HC Deb 22 April 1998 vol 310 cc663-4W
Mr. Bercow

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what EU fisheries restructuring and modernisation funds will be available to the United Kingdom once agreed United Kingdom fleet reductions have been achieved. [37566]

Mr. Morley

EU funds for structural assistance in the fisheries sector are administered under Council Regulation EC No. 3699/93, which required Member States to submit Sectoral Plans setting out detailed programmes of aid taking account of the provisions of their Multi-Annual Guidance Programmes (MAGP) for improving the balance between catching capacity and available stocks. Regulation 3699/93 does not, however, allow the granting of any aid for vessel construction which does not comply with a Member State's global, intermediate MAGP objectives and its final objectives by segment within the stated time limits. Aid for any modernisation likely to result in an increase in fishing effort is similarly precluded.

Because of the extent of the fleet reductions required to meet UK MAGP III targets, the Sectoral Plan submitted by the previous administration in March 1994, copies of which are available in the Library of the House, gave priority to expenditure on decommissioning and vessel safety grants. Some £;14.8 million remains under these headings in the current programming period, which ends on 31 December 1999, subject to the required nationally funded contributions being available to draw down these EU funds. But the previous administration made no provision for UK expenditure to comply with MAGP targets after the end of the 1997–98 financial year.

The question of what EU aid might be available for other restructuring and modernisation measures once fleet reduction targets have been achieved accordingly depends both on any necessary further expenditure towards meeting those targets and on new resources being found in UK national spending plans, which are still in the process of being examined in the Government's Comprehensive Spending Review. Entitlement to such aid would not, however, be automatic, but would require revisions to the UK's Sectoral Plan which the Government would propose only if they considered such measures justified in the circumstances then prevailing.