HL Deb 24 March 1982 vol 428 cc959-60

2.47 p.m.

Viscount Massereene and Ferrard

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 what action, if any, they propose to take over the fact that Danish fishermen have taken 11,000 tonnes of herring from the southern North Sea and eastern Channel for the season which ended on 24th February, when their EEC quota was 1,000 tonnes, while British fishermen have taken 1,500 tonnes when their EEC quota was 2,000 tonnes.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Earl Ferrers)

My Lords, the herring quotas, which were proposed by the European Commission for the southern North Sea and eastern Channel for the 1981–82 season, were not agreed by the European Community's Council of Ministers and, in the view of Her Majesty's Government, therefore have no legal force. However, we deplore the unsatisfactory behaviour by Denmark in this fishery, and we have made our views known.

Viscount Massereene and Ferrard

My Lords, while thanking my noble friend very much for that Answer, may I ask whether he does not agree with me (though he appears already to have agreed with me) that there is very little object in having fishing catch quotas if they are not going to be adhered to by members of the EEC?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I agree with my noble friend that I have agreed with him. I would merely say that the total allowable catch was of course agreed by the Council of Ministers but that the quotas were not agreed and that we wish those quotas to be agreed.

Lord Bishopston

My Lords, would not the Minister agree that this unsatisfactory situation is due partly to the fact that we have no agreed common fisheries policy and that we urgently need a policy which takes into account the fact that 60 per cent. of the fish in all Community waters is within our 200 mile limits? How soon will the Government be settling this matter to take these factors into account for the benefit of our fishermen and for the avoidance of confusion with other Community nations?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Bishopston, will know very well that a great deal of discussion is going on in order to achieve a common fisheries policy. I agree with him that that is the answer. It is Her Majesty's Government's desire to get a common fisheries agreement as soon as possible, but I cannot tell the noble Lord when that will be.

Lord Balfour of Inchrye

My Lords, pending some positive improvement, may I ask the Minister whether there are any sanctions which can be brought against a consistent offender as regards quotas?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, it is up to each member state to police its own fishery waters. This of course we do.