to my noble friend for his full and conscientious reply to what, in my opinion and that of other noble Lords, has been a most interesting debate. May I make one point of detail about the proposal in the report that we should vest fish in the Crown, as there may be some misunderstanding about it. The Sub-Committee did not mean that fish, once vested in the Crown, should remain vested in the Crown when they swim across the median line into somebody else's waters. There is no analogy with the proposal under discussion in UNCLOS IV—anagenous species of fish—particularly the salmon, which, according to some, simply because they are spawned in Danish rivers, should remain Danish even if they fetch up off the coast of Canada. No such analogy was intended. Fish are British up to the median line; once they swim across it they stop being British fish. This is simply for clarification.

Regarding pheasants, geese might have been a better analogy. We all know what happens if we try to shoot the goose, which is a migratory species, when, for instance, it lands upon the saltings of the noble Earl. Everybody who has spoken has been in favour of effort limitation and against quotas. Also, everybody who has spoken has been against the very heavy capitalisation of the industry. Even if it were only for those two majority opinions, this debate would have been sufficient.


My Lords, may I thank my noble friend for what he has just said. May I also thank the noble Viscount for his intervention on prawns which diverted me and added to my knowledge of the fishing industry. I will most certainly draw his erudition to the close attention of my right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. On the point about the Crown vesting, I take my noble friend's point. It is a question of whether this is necessary. I do not believe that there is any argument of principle for or against what is the best instrument in order to assert a position, possibly an intermediate position, between now and finalisation of the discussions in the Community. However, we shall watch what happens on the median line in the fish world and perhaps that will help us to decide whether or not fish should be vested in the Crown.

On Question, Motion agreed to.