HL Deb 21 May 1981 vol 420 cc1014-5

11.26 a.m.

Lord Boothby

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they can give an assurance that, in the forthcoming negotiations with the EEC for a common fisheries policy, the vital interests of the British inshore fishing industry will be preserved.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, may I be permitted to say that it is a pleasure to see the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, back in his place after his temporary indisposition.

My Lords, it remains the firm intention of Her Majesty's Government to safeguard the interests and future of all sectors of the British fishing industry in the negotiations for a revised common fisheries policy.

Lord Boothby

My Lords, as I know that Her Majesty's Government are well aware of the problems now confronting our inshore fishing industry, I can only thank the noble Earl for that brief but generous reply.

Lord Peart

My Lords, I hope the noble Earl will assume that the Opposition also wishes our negotiators the very best. It is an important section of the industry. I know we have debated the fishing industry just recently, but this affects the inshore people who are so important to the North-East of England, and particularly also to Scotland. The noble Lord, Lord Boothby, as always, defends his fishermen. I always remember that in another place he was regarded as "Mr. Fish".

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I merely say that I had prepared myself for a number of quite difficult questions. I had not prepared myself for such felicitous remarks as have been made. I greatly appreciate it, as will my right honourable friend.

Lord Shinwell

My Lords, although we appreciate the intention of the Government to safeguard the interests of the inshore fishermen—which at one period of my life I sought to organise, and that met with some success—is the noble Earl aware that the damage inflicted on the inshore fishermen since we entered the Common Market is of such a character that it seems almost impossible to effect a recovery?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, if I may say so, I think the noble Lord is making the mistake of thinking that the damage to the industry is because we have joined the Common Market. One of the real problems is the shortage of fish, and finding the correct method of apportioning the fish which is available among the interests of the various countries involved, and indeed of the world.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

My Lords, is it not also a fact that the loss of markets in North America is the cause of a great deal of the trouble?

Earl Ferrers

Yes, my Lords, and I dare say that the extension to the 200-mile limit has probably caused more problems than it has solved.

The Lord Bishop of Norwich

My Lords, can the noble Earl give any assurances concerning the East Coast ports, which are so close to Europe? And if the noble Earl the Minister does not feel that it is making what I think in another place is called a "constituency speech", could he take a special interest in Lowestoft?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, the right reverend Prelate would certainly not be out of order in making a constituency point, but he would have been out of order if he had made a speech. I can tell him that we are deeply conscious of the plight of those who operate in the fishing industry and that is the reason why the Government have recently made a substantial concession to them. We are concerned to see that in the final negotiations on the common fisheries policy there should be a viable industry left and, of course, that part of it which is based in Lowestoft is indeed a very important part—it happens, apart from anything else, not only to be where the right reverend Prelate comes from, but also not all that far away from me, too.