HC Deb 19 April 1995 vol 258 cc162-3W
Mr. Hawkins

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what was the outcome of the Fisheries Council held in Luxembourg on 6 April; and if he will make a statement. [19215]

Mr. Jack

I represented the United Kingdom at the meeting of the Fisheries Council in Luxembourg on 6 April with the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro).

The Council discussed recent developments in the Community's dispute with Canada concerning Greenland halibut. I did not consider in the context of current negotiations that it was helpful or appropriate for the Council to adopt a proposed statement commenting on recent reported incidents. Accordingly, a statement was issued in the name of the presidency. I was pleased to note that all member states endorsed the importance of bringing to a successful conclusion the continuing negotiations between the EC and Canada.

The Council also considered a proposal for the adoption of an autonomous quota for the EU in the Greenland halibut fishery. The Commissioner explained that this was necessary to permit the conservation of the fishery by providing a legal basis for controlling fishing by community vessels. However, I voted against the measure since it was inappropriate in my view to adopt it when other quota figures were on the verge of being agreed with Canada.

There was a discussion of drift net fishing. No conclusions were reached on the now somewhat dated proposal for phasing out the use of drift nets. I emphasised the considerable importance of the various types of drift net fishing to British fishermen. The importance of orderly conduct in the tuna fishery this summer was discussed. I am pleased that this was approached in a constructive way by all member states involved and they will be meeting together at an early stage to ensure that arrangements are satisfactorily planned. The Commissioner also said that there would be a Community vessel in the fishery in order to provide for Commission and national inspectors to ensure proper compliance with the rules. The UK will deploy Royal Navy fishery protection resources as appropriate.

The Council decided that, in the absence of a full year proposal, the 1994 autonomous tariff quotas should be rolled forward for three months. A formal proposal to this end will be made shortly for early adoption. This will meet the immediate needs of our fish processors. A proposal for the full year, taking account of the needs of the new member states, will be considered by the Council at a later date.

The Council noted progress on the Commission's ideas for management strategies and objectives and for quota flexibility. I emphasised the importance of ensuring that we avoided creating unhelpful new complexities in the CPF of little value to fishermen. I also emphasised the importance of taking account of the impact of industrial fisheries.

I questioned whether proposals for socio-economic measures should be a Community measure when they were designed to address issues generally more appropriate for national social security measures. The Council expects to discuss these further in June.

The Council agreed to adopt a single guide price for herring for 1995. Proposals for a regional price in parts of the UK and Ireland and for the future treatment of transhipments of herring will be put to the management committee. The UK voted against because this proposal did not deal adequately with the needs of Scottish pelagic fishermen.

Because of our growing concern in the UK about the catches of immature fish I pressed the Commissioner on the importance of developing technical conservation rules and other measures to reduce these catches and so improve fish stocks. I am pleased to say that the Commissioner was able to assure me that this would form a specific part of the work in preparation for proposals to be made in June this year.