HL Deb 14 December 1993 vol 550 cc109-10WA
Baroness Carnegy of Lour

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What action they intend to take in the light of the decision by the High Court to refer the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations' application for judicial review of the Government's days at sea policy to the European Court of Justice.

The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Earl Howe)

My noble friend will be aware of the recent High Court judgment in the NFFO's judicial review proceedings. The court, while noting that there is total agreement on the need to prevent overfishing of certain stocks, has concluded that there are various points of Community law which it felt unable to resolve without a reference to the European Court of Justice.

My right honourable and honourable friends have considered carefully how to proceed in this situation. They have weighed on the one hand the pressing need for conservation action. On the other hand they must recognise that the effect of the reference is to cast doubt on the operation of the scheme in the meantime. They have concluded that the most straightforward course is to suspend the implementation of days at sea restrictions pending the European Court's judgment—which we shall seek to have expedited.

Days at sea controls are one element of a package of measures designed to conserve the stocks and meet our Community targets, while securing value for money. Other elements are various new licensing rules and a £25 million decommissioning scheme.

Those fishermen whose bids have been accepted under the decommissioning scheme will receive their grants, provided that, in accordance with the scheme, they scrap their vessels and submit the necessary documentation to the Ministry before 1 March 1994.

Beyond that my right honourable and honourable friends need to review the way forward and as a first step shall be speaking to the EC Commissioner about what needs to be done. They will also be speaking to the industry, and further proposals will be presented in due course.